This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
The school day started the same as always.
The first group of students to appear through the classroom door walked briskly. These were the perky kids who didn’t mind waking at the crack of dawn. It was easy to tell who they were. Their conversations echoed at a volume that meant you could hear every word they said. It wasn’t a bad thing. Their chipper voices spread joy through the populous like a gentle aroma.
The next group to arrive were balls of fatigue and irritation. They clearly hated waking up but had long ago accepted they had no choice. As they listened to tales from their more energetic peers, they would slowly feel their exhaustion recede.
Lumbering at the back were the zombies. These were the students who could barely hold up their eyelids, their footsteps slow and heavy as they maundered for the better part of the day. Their time had been spent watching movies long after the clock struck twelve. No amount of excited storytelling would enliven their minds.
Noah found himself falling into the zombie category of recent.
Or perhaps he was worse than those plodding laggards. As the day trudged past the halfway point, most would have perked up as the energy from the school slop coarsed through their veins. But the mystery meat offered on a daily basis would never find its way into his system. That was a secret promise Noah had made with himself. However, it meant he remained a zombie.
So here he was, with the day coming to an end. The last zombie. As his train of thought reached its final stop, Noah’s attention returned to the classroom.
It was then he noticed the entire room had come to a standstill; every student frozen mid action, an eerie quiet like that of a graveyard. The monotonous sounds of pens on paper, the small whispers between students--gone. They sat with their expressions unchanged, with painted smiles paired with unblinking eyes... more like dolls than humans.
And, standing calmly near the front of the classroom, an unnerving stranger. He had just appeared,poof; it felt like one of those ’blink and you’ll miss it’ moments... well, not that anyone could at the moment.
The stranger was dressed in a large black cloak that draped down his sides; his face was barely visible beneath the dark hood. In his hand an envelope. If he had a scythe instead, he could have been mistaken for Death himself.
“You have been invited.”
The words caused Noah to shift in his seat, an unknown emotion bubbling up inside him. His first attempt to speak was crushed under the weight of a firm lump clogging up his throat. Wide-eyed and as stiff as a board, he sat patiently, staring at the uncanny visitor.
Nathan Caldere was sitting calmly beside to this ominous man. He was a familiar face; an unremarkable teenager with short brown hair and a permanently blank expression. Most only bothered to remember his name because he was a Caldere, and that meant richer than God.
The wealthy boy rose to his feet.“You sure know how to put on a show.”
Noah could feel a tinge of guilt at witnessing something clearly not meant for his eyes. Still, he could not stop staring at the bizarre scene.
“I’ve been waiting a while for this,” Nathan said as he took a step towards the stranger. He lowered his head slightly to avoid a pen frozen mid-air, no longer speeding across the room to an expectant looking girl.
Nathan’s arm quickly snatched the envelope from the stranger’s hands, his attention fully focused on the item he held. From the way Nathan moved, it was clear , he was not afraid . His normally bored expression was melting away, showing a hint of a smile.
Noah felt the urge to let his presence be known. To call out to the people before him. That urge didn’t last. His mind refused. A flood of questions rising up within him. Questions with only one way to find their answer.
How had this even started?
It was a Monday afternoon, he knew that for sure; the turned back of Mr. Robinson at the front of the class confirmed that.
Monday afternoons with Mr. Robinson signalled the last lesson of the day, and inevitably meant the monotonous voice of his teacher would force him to daydream.
Noah cast a quick glance at the hooded stranger. Maybe all of it was a dream; maybe he was really drooling all over his desk, and any moment he would be getting an earful from a disapproving teacher and laughing classmates.
Then again, it was doubtful he had dreamt up someone dressed like that. It was too simplistic. He could spruce up that outfit in countless ways.
His eyes tracked to the door of the classroom but inevitably found themselves back on the Stranger. Noah’s eyes focused on Mr. Robinson, as if it would somehow will him into movement. For a desperate moment, he wished someone else would react. He needed someone to start screaming and pointing, unlike Nathan, who was casually talking to the discount Death.
“You have been invited,” the hooded terror repeated in a voice far too human for his attire.
“Yeah, I got that part,” Nathan responded.
