This is second in a series of portraits and mini stories that starts with The Word Smith. I suggest, if you're interested, reading them in order.
The face in his hand was a marvel of paint and carving, whose sum was a frozen expression capable of representing a dozen different emotions. Simonth was particularly proud of this puppet, his leading lady, and often removed her from her case just to wonder at her, his hand wrapped in silk so as to not soil her wood with his hands. Those same hands had birthed the puppet only two years ago, but two years was over fifteen percent of his life, he calculated, so he felt justified in feeling that it was an eternity.
Eternity seemed often on Simonth's mind these days. As he raked in the payments from his shows, he wondered if his youth could possibly fund his eternity. As he carved a new puppet, or danced them through a new show, he wondered how long their shared legacy would last. He yearned for fame, he knew he deserved it. He just wondered how long he would have to work to ensure it. He intended not just to ensure it, but to cement it.
While it was commonly accepted that boys made the best puppeteers, and men made the worst, Simonth had decided he would remain a puppeteer into adulthood and beyond. His soaring success after just four years - a full 25 percent of his life, he figured - had persuaded him that such a duration was possible. Even fated, he told himself. Why else would the Neurstra have deigned to grant him with such skill, if it hadn't intended for him to bend the world's rules to that skill?
In the whispers of his darkest thoughts, Simonth hated the Neurstra. Hated the shadows between all his cells where the priests said Neurstra lurked, shaping the world. Hated that someone, something else could weave his body. But Simonth feared giving voice to those thoughts and tried to silence them, to keep them from the Neurstra's reach.
So he plied his trade and planned for his future, intending to discover the road already laid for him. One day, while visiting the Word Smith's shop to look up 'calumny,' of which he had been accused, Simonth decided to look up 'adulthood.' More accurately, not wanting to pay the look-up fee for a word he felt to be quite obvious, he decided to negotiate a re-definition. He had heard of that happening. Or, at a minimum, he could have an alternate definition inserted. Just a little wrinkle, a small exception, slipped into the word.