Seraphine is bursting with joy. She is surrounded by the other Chosen, each adorned with their tribal headdresses and familial tattoos.
She thinks of butterfly season, when her forest home is filled with the delicate creatures, when the air is rainbow-hued. The rustle of silk reminds her of the sibilant fluttering of thousands of wings as the creatures take flight, seeking their freedom. She too is taking flight. Searching for new air, endless sky in which to spread her wings.
The room falls silent. The Arbiter is here.
Two doors open – one is flanked by two beautiful women, the other by two guards. A small tug of foreboding pulls at Seraphine’s core. Something is not right. The sibilance of butterflies transforms to the urgent flapping of crows’ wings – dark and discordant.
The selection is quick and efficient, brutal even. The Arbiter points, flicks her head towards the door of her choosing, a girl’s fate decided in an instant. Delight awaits the girl guided towards the women, despair if a guard grasps her by the shoulders and pushes her through his door, now yawning like an entrance to Hell.
Seraphine knows that there is no hiding place. As she feels a rough hand land on the back of her neck, she understands that her coin has flipped and landed on the dark side. She now knows why her mother waved her off with so many tears. Yet she also realises why she was not warned of the consequences. Better to have a dream, to aim high and burn bright on your way down, than to remain in the mud below for all time.
Whatever fate has in store for her now, she can always remember her moments as a butterfly, searching for her own patch of sky.