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Tanzi was summoned today.
It happened like it always does: we were at morning prayer in the observatory, hunched in our seats with eyes closed. I was sitting with the other Serving Sisters, a swathe of brown through the hall of silver Sightwitches. We might be all nationalities, all origins, all ages, but Serving Sisters always sat on one end. Full-fledged Sightwitch Sisters always sat on the other.
Clouds had gathered overnight. A flimsy light filtered through the stained glass in the observatory’s ceiling, casting the amphitheater rows in shadows.
We had just begun the Memory Vow. Head Sister Hilga stood beside the scrying pool at the room’s heart, her hands clasped at her belly and her eyes closed. Our voices bounced on the marble walls, eighty-seven throats sounding like a thousand.
As the final words in the Memory Vow—“Once seen, never forgotten. Once heard, never lost”—crossed our lips, a telltale flap of wings echoed out.
My heart dropped to my toes, as it always does when I hear that sound.
Please be for me, I begged, staring at the stained-glass dome overhead—at the constellation of bright stars. Please be coming for me, Sleeper. I follow all the Rules, I’ve learned all my lessons, and I have served you without complaint for thirteen years. Please, Sirmaya, Summon me.
I wanted to vomit. I wanted to shout. Surely, surely my day had finally come.
Then the spirit swift appeared, swirling out of the scrying pool. A black mist that coalesced into a sharp-tailed, graceful-winged figure, its feathers speckled with starlight. It circled once, with eyes that glowed golden, and a wintery, crisp smell wafted over me.
That smell meant a Summoning.
Pick me, I prayed, the tips of my fingers numb from clutching so tightly at my tunic. Pick me, pick me—
The spirit swift twirled past the telescope ledge before winging down to the Serving Sisters, fourteen of us in brown. I swayed. My heart surged into my throat.
The Memory Vow
In the name of Sirmaya, I vow to preserve All that has come before, For the past is the only truth. Once seen, never forgotten. Once heard, never lost.
The Vow of Clear Eyes
In the name of Sirmaya, I vow to see With clear eyes and open mind. For the world is ever changing, And the present is the only constant.
The Vow of a Future Dreamed
In the name of Sirmaya, I vow to protect The future that is shown, For the Sleeper knows all The Sleeper dreams all, And there is no changing what is meant to be.
Two hops. It was almost to me, if aiming slightly more toward Tanzi. But there was still a chance it might change course. Still a chance it might twist back to me …
It didn’t. It skipped over to Tanzi’s toes because, of course, the swift could not be here for me.
They are never here for me.
Seventeen years old, and my eyes are still their natural brown. Thirteen years at the Convent, and I’m still consigned to drab cotton.
Somehow, though, I managed to keep my throat from screaming, No! I wanted to shriek—Sirmaya knows I wanted to shriek and that my eyes burned with tears. It wasn’t Tanzi’s fault, though, that the Goddess had picked her first.
And it wasn’t Tanzi’s fault that our loving Goddess never seemed to want me at all.
If I was going to blame anyone, I should blame Sister Rose and Sister Gwen, Sister Hancine and Sister Lindou. All those years growing up, they had filled my head with stories, telling me that I would be a powerful Sightwitch one day. That I would be the next Head Sister with a Sight to rival even Hilga’s. No, they had never seen such visions, but they were sure of it all the same.
Why did I still cling to those old tales when they were so clearly not true? If the Sleeper had truly wanted to give me the strongest Sight, then surely She would have done so by now.
So I didn’t cry and I didn’t scream. Instead, I forced a smile to my lips and gave Tanzi a hug. She looked so worried, I couldn’t not offer my Threadsister something. Her thick eyebrows had drawn into a single black line. Her russet skin was pinched with worry and guilt, an expression I never wanted to see on her face. If smiling would ease it, then smiling I could do.
“One of our ranks has been Summoned,” Sister Hilga intoned. The words she always said, words that were never spoken for me. “Praise be to Sirmaya.”
“Praise be to Sirmaya,” the Sisters murmured back. Except for me. Tanzi still hugged me so tight, so fierce.
Copyright © 2018 by Susan Dennard