Girey wasn’t sure she’d heard him at first. She didn’t answer, at least, instead continuing to flip through the ancient book in front of her.
“The papers go back further,” she said, instead of answering, after a while. “Not much more, and most of it is incomprehensible. But it’s clear we came here, my people, yours, the Arrans, all of us.”
He was not yet used to her speaking heresy as if it were truth, and, more so, as if nobody would stop her. “That’s what…” He trailed off, frowning. Rin picked up the thread of the conversation.
“You said the heretical texts mentioned Tabersi. You’ve heard of those texts then, or read them?”
“It’s a crime against the throne to read the texts. The priests keep them locked up.”
“But you…” She paused, and looked around, and raised one black eyebrow in question.
Son of Tugia, she taunted in his memory. But she was asking the Prince of Bithrain this question.
“I did. And the Tabersi are mentioned, them, and the callentate of barbarians, the Ideztozhyuh.” The word was uncomfortable on his tongue, the consonants sounding harsh and alien.
“The Idez… the people of the old earth. Interesting.” She flipped through a few more pages of the book. “So my texts speak of the origins of your people, while yours -“
“Talk of visiting barbarians who decided to stay.” He frowned at her head. “Not about how they set up shop here, on this continent, though.” And not how they’d beaten his people at war.
“Interesting.” She flipped through the book. “This one’s too old, it doesn’t say where the wars started.”
“Didn’t it say your people rebelled?”
“The looks of that, however, was a bloodless rebellion. The cold season was hard, the passes were closed, and it was long into the hot season before anyone noticed anything had changed.”
Girey frowned, and didn’t say what he was thinking. That seemed wrong, somehow, but it had been many years ago that he’d read the proscribed texts. “The Bitrani don’t speak much of that era.”
“I think it has something to do with your priests.” She held up both hands, forestalling a complaint he hadn’t been intending on making. “I am not speaking ill of your people or your priests.”
“The Bitrani and the Callenians have the same faith.” It came out like the complaint he had been trying not to make, and he frowned in frustration. “We worship the same three gods, in the same temples, with the same words. You took me to a service,” he reminded her, “to show me that.”
“We do. I’ve been to Bitrani services, as well. In disguise, and with the headscarf some women wore covering her hair, but she had been. “We worship the same gods. I believe that. But your priests hide things by calling them heresy…”
He couldn’t help interrupting. “We don’t have priests anymore, remember? ‘We’ don’t have anything anymore.”
Her hand in his hair was surprisingly tender. “You still have a culture. We couldn’t wipe that out if we tried. And that’s the thing.”
“What’s the thing?” He was both lost and angry now, his confusion making both worse.
“We couldn’t erase your culture if we tried – but I’m beginning to wonder if somebody else tried. And from the inside, maybe it was easier.” She set a finger on the book. “Where did the Tabersi go? And the Ideztozhyuh? And why?”
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