July 15, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
“You three?” Stable-master Korten smiled at them as they slipped in through the far entrance to the stable. “And you brought friends. I’m not going to need to clear out another stall, am I?”
“Aren’t things getting a little crowded already?” Enrie flashed him a bright smile, hoping he knew that she wasn’t trying to put one over on him. “I mean, with all the guests…”
“We do have a few guests,” he answered slowly, his eyebrows raised. “And their goats are taking up quite a bit of room. The carriage, all the tack, all the frippery… and then,” he lowered his voice and looked both amused and gossipy, “I hear that they’re driving Kelba over at Dornen Tower batty. She’s the head housekeeper, and they’re all on her like she’s a serving girl. But they’re packing up tomorrow. Taking that… “ His paused drew any number of impolite words in the air between them. “…daughter home, since she’s been expelled. Tried to have her clean the stables as punishment, too.” He grinned. “I told ‘em that was for stablehands trained in the art of goat-handling only, and an insult to my trade.”
Enrie grinned back at him. “…and maybe some slightly difficult first year students?” she offered playfully.
“Oh, bah, you three aren’t difficult. You just know what you want and you’re not worried to do what you need to, getting it. I’d say that’s an admirable trait. Like our ancestors.” His smile faded. “Lirnilalie is like that, too, so be careful.”
That was a new name. “Lir…”
“What I’ve heard — and this is all just rumor — is that she was named Ilirnilalie by her parents, and she told them that that was ridiculous. She wouldn’t consider herself to need a vowel unless she was next in line to be Empress.”
Enrie swallowed and looked at her friends. Taikie looked worried; so did Saydrie. Tesdes always looked a bit worried. Riensin looked thoughtful. Kekla looked panicked.
“You’re going up against Lirnilalie? You didn’t say…”
“I didn’t know!” Enrie had never heard of this woman. “I still don’t know. I’ve only had L… the one talk to me. And she seemed… what do they even want it for?”
“Well,” Saydrie began. Kekdela shook her head.
“No, no. I can’t hear this, I can’t be part of this. I hope you like being Nerie, because that’s the best that will happen.” She ran off, her braids beating in a staccato pattern against her back.
“We’d better go after her,” Riensin sighed. “Try not to have too much fun without us, okay?”
He still wanted to ‘have fun” with them? “We’ll try to keep the exciting adventures to a minimum,” Enrie assured him, with a bit more confidence than she was feeling. “I… good luck.”
“Clear roads to you.” He bowed elaborately and darted off, Tesdes following in his wake.
“Well.” Enrie swallowed. “So… this Lirnilalie is here? And she… well.” She’d known this was going to be interesting.