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But I don’t want to talk about that. It wasn’t degrading, it wasn’t a revelation from the Goddesses, it wasn’t—well, like I said, I don’t want to talk about that.

I wake up in the wee hours and I’m kind of disgusted but just a little thrilled with myself and a tiny bit concerned about what might come of it emotionally (but nothing’s going to come of it in any other way because, well, Mom did teach me about potions). And here I am talking about it, which I don’t want to do. So I get my clothes together and slip on out, leaving him (well, someone, it could have been anyone really) snoring in his bed, and I get back to the shop and get a few more hours of good sleep before I have to get up and get some work in.

I am at this point seventeen years of age. My birthday is in December: it’s the fifteenth, in case you’re thinking of buying me something. So I’m almost eighteen. I always assumed eighteen-year-old people knew what the hell was going on. I thought maybe someone takes them aside and explains it all. I need that, because I have never been so confused. It’s not like I’m torn between opposite pulls of my many desires. It’s more like I’m standing there with all these ropes attached to me waiting for any of them to pull me at all.

I really want another shot at Valen. I mean, it’s personal. I’ve been in there twice and lost five people, well, lost six, I suppose, because lost is what Barb is. Given that I feel very strongly about it, it’s curious how little actual desire I have to do anything about it. I could work and go to school for as long a time period as I am capable of imagining—that would be fine. But I’m absolutely firm that I am not going to do either of those things forever. Would I like some loving? Maybe a handsome man in my life? Yes, please. Two seems not too many. Do I want any of the men currently available? Well, Fenric’s out of the picture. Gurth is nice, but he’s a warrior and one thing I know about warriors is that they inevitably get shot dead by goblins, unless they fall prey to hypnotic-eyed monsters whose mouths don’t open the right way. Then there’s Yanos.

The number of mutually perpendicular ways I feel about Yanos is way more than I can keep in my conscious mind at once.

But I’m not thinking about that.

So I take the day and work in the shop and manage to get to my History of Magic class. Professor Shmoke, who wears his black robe open in front to show off his plain grey tunic with a cannabis leaf stitched on it, and work pants, has started to notice me, so I have to up my attendance and my preparation. Do I have an opinion about the Stifling Peace and the Three Word Rule? Indeed I do! He’s so happy with me. After class I stop by my Magical Algebra prof’s office and find her in: Azalea Bund. I apologize for missing class, but I know better than to bother with a creative excuse. She gives me the homework: a scroll with a bunch of glyph-like puzzle problems to solve.

I happily stay home and work those problems and read up more on the Stifling Peace and how the Leodians tried to get around it. I get some more potions fixed up. I fix up a batch of contraceptive potion for my own use, just in case.

The next day I work all day and make it out for my Glyphs class. Oh, how I love glyphs. I could copy those things all day, especially when I think of how it felt to have an arrow pulled out of my stomach, or what diseases a guy who gets around like Yanos must have. I go home and volunteer to keep the shop open all evening. I make a charm sale, and then two people come in, about the fourth hour of evening, just as I’m thinking of locking up so I can go back and study and make potion blank.

They’re a man and a woman. She’s in a sort of novice nun outfit, except for the belt with some pouches and two knives. He’s got a hood and some very quiet boots, and something about him makes me keep an eye on the charms and trinkets we have on display.

“Oh, it’s you,” I say.

“Oh, it’s you,” Janet echoes me. “Fenric, I think she’s glad to see us.”

“You poor thing,” says Fenric. “Mummy is making you work all day and all night. What’re you studying? History of Magic?”

“It’s actually very interesting,” I say.

“Oh, I’m sure. Has Shmoke told you about the Quest of the Golden Bowl? That’s history.”

“Actually,” I say, “there are days when that’s mostly what he talks about. But there’s one difference between that and the Lapis Circlet.”

“Oh, what’s that?”

“I’ve seen the Golden Bowl. Shmoke has the Golden Bowl. They succeeded.”

“Right,” says Janet. “And do you know why? Because they kept at it.”

I don’t bother to retort. She’s right, and so am I. Shmoke has told us all about all the adventures he and his friends had once upon a time. He can still rattle off the names of all the ones who died along the way. And the ones who went on to be great wizards, and the one who wound up being Queen Daphne I. I’m trying to imagine the Emperor Fenric, or Janet with a time warrior ring. Or Lord Yanos. Or me with a time warrior ring.

“Look,” says Fenric, “we’re going back. We’re not sure when. We have Zelin, Yanos, Gurth. We need a magical practitioner. You’re an Enchantress now. You’re what we need.”

“What spell did you pick up?” asks Janet. “A damage spell?”

“No,” I say defiantly. “The lock spell.”

“Oh,” she says, “that’ll be useful. Where would that be useful? Trying to think. Oh, that’s right. The Dungeon of Valen.”

“So you’re going,” says Fenric. “Put her down on your list, Jan.”

“Already did, Fen,” she replies. They throw a matching pair of smiles at me, then swing around and leave without even stealing anything.