Copyright © 2011 by 80 Pages, Inc
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used factitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form by or any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the author or publisher.
1st Edition: February 2011
2nd Edition: April 2011
Cover design by Robin Ludwig Design
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Also by Megg Jensen
Cloud Prophet Trilogy
The Swarm Trilogy
To Tessa, thank you for planting the seed!
My fifteenth birthday. My greatest fear. Funny how my life as a slave made the two synonymous. Even though I wished I could sleep through the day, hoping such an act would make the inevitable impossible, I woke up just like I did every morning. But today was different.
It wasn’t the icy draft tickling my toes under the mouse-nibbled blanket that roused me from sleep. Nor was it the chatter of the thirty or so other female slaves, who shared the sleeping chamber with me, prepping for their morning chores. No, I woke up knowing something was quite wrong because I didn’t hear my best friend’s snores. Like the other slaves, I shared a bed and today Ivy was curiously silent.
Without lifting my cheek from the pillow, I threw my left arm backward, reaching out for Ivy. Instead of thumping her on the head, the pillow caught my hand. I rolled over, expecting to see the sheets already tucked in, but instead I was surprised by a rumpled mess.
Ivy wasn’t usually up first, but she always made sure her side of the bed was neat if she was. Our overseer, Ranee could punish us from across the room with just a flick her wrist, leaving small welts on our backs if we didn’t keep our bunks clean. One of the magically gifted, she kept us in line when our masters weren’t around. Ranee loved thinking she was better than the rest of us because she was gifted and we weren’t.
I glanced around the room, but didn’t see Ivy. The other female slaves were getting dressed and shaving each other’s heads, just like they did every morning, but still there was no sign of her. Maybe she was up early getting a surprise ready for my fifteenth birthday today, anything to mask the agony our master had planned for me.
Eyeing the sheets, I sighed and reached down to tuck them in. Making the bed was a task I hated and wasn’t very good at. I grumbled under my breath as I yanked the sheets tight. A small object flew through the air, landed on the floor with a metallic ping and rolled under the bed.
I paused, my hands still grasping the edge of the sheet. What was that? My heart pounded. The mysterious object combined with Ivy’s absence caught me off guard. I had heard the rumors. What slave hadn’t? It was the moment we longed for and the moment we feared. My hands shook as I wondered if her early exit this morning hadn’t been her idea.
“Reychel,” Ranee yelled from across the room, “get that bed made quickly. They’re expecting you in the kitchen. Take an example from Ivy and try getting up early for once.”
I nodded, dropping to the floor. It couldn’t be. It couldn’t be. It couldn’t be, I repeated to myself. I reached under the bed, where my fingers bumped the rough edge of the object. It was too thick to be currency, but too small to be a button.
|Molly C. Quinn||as Reychel|