October 30, 2018 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
What Everyone Knows is most often not true
“I know that you have dinner soon, but perhaps you could spare me a few moments? There is a table right over here,” she gestured. “And I promise you that I will make sure you’re still to dinner on time.”
Saydrie swallowed. He didn’t really have a lot of choice. What else was he going to do? “Of course, your Highness.” He made another deep bow. “What can I help you with?”
“I have heard,” she murmured, as she gestured and started walking towards the table in question, “that you have been very helpful in dealing with certain problems the nation has been having. And I know that your friends have been working with you, of course, but you are the Bitrani in the equation.”
“They are my friends, your Highness.” He sat down uncertainly. “And I am a citizen of Calenta.”
“Yes, you are. As am I. But, like me, you are a citizen of Calenta who has the blood of Bithrain.”
“From what I’ve been told,” Saydrie pointed out, too dryly, to “the same can be said of half the royal family.”
He was surprised that she laughed and more surprised that it was both pleasant sounding and, in a way he really didn’t understand, pleasant feeling. “Ah, so you’ve been hearing some of the old rumors and tales, I see. Well, yes. There’s a bit of Bitrani blood almost everywhere in the Calenyena, after this long, but you can see it in your friend Enerenarie, yes?”
“I don’t think I’d go around telling her that she looks Bitrani… your Highness.” He was going to get into so much trouble! “But then again, being Enrie, she might not be offended.”
“Nobody can deny my Bitrani blood, even if they wanted to tell my Bitrani father that he was somehow not.” Her smile was, he thought, amused. Saydrie realized he had no idea what was going on anymore. He thought he ought to be worried. He probably ought to make an excuse and run for his teammates, or the House Monitor, or any adult who probably wasn’t trying to kill him.
That was a depressingly short list, at least that he could be sure of. He echoed the Princess’s smile as best he could. “Mine, either, your Highness.”
“Please, call me Oltello. This is going to take a long time if you’re worried about formality the whole time.”
“Princess Oltyellaobtello, I can’t imagine sitting down with a Princess and not being worried about formality. How can I be of service?”
She tilted her head in acknowledgement. “It’s about the Bitrani blood, you see. There are things that my father told me, that I didn’t believe until I spoke to some of my cousins. And then – well, now I’m in a bit of a bind.”
She sounded so sincere, but there was no way that this wasn’t some sort of test or trap or plot. “No disrespect at all intended, but why would you need the help of a first-year Academy student, Princess?”
“Because the number of Bitrani that have proven themselves loyal to the Empire is very very small, and beyond that, the number of Calenyena who have worked to save the Empire is even smaller. I know of three other people with Bitrani blood that I could trust, but they were all raised as Calenyena.”
“But… weren’t you?” Every time Saydrie thought he had a handle on what was going on, Princess Oltyellaobtello said something else that made him even more confused.
“Yes and no. My father – and of course, my mother – made sure that I spent a lot of time with my Bitrani relatives. There are quite a few people who think that this makes me tainted, unsuited for rule, but I’m not really that close to the line for rulership anyway; it probably won’t ever become an issue.” She pushed that aside with a flap of her hand. “I can sense Humanic Aether.”
Her voice had dropped to a whisper and yet Saydrie still tensed.
“I… they don’t like hearing about that now.” He looked around him like one of his Instructors was going to jump out of the bookshelves and yell at him.
He didn’t think they’d yell at a princess, but he was never certain with some of these Instructors.
“Nobody wants to hear about it, no.. And that’s the problem.”
“I’m – I’m sorry? I don’t quite understand.” How was he going to get out of here? How was he going to explain this conversation to Taikie and Enrie?
“The problem-” The princess shifted to Bitrani and lowered her voice into a conversational murmur. “-is that not discussing something does not make it not exist. But when you have a Bitrani rebellion bubbling in the South, it’s difficult to explain to anyone that the problem happens to be something that only Bitrani-blooded people not raised solely by the Calenyena can sense. Do you see?”
“…Oh.” He continued to answer in Calenyen, although he couldn’t have explained why if he’d been asked. “I do see. Ah. We have been working with humanic aether, my team. If you have heard of them, you may have heard something about Student Tairiekie?”
“I have heard a thing or two. She is the one who was nearly killed solving an Instructor’s murder?”
“That’s her. Although -” He stopped himself quickly. It might be his private supposition that Taikie had been far more interested in find out what was going on with the Device than she had been the missing instructor, but that was really not something he should be saying out loud to anyone, much less a stranger who happened to be royalty. now when Lirnilalie was probably still annoyed with them. He cleared his throat. “She was fine. I believe the healer made it sound worse than it was to scare her into not going after crazy people anymore.”
“And so the next time, it was your teammate Enerenarie who did so instead, correct?”
“She’s – ah. Yes. We do tend to keep busy,” he offered weakly.
“Student Saydrie, you are cautious and rightly so. It has not been a particularly safe year for you and your team, and I imagine, being a Bitrani-blooded student in this school at this time is not easy, either. It wasn’t easy for me, when I went.”
“But you’re a Princess!” he blurted out. Then he looked at her and sighed. “And even if you wanted to announce that,” he added in a slow, quiet voice, “there are people who wouldn’t mind calling you a Byittie, whether or not they knew you had a vowel at the beginning of your name.”
“Exactly. So please believe me when I know that you have more reason than many to be cautious, even before we come to the travails of your team this year. It’s not a very safe place that you are in.”
“I – Your Highness -” He didn’t even know how he was supposed to finish that sentence. Saydrie put his head down on the table while half of him screamed at his rudeness.
He was very surprised to find the princess patting his shoulder. “Talk to your friends. If you three together – or six, or seven – decide that you can trust me, come back and talk to me. I won’t chase you around the school any more – although I have to admit, I’ve learned new things about this building in the last few days.”
Saydrie looked up at her to find her smiling. He tried a small smile back at her. “Me, too,” he confessed. “It’s almost been fun.”
“And likewise for me. Go on now, we’ll talk later, or not – as you decide. Shoo,” she added, when he looked uncertain. “It’s nearly dinnertime.”