The Deception

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Summary

Iris awakens to an unfamiliar world, her memory erased. The ruthless ruling party, known as The Committee, has brought her and five others to the island in search of a successor to the fallen Committee member. Stranded on island surrounded by an impenetrable barrier, Iris has no choice but to follow The Committee and accept their word of her history. But as the challenges progress, she begins to doubt everything she has been taught. Secrets lurk in the shadows, some of which better left unnoticed. The Bookkeeper isn't as cruel as she seems. She doesn't agree with the rest of The Committee's ways, but siding with the contestants means betraying her friends. Will she have the courage to stand up to them? Or will she follow in the shadows, watching silently as they go down a path on which there is no return? The Dictator has only one goal: to avenge the death of her boyfriend, Herman. However, his passing wasn't peaceful- it was murder, by the hands of a clueless Iris. How far will The Dictator's wrath take her in exchange for revenge?

Genre:
Fantasy / Action
Author:
S.K.
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
18
Rating:
5.0 2 reviews
Age Rating:
13+

Chapter 1: Iris

I awake with a jolt and find my arms and legs bound to a chair. I have a single memory: my first name. Iris. I don’t know my last name, or if I even have one. I know one more thing: how to scream. I don’t know why I scream, but I do. I scream as much as I can until it hurts. It feels like something is crawling, scratching, and breaking me from the inside.

A few flickering torches give me a hint of my surroundings. Dark stone walls trap me, likely beneath the ground. But the floor looks man-made, glistening with a royal purple color. It looks like I’m in a horrific castle.

Searing pain envelops my body as I struggle to break free. I gasp as the rope cuts deep into my raw skin, burning my flesh.

I sigh and abandon my efforts. If I want to get out, my best bet is to wait for whomever locked me here in the first place. I stare at blazing torches, thinking. If only they were close enough for me to grab one and burn these bonds.

As the minutes pass, silence is my only companion. I close my eyes patiently, knowing that when they come, I’ll be ready. I give in to the exhaustion slowly overwhelming my body, slouching in the uncomfortable chair. And I finally get some relief.

I see black. Only black. A part of me wants to stay in this inky darkness forever. There is no pain, no terror, no fear in this empty place. But I know I have to get out.

I feel eyes burning into the back of my head. I resist the urge to tense up and instead feint sleep. Once I feel the person's breath on my cheek, I open my eyes, smirking. She jumps back, startled. She glares fiercely at me, furious at the trick. I bite my lip, slowly beginning to regret my mischievousness. Her stern expression tells me not to mess with her. As I continue to look her over curiously, I judge my odds of escape. They seem pretty low.

Wavy black hair flows down the woman’s back, blending into a blood red color the further down it goes. On her wrist, there’s a glowing bracelet which looks to be made of rubies and black obsidian.

The woman’s crown matches her bracelet but has a golden outer rim. It looks to be made of large ruby shards, flawless save for the unusual gap on the right side. Her dress is gold with silver close-knitted patterns towards the bottom. The back of her dress trails behind her like a shining river of gold. It’s the fanciest outfit I’ve ever seen. Now that I think about it, it’s the only outfit I’ve ever seen.

The woman would be beautiful were it not for the obvious hatred in her empty eyes. Black holes of anger stared at me, but rather than cowering, my eyes met hers as I noticed a flicker of red on their empty canvas. She looks to be in her twenties, so the use of the cane she is leaning on piqued my interest. The cane is black with a golden trail of spikes that spiral down around it, along with a giant red gem on the handle.

Her bitter voice snaps me out of my thoughts. “Are you finished with all of your nonsense? I don’t have all day and we have somewhere to be.” I realize I’ve been staring at her for quite a few minutes. Her harsh tone scares me just a little. What does she have against me? It must be something bad, considering that she locked me in a cellar for hours on end. I nod compliantly, once more judging my chances of escape.

