Home > Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark #1)(3)

Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark #1)(3)
Author: Veronica Roth

Eijeh stuffed a roll in his mouth, practically choking on the crumbs.

“Careful,” Akos said to him. “Death by bread isn’t a dignified way to go.”

“At least I’ll die doing what I love,” Eijeh said, around all the bread.

Akos laughed.

Ori hooked her elbow around Eijeh’s neck, tugging his head in close. “Don’t look now. Stares coming in from the left.”

“So?” Eijeh said, spraying crumbs. But Akos already felt heat creeping into his neck. He chanced a look over at Eijeh’s left. A little group of adults stood there, quiet, eyes following them.

“You’d think you’d be a little more used to it, Akos,” Eijeh said to him. “Happens all the time, after all.”

“You’d think they would be used to us,” Akos said. “We’ve lived here all our lives, and we’ve had fates all our lives, what’s there to stare at?”

Everyone had a future, but not everyone had a fate—at least, that was what their mom liked to say. Only parts of certain “favored” families got fates, witnessed at the moment of their births by every oracle on every planet. In unison. When those visions came, their mom said, they could wake her from a sound sleep, they were so forceful.

Eijeh, Cisi, and Akos had fates. Only they didn’t know what they were, even though their mom was one of the people who had Seen them. She always said she didn’t need to tell them; the world would do it for her.

The fates were supposed to determine the movements of the worlds. If Akos thought about that too long, he got nauseous.

Ori shrugged. “My aunt says the Assembly’s been critical of the oracles on the news feed lately, so it’s probably just on everyone’s minds.”

“Critical?” Akos said. “Why?”

Eijeh ignored them both. “Come on, let’s find a good spot.”

Ori brightened. “Yeah, let’s. I don’t want to get stuck staring at other people’s butts like last year.”

“I think you’ve grown past butt height this year,” Eijeh said. “Now you’re at mid-back, maybe.”

“Oh good, because I definitely put on this dress for my aunt so I could stare at a bunch of backs.” Ori rolled her eyes.

This time Akos slipped into the crowd in the Hall of Prophecy first, ducking under glasses of wine and swooping gestures until he got to the front, right by the ice sheet and the closed-up hushflowers. They were right on time, too—their mom was up by the ice sheet, and she had taken off her shoes, though it was chilly in here. She said she was better at being an oracle when she was closer to the ground.

A few ticks ago he’d been laughing with Eijeh, but as the crowd went quiet, everything in Akos went quiet, too.

Eijeh leaned in close to him and whispered in his ear, “Do you feel that? The current’s humming like crazy in here. It’s like my chest is vibrating.”

Akos hadn’t noticed it, but Eijeh was right—he did feel like his chest was vibrating, like his blood was singing. Before he could answer, though, their mom started talking. Not loud, but she didn’t have to be, because they all knew the words by heart.

“The current flows through every planet in the galaxy, giving us its light as a reminder of its power.” As if on cue, they all looked up at the currentstream, its light showing in the sky through the red glass of the dome. At this time of year, it was almost always dark red, just like the hushflowers, like the glass itself. The currentstream was the visible sign of the current that flowed through all of them, and every living thing. It wound across the galaxy, binding all the planets together like beads on a single string.

“The current flows through everything that has life,” Sifa went on, “creating a space for it to thrive. The current flows through every person who breathes breath, and emerges differently through each mind’s sieve. The current flows through every flower that blooms in the ice.”

They scrunched together—not just Akos and Eijeh and Ori, but everyone in the whole room, standing shoulder to shoulder, so they could all see what was happening to the hushflowers in the ice sheet.

“The current flows through every flower that blooms in the ice,” Sifa repeated, “giving them the strength to bloom in the deepest dark. The current gives the most strength to the hushflower, our marker of time, our death-giving and peace-giving blossom.”

For a while there was silence, and it didn’t feel odd, like it should have. It was as if they were all hum-buzz-singing together, feeling the strange force that powered their universe, just like friction between particles powered the burnstones.

And then—movement. A shifting petal. A creaking stem. A shudder went through the small field of hushflowers growing among them. No one made a sound.

Akos glanced up at the red glass, the canopy of lanterns, just once, and he almost missed it—all the flowers bursting open. Red petals unfurling all at once, showing their bright centers, draping over their stems. The ice sheet teemed with color.

Everyone gasped, and applauded. Akos clapped with the rest of them, until his palms itched. Their dad came up to take their mom’s hands and plant a kiss on her. To everyone else she was untouchable: Sifa Kereseth, the oracle, the one whose currentgift gave her visions of the future. But their dad was always touching her, pressing the tip of his finger into her dimple when she smiled, tucking strays back into the knot she wore her hair in, leaving yellow flour fingerprints on her shoulders when he was done kneading the bread.

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