Riwenne and her friends are still undercover in enemy territory so they have to participate in religious rites, like the graduation ceremony known as Choosing Day. She goes to see how things have changed under the new regime.
Despite the late night and grueling performance, we were all up early the next morning. The sooner we got to the temple, the closer we would be to see the dawn ceremony. We rushed through a cold breakfast and headed out the door before the sky was even turning gray, the streets only lit by the sunstone lamps.
But when we arrived at the temple, other people had already filled the indoor seats. I could see the students, wearing their drab gray school uniforms, squirming on the benches as they looked around at the temple’s decorations. It was probably their first time inside. Before Nexita and I went to our graduation, we’d barely been in the front door of our old temple.
Any seats that weren’t taken up by graduating students were reserved for local leaders. Every master crafter, business owner, and government minister was given their position of respect in the very front seats. As visiting circus performers, we didn’t rank any special treatment, so we had to make do outside. We found a place to stand on the steps and craned our necks to look through the door.
The dawn ceremony was strange in its new format. So much emphasis on the sun goddess and her priestesses as the leaders of the city. I mouthed the words of the prayers as they expected us to, but I didn’t say any of them out loud. My friends did the same, mumbling just enough to avoid attracting attention.
When the main ceremony was over, Nexita, Deryt, and Illari said goodbye to the rest. “We want to get to the ministry early enough to get on the tour,” Nexita whispered in my ear. “Just in case there’s a long line.”
I nodded, giving her a quick hug of farewell. “Good luck,” I murmured back.
Tika hopped from my shoulder onto Nexita’s. “We’ll see you back at the tents.”
I glanced around to make sure that no one had overheard the bird speaking to me, but most people were already wandering away, too. Even those who had been lucky enough to sit inside the temple were walking out now. Since the temple had a round design with multiple entrances, the space emptied quickly. I wondered why they didn’t want to stick around to watch the Choosing. Was it boring from the outside since no one could see what happened in the trial labyrinth underground? But I thought at least people with children would want to see them when they graduated.
No one really knew who their parents or children were because government schools took babies at a very young age, without even being named by their parents. But a parent would at least know that their child was turning fifteen, and many came to Choosing Day to see all the young adults graduate. Since everyone’s family houses were revealed, it was fun to guess who might be related. Usually, the adults wore their house pins that matched the ones given by the students. I glanced around, but I didn’t see anyone wearing a pin.