This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
The day before her life changed forever felt just like any other. Promise Terrene arose to beautiful sunlight streaming in through her window in her massive bedroom in the Earth House. She rang for her servant girl, Greyelle, to come in and help her dress for her last day of Standard Education. Promise hummed as she picked out one of her favorite gowns, a silky green one that made her hazel eyes stand out, and bossed Greyelle around happily as she fixed Promise’s hair into an elegant braid.
Once she was presentable, she went down the long hall in West Quarters and a set of marble, carpeted stairs until she reached the Gathering Hall in the center of the House. The Gathering Hall was a massive dining chamber with long tables enough to seat a hundred people, although it currently held about thirty. Everyone in the chamber lived within Earth House, though it wasn’t so much a house as it was a palace. A vast estate, one of four, that made up the secluded Class 1 Community. Each of the four Houses harbored the Element Users equivalent to its name; Earth House, Water House, Wind House, and Fire House. Each one was the size of a coliseum, with over a hundred rooms and housed between thirty to fifty people apiece. If Earth House, Promise’s home, was a palace, than she was its princess.
Greetings and praises came from everyone she passed as she made her way to a round table in the center of the room, a place of honor, which was reserved for her family. Her parents were already seated there waiting for her. They beamed at the sight of their only daughter and her father even stood up from his seat to greet her.
“Ah, there she is,” cried Auberon Terrene, Earth House’s elected official as he hugged his daughter and pulled up a seat for her. He was a fourth generation Earth User and looked just as powerful as he actually was. He was big and broad with wide, strong arms, with glossy brown hair and beard. He had a loud voice and a commanding presence, emphasized by the power he had. It was rumored that he’d once created a sinkhole in the earth which consumed a swarm of enemies trying to infiltrate the Class 1 Community. This event had happened prior to Promise’s birth, so she didn’t know how much of it was true.
Promise’s mother, Vedette, was quite the opposite. She was blonde and slight, with flashing blue eyes and a quiet voice one usually had to strain their ears to hear. She was a Wind User, who moved into the Earth House when she’d married Auberon. Promise wasn’t sure how much her mother liked living in the Earth House, where everyone was bigger and noisier than she was used to in Wind House, but she was such an agreeable woman that she rarely complained about anything and, if she did have a complaint, she kept it to herself.
After sitting down with her parents, Promise’s breakfast arrived, promptly delivered by another servant. Delicate eggs and thick sausage with milk and orange juice and, set aside of the food, was a thick green pill. It was the last of these pills she’d ever take, since when she turned fifteen tomorrow, she wouldn’t need them anymore.
“Eat, my dearest girl,” said Auberon, jovially. “You will need your strength for your last day of Standard Education, yes?”
“Please,” said Promise, loftily, taking her pill and swallowing it with a polite swig of orange juice. The pill was big and always hurt a little going down. She’d be glad to be done with them. “It’s tomorrow I need my strength for. That’s when I get my power! I’m practically beside myself with excitement.”
“Ah! As we all are, my child,” said Auberon, beaming. “You will have the finest Earth power of all, I’ve always said this!”
“Dear,” said Vedette, quietly. “We will be proud of Promise regardless of what power she’ll receive. She could just as easily have anything.”
“Heaven forbid, Mother!” pouted Promise. “Can you imagine me with anything less than Class 1 powers!? It’s just absurd.”
Promise’s servant, Greyelle, came up quietly to the table to refill drinks. Promise smirked at her. “Though, I’d take anything before turning out to be a Dud, like Greyelle. I’d rather die, honestly, than live in her state!”
“Promise,” said Vedette, in what might have been an attempt to scold her daughter if her voice was not so quiet. “Be polite, dear. Greyelle is a person with feelings, just like you. She serves us well, despite her misfortune.”
“If she doesn’t like how I talk to her, she can jump in the river,” snapped Promise, eyeing Greyelle to dare to stand up for herself. But the servant merely went about her business and said nothing, though looking slightly more miserable as she did so.
