Since the summer solstice festival is the main event of the evening, my ceremony is to be conducted first, meaning I'll miss the celebrations. I'm a little disappointed since the summer solstice is always the most exciting, dancing, singing, and a grand feast with as many as the acropolis can fit, always my chance to be in public with Thatty and not be judged. We're just two more guests without status or obligation; we're brother and sister.

I realise that, though I've seen Mother, I haven't been able to see him for a couple of weeks, and my heart begins to ache for him. Akantha tries to let me downstairs to see if he's on duty, but it's too late. Sponsors and nobles and other apprentices are already flooding in - to see me! - and it's tradition that the graduating apprentice not be seen by anybody until the ceremony begins. Akantha and I take the other stairwell into the underground levels of the temple, a place I've never been before.

Immediately, I see that it's where all treasures and offerings are kept, lining the walls in shrines lit with candles, arranged with wreaths, fine bottles of olive oil and golden objects. Thick wooden doors block all sound from the cella above us, there's just a hushed murmuring from the attendants that crowd around me to apply the last minute decorations, golden paint. I stand still with Akantha in my peripheral as they smudge it across my eyes, collar and arms until everything shimmers like the golden statuettes around me.

"What a vision," says a voice behind me, and I turn to see Amaryllis coming towards me.

"I'm just going up to check all is well," Akantha assures me, "I will return." She pats my shoulder before she disappears up the stairwell and leaves me with Amaryllis.

"I can understand why you're nervous," she says, "everybody is. They build it up to be so complicated, but I promise, when you're up there, it all seems to come naturally,"

"But everybody else probably wasn't as clumsy as me,"

"Are you kidding?" she smiles, "I remember when I was still an apprentice, I tripped up in a practice procession and spilt all of the sacred oil I was meant to be carrying for the diviner. My mentor had me sponging the tiles for a full hour, over and over again."

I smile, though there's an edge to her voice that makes me wonder if she's actually telling the truth. "How long do I have to wait?"

"A while, I'm afraid. The solstice carries with it a lot more formalities. Nobles particularly like to show off their assets with performances and individual offerings to show who's most devoted, and as for the sponsors, they'll waste much time in intervals placing bets."

There won't be much of that, I say to myself, since I have no sponsor. They'll probably bet that I trip or that the Idea will fall on my head and knock me out.

"I'd take a seat, Netea," adds Amaryllis. "Fear not, we will not rush you." She moves away from me to whisper instructions to the attendants veiled in purple and white, leaving me to find a seat on the steps of a small treasury, my chin resting in my hands and my feet tapping nervously.

Great. More waiting.

The End

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