Chapter 1

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            "Royse, come look at this!" I heard Vlad yell from two booths over, causing me to whirl away from the cookware I was looking at.

            The dark green fabric of my dress lashed at my legs and caught on the tops of my boots, tangling up my legs and causing me to scowl down in its direction. I was used too dresses that were to short, or pants like the kind my brothers wore, this long dress was a hindrance.

            Untangling myself, I dodged the traffic as I maneuvered my way towards where I saw my second eldest brother standing.  Making my way to his side I smiled at the game that many of my brothers were engaged in. The objective was to answer as many questions as possible right, and for every question you got correct you received a point. The points could then be transferred for prizes.

            "Why are they playing this?" I asked watching as my brothers received points and didn't receive points. We had stopped participating in the games two years ago, when we learned that they were tests, and the prizes were crap.

            Vlad shrugged as he smiled down at me before nodding his head in the direction of our parents, who stood beaming at our siblings. Sensing our eyes on her, mother raised her head and excitedly motioned for me to step up to a booth, her eyes too excited for me to ignore.

            Sighing heavily I moved to the open seat and typed in my name, waiting while the screen went blank and then filled with a question. Rolling my eyes at the simple"2+2=" question I hunched over the devise and started typing in answers. After every question a correct sign would appear before automatically flashing to the next question.

            The questions were easy, and I assumed that they would eventually start to get harder, and they did, just not enough to trip me up. My brain was conjuring answers to questions I had never seen before, and my hands were quick to hit the answer. It was as if time had stopped, and I would have gladly kept going if it weren't for the noise behind me, or lack there of.

            Before the loud noise had acted as a background, and I might not have noticed the silence, if somebody hadn't sneezed behind me. "Bless you!" I called out as I turned partially away from my booth, to see most of the town's people looking at me in interest. This was something I was used to, what I wasn't used to was being appraised by the Counselor himself.

            Blinking in shock at him, I might have continued to stare if his lips hadn't crooked into a smile before he bellowed, "Go on! Keep answering the questions!" His deep voice made me jump and turn back to my screen.

            My hands were shaking as I continued to answer questions, my brain now aware of my audience, and the pressure that I was not sure how I had managed to attain.

            I don't know how many questions I answered, but I do know that my back started to ach and I started to sweat before the screen in front of me flashed  "GAME OVER." Standing from the chair I stretched out my sore muscles as I glanced at my points.

210 points stared out at me from the scoreboard, making my eyebrows creep up in shock. I was smart, but I was nowhere near as smart as to get two hundred and ten points.

The seemingly equally shocked game attendant rushed over to me, his eyes wide as his face crept into a smile. "Well! Looks like you managed enough points to pick from the jumbo selection." He said in an overly happy tone as he gestured to the wall behind him.

Large stuffed animals dotted the wall behind him, mainly there to temp the kids to play in hopes they get enough points to receive the large reward. Picking a random stuffed animal I had no intention of keeping I took the toy and turned to the very large crowd. My brothers were standing awestruck as my parents beamed at me, and the rest of the town was looking at me as if they had never seen me before in their lives. The Counselor looked at me with squinty eyes as I flashed a small nervous smile to the crowd and moved towards where a group of kids sat playing. 

Walking up to them I knelt and waited until I was noticed before extending the toy. "Y'all look like you would enjoy this a lot more than I would." I told them as I handed the stuffed cat to the little girl in front of me, her eyes wide with happiness. Smiling back at her I turned to look at my family who seemed to be in deep conversation with the Counselor.

Glancing at my brothers I widened my eyes and slowly walked over, the second Mother saw me her face lit up. "Royse! Come here! The Counselor here wants you to try more of the games! He said he was very impressed with your perfect score on the question game." She said, stressing the word perfect and causing my jaw to drop.


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