Promise giggled under her breath and finished her breakfast before it was time to head out for her last day of Standard Education. The Education Building stood in the center of the fast Class 1 Community, where all the children who didn’t have their powers yet would go to learn. It was an upright, scholarly looking structure of polished stone surrounded by rose bushes. Promise strutted down the path to the building, her head held high and her chest light at the prospect of never having to enter it again after today.
Promise spun around at the sound of her private nickname and beamed when she saw the only person allowed to call her that. “Paris!” she exclaimed.
Empirius Nation, son of the elected official of Water House and his wife, came hurrying over to her. Empirius and Promise were born within a week of each other and had practically been arranged to be married from birth. As soon as they both turned fifteen and got their powers, they were to be officially promised to one another. Most people turned their noses up at the idea of arranged marriages but it happened a lot in the Class 1 Community. Promise had no problem with it. She’d known Empirius her whole life, he was sweet and handsome, and if he turned out to be an element user like she was bound to be, they were perfect for each other.
Empirius jogged over to her from the path that lead to Water House and immediately offered Promise his arm, which she readily accepted. He was a head taller than her with slick auburn hair and a strong jaw. He was strong, but not too much so like some of the younger Earth users, and his brown eyes gleamed at the sight of her.
“You ready for today, Alice?” he asked, smiling.
“Ready for today to be over,” she responded pleasantly. “To think, I’ll never have to deal with Madam Gorbinski again. But I guess I won’t be able to play “Spot The New Wrinkle” with her anymore.”
Empirius laughed. “You’re ruthless sometimes, Promise Terrene.”
“And you’re a real softie sometimes, Empirius Nation,” Promise countered playfully.
Promise and Empirius’ class was ruled by a woman named Madam Gorbinski. She was one of the few privileged “underclassmen” who got to live in the Class 1 Community. She was a Class 3, a Time manipulator. Her power made her an astounding teacher, able to pause time for minutes at a time and slyly correct the behavior of her students. If she caught you sleeping in her class, she’d pause time and pull your elbow off the table so you fell over and embarrassed yourself in front of everyone. One time she even caught Promise doodling idly in one of her books and, before her very eyes, the words GET BACK TO WORK!!! appeared all over her doodles in red ink. Yet the class carried on every time so that not a moment was wasted, and that is what made Madam Gorbinski such a good teacher.
Unfortunately, like most Class 3s, Madam Gorbinski’s power came with the drawback of rapid aging. With all the times she froze time, she lived an extra few minutes than everyone else did and, if you make a habit of living this way, the time catches up with you nastily. Though she may only have been in her thirties, she had the appearance of someone around the age of fifty, even pushing sixty. Not that she did her best to hide this fact, dying her hair and using every anti-aging procedure known to man, but the time she used always showed, no matter what she did.
The students filed in and Madam Gorbinski eyed her class with her hawk-like gaze. The class was very small, along with Promise and Empirius there was only eleven of them. Still, she underestimated none of them and treated them like she’d treat any other student, regardless of how powerful their parents were.
“Well,” she said, her sharp voice putting an end to any talking amongst her students. “From what I understand, we’ll be losing one of our number as of tomorrow. Everybody applaud Miss Promise Terrene on her last day with us.”
Everyone applauded politely and Promise beamed at them all in thanks.
“Since tomorrow is such an event for her, I suggest we review the basic structures of Society and Power,” Madam Gorbinski told them, and by “suggest” that really meant “command”.
The students stifled their groans and focused their eyes on the Map of the Communities and the Pyramid of Powers, the two major charts set up at the front of her room. Madam Gorbinski addressed the Map first.
“Here we are in the Class 1 Community,” Madam Gorbinski began, indicating the Elemental Mountain Range with surrounded the Community at the center of the continent. “The surrounding areas are dedicated to all those with separate Class powers. Whenever someone turns fifteen, they are to travel here,” she indicated to a star mark east of the mountains. “To the nation’s capitol, where the Lightning Tower resides. Who can tell me the significance of the Lightning Tower?”
A girl from Wind House raised her hand. “It’s said to be where the Powers originated from,” she said.
