November 23, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
The cart wasn’t chasing them anymore. A peek around the edge of the wagon showed it tangled and sideways on the side of the road, their goats all happily eating feed or fighting with the harness, trying to get to the food. Three of the people from the wagon were trying to get the goats loose, presumably to come after the wagon on goat-back, but the constables, who had clearly had the same idea, had just caught up with them.
Enrie wanted to relax and breathe, to assume that they were in the clear for a few minutes, but she’d gotten herself wound up and it was all she could to do breathe levelly. In, out, treason, catch-breath, gulp, in, out.
She’d known it all along, of course, but it has been easy to get caught up in all of the drama and adventure, the chase and the politics, standing up to Ilonilarrona, lying to Lirnilalie. True, they were still being chased; true, Lirnilalie was still out there somewhere, ready to cause trouble for her, for them. But…
Gianci squeezed her hand. “Hey. Worried about your vowel?”
From anyone else, she might have taken it as a dig — anyone but Saydrie or Taikie, who wouldn’t have asked. From Gianci, she gave the question consideration.
“Not my vowel. If I lose it, then I didn’t really deserve it. It’s not, well, it’s not just there for decoration. But getting tried for treason — getting my friends in trouble — that, I’m worried about.”
She was speaking as quietly as she could, but it was a small wagon. Saydrie looked up at her.
“We knew there were risks involved. We knew things could get dangerous.”
“You especially, Saydrie.” Enrie frowned at her friend’s earnest expression. “Considering the nature of the Treaty…”
“The world won’t change because of a piece of paper, no matter how strange or important that paper is. Bitrani will still be Bitrani, the enclaves will still be enclaves.” He leaned back against the wall. “This won’t shake up the world, it won’t lose the Calenni – the Calenyena — the power. And I never thought it would.” He was looking up at the roof of the wagon, not at Enrie. She watched him anyway. “They may think I did, I suppose, but there are limits in the treaty — ha. The enclave treaty — to how much they can punish me, really.” Now he looked at her, and his smile was crooked. “In the end, you risk losing your vowel, your potential of a title, and your freedom. I risk… being slightly more Bitrani than I was before, confined to an enclave or forbidden them, depending on the whim of the judge. If you can risk everything…”
Enrie ducked her head. She’d never looked into Bitrani punishments.
“Confided or forbidden?” Riensin leaned forward. “What, if they think you’re more danger inside or out?”
“If they believe a Bitrani will incite the other Bitrani — or if they believe he’s going to spread some sort of Cevati Bitrani dissatisfaction virus to other groups that aren’t happy –“
“–Like the east-coasters,” Kekla put in.
“–Or the northerners,” Riensin nodded.
“–Yes.” Saydrie looked a little surprised at both of them. “Yes. That’s what I’ve heard, at least. I’ve only known one person confined to the enclaves, and she never spoke about why she wasn’t allowed out. I’ve never heard of anyone being forbidden them.”
“It’s true.” Gianci’s voice was harsh. He cleared his throat and repeated himself. “It’s true.”