Lily is a 14 year old girl living in the world of Esmeral, a world which only consists of 2 groups of children: the orphaned and those in Schools. Lily is a Schoolgirl who is allowed to participate in the time-honored tradition of The Ritual: a growing-up ceremony, which takes children and brings them to the world of Adults. This world is supposedly fabulous and carefree, but Lily soon learns differently. Teaming up with her best friend, she must fight the oppressive Government to free both her
I looked up at the spinning blue diamond, transfixed by its beauty. All my life I'd waited for this, just like every other child in Esmeral. The Ritual. And I was lucky enough to be the first one to perform it this year.
Suddenly I felt a bony, clawlike hand on my shoulder. Startled, I whipped around and looked into the face of Mrs. Ansel. My headmaster and teacher. I took in her beautiful, thin face, her immaculate white hooded cloak, and her gold necklace, realizing this may be the last time I'd ever see her. She had a sad look in her sapphire eyes that I thought meant she was going to miss me. I mean, I know she'd done this every year for the past however many years, but I liked to think I was special to her. That's why I thought she was sad I was leaving.
If only I'd known how wrong I was.
"It's time, Lily. Are you ready?" she asked me softly.
I looked past her, at the auditorium. At the rows of empty red velvet seats. At the black silk curtains, framing the chestnut wood stage. This school had been my home for the past 12 years of my life. At least, that's what I'd been told. I had only been 2 when I was left here, a homeless orphan. Just like every other child I'd ever talked to. I had been lucky the School had accepted me. Going to the School was the only way to assure that you'd be a part of the Ritual. Not to mention all the great times I'd had and the great friends I'd made. I caught sight of Summer, standing just past the curtains, smiling. She and I had been in the same classes practically since we'd been left here. She grinned at me and waved, and I smiled back, then looked Mrs. Ansel straight in the eye.
"I'm ready, Mrs. Ansel. As ready as I'll ever be." I said, then turned to face the shining blue gem once more.
"Then let's begin. Kneel."
"Remove your hood."
I stared at her, a bit shocked. My hood? To my cloak? None of us had ever taken off our hoods in front of anyone else. I didn't even know what color hair Summer had.Behind me, I heard a ripple of whispers from the line of girls. They were as shocked as I was. We had always been taught that to remove our hoods was to take away our dignity and respect, to shame our upbringing and properness. It was one of the few rules at the School--a rule designed to teach us a respect for privacy, we'd supposed.
Mrs. Ansel stared down at me imperiously. "Do you doubt me? I told you to take off your hood. You're obviously not a child any more, and no one will be wearing them where your going. Now remove your hood, Lily."
I numbly reached up and pulled my hood back, letting it rest on my shoulders. A collective gasp rose from everyone in the room as my dark chocolate brown hair fell loose.
"Thank you. Now, give me your hand."
I placed my hand in her outstretched one.
"Repeat after me: I go forth empty handed, into the unknown, not expecting to ever return to this place. May those who are waiting guide me if I am capable of following."
"I go forth empty handed, into the unknown, not expecting to ever return to this place. May those who are waiting guide me if I am capable of following." I repeated. The words seemed to flow all too quickly over my tongue and out into open air. Immediately, I felt an icy breeze whisper through the room. The blue diamond flashed and began to spin faster. I caught a glimpse of Mrs. Ansel's face; it was twisted into a smug, terrifying smile. Suddenly, I realized that the curtains had closed behind us, cutting off the others.
I turned to Mrs. Ansel to ask her what was going on, when suddenly--
The diamond turned blood red--
I was forced to the floor by a strong hand at my back--
Then the world turned completely white.
The last thing I heard before I blacked out was Mrs. Ansel's voice in my ear.
"You're the one, Lily. Go forth, and free us all...or die."