September 17, 2019 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
“Why do you always get to leave the school?” Dalebod was watching them board yet another carriage: Saydrie, Enerenarie, and Tairikie, along with Riensin, Kekdela, Tesdes, and, of course, Gianci.
“I’m willing to trade,” Saydrie offered dryly. “For a chance at not being threatened for a little while. It’s going to be hard enough catching up with everything — oh.” He looked at Dalebod and back at his friends.
Enerenarie bit her lip. “Maybe it will come out in the trial? I mean, she’s going to have to talk about her — associates. That is, if that’s what’s going on. It could be any number of awful things.”
“What?” Dalebod looked between them frowning. “I didn’t do anything! I mean, okay, sometimes I’m a little bit of a jerk, but–“
“Not you,” Saydrie reassured him. The oddity of him reassuring Dalebod didn’t escape him, but if that was what he was doing, it was, well, what he was doing. “No, Instructor Tiemaktamiek. Unless you solved the problem of his extreme behavior while we were, uh, busy? Distracted?”
“Oh!” Dalebod blinked. “You actually – you think you can –“
“You asked us to, didn’t you?” Saydrie smiled as gently as he could. “I think we have to try. And not just because, well, it makes my life easier if he’s a little more stable.”
Dalebod snorted, his faith in the balance of the world reasserted. “That, I can believe.” He blinked, as if something had just occurred to him. “It has to be pretty hard – the teacher treating you like that.”
Saydrie nodded, because anything he could say seemed either rude or a lie. Then he decided that he could say something, after all. “You get used to… no. No, I’m sorry. You don’t get used to it and it never stops being unpleasant. It’s like – “It’s – I’d like to pretend that it doesn’t bother me, but that would be ridiculous. It’s not something you get used to.” He took a breath. “It’s not something that becomes easier with time. It still — it hurts — because all I am trying to do here is get an education, keep my head down, and not cause any trouble-“
He trailed off, because Dalebod was laughing. Laughing, but somehow it didn’t seem cruel.
“Zhekpait-” The word in Calenyen meant something like one who fights beside me, but Bitrani had no direct translation “-zhekpait, you are doing a very bad job if those are your goals. Keep your head down and not cause any trouble? Have you noticed what you happen to be doing right now?”
Saydrie snorted ruefully. “I’ve noticed. It wasn’t my choice–“
“It was though, wasn’t it? You could have not said anything. You could have let your teammates be. A lot of people aren’t nearly as close with their teams as you are. You could have – oh, I don’t know, anything but ended up putting a grandchild of the Emperor on trial.”
“I didn’t put her on trial!” Saydrie felt a little alarmed. Was that what people were saying? What were they going to do to his enclave, to his family? Put a granddaughter of the Emperor on trial.”
“You sat on her. I’ve heard the stories. They get around — even if your teammates aren’t saying anything, and they aren’t, people from other schools were there, and they have family and friends who are here, and face it, everyone knows. You and your team brought down a plot against the Empire. They’ll give you a medal for that — you look depressed.”  stopped mid-rant and stared at Saydrie, then ducked his head and bowed jerkily. “I am an idiot. I don’t — I don’t know how to deal with Bitrani. I don’t—”
“Saydrie.” Takie brushed her hand across his sleeve. “We have to get going.”
Saydrie nodded to her then turned back to Dalebod. “You’re trying,” he assured the boy. “I understand that you’re thinking about this and trying now. I understand that it’s new to you. Thank you. But now—”
Now Dalebod managed a smile. “Now you need to miss another class. Because you are awful at keeping your head down and not being troublesome.”
“I am, indeed,” Saydrie agreed.
“Hey, Saydrie, is this guy bothering you?” Riensin popped up on one side of him, Kekla on the other. “Because after everything you’ve done—”
Saydrie really, really wished people would stop telling him that. “We are having a quite interesting conversation, actually,” he informed his — his friends? He supposed they were. “It’s okay. Dalebod has some concerns and we are working it out.”
The way that all three Calenyena were looking at him, Saydrie wondered if he’d grown horns.
“Are you sure?” Riensin asked slowly. “You’re — talking as if we’re strangers.”
“Saydrie,” Taikie called.
“I am — I am worried about the trial. I am worried about my people. About all of my people.”
Riensin nodded, as if the understanding had flowed over him. “Say no more. We’ll be nice to Dalebod here while you’re gone.”
“As you will.” He bowed jerkily and turned, just as Taikie came up to him, so that looking at the top of her braids very closely. “I am — I am coming,” he assured the top of her head.
They sat silently in the carriage, Stable-Master Korten once again driving them. Saydrie wished for a problem to solve, for a question to research, for an enemy to chase after.
He really was bad at keeping his head down and staying out of trouble. He found himself smiling just at his own ridiculousness.
Taikie tilted her head at him. “You are less worried now?”
“I… yes. We’ll make it through all right.”
“Of course we will.” Ernie patted his shoulder affectionately. “I am beginning to wonder if the question is more if the world will make it through us.”
Me, too. Saydrie was fairly sure she was joking — but in the back of his mind, the concern still lingered.
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