April 11, 2019 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
There Will Always Be Something You Still Do Not Know
Taikie muttered at her Device. Enrie looked between Saydrie and the Princess as if not sure what she should say. The whole carriage seemed to be holding its breath.
“I feel like I missed a class,” Enrie finally admitted. “Like there was something important I was suppose to know about all of this and I just – I don’t know it. It’s maddening.”
“I’m afraid much of life is that way, no matter how good you are in your classes.” Princess Oltyellalobtello smiled gently at Enrie. “But the three of you have been very astute so far in discovering things generally left undiscovered.”
“Mostly,” Taikie offered, “by poking in places we shouldn’t be.”
“Well, then, I suppose I’m going to need to get you in position to poke into some more places. Saydrie? What do you think?”
“I think-” He pulled a history book from the bottom of his bag. “I think that I remember something, but I can’t quite remember what it was. Let’s see. I was reading this the other night – There’s plenty of nights I can’t sleep – and-” He fell quiet, not wanting to focus on words, on words in two languages, as he flipped through his books. “not this one,” he muttered, “maybe-”
There were more history books in his bag than clothes, something he was sure someone would probably tease him about at some point, but at the moment, it meant that he could find the book that he needed without having to turn around and head back to the school (not that he thought the Princess would do that, with the way she was rushing).
“Okay. Let’s see. This book was probably supposed to be redacted — I found it in the hidden section, when I was looking for something completely different.”
“All this library diving without us.” It was hard to tell if Enrie was actually upset or was teasing – it was often hard to tell with her. Saydrie looked up at her and then looked back at the book.
“We’ve all been kind of preoccupied,” he muttered, before flipping through the pages to what he thought might be the right page. “It’s a very old book, and it still has traces of the hidden-words designs marked on the corners — you can see, here, where someone tried to do it with a stamp. So rather than redacting the book completely, they just — stamped the pages and hoped it would work?” He frowned.
“Must have been in a cost-saving era,” the princess opined. “Sometime when they wanted to get the book out of there but, at the same time, they couldn’t afford or didn’t have someone who could do the right sort of aether manipulation. Does it work at all?”
“It does. The pages are prone to sticking together in that section, and it’s really easy to just ignore the page you’re looking for and end up reading about the coronation of Empress Urieketturieonie without reading, at all, about what happened to her older sister or her older cousins.”
“That sounds just a bit ominous.” Enrie leaned forward. “I don’t even remember reading about Empress Urieketturieonie. She’s a name on the list, but that’s it. Between the Emperors Iktallikktal and Efyieketfyieket, I think?”
“That’s right.” Saydrie frowned at the pages and, with effort, pulled open the correct one. To the left was an engrossing full-color illustration of the Empress Urieketturieonie and her youngest son at the time of her coronation. The woman had been wearing something that looked garish even in the slightly-faded print, at least seventeen different colors. It must have taken some illustrator forever to print or ink each one by hand.
“Do the Imperial coronation gowns still look like this? With the way that the trains flow out so much more than anything anyone wears normally? Surely the Emperor has to ride – look, there’s even goats in the illustration. And back then, it would have been even more so, wouldn’t it have?” Saydrie frowned at the page. “And why her youngest son? He’s barely old enough to walk, and he wouldn’t have been in the line to inherit anyway, would he have?”
Enrie cleared her throat carefully. Saydrie looked up at her and blinked.
“I,” she said, “have never heard you talk that much about clothing — even about the colors — in the time I have known you. Although I want to know why the youngest son, too. Is it possible you’re finding that page very engrossing because of some embedded aether keeping you from looking at the facing page?”
Saydrie felt his cheeks warming and ducked his head. “I — I don’t know,” he admitted. “It’s a very interesting outfit and very different from anything anyone I know wears — and Bitrani coronations tended to be far more simple, except in the Trouble Times. So I suppose I could just be finding it interesting.”
“I suppose that there are bears who wear crowns, and dance on the moons,” Enrie countered. “Something—” She leaned over to look at the book with him. “Is- oh, that’s interesting. The outfit on her son, see? That’s not a coronation outfit. This came up when I was looking into aether in fiber-weaving. The clothing themselves, well, even now an outfit has meaning, of course. But we’ve lost some of the old meanings and overwritten them with new stories. New ways of reading clothing. Which means—”
“Her older sisters and cousins.” Taikie’s voice was almost harsh. Why was she — Saydrie looked up at her face. She was angry. “Saydrie. Enrie. You’re smart. Come on. Stop letting the book push you around. You said the book was engrossing. You could look at it without remembering to read what happened to the Empress’ older sisters and cousins. So what happened to them?”
In the face of her anger, Saydrie managed to pull his attention away from the illustration, finally covering the page with his arm. “Her oldest sister was deposed from for what looks like a fairly common reason on the face of things – cowardice. In battle,” he added helpfully, his cheeks still burning. “But when you keep reading — if you manage to — there’s this line — the Emperor feared a taint had spread through all the lines of his family, and was relieved to find that Urieketturieonie was still clean enough to inherit. Not even clean — just clean enough.” Saydrie frowned at the page. “And then someone hid it.”
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