Rin opened up one of the oldest books in the library. “How good is your Old Bitrani?”
“Wouldn’t you mean Old Callennan?” Girey leaned over her shoulder, studying the old, creaky parchment. “Unless you’ve been raiding our libraries.”
“I’m sure we have. But the thing is, when you go back this far, a good number of our record books are in Bitrani. Well, in Tabersi.”
Behind her, he went very still. “Say that again?”
“Tabersi. She glanced over her shoulder at his face, which, for once in his life, revealed nothing at all. “You’ve heard the word before,” she hazarded.
“Only in the heretical texts.” His voice was very careful. He didn’t want to call her a heretic, not again, she guessed. Unusually wise of him.
“Mm. It’s not a common word in Callenia, either. Not so much heretical, here, as the stains behind the tent walls.”
“Hidden secrets. The things you want to cover up.”
“But you, what, brushed the tent wall aside?”
“Not I. I’m no scholar. But a friend of mine in University was. And for her thesis, she researched our first Emperor.”
“And found…” There was a great deal of tension in his body, and his voice was tight. Did he already know some of this?”
She read from the book instead of answering, translating it into Bitrani. “It is here, on this tenth day of summer in the fifth year since landfall, that the independent cities of Lannamer, Aneksundon, and Terrekya declare their sovereignty and their nationhood, separate from and free of Tabersi rule and law. Let it be known that Eszhettozh, son of Emanek, claims rulership of this newly formed nation, and will be known henceforth as Emperor of the Callentate of North Reiassannon-land.”
Girey, behind her, nodded slowly. “Callentate. It means ‘tribe-leaders,’ I think. It’s older than Old Bitrani. Heh.”
“Indeed.” She closed the book, smiling. “Our nation began as a rebel state of tribe leaders.”
“And now you rule the whole continent.”
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