“There are things you must know before you are to accept, or ref--”
“I know what I’m getting myself into,” Nathan asserted, cutting in before the stranger could finish his sentence.
He paused, a flash of annoyance almost visible past the hood but disappearing as quickly as it had come. “Do you accept?”
A small smirk to appeared on Nathan’s face as he opened the envelope and peered inside . He reached into it, pulling out a small ring covered in odd markings. “Of course I accept.”
“You have been assigned to the Hoden Region.”
A slight nod came from Nathan, his eyes gazing intensely at the ring.
“Achoo!” Noah slammed his hands into his face in a feeble attempt to hold back his sneeze.
Maybe they didn’t notice?
Slowly his eyes rose from the floor. Nathan was staring wide-eyed, confusion written clearly on his face; the stranger’s gaze was firmly fixated on Noah. What little of his face that could be seen was a blank slate, not giving the slightest clue as to what he was thinking. Noah felt a wave of fear wash over him.
The door. If he was fast enough, maybe he could make a break for it.
In a depressing attempt to rise, Noah collapsed against his desk. His feet shakily banged against each other. Even if his legs cooperated, he would have to run toward the inexplicable visitor, who was blocking his path. If by some miracle he made it to the door, would the stranger just appear in front of him in the same way he had appeared in the room? He had no idea what this stranger was capable of, but from what he had already seen, there probably wasn’t a chance of escape. The realisation came with a new wave of hopelessness as he slumped back in his chair, shaking and waiting.
Maybe they stayed like that for a second, or a minute; maybe more, maybe less; the three of them were frozen, mirroring everyone else in the room, waiting for what this man would do.
Finally, the expressionless man spoke.
“It seems there is a complication.”
The news had spread quickly within the organisation. It started as a rumour, but quickly became known as fact. The Hoden region had received two new visitors. The appearance of one nor two wasn’t newsworthy--every region would keep getting them--however, a visitor that was invited with a ring was huge news. This was rare. For someone to be given a ring on entry meant they had potential, enough that the Curator recognised them. It was very good news for the region; whoever this person was, they could be a huge asset to gain standing.
“There was an Uninvited in the room,” blurted Sim in an excited shriek.
“Isn’t there work you should be doing?” responded a middle aged man sitting at a desk, his fingers racing across a keyboard.
“Yeah, I know. But it’s not illegal to have a five minute break.”
“It is if you keep having them and don’t actually do any work,” the man retorted.
“Come on Rick, it can wait! This is crazy stuff, you know,” Sim pleaded.
She moved closer to sit on the side of his desk; this was a frequent event, much to the slight annoyance of Rick. He liked having his own personal space, an area no one interfered with.
Sim seemingly had opposing views.
“What’s also crazy is how you still manage to be so carefree with the amount of warnings you’ve been given,” Rick replied, not taking his eyes off the screen.
The office was too small for four people, but they had made it manageable for the most part. Within the Hoden region they worked as handlers for all the visitors that came in.
“You’re an old boring man; you should care more about these things,” she said, disappointed as she stood up.
As she walked towards her desk, Rick unwillingly felt his eyes follow her. She had long slender legs and a nice curved physique, but the first thing everyone always noticed was her hair: blonde, and packed into a ponytail that reached down below her waist. Some never cared to discern more than that, which was a true shame. Yes, her beauty was undeniable, but it was also what she hated the most about herself. ’Just a pretty face’. It was nothing but a curse, and yet, a curse most would beg for. Rick had been one of the few who had not cared much for appearance. He knew her. She was brave, never one to hold back her opinion, and unable to say no to a person in need. Sadly, she was also needlessly playful and unwilling to care for herself as much as she did others.
“What a stubborn child.” Rick sighed.
Her head turned to face him, “Did you say something?”
“Nothing. Do you know who’s been assigned to the ringed visitor?”
“I think Martin. He’s probably on his way to pick him up right now,” she responded glancing at her watch.
“He came at a good time; he might make the tournament this year,” said Rick in his usual rough voice.
“Aren’t you the one who always tells me not to get my hopes up?” Sim asked, taking a seat.
“Aren’t you the one who always tells me to stop being a grumpy old man?”
