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Chapter One


July 17, 2018 by Lyn Thorne-Alder

There is More to Home than Recipes and Memories

Saydrie was being pursued.

Since they had gotten back from the palace, there had been a number of people who wanted to ask him questions. At first, he’d assumed it was because Tairiekie and Enerenarie were already busy answering questions and he, after all, had been along for the ride for most of it.

But now there were several students – not even all in their year – who would seek him out, and it seemed like they were only using the pretense of asking questions about the trip.  After all, there were only so many ways you could ask “and then what happened? How did you get away?”

The most determined was Udammadu, a girl from his own House, which made everything more complicated.  She was a year ahead of him, thus a floor below him in the dorms, and she tended to wait for him on the stairs in the morning, always with another question about the trip or, failing that, about how Tairiekie had found a dead body and everything that had gone along with that.

Today she had surprised him by asking him about the South.  “Do you miss it?”

Compared to previous questions, it was the height of empathy.  Saydrie tripped over a smooth section of stone and took a moment righting himself to think about his answer.

“Do you miss your home?” he countered gently.  He made sure his Calenyen was as perfect and accent-less as he could  – but rarely bothered to – make it.

“What?  Oh, of course, but it’s only three hours by carriage.”

“Saydrie!” For a moment he thought he’d been rescued.  It had to be Taikie and Enrie.  But no, it was somebody from Art house running up to him.  Kekla? Aside from her fascination with the shape of his face, she really wasn’t that bad, and she usually came with Reinsin, who came with Tesdes.  

“Saydrie,  there you are!”

That wasn’t Kekla. He wished for a moment for Enrie’s ability to put on exactly the right face for any given situation, to find exactly the right way words to say to make people go away.  Saydrie? Saydrie was very good at finding the historical reasons for why this was a very bad idea. He didn’t think either of these two girls would be impressed by that.

“Ruzarrie.  Hello.” He bowed politely to her.  “Udammadu and I were just looking for our teams, to go to lunch.”

From the scowls on both girls’ faces, that wasn’t the nice safe answer he had been hoping it would be.

“Saydrie.” His head whipped up at the tone, would much like his priest back home that it was uncanny.  His priest when he’d done something unwise or unpious. “You keep strange company these days.”

He managed not to groan in Piadro’s face.  His morning kept getting worse. “Piadro.” He shifted to Bitrani to greet the upperclassman.  “Blessings of the Three on you, brother.”

“Did he say something about all three of us?” Ruzarrie asked in a loud whisper.  “That could be fun…”

“She is not only tawdry and inappropriate, she’s blasphemous,” Piadro hissed.

Saydrie sighed.  “She is none of those things.  She just wants to know about our trip to the Capital.”

“To the pretender Capital, you mean,” Piadro sneered.

“He doesn’t like me, does hhe?  I can tell. Saydrie, let’s go.”  Ruzarrie flapped a hand at him. “We can talk in the way to breakfast.”

“Yes.” Udammadu stepped in closer to Saydrie. “Let’s go to breakfast.”

“The Three will not approve of your behavior,” Piadro warned.

Saydrie bowed to him and left quickly, letting both girls follow along, as he couldn’t seem to stop them.  The Calenyen government would not approve of Piadro’s behavior, and he was pretty sure that they would act more quickly than the Three.

That, in turn, was less immediate than the problem that Saydrie might not approve of his own actions, but he couldn’t seem to find a way to shed his escort, even if Ruzarrie and Udammadu were doing their best to get rid of each other.  

“I can take it from here, Ruzarrie, you really don’t need to walk all the way with us,” Udammadu would say, and then

“Nonsense, it’s not like we’re not going to the same place in the end,” Ruzarrie would counter.  Then one of them would ask Saydrie a question, but the other would interrupt before he managed to get out more than two or three words in reply.

Finally, the third time they went through the exact same cycle – Udammadu was in his House, she ought to know better! – Saydrie just started answering in Bitrani, and continued in that language to reply right over the interruptions.

It got him two perplexed looks and no real relief, although they did both fall quiet and listen, as if trying to figure out what he was saying.

Since he was reciting one of his mother’s recipes, he was pretty sure they wouldn’t get much out of it.  But it had the advantage of stopping the sniping, settling down the complaining, and letting him talk quietly without really worrying about what he was saying quite so much.

“Yes, but what about-” Ruzarrie tried.  Saydrie shifted to his favorite rice pudding recipe.

“You know, it’s considered a mark of education to know other languages,” Udammadu tried, but he could tell she was only pretending to understand anything he was saying.

“It’s considered a mark of education to be able to speak them.  Not just listen with a blank face.” Ruzarrie wasn’t as dumb as she was acting, was she?

“It’s also considered a mark of sophistication to be able to listen politely.”

Saydrie added in the spices.

“That’s quite a bit of the nutmeg, isn’t it?”  The voice came from his side – and in Bitrani. Saydrie jumped.

“Oh, Enerenarie!”  He found himself smiling.  Finally, rescue. “And Tairiekie.  Enrie, Taikie-” He had finally managed the Calenyen nicknames with some consistency – “this is Udammadu, from my House, and Ruzarrie, who is in Art House, as you can see.  They were just asking me questions about Bitrani traditions and home to, ah,” what to say, “to keep me company while I looked for you.”

Enrie saw right through that, but, on the other hand, he’d hoped that she would.   “Well,” she chirped, “here we are. Ready for breakfast?”

“Oh, we’re already this close.  No reason on splitting off now.” Ruzarrie just didn’t give up.  “What were you saying, Saydrie?”. She hissed the s like someone trying to sound excessively Bitrani.  

“Udammadu asked if I missed home,” he extemporized.  “I was thinking about my mother’s cooking.”

“Oh, I love Birtan food!  The spices, the fruits… etteni-no!”

Saydrie was pretty sure she meant etennio, which meant delightful – when one was talking about a person.

From the lift of Enrie’s eyebrows, so did she.  She surreptitiously elbowed Taikie, who jumped far less surreptitiously.  “Oh! Spices! Did you know, there’s a lot of engineering involved in the spice-making trade?  I was just looking up the plans for a steam- and aether-powered spice grinder. Properly modified, it could power itself on the aether released from the cracking of the spices—”

They politely refrained from laughing until both Udammadu and Ruzarrie had fled the scene.


  1. Rix Scaedu says:

    So, girls are finding Saydrie interesting?

  2. claredragonfly says:

    Haha, I <3 Taikie.

    I find Saydrie's notions of politeness (at least I assume that's the reason for his behavior) interesting. He won't tell the girls to leave him alone, nor will he tell Piadro they're harassing him… but he will make up excuses for the conversation as though he doesn't want anyone to know what he is being asked.

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