December 21, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Silence reigned in the room for about a heartbeat, and then Lirnilalie laughed. “Ah, but nobody wants the job of sorting through the pile of food, pulling out the stinking pieces and saving the rest for porridge, do they? And it’s worse when the parsnips have families and friends, when they’re your family and friends. It’s one thing, child, to say ‘this cousin I don’t know cheated, that’s wrong.’ What are you doing to do when it’s your sister, your mother, your child?”
It was like a pop quiz. Enrie raised her chin. “The same thing, I would hope, only while being sadder. I don’t know,” she admitted more quietly. “But that’s not why I’m here, and I don’t think it’s why you’re here, either. I’m here because of the Coffee Treaty.”
“That piece of divisive legislation needs to be burned before it can cause a rebellion. Surely you can see that.” Now Lirnilalie was speaking to both Enrie and Elelakorra. “It never should have seen the light of day, and that it did is Ilonilarrona’s ridiculous fault. It does nothing, it proves nothing, and it will make people riot in the streets.”
“Regardless, Ilonilarrona is the perfect example of why we don’t bury our mistakes. If it’s a mistake, then it needs to be owned up to. Like the traitor Emperor. We don’t get anywhere by pretending that we’re perfect, by never falling off of our goat.”
“What sort of banal drivel is that?” Lirnilalie sneered at Enrie. “It sounds like a children’s book, the sort where everything is solved by friendship. Or honesty.”
“Or hitting the bully with a big enough stick,” Gianci offered. His voice sounded hoarse. “I had a book like that when I was a kid, didn’t you?”
“Oh, was that, When Words Don’t Work?” Riensin leaned forward. “I loved that book! Kietsap and I used to beat each other up with it!”
Lirnilalie cleared her throat. “As I was saying, ‘honesty’ is a very nice concept for children. It keeps young ones from lying to their parents too much, or from wandering off and getting into trouble, bothering important officials with lies, that sort of thing. But when you reach adulthood — as you seven might still, if you attempt to keep out of trouble — you have to learn that sometimes you lie, because the truth would be too difficult for everyday people to handle, or because the truth would cause problems that would not be easy to solve.”
“I understand lying quite well,” Enrie answered levelly.
“You understand small, selfish lies, of course.”
Enrie considered that challenge carefully. It was a clever one: It meant she couldn’t say she was lying to defend herself, or to defend her friends, because those would be “small, selfish” causes.
“I understand diplomacy,” she countered. “As the daughter of a diplomat, I understand reading a situation, discovering exactly what is needed, and saying the words that are as close as one can manage to what the situation needs.”