September 3, 2019 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Saydrie would always, he thought, remember this day as the date he knocked a former Princess out with a punch. It was a good punch, he had to admit, and Lirnilalie fell down with a soft noise.
“You’re going to want rope,” he told the women who’d been fighting with Lirnilalie.. “I’ll sit on her while you get some. And… I don’t know. What would she be under arrest for?”
“We’ll find something and make it stick.” The taller of the two women, with braids so light of a brown they were nearly blonde, looked grim. “We’ve been looking for reasons, but she’s been hiding behind some diplomatic statutes. I doubt the Bitrani – err, sorry.”
“For mentioning my people?” Saydrie looked sideways at the woman. “They supported a hope at freedom. She’s showing that’s not what she wants.” He wasn’t sure that was quite enough of an explanation. He cleared his throat and tried again. “They are learning she didn’t have their interests at heart — or any but her own. And if they give you trouble, just have them smell her. She stinks.”
“Is that the – the bad aether thing you were talking about? You and your friend with the Device?” The taller woman frowned, glancing back at the audience hall. The shorter of the women had headed off, presumably for rope. Saydrie arranged Lirnilalie on the ground and did as he’d said he would – he sat down on her legs.
“Yes. It’s — as far as our research can tell, that’s Students Enerenarie and Tairiekie and I — it was something known to both Calenyena and Bitrani up until it was wiped from the records. It’s an interesting historical note, but the real problem is -” He shifted his weight to be sure he was pinning Lirnilalie down “-what its, ah, what the wiping has done to current political situations. I’m a History student,” he added apologetically. “Every time I find out something has been deleted from history, I want to think about all the implications and all the ways that it could’ve been differently, and so on.” He cleared his throat again. “And-“
“And it sounds like you’ve done a lot of it. You found the missing treaty?”
“Oh, no, that was mostly Enrie – Student Enerenarie. I helped a bit with the parts that were from Bitrani folklore – it was hidden almost as a riddle, you see – and with some of the research, and of course I protected her and helped her get away from some people who were coming -” he gestured down at Lirnilalie. “Oh.”
He ducked his head and colored. “She tried to kill us. I had forgotten that, to be honest. To run our wagon off the cliff. It was — it was scary, but our House Monitor, Libkazaari, she’s amazing. So’s our Stable-Master Korten. They saved our lives and got us to the Voice of the Emperor, and back to school. People were a little irritated with us…” He found he was mumbling. “Because we missed classes. Some of our teachers… oh! Oh, Instructor Tiemaktamiek ….” He shook his head. “There is too much going on. Sometimes I don’t think I’ll be able to manage classes, the way things are going.”
“To be honest, kid, I don’t think I can blame you for that. You’ve had a very busy time at school – what, your first two or three years?”
“First year,” he muttered. “I hope they don’t send me home.”
Under him, Lirnilalie stirred. He shifted his weight to be a little more firmly on her legs. “Don’t move, Lirnilalie. I’m not going to let you leave.”
“You know,” the woman in front of him commented, “I can’t imagine anyone would send you home for – well, everything you’ve done so far. I think you can probably talk your School Head into giving you a break if you have trouble with exams. That’s Wiltemika, right?”
He looked up, startled. “How did you know…”
She bowed shallowly to him. “Lirnilalie here is my cousin. I’ve been paying attention to matters but I’ve been a bit tied up in things. I’m Azhyaranzhya. Pleased to meet you.”
“Lady Azhyaranzhya!” He shifted, ready to stand, to bow, but the woman held out her hands. He felt his cheeks heating up.
“No bowing, none of that, and we want you to stay right there on my cousin’s legs, all right? It’s just a vowel, after all. You have done amazing things.”
Saydrie squirmed. “I have just done what I had to. We don’t – we, my team, we don’t like things that we don’t understand.” He found himself smiling. “That’s Taikie, Tairiekie, her doing mostly. Because she feels so strongly about understanding everything and learning everything. So we dig and dig when there’s a question, and sometimes–“
“Sometimes Tairiekie solves a murder, I’ve heard. But you were there, too.”
“And Enrernarie,” he continued, “she really cares about royalty being, ah, being proper and the way it’s supposed to be. About her vowel meaning something. Because otherwise –“
“Otherwise, it’s just a vowel.” Lady Azhyaranzhya nodded. “I can understand that. But here you are, too.”
“They’re my team. They’re wonderful students and wonderful friends, and I am going to support them, even when–“
“Even when it’s hard?” she asked gently.
“Even when it’s hard,” he whispered.
Lirnilalie was coming to. She shifted and twisted under him; Saydrie put all his weight on her legs.
“None of that, cousin,” Lady Azhyaranzhya scolded. “Sit still and wait.”
“You can’t -” Lirnilalie sputtered for a moment before beginning to sit up. Saydrie faced her and tried to breathe shallowly through his mouth.
She took only a moment to regain her composure. “Release me,” she demanded.
“I’m afraid I can’t,” he answered as briefly as possible. When she was awake and aware, the smell was worse. As she turned her attention on him, it became nearly unbearable.
“You must let me go. I have done nothing wrong.”
“Wrong and illegal are different things, cousin.” Lady Azhyaranzhya stepped closer. “Regardless, you have done both, and you will be punished.”
Lirnilalie sneered. “There is no illegality.”
“We will leave that for a trial, mmm?” Lady Azhyaranzhya was looking pleased. Saydrie wasn’t sure whether to be happy or worried. “I’m sure something will come up.”
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