Meril sighed, putting her chalk down and staring glumly at the glyphs she had attempted to draw.
“I swear I actually get worse the more I practice,” she muttered.
She grabbed a cloth and quickly erased her writing. Even though it was just chalk, and not ink, the habit of destroying any work that was unintended for permanence was ingrained. Also, she didn’t want anyone to see what a bad job she’d done. She knew what the glyphs should look like, but somewhere between her brain and her fingers that knowledge seemed to get lost.
“Precisely why I should do something else with my life,” she said aloud.
“Like befriend that wizard?” Paro inquired quietly from the doorway.
“No, I was thinking of a job,” Meril explained.
“Didn’t you read that book I gave you?”
“Yes, but I’m a terrible inkwarrior. My glyphs are misshapen, so they don’t work. What’s the point of keeping me?”
“You know our secrets, though.”
“I wouldn’t betray you!”
“What if this wizard you’re pining after asked you to?”
“I… I wouldn’t.”
“Easy to say, Meril. But not so easy for us to believe. And we can’t have wizards knowing our secrets.” Paro sighed. “And it’s not just up to us. Even if the guild would let you go, the priests would not.” He patted Meril’s shoulder. “You’re not the first to want something different, Meril, but that’s not the world we live in. You need to make the best of it.”
Meril sighed again. “I know,” she said sadly. “I know.”
“Keep studying,” Paro told her as he left the room.
Meril nodded, but stared out the window instead. Maybe her wizard would walk by. It was around the time they normally did.
She’d first noticed them a year ago, rushing past in the bright pink robes of a wizard’s apprentice. The robes were meant to make them stand out, and they did. It was the pink that had attracted Meril’s attention that first day, as she was staring aimlessly out of the window. And then they had dropped an item, some kind of glass container, and it had broken. She’d seen the look of horror on their face, and felt a pang of sympathy. She too had destroyed important objects, and paid the price in increased chores and angry scolding.
The wizard had looked around furtively, not seeing Meril at the high, narrow window, and had muttered a quick spell. The shards of glass crawled back together, and Meril felt a strange thrill at seeing something forbidden. She knew that if she’d had that power, she’d have used it for the same purpose. She also knew that she should report the use of magic, so that the inkwarriors’ guild could check for cracks in the real, but she had no intention of doing so. It would be a secret between her and the wizard.
After that, she’d looked out for them every day, and gradually come to feel that she knew them. Loving them was a simple step from there. She had still not actually met them or learned their name, but she was determined to make that happen. Somehow.