September 27, 2018 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Good News and Bad News
Look the same from a distance
The day was already strange enough. Saydrie would have been content if he got through the rest of it with, perhaps, one Cevati Bitrani complaining about his lack of faith and one Calenyena student muttering about “dirty Byitties.” It would have made the day seem almost normal.
But Tairiekie had a newspaper on her lap.
She was doing her best to be surreptitious about it, but she was not all that good at the sneakier side of life and was mostly making it more obvious, with her bag and her books stacked on desk and the way she kept looking furtively around.
Saydrie couldn’t help a smile. “What do you have?” he asks softly but conversationally. His two new “friends” had gone off to their respective teams once they got into the classroom; he supposed he owed them for the whole thing now, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to be grateful while he was still trying to sort out what, exactly, had happened – and, of course, why.
“What happened with you? You were there and then the next thing we know – oh, this?” She looked down and wrinkled her nose. “Newspaper. I know that it’s not considered particularly germane to class discussions and all of that, so I’m probably not supposed to have it here, but I found it; one of the instructors had been reading it and had left it, as they do sometimes and…” She took a breath. “It’s about Lirnilalie. And, um. About the Bitrani.” She coughed and folded the paper up, stuffing it between two of her books. “So. This royal lady following you around. What do you think she wants?”
The nice thing about Taikie was that she was completely obvious. That might not be a nice thing when dealing with their enemies, but when trying to figure out what she was doing, he found it very relaxing.
“She wants to talk to me, which could really mean anything. On some level, I mean, as a Cevati Bitrani student, I really should be listening to royalty. It makes everything more complicated if they think I’m being rebellious.” He frowned. “Maybe I should—”
“No!” Both Enrie and Taikie hissed it. “You are not going to go out there and talk to her on your own,” Enrie continued. “Not after Ilonilarrona and Lirnilalie. No! We’re not letting someone cart you off into some dark room and hurt you!”
“That was Taikie,” he pointed out dryly. “And then there was you irritating Lirnilalie.”
“But she was trying to push all of us off of the cliff, not just me! No. If you decide to talk to her, you do it with all of us. All right?”
“All right,” he agreed ruefully. “But remember, I have more to lose by being disobedient. If you’re contrary to a royal above you in the chain, they probably give you points for spunk or something.”
“…Spunk?” Taikie tilted her head. “Is that—”
“Bitrani word stolen from the Arran,” Enrie filled in, “who stole it from a very old Calenyen word, which is why it doesn’t sound like it belongs to anyone.”
Saydrie was – although he probably shouldn’t have been – a little startled. “How did you…?”
“When my parents were stationed in the Arran Cities, there was a nurse who used to say that I “had spunk” all the time. Finally, I demanded she tell me what it meant, and then why, and when it turned out she didn’t know, we looked it up in the nearest library. When that turned into a sort of a rabbit-chase, then we ended up learning Old Arran together. What about you?”
“Oh, one of the women – an aunt – in our enclave liked to say I was spunky. And then I didn’t like the way it sounded, like something nasty in Calenyen, so I went and looked it up. It took me a while to find it.”
“I feel like I don’t speak enough languages.” Taikie’s voice was small and sad-sounding.
“Well,” Enrie offered helpfully, “I could teach you. Perhaps during our vacations. They’re quite easy.”
“They’re not easy at all. I’ve been trying to learn Bitrani from a book I got out of the library, and it’s not going well at all. I don’t think the author actually spoke any Bitrani at all!”
Saydrie swallowed a comment and then another one. Enrie, however, didn’t appear to think that was the way to go.
“Taikie, you can’t just learn language from a book. You have to learn it from people who speak the language. You have to talk it, and feel how it sounds, and understand it.”
“But everything else, you start from a book. Why wouldn’t language be the same way?” Taikie’s voice had gotten a bit plaintive.
“Well, because language is a living, changing thing. Like that work, spunk. It isn’t something our ancestors knew. But it’s a word we use. And there are a lot of those. The languages just squish together over time.”
“But… but mechanics and engineering have a lot of things that rely on feeling and doing, but you still start with a book.”
Saydrie thought about that. “Well, there’s vocabulary. Maybe if we start with a book and work out from there with talking it through? But,” he added with a little smile, “I’m going to want to know what was in that newspaper first.”
“Oh.” Her voice was small. “…Oh. Well.” She pulled out the newspaper and sat it on her desk, wrinkling her nose as Enrie rearranged her wall of books and bags. “It’s — what are you — oh, fine. So…” She passed the newspaper to Saydrie.
He put it on top of one of his textbooks and studied it. It only took a moment to understand what had Taikie worried — Bitrani Threaten Rebellion.
But he knew what people could be like, so he kept reading. He read past the words Rebellion and war? and defiance of the law to Woman who is called commonly Lirnilalie.
The world felt chill. “Idiots,” he muttered. “They can’t be….” But they were. “Thank you, Tairiekie.” They were going to ruin everything. “People…. people are going to die.” They had to stop them. But how was he going to manage that? How was he going to stop a terrifying woman of royal blood and a whole contingent of Bitrani would-be rebels?
He passed the paper to Enrie. Maybe she would have an idea. Maybe she would have something.
As she turned ashen, his heart sank even further.