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Chapter 51b: Strangers and Friends


November 25, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder

Enrie turned to look at Gianci.  Everyone else, she noticed, was doing the same.  

He cleared his throat again.  He was looking over their heads, not at them. “Sometimes they tell people they can’t go back to the enclaves.  Banish them.  Some people leave on their own, sure, but sometimes… sometimes there isn’t an option given.  They’re removed.  Told not to go back.  And then, sometimes, someone from the government will check in on them, to make sure they’re living where they said they would.  And, uh.  Their children can’t go back, either.”  He coughed again and looked towards the back of the wagon.

Saydrie shifted uncomfortably. “That’s awful.”

“They do that with northerners and east-coast people sometimes,” Kekla offered.  “They say they have to go to school, and then they say they can’t go back.”

“But at least–” Gianci’s voice rose up, too loud for the tight space of the wagon, “–at least they know the language.  They don’t grow up not speaking the language that everyone who looks like them speaks.  They’re not left looking an idiot when some royal daughter knows their own language better than them.”

Enrie winced.  “Gianci–“

He pulled away from her.  “This isn’t the time, and I shouldn’t have said anything.  You have a battle ahead of you, still.  And they can’t do anything else to me.  What are they going to do?  Both forbid me to live in an enclave and force me to live in one?”

Enrie straightened and set her jaw.  “Sometimes,” she said, her voice quiet because she didn’t trust herself to be louder today, “my people do horrible things.  I don’t know… I didn’t know.”

“Normal people don’t.”  Saydrie leaned forward.  “That’s the point.  This sort of thing, it doesn’t work if ordinary people know about it — if people like Taikie or Enrie, or Riensin and Kekdela and Tesdes here understand.”  He chewed thoughtfully on his knuckle.  “I wonder about that, with making us — me, the East-Coast and Northern students — go to Academies.  I wonder how they manage to balance things like hiding your parents, or my Aunt, people that can’t go home or can’t leave home, with making sure we learn all about the nation we’re part of?”

“Racism and isolationism.  People like your ‘friend’ Darnio.” Riensin scooted towards the center of the wagon.  “If all your people are sticking together and everyone else is discounting them because they’ve been told all the, uh, you know…”  He shifted uncomfortably.

“That Bitrani are slow or backwards, that they let their faith guide them when it should be their common sense, that they are muddy, dull, boring, and they they have no honor?”  Saydrie listed it all off with very little tone to his voice.  “Let’s see, oh, that they are lost in antiquity, I’ve heard that one, too… but you have to imagine that they expect us to connect with our teams.”

“No.”  Enrie shook her head, although she felt sad about it.  “Remember how surprised everyone was: you and Taikie and I, and Taikie insisting over and over again that we’d been told to be a team, and so we were?  I imagine it doesn’t happen that way that often.  I mean…” She shot the front of the wagon an affectionate glance.  She could barely see Taikie through the crack in the door, leaning forward looking at something. “We got lucky, finding her.  We got lucky, finding each other.”


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