August 24, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Enrie and Saydrie read angry paragraph after angry paragraph. The scribe had started out describing things as an extended metaphor, but he kept falling into screeds about the failure of the world in the “modern era.”
He was convinced that something had happened to the Bitrani people that had led them astray, and that it had all happened around the time that the Coffee War began in earnest. Enrie pulled out a few phrases from the book and went looking further. “It sounds,” she muttered, half to herself, “like he thought the Bitrani leadership had somehow sabotaged the treaty. I’ve been assuming that the Calenyen leadership did so. But I still don’t know… ah. The Loss of Honor, an epic poem.” She sat down to flip carefully through the ancient tome. “This is, oh, it’s complex.” She began reading out loud in a soft whisper.
After a page, Saydrie stopped her. “Say that line again?”
She repeated it quietly, making sure she had all the words right.
“Here, I’ve got a book with that title, right… here.” He pulled it down carefully. “I thought it sounded familiar. It references back to the poem, but it’s a discussion of honor in Bitrani cul— oh.” He sat down and looked at the book. “I think I found some more of the treaty.”
Enrie looked over his shoulder. There, sewn carefully in between the folios, was a much-older piece of paper with the tight, scratched penmanship common in the era of the Coffee Treaty. This page was one they hadn’t seen before, detailing the terms of a complex and punitive treaty where neither side came out very well.
Written across the side of it in another shade of ink, the letters no less faded than the original text, was an admonition in Bitrani: Hario, you never saw this. Lose it.
“I guess he lost it,” Enrie muttered. “I wonder why he didn’t just destroy it.”
“Well, ‘lose’ like that really suggests that it ought to be find-able later. Not like ‘losing’ something at the bottom of the sea.” Saydrie’s answer was slow and musing. He flipped the page, then flipped back. “We have almost the whole treaty now, don’t we?”
“Almost. But I think we’re still going to have to do some sneaking around. How many copies do you think they’d have hidden?”
“It was all written by hand, right? There would have been enough copies for both nations to sign it and to have a copy for their archives — and maybe two more for the Arrans. We don’t know if they all got made, though.”
“Maybe we should write a copy before we turn it over to anyone,” Enrie mused. “It wouldn’t have any of the weight of ages, none of the residual aether, but at least the words would be down somewhere else.”
“Several copies, then,” Saydrie opined. “One for each of our team, Reinsin’s team, and maybe Gianci as well. We can — well, you can send them home, so they’re distributed. I probably shouldn’t…” he paused. “I’m sorry. But you understand?”
“You definitely shouldn’t be caught in possession of this if we think there’s going to be trouble,” Enrie agreed.
“You’re putting yourself and Tairiekie at risk. I don’t want to hold myself away from that…”
“But Taikie and I risk ourselves. You end up risking everyone in the enclaves.”
Saydrie’s throat worked as if working around a lump. “Yes. Yeah, I am.” He handed Enrie the book, not quite looking at her. “Maybe we should go find Gianci and Tairiekie.”