It’s too early to tell, but I have a feeling that this lady probably has some dark intentions of her own. I just hope they don’t concern me. “Good. I’m going to untie you. You will get off this chair and put on the dress that I will give you. Then you will come and meet me in the hallway. Don’t mess around or there will be major consequences. Do exactly as I tell you. Am I clear?” I nod again. She gives a smug, satisfied smile and taps her cane on the ground. My bindings instantly fall off. Before I can ask her about the dress, she leaves without a second glance; the door closing after her with a loud thud.

Behind the chair is a little white cabinet. It’s the only thing in the room. I’m shocked that I didn’t notice it before. Something so bright should’ve stood out in this musty old place. I wonder… could it have appeared when my bindings came off?

I walk over to inspect the cabinet, curious. I open one the top compartment and find it empty. Dread starts to pool in my stomach. I move on to the other compartment. Nothing. I must have missed part of her instructions.

I’m debating about whether to go tell the woman that there is no dress, when my eyes fall on a tiny brown ball on top of the cabinet. This can’t be it, could it? The ball is the size of a marble with a small crack in it. As I reach over to pick it up, my fingernail accidently digs into the small crack. I feel a twinge of pain as my fingernail breaks in the crack, but quickly forget about it.

The ball vanishes, shrinking while the contents of its outer shell are turned to dust. I cough as the particles fly around in the air. When the puffs of smoke finally clear up, a dress rests on the cabinet. Even though I don’t have much to go off of, I can tell it was exquisite. It appears to be made of large flower petals. Some are green, some are brown. I love it instantly.

Once I finish dressing, I climb up the stairs, and am greeted by a lengthy hallway. The woman stands there, her back toward me, looking deep in thought. I watch as she turns something in her hands, inspecting it. I catch a glimpse of the object, almost gasping. A knife. She slowly touches a hand to her crown, then touches the knife again, taking a deep breath.

She perks up when she hears my footsteps, whipping around and hiding the knife behind her back. “Turn around, and don’t look back until I tell you to!” She says this quickly, with narrowed eyes that stare furiously at me. Her eyes turn from brown to red immediately.

“O-okay.” I turn around, my voice shaky. I hear the clicking of metal and the rustling of the woman’s dress.

After a minute, her voice echoes again. “You can turn around now.”

I turn back around. She’s not holding the knife anymore, and she makes no comment about it. She sends me a glare, daring me to question her motives. I bite my lips and watch her eyes turn back to a subtle shade of brown. “Follow me.”

As we step outside of the building, it looks to be almost nighttime, judging from the sun slowly slipping below the horizon. A misty dome covers the sky, and I hear the lapping of waves against the shore in the distance. As I walk, I notice a variety of creatures and plants ranging across the vast landscape. Some of the animals back away, intimidated, while others come closer to get a better look at the two humans. I feel as though they’re all staring right through me. I want to inspect them, learn about them, discover more about this strange new place I’m in. Maybe then I’ll be able to find a way to leave it.

Five mounting buildings and a palace loom in front of us, standing out among the greenery. I look back to the place where this all began. For such a significant building, it seems almost disappointing compared to the palace. The black, purple, and blue shades of it melt with the darkening sky, while the palace glistens brightly. The other buildings range in color, like a rainbow on a black canvas.

“I said follow me, not stop and stare!” The woman’s voice makes me jump.

I hurry to the woman to avoid her wrath, trying to stay focused while we continue walking. As hard as I try, I can’t help my eyes from falling back on the enormous palace. It’s red, black, and gold, matching the woman’s outfit. Large, obsidian black pillars shimmer in the sunset, supporting a pearl white frame. Ruby red gems coat the sparkling roof.

She sees me staring. “That is my palace. You will stay there like everyone else. Do not go out unless I tell you to.”

I look at her and tilt my head. “Who’s everyone else?” She doesn’t answer. Instead, she just leads me inside.

