April 16, 2019 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
The Worst Part of Making a Bad Decision is Having to Make the Same Decision Again Later
“There!” Enrie’s finger stabbed the book firmly. “There, that’s it.” It was as if she was pinning the words in place.
They had been taking turns and struggling with the book for more than two hours, their eyes blurring and the fashion of a bygone era seeming very interesting — Saydrie had learned more about the way that particular coronation robes tied than he ever wanted to know, and more about calenyen inheritance and problems than he had generally assumed he would learn in an entire education into Calenyen history.
He had been taking a moment to look out at the passing scenery — they could see the ocean from here, down an ominous cliff that reminded him far too much of their trip to the capital not that long ago — and took his time turning back to the page, although he knew he should hurry before Enrie lost the thread of it.
“That’s not even on the page, En — oh.” He leaned forward. So did the Princess; Taikie was already peering at it.
“Oh, bother, that’s archaic writing,” he muttered. “This muste be tolde, und yette — yette I find on myselve Þe worrie of—” He shook his head “—worry of the… so, I believe that they’re saying that the story needs to be told, and yet the Emperor’s fears might be true, and that is a thing that needs to be whispered very quietly about, not shouted. Do you agree?”
When he looked up at her, Princess Oltyellalobtello was frowning at the book. She didn’t seem to have heard him. He cleared his throat politely. “Princess-“
She jumped and glared at him, the expression quickly replaced with something staid and completely devoid of personality. “Ah, hrrm. This is — that is.” She cleared her throat. “They wanted to hide this, because they felt it needed to be said, but that it also needed to be hidden.”
That was nearly exactly what he’d said. But she was a princess. Saydrie waited patiently to see if she had something else to say as well.
It seemed like she was going to say nothing else for a moment, and then another moment later, as Enrie opened her mouth, the Princess continued.
“This is — This is beastly. It’s absolutely horrible, and it’s just about what we were afraid of. They locked up this, this discussion of — how deep does it go? And what about the Emperor and what about—”
“Princess.” He was not normally in the habit of interrupting, but she was getting increasingly angry. “I know that this is horrible, but I’m afraid the book is affecting you. You know the Emperor is not tainted.”
“I — yes. I have only seen a couple members of the family who would be, who smelled at all of bad aether. There haven’t ever been that many — so what happened then? Why was this…”
“Because the Emperor wanted the reason to get rid of some of his heirs, but then realized that he might find himself without an heir.” Enrie huffed. “And rather than do the reasonable thing, which happened two generations later — three? Maybe four. Saydrie?”
He wasn’t quite sure yet what she was asking so he waited for more information.
“— they deferred the inheritance to a distance cousin because their line had gotten tangled up in a mess of intrigue and they couldn’t determine how deep the rot went,” she clarified.
“Oh! Efyieketfyieket, and then Otenlarkaizhai. That was — two generations later. Perhaps Emperor Iktallikktal should have made the proper choice in the first place.” He frowned at the book. “What does this do to help us with Lirnilalie? She’s already been removed from the inheritance.”
“She has, but she has been arguing that that was because of Calenyena politics and not because she was unfit for the position. If it’s shown that she’s just tainted, then maybe we can take the wind out of her sails.”
“Calenyena politics!” Taikie protested. “What other sort would it be? It’s the Calenyen throne! It’s not like it’s —” She flapped her hands.
“Some Bitrani,” Saydrie began, and then he just sagged against the seat. He was exhausted, and they weren’t even there yet.
“Remember.” Princess Oltyellalobtello sounded herself again, gentle and thoughtful. “Some Bitrani-blooded people — especially those in the enclaves — think of themselves as separate from the crown and from the politics. They’re ruled under protest, even still. And while that may seem silly from a Lannamer point of view —the Calenyena won the war, and so on; trust me, I’ve heard it all — to them, ‘Calenyena politics’ is practically a swear word.”
Taikie frowned. “So — So no reason except a reason they think is acceptable will do?”
“Are you any different?” Saydrie found he was getting irritable and didn’t like it. “If you have trouble with something, you have to put it in terms that you understand, don’t you? If not, it doesn’t make sense and it makes you angry. Like philosophy.”
“Easy,” Enrie murmured. “She’s just trying to understand it.”
Saydrie opened his mouth and closed it again with a snap. He was angry, and he didn’t know why.
He stole a glance at the princess. She nodded slowly, as if she understood something he wasn’t saying. If only he understood what he wasn’t saying.
“This is a strange position for me,” she began, “and I imagine it might be for Saydrie here, too. Because we are Calenyena. There is no doubt in my mind about that and, from conversations we’ve had—”
Saydrie didn’t miss the sharp looks both of his friends gave him — what, that he’d had conversations with the Princess? It wasn’t as if Enrie didn’t have conversations with Gianci, or as if Riensin wouldn’t have with Taikie.
Oh. He blinked and looked out the window, biting his lip.
“—connection to our Bitrani roots as well. We were both raised very Bitrani, with Bitrani traditions and religion—” He’d missed part of what she was saying, but the end of it caught him again.
“Everyone follows the Three,” Enrie protested
“But differently,” Saydrie managed. “It’s not the same, the way we pray at home, even the way we think about the three. It’s a different language, a different history-”
“How can the history be different?” Taikie protested. “What happened is what happened?”
“No it’s not,” Enrie cut in, before Saydrie could say something he thought he would likely regret later. “Think about this whole treaty, and how it was hidden. Think about how a whole sector of aether was forgotten, written out of the books, because an Emperor was worried. What history is is what someone says it is. And that’s — that’s why the Bitrani probably have different history than we do.”
“Wait. Wait, I have an idea.”
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