“I want to be an author,” Ariana declared.
The village square went silent. She was met with bewildered stares, most adults fearing what kind of child would willingly choose such a profession. Some of the adults whispered behind open palms to one another, but in such silence Ariana could hear them swearing she must be mad.
The Presentation was a yearly event, one in which all of-age children would profess their desired occupation. Community members of that occupation would then volunteer to take on the child as an apprentice, training them better for their desired trade. Ariana was only 13, but she’d known she wanted to be an author from the moment she was old enough to talk. Growing up in the orphanage, the other children had needed a distraction from the harsh realities of their world. Ariana had a vast arsenal of stories locked away in her mind, and she longed to put them to paper. The den mother of the orphanage had taught her to read and write, both of which she excelled at, but Ariana had been warned never to use to use the ink to write her stories.
“I will take the girl,” a low, gravelly voice called from the back of the audience. The village of Canal had only one author, so Ariana had anticipated Jackaby Bardolf being her only option for an apprenticeship. Nothing, however, had prepared her for actually meeting him. She had read his works, of course, wanting to familiarize herself with his style of prose, and found herself rather disappointed. She had hoped her only choice of Master for the Presentation would at least be one she’d enjoy, but his stories were dark, dismal, and often uncomfortable for Ariana to read.
As the man approached the stage, Ariana sharply inhaled and set her mind to accepting him as Master, no matter what her prejudices against his writing style were. He was a professional author, and if she truly wanted to be one as well, she would have to learn from him. The sea of villagers parted as he passed, none wanting to get too close to the man, some out of reverence and some out of fear.
Jackaby Bardolf looked as menacing as his stories. A towering man dressed in a suit the color of rainclouds, he stood beside Ariana on the stage. The announcement came from the plump Mister Hargreve, Master of Proceedings for the Presentation. “Ariana Wylde, I present you to your Master for the profession of Author, Mister Jackaby Bardolf.”