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Chapter 21


November 27, 2018 by Lyn Thorne-Alder

You Find Your Family in Your Tent

House Monitor Libkazaari had not been all that interested in punishing any of them, and had made sure they reached their next class in plenty of time.  Discussions of the Bitrani possible-rebellion during their classes and some whispers of trouble in the upper echelons of the royal family managed to push the issue of Instructor Tiemaktamiek from their minds by the time the six of them reached dinner.

“There’s supposed to be some sort of push to eliminate one of the direct heirs,” Enrie whispered under the noise of the rest of the Dining Hall.  “But I don’t understand. There aren’t all that many ways that someone can be removed. I mean, Lirnilalie was declared unfit, and that takes a great deal of work to do.  Who would be trying to get more of the royal family declared unfit? Logically, I suppose, it could be someone lower down than them in the inheritance structure, but…” She trailed off.  “Saydrie, can you show me that old section of the library? I have a thought, but it’s kind of a strange one and I’d like to do some reading, first.”

“Of course.  After dinner?”

“After dinner is good.  After all, we missed half of lunch.”  She continued to wear a thoughtful expression while she ate.

“Do you think – I mean, is it possible – that is, would you rather I not ask you about this?” Kekla looked like she was going to shift out of her seat, the way she kept wiggling.

“I would need to know what it was you were asking me about, first,” Saydrie pointed out gently.

“The Bitrani thing!  I mean, this rebellion.”  She shook the paper. “This thing that they’re talking about.  Could they – could your -”

He liked Kekla, but the question still made him purse his lips and think hard. “That’s a difficult question to answer,” he began. “That is, I was a child when I was home, and if there were any military discussions, I wasn’t privy to them.” He went through his thoughts carefully. “If there were weapons or weapons training, I didn’t see any.” He paused again, because he did remember hunting training, and he remembered stick-training, decorative drills usually done with rakes and hoes. “Kekla, I like all of you. You, all five of you, are my friends. But the enclave I grew up in, those people are my family.”

It wasn’t the hurt on her face that worried him – it was more of a momentary sulk. It was the expression of pain and then pained understanding on Taikie’s face and the near-blankness on Enrie’s face that had him concerned.  It was worse when Enrie cleared her throat. “We all have our own family loyalties,” she said, in a voice that sounded like diplomat training and almost nothing at all like his friend. “And right now, my family is the royal family, and Saydrie’s family are Cevati Bitrani.”

Saydrie didn’t fold up into himself, but he really wanted to.  He lifted one hand – only a finger’s width from the table, barely a movement at all – and let it drop back to the table.  “If it came down to it,” he answered quietly, knowing he sounded of wounded pride, “I’m Calenyena. I don’t think I have to prove that.”  Not to you, he didn’t say.

He stood up.  His appetite was gone.  “I’m sorry, Kekdela. I’ll try to come up with answers to your questions later.  I’m going to – I’m going to- Enerenerie, I can show you that section of the library later.”

He fled before anyone could ask him to stop, walked quickly out, ignoring when some of the Cevati Bitrani called to him.

He walked out into the center of the courtyard between the dormitory towers and looked up at the sky, not knowing why he was here, what he was doing.  What does any of this mean?

Until Kekla’s question, it hadn’t really come home for him: If the Bitrani went to war against the Calenyena, his family, the enclave, everyone he knew from back home, they would likely go to war.

And he, and the other Cevati Bitrani in Edally and other Academies, they would be stuck in the middle – or expelled, or imprisoned, or worse.

He swallowed around a lump and was surprised to find a hand on his shoulder.  He turned slowly – Riensin.

Then there was a hand on his other shoulder.  A turn revealed it to be Taikie.

“The rest of them are still muttering and working through the really obvious things,” she told him.  “Well, Kekla and Enrie. I don’t know where Tesdes went.”

“But maybe you could use someone to talk to?” Riensin offered.  “I mean, we’re your friends, right?”

“Of course we are.”  Taikie wasn’t smiling, but she was looking determined.  “I could make you a Device…. I’m sure I could think of something that would help.  Oh, I know. Something that took letters home for you.”

Saydrie didn’t think he’d ever mentioned to anyone that he was fairly sure any correspondence home was monitored.  He wondered how Taikie had made the connection.

She wrinkled her nose at him, as if the question was obvious on his face.  “When you do get a letter, the seal is either broken or has been badly re-sealed.  And it’s in the charter. I read it,” she added quietly. “It’s…. Enrie spent a night explaining to me why we would have done such a thing.”

Saydrie winced.  “Did she?” He couldn’t quite bring himself to look at either of his Calenyena friends.

“I don’t think it makes sense.  I don’t think it’s good and I don’t really like the explanations at all. But I’m, well, I’m an engineer in training, not a historian or a diplomat.”  She huffed. “Saydrie, I understand why you didn’t want to tell Kekla more. It’s your family.”

“Enrie didn’t,” he muttered.  He sounded like a sullen child.  Somehow he couldn’t stop himself anyway.

“Enrie does.  She’s just struggling with things.  I mean… this is pretty scary, isn’t it?  There’s this,” she dropped her voice to a whisper, “this talk about a rebellion, and what’s that going to me?”

“It’s going to mean people die.”  Saydrie didn’t look at her, but he did look at Riensin.  Riensin, in turn, had taken a step back as if guarding the pair of them.  “It means that someone is going to lose, Taikie, and -” He swallowed and made himself finish the sentence. “There’s a really good chance that it’s my family that will lose.”

Taikie’s hug was surprising and surprisingly welcome.  “I know,” she whispered. “This is horrible. We should – we should change the enclave laws.”

“Unfortunately, rather hard to do in the middle of a threatened rebellion,” Riensin pointed out.  Saydrie wanted to be angry, but it wasn’t as if he wasn’t right. “We’ll work something out, though.  Maybe we can take in your family. Adopt them. My family has enough people that a few dozen more will hardly make a dent.  Do you think your parents would like being fisherpeople? Or pirates,” he added as an afterthought.

Saydrie contemplated the image of his mother as a pirate for a moment and found a smile coming to his lips.  “I think – I think that would be very strange indeed,” he concluded. “Thank you. Thank you for – for thinking about it.  For everything.”

Taikie hugged him a little tighter.  “We’re a team,” she assured him. “We’ll always help you.”


  1. Scott Maitland says:

    Oof, tough things to struggle with. I have faith these folks will come through well though – they’re very resourceful.

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