November 8, 2018 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
To be an enemy, you must be an actual threat
“I still think that you have absolutely no sense of self-preservation.”
Riensin had been going on about the same thing since left the princess behind.
“Do you think I could paint her? Do you think she’d say yes if I asked nicely enough? Sketches, I did a couple sketches-”
Kekla hadn’t eaten more than three bites of her lunch. She’d been too busy sketching, talking about sketching, and talking about the princess.
“You know, there are better ways to hide.”
Tesdes hadn’t said much up to that point. And now, the way he was sidling up towards Saydrie, it looked like he didn’t want anyone else overhearing him.
“Yeah?” Saydrie imitated the shorter boy’s quiet tone.
“Well, ah.” He cleared his throat. “I don’t know how Bitrani feel about magic, well, aether-use, but there’s always being invisible. Then nobody can bother you.”
“Look, I can show you later, but I found these books in an old part of the library, when everyone was, uh, following me around because of the whole going-to-Lannamar thing, and there they were – invisibility. It’s actually kind of neat. And then you don’t get hassled and you don’t have to run all over looking for a hiding place. I mean, this place is full of them, but still…”
Saydrie nodded slowly. He wondered what, exactly, Tesdes meant by magic. He knew of several things that sometimes fell under that word – at least the closest Bitrani word to the Calenyen word Tesdes was using. One of them just meant aether, the force that shifts the world. One of them meant miracles. Another one of them meant things that were frankly horrible and involved cutting into still-living people and animals and doing things with their entrails, which was as forbidden, if not more so, in the enclaves than it was in the rest of Calenta.
He couldn’t imagine Tesdes sneaking into the stables and cutting goats or smaller animals open, and he couldn’t imagine that actually working to make someone invisible.
Then again, he couldn’t imagine anything actually making someone invisible, short of a miracle.
“I haven’t told the others yet,” Tesdes whispered. “Can you-?”
“I’ll keep it to myself,” he murmured. Riensin was still talking; so was Kekla. The chances they’d been overheard were minimal.
“-after everything in Lannamer, after Lirnilalie, and you still aren’t thinking about your safety-”
“I just love the way her face is shaped. Don’t you love it, Taikie? I mean, she has that perfect royal nose and then that hair. I could paint light hair forever. Maybe twice forever.”
They had gotten to their classroom without really paying any attention, and Instructor Tiemaktamiek was between them and their seats, his eyebrows up.
Enrie took lead. “Yes, Instructor?”
“You are late. Do not look at the clock, look at me. All of you, you’re late.”
From further back in the room someone cleared their throat.
“I do not want to hear it.” Tiemaktamiek raised his voice without moving his eyes from their little group. “You have shown no respect for my class. You have passed notes – did you think I didn’t see? – you have been disrespectful, and your homework has been pitiful.”
“I’ve gotten a hundred percent right on every assignment,” Tairiekie protested.
“I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about your Bitrani friend here.”
Someone in the back of the room cleared their throat, louder this time.
“I’ve gotten good grades – sometimes as good as Tai – Tairiekie’s – on every assignment as well,” Saydrie answered evenly. “And I have been on time to class every day, including today.”
“You know, if this rebellion goes through, your and your oafish friends won’t have to come to this school anymore. And I won’t have to put up with you. No more of that they’ll split my family up rubbish, no stupid accents, no repeating myself three times -”
“Instructor.” Someone in the back of the classroom stood up. Saydrie didn’t look away from the Instructor.
“Instructor,” the voice in the back repeated. Gailpoon. Really? Saydrie found his eyebrows going up. “Instructor Tiemaktamiek, I don’t think you’re feeling well. Maybe something you ate at lunch disagreed with you?”
That was a kinder assumption than Saydrie would have made, but the look in Instructor Tiemaktamiek’s face made him think maybe Gailpoon was correct.
“I’m fine,” the Instructor snarled. “You six, you, Gailpoon, and anyone else who wants to argue with me, off to House Monitor Libkazaari’s office. Now.”
“Yes, sir.” Saydrie bowed low and took Taikie’s hand, risking the intimacy, before she could start arguing. “We’ll be going along, then we will go to the House Monitor’s office.”
They hurried off, walking calmly but as quickly as Saydrie could set the pace, before the Instructor decided to say something else.
“Something is wrong with him.” Gailpoon sounded seriously worried. “He’s acting – well, like Pelnyen. He wants – I don’t know, it doesn’t make any sense you didn’t even do anything wrong, Byi-”
“Finish that word,” Riensin warned him cheerfully, “and I will have to break your teeth. That is, if Lady Enerenarie here doesn’t beat me to it.”
“I’m the one with a pipe wrench,” Taikie snarled She looked at where Saydrie was still holding her hand and did not object.
“I mean… I mean, he was already acting a little weird, and then you six came in, and he just – I don’t understand it.” Gailpoon’s whine was plaintive and a little lost. “He was generally a sensible Instructor until the last week or two. Lately -”
“Perhaps someone is blackmailing him?” Kekla leaned forward, looking suddenly very interested. “If someone was putting pressure on him, and he was under contrary pressure from the school – you now how much trouble Pelnyen got in, and then there was the whole thing with siding with Lirnilalie and Associate Governor Ilonilarrona, and so I imagine the school is getting rather stern about things like,” she dropped her voice to a whisper, “siding with enemies of the empire and such matters-”
“Nobody’s siding with enemies of the empire,” Gailpoon scoffed. “There is no such thing. There’s the empire, and then sometimes a few people whine, but that doesn’t make them proper enemies. To be an enemy, you have to be an actual danger or threat of some sort.”
“Do you, ah, do you read the newspapers at all?” Enrie eyed their erstwhile companion strangely. “Or possibly I should ask, ‘what do you consider “a danger of some sort”’?”
“Who reads the newspaper in school?” he scoffed. “I’ve got to pass all my classes and start getting my grades near the top of the lists.”
“I’d suggest,” she told him very carefully, “you take some time out of your studies to read the papers. In the meantime, perhaps we can find out what is wrong with Instructor Tiemaktamiek.”