Meril gazed thoughtfully out the window, wondering how she could contact her wizard.
She already thought of them as hers, although she had no idea if they had any interest in her, or even knew of her existence. When she thought about it, which was rarely, she realised that she knew very little about them.
Wizards were traditionally ungendered, but Meril wasn’t bothered about that. Gender was a complicated business in the little kingdom of Azoudar: priests were always considered female, for what Meril had been informed were important historical reasons that could not be explained to her. (She had long ago worked out that this meant that nobody remembered the real reason.) The King was always the King, and always male even if he was not. (The current King was called Emily, and had given birth to two children.) Meril was aware that other places did not do this; she had read of places where, for example, only men could be kings, but it seemed ridiculous to her. It was only common sense that the best qualified person become king, surely. The only problem she had with the way her kingdom did things was its insistence that a person follow the career path of their parents.
“Because it’s not like breeding horses,” Meril said to herself. “My parents are both highly regarded inkwarriors, and I can’t even write basic glyphs properly.”
And of course, wizards had no names: it was thought to be something to do with the source of their power, but no non-wizard knew the truth of it.
Meril knew she couldn’t leave a note for her wizard, as wizards were illiterate: the written word belonged to inkwarriors – and priests; wizards passed down their secrets by word of mouth and during strange occult rituals. Since wizards were even more insular than inkwarriors, the only rumours that circulated about said rites were extremely vague.
She would have to contrive a meeting, somehow. That would be difficult, since technically she was not allowed out of the house alone. Inkwarriors were very paranoid about their secrets getting out, and hence no inkwarrior went anywhere alone. It was said that this was to avoid kidnappings, but Meril was fairly sure that it was more about not giving anyone the opportunity to sell their secrets. And to be fair, that was a real issue: even Meril, who was not yet a qualified inkwarrior, had had people slide notes into her hands offering her quite surprising amounts of money for her knowledge. She’d never acted on these notes, of course, but then she’d never had the chance. The accompanying inkwarrior had always taken it from her.
“This is going to be difficult,” Meril said to herself.
She brightened suddenly – perhaps there was a way. She would just have to be very picky about who accompanied her on her trip out. She needed someone older, and slower. And she would have to time it perfectly.
Two days later, Meril put her plan into operation. She had been noting her wizard’s travels, and knew that they always passed her house at three hours past noon. She therefore arranged her trip out so that she would be returning home at that time.
Meril ensured that she was ahead of her escort, a slow-moving, easygoing inkwarrior called Bari. As they were nearly home, Bari wasn’t too worried about Meril striding ahead. Meril saw her wizard approaching and sped up a little, so that she bumped into them just after they passed her door.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Meril said quickly. “But I just need you to know that I love you.”
The wizard stared at her.
“But… you’re an inkwarrior.”
“I know that,” Meril said sharply. “I’m fully aware of that. I just…”
“Meril!” Bari shouted. “Are you talking to that wizard?”
The wizard stepped around Meril and strode off quickly down the street. Meril sighed as she watched them go.
“Just apologising for bumping into them,” she replied.
“Well… I suppose that’s all right. Just don’t make a habit of it.”
“I won’t,” Meril promised. After all, the wizard clearly hadn’t been interested. Maybe it was time to give up on love and concentrate on her studies, like Paro had told her.