December 30, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Happy Tienaabaa’s festival to all! May it find you motivated to creativity and to thought.
If you are wondering, Bitrani and Calenyena spell Tienaabaa’s name differently (Tienebrah); the Bitrani pronounce that initial T-i-e-n as tee-en while the Calenyena say “Tie”.
It was nearly time for the festival, and the snow had already been falling for hours. Taikie hurried down the stairs from the dorm, all the way down, wrapped up in a heavy robe and wearing her favorite fur-lined house shoes.
She snuck out the door, opening it only as much as she had to to slip out, and stared out at the world.
It was said if it snowed for Tienaabaa’s festival, that the god of the mind and invention would bless you all year long. It might be a silly superstition, but Taikie liked it better than most superstitions and she’d always enjoyed Tienaabaa’s festival. Ice sculptures! Snow-castle building! And the chance to show off whatever inventions or artistic endeavors you’d created since the cold began to reign.
This morning, Tienaabaa had truly blessed them. The snow around Taikie’s shoes was nearly up to her ankles, and it was falling in big, soft flakes, piling up soundlessly everywhere. She caught sight of a couple of the school workers, moving the snow with wide metal shovels. She bit her lip; she didn’t want the beauty disturbed, but of course, they had to shovel. They had to clear paths for people to walk on, at the very least.
The festival would start at noon today. Her parents were visiting somewhere in the middle of the three-day festival; she hoped they had brought something fun to show off. Her father always made the best mechanical toys and, though she was too old for such things, Taikie still loved them. She had brought one to school, a tiny wagon that ran off of the clockwork inside of it. It lived on top of her trunk, once she had learned that her roommates were not cruel and wouldn’t tease her for such things, the way some people back home had.
Her mother’s inventions tended to be more practical, but sometimes she made miniature versions of projects she would later produce for some client.
Taikie looked out at the snow one more time, at the school workers in their bright jackets clearing the paths, at the towers standing grey and red-roofed against the white-grey sky. Then she slipped back inside and padded up the stairs, all the way to the top of the tower. She was meeting with her team early in the afternoon, and she had work to do before then.
“You know this is where we’ll find her.” Enrie’s voice wafted in from the hallway. Taikie had enough time to cover over her work with a drape and look as if she was tinkering with a simple engine.
“I know we will find her here,” Saydrie agreed, with the careful tone he used when he wasn’t quite arguing with them. “I do not know if finding is what she wants. After all, it’s the festival of Tienebrah. “
There was a pause. They weren’t in sight yet, but Taikie could almost imagine the expression on Enrie’s face as she worked through that one. Taikie was probably making a similar face. “Oh,” Enrie said, just as Taikie figured out what it must be. “In Bitrani culture, it’s a time of quiet contemplation.”
“It is a mandate of the Three.” Saydrie rarely took that tone, at least with them, anymore, the one where he sounded like they were bare finger-widths from talking heresy and treason. “That for the time of Tienebrah, one speaks to the Three alone.”
“We do,” Enrie assured him. “But a lot of the time, we talk to the Three alone together.”
“I will never in a thousand years understand Calenyena.” Saydrie was muttering, but it sounded affectionate to Taikie’s ears, more of a play-complaint than a real one. “You don’t think it’ll bother her if we speak to her now, then?”
“No more than you standing outside the door talking about me,” Taikie called cheerfully. “Come on in. Blessings of Tienaabaa upon you.”
“Blessings of the cold, the sky and the snow upon you.” Enrie pushed open the door. She was dressed in a truly regal fashion today, layers in shades of blue, with her House colors represented in wild embroidery on her linens. “I knew we’d find you here.”
“I heard,” Taikie teased. “I had something I had to work on.”
“Of course you did. What’s under the cloth?” Enrie added, being inconveniently perceptive.
“Something I was working on,” Taikie answered. “Saydrie, blessings of the shortest days.”
He, too, was dressed in blues, and although his clothes, having presumably come from home, were muted, they still looked festive. “Blessings of the longest nights.” He was carrying a satchel he didn’t normally carry. Taikie wondered if was religious supplies. She was still a little unclear on Bitrani holiday practices.
“So what were you working on?” Enrie leaned on the counter, carefully avoiding the various tools, pieces and parts that were strewn about.
Taikie couldn’t quite hide her smile. “Oh, you know.” She tried for casual but nearly giggled. “A project.” She patted the engine in front of her, but she knew she was smiling too widely to carry any sort of subterfuge. Instead, she looked away from Enrie and started picking up the work-space, slotting her tools back into their cases. “You two are up and about early.”
“I can never sleep in during Tienaabaa’s festival, and when I wandered over to the History tower, lo and behold, there was Saydrie, awake and reading up on some dry old history.”
Saydrie bowed, smiling widely. “It’s the only time the tower is quiet, so I was taking advantage of it. And… well. Even in the enclaves, of course we celebrate Tienebrah’s week. It’s important.”
Taikie knew she should wait until breakfast, when Riensin and his team would be around, but she’d never been good at being patient, not about things like this. “And do you give presents for Tienaabaa’s festival, in the enclaves?”
“Oh, pious things. Copies of scripture to contemplate, that sort of thing. I embroidered a particularly nice verse for my mother, last year.”
“Oh.” Taikie was working on hiding her disappointment when she realized from Saydrie’s smile that he was teasing her. “Oh!”
He set his satchel on a clear place on the table. “Now, the trick will be,” he admitted, “if I can get my roommates and Kekla and her team to believe the same thing.” He pulled out two small books, bound with leather and cloth, one with an embroidered design of pipes on the front, the other with scrolls. “These are for writing notes in, see, and they have a place for a pen. May Tienebrah watch over you both… and inspire you,” he added shyly.
“Oh, Saydrie, these are beautiful!” Enrie flipped hers open and touched the pages lightly. “I didn’t know you could do this.”
“We did something other than read scripture, back in the enclaves,” he teased.
“My gifts for you two are still in my room,” Enrie admitted, “But they won’t go bad between now and breakfast. Thank you, Saydrie.” She started to bow, bobbed up, and offered him her hands.
“Thank you, Saydrie.” Taikie put her hands into the pile, and they squeezed all together. “I guess if Saydrie’s going to give his, I can give mine, too.” She snaked one hand out to pull the drape off of part of her project.
Two tiny mechanical goats stood on mountain-sides made of copper and iron. “These ones don’t piss,” she admitted shyly, “but in a breeze – see, this little fan here? — they’ll climb up the mountain.” She pushed the fan blades with her finger to demonstrate.
Enrie was giggling too hard to say anything, and Saydrie was grinning and trying not to laugh, but from the two of them, she figured that was thanks indeed.