A blinding brightness burns my eyes when I step over the threshold. A coating of gold, red, and black covers the circular room. Glowing golden walls are supported by red columns dotting the room. Portraits in black frames line the walls. A towering embroidered ceiling stretches above me, the patterns mere specks from the ground. Six colossal doors lead elsewhere.

Inside the room, I count nine people and six thrones. Four of the six thrones are filled with occupants dressed like royalty. The five other people not on thrones are dressed similar to me, the ladies in gowns and the men wearing suits, all looking formal, but nothing compared to the women on thrones.

As my chaperon starts forward, her heels click loudly on the ground, and I feel numerous pairs of eyes on us. Unfazed, the woman takes her place on the throne, glaring down at her subjects. I notice two of the ladies on thrones who barely seemed to acknowledge the presence of their leader. A pen scritches on paper as one of them draws skillful strokes. A crinkle of a page snaps my attention to the other woman as her gaze scans the book. She has lengthy silver hair that spreads into a shining puddle across the gleaming floor. Her skin is pale ivory, albeit for the lavender tattoos running along her arms. She’s wearing a starch white dress that reaches her ankles and compliments her glistening hair. Despite her silver tresses, the woman has a youthful appearance. The artist has on a blue dress with black and white highlights, the combination flowing beautifully. Her blonde hair is styled to look like a pair of horns, the tip of each holding a dangling crescent moon.

My eyes scan the remaining thrones. Only one was empty, located at the far left. Each throne appeared to have a symbol above it, but my memory failed me when I tried to think of their meanings.

My guide coughs as if to silence the room, despite the lack of noise. I roll my eyes in response and earn myself another glare from her. She takes in a deep breath and begins her speech. “Now that we are all here, you’re probably wondering what is going on. I will explain all things in good time, so please hold any questions until the end.” She pauses to watch our responses. The wait is killing me, and it shows on my face. After a dramatic silence, she continues. “All of you are the first inhabitants of this world.” She gestures toward her seated companions. “We are the creators of this world and your new leaders. Show us respect and there will be no problems. Treat us rudely and there will be consequences.” Her eyes fall on me and I struggle to maintain an indifferent expression. “We each have a house, along with an animal mascot. As you may have noticed, we also have specific colors and symbols dedicated to our houses. Each of you belongs in the house of the person who brought you here.” She gestures to the empty throne. “This was the throne of The Advisor. Wild animals killed her some time ago.” I’m appalled by the lack of sympathy in the woman’s voice. But before I can wonder why she’s so blunt, her next words catch me off guard. “Each of you here will compete to take her spot. I will state the details of the competition later. Tier?” She looks at a girl standing about a foot away from me.

“Yes?” A trembling voice comes from the girl, the fear showing obviously on her face.

“In preparation of a situation such as this, The Old Advisor chose you as a competitor before she died. Don’t expect to receive any special privileges for this, however. There are still other candidates for that position, you do not immediately enjoy the honor.” She ignores Tier’s anxiety and turns to address the rest of us. “You must earn your place if you want to be considered an equal among your leaders. Many dangers lurk outside our home, but we have strived to protect all of you and ensure your safety. The dome outside, which I’m sure many of you noticed, guards us from such dangers, including winged tigers, ice shooting foxes, or even acid spitting bugs. Don’t go outside the dome,” she pauses. “Now, for introductions. Bookkeeper, please start.”

The woman with silver hair closes her book and stands up, walking to the center of the room. “Hello everyone. I’m The Bookkeeper, and welcome to our island. I own The Great Library and I created all the knowledge in this world. My house colors are white, purple, and silver, and my house animal is the phoenix.” She points to the image above her throne. “My symbol is a book.”

Next, the woman who was drawing stands to address us as The Bookkeeper takes her place back on the throne. “I’m The Artist. My building is nearest to the barrier and has a splendid view of the ocean. My colors are white, black, and blue, my house animal is the deer, and my house symbol is a paintbrush with a music note.” She points to the spot above her throne, where an elaborate image matches her description. “I created feelings and ways to express them.” She sits down, taking out a piece of paper from the folds of her skirt, immediately beginning to draw with a spaced-out expression.

