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 following mob were less energetic, merely more than living molds of fatigue and irritation. They did not welcome the rising sun but had long ago accepted they had no choice than to rise with it. As they listened to tales from their more energetic peers, they would slowly feel their exhaustion recede.
Lumbering at the back as always, 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. It had its perks. Nobody bothered him lest they become infected. Even the teachers. It was a bit strange how they all stopped at once though. Like it had been discussed at the ’lets not talk to Noah fanclub’. Which in retrospect doesn’t sound like a fanclub. Or at least not a good one. They would be better off choosing one of his more loud and lively classmates.
Classmates who seemed to be oddly quiet at that moment.
Noah felt his attention return to his classroom. His eyes darted from side to side. 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 anything human.
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 a 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. 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 this ominous man. He was a familiar face; they had shared classes together for a few years. He more of an acquaintance than a friend. Nathan was smart, popular and considered good looking by some. Most knew him because he was a Caldere, and that meant richer than God.
And yet he always looked so bored of it all. Never a smile or frown. Always wearing the same uninterested gaze.
The wealthy boy rose to his feet, fingers running through his short brown hair.“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. His normally bored expression melting away, showing a hint of amusement.
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.
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. The monotonous voice of his teacher wouldn’t have provided any favours. Fatigue would’ve been at its peak. No chance for him to focus on what was being taught.
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 darted all around the classroom but inevitably found themselves back on the Stranger. Then they focused on Mr. Robinson, as if it would somehow will him into movement.
“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 knees shakily banged against each other. Even if his legs cooperated, he would have to run toward the inexplicable visitor. 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 rumour spread quickly within the organisation. The Hoden region had found 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 nearly toppling a neat stack of papers he’d carefully organised. He shuffled the papers to the opposite corner, dangerously near his mug of green tea. 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, after making sure the papers were not likely to get stained.
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. It meant they took care of anyone the hosts brought in. Or just ‘host’ since they only had the one recruiter.
“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 hadn’t cared much for her appearance. There were twenty years between them; although for some that wouldn’t have been a deterrent. Regardless, he saw the person behind the beauty. Sim was brave, never one to hold back her opinion, and unable to say no to a person in need. 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.
Rick let out a slow exhale as he rested his glasses back on his nose; taking a moment to look around the office. Four wooden walls surrounded them with a desk at every corner. A large circular window that never allowed enough airflow occupied the rightmost wall. In the middle of the room stood a rectangular desk 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.”
“Perhaps, but you’re simplifying the problem… Besides, we can’t accept every rumour we hear as true.”
“And we can’t just rule them out as false either,” Sim countered.
“I wish I could be as optimistic as you,” replied Rick as began shuffling his papers back to their original position.
What Sim said wasn’t entirely incorrect; the preceding uninvited had a reputation for being as strong as they were unruly. But that had a tendency to leave deep scars in every region they interfered with.
Maybe he had become jaded with age. It was becoming hard to view people with a positive light. Everyone in the world has a goal, something they would 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. But that’s not what Sim would think. She still 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 an inspiring notion in it’s own naive way.
A sharp knock on the door grabbed their attention. A small face with a pair of pronounced front teeth peered round the corner. “Erm… sorry to interrupt, but I’m looking for Ri--I mean Mr. Marls.”
“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 below one of his eyes.
“I won’t beat around the bush here,” said the General, turning toward the large 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 to the frontlines.
The sudden shout called Rick’s attention back to the present. His eyes shot up to meet with the General’s. A silence lingered between them for a few moments before Rick tore his gaze away.
After taking a second to regain his composure, he asked, “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. Mostly.”
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 once more. “We’ve been given an opportunity here that we must not let slip us by. Don’t let me down.”
Alex Rushmer: This was not what I expected, but I enjoyed it a lot Malfoy was always one of the characters that I liked a lot, so I like that a lot of this happens between him and Colette. I read the first couple chapters, and I enjoyed your writing style and am excited to see where you take this story. My com...
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...
Flik: Hi! ^.^ huge fan of yours on ff.net! When I saw the note about this contest on The Way We Smile, I couldn't help but rush over here, create an account, and vote! XD Seriously love this story and would recommend it to anyone! :D best FT fanfiction out there. Amazing story, amazing concept that wa...
ArgyrisMetaxas: Thrilling story which builds layer ontop of layer. A few mis spellings every few chapters. What I found special was that it took a modern day problem and took it to its logical conclusion and plays this realism with gritting precision. I'm always on edge ready to shout from adrenaline. This is gr...
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 ...
Mourn8220House: When first reading "Avarice," I thought it would be another fairytale but I was taken back the author's approach and choice of ending. There is little to be said for the story and overall plot besides the sudden twists and speculation, other than that I do not want to ruin a fantastic tale, you m...
spooky jedi: Love your story!I really hope more people read this story!Its amazing!! The plot is very unique and different, which is very good to have in a world full of stories. You have very complex and intellectual plot line, with your many loveable character and that hint of 'will they, won't they' is ju...