This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Her stare was unwavering as she took in the piece of paper which had the possibility to change her life. It had been hammered to an old notice board in the Centre of the Crimson District; the more pristine streets where the local businesses went about their daily routine. A single plastic pen hung limply on a damp string beside the recruitment paper for those who wanted to sign away their name to the cause.
Anarion rested in the alcove of a doorway to watch as people passed. A few glanced at it, but none approached. It had been at least twenty minutes since she’d arrived from the Outer Crimson Territory, further out in the District where the poor and desperate lingered. That was where the District got its name from; the battered streets ran red from brawls and bloody conflicts. Luckily, those from the Outer Territories generally stayed away from the centre which would give her a small respite.
A family passed and she kept her head low to keep attention away from herself. There was a mother, she noted, a father and son too from their looks. The mother held a basket of wears which they must have purchased from the markets on the other side of the Centre. When the son slowed, the parents did not. He walked cautiously over to the recruitment paper and leaned towards it. Her eyes followed his movements closely. His clothes were crisp and clean. She wondered if he would sign, her eyes widened and she too, leant forward.
“Come away,” the mother gushed, when she turned to see where her son had gotten to. The young man hesitated, then shuffled to his family. Anarion watched as the father threw his arm over the son’s shoulders, pulling him close.
The young man said something but she couldn’t catch it from a distance. The parents shook their heads and the mother grasped his arm to hook around hers while the father patted his back as they carried on their way.
Anarion watched them go and felt herself move out of cover. The young man must have felt her gaze somehow, or her sudden appearance as he looked back over his mother’s shoulder. Her face remained blank as she held his eyes for a moment, then she dropped his gaze and stepped closer to the notice board.
He didn’t need to think she was someone out to hurt him. Her clothes were dirtied from her work with tools, oil stained her hands and face below her cap. She did not look trustworthy. Though it did not matter if she was or was not, the people of Crimson were very cynical and suspicious people at heart.
Anarion tightened her arms around herself and breathed out a sign. She had come to sign and she would not walk away before it was done. There was no family to pull her away at the last moment.
Her head shook to clear her thoughts. She had friends, yes, such as the couple she lived with. A girl who she had known since their time in the orphanage together. When she thought of Lucy and her husband, Peter who had worked hard to earn a living in the Outer her hands fell to her sides and clenched.
The civil war threatened them all. They were the District on the border to the South. It would be the first hit if the Capital forces managed to break through the Resistance and travel the miles of derelict land between the last Southern District and Crimson.
She could not let that happen. There was no excuse for her to stay behind, not when she could do some good by throwing herself into the fight. At least it got her off the streets.
Her teeth gritted, a bad habit of hers which usually had Lucy tapping her chin with a finger to let up. She had been going over the same argument in her head for weeks; reasons why she should stay, and those to go.
As the wind wrapped around her, it flittered through the loose strands of hair which escaped her cap and heightened her temper by chilling her already numb hands. Winter was nearing and though she didn’t know much strategy for war, she would guess that they would need enough people to keep the frontline safe before the low temperature hit and they were stuck in position. Anarion tilted her chin further into the tattered scarf at her neck as she thought.
No more hesitation. Her skills could come in handy for the Militia. The winter would wreak havoc on their vehicles and weapons; she could fix them. She forced her feet to move before she could change her mind. The soles of her boots broke through the frozen crust of muddied ground in front of the notice board.
When she neared, she paused again. There were names already written. Not many, but they were there. Dark ink against pale white paper. It was the first time she’d been close enough to see the stains from where the rain had seeped in. Though the paper was battered from the weather, its edges curled, the names would still be recognisable. It billowed softly in the winds - a death sentence for many marked upon it.
Deep in thought, she hadn’t caught the approach of heavy footsteps. “If you’re going to sign it,” a booming voice followed a large hand which clasped her shoulder and pushed. “Then bloody well do it, you waste of space.”
Anarion slipped in the mud that was wet beneath the hard coat but managed to right herself, not going face first. Her chin raised as she looked at the sweaty man from below the rim of her cap. He blanched when he eyed the side of her face, marred by burns.
She’d once owned a metal mask which hugged the bottom of the face and filtered the air, a symbol of the Crimson, and yet disliked by those from the Inner territories. Within the cleaner streets of the Centre, they had no need to protect their lungs from fumes and the harmful air of the mines. It would have covered her burns. When money was scarce, she’d had to sell it.
There was blood on his greyed apron he wore – a butcher, from the nearby shop. The building with the door opened from where he’d come.
“I’m sick of seeing you street rats standing outside my business, scaring away my God damned customers,” he recovered from the sight of her face to raise a meaty hand menacingly. “What have you got to live for, huh? Not like you’ll get married with a face like that, anyways. Do us all a favour and fight for your District. Maybe then you’ll stop being useless.”
