• emoryjglass


Updated: Jan 14


In the Fifth Era of the Paltran Emperors

Year Thirty-Seven


Year Forty-One



The Third Day of Autumn, Year Forty of the Fifth Era of Paltran Emperors

AS I WAS promised, the contract of patronage arrived at the Butterfly House the next morning, signed “Agbardas Majai Toltonovas.”

Ladies Pearl and Amethyst were beside themselves over the fact that a patron from the mainland wanted to sponsor an Örösi-trained aizņika. According to them, Majai Toltonovas was a fairly new but well-respected county within the Melidan Archipelago. I didn’t dare tell them it was unlikely Agbardas Majai Toltonovas existed, or that if he did I’d never met him. Viscaria, however, was much less enthused.

“So you are going to Maj Melidi, then?” She stiffly asked that night as we prepared for bed. I shook my head. “Serkun Agbardas wanted me to continue my studies here. He said I may as well, since it’s only a year or two more before I become an uzņika.”

Viscaria leaned back against the wall. “You really think you can become an uzņika by the time you’re nineteen?”

“Why not?”

She scoffed. “Hawthorn and I couldn’t even manage it and we’ll turn twenty in seven weeks. You only get to go before the Collegium once a year. Their exams test your weaknesses more than your strengths. It’s become more difficult every year — Larkspur barely made it. It’s not impossible, but it's more than most will expect of you. Take your time. Only go when you’re certain you’ll succeed. Don’t dawdle, obviously. If you can’t manage to get a license by twenty-three they won’t let you apply again, but there’s nothing wrong with studying a little longer before you try to make it on your own.”

Deep down, I knew she was right. I had a long and arduous road ahead if I wanted to fulfil the Chobortsriya’s conditions. My skill in storytelling and poetic recitation were never great. I was an atrocious actress. My voice was average at best; my talent at instrumental accompaniment, middling. If I had found a normal patron, I’d have happily waited to apply until I was as old as twenty-one.

“Well, we’ll see what happens,” I said, holding my desperation at bay. “And thank you for letting Artis know I wanted to see him.”

“My pleasure,” she said in a tone that made me think she derived no pleasure from it. I laid down, stewing over her words. Even if Viscaria and Hawthorn couldn’t do it, Gardenia had. She turned nineteen the very same day she applied and left the Collegium an uzņika. So did Larkspur, though she waited some months after her birthday had passed before trying. They weren’t perfect at every discipline an uzņika was expected to know, either.

I rolled over. But Gardenia and Larkspur didn’t have to be so well-rounded that the Empress herself would want them. They could coast by on honed skill in one or two areas and good looks filled in elsewhere. They just had to be good enough.

I sighed.

How could I ever be good enough?

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