Prologue: Valyn
Out With the Bathwater

Valyn doesn’t understand why her mother makes her sleep at home. It’s pointless. It’s exhausting. Everyone else rises late from bunks right in the Servantry, while she aches by sunup from a laborious slog across town. Then, after a full day's work, she gets no rest; she has to trudge all the way back—just to do it again the next day.

Right now her friends are probably sat to dinner. Or, more likely, they've already finished, and have some time to relax before their evening chores.

Valyn imagines the scene vividly: tonight’s task is simple, providing ample opportunity to socialize. The dormitory curtains will all be tied aside to stop them from baffling the flow of gossip. An older student will be there to practice sign, so it won’t matter if everyone else has their hands full, or if Valyn can't see their faces. Their Coordinator will observe from the middle of the lounge; he’s in a good mood, she thinks, so maybe he’ll requisition extra spiced nuts—or even extra fruit.

Valyn has based this scene on nothing but fancy, as mortals so love to do. She will never learn—or care to learn—how incorrect it is: her Coordinator is in a foul mood this evening. There will be no nuts or fruit or jokes. The curtains have not been tied aside with particular care because there is no gossip for them to obstruct.

And here’s Valyn. Walking. Her feet hurt. Her stomach growls. She hasn’t gotten “home” yet, much less eaten. When she does eat, she’ll be alone.

At least today’s work is light. The pre-initiates have been tasked with patching older students’ livery; cloth piles high in her basket without cutting bloodless welts through her fingers like when she has to haul books.