I just felt like putting exclamation marks on this post. I am in a good mood, I guess. Today I am just doing a book review on Beowulf. I am also going to be sharing a scene from my book-in-progress Warchful. The scene takes place a little later on in the book. If y’all aren’t familiar with what I’ve already mentioned about that…it’s a Christian fiction dystopian novel. Mouthful, huh? 🙂
Let’s hop into the review then…
A New Verse Translation…
…by Seamus Heaney.
My rating- 5 stars
Besides the gorgeous fact that this book’s paperback cover allows you to feel the texture of the chain mail (expiring over that fact, BTW 🙂 )– why would you read a book like this? Well first let me just mention that I read this book for the Gileskirk curriculum. And as I’ve been glad for all the other books I’ve read for Gileskirk…so am I happy for the reading of this one.
It’s one of those books that you’re just fascinated by. Okay…that I’M fascinated by (but you might be too, who knows! 🙂 ). This translation is easy to understand and yet Seamus Heaney manages to give you a flavor of times past. True, this story is a legend. So what? It’s an interesting, well-written legend…and it’s classic. But on to some more definitive ‘points’.
// This book (translation, content, etc.) is well-written.
// It gives you a step-back-into time feeling. Enough said.
//It is, however a poem. Not the rhyme type, BTW. If you read this there won’t be any Mother Goose…
//The story is all the wonderful medieval knights and distress and monsters…YAY!
//There’s a difference in the book. I believe whoever the original writer of this poem was a Christian. And I’m pretty sure that the characters in the story were supposed to be pagan. If I’m wrong about that–correction is in order.
//It’s actually interesting. This may seem like a no-brainer…but I just thought I’d add it to make sure that it is clear. There is a deadly fight, there is another deadly fight…and you guessed it–another deadly fight farther along. There are evocative descriptions…things that really get the brain going.
//This book is easier to follow along with than I thought it would be. It really is easier. One thing that really contributed to its being easier…was the fact that they include little notes on the sides of the poem on each page. The notes basically tell you what’s going on. So if you’re lost, fear not! You will not remain lost for long.
And that’s the scoop. So get this book, and read it. And if you’ve already read it…hmm. Read it again? 🙂
What are your thoughts on reading legends?
Do you enjoy the style of old english writing?
What do YOU think of the medieval era?
p.s. Scroll down further for the bonus scene from ‘Watchful‘.
Scene title: Jess in the cafeteria
I stir some lemon spice into my food. I add salt, then slop a spoonful of sauteed onions on the top. The salad bar is next. I pick and choose toppings. I avoid the dairy toppings and move toward the vegetable ones. Cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, carrot shreds, and collard greens.
“You gotta’ try one of these, Jess.” I turn hesitantly to find Garth, Maul holding his hand tightly. In his outstretched hand is a chocolate truffle.
“No thanks, Garth. I- I think I’ll stick with vegetables.” I answer. Garth frowns. Then he turns away, but not before he shoots me a look. It pains me more than I’d like to admit. Letting go of my friend is hard. But I am convinced it’s the best thing to do in light of the situation with Maul. I sweep the room looking for Prisl, and when I’m satisfied she’s not here- take a seat in a quiet corner. I have just taken a seat when I see my ’employer’ out of the corner of my eye. He exchanges comments with several young men, before coming and plunking his plate right next to mine.
“Mind if I sit here?” he asks in a polite voice.
“Uh-no. I guess not. But, um- don’t you want to sit with them?” I ask indicating a table crammed with young men- all of them capitals. He frowns.
“No, I generally sit in the quiet area. I don’t enjoy the rambunctiousness of that table.” he says, taking off his jacket and draping it over the chair.
“Well, I’m sure you don’t want to be seen with a- a tributary.” I get out. There is no way he can sit here. I’ve got to get out of here.
“I don’t see what you mean. There’s nothing wrong with being a ‘tributary’– it’s just a silly old ranking for the school. It doesn’t describe the people it names.” So saying he promptly sits down. I unconsciously look into his eyes and exercise my gift. I jerk when I realize how closely I was studying him. He smiles a little at my embarrassment, which I try to cover by taking a sip of water. But I had enough time to read him. Nothing about him rings false. I saw nothing but honesty and humility in his gaze.
“Do you make a practice of scrutinizing people that meticulously?” I panic a little at the question. I try to keep my face impassive. It doesn’t help much. Why does my gift help me zero at hiding my own emotions?
