February 12, 2019 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
The temple at Edally Academy was beautiful, in an ancient way, the stones still feeling the old dampness of the mountain or cliff they’d been pulled from, the brazier huge and burning away brightly, the plants two trees that stretched up in pots bigger than Oltello’s armspan in width and reaching to her shoulder in height, the breeze more than a little brisk this time of year.
Oltello wrapped her jacket more tightly around herself and knelt carefully in the center of the temple. Classes were in session so, for the moment, she had the entire place to herself. It was a blessing, but it also made her feel as if the regard of all of the Three was bearing down directly on her, pressing her into the ground.
She pressed her forehead to the glazed clay of the floor. “I bring myself here in hopes that I am on the proper path,” she murmured. “I bring myself here because I find myself standing on a thin and rickety bridge and the road in either direction has been washed out. I bring myself here because it seems that whatever road I take, I lead myself and my people – one people or the other – to misery and ruin. I bring myself here because I am split.”
Talking to the Bitrani-enclave student, Saydrie, Oltello had been strongly, painfully reminded of the divide between being Calenyena and being Bitrani-blooded. She was not, as some of the Bitrani-blooded seemed to think, a citizen of Bithrain. Bithrain was gone and would never come again. But she was born of a Bitrani parent, she had been raised with some Bitrani values, and she found that she tended to think through things in a manner that was far more Bitrani than her Calenyen cousins.
She realized, as she studied the floor tiles, that if the rebellion became a truth, she would likely be tarred with the same brush that would cover over Lirnilalie. Except Lirnilalie had a well-earned reputation for being able to get out of anything, and Oltello happened to be a bit too obvious and a bit closer to the line of fire, as it were.
“i come,” she muttered at the tiles, “because there’s nowhere to go that does not cause problems, and I see that I am leading children – first-year students! – into trouble with me. I come because if they are my people, as they must be, then there either must be another way, or, I call upon all Three of you, my deities, they must be protected.
“I do not ask for success.” It would be nice. On the other hand, she’d have had to have a clearer idea of what success would mean to her to ask for that. “But I ask for protection for those around me.”
When Lirnilalie had left the family, left the beginning of her name, and left the protection of the Emperor, she had ended up destroying – in some cases politically, in some emotionally, and in one case physically – more than a double handful of her relatives. Oltello had no hopes that this time would be any different.
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