The Cerulean (Untitled Duology, #1)(6)

The humming of the novices grew louder. Many of the orange mothers in the congregation began to pray fervently, swaying faster and faster. Some purple mothers were openly weeping. Sera’s orange mother had her eyes closed, transfixed in the swath of light. Sera’s ears began to ring, the sound growing in pitch until she thought she could bear it no longer. She wanted to look away, but she couldn’t seem to move a muscle, not even to blink. Just as she thought she must do something, that she could not bear to keep looking at the sacred bowl or her eyeballs would surely burn in their sockets, the markings moved. And though she could not explain how or why, Sera understood them.

They read: Heal them.

Then the ringing stopped and the light vanished. The markings were once more illegible and Sera rubbed her eyes, her heart pounding, unable to comprehend what she had just seen. The High Priestess was bent and out of breath, her hands clutching the side of the podium for support. Her three acolytes looked at each other nervously, but as one moved forward to help, the High Priestess straightened.

“Mother Sun has spoken,” she said, her voice dull and fatigued. Her eyes scanned the crowd once, twice, then finally came to rest.

“Sera Lighthaven,” she called, and the ripple of heads turning was like a wind running through the temple. Sera was vaguely aware of a gasp from her orange mother and a soft whimper from her purple mother. She was mostly conscious of her blood boiling under the surface of her skin, a frightening heat filling her from head to toe, and a prickling sensation in the corners of her eyes.

“Sera Lighthaven.” The High Priestess called her name again, and her orange mother whispered, “Stand up, darling.”

Sera’s legs trembled as she rose to her feet. She could feel every pair of eyes on her, like little points of light stabbing her skin. She wanted to look for Leela but found she could not tear her gaze away from the High Priestess’s face. Her heart, which had been thunderous in her chest a moment ago, now felt profoundly silent.

“You have been chosen by Mother Sun,” the High Priestess said. “It is you who will break the tether.” She held her arms out to the congregation. “Praise her! Praise the chosen one!”

And everyone in the temple bowed low, pressing their foreheads to the ground. Even the novices. Even the acolytes.

Sera had always longed to know what else the magic in her blood might be capable of, besides healing and blood bonding. She always thought there must be more to it, especially once her green mother had told her of how the evil humans on the planet tried to steal it. But she had never truly believed a choosing ceremony would happen in her lifetime and so had never considered the dangerous side to her blood.

“In three days’ time, Sera Lighthaven will make the greatest leap of faith a Cerulean can make,” the High Priestess announced. “She will throw herself from the dais in the Night Gardens and spill her blood to break the tether. She will be honored and cherished by us all as we travel to our new home!”

Hearing her say the details out loud, Sera felt numb. Her brain refused to believe the information, as if the High Priestess were talking about someone else.

We are the Cerulean. Our blood is magic.

The words held a new and terrible meaning for her now.

Her blood meant death.



The High Priestess had declared an evening of silence and meditation, so everyone was sent to their dwellings to pray and prepare themselves for the days to come.

Sera was eager to get away from the crowds. She hadn’t even tried to find Leela in the mass of Cerulean that surrounded her, praising her or gazing at her with awe, as if she had become something worthy of wonder over the course of thirty minutes. She didn’t like it. She was still the same Sera she had been this morning in the cloudspinners’ grove.

“It is an honor,” her orange mother said once they were out of hearing of the others. Her throat sounded tight as she spoke.

“It is a necessity,” her green mother said quietly.

Her purple mother said nothing.

For once, there weren’t a thousand questions buzzing around in Sera’s head. There was only one and it thudded over and over, louder than the beating of her heart.


Why her? The details she knew of the ceremonies in the past were scant, but she’d always thought an adult Cerulean was chosen. And it wasn’t just her age—she wasn’t as devout as Elorin, nor as beautiful as Koreen. She wasn’t as pleasant as Daina or as patient as Leela. The High Priestess had even called her a nuisance once, when she discovered Sera climbing the temple’s spire. Why would Mother Sun choose such a mediocre, bothersome Cerulean to help the City?

“Are you hungry, Sera?” her green mother asked when they arrived home. “I could fry you some squash blossoms.”

But the hunger she had felt earlier in the day had vanished, and her green mother’s suggestion seemed like a cruel joke.

“Or we could pray together,” her orange mother suggested.

Her purple mother simply held out a hand, her index finger glowing bright blue as her magic swirled under her skin. All Sera had to do was call on her own magic and touch her glowing finger to her mother’s. Her purple mother would read her heart and she would not have to explain herself.

But Sera did not feel like blood bonding right now.

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