I catch a glimpse of The Bookkeeper drinking tea. My eyes widen in surprise and she spots me staring, a smirk on her face. I furrow my eyebrow, confused, even as the next lady stands up.

She’s wearing an enormous sun hat and a trench coat. Her tall boots disappear under the coat when she stands. “Hi. I’m The Scientist. My building is the lab, though in a pinch it serves as a hospital. Hopefully, that’s unnecessary during your time here!” She smiles cheerfully. It sounds almost ominous. “My colors are blue, purple, and black,” she continues, “and I don’t have a house animal. I have a pineapple!” A pineapple? It sounds familiar, and yet, I can’t picture it at all. It makes me feel so helpless. The Scientist continues, “My symbol is a test tube, and I created all life in this world.” She looks around awkwardly. “Yeah, that’s it.” As she sits down, The Bookkeeper looks at her and gives her a thumbs up.

Next, a woman with a bowler hat stands up. She’s wearing a similar outfit as The Scientist, except with a shorter, black trench coat. “I’m The Blacksmith. I like to make weapons. In fact, I made every weapon on this island and also created the dome that keeps the monsters out. I suggest you do not cross me. My colors are green, white, and black, and my animal and symbol are the dragon.” She sits back down and glares at us. She seems even more hard set than the lady who brought me here. It’s clear when she says don’t cross her, she means it.

The woman I first met stands up. “I’m The Dictator. I created this entire world. I created the very ground beneath your feet. I am the ruler of all. My house colors are red, black, and gold, and my house animal is the tiger. My symbol is a hand holding a gavel. Also, I do have a cane, and the purpose it serves is none of your business. If any of you make fun of it, you will regret the decision for the rest of your life, which may not be too long.” I hear Tier give a small gasp. One of the boy’s snickers. I roll my eyes. “I have given all of you the privilege to be created and be here. Don’t take that away by making a foolish choice.” She pauses to let us judge the threats behind her words and the potential consequences. When she continues, the eerie silence is broken by her speech’s conclusion. “Together, all the house leaders are called The Committee. If you disrespect me or any of the house leaders even once, I’ll make you regret everything.” The Dictator gets off of her throne and starts over to me, her head held high. “Iris, you are in my house. I expect you to set an example for the others and justify my faith in you.”

As she walks back to her throne, glares from the other contestants all burn into me. Even Tier looks upset. They all think I’m the favorite of The Dictator, the most powerful Committee member, so I’ll get the advantage. If only they knew how terribly our walk over here went. Then they’d realize that The Dictator’s words were a warning, not an encouragement.

When she gets back to the throne, she looks down at the rest of us condescendingly. “You will all introduce yourselves now. The only things you need to say are your name and your house, which belongs to the person you came in with. Tier, you don’t have to go because I already introduced you.” Tier sighs with relief. “Iris, even though I also announced who you are, you will go again. Start.” She looks at me with even more hatred than earlier. I didn’t know it was possible for her to hate me more. What did I do to deserve this?

I talk, my voice a mere whisper as all eyes turn to me. “I’m Iris, and-”

“LOUDER!” The Dictator booms, “You will not be such a wimp here. You must speak loud and clear,” she looks at the rest of the people. “I expect the same from all of you. You are all competing to become one of the leaders of this world! Do not be disqualified from the competition before it starts. Iris, continue.”

I hesitate, straightening my posture. I want to shout in defiance but realize I’m already on thin ice. “I’m Iris, and I’m in The Dictator’s house,” I say very quickly. Luckily, The Dictator doesn’t yell at me again. Instead, she stares expectantly at one of the other girls. She has curly, black hair and dark skin.

The girl looks terrified at first, but quickly gathers her courage before The Dictator gets angry again. “Hi, I’m Blossom, and I’m in The Artist’s house.” The Artist looks at her with a reassuring smile, but my gut tells me it’s fake.

