February 26, 2019 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Look Not to the Color of One’s Coat but to the Seams of it For Your Judgement
The end of the week found them gathering together into the weekly carriage down into Ileltedez.
Enrie and Gianci were sharing a bench seat that was just big enough for the two of them; Saydrie couldn’t help but notice that, out of uniform for the trip, Enrie had put more effort into both her outfit and her hair than he was used to seeing out of her. He could count seven colors – one of them a near-exact match for Gianci’s eyes and another a good approximation of his hair, and another a decent replication of his straw-yellow hair – on her outfit, and at least nine braids in her hair.
Taikie was sitting between Saydrie and Riensin on a wider bench, with Kekdela and Tesdes and another student, one they didn’t know, on the third; the fourth was filled up with two more strangers, as close together as Enrie and Gianci.
It made the ride – not awkward, but a little strange, since they were trying to keep their doings relatively secret. Of course, from the looks of things, Enrie and Gianci did not feel the least bit strange or uncomfortable.
Taikie, on the other hand, started up a conversation about homework after ten minutes of rattling, slow-riding silence in the carriage, pulling in everyone else, even the two older students who were clearly several years ahead of them, into a question about aether and philosophy.
Saydrie envied her easy ability to lose herself in her studies. On the other hand, at the moment he appreciated it, because he could listen to them rattle on and not have to put in much.
One of the older students – not History house, but since they weren’t in their uniforms, that and the fact that he looked like an East-Coast Calenyen and spoke like a Lannamer native were the only things Saydrie knew about him – looked Saydrie up and down. “All this discussion about aether doesn’t bother you, Byit-oof.” His companion had elbowed him in the side. “Bitrani?” he corrected.
“Saydrie,” Enrie corrected; Saydrie hadn’t thought she was paying attention, but her voice had every ounce of that regal bearing that she had been practicing. “His name is Saydrie.”
The student looked at Enrie, raised an eyebrow, and looked back at Saydrie. “It doesn’t bother you, *Saydrie?*” His voice was dripping with exaggerated civility. Saydrie found that he didn’t care all that much; even exaggerated false civility could be nominally better than none at all.
“No. It’s not as if I haven’t had these discussions with my team before, after all.” It was a struggle to make his voice be calm. He didn’t think he succeeded all that well. But if he didn’t Taikie might get into a fist-fight in the back of the coach, and that would probably put a stopper in their plans for the day. “And it’s not as if the Bitrani – the religious Bitrani from the enclaves or other Bitrani, like my friend Gianci here – have an issue with discussing aether. I’m not sure why you’d think I would.” He forced himself into mildness for the last, but he imagined it was not quite as kind as he might have been to someone else.
And, he realized belatedly, until then, the way Gianci and Enrie had been sitting had blocked Gianci – or enough of him – from the older student’s view, so that it was suddenly clear, as Gianci sat up straight, that the Royal Daughter Enerenarie was cuddling up with someone who was very pointedly a Bitrani.
Saydrie might have felt guilty about that, but he was fairly sure that Gianci could handle himself.
“Me?” Gianci let every bit of his Lannamer accent slide into his voice. It sounded to Saydrie, who was no expert in such things, like he might be exaggerating it. “No, no problem with it at all. I’d have to be a fool to mind it, considering the company I keep.” The affectionate way that he squeezed Enrie’s hand made it abundantly clear which company he was discussing.
“But they say that the Bitrani-”
“Drop it, Kaldo.” His companion sounded far less than impressed. “You’re simply showing off your ignorance. These kids are just trying to have a good weekend. Let them be.”
“But the Bitrani rebellion-”
“Is not going to be run by seven first-year students in a coach, Kaldo.”
“Especially not,” Gianci saw fit to put in, “when one of them is a royal. Seriously.” He rolled his eyes at the older students. “The lady is right. We’re just looking to enjoy our weekend. Why don’t you do the same?”
“And who are you to -”
Kaldo was shut up by another elbow in the gut. “Stuff it or walk,” the girl warned him. Glowering, Kaldo fell quiet.
Taikie, as if she had just been waiting for the interruption to pass, kept going with the discussion on classwork as if nothing had happened.
Saydrie smiled warmly at her. It was nice to know, no matter how strange things got, there were some things he could rely on, and Taikie caring about homework seemed to top the list.
Homework and Aether, he corrected, as they split up in Ileltedez. Gianci and Enrie were going to the Library. For some reason, Tesdes and Kekla were going along. Saydrie wasn’t sure if they were looking for something in the library as well, or if Kekla just wanted something else to draw – not his business.
That left him, Taikie, and Riensin assembling Taikie’s now-much-smaller Device and heading into the city, Taikie wearing it like some sort of pack. Riensin might not be able to *smell* aether, but he had a good sense of people and an even better sense of when it was a good idea to run. Saydrie found himself relieved to have the boy there.
Even more so when the gauge on Taikie’s machine began to move towards the “bad” part of the dial in mere minutes.
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