October 11, 2018 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Care not what your enemies think of you,
Only what they do to you
Saydrie slipped into class just as Instructor was about to close the door. He got seated between Taikie and Enrie with barely a heartbeat to spare, Instructor Tiemaktamiek glaring at him the whole time.
“Class. Now that we’re all here, today we’re going to talk about the evolution of farming on Reiassan and how one might use aetherics to help farmers with their crops. Zaydrie?”
“Yes, sir?” Taikie and Enrie were glaring at him. He wasn’t that late, and his head was still swimming from the near-encounter in the bottom of the Alchemy building. “That is, would you like an example, sir?”
“No, I want you to go plant something. Yes. I would like an example.”
Some people in the class tittered; Saydrie found himself flushing. He sighed.
“Well, sir, considering the rockiness of many soils, one might use an aether-based device to break down the rock, adding some sort of organic component along with an aetheric supplement to make what had been mountainside into fertile soil.”
Uzrin looked panicked. “Ah, let’s see. If you took a sort of rock-breaker and broke a bunch of rock down to sand, then you could mix in some goat manure and plant matter and use an aetheric formula, something heavy in the green aether, to make the soil more fertile and better for plants.”
Taikie glared at him. She looked like she was going to jump out of her seat and say something. Saydrie set a hand in the space between their desks, just enough of a signal that it was fine.
“Well done, Uzharinrin. Enerenarie?”
“Well, water can be made to flow uphill with a combination of aether and steam-power. That would aid in irrigating the heights.”
“True. It may not be the best use of our aetheric resources, but it definitely can be done. Kekla?”
As he continued, Taikie kicked Saydrie in the ankle. “He stole your idea,” she hissed.
At the same time, Enrie tapped his other foot with her own. “Where were you?” she murmured.
He didn’t need Instructor Tiemaktamiek making up reasons to be irked with him when his teammates were going to get him in trouble all by themselves. He looked between them, waited, and timed his answers when the instructor was picking on another student.
“Let him have it. I know I was right and so does he.” He turned to Enrie. “I was.” He cleared his throat. “I think Lirnilalie is here.”
“What?” That was both of them, in varying tones of dismay.
He turned back to Taikie, paused, and when Instructor Tiemaktamiek had another question posed, continued. “It’s not a big deal, Taikie. I promise. I don’t really care that much what the teachers think of me; I’m here to learn.”
He had to turn back to Enrie; she was kicking his ankle. “Someone -” he stopped. Instructor Tiemaktamiek was discussing old “superstitions” used by the Bitrani – and early Calenyena – in their farming. “Zaydrie, can you give me an example?”
He smiled politely. “On the borders – that is, the land along the former border between Bithrain and Calenta – sometimes they use green faces carved of local woods and infused with aether. They call them Green Men and Green Women – the closer to the Bitrani side, the more often people will use one or the other but not both in the same garden – and they say that they bless the garden. According to Soeci and Aspestinni, the Green People actually do channel aether in beneficial ways, smoothing it along the lines of the garden so that it encourages those things that are of order and good-life – garden-plants-”
“’Good-life?” Instructor Tiemaktamiek interrupted.
“It’s, ah. It’s a translation of a Bitrani term. Weeds are bad-life, plants are good-life. Like the Calenyen concept of useful and not-useful.”
“Here in this school, in this classroom, we use Calenyen concepts.” The Instructor turned away from him. “Riensin!”
Saydrie let out a breath and dodged both girls kicking at him at once. “The alchemy building,” he hissed at Enrie. “I was hiding from – one second.” His other ankle had just gotten tapped. “- the lady, you know, that one, and I ducked down to their basement. And there was this stink-”
“Alchemy buildings do that, you know.”
“Not that.” Riensin could be counted on to give a long and rambling answer that made no sense to anyone but was exuberant enough that nobody paid any attention to Saydrie.
“It doesn’t matter,” he told Taikie, before she could kick him again. “Stop kicking me. It doesn’t matter if he thinks I’m a stupid Byittie.”
“How can you say that?” she hissed. “How can you even think that? You’re not stupid! You’re not – you’re not that word!”
“I’m a Bitrani. A Cevati Bitrani. It doesn’t matter if you dress it up with-” He trailed off. Riensin had concluded his answer and even Instructor Tiemaktamiek looked a little dazed.
“Ah, yes. Very good, Riensin. Now, if I can have all of your attention, we’re going to look at these suggestions in the light of modern agricultural techniques. I call your attention to the diagram here on the board-”
Saydrie pulled out his notebook and wrote in careful Calenyen script to Taikie first.
It doesn’t matter what he thinks of me, because his opinions cannot color my grades. He can’t flunk me just by calling me useless.
He slipped that note to her and wrote one in tidy, much-easier Bitrani script to Enrie next.
There was the stench of bad aether in the stock room, not of alchemy. I heard two people talking about their plans, although they said nothing specific.
This time, he was afraid that Lirnilalie might have gotten herself a competent assistant. Their conversation had been hushed, it had been generic, and there had been nothing in it that could incriminate either of them or any of Lirnilalie‘s potential other associates.
Nevertheless, while his friends read his notes, Saydrie wrote down everything he could remember that they had said. There was a package. And there was a question of safety. Something about keeping the package perfectly well-wrapped until the right time. Something about-
Taikie’s note slipped into his lap with a movement so smooth he was surprised. Instructor Tiemaktamiek wasn’t looking their way; he generally only did when he wanted to pick on Saydrie.
It is horrible for a teacher to not be willing to teach you properly! He is – there was a scribble here that went on for several words. Saydrie didn’t try to decipher it. –it is his purpose and his position to teach you!
Saydrie sighed and folded up the note, just as Enrie passed him hers.
I need to know more about bad aether.
Saydrie feared that soon they all were going to need to know more about it.