Ariadne loves calligraphy, the pen and ink meeting paper and the strange rituals that go with it. It gives her a focus and a reason to move forward, day by day. The rituals move her along, and it is her skill with the pen that gets her into the Volunteer Program.
Training as a scribe brings her to the empire of Hredu as the means to slow the flow of requests to the emperor. She has no idea that she was summoned there for more than her penmanship.
Usorn has led his people for years, but he needs an heir and a woman who is genetically neutral is his only option. If she can double as a scribe, it is a win-win situation.
Ariadne Longway couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“You want me for my penmanship?”
The serious voice on the end of the line confirmed it. “Indeed. Your aptitude test indicates that you are suited to the position of scribe. Many worlds and cultures still prefer to have formal documents handwritten in front of witnesses. There is a demand for this work but few can manage to write in alien languages. I believe that you can be one of them.”
“Recruiter Norz. If you are sure of this, when can I leave?” Ari took one of the ubiquitous pieces of paper and one of a dozen pens scattered in the room. She took down the information, repeated it back to him and smiled the entire time. When she hung up, she counted to three before jumping up and down frantically.
She was going to space and she would get to write important documents. The excitement spilled through her, and she whirled around her living room.
She had nine days to get ready, so she had better start packing.
The man waiting for her in the crowded office looked up with a sceptical smile. “You want to become a scribe?”
It was surreal to see the Earth in the window behind him. The thick material that made up the window allowed her to feel safe, but it was quite surreal to see the parchment, the scrolls and the huge tomes around the room with a very sci-fi view.
Ari straightened her shoulders. “I want to become a scribe.”
His face shifted and he beamed. “Then, come over here and sit. Your apprenticeship begins now.”
“What is your name, sir?”
“Ah. I am Scribe Denhiaku.”
“I am pleased to meet you. I am Apprentice Longway, I guess.” She shrugged.
“Good, we will start with that. Write your name in five languages. Here is the pen and the parchment, look into the download that you were given and see what you can find.”
She settled on the stool and followed his directions as he gave her minute suggestions for adjustments in posture and hand position.
Ari dipped the pen in the ink, wiped the overflow and she started writing her name in English. She then moved on to Alliance Common, Imperium Common, Azon and Wyoran.
When she was done, she moved aside and let Scribe Denhiaku go over her work.
He shook his head. “Do it again. See if you can spell your own name correctly in your own language.”
She wrinkled her nose and did it again, beginning a practice of writing and being critiqued that was going to last her months of her life.
Scribe Denhiaku looked from her to the three-foot document and back again. “Are you sure about this?”
She nodded. “Yes. I am sure. It is precisely as you dictated.”
He scowled and looked it over from top to bottom. “Well…”
Ari waited, her scribe robes didn’t move. It was a scribe’s job to be unseen unless watched. They must blend in with their surroundings by whatever means. She had to be still, quiet and unremarkable in her day-to-day work.
He finally nodded. “It is good. Set the seal and it is locked in.”
She smiled. Setting the seal meant it was going into her personal archive of all her training documents.
He looked at her and waved at her to have a seat at the small table where two chairs waited for them.
When he had poured her tea, she took it with ink-stained fingers.
“Ari, as much as I have enjoyed our seven months together, the time is at an end. It is time for you to get out and ply your trade. I have gotten you a position in the Imperial Court of the Hredu System. They still enjoy a handwritten agreement and depend on scribes for marriage certificates and betrothal arrangements.”
She blinked at him over the edge of her teacup. “What language?”
“Ancient Hredu. You will get the upgrade to your information packet. I am sure you will practice on your way.”
Ari felt the same bubbling excitement that she had felt initially when Norz had called her. “What else do I need to know?”
He made a slight face. “There is a dress code, but you can pull it off.”
She cocked her head. “What kind of dress code?”