February 5, 2019 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Riding While Injured, Walking While Asleep
Breakfast found all three of them sitting as if asleep. Saydrie pushed himself to sit up straight, only to find that Enrie was nearly falling asleep in her porridge and Taikie was swaying in her seat.
Riensin looked at all three of them with amusement, then caught Enrie’s shoulder before she actually did drown in milky parsnip mush. “Easy, easy, don’t stab me, I’m just saving your reputation. Were you three up plotting how to save the world again last night? And without us, too! I don’t know about you three; we get no respect at all.”
Saydrie looked at his friends guiltily, only to find that they were both looking at him guiltily as well. Taikie cleared her throat. “Well, I was – ah. I was working in the Engineering lab.”
“I was-” Enrie put both hands over her mouth to cover a yawn. “Oh! Oh, I was in the library. And then I was, um. Well, you know every tower, every tower level, and every classroom building has their own books, right?”
“That’s so disorganized,” Taikie frowned. “What if- all right. Your story first.” She put up both hands at the glare Enrie was shooting at her and fell silent.
“So I spent most of the night, ah,” she stifled another yawn. “Oh, looking for things. You know, looking for treaties in folk tales was easier? At least then I knew exactly what I was looking for.”
“What did you find?” Have to look through all the books on campus did not seem like a good sign.
“I found,” she pulled out her notes, “seven references to books that themselves referenced humanic aether, seventy-two complaints that there was nothing of the sort – not counting dismissals like ‘oh, that humanic aether that people whisper about’ – and one – one – discussion of it in a very early book as if it was a thing that some people knew about.” She huffed – at her notes, at them, at the books; it wasn’t clear. “Let’s see, here. ‘The scholars whisper in their cloistered towers about the Final Aether, the one that closes everything, the one that finishes everything.’ I think. It was an old hand-written book and some of the text was a little odd. And,” she grimaced, “my text is a little odd. I’m not sure; I might have been sleep-writing at that point.”
“But why whisper?” Saydrie’s brow furrowed. “It’s not like everyone in Bithrain didn’t know about it.”
“I don’t know.” Enrie threw up her hands. “I don’t. I need another library. Something that has older stuff in it.”
“Did you say you needed something?”
Gianci appeared behind her – in fairness, he must have been walking over, but all of them were so sleepy that they hadn’t noticed – and leaned over Enrie’s shoulder, grinning. “I was waiting for you to need something that I might be able to help with.”
She tilted her head backwards to look up at him. Saydrie felt a strange pang at their closeness – not jealousy; Enrie was too good of a friend for him to want anything more complicated. But… something?
He didn’t have the time to sort that out right now. He cleared his throat and looked up at Gianci, before deciding – a bit foolishly, he supposed – that he ought to let Enrie answer.
She glanced at him, waiting, looked back at Gianci, and, as Riensin made a noise that sounded like a choked laugh, she cleared her own throat. “I always need you,” she chuckled. “But right now, what I need is a very old archive of historical aetherists and their studies.”
“You know, one of the things I like about you is that life is never boring around you.” Gianci smiled at her. “And another thing is that I can actually be helpful sometimes. So, what do you say to a trip down to the city?”
Saydrie could almost hear Enrie’s aggravated retort before she opened her mouth, but instead of complaining or snapping at Gianci, she smiled. “That would be nice. Do you have some place in specific in mind?”
Wait, what? Saydrie blinked at her.
Gianci, on the other hand, seemed to have been expecting this response – or at least his big grin was unsurprised. “Oh, I was thinking maybe the archival library connected to the scholarly temple of the Three down by the water.”
Saydrie looked between them. There was an archival library…? There was exactly what Enrie was looking for…? Why hadn’t he just said that?
A glance at Taikie told him that she was feeling similarly. A glance between Enrie and Gianci told him she was feeling far too thrilled by the whole thing. And a glance at Riensin told him that their other friends thought this was either amusing or adorable.
Saydrie leaned back in his seat and tried not to sulk. Enrie was excitedly going over details with Gianci. And this made perfect sense. It was what she needed. It was what they, what the Princess, probably what the Empire needed.
He closed his eyes for a moment. If Enrie was getting the information, then he could focus on – well, then, what did he need to focus on? What was going to happen with this Treaty Meet, for one. What Lirnilalie was going to go after and how they could stop her. The whole potential problem of a civil war. The way the three had lain their hands on the nation…
He shook himself awake from what had been a weird half-dream about one of the Three – probably Tienebrah – brushing their hands over the water and turning it from black to a clear blue. He blinked at Taikie. “Whuh-?”
“You were snoring,” she whispered, “and also not hearing what I was saying.”
That made a certain amount of sense. “I’m sorry.” He wiped his face with his napkin and blinked at her. “Sorry,” he repeated. “What were you saying?”
“I think I’ve gotten the Device working but we’d have to find someone with bad aether to test it on. You said it was very rare, right? Does it exist outside of humans, or is it solely a function of humanic aether?”
“I…” he blinked and tried to make her question make sense. “I believe it’s just humanic aether. I don’t think anyone – or anything- else has something like that.”
She frowned. “I guess we’re just going to have to look at everyone, then, until we find someone who has bad aether, so we can test the machine. Maybe we should go into the city, too.”
Enrie and Gianci probably wouldn’t like the company, Saydrie thought. “Maybe,” he agreed. He was sleepy, but he found himself smiling. “Maybe we can find someone with bad aether there.”
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