August 7, 2018 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Secrets Told as Lies are Nevertheless Revealed
“I don’t remember them being this bad at the beginning of the year. Have things changed, or are they just doing it more – more obviously? – than they were?”
Saydrie suppressed a sigh. Taikie would get ahold of things like this and she would just worry at them like a bone until they either gave in to her knowledge or someone yelled at her. He didn’t want to yell at her; it wasn’t her fault. not really.
“They were more subtle about it at the beginning of the year. Something has been making them a lot more bold about what’s essentially rebellion.” He hadn’t eaten much at breakfast. He still wasn’t feeling all that hungry, either. “And it’s getting worse, too, because I’m not — I’m not holding myself away from Calenyen influences.” He felt like he was betraying everyone at once, just saying that. But what else was he going to say? “They feel that—”
“Zaydrie. I need to talk to you about this paper.” The hand on his arm was startling, rude. The Instructor — well, no surprise there. Tiemaktamiek. “Where did you get your sources?”
Saydrie was almost glad for the distraction, and had it been almost anyone but Instructor Tiemaktamiek, he might have smiled. But this had a chance to get ugly. It wouldn’t do to have the girls get in trouble yet again, and if they defended him, Tiemaktamiek would only think that they had helped him with the homework. “One moment, Professor,” he answered, very politely. “Enerenarie, Tairiekie, go ahead without me. I’ll catch up.”
They clearly didn’t want to, but, as he’d hoped, using their full names got their attention sufficiently that they agreed. Saydrie turned back to the Professor. “The paper on parsnip and koga-root cultivation in the far north? I went to the library and I looked for the appropriate books. I believe the sources are all listed in the Credits section, but I know for a fact I used Tietarooet’s “On the Growth of Koga” and Ariepondetetie’s “The Ice Fields and What they Yield” heavily, and then used, ah, Pedrietat and Peladreerya’s “Water and the Ice of the Ground” and several issues of the Lannamer Daily and the Ilelteddez Whispers.” He’d used ten more, but he assumed that would be enough that the Professor knew he’d at least looked at the paper he’d submitted.
“Did you, hrrm? So Ariepondetetie’s “The Ice Fields and What they Yield”. Tell me what you thought was the most important part of that book.”
He was being tested. He kept his polite expression very carefully on his face. He really wanted to shout: how many times do I need to prove myself to you? To everyone here? But that would just get him back the answer one more time.
And then another.
And then another.
So he smiled.
“I assume you mean other than the abundance of growth one can find with effort in the ice fields, which was in my paper, professor? If that’s the case, I found that the growth that used to exist in such places and the huge abundance one can still found frozen underneath was probably what Ariepondetetie was trying to make the center of the book, but that it ended up in large part being a scholarly work framed with stories of her daughters. Who each have at least one of their own books in the library, so Ariepondetetie may have been justified in her pride in them. I’ve only read the one work by her youngest daughter, Erriearieponnie, though; they don’t write in the same fields at their mother.”
“And what about— yes? Can I help you?”
Saydrie looked to either side of himself. Gianci. Maireana. And, more surprising than, even, Falivia.
She was old enough that even professors like Tiemaktamiek would likely listen to her, at least a little bit. “Professor, it’s important that we Bitrani from the enclaves are on time to all our classes. It’s important that we understand the coursework, of course, but our attendance is required, or our families will be punished.”
“So go to class. What does it matter to me? You, Maireana, you’re in my class right now; are you worried I’m going to mark you late?”
“No, sir.” She lifted her chin. “I’m worried that you’re going to cause Saydrie undue distress by putting him at risk of having his family split up, his letters to his mother monitored, and his home destroyed.”
That was… that was like something out of a play, or out of the dramas you sometimes found shelved in the history section. Saydrie eyed Maireana sidelong, but she seemed entirely serious.
Instructor Tiemaktamiek cleared his throat, looking very uncomfortable. “I’ve heard that failing a class can reflect badly on your enclaves, but-”
“It’s in the Enclave Law, sir.” Falivia was very polite about it. “Reflecting badly on our enclaves in any way can easily mean that we don’t see our family again. Ever.”
They were – they were telling the truth, that was the thing. They were painting a specific corner of the truth in such a way as to make it sound as bad as possible, yes. But those things could happen.
“I work very hard at keeping my grades up, Instructor, and I would never cheat, because either of those things could lead to me being expelled,” he added, entirely sincerely and completely honestly. “I’m willing to discuss my paper after class, but I really do need to get to my first class now…?”
“Yes, of course. Taken from your families? Really? So young?”
“Yes, sir,” Maireana answered patiently. “And placed wherever the Bitrani Enclave Service feels is appropriate. Sometimes in the far north.”
Now that one – that one was pretty rare, at least. But that didn’t mean that it wasn’t true. She’d said “sometimes”, after all. Right?
“Instructor?” Saydrie was growing increasingly uncomfortable.
“Your paper was absolutely fine, Zaydrie. Exemplary. And since you seem to know your sources,” he coughed, “I suppose it’s unlikely that anyone else did it for you. Still, do make that more clear next time. Yes, you may go to class. Please hurry.”
Saydrie hurried – at least, he hurried away from Instructor Tiemaktamiek. He didn’t expect that this change of heart would last long, after all, and he wanted to be sure he was out of the way before the Professor came up with something else to scold him about.
“Ugh.” Falivia made a face. “That is – I hate it when they do that. ‘This paper is too good. How did you manage to do it yourself?’”
“’Who helped you?’” Maireana added. “‘Are you getting secret tutoring from another instructor?’ When all of the instructor are doing the same thing, who do they think is going to tutor us?”
“Maybe the stablemaster?” Saydrie offered. “He’s very nice.”
Maireana chuckled, startled. “That never would have occurred to me. Well, here are your friends. We’ll leave you to it.”
“Thank you.” Saydrie turned to face both of them. “I mean it. Thank you. And you.” Gianci had just been trailing along; now he smirked.
“You know why I did it. But you’re welcome — I know that much Bitrani at least.”
He blew a kiss at Enrie over Saydrie’s shoulder and hurried off, leaving the two Bitrani girls chasing him, complaining about him learning Bitrani.
Saydrie was surprised to find he was smiling. It wasn’t how he’d expected the day to go, not by a long shot, but it was turning out better than he’d expected.