• emoryjglass



In the Fifth Era of the Paltran Emperors

Year Thirty-Seven


Year Forty-One



The Sixty-Sixth Day of Spring, Year Thirty-Eight of the Fifth Era of Paltran Emperors

THREE nights after the day Artis believed I had turned sixteen, my naming ceremony took place. It was, for that moment, the most important event of my life. The name I carried into my time as an aizņika was more than a name—it was a promise. An identity. Every aizņika’s name meant something more than could be described by simple floriography. It was a blessing, a contract, and a pledge between mentor and mentee that set the tone for the rest of an uzņika’s life. Following the Örösi tradition, I would carry it with me into my time as an uzņika. I trusted Viscaria to choose something with dignity and grace. Part of me hoped for a long while that she would choose Marrow. But, I could no longer insult my own intelligence. She had given me a list of names to help me prepare for my debut performance. Marrow was not amongst them.

When I entered the atrium inside the Butterfly House, chest afire with worry, I prayed my terror would stay hidden for the night, if only just beneath the surface. Silently, I walked toward Viscaria, who stood in the middle of the atrium in front of a table that looked too much like a sacrificial altar. Alongside her were Ladies Pearl and Amethyst as well as a man whom I assumed worked for the Artist’s Collegium. All wore robes of plain white. I, however, wore green. Bright, deep, verdant green, the hue of which I remembered seeing only in the most distant reaches of my childhood memories. The cut and fit were perfect and the details exquisite. The weight threatened to topple me with every slippered step I took. Now that I wore the garb of an aizņika, complete with the coveted yellow jūdra worn by our ilk and the twisting, ribboned updo of a grown woman hidden beneath the folds of a sheer palla, I assumed I would feel like one.

But I didn’t. The expensive fabrics embroidered with metallic floss and semiprecious stones were stunning—so stunning that the small audience gathered to bear witness to my naming seemed more focused on gaping at the spectacle of it than noticing the girl beneath it.

When I reached Viscaria, I allowed myself one brief glance at them. On the front row of divans sat Artis and Rutgita. Behind them, my sisters-in-learning: Hawthorne, Gardenia and Larkspur, Artere Nauve and Artere Vou; and my tutors, Ladies Iris, Primrose, Jasmine, Calla, Marigold, and Lotus, and standing behind them all was Gilgorys. All stared at me as if I were a vision from the Divines. I tore my gaze to focus on Viscaria. She was my guiding light. Without her dedication, I could not have been standing in that spot before the Collegium minister waiting to be named. I owed it all to her. I would succeed for all the blood, sweat, and tears we shed to make me a respectable artisan. She smiled widely at me.

The minister cleared his throat. “We gather here today under the auspices of the Divine Household for the naming of this tebēza known as Artiga Nauve Maj Melidi.” He read further along his codex. “Tebēza, what say you before the Divine Household in thanks?”

This was the hardest part. Writing was not my forte, and I was not allowed help in writing this prayer. This address was mine alone. Uzņika dealt little with any deities besides the Divine Artist, though the Divine Household was by far the most popular pantheon on the mainland. I swallowed. No more beating around the bush. As sweat dripped down my spine, I recited,

Divine Ancestor, beloved ancestor, guiding light along my Path

Divine Father, venerable father, sea of wisdom and mercy

Divine Mother, blessed mother, lake of comportment and obedience

Divine Son, honoured son, river of duty and diligence

Divine Daughter, ideal daughter, spring of honour and chastity

Divine Brother, loyal brother, fountain of integrity and conviction

Divine Sister, observant sister, font of visage and patience

Divine Uncle, reliable uncle, sound of conscience and strength

Divine Aunt, patient aunt, linn of truth and forbearance

Under your auspices may I earn the respect of my father

May I honour my mother

May I set a virtuous example for my sons and daughters

May I live in harmony with my brothers and sisters

May my virtue enhearten my uncles and aunts

And may my ancestors look upon me with felicity and satisfaction.

The audience looked upon me with smiling approval. I resisted the urge to release a nervous laugh. I’d done it. The hardest part was over. Now, all that was left was the debut. I knew my performance so well I could have done it in my sleep.

“The Divine Household will bless this naming,” the Collegium minister read. “Mentor, please introduce your charge to the Divine Artist.”

Viscaria took my hands and, smiling, eyes locked on mine, raised our interlaced fingers toward the sky. “I bring before You the tebēza Argita Nauve Maj Melidi,” she said. “May she always find refuge under Your auspices and may You inspire her wherever she may go. May her skillful artistry bloom and thrive under Your divine tutelage. I ask You to bless her debut and every performance she makes from now until her last. Before You, I pledge to be her guide, her guardian, and her confidant until You deem her ready to serve You alone. I ask that, in return, You allow me to name her Juniper, aizņika of the Limhoriò House of Butterflies.”

I blanched. Juniper was more fitting than many of the other names Viscaria wrote, but all i could think about in the face of being introduced to divine beings by those syllables were the words of Alyssum in the pantry. Marrow. Argita Nauve. Anemone. Juniper. What else? When else? When would another mask be handed to me? When did the playacting cease? When could I be myself, just myself, unabashed, unfettered, unchained? Was I truly so unknowable, even to the divine?

But I’d worked hard. Viscaria worked hard, too. Lady Pearly, Lady Amethyst, all my tutors, Gilgorys...to deny this name would be an insult far greater than any of them deserved. Artis’s sins were not theirs. Gilgorys especially did not deserve such an affront. He’d travelled so far for so long and given up so much simply to teach me how to sculpt. I could not humiliate him so viciously.

Juniper. Not a name I would have chosen for myself, but one I could learn to love. One Viscaria deserved to bestow. If not for her, I would have failed long ago. I looked into her smiling eyes. “I accept this name.”

“The Collegium hears of an aizņika within the Limhoriò House of Butterflies,” the minister announced. “Who will speak her name?”

“Juniper!” thundered the audience.

I smiled brightly at Viscaria, cheeks streaked with tears and jūdra. Some folk cried from happiness; perhaps Juniper was one of them. But Marrow? Marrow wept. Another mask. Another name. Another stolen part of me.

And now it was time for Juniper to debut.

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