October 10, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
“We have some ideas about what it could mean,” Enrie offered. “The fact is, it’s not signed, and that’s huge. And it doesn’t show up in normal history books, but I found references to it in at least one aether-embedded book in the treaties section.” That one, she’d brought the original for. She pulled it out of her bag and presented it to Libkazaari. “Read the first paragraph in the second column twice,” she offered.
“First paragraph in the… oh. Oh, quite interesting. Embedded aether, you said?”
“We’re learning about it in textiles class,” Taikie put in. “It was the fashion during the era in which this treaty was written, although that was mostly in clothing. They could easily have lain in threads of aether-embedded linen into a paper deckle, though. Well, ‘easily’ assuming that they knew how to embed the aether into things. Even though we’ve learned about the technique, we haven’t learned how they did it…”
“Perhaps later?” Saydrie murmured, and Taikie fell quiet, her cheeks flushed.
“The problem with the technique,” Libkazaari mused, “is that it involved a different understanding of aether than the one we use now. Sometimes I wonder how much we’ve lost, knowing what we can’t do. But that, too, we’ll talk about some other time.” She looked over the documents. “So. What do you want to do about that?”
“I guess…” Enrie faltered. “You know the story of the Traitor Emperor, right?”
“Yes. I’m surprised you do, though. It’s not taught in school.”
“That’s the thing. Sorry, I don’t normally, but…” She was not making any sense. “Royal children, at least, my mother told me all royal children were taught this…” She took a breath. Taikie and Saydrie smiled encouragingly at her. “All right. I was taught the story of the Traitor Emperor as a cautionary tale. My mother told me all royal children were. But I think what I’m learning from the story isn’t not to be a horrible ruler, and I don’t think that’s the lesson that people like Ulunumani and Olisama took from it, either.”
“What lesson did you get?” Libkazaari’s voice was sharp.
“We can’t bury our mistakes. I grew up knowing that the royal family had messed up badly enough that we had to erase an emperor. That tells me that we erase mistakes. And then… we end up with people who think the royal family is infallible, which is ridiculous. Or you end up with people who think that, because they have a vowel, they can make any mistakes they want, do anything they went. Which is…”
“Ridiculous,” Taikie offered.
“Ridiculous. So here we are, with a treaty that’s been buried. We don’t know why. Nobody taught us about it. We don’t even know if there’s a signed copy somewhere else. And there’s one angry Associate Governor, one… I don’t know what Lirnilalie counts as, as she hasn’t been given any title in my hearing.”
“A burr in the saddle, that’s what she is. A caltrop on the stairs,” Libkazaari muttered. “She’s been nothing but difficulty any time she’s visited this school, and yet we still treat her like royalty. Ridiculous, if you ask me.”