High Day

My name is Scry.

My name is Drakensha Dranadored Itembis.

And I hate it.

Drakensha Dranadored Itembis was the name written on the piece of card I came with.

Scry is the name I earned.

It is High Day, of the Year of the Crimson Field, in the Century of the 5th Watch.

The instructor told me to write that. He also told me to erase the name Scry from my book. I won't do it though. The insufferable man insists on calling me Drakensha. I won't give him the satisfaction of relenting.

I should probably explain. Today is the day where us, the youth of the Endless City, are rounded up and taken into the Crystal Palace itself. There we are presented to representatives of the companies of the Endless City, those that are looking for new members.

There are always companies looking for members. Seems not a day goes by without a funeral, sometimes.

We are supposed to use this time to prepare ourselves for our interviews with the companies who take members of our particular Talent.

Only, I don't know what my Talent is yet.

So I have no company to approach.

So I could be here a while.

Roc is sitting opposite me. He's chewing his fingernails, like he always does. One day I swear he'll lose the tip of his finger.

His writing book is untouched. Not like me, scribbling away. But that is part of how I got my name.

Roc is my brother. Or at least, near enough to. Here in the Endless City, gangs are encouraged among the youth. Not much to do in the nurseries beyond entertain babies, and who has time for that when they could be eating a goosecherry or watching a Summoner tame a demon, am I right?

So we form gangs. You have to, to survive. Because out there, on the streets, it can get nasty. Boredom drives young kids crazy, and when you have destructive powers at your disposal...

Oh, none of us are stupid enough to use our power, if we develop it early. If you use your power before you hit puberty, you are 'hailed as a prodigy' and nicked by the Watchers. Taken to the Library, and never see your brothers and sisters again. So, even if we get our zap early, we ain't dopey enough to use it.

The instructor is threatening to take my writing book if I lapse in my language again. What I meant to say was, if our powers develop early, it is considered prudent to keep it hidden.

Anyway, the Watchers watch us carefully, and we watch them right back. You learn things, with your gang. The Lords and Ladies like gangs. Say they build character, show the young people what being in a company is all about. I wouldn't know about that. Don't think any of them ever had their faces pushed into the mud.

The instructor has just told me that what I just wrote was irreverent. He says I should have more respect for the nobility.

I have resolved to not allow the instructor to see any more of my writing.

Snake has just come back from her first interview. Oh, there are a lot of kids wanting to call themselves Snake, but my Snake is the only Snake. Thin as a cord and hard as steel, she is.

She's smiling at me.

I winked at her, and she glared.

I will never understand girls.

We don't talk. The instructors don't allow it. This is supposed to be a time to remember our youth, all the wonderful things that happened.

I fought like a demon to stay on the streets. Even used my Talent against Watchers. That's an arrestable offence. But they said they were used to it. Treated me all nice, even though I bloodied one of them up a bit. Nothing a healer couldn't sort out.

The gang fought too, but it seems that right before High Day every company sets to rooting out the kids who are hiding from the coming of age ceremonies. We didn't have a chance against every adult in the Endless City.

We gave them a fight, though.

Snake looks pleased. Her interview was with the Shadow Followers, no less. She was among the few that come into their Talent early. Quick reflexes and lightning speed, a common enough Talent, but Snake had used it with aplomb, getting us out of more than enough tight spots.

She used to bring me books, every night, back before I earned my name. Said she felt sorry for me.

I loved those books, although I suspected they were the property of the Library. She always took them off me the next day, to bring fresh ones. I think she must have been returning them.

The instructor is waving his arms at me.

Something I remember about being a child is...

There, that seems to have got him off my back. Now, where was I?

Ah, yes. So here we were, a bunch of kids just naturally gravitating towards one another, all products of the nurseries. No parents, only the nurses.

The nurses have Talent, too. But not of any use. Just a bit of healing and whatnot. We didn't need them.

We didn't need anyone.

We had our share of adventures. Sometimes I thought that all of the risks we took were just a rebellion against the way the world had placed us and forgotten us.

But we had fun, all the same.

And then we all began to hit puberty.

Puberty is no joke in the Endless City, I'll tell you. And not just pimples and your voice going funny. Puberty is usually when your Talent first manifests and it CAN'T be controlled. Roc had fire shooting out of his fingertips every time he moved them for a week. It made eating difficult.

I never knew what would happen next. Walking down a street with me was a daunting challenge. Fire, flood, monsters, explosions, earthquakes, you name it.

That's why I haven't chosen a company. I still don't know what my power is supposed to do. It seems to do all sorts of things, but never when I want it to.

I don't really want to be here. I want to be back on the street, teasing the cooks and glaring at everyone.

But time marches on.

They are coming for me now.

I will take this book with me.

The clerk scratched his nose as he scanned over the document.

"Ah, Drakensha, is it?"


The clerk looked nonplussed, and then brightened.

"Ah, a street name. Well, you'll find that today your life begins anew, my dear boy! It is High Day, the day of your Choosing, and you shall use the name you were given at birth!" He grinned at the boy. He sounded sincere.

Next thing he knew the boy had him by the throat. "Stupid paper. Think you can take the street out of me? With your fancy clothes and your Drakensha. I was abandoned at birth, you understand? Cast aside and left to rot. Not even the gumbos noticed me, cared. I am gurak, you understand me? And my name, the one I earned, is Scry. Ain't going to stand for anything else, despite whatever zap you have. And judging by your job, I'll bet it isn't much zap anyway."

The hand was removed, and Scry sat back, dark eyes glowering.

The clerk pushed his hand through his hair. "Gurak. You know it means 'slime' in Djinni, do you not?" He sighed. "Yes, I see that you do."

Scry spat on the polished tiles.

The clerk stood up and crossed to the window. "You know this city, boy. You know how it works, how it feels. There are over a billion people in this city, boy, and always we get ones like you. Feeling hurt, scared, angry. Oh yes, we know your type." He gestured out the window. "Out there are millions of people. They work, ceaselessly, because they can. Everything can be had, everything within reach, because everyone has a Talent. By the grace of the Goddess, it is so.

"When a child is born, it is given to the nurseries. The child is raised by the companies that specialize in that particular field, and on High Day, those who reached their fifteenth year are brought here, to find their Company and begin their life. If the parents of this child wish to make themselves known, today is the day it is done. Most parents do not. I myself never knew my parents. Millions of people do not. Who spawned you is no longer important. What is important is your new family, your Company. And yet you feel mistreated? You only feel what all of us have felt, and learn from. Is that so bad?"

Scry continued to glare. "System's pegged, paper. Ain't no way I'm going to let it zerk me over."

The clerk sighed. "Must you continue to speak in that simplistic language? By the sounds of this, you are highly advanced. You read books. Why not talk with dignity?"


The clerk waved a hand in irritation. "You will be taken to a holding room. We will send for a higher authority to deal with you."

Scry was escorted out.