February 19, 2019 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
One becomes Two becomes Four becomes the World
Saydrie shifted towards the door, trying to move without making any sound. Behind him, he could sense Taikie shifting her wrench into a position more useful for a weapon than a tool. Enrie had stood up; her presence behind him was like a cool wave of regal calm.
Saydrie smiled. When you could sense that sort of thing, sometimes you could feel the way that humanic aethers flowed together. He wondered if he could explain it well enough to Taikie for her mahine to read it?
(He wondered if he ought to be upset about the machine instead of just being pleased that it existed and that it showed what he already knew).)
Another knock at the door brought him out of his musing. He pulled the door open cautiously.
Dalebod looked at him, shifted, and gave him a very awkward smile. He added and even more uncertain wave and shifted slightly out of the way.
If Dalebod looked awkward, Tesdes looked nervous and worried. He tilted his head. “There were some people that wanted to see you,” he explained. It wasn’t much of an explanation, but Saydrie would accept it.
“Some?” he asked, a little bit concerned that they might run out of room.
“Two,” a voice from behind Tesdes offered. He stepped out of the way, revealing one of the younger Cevati Bitrani. Maireana. She looked like she thought she was doing something wrong and wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. “I hope this is – that this is-” She shifted into Bitrani. “I hope I have given no offense by my presence here.”
Enrie answered for Saydrie. “No offense has been taken. Please, my kin, enter and be welcome.”
The choice of my kin was brilliant. it didn’t mean quite what it would have in Calenyen, but it was still a pointed and effective word.
The three of their visitors shared a look. Maireana translated Enrie into Calenyn. “She invites us to enter as honored allies.”
Close enough, Saydrie thought, and the three of them stepped in.
“Instructor Tiemaktamiek,” Dalebod began. “Is it something with that lady who’s been following you around?”
For a moment, Saydrie thought that Dalebod had seen Lirnilalie. He coughed and glanced at his friends. Taikie mouthed Princess at him.
“I – I need sleep,” he muttered. “Or less people following me around. Uh. I don’t think so. I resolved the issues with the lady that was following me around,” he clarified. “Or, at least, I think we have. But-” He swallowed a yawn. “I apologize, little-sister,” he aimed the term in Bitrani at Maireana and almost missed the nasty look she gave him in return. “I apologize,” he repeated. “Last night was, ah. There was not much sleep happening. But you all came here because of Instructor Tiemaktamiek?”
“I came here,” Tesdes offered very quietly, “because I didn’t get away fast enough when Dalebod and Maireana came up to me. They wanted to find you.”
“Something’s wrong with him. Instructors seem to get wrong around the three of you.” Dalebod held up both hands. “I don’t think it’s your fault. But I thought maybe you had some idea what was going on.”
Saydrie looked at his friends. They looked back at him.
“I thought he was just one of those who hated Bitrani,” Maireana put in, “but he seems to be getting angry at small provocations and to be unable to control his responses in any reasonable way. I was wondering if that was a feature of being Calenyena, but I’ve been told that it’s not.”
There was a moment of quiet in the room while all of the Calenyena processed that. Saydrie nearly let a laugh slip. The Bitrani thinks the Calenyena are just temperamental. It wasn’t the first time he’d heard it, certainly, but it was the first time he’d heard someone say it in front of any Calenyena.
Enrie cleared her throat. “He’s been acting unusual ever since we got back from Lannamer,” she opined. “Unusual for him, I mean. Saydrie-”
“He doesn’t… smell… as if he has…” Saydrie hesitated, took a breath, and let his glance slide cautiously over Maireana. She didn’t look offended, more curious than anything. That was at the very least a decent start, he supposed. “He doesn’t-”
“I don’t think his aether is bad.” Maireana rescued him. “He doesn’t smell wonderfully, but I think that is simply his body and not his aether. Or perhaps some sort of Calenyen perfume?”
Enrie made a sound that was something like choking. Saydrie suppressed a smile.
“I think you’re right,” he agreed. “He definitely has an odor, but I believe that it is just, as you said, poor hygiene.”
“Hey!” Dalebod glared at both of them. “Can you say that about an Instructor?”
“I don’t see why not,” Enrie put in, although she still sounded like she was having difficulty not laughing. “If he has a stink, he has a stink. And you have to admit, he’s not the best-smelling instructor on the best of days.”
“But that doesn’t mean- come on, he’s a decent Instructor, guys. I mean, normally.” Dalebod paused. “He has been kind of bad lately, I guess, but he’s always been very good to me, and the older Art House students say the same thing.”
Maireana cleared her throat. “So he’s good. I haven’t seen him teaching anything incorrect, that’s true, and he seems to be devoted to his subjects, but even before his recent troubles, he has never been kind to Bitrani students. The older Bitrani students say the same thing.” She stared at Dalebod in challenge as she echoed his words back at him.
He shifted, clearly uncomfortable. “So he’s… not really kind to some students. Does that make him bad? I mean as a teacher?” He waved his hand. “That’s not the part that’s important right now anyway. The part that I’m worried about is that he’s really being weird. Weirder than normal. And I don’t know why. I’m worried that someone has hurt him, or that he had a bad fall. My uncle had a bad fall once and acted like a completely different person for several months.”
“I’m worried that he’s going to jeopardize the fates of Bitrani students while he’s busy ignoring all professionality, whether or not he hit his head. And since his aether isn’t bad, it – well, he has no excuse.” Maireana raised her eyebrows, still challenging.
Enrie cleared her throat, a move slightly ruined by the yawn in the middle. “I. Okay, so Instructor Tiemaktamiek is acting stranger than usual, and he’s jeopardizing education while he’s doing so. This isn’t Pelnyen – it’s not a case where he started out like this and is just getting too annoying to ignore. He’s always been a little biased, clearly. There’ve been cases where he’s ignored Saydrie’s answer and praised someone else for saying the same thing.”
“But that’s within ah, normal standards for instructors here.”
“No!” Dalebod sounded scandalized. Saydrie stared at him. “Are you serious? They just-”
“Haven’t you noticed?” Maireana sounded more amused than startled.
“No.” Enrie stifled another yawn. “They don’t notice – we don’t notice – until it affects us. Or, in my case, my friend and teammate. That makes it real. Once it becomes real, then it’s harder to not see. But until then-”
“So.” Dalebod shifted. “Is there something wrong with Instructor Tiemaktamiek? Or is it just – is he just being normal?”
The rest of them – even Tesdes – shared a look. It was Taikie who answered.
“I think – I think there’s probably something wrong with him.”
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