The Dictator points at another girl with her cane, as if addressing just another one of her underlings. “Now you go.”

“I’m Autumn, and I’m in The Blacksmith’s house,” she says hurriedly. She’s a redhead with pale skin. I feel bad for her. She’s in the house of the only person stricter than The Dictator. The Blacksmith only glares at her, and for a second, I feel like she might do something rash. But the moment passes, the deadly silence broken as The Dictator points to her next victim.

A boy with jet black hair and blue eyes introduces himself, looking smug. “My name is Achard, and I’m in the Scientist’s house.” He states confidently. Looking over at The Scientist, I realize that she’s not even paying attention. She’s staring at one of the doors absentmindedly, ignorant of everything else. The boy looks almost crestfallen at the lack of acknowledgement.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see The Dictator nod, a hint of a smile on her face. She then turns to the only person left.

The boy starts speaking, sounding nervous and rushed. “Hi, my name is Dunstan, and I’m in The Bookkeeper’s house.” He looks at The Dictator and then to his house leader. The Bookkeeper grins happily at him while The Dictator just scowls.

The Blacksmith looks at The Dictator. “That’s all of them, you know.” The Dictator nods and stands up to speak, looking annoyed at being treated like a child.

“Now, you will have the honor of meeting our old advisor. Do not touch her casket. Am I clear?”

We all nod. An instant later, the door we came in through opens, and a variety of plants crawl inside the room, as if able to walk. They pull along an object I am not yet able to discern.

Ranging from poison ivy to sunflowers, the plans all move in unison, snake like and eerie, a parade of species and colors. Some of them even have their roots still attached. Although I am tempted to believe the plants are magical, I realize in an instant that their moving must be The Committee's doing.

I look back at The Committee sitting peacefully on their thrones. The Scientist’s hands are moving around in time to the rhythm of the plants’ movements, confirming my suspicions that the plants aren’t entirely self-sufficient. It makes sense that she would be controlling them. After all, she is The Scientist, but I still can’t help but wonder how.

Intrigued as I am by the mechanism that compels the plants to move, I realize that the object they brought into the room is a casket inside of which rests the body of a woman. The woman’s brunette hair is messy, and her body appears to be frozen as if she had been attacked by an ice fox, one of the terrible creatures The Dictator referred to earlier when warning us to stay inside the dome. Her dress is blue and gold, and her body is perfectly preserved.

The Dictator’s voice fills the room once again. “That woman in the casket is The Old Advisor. She was frozen to death by an ice fox, one of the many monsters lurking outside the barrier created by The Blacksmith. The Advisor created the good and the bad in this world. Her house colors are gold, blue, and white. Her house animal is the owl and her house symbol is the sun. You will each be competing against each other in a series of challenges to take her place.” She waves her hand dismissively and The Scientist starts commanding the plants to pull the casket back out.

Once the plants are gone, the door automatically shuts, and The Blacksmith starts speaking. “Now, each of you will have an animal guide. The Committee also has animal helpers. They are our house animals. To remind you, The Artist has a deer, The Bookkeeper has a phoenix, The Dictator has a tiger, I have a dragon, and the Scientist has a pineapple.”

Another door to the right of the thrones open, and the animals come inside in the order they were announced. A deer darts in and runs toward the Artist, laying down at her feet. A phoenix flies in and rests on The Bookkeeper’s shoulder, dipping its head down and taking a sip of her tea. A tiger strides in proudly and stands beside the throne of The Dictator. A small dragon with dark green wings and a black body flies toward the Blacksmith, landing behind The Blacksmith’s throne and lunging up on its hind legs to rest its paws on the head of the throne. Nothing else comes through the door for a minute, and then suddenly, a pineapple with arms and legs runs through the door to The Scientist’s throne, jumps up, does a kick in midair, and lands in The Scientist’s arms.

