“I don’t understand.” Cynara leaned forward over Professor Drake’s desk. “There are a lot of things I don’t understand, but this one, this one seems too strange. If this is the Law, why put something like that in there?”
Professor Drake sat back and smiled at her. “I have often wondered that myself,” he admitted. Cynara was finding that she really enjoyed talking to him, and not just because he, of almost everyone in the school, seemed to actually see her. (The thought filled her with several flavors of guilt, but she was getting very skilled at ignoring those.) “So, firstly, as we understand it, the Laws were created back in the days where those Ellehemaei on Earth were the gods themselves and their wayward children. Those children were often very powerful and just as often very difficult, very recalcitrant.”
“So – like powerful people everywhere?” Cya offered. Professor Drake smiled thinly back at her.
“More or less exactly, yes. Now, some of the laws – setting into place that a child belongs to its mother – those were to prevent some of the, ah, problems that were occurring, at least as I understand it, and were to codify tradition. A mother hands over her child to a Mentor, who then declares the child their own person, and at that point they are fair game in the battles and games – often the same thing, I might add. But homes, property, those things are exempt from those battles. You don’t attack someone’s property, you do not enter someone’s home without their permission.”
Cynara nodded slowly. “So, ah, other people’s Kept aren’t your business, because of the Laws of Sanctity.”
“That is definitely one interpretation. In order to properly discuss the Law, however, it helps to know the Old Tongue, as it is often called – Idu a’Iduþin, as they say, ‘to know all there is to know.’”
“That’s not cocky or anything,” Cynara snorted. “Unless the language really is just that good.”
“It’s quite an expressive language, but I would not say it is quite that good, no. Would you have an interest in learning it?”
“It will help me understand the Laws?” She was leaning forward further. She sat back, trying not to look quite so eager. “It will help me make sense of all this?”
“It will, at least, help you understand the Laws of the Ellehemaei, yes.” His eyebrows quirked and he almost smiled. “I cannot say anything for making sense of the rest, as I’m not certain being a teenager makes sense in any language.”
“What about this?” She touched the collar around her neck. Necklace. Keep pretending it was a necklace. “Does this make more sense in the Old Tongue?”
“It’s possible, yes. Originally, it was a way for someone to remove themselves from the games, the battles – by becoming someone else’s responsibility, rather than taking responsibility for themselves.”
Responsibility. Cya thought about Leo, sitting in a corner, miserable. She thought about him bolting for the door and running, running. She didn’t think that Eriko had ever heard of the word responsibility, much less applied it to something she might have to do.
“And now?” she asked, instead of all the things she couldn’t say. Her hands were clenched into fists. She was going to have to do something about that. She wasn’t supposed to say bad things about Dysmas’ crew. She wasn’t supposed to show bad things about Dysmas’ crew.
“And now.” He cleared his throat. “Well.”
There was a long pause. Professor Drake steepled his fingers and looked over his fingertips at Cynara. She met his gaze and held it. She wasn’t afraid of him.
She was very afraid of him, but among things she was already good at not showing, fear was at the top of the list.
When it became clear that Professor Drake wasn’t going to say anything, she carried on as if he’d answered. “Other teachers tell me that it’s the way the world works. One teacher told me that this is a learning experience. I can see her point. I am certainly learning a lot.” She was certain that her voice betrayed nothing, that her face gave nothing away.
Professor Drake’s eyebrows went up anyway.
“I’m sure that you are learning quite a bit. I imagine you’d be able to learn more if you were less distracted in your classes, but that is an argument I have made and been told is inappropriate many times, and it is not one that you need to concern yourself with at the moment. Learn what you can from this, then, Cynara-”
“Cya? Please?” It was such a small thing, but somehow it mattered so much more for being small. Cya was what she called herself, not what anyone else saddled her with.
He cleared his throat and considered it. “Cya. Learn what you can, and among that learning I will include this: There are many reasons for a teacher to tell you something, whether it is on their syllabus or what they say when you come to them for advice. I have sworn less tight oaths than some of my colleagues – or I would not even be able to say that much – and there I things I can tell you that some of them cannot.”
He hesitated, and then smirked. “You will likely have more instruction with Director Avonmorea as time goes by, as you are very strong in Intinn and that is one of her preferred Words. I would encourage you to ask many questions of her, as many as you can. She may not answer. She very likely will not answer. She may be irritated at the questions. However-” A smile on Professor Drake’s face was a very strange thing indeed, but Cya found that she liked it, “there are also many reasons for asking questions.”
Cya thought about that and found herself smiling. “I can think of quite a few reasons to ask questions,” she agreed. She’d have to be careful. She didn’t want to get Dysmas in trouble and she didn’t want to do anything that would make him irritated at her. But there were ways and ways to phrase questions. “Thank you for your advice, Professor.”
“Any time, Cya. I find that I enjoy teaching you quite a bit.”
And that was the nicest thing anyone had said to her since Howard, Leo, and Zita had decided they were her friends. Cya beamed, and didn’t care how much she was showing her cards.