“Yes- uh no…” I stammer. There’s no great answer to this question, anything I say could give me away. But maybe I can just be honest with him. I don’t think he’d turn me in because he suspects something…
“Sorry. I probably just made things more awkward, huh?” I nod before I can stop myself. He laughs. To my relief, his laughter isn’t loud.
“You know, Jess- you’re nothing like so many of the other tributaries I’ve met.” I startle at his using my shortened name. This is such an awkward conversation. I bet Prisl would’ve nailed it.
“Well, if it makes you feel better- you’re nothing like the other capitals.” He grimaces at my flipping the comment.
“I often wonder why there’s so much hate amongst the different people in the different ratings.” Everything about Chase- uh- my employer, is different.
“You really are nothing like the others. None of the other capitals would even question the way things are. They are content to see us as far inferior and below them.” I crumple my napkin in my fist under the table.
“You care about them don’t you? The tributaries?” he inquires, dipping his head.
“Yeah. I care about many people here. I’ve grown with so many of them and I want to help them if I can.” I admit.
“I believe you can change them, and help them too. In some ways, just believing the way you do can change them.” ‘Just believing the way’ I do? He must know something about the religion of Vigor then.
“Thank you. I enjoyed talking with you, and I’m glad that I get to serve you instead of someone else.” the words I thought I’d never say. Who could’ve known a week ago that I would be grateful in working for a young man instead of a girl.
“I enjoyed talking to you too. Here, let me take the dishes to the counter for you, so you can go catch your class.” Chase says. How did he know I have a class? But the mention of the class puts the question far from my mind.
On this chilly morning…chilly? REALLY? It actually feels COLD today! Oh joy. I have been long awaiting the end of summer. I love fall and the winter best of all. Especially winter.
Reasons I don’t prefer Summer…
It’s hot, and no one smells remarkably good.
It’s full of allergies for many people.
I can’t really drink tea with as much enthusiasm, because it’s HOT.
Add hot chocolate to the list. 🙂
Things I DO love about Summer…
Water gun fights.
But Winter/Fall trumps all…
Tea, and other hot beverages.
Jumping in leaves.
Mums/ fall flowers.
Dumping snow on people.
Crazy fuzzy socks. 🙂
etc. (Meaning I could go on…but this post is actually supposed to be a writing post!)
Welcome to another installment of E’s Creative Writings! Specifically to another one of my novels…The Way of Extinction.
Genre: Dystopian, elements of Sci-fi, young adult, christian fiction.
The world has come into rapid decay. Only a few of us are left…
Landice… has been entrusted with a unique and difficult task. To find the man who must be her husband. Difficulties and stakes are high. Landice is one of the last women alive, and she is a Follower of the Way. Meaning, she is not permitted to marry a man who is not of her faith.
Bane…is in a precarious position. A Follower of the Way and a FM. His family has been killed and he is constantly watched. But he was entrusted by the Bishop with two tasks: seek God, and seek God in his choice of a wife. But it’s not that simple, because no one knows if there are even any women left in the world.
And so their quests move them in different directions…can faith and determination throw them together?
(my apologies, the excerpt isn’t in good order right now. I will soon update this post in E’s Creative Writings.)
What projects are y’all working on (hopefully not as many as me 🙂 ).
No, this is not me turning into a cowgirl. This is me messing around with different openings. But anyways…I’m back with another one of my books! My writing posts, I call them. Today, I’m telling y’all about a fun one I’m writing. I don’t know about y’all…but I love ALMOST superheros. What do I mean by that? Well…people with great fighting abilities that want to help people…but minus any powers. No super strength, no climbing walls because you got bit by a spider, you get it. I’m more the Captain America type- minus the serum. 🙂 I do enjoy powers…but I don’t really want to write about that. I want to give this story a more realistic feel. I want readers to feel that this might actually be able to happen. So without further ado, I give you- The Brown Recluse.
Genre: Young adult, thriller, elements of mystery.
A prison boat sinks, supposedly drowning all the prisoners.
A young woman suffers from a spider bite, nearly dying.
A mysterious mentor, trains a woman to fight criminals…
…and Svetlana Ivanov lives a ‘quiet’ but mysterious life in a big city.