After the pineapple finishes its kick, everyone in The Committee applauds for it, while the pineapple bows and The Dictator laughs. She actually laughs. Not just a smile. But a laugh. But as she notices my gaze, she immediately regathers her composure. As she stands, the tiger circles around her legs settles down before her with a roar.

The Dictator starts speaking, her voice echoing through the room. “You will now each pick an animal. Follow The Artist and The Scientist.” At those words, the two Committee members stand up, gesturing for us to follow them.

We enter a large room full of animals roaming freely. There are lions, wolves, parakeets, armadillos, and any other animal you can think of. For a moment I wonder how I can recognize all of these unfamiliar creatures. Perhaps not all of my memory was lost while in the cellar. I shift my gaze back to the playful critters and smile cheerfully. They’re all so beautiful. As I marvel, one animal in particular catches my eye. A hawk. It’s beautiful.

The Artist gestures toward the excitable creatures. “Go to your animal of choice, bow, and then pet it. It will officially become yours after that. Then follow it to your room.”

I look around once again. The only animal that I really want is the hawk. I walk over to it, bow, and then carefully stretch my hand to pet it. The hawk flies onto my shoulder. I wince as the claws dig into me, but as if by magic, a piece of leather appears where the hawk is perching.

I look at the others. Achard has a panda sitting beside him. A hedgehog is cradled in Autumn’s arms. Dunstan has a snake wrapped around his shoulders. Blossom is on the back of a foal, giggling excitedly. And Tier has a parakeet. My hawk starts circling around my head, and then heads toward a door to the far left of the room.

The Scientist’s voice rises above the sound of the other animals. “Follow the hawk, Iris!” I run after the hawk without hesitation. The hawk pauses at the door for me. Before I even touch the door, it opens on its own, leading into an expansive hallway. The hawk flies down the hall as I chase after it. My feet make soft thumps on the red carpet, leaving little indents. I shy away from gold walls as the light glistens off them, blinding me. My hawk caws impatiently as I stutter, slowing to observe the black-rimmed portraits lining the wall. They portray a happy girl who resembles The Dictator. The girl is hugging another man in some of them, looking full of glee. In others, she is standing next to a variety of people, laughing, and smiling. They look like good friends.

Despite the similarities, I can’t help but wonder how these people could be one in the same. What could’ve happened to bring The Committee here? The more I think about it, the more far-fetched it sounds. But if it’s not The Committee in the pictures, then who could it be? But before I can come to any conclusions on their identities, my hawk screeches at me to hurry up and follow her.

As I tire again, longing for a rest, the hawk stops in front of a door. I skid to a halt, panting. For a second, I think it’s my new room, until I see a sign next to the door. The sign reads:

THE DICTATOR’S QUARTERS.

I stop in my tracks. This can’t be right. Why would my hawk lead me here? Wasn’t it supposed to lead me to my quarters? I don’t want to talk to The Dictator right now. I’m exhausted from all the ups and downs of the day, and I’m fairly sure I’ll get yelled at for some random thing I didn’t even realize I did.

I’m about to try to retrace my footsteps back to ask The Scientist how to get to my quarters when the door opens. The Dictator stands in front of me, arms crossed. Her outfit is completely different, this time a straight white and black dress and a small black crown with gold specks.

She sees the hawk and smiles, then turns back towards me, replacing the smile with a glare. “Can I help you?”

“I-I’m so sorry. I just followed the hawk and-”

She cuts me off. “Yeah, whatever. Next time don’t follow the hawk blindly. Tell it where you want it to take you.”

“Of course. Again, I’m so-”

She waves her hand dismissively, cutting me off once more. “Now that you’re here, I might as well talk to you. I was going to come by your quarters later, but I guess now is also a proper time. Follow me.” She turns back to her room. “Babur!”

The tiger appears, walking gracefully towards The Dictator. It circles around The Dictator’s legs like it did earlier, but this time, it doesn’t growl. As she notices the big cat, my hawk screeches loudly and flies over, resting on my shoulder.

The Dictator closes the door and starts down the hall briskly. I follow her, my hawk balancing lazily on my shoulder.

