“Places, please!” Lily spoke, a little sharper than she wished. She had shouted orders and directions to staff, friends and caterers all day, and her voice was giving out a little.
“Sister Joseph, you will lead the procession, followed by sister Novis and Sarah, then Seth will bring the rest of the group from the left side of the podium. Sys, cue music,” she instructed.
A soothing melody poured on the beach, making Purple hum, delighted.
“Stop!” Lily interrupted the immortals’ bliss. “Where is Humon? He is supposed to stand right behind Lelia, according to tradition.”
“And the approved list,” Seth couldn’t help herself.
“Mother Superior, could you please do the honors?” Lily took sweet revenge for the defiance of protocol by handing an exceedingly long and very delicate lavender veil to the leader, to carry over her arms during the procession. The veil was infused with lilac fragrance.
“I’m so relieved we’re not in violation of the mandatory matching fragrance,” Seth thought, as she carried the soft veil with the care one would use while handling a Ming vase.
“It is essential everybody memorizes their precise locations, you’ll have to be able to remember them without signage, all the signage will be removed for the ceremony,” Lily directed.
“How am I supposed to remember a spot in the sand without any signage?” sister Joseph protested.
“Find a reference object, two would work better, you know, and orient yourself in relationship to them,” Lily explained.
“Wouldn’t it be easier to use stellar charts? Their position is fixed so it would be easier for me to triangulate my location,” sister Joseph retorted.
“The ceremony is at dusk,” Lily replied, missing the sarcasm because of her tension and exhaustion. “You’ll be in line with the linden trees and about three feet off the second row of gardenias.”
“Are you sure that’s precise enough?” sister Joseph continued mocking.
“No, but unfortunately we don’t have a better reference system,” Lily answered. “Sister Novis, the Purple language generator can’t be in full view, can we place it in the ocean? Sys can work it from there.”
“No, she can’t,” Sarah jumped defend her offspring, “not unless you want her to attend the second half of the ceremony in a wet gown.”
“We are going to wear our robes, though, right?” Seth wanted to make sure.
“Yes, the Order will wear ceremonial garb, the rest of us will don black tie outfits.” Lily clarified.
“I’m grateful the monastic habits made the approved list,” Seth mumbled, in an irritated tone Lily chose to ignore.
“Where is Purple going to be?” sister Mary-Francis asked, stirring a miniature panic. Lily shuffled assiduously through the notes in her hands to find the seating chart for the immortals, and only continued breathing normally after their location in the ceremony was clarified.
“Sister Novis is going to carry the box, while the dragons will fly majestically overhead,” she read from the notes.
“How are we going to ensure the dragons will fly majestically overhead? They’re not exactly reliable,” sister Benedict asked innocently, not knowing that she touched upon a subject of great anxiety.
“Sister Joseph will make sure they do,” Lily spoke with great assurance, a testimony to her training as a diplomat. Nothing could shake her poise.
“She will, will she?” sister Joseph mocked.
“And we are all grateful for your effort, sister,” Lily turned to the latter, with a warm smile.
“What happens when we reach the podium? Do you want them to surround our group, like they usually do?” sister Joseph asked, and the question dropped on Lily’s head like a bucket of ice water. Of course they were going to land on the beach in circle formation, why didn’t she think of that? That’s what their instincts were honed to do through millennia of evolution. There was no room for a circle formation around the podium, not without requiring approval for modifications. Lily’s heart sank, but her smile radiated even brighter.
“Would it be possible for the dragons to alter their traditional formation, so they can fit within the approved layout?” she asked sister Joseph in the sweetest voice.
Usually, sister Joseph would have relished in holding hers and the dragons’ position, just for the sake of it, but after being at the receiving end of the wisps approval process, she chose the easy route, and nodded that she’ll find a way around the problem.
“Where is Humon?” Lily snapped, annoyed that the person who had the most insight into the process chose to remove himself from the first general rehearsal.
“That’s because I know there are sixteen general rehearsals in all,” Humon replied calmly through the interlink. “Let me know when you reach number nine, I think given my previous experiences, seven general rehearsals are plenty.”
“Lights!” Lily directed. Sister Roberta started the light show, a beautiful play on the Aurora Borealis, and during the presentation Lily experienced all the inevitable sources of irritation and stress, sister Roberta’s surprises. She ruthlessly eliminated them to the last one, to the sister’s dismay, and steeled her heart against any and all attempts at guilt or intimidation designed to retain the unapproved features.
At the end of this emotional battle, Lily emerged victorious and Roberta discontent; the latter vowed to herself to introduce at least one element that wasn’t seen before in the real ceremony.
“Where is the food?” Lily asked, and sister Felix pointed to a beautiful display, worthy of a master chef. Lily twitched.
“Why is the food next to the podium? The diagram always showed the food display next to the healing garden stairs,” Lily pointed out in a soothing, but definitive voice. Sister Novis took notice of the logistical change.
“It is not an change, it was always supposed to be this way,” Lily clarified. “Did anybody check the precise sunset times?” Nobody had, but a couple of sisters rushed to assist with the task and disappeared into the deep bowls of the Institute, grateful to be spared the remainder of the rehearsal.
“Minimum distance from the podium, measured from the elliptical centers?” Lily asked.
“Twelve feet, seven inches and fifteen thirty seconds,” sister Jove read from her notes.
“Really? That precise? We can only wish and hope that sister Roberta uses the wisp system of tolerances for her inventions, we’d all feel a lot safer,” Seth thought.
“I didn’t hear you complain when you used the solenoid!” sister Roberta protested.
“Well, that pretty much wraps it up for today, the suns have already set. I’ll see you all tomorrow at the same time, and please don’t be late, as you can see, every second matters,” Lily said, smiling encouragingly.
“Can we have some fresh vegetables for the dragons? It seems to be quite a long ceremony, they’d be a lot more settled if they had something to snack on,” sister Joseph suggested.
“We’re doomed,” Lily gave up, as the large group quickly dissipated.