“Humility has never been a well-known trait amongst the indel. They keep to their own country, rarely venturing out into foreign lands. This is for the best, as few kingdoms will tolerate their arrogant ways.”
No one likes to be disadvantaged—to be born a loser. It means you’re indelfy*, the underside of civilization. Everyone knows they are nothing. They’ll spend their whole lives wearing ratty old coats handed down from charitable cousins, working for the right to live in a slum, forgotten by everyone who matters.
For the Invoker charged with the task of branding the indelfy with their station, it was almost too much to bear. The only thing that kept Bernard’s head up was the fact that he could change things for the better, and he would, even if it meant bending a few rules. The plant he was carrying into the Duke’s presence was one of those rules.
“It bloomed today.”
Though there were reams of paper cluttering his desk, demanding his attention, the Duke dropped his pen and riveted his gaze on the plant. “Magic?” the Duke asked, squinting at the scrubby green bush Bernard held.
He nodded, and hefted it so the Duke could get a better look at the elegant yellow flowers peeking around the leaves. “It will be ready to invoke within a week. All we need is Amy.”
The Duke’s face relaxed into a warm smile. “You’ll go get her then.”
Bernard glanced out the window at the towering gates separating Outer-Kaluna from the Inner City. Even assuming he could find his way once the smooth limestone roads and freshly painted pagodas gave way to the filthy huts of the outer city, there was no guarantee Amy would come with him. Amy happened to bear the indelfy mark, and it was he who had put it there. In his experience, one did not remain friends after bad news like that.
“I was going to talk to her about it today, but it may take me a while to get a straight answer. She can be hard to pin down.”
He meant for more than a few minutes, if ever, but the Duke nodded with more confidence than Bernard felt. “She’ll listen to you, Invoker.”
Bernard bowed awkwardly around the plant and started to turn away, but the Duke held up his hand to stop him.
“You will be able to pull this off, won’t you?”
“Of course,” Bernard said. No need to worry him with the details of finding, catching and coercing one of the most slippery human beings he’d ever met. He waited for the Duke to go back to his work, and when he did not, a touch of concern began to worm its way through his gut. “Is something wrong?” he asked.
The Duke nodded, and lifted a thick yellow envelope with the seal of the Western Stronghold on it. “I hope you’re swift in convincing her, because without her help I have three days to live.”
* Indelfy – A person with no involvement in magic.