Svetlana groaned, nausea gripping her insides. The constant tossing of the ship increased the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. Beside her- Valentina stirred. How in the world is Valentina still asleep when this ship is about to sink? Svetlana wondered to herself. Valentina opened her eyes. “Where are we?” she asked with a long yawn. “In a ship, below deck, and behind bars- just as we’ve been for the last two days.” Was Svetlana’s not-very-positive response. “Why am I in prison?” Valentina inquired blankly. “Valentina! You ought to know this by now. I already told you that you were suspected of murder…” Svetlana’s voice trailed off and she covered her face with her hands. “Sorry.” Valentina apologized with a sheepish look. “It’s okay.” Svetlana responded in a weak voice.
“Captain, we need to abandon ship. She’s about to go down!” a frightened sailor pleaded. “Prepare to launch the lifeboats. The prisoners will just have to stay below deck. We haven’t enough room or lifeboats to fit them anyway- besides, I don’t want to be in a lifeboat with any serial-killers.” The captain mumbled- reluctant to abandon his ship. “Is no effort to be made to save the prisoners?” another sailor asked overhearing the words of the captain. “Some of them aren’t serial-killers, sir.” Offered a tall man in a drenched sailing suit. “You and Abel were ever the compassionate ones, Cedrick. No! There will be no saving of prisoners! It’s every man for himself now. Abel, go and get the jailer and tell him we’re abandoning ship. And another thing- tell the jailer that he’d better shoot the prisoners.” As he spoke the captain began lowering the lifeboats. Cedrick accompanied Abel down the stairs that led to where the prisoners were being kept. As they went down Cedrick hit Abel hard on the back of his head so that he slumped over unconscious. Then Cedrick went down. He found the jailer asleep. Svetlana hopped to her feet when she saw Cedrick. “Cedrick, what news?” she asked in a whisper. “She’s going down- the Captains given orders to shoot the prisoners.” He whispered back grabbing the keys from the jailers. Svetlana groaned.. Why must death come to me so soon in life? She wondered.
He sorted through the keys until he found the key marked ‘7’ then went to Valentina and Svetlana’s cell and opened the door. Svetlana shook Valentina. Valentina- who was pretending to be asleep fell to her knees at sight of Cedrick. “God bless you!” she said. “Valentina, stop talking! We need to go or else we’ll be shot dead with the rest of the prisoners.” He whispered to Svetlana something about hiding below deck while he ‘took care’ of the other prisoners. Svetlana and Valentina exited and found a convenient nook to hide and wait. “Jailer, you have orders to shoot the prisoners.” Cedrick said. The jailer stirred and opened his eyes. “Oh, would that their blood would be on someone else’s hands!” he said, starting to shake. “Get moving, jailer. We’re abandoning ship. Unless you want to go down with the carcasses of the prisoners.” The jailer groaned. “Yes, that’s it! My fate will be their fate. I’m going down with the ship- you go and save yourself, Cedrick.” Cedrick snorted angrily. “No, we’re shooting the prisoners. Much more humane than choking them to death for lack of air.” The jailer nodded. Soon all the prisoners were dead- except Valentina and Svetlana. Svetlana listened to all that occurred- at last it seemed okay to stir. Valentina shivered. “What-what’s going to happen to us?” Valentina whimpered. “We’re getting out of this ship!” Svetlana gasped. She grabbed Valentina’s arm and pulled her through the door of the jailer’s cabin. After turning several times, they were on the main deck. Waves crashed and foamed all around them. One solitary lifeboat offered her welcome. “God bless Cedrick!” Svetlana praised aloud. “He’s left us the last lifeboat!” Valentina exclaimed. Yes, he’s left us the last lifeboat, and at risk of his life! Valentina hobbled into the lifeboat and Svetlana crawled in after her.
My fingers move, and Val’s pencil taps time to the movement. Everything about Val has changed these last two years. From the little things, to the big. Things like her hair, for instance. In the old days, it would’ve been cut short- right above her ear. And her hair would’ve been slicked. Now her jet black hair falls in soft waves just above her shoulders. Another thing is makeup. She barely wears any of it now. One coat of light mascara and a touch of light pink lipstick. She looks so innocent and sweet without all the dark, heavy makeup. And then she has changed. She’s almost never fussy, and whiny. Now, she’s just quiet. Barely talks to anyone except me.
“What’d you think, Val?” I ask, holding up a light red carnation. Val smiles, and rolls her eyes