In the Snows of Haz

Maxine Janerka

DESSERTS_two

 

It was barely seven in the morning, it was bitterly cold, the heater was broken again, and Linna’s students were talking about murder and disembowelment. More correctly, one in particular was expounding upon the most efficient way to remove a human heart while his classmates, all bundled up to their ears, vocalized their disgust in increasingly plaintive and creative ways. Linna fought the impulse to join them and took a deep, steadying breath.

“Esmine, that’s quite enough,” she announced, loudly enough to be heard over his impromptu lecture. She hoped that the combination of her presence, her volume, and her proper Imperial diction would bring the class to order. Esmine frowned slightly, but ducked his head.

“If you say so, Professor Nyx.” His Imperial was impeccable, despite the fact that he had just been monologuing in the local dialect. The dialect was Linna’s native tongue as well, but the school was Imperial and the students would learn to speak properly within its walls.

She looked the class over as she took roll. Even here, in the snowy mountains of Haz where Imperial airships couldn’t land and travelers rarely wandered, the children’s faces reflected the immense size of the Empire. The majority, like her, were Hazi to a greater or lesser extent, with skin as pale as snow and a lilac tint to their round eyes and fluffy hair. Interspersed among them were boys and girls like Esmine with caramel- colored hair and dark, angled eyes, descendants of the traders from the coast of the Yebel river, southeast of Haz’s mountainous borders. A smaller number of students had the darker complexions that indicated a lineage which originated south of the Fallim Mountains, in the area of the Imperial capital.

And that was just the ones that had made it to Haz in the last few decades. The Empire spanned three continents, and the capital, where Linna had studied, was home to immigrants from all of them: men, women, and children who had boarded Imperial ship to travel over land and sea to find a better life.

“I’ll be returning your spelling tests today,” said Linna. Half the class groaned aloud, and she laughed softly. “I promise, none of you did that badly.” Her gaze passed over Esmine and fell on the southern-looking boy to his left. “Riccio, please pass this stack back to your classmates.”

“Yes ma’am,” the boy replied, glancing through the papers quickly. He was one of the few who didn’t struggle with or squint at the flowing script citizens of the Empire were supposed to write and read. After a moment’s consideration she handed the other half of the stack to a dainty Hazi boy.

“Bel, you hand these back, alright?” Esmine made a noise of derisive amusement that was hastily disguised as a coughing fit when Linna glared at him, and Bel nodded so hard his glasses almost fell off.
In the back of the room, someone cursed loudly in Hazi, and Linna turned her glare that way.

“We do not use such language in a schoolroom!”

“The dialect or the swearing, Professor?” asked Esmine, hiding a smirk behind his perfect paper. Riccio laughed aloud. A few other giggled. Bel looked utterly confused.

“You know full well which,” she snapped, then flicked the still-smirking boy on the forehead. “And don’t talk back, either.” An unhappy Hazi girl lobbed her test across the room, and it bounced off of Bel’s head, making him yelp. It took Linna another five minutes to get her class settled, off of the topic of projectile weapons, off of the topic of weapons, off of the topic of murder, again, off of the topic of freezing to death, and onto the topic of their reading assignment. A few were missing books. A few books were missing pages. She rather missed the capital sometimes.

In the Snows of Haz Description:

Small towns keep their secrets well, and snowy, isolated Haz Gate is no exception. But when a wealthy stranger from the capital is murdered in the night and one of her students stands accused, schoolteacher Linna Nyx has to dig through deceptions thicker than Small towns keep their secrets well, and snowy, isolated Haz Gate is no exception. But when a wealthy stranger from the capital is murdered in the night and one of her students stands accused, schoolteacher Linna Nyx has to dig through deceptions thicker than the snow in midwinter to piece together the truth, and comes face to face with a killer who would destroy not only Linna’s peaceful existence, but the very order of the Empire itself. the snow in midwinter to piece together the truth, and comes face to face with a killer who would destroy not only Linna’s peaceful existence, but the very order of the Empire itself.

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