After traversing the maze of corridors, we arrive at a circular room with high ceilings. Comfortable-looking couches and tables line the center, making it a perfect place to talk and relax. The walls were traditional gold and the furniture red and black. The pattern in the decor is starting to get very boring. High ceilings with red, black, and gold everywhere. I wonder if the rest of the buildings are like this. I wish I could go and explore. My curiosity is overflowing. But I’m quite sure if I did, I would get yelled at. The Dictator did say that I am not to leave this palace unless I am told to. And she made some pretty nasty threats earlier should we disrespect her. Even if they were threats and nothing more, I’d rather not find out.

The Dictator casually claps her hands and two mugs of coffee appear on the table. How do they do these things? She plops down on one of the chairs, grabbing the cup closest to her.

“Take a seat.” She gestures across from her. I sit down carefully and grab the remaining cup. Both of us remain straight-backed as we sit rather than slouching, kind of defeating the purpose of using such a comfortable couch. I tap my finger on my lap nervously, gulping as The Dictator stares at me impatiently. She finally breaks the tense silence. “I see you chose a hawk. Good choice. They’re smart and obedient, taking orders from even the most incompetent of humans,” she trails off for a moment, casting another glare in my direction, “They are also great attackers. This hawk is going to be your guide through the entire series of challenges. It can’t give you answers, you’ll have to use your own intellect for that, but it can lead you along the path of success. Follow the hawk. That’s my second piece of advice for you. My first? Don’t cross me or The Blacksmith. Or anyone else on the council. Won’t do you much good.” She abruptly stops talking, and after a few minutes of awkward silence, I realize she’s finished. She sips her coffee elegantly and quietly murmurs things under her breath. Her tiger walks over to me and I freeze.

“She won’t kill you; I promise. Unless you try to kill me. Then she will definitely kill you.” The Dictator obviously doesn’t care about whether I’m scared or not.

After another minute of silence, I decide to cautiously dismiss myself. I can tell she doesn’t want me here. “Anything else I should know?”

She shakes her head. “No. Drink your coffee and leave.”

“Yes ma’am.” I finish the rest of my coffee quickly, almost choking on it. As soon as I finish, my hawk takes off flying again without even checking if I’m ready. I hurriedly set down my cup and run after it.

“Please take me to my quarters!” I yell after it. The hawk makes a sharp turn, flying over my head in the opposite direction.

We dash through another series of halls, and this time, it stops in front of a door with my name on it. I open the door and step inside. The hawk follows me in.

The room has the same color scheme as the rest of the building. Red, gold, and black. I guess I’m going to have to get used to it.

Inside the room, there's a queen-sized bed and a desk with a notebook and pen on top. There's also a dresser and mirror on the right side of the bed and a nightstand with a lamp on the left side. At the far corner of the room, there is an elegant little perch, looking to be specifically designed for my hawk. The hawk flies over to it, releasing a loud cry.

How could they have known my choice? Or had they just installed it before I arrived? Questions fumble over in my head as I explore the rest of the place. I walk over to the dresser and open one of the drawers. A variety of everyday outfits lie in there. I open another and find a pair of pajamas. It seems the clothes are the only things in the whole palace that aren’t black, red, or gold.

I slip out of my dress and put on the pajamas. They’re really fluffy and comfortable. As I walk back to the dresser, I grab a brush off the top and begin gently combing my hair. I stare in the mirror, seeing myself for the first time. A pair of small cat-like eyes stare back at me, one brown and one green. Long black hair climbs past my shoulders and down my back. I run my fingers through it, letting it fall back to my side.

When I finish sifting through the tangles, I set the brush down and start over to the table holding the notebook. Flipping through the empty pages, I wonder what to do with it. I suppose I could keep a diary, to write accounts on what happens every day. After all, there’s a whole lot of craziness in this place, sometimes more than I can handle on my own. It’ll be nice having someone to confide in, even if they’ll never respond.

