The Cerulean (Untitled Duology, #1)

The Cerulean (Untitled Duology, #1)

Amy Ewing


For Molly and Kristen,

my McLellan cousins and sisters in spirit

Part One

The City Above the Sky



Sera’s mothers had told her this since the day she was born, before she could speak or think or understand what it meant. Every Cerulean child knew there was magic in their blood; it had healing powers, for one, and it could form the most intimate connection of the blood bond.

None of that magic was helping Sera today, though.

The cloudspinners’ grove was cold, the only place in the City Above the Sky that wasn’t perfectly temperate. Grass crunched under her bare feet as she reached to grab a fistful of clouds from where they clung, delicate as a spider’s web, to the black leaves of the nebula tree. The thin strands were slippery and floated up to a higher leaf, out of Sera’s reach.

“Drat,” she cursed, and a couple of girls closest to her gasped. Koreen shot her a discerning look, then tossed her bright blue hair over one shoulder, spinning her cloud into the most delicate thread, as if to show Sera how it was really done. Sera looked down at her own cloudspun dress, the one her green mother had made for her, and knew she would never be able to spin enough clouds to make one herself.

“Don’t try to catch them,” Leela said, getting up from her wheel, where she already had a thick spool of spun thread ready to be woven into fabric. “Let them come to you.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” Sera said. “We’ve been working in the grove for three weeks, and I’m no better at cloudspinning now than I was then.”

“We’ll be moving on to the stargem mines soon,” Leela said. “Perhaps you’ll find your calling there.”

Leela was Sera’s best friend. Her only friend, really. She didn’t seem to mind Sera’s outbursts or endless questions or the way Sera liked to laugh so big and loud she could scare the birds in the Aviary.

She was looking so hopeful now that Sera couldn’t bring herself to say that she didn’t think she was meant to hunt for precious jewels in the mines either. She wasn’t sure what her purpose in the City was supposed to be. And she was turning eighteen soon, an adult. She feared the High Priestess might simply assign her to the temple to be a novice because she wouldn’t know what else to do with her, and Sera couldn’t think of anything she’d rather do less. She loved Mother Sun, of course, but she didn’t see the need to sing songs about her and clean the temple all day just to prove that.

But it had been a year since her lessons with her green mother had ended and she and the other young Cerulean had begun learning the various trades of the City Above the Sky. She knew her green mother had been hoping she’d take to cloudspinning—it had been her occupation before Sera was born, and she had spun all of Sera’s dresses. Her orange mother would love if she became a novice, but Sera had a suspicion that she knew better than to hope for that, based on Sera’s consistent tardiness to evening prayers. Her purple mother played the most beautiful music on the miniature harp—she was always asked to play at festivals and celebrations—but Sera had no musical talent whatsoever, and her purple mother had understood this early on and never pressed her. She was too boisterous for the Aviary; she got bored and distracted while overseeing the seresheep in the Meadow; she was too impatient to tend to the bees in the Apiary.

“Perhaps Sera will be the first Cerulean with no true calling at all,” Koreen said in a tone that was at once honey-sweet and laced with tartness.

Treena and Daina exchanged a glance. Daina had already found her calling, to help care for the orchards, and had received a blessing from the High Priestess. She would begin her work there soon. Sera was fairly certain Treena would be asking for a blessing to work with the midwives any day now.

“Of course she will find a calling,” Leela said brusquely.

“She hasn’t yet,” Daina pointed out.

“Neither have I,” Leela shot back.

“Yes but—”

“I would like to tend to the tether,” Sera said. She didn’t know where the words came from, but once they were out, she knew they were true. The other girls stared at her as though she had just sprouted an extra head.

“The tether?” Elorin gasped.

“No one tends to the tether,” Koreen scoffed. “It hasn’t needed tending in years and years. That was the whole point of attaching our City to that planet down there in the first place.”

The City Above the Sky wasn’t like the many planets of the universe—it was not a planet at all. It wasn’t round like a ball, but flat, a floating oval disk with a temple in its center and two sprawling gardens at either end. A fine membrane of magic protected its outer rim and encased it like an egg, securing its edges so no mindless Cerulean would wander off it and fall into space. Since it had no rain, or snow, or any discernible weather, the City must attach itself to a planet by means of a tether, a tangible, finely wrought chain of magic in links of gold and silver and blue, invisible to the human eye, but perfectly visible to every Cerulean. This tether gave the City life—it drew nutrients up from the planet, minerals and molecules of all kinds, the way grass draws water up from soil. It kept the Great Estuary full and the orchards watered. It kept the air pure and the animals healthy.

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