“Well, since when did we actually take each other’s advice?” she giggled, spinning in her chair. After a few seconds, it slowly came to a stop, leaving her facing the wall. “Imagine if it’s true though…an uninvited...”
“No,” he whispered, more for himself than a response to Sim. He couldn’t allow rumours to distract him; its legitimacy was yet to be confirmed, and until then, his focus should always be on his work.
And that was making sure Hoden was safe.
Lines formed across Rick’s forehead; instinctively, he lifted his glasses, rubbing his thumb between his eyebrows as if it might banish the stress. News that a visitor had been invited with a ring would have spread through the rumour mill like wildfire on any day, but rumours of an uninvited was something much more.
Considering the reputation of the previous uninvited, this was bad news no matter how he looked at it. Whether or not the rumour was true, it wouldn’t take long for the other regions to hear the news; it was only a matter of time before people would start monitoring the Hoden region.. The thought of being placed in the cross-hairs of terrifying and angry crowds only caused more lines to form across Rick’s forehead.
As he rested his glasses back on his nose, he took a moment to look around the office. A desk at every corner of the room, a window that never allowed enough air flow, and a large desk in the centre that Sim used as a dumping ground. He would have to ask her to move her stuff... Again.
Having not heard his answer, Sim spoke, “Rick, honestly--just think about it. If Hoden could grab itself an uninvited, then people might start taking us seriously.”
“You’re not wrong, but you’re simplifying the problem… Besides, we can’t accept every rumour we hear as true.”
“But we can’t rule all of them out as false, either,” Sim countered.
“I wish I could be as optimistic as you,” replied Rick as he turned back to his screen.
What she had said wasn’t entirely incorrect; the preceding uninvited had a reputation for being as strong as they were unruly, which had a tendency to leave deep scars in every region they interfered with.
Perhaps he had become jaded with age. It was becoming hard to view anything with a positive light. Everyone in the world has a goal, something they would be willing to do anything to achieve. When two opposing goals clash and neither person is willing to back down terrible things happened. So far, the uninvited goals seemed to clash with entire regions. Grabbing an uninvited, as she put it, could very well be the last thing they ever did. Contrasting his own opinion, Sim firmly believed in people, that everyone had some good in them. Uninvited or not, opposing goals or not, there was a way for everyone to be happy. It was a somewhat inspiring notion in a naive kind of way.
A sharp knock on the door grabbed their attention. A small face peered round the corner. Probably a new intern, Rick noted.
“Erm… sorry to interrupt, but I’m looking for Mr. Marls… Is he here?”
“Yeah, I’m here.”
“…The General wants you,” he quickly spat out; with his message delivered he was gone.
The mention of the General caused Sim to let out a defeated sigh; she turned to her screen and began typing away. She had nothing more to say to Rick as he rose to his feet. Nobody would be foolish enough to keep the leader of the Hoden region waiting.
Stepping into the connecting corridor from his office, Rick headed in the direction of the General’s office, which was realistically only a few doors down from his own.
The Hoden region was recognised as a region, but it was the smallest; their entire standing and respect all came from the man known as the General. Without him, they would most likely crumble into nothing.
“Ah, Rick, is that you? Come now boy, there’s no need for that, it’s just us.”
“Thank you, sir… Mason.”
General Mason Liwick. Even when meeting him for the first time, everyone came away with the same sentiment: this is a man to be respected. The General was unusually tall, towering above everyone that seemed to interact with him. He was well-built, his physique clearly outlined through whatever he was wearing. The only sign of his old age was his short white hair… and his scar. It was a painfully noticeable scar that ran up from his neck, starting off as a singular cut but branching off like tree roots covering half his face, only stopping just under his left eye.
“I won’t beat around the bush here,” said the General, turning toward the window behind him. “I’m sure you’ve heard already, but it seems that we’ve picked up some interesting new recruits.”
“Ah, yes. The boy who was invited with a ring; I was told Martin was assigned to him.”
“That’s true, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.”
“What are we talking about?” Rick asked.
“You must have heard the rumours,” the General replied, the smirk audible in his voice even though Rick could not see it.