“Correct,” said Madam Gorbinski. “And now the Tower is where you will receive the necessary injections to awaken the Power Genes within all of us. From there, you will be transported to the Community based on the power awakened within you, you will begin Secondary Education, and there you will be taught how to use your gift for the good of your fellow man and become a full functioning member of Communities.”
Promise couldn’t help but feel that Madam Gorbinski was talking directly to her at this point. Indeed, she could have sworn her hawk-like eyes flashed in her direction before continuing onto the Pyramid.
“And here we have an example of the nations powers,” she went on. “Class 1s are here at the top and are the rarest and least likely powers one can have, hence the small population of the Community. Elemental Powers are just rare enough and your families are lucky enough to have them. Class 2s, however, are slightly less rare. Who can tell me what Class 2 power holders can do?”
“They’re human manipulators,” said a burly Earth House dweller Promise never really spoke to.
“Correct,” said Madam Gorbinski. “Puppet Masters, Memory Scanners, Blood Workers, anyone who has the ability to manipulate other human beings into whatever they want. The Board that establishes law and order amongst the Communities have strict rules overseeing the use of Class 2 powers almost as definitely as they do for your Class 1 families.”
“But there’s a Class 2 President now, right?” asked a Fire House boy, a cousin of Empirius.
“Yes, there is,” admitted Madam Gorbinski. “However President Lazlow has dedicated his life to the safety and regulations between Inter-Community Relations. He’s been working tirelessly to establish equal rights and rule between those more or less powered people in the world. Carrying on, the remaining classes stand this: Class 3, the Time Manipulators, my old stomping grounds.” she added proudly. “After that you have Class 4s, those with Enhanced Human Abilities. Strength, Speed, Sight, Hearing, Reflexes, any ability far beyond that of a natural human being classifies as a Class 4 ability. Now, who can tell me the about Class 5.”
“The Critter people in the boondocks!” giggled another, younger Wind girl. Everybody else chuckled at that too. Madam Gorbinski shot daggers at her with her eyes.
“Class 5 people are indeed the Animal Manipulators,” she said, coolly. “These are the most common and take up about a third of the population of the entire continent. Their powers can range from Herders, who can control large crowds of animals all at once to Familiars, who form deep bonds with certain animals and share mind links with them. Class 5s are of great economical importance to the ways of life and, dare I say, without them you wouldn’t be able to enjoy your fancy surf n’ turf dinners, now would you?”
The class tried not to groan again. Madam Gorbinski always tried to teach harmony between the Communities and the Classes, but nobody took her all that seriously. She just didn’t get it, what with her being a Class 3 and all…
“Don’t forget the Reject Pile, Madam,” said the Earth boy again, grinning nastily.
The class fell silent, almost challenging Madam Gorbinski to bring up such an unpleasant topic. But let it never be said Madam Gorbinski ever turned down such a challenge, even if it meant talking down about a class so low.
“Indeed,” she said, patiently. “You must be referring to what we call the Class 0 Community...well, I say Community, though they are not formally recognized by any Community. In rare cases, even rarer than Class 1 cases, you get a person who possesses no power whatsoever. These are so rare that they do not have a place on the Pyramid of Power, hence the private Secret Circle you mentioned. Theses powerless people…”
“Duds!” Promise said, unable to help herself.
Madam Gorbinski’s mouth tightened. “That is a very rude term, Miss Terrene. Please refrain from using it.”
“Excuse me, Madam,” Promise apologized, but inside she didn’t feel the least bit sorry. People called the Class 0 people Duds all the time. It was the unofficial name for them. Greyelle was one of them. She went to the Lightning Tower and it turned out that she had no power whatsoever. Her parents disowned her right then and there and she’d been reduced to a servant in Earth House, scrubbing floors and brushing Promise’s hair. It was the most fortunate fate that could befall a Dud, honestly. Most were left to wander the Communities, unwanted by anyone, and starve on the streets.
