Read me the story:
Most of the young people and savants had left the schola. Many had been drafted to help with preparations for the shallahee at the House, others were enjoying the opportunity to engage in their own projects.
Daveth was taking advantage of the quiet to potter in the garden outside the K’arett Pavilion. He’d put in some kilissi plants M’daina had started; it was the perfect exposure for them here by the Pavilion wall, a bit sheltered from the wind and with plenty of reflected warmth in the cool evenings. They’d settled in well, but the clawgrass from the side of the path was encroaching their space. He settled in for a nice meditative session of coaxing the clawgrass rootlings out without disturbing the young seedlings.
As usual, he lost track of time, fingers in the warm soil, the scent of earth soothing and refreshing at the same time. But he couldn’t have been at it that long, when he was conscious of someone behind him. A glance over his shoulder, and he sat back on his heels, dusted his hands, and turned, tucking feet and knees under him, to face the stormy-eyed 10-year-old seated on one of the benches beside the path.
“Daveth, they’re sending me away!” She was exerting great control not to weep, he could tell.
“Tell me,” he ordered calmly. “But first, breathe.”
She nodded, and took a breath, almost gulping, then let it out. He watched, motionless, while she did “five breaths to calmness.” The lines smoothed from her face, but the storm remained in her eyes.
She was a remarkably attractive child—mature for her age. She was just on the edge of puberty, but there was no awkwardness in her body, and the smooth planes of her face might have been a young woman of 15 or so. Fair hair and blue-green eyes to match—her father’s cherith ran to blondes, he knew—were offset by a clear, light-honey complexion.
“It’s your fault,” she said, with a hint of sullen anger still in her voice. “You told us we should explore nirao.”
He said nothing, tipped his head slightly, watching her steadily.
She took another breath, let it out. “No, it isn’t, and you didn’t.”
“Try again,” he prompted gently.
The corners of her lips tucked in, slightly, but she took another breath, nodded, looked away for a moment, then back at him.
“You told us we could explore nirao.”
He nodded. “You, and all of the youngsters who received the ni’alas. And why not? You know how your body works, now. You know what to expect of it. You know how to protect yourself and a partner with daraiyesh. Almost all of you have been practicing zarya for some years, now. It is expected you will explore nirao with one another.”
“Then why is it wrong? Why am I being sent away?” she challenged.
Daveth considered carefully, before he answered. “You did very well in k’arettas, Sy’nda. Perhaps it is your understanding of ev’attas that has betrayed you. What is the ethical basis for gratification?”
She frowned a little, as though she did not like where this was going. “Proportion, and context,” she said, a little unwillingly.
“Yes. Proportion— with how many partners have you shared nirao, in the ten market cycles since your ni’alas?”
Sy’nda shrugged. “Who’s counting?” she said, a little defiantly.
“And have all of them been ni’alas?” he asked.
Sy’nda looked down. “If you looked, you could still see Sanni’s. And Jirylin’s.”
“And what about Lerannan? Who is a savant under word-bond?”
“But we didn’t! There was no nirao! He told me…” her cheeks had reddened, slightly, and her eyes and voice were fierce, “…he told me he would not. Would not have me!”
The girl hunched a shoulder defensively. “I forgot.”
Daveth remained silent, watching her steadily.
She sighed, and looked away. “I did not forget. I just wanted him. I wanted to see what it would be like, with someone… bigger. Older. Experienced.”
“And what of Yradna, and Pe’vrin? What kind of stunt was that, for them to sneak into the challenge-ground, and engage unseconded, unsanctioned, and only be prevented from damaging each other because Wollas heard the commotion, and stopped it?” he went on, mercilessly.
She was red now, and biting her lip. “That wasn’t my idea.”
“Well, I didn’t suggest it.”
“You watched. What did you plan to do, if one of them damaged the other? Were you going to share nirao with the victor? Or the vanquished?” he did not allow any scorn or chiding to temper his voice, but it was not necessary. The words themselves were a lash.
Now there were tears trembling in her eyes, but she dashed them away with a hand, and again took the five breaths. “All right, I transgressed. But enough to send me away? Sorja said…” she bit her lip again, and then went on “Sorja said she can’t Sort me. I didn’t want to be Sorted, anyway. There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s just a transgression. I’ll… I offered… I said I would accept a judgment. Make restitution.” She took another deep breath, this one with a sob in it, looking down at her hands in her lap. “There’s nothing wrong with me…!” In spite of all her attempts at control, her voice rose. “I don’t need to be Sorted.”
Daveth took a slow breath, himself, silently asking the Presence for guidance. Hard truths, sometimes, in Westmarch, where the harmony of the House was a fragile veneer over the contentious maneuverings of half-a-dozen cheriths for control of resources and influence.
There were some truths Prenya had clearly not shared with her daughter. It was always a difficult balance to strike, for a savant, between the judgment of the parent, and the well-being of the child. There was no doubt, too, that Prenya could make things difficult for a mere savant, in the House schola.
“No, there’s nothing wrong with you, Sy’nda,” he said quietly. “Nothing that requires advanced Sorting, at the Aurora Chancel.”
“You know?” she looked up.
He nodded. “It was mooted with your usallo. I was asked to speak.”
“What did they say? Why am I being sent away?”
“Two questions. Which do you want answered?”
He could see the girl’s palpable effort, pulling herself back into discipline, thinking, setting aside the emotions that had been racking her, and the effort warmed his heart again to her.
She licked her lips, looked steadily at him. “Why am I being sent away?”
Now he knew why, too. He took some moments to arrange the things that must be said, while she continued to watch him.
“You know you are an heir-designate.”
She nodded. “With… what, seven others? Including the Lady’s own daughters?” She clearly didn’t think much of the status.
“Your cherith controls three seats on the Council of Masters, and your mother is all but an Elder of the Chancel.”
She nodded again, and he could see the wheels beginning to turn.
“You know there is contention between Westmarch and Ha’Arichet, and that the Cham’ai have been raiding heavily in alliance with them.”
A single short, sharp nod.
“And you know that the Sunset Chancel, and the Targali Chancel are not agreeing about the directions for the Balance Moot, and the Council of Elders not in unity.”
“My mother will be confirmed as an Elder of the Sunset Chancel. But… she’s spent a lot of time at Targali lately.”
“So I have heard. The net balance is that not everyone who holds influence within the Westmarch karil, or within the House, is in agreement with the decisions that are made, and how they are being made. And the alliances between cheriths, and the lines of amitria, are shifting. So it matters that an heir-designate, even one of seven, is becoming noticed.”
He waited, and she nodded, again. “It’s not just ‘noticed,’ though. My mother’s sister doesn’t like me, does she?”
He shrugged. “I do not know if liking enters into it. But I think it makes things easier for her here, if you are gone.”
He smiled. “But only here, of course.”