The Cerulean (Untitled Duology, #1)(9)

Sera felt uneasy, as if the High Priestess knew more about her than she realized.

“Your green mother could not answer all your questions,” the High Priestess said. “Sometimes she came to me for answers, and I told her what I could. But much has been lost. And some things are not worthy of remembrance.”

A day ago, Sera would have been amazed at the thought of her green mother approaching the High Priestess and asking for information on Sera’s behalf. But now only one thing was on her mind.

“Who was she?” she pressed, leaning forward like she could peer into the High Priestess’s memory. “The one who fell the last time. The Cerulean who created this tether.”

There had been so many, Sera thought with a start. Not just the Cerulean who had made the tether they were using now, but the one who had broken the tether after the Great Sadness, and the one who had created that tether before it was broken. . . . They had seemed only stories yesterday, but today they all felt overwhelmingly real to Sera, Cerulean who had lived and loved and died for their City.

For a moment, the High Priestess’s eyes darkened, the blue of her irises hardening and crystallizing like stargems. Sera thought she felt a chill emanating from the willowy figure before her, but then it was gone, and the High Priestess’s face was as it had been.

“Her name was Wyllin,” she said, straightening and looking away.

Wyllin. Sera turned the name over in her mind. It was comforting to think of another in her position, someone with a name and a life, someone who also might have taken this walk and asked these questions, even if they were nine hundred years apart.

“Was she young, like me?”

“She was. She was twenty-one when she was chosen. She was one of my acolytes.” The High Priestess’s mouth pressed into a thin line. “I was still a very new High Priestess then. The wounds of the Great Sadness were fresh in this City. The journey here had been a long and hard one. Many times I felt hope slip away. Wyllin was the one who first saw this planet. I remember thinking, ‘Mother Sun, she has saved us.’ I did not know how true those words would be. And then she was chosen.”

An acolyte seemed a much more appropriate choice than a Cerulean who was barely of age, with no special qualities to speak of.

“She thought herself unworthy as well,” the High Priestess continued. “We all doubt ourselves at times, doubt our power, our worth. I have shepherded this City through one of its greatest tragedies, and I often wonder if I have made missteps along the way.”

“You do?” Sera asked, shocked.

“I do,” the High Priestess said kindly. “At heart I am just another Cerulean, like all others in the City. But I trust in Mother Sun above all else. When I am frightened, she gives me comfort. When I am lost, she lights my way. She led us here, gave us this planet, kept us safe for so long. But the Cerulean are not meant to stay in one place forever.”

The hedges surrounding them, covered in thick, glossy leaves, had grown taller as they walked. Suddenly, the High Priestess stopped and raised a hand—one side of the hedge fell away, vanishing to reveal a breathtaking view of the planet below. Sera reached out a hand to touch the invisible barrier that kept her from falling off right this very moment. It was firm yet slightly pliant, like clear gelatin. Below, the many islands of Pelago looked like misshapen insects, crawling on a blue surface.

“You cannot imagine the joy when we first sighted this world,” the High Priestess said. “After so many dark days, so much loss . . . this was our salvation. I confess I will be sad to leave it.”

“Why now?” Sera asked. “After all these years . . . what happened to make the City move again?”

“We have taken enough from this planet. It cannot sustain us anymore.” Her face creased with worry and for a moment she looked old—Sera could sense the ancientness, the many lives that the High Priestess had lived. “Our City needs a new planet to keep us strong. I have faith that Mother Sun will lead us to a better home.”

“I wish I got to see it,” Sera confessed. The High Priestess lifted her chin with one strong finger.

“I know you do,” she said. “It is all you have ever wanted, isn’t it? But you will be safe in Mother Sun’s everlasting embrace. You will be loved for eternity.”

The only embrace Sera wanted was from her own mothers, but she felt it would be impertinent to say that out loud.

“Things will be different for you over the coming days,” the High Priestess continued. “That cannot be helped. But you will be free to live those days however you please. You no longer have to attend evening prayers if you do not wish to. You need not trouble yourself with apprenticeships, nor will you have to help with preparations that will be made for the move, harvesting and canning and such. You can stay in your dwelling all day if you wish, or live like a fish in the Great Estuary. You may even”—she gave Sera a knowing wink—“climb the temple spire and nest up there like a bird. The daily patterns of Cerulean life will not apply to you until the afternoon of the ceremony.”

Sera swallowed. “So I have today and tomorrow and then . . .”

The High Priestess nodded. “The following day will be the ceremony. At the hour of the light. In the Night Gardens. There will be a feast each evening in your honor. Those you will have to attend.” Her face twisted as if she were in pain. “I am terribly sorry. I am not explaining this correctly. There was a time when . . .” She shook her head. “I am sorry.”

Amy Ewing's Books