“As I said, though,” Madam Gorbinski carried on. “Class 0 cases are extremely rare. Years can go by and out of all the hundreds of thousands of fifteen year olds that go into the Lightning Tower, you can have two or three of them come out as Class 0, if any at all. Sometimes years can go by and not a single Class 0 is found. Now, can we move on with the lesson please?”
“You’re not nervous, are you?” Empirius asked, hours later as he and Promise walked together outside in the gardens of Earth House after Education had ended. The gardens of Earth House were spectacular and filled with the most wonderful plants, flowers and fruit. It was the most fertile soil in the world, thanks to those Earth House residents who liked gardening, and it made for the loveliest place for a walk.
“What do I have to be nervous about?” Promise asked. “I couldn’t be more excited.”
“But what if you end up not having Class 1 abilities?” Empirius said, sounding genuinely concerned.
“Of course I’ll have Class 1 abilites,” said Promise, confused. “My parents are both Class 1, I have Elemental abilities in my blood. My father is a fourth generation Earth user. I’m practically guaranteed.”
“Don’t tell me you don’t remember Amilia Bowen,” Empirius reminded her. “Her parents were both Fire users but she ended up being a Class 4. A Class 4 of all things!”
“That rarely happens,” Promise assured him, though the reminder piqued her concern. “Yes they were both Fire users but they were first generations, both of them. My chances are way better than hers were.”
“I just hope you’re right, Alice,” said Empirius. “I’d hate for you to move away to another Community.”
Promise saw his eyes glance downward and she suddenly knew what was bothering him. She reached up and patted his shoulder soothingly. “You’re more worried about yourself than me, aren’t you Paris?” she asked.
Empirius shurgged. “We’ve been told our whole lives that we’d be together...that we’d unite our houses and strengthen the Class 1 Community. If...if I let everyone down…”
“You won’t,” said Promise, comfortingly. “You’re going to be the most wonderful Elemental User of them all, just wait and see.”
Empirius smiled. “Alice...if...if we did turn out to be something else… anything else...would you still want to marry me?”
Promise blinked. She stared into his eyes, her sweet Paris...her kind Paris….
“Of course,” she answered without hesitation. “You’re...you’re my Paris…. We were meant to be together. I always want to believe that. I’ll always want to be your wife.”
Empirius smiled broadly. “Then take this.”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a long chain and, dangling from it was a ring with four stones embedded in it. Promise gasped at the sight of it.
“My engagement ring!” she said, breathlessly. “But...you’re not supposed to give me that until….”
“Until we both have our powers,” he agreed. “But I want you to have it now. Wear it tomorrow when you head out for the Lightning Tower. That way...you’ll think of me and know that, no matter what, I’ll be with you.”
Promise was so touched that she couldn’t speak as he slid the chain around her neck. She took the ring into her hands and examined the stones. A ruby, a sapphire, an emerald, and a topaz, each one representing a different Class 1 House. It didn’t matter which one she’d belong to tomorrow, because her Paris would be there for her, her future husband. Her eyes welled with happy tears as she looked up at him.
“I’ll go and fetch yours,” she told him, knowing that the solid gold ring she was meant to give him was sitting in a locked box in her room inside Earth House. But Empirius merely shook his head.
“Give it to me in a week when I go,” he told her. “I’ll want to know that you’re there for me.”
Promise let out a teary laugh as she threw her arms around Empirius’s neck. Everything was going so wonderfully.
That night, Promise got into bed filled to the brim with excitement. Today had been her last day as life as she knew it. Tomorrow, she’d get her power, she’d start Secondary Education, in a week Empirius would have his power too. They’d be officially promised to each other, in three years they’d be engaged and after the standard two-year engagement, they’d be married at 20 years old.
Her whole life was set. As soon as tomorrow came and went, everything would be perfect. She grinned and pressed her face into her pillow as she tried to force sleep to come, to bring her closer and closer to her destiny. It couldn’t come soon enough.Tomorrow, everything would change.
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ernbelle: When I first started this story I was a little unsettled by all of the information that appears in the prologue, and wasn't sure if I would continue. However, I am very glad I did. The plot was very well thought out and really interesting. There were not any page breaks or markers to acknowledge ...
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