August 14, 2018 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Editor’s note: This interlude was originally intended to post between Chapters 4 and 5.
Maireana stood to the back of the group of Cevati Bitrani, watching, wishing she knew what to say.
It wasn’t as if Piadro and Falivia didn’t have a valid point. The longer Saydrie spent with the close-knit team of his, the more he sounded — and looked — like someone who had given up his roots.
On the other hand, how much of that was jealousy on the part of the older Cevati Bitrani? Maireana’s own team barely spoke to her outside of classes; she was pretty sure Piadro’ss didn’t even manage that much. One of Falivia’s teammates had flunked out last year and the other one never went to classes.
Saydrie was already getting close to the top of his class — another sign, in Piadro and Falivia’s minds, that he was going native and giving up his Cevati roots. There was no chance he would be flunking out. And — Maireana flinched as Piadro’s hand came down onto a copper pipe — his teammates seemed to treat him like family, not like an unwanted hanger-on.
She shifted as the argument continued. If she left now, she could get some studying done before the prayer session. Her House-mates might night understand why she had such trouble with certain subjects, but they were more than willing to help her bring the House average up.
A hand wrapped around her arm. She jumped — wondering, as she did, if she’d started to go native too, if she was so startled by a touch.
“If you leave now,” Darnio murmured, “it’s going to look like you’re on their side, Saydrie and his little friends. I know that you’re not, but you don’t want to give that impression, do you?”
Something about the tone made Maireana bristle. “I am going to go study.” She hissed it at him as she tried to pull away. “Because I don’t want my enclave to be broken up because their representative is a failure.” What was more, the more Piadro and the rest talked, the less she was sure she was on their side. “I still have several years here. I plan to be here until graduation.”
He hadn’t let go of her arm yet, and his grip was like iron. “And then?”
“And then, I will not be walking to the Temple with you,” she hissed. “So release my arm. You’re not brother nor father nor uncle nor betrothed, and I don’t appreciate your suggestion.”
“In the absence of any of those men—”
“I am sure Piadro is sufficient protection, should I need it, from any bandits, brigands, wild monsters, or Calenni soldiers that happen to get through the school’s defenses. If you don’t release me right now, my father will hear about it. And then we will have quite a situation on our hands.”
Reluctantly, he released her. “You’re being foolish and making a fuss when there’s no need. I’m only trying to protect you, and make sure you on the good side of the rest of the Cevati.”
“What’s that, Darnio?” A grumpy Piadro turned to glare at them. Maireana wasn’t sure he had a good side anymore.
“Maireana was just going to study, that’s all.”
“Good.” Piadro nodded sharply. “She could use it.”
It was not exactly the approval she’d want, but Maireana took it and fled.