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I expressed my incredulity to the shop's assistant, who coldly noted that he did not like my implication. He insisted that every article in the Black Emporium was genuine—no fakes, imitations, or cheap knock-offs.

I must have appeared unconvinced, for the assistant narrowed his eyes at me and disappeared into the bowels of the shop, returning several minutes later. He removed the jar of pickled apples from its display case, and proceeded to carefully, reverentially, remove the wax seal from the lid of the jar.

I watched with fascination as the jar was opened, and a single, rosy apple pulled from it. It looked as if it had been picked just that day, at the peak of ripeness. With a paring knife, the assistant cut the tiniest sliver of flesh from the apple and presented it to me.

The flavor of that one small sliver was astonishing. It was as close to a perfect apple as ever there was. I was experiencing the essence of every apple ever eaten, and that ever will be eaten. When it was over, the sense of loss that filled me was sharp enough to move me to tears.

The rest of the apple was returned to the jar, which was then resealed. I paid five sovereigns for that single taste, and I believe I got the better part of the bargain.

—From the letters of Brother Ferdinand Genitivi to Sister Petrine, Chantry scholar

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