Anger bit into her, hard. It was not the words over her appearance which raked at her, it was the knowledge that she had indeed been useful – working in the mines so people like him did not have to. The Capital worked them like dogs for fuel. Without the endless toil of the people in the deadly pits to keep the Capital law enforcers off their backs, men like the butcher would not even have a business.
Her voice was cold and cracked as it came out, “I was about to sign it, you oaf. Right before you almost took my feet from under me.”
“What you call me?” he stepped up towards her, and she fought the urge to react. To move and put the man down. To watch as he writhed, face in the muck.
An inbuilt instinct whispered to run but that would not do. If she was going to the front lines, there would be no turning tail and fleeing. Not if she did not want to be hunted for desertion, her body hung outside the District for all to see. An example. So she steeled herself.
“Back off,” she warned. “I’ll do what I came to do, and then I’ll be out of your way.”
His face reddened further, and she watched as his cheeks and neck blotched right before her eyes. “You’ve got a nerve, lad.” She didn’t offer to correct him on that. “Do it then, and get the fuck out of my sight.”
Anarion watched him stomp back to his shop and slam the door. The bell just inside jingled madly as he stared at her through the glass. With adrenaline in her system, she almost forgot her nerves and stalked to the board. Her fingers did not shake as she took the pen and eyed the page.
There were eight names already down. She didn’t look at them, didn’t want to know who else she might know. She concentrated on forming her own name with stiff fingers.
When she was done, she let the pen slip from her grip. It clinked against the wooden board as she turned to send a levelled look in the butcher’s direction. He opened the door to shout out, “Well done, Lad. Now scurry off to whatever hole you crawled out of before I put your head through that board.”
Her shoulders were stock still, her back ram rod straight as she twisted and walked away. Back to the Outer Territories from where she had come.
With her name upon that recruitment paper, everything would change.
Bri Hoffer: I couldn't put it down!! The characters are all incredibly likable, and it's so descriptive you can see, smell, and feel thier surroundings. Great story, and very well written. I cannot wait for follow up stories. there were a few grammatical errors, but nothing that I could move right over.
Katy Rayne: i really enjoyed this book. i have to say i didn't know what to expect, but with every chapter that came something crucial to keep you reading happened. I was disappointed with the ending if this is for another book i will defiantly carry on reading the next book.
263Adder: Okay so I adore this story. I only knocked one star off plot for historical inaccuracies because I'm a bit of a stickler for that. The ending broke my heart though, considering you already changed history couldn't you (SPOILER) change it a bit more and have them together!!!! I want an alternative...
Giuliana Cassetta: My face is full of tears, I never cried like now with a book or even a movie. I loved every single chapter. I truly don't know what to say, I'm out of words and my eyes hurt from crying. Such an bittersweet story, it's so wonderful. One of my favorites for sure. Keep it up!
JONANNA: As an avid reader it is not often I say that about a book. The plot is what was different and the twists where unexpected. This book is defiantly a page turner and enjoyable read. I can't wait to reread this novel after a little editing to finish off the shine on this wonderful novel.
maewilde25: I liked this, though it dragged on for over 200pages and heaven knows I did not expect the plot twist in the middle. David being Cristiãn. I was wondering when he would show up and didn't know he was there all along. it looks like there should be a sequel, please let there be a sequel. I know the...
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 ...
emmaneal74: I loved this booked. Would definitely buy it when published and read it again. The story flowed in such a way I just couldn't put it down. I was never confused about the characters or their roles in the story which can happen sometimes with so many lead. I'd recommend this to anyone wanting to r...
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...
spec4huff: Thank you for creating this world. I am a 6'3" veteran that thinks himself tough. But the piece of literature you have created made me misty eyed on a number of occasions. I want a love like this. Thank you again, I would totally buy this book and hopefully the sequels to this ever enchanting lov...
mullikin902: Do not start reading this book unless you have enough time to finish it in one sitting, because you will not be able to put it down! Superlative! Addictive! Deliciously wicked characters you can't get enough of. Impatiently waiting for the sequel!
zoheusher20: What more can I say? The writing style and little details drew me into the book and for the entirety of the story I was Juliet. I felt her turmoil and emotions and every trouble or triumph as they arrived. This story was very different and had quite a few little but unexpected twists that made it...
Sandra Estrada: I loved every minute of it and I thank my lucky stars that brought me to the story, it's been a whirlwind of emotions, plot twist after plot twist but I never got tired of them. Abby and Kade's story is a hard one to understand but once you're submerged in their story and love, you can't help but...