Lines began to form across Rick’s forehead once again; there was no denying it now.
“The uninvited…” Rick said.
“I trust I don’t need to explain the importance of this to you,” he said in a stern tone.
“Rick, you’re someone who has been by my side for a long time, and I have seen you become a very capable man.”
“I thank you, sir. Your words mean a lot,” Rick responded, bowing his head slightly at the same time.
“They should; it’s because of this that I have decided to place the uninvited in your care,” the General announced, turning slightly to face him.
Rick’s head shot straight back up. His eyes searched the scarred face for something to let him know this was a joke, but it was all in vain.
“Sir, I cannot accept this. I handle our higher ranking members; Sim and Martin deal with our new visitors, and I am not properly prepared for—”
“This is not a request, this is an order.” After a few seconds, he continued on in a softer tone “I can’t trust something this important to Sim, she has intuition but lacks the understanding of how the world works. And we both know that Martin isn’t the best at dealing with delicate situations.”
Rick remained unmoved; a billion thoughts floated around his head all at once, his face a twisted grimace. This was a risk… no, it was a death sentence. An uninvited left nothing but chaos and death in their wake, and he was being sent into the frontline.
The sudden shout called his attention back to the present.
“Sorry sir,” he apologised, regaining his composure. “What if he’s like the others? The uninvited tend to be a rowdy lot; can we control him?”
“We can never control anyone, my boy. People aren’t tools to be used and disposed of; doing that kind of thing only breeds resentment, and resentful people like revenge,” the General replied, his tone reminiscent of a parent talking to a young child.
“So what do you want me to do? Let him run wild?” Rick asked.
“He’s not an animal either, he doesn’t need to run wild.” The General laughed. “Treat him like I treat you if you’re stuck; you’ve turned out just fine under my care.”
Rick grumbled. “I’m not sure I would like to place your torturous methods on anyone else.”
“Then do whatever you think is right,” the General replied, his eyes focusing on Rick’s. “We’ve been given an opportunity here that we must not let slip us by. Don’t let me down.”
rudyoxborough46: An action-packed, mystical adventure awaits anyone wishing to read this novel. I’m amazed at how well you’ve managed to flesh out the characters in this book, and I hope to read more of your work.I’ve read books about goblins and elves and all that mumbo-jumbo before, and most accounts of these c...
Dru83: This is the second or third time I've read this one and I just love it. It has just about everything you could ever want packed into one scifi story. It still has some parts that are a little rough in terms of grammar, punctuation, and word usage, but it's still an awesome story. I love how detai...
makaylakay: I love love this story! It's written incredibly and well thought-out plot! I love how it's a different twist in fantasy fiction, other then the usual vampire or werewolves. Love the romantics and drawn to the two characters so much already! This book will draw you in within the first chapter and ...
re8622: The Last Exodus quickly grabbed my attention. Almost as soon as I started reading the story, I couldn't put it down. I found that the ideas the author put forth were very thought provoking given the turmoil we have seen gradually rise over the last several years. I felt that I could understand th...
ElusiveBadwolf: I loved this book so much! It's a shame that i already came to the end of this. I really enjoyed the story, and i liked it how everything became in the end. It was a great book and i can say that you are a great writer too. Keep it that way and i think you can make it in the writing business!
Krupa Kataria: the detailing is really awesome ....the characters, ur plots jst too Awsm ,m waiting for the further chapters please do complete it ...like m really craving for those ones ...great job with words too ..please complete the further parts ...
Satabda Chatterjee: Each and every charecter develops during the whole course of the journey and keeps secretly love for the princess . However the way that writter expressed each situatuons that the princess faced quite relevant and keeps the suspense always at the end of the chapter. . . .which makes the reader m...
Hawkebat: Playing both Kotor I & II and Swtor I found the story line interesting and it held me until chapter 35 Very good story and plot flow until then, very few technical errors. I felt that the main character was a bit under and over powered, as it fought for balance. The last few chapters felt too f...
genlynne2379: I read the other review of this book and I must say that I disagree with it wholeheartedly. I do not believe the author put the apostrophes in the names just to be unique, but because the characters are supposedly of a different race than humans. They are Anmah. They should have different names a...