December 14, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Enrie held her breath. There was nothing else she could do; protesting that she wasn’t a liar wasn’t going to do anything but make her look more guilty. Looking at Libkazaari wasn’t going to do anything but say she didn’t know what was going on — which she didn’t, of course, but nobody else needed to know that — while probably making her House Monitor feel bad, or get angry, neither of which were really things she wanted to do.
Her eyes were on Elelakorra. So much – her life, her friends’ lives, the future of the nation – hinged on what this woman did next. She might not be the Emperor, but this matter was trivial enough that there would be no way to see the Emperor with it, save by her Voice and Will alone.
When did the Empire get so big and complicated that we put guards in front of information and protected the Emperor from decisions? Surely, that had to be a concern for someone older and wiser, not for her, still in her first year of Academy and not entirely certain she wasn’t about to be thrown into a dungeon.
“You know,” Elelakorra began speaking slowly, “Lyirnilalie, when they sent you south to get you out of Lannamer, I wondered how that would work, considering you knew nothing at all about the Bitrani.”
“I know enough about them. They do what they’re told. They are faithful to a fault and if you can convince them that the Three have willed something, they’ll do anything you want them to. Don’t wear bright colors around them and don’t shout.” She tilted her head. “Why are you asking about my qualifications, anyway?”
“I’m not asking. I’m beginning to understand what His Eminence was up to. But you still clearly don’t know enough about Bitrani to tell one from the other – or your poor patsy governor doesn’t, which I might suspect is the case from what I’ve heard about her.”
“Associate Governor,” Riensin offered cheerfully. “If she were a real governor I might have to start a rebellion.”
“Oh?” Elelakorra let herself be distracted for a moment, glancing at Riensin. He grinned brightly at her as if he hadn’t just suggested treason to the Voice of the Emperor. “I’m going to have to remember you. You’re an interesting one, aren’t you?”
“No, ma’am.” Riensin bowed deeply, still grinning. “I’m not interesting at all. This Lyirnilalie, she’s interesting. I’m just a first-year student, after all.”
“Don’t you call me that,” Lirnilalie hissed. “You insignificant little lying piece of manure.”
“That’s what I said!” He didn’t stop grinning. “I’m insignificant, and you’re interesting. See?”
“Lyirnilalie, you’re allowing yourself to be baited by a first-year student, you can’t tell one Bitrani from another, and you come here telling me that this very interesting young lady is the one who’s a liar? I would think you’d be comporting yourself better, if you wish to receive the ear of the Emperor.”