October 2, 2018 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Are We Bitrani?
The paper – the Ilelteddez Whispers – thought there was a serious chance of a Bitrani uprising in the far south. Saydrie read the paper three times during class – he was better at being sneaky than Taikie was, at least – and another two times before their next class, but he couldn’t make it sink in.
Centuries ago, his people had lost in a defeat that all history showed had been “startling” only to the Bitrani King and his cronies and a few other blindly loyal people here and there. They had been, if not losing, then failing to win for decades if not centuries before that.
And that had been before they had been conquered, invaded, their armies disbanded, their people spread apart whenever they spoke out too much, their cities taken over, and Calenyena put into place from one end of what had been Bithrain to the other.
In addition, from everything Saydrie had gotten his hands on, the last three Bitrani Kings had not been all that impressive to start with. They had managed to ruin several parts of the land while trying to grow the wrong things there. They had turned the aether in one swamp into a morass that, to this day, nobody would go into.
That was beside the point, though: anyone who would be King now (if they weren’t an heir to the Calenyen throne already, like Enrie had suggested) would have grown up with generations of Calenyen rule. The only difference in their leadership, whatever short time it lasted, might be that they had blonde hair cut short and not black hair in braids.
But it would cause hundred, if not thousands, of people to die.
Saydrie found that he was twisting the hem of his tunic into a mess. He smoothed the shirt and glared at it, as if the bright colors were the cause of all of his problems.
“Can we-” Taikie’s voice was uncertain, tiny. He wanted to tell her everything would be okay.
He wanted to ask her what she was so worried about. It wasn’t her people making the problem.
Except it was, except she was probably worried about him, except this would be horrible for everyone.
“I need – I think I need to go talk to some Bitrani.” He felt guilty as he said it, felt like he was slapping both of his teammates in the face. On the other hand… He really needed to talk to someone who would understand.
If only there was anyone like that here.
He ignored the hurt look on Taikie’s face, or at least told himself he was ignoring it, and bowed at both of them. “I’ll meet you in an hour in the Hidden Spot.” There, a peace offering.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Bithrain and Calenta could make up that easily?
Enrie smiled at him. It looked weak and worried. He wondered if there had been more in that letter from her parents that she wasn’t sharing. “Go. We’ll see you in an hour.”
It wasn’t hard to find Darnio, but Darnio really wasn’t who he wanted to talk to. Not Piadro, either, but maybe Falivia. She, he found in the temple – sadly, along with Piadro.
He waited while she prayed, doing his own prayers as well. He had already prayed, early in the morning, but with the current situation, he could use all the divine aid he could get.
Falivia finished her prayers before Piadro and noticed — or deigned to admit that she noticed — Saydrie’s presence. “Looking for guidance?” She kept her voice low, as was appropriate in the temple; Piadro did not turn towards them.
“Both from the Three and from those heads older and wiser than I.” He didn’t bow in the Calenyen fashion, but Instead offered her both hands, relative-to-relative.
She clasped his hands briefly. “Then let us talk in the sun,” she suggested, “where we don’t risk shouting down the Three.”
He had never really understood that concept, but he needed her advice. “Of course.”
There was very little sun to be had in this gray place, but there was a bench with a stone arch over it, concession to the long rainy season. He waited for Falivia to sit and took the other end of the bench. “Have you seen the news?”
It wasn’t the Bitrani way to be so direct, but he wanted to talk before Piadro came after them.
He thought possibly Falivia was thinking something similar, because she raised one eyebrow in implied rebuke but did not, as his aunt or mother or other women in the enclave might have done, pointedly steer the conversation to less serious matters for a few minutes.
“I have seen the news,” she agreed quietly. “So have Darnio and Piadro.”
“Is that why he’s – no.” He shook his head. “I apologize. What is between Piadro and the Three is his matter alone.”
“I see you haven’t forgotten all of your teachings.” Her smile was more gentle than her words. “The question is, what does the news mean for us, and what are we going to do?”
“That is – that is is exactly.” He hadn’t quite been expecting that sensible an answer, and he supposed it probably showed. This time, her rebuking eyebrow was a little more pointed.
“We are both Cevati Bitrani. We are both here because we were brought here under guard, and because our enclave’s success rests on our shoulders. We are both children of the Three and devout ones at that. We are both Bitrani.”
This time, Saydrie was sure nothing showed on his face. He’d been expecting something of the sort, and had been in complete agreement with her until that last word.
We are Bitrani.
This was something that got said a great deal in certain Cevati Bitrani circles. He’d heard it from Piadro. He wasn’t surprised to hear it from Falivia.
“What will it mean for us?” He echoed her question back at her. “Won’t it get the enclaves broken up?”
“Do you think that is the worst thing to happen?”
“Well, no.” He furrowed his brow. “I think that a lot of people could die and we could end up in a war again.”
“Do you think that is the worst thing that could happen?”
He was beginning to get irritated with this line of questioning. “I think it could be pretty bad, yes.”
“But if we fall into a war, perhaps the Calenni won’t just treat us like their lame goat at the back of the party. Perhaps they’ll remember what we’re about. And if the enclaves are all broken up, Saydrie, then there will be Cevati Bitrani – true Bitrani – all over the country, ready to talk to anyone who will listen.”
“I…” Saydrie didn’t think it would work that way. He didn’t think it could work quite like that. “I bow to your superior wisdom. Thank you, Falivia.”
“Please come to me any time you have a question. I hope I can relieve all of your fears as I have this one.”