I walk over to the bed and lay down. Today was crazy. Apparently, I’m one of the first people in the world. I’m in The Dictator’s house. There are other houses, each with two members, a committee leader, and a chosen contestant. That's not including The Old Advisor’s, which only has Tier. I’m supposed to compete with five other people to be the new Advisor.

Tomorrow is probably going to be just as crazy. For some reason, I’m excited for everything. I just hope that my first impression of The Dictator wasn’t her true colors, or else this will be a tougher competition than I expected.


Dear diary,

You’re the only one I can confide in, so sorry if I write a lot. I just have so much to say.

Today was my first day alive, and I learned so much about this world. One of those things is that I’m one of the first people alive!

On another note, there’s going to be a competition for The New Advisor’s place on The Committee! I really hope I make it to the end. There are so many things in this world that I don’t know about, don’t yet understand, and I want to experience them all. I want to become closer to The Committee, too, if that’s even possible. Maybe getting to know them better would show a new side of them. A friendly and cheerful side.

Already, I feel like The Committee has turned against me. The Dictator has hated me from the moment we met, and all the other committee members are so harsh. Except the Scientist and The Bookkeeper. They seem fine, but I’ve only just met them.

Unfortunately, my house leader is The Dictator, and we’re already off to a rocky start. She spoke to me today about my hawk, my new companion through this crazy world. She implied the fact that my closest friend is going to be Fiona, which is the name I’ve decided to give her. I don’t understand why, but it sounds almost familiar. But...I have no memories of a life before this. So how could it seem so close to my heart? Either way, it’s a beautiful name for a beautiful creature. I hope to make many new memories with her as we explore this world together.

Anyway, I’m going to go to sleep now. It’s getting late and I’m tired. I can’t wait for all the exciting adventures I will have. I just hope they all end well.

Love,

Iris

P.S.

Oddly, right after I finished writing in you, I heard a sound outside my window. It was very subtle, and I’m fairly sure I’m the only one who heard it.

When I looked outside, I saw a woman running, her hair blowing in the wind. She was holding a gleaming axe. I quickly turned off all the lights in my room so she wouldn't see me. She walked over to a tree and attempted to conceal the axe in its branches. With this done, she ran behind a bush below my window. I could see her clearly in the moonlight.

She had brown hair and blue eyes. She also had a striking resemblance to one of the people in the pictures outside The Dictator’s quarters.

Recalling the image, I remembered that she was hugging a girl that looked like a young version of The Bookkeeper. A moment later, she looked up and made eye contact with me. I quickly tried to hide myself but failed miserably because she had already seen me. To my surprise, she just smiled and put a finger to her lips, signaling me to be quiet. She then turned back to where she had hidden the axe.

Suddenly, another woman came into view in the distance. Her silver hair glinted in the moonlight. I identified her easily. The Bookkeeper. She walked around for a moment, looking for something. She reached the tree in which the axe was hidden and pulled it out of the branches easily. She appeared to be trembling with fear.

The Bookkeeper ran toward the direction she came from and disappeared into the distance. I looked back down to where the other woman was. She got out from behind the bushes and vanished in a puff of smoke.

When I think about it, I didn’t see that woman in the throne room. And there’s not supposed to be anyone else alive but The Committee and the contestants. Who could the lady be? Was I dreaming all of this? It all seemed so real. Something’s a little off. But I guess I don’t know everything. There could be a species that look like humans. The Dictator may have just forgotten to mention them. Or they could be harmless.

Maybe on a free day, I’ll go exploring in the wilderness to see all the creatures I can find. I’ll have to be careful, nevertheless. Some of these creatures are extremely dangerous, considering the way in which The Old Advisor was killed. I won’t be like her though. I’ll be able to get close to one. I believe in myself. But first, I need to get through the challenge set before me. Become The New Advisor. I can do it. I will do it.

For now, good night. Tomorrow, I’ll see what awaits me, and for some reason, I’m excited. Really excited.

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