October 31, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Noon found them nearly to the Lannamer River – on a much smoother, quieter ride, thanks to the half an hour Taikie had spent under the wagon with Korten while the rest of them stretched their legs and rested – and being suddenly followed by a team of two on fast riding-goats, long-legged and sleek-looking compared to the heavy and wide wagon goats.
One of them was waving a flag of what appeared to be a tie-dyed starburst. Korten slowed the wagon, chuckling. “That’s Wilka’s, all right,” he snorted. Enrie, who was sitting up front with Korten again, suppressed a small gasp; she had never heard anyone call the Head of the school by anything but her full name. “Anybody can wave rainbows, but Wilka’s got to tie them all in smears like that.”
Tie-dye had just been coming into fashion in Ossulund the last time Enrie had been there with her parents; Head Wiltemika was the only one she’d seen wearing it at Edally. Still… she gaped at Korten a little.
He caught her expression. “Oh, come on, Wilka knows me – ahem. Head of School Wiltemika, I suppose, but we’ve been working together a very long time. She’s Wilka and I’m Kor and that’s just that. If she was going to send me a message, she’d send it tie-dyed and rainbowed, and probably smelling of curry.”
Indeed, when the messenger caught up with them, the paper she was carrying smelled of curry and coriander. Enrie sniffed it and raised her eyebrows at Korten.
“I know her, what can I say?” He read the letter over, thanked the messenger, and frowned. “Well, Ilonilarrona is in custody but the other two escaped.”
“So we’re missing the enemy we can beat easily,” Enrie offered, wincing. “I’m not sure that’s in any way a bonus for us.”
“Perhaps not, but we have knowledge.” He watched the messenger ride off. “I’m worried about Wilka, though. Something is going on with her and it can’t be good.”
“Me, too.” Enrie frowned. “I wonder if it’s the Reeve or Lirnilalie, and if they really are blackmailing her. I can’t imagine it’s Ilonilarrona.”
“You think it’s them? That they have something on her?” Korten frowned, considering the idea. “It doesn’t seem likely. Wilka’s as clean as you can get, as honest as they come, and as direct as a spear to the heart. Finding blackmail on her…”
“Or forging. Even the straightest arrow can look bent in the wrong light. Even a lie can kill you, if it’s the right lie in the wrong ear.”
“Diplomacy house.” He shook his head, amused. “Well, then, we’ll have to tell loud truths and hope that they are loud enough to drown out whispered lies, won’t we?”
“We will.” Enrie touched the small collection of copies she was keeping close to her body. “This is more intrigue than I imagined i’d be getting into, when my parents wanted to send me away to school. At least, more intrigue than I thought I’d be involved in while still at an Academy.”
“Consider it hands-on learning.” Korten’s smile was unapologetic and a little amused. “Even digging through muck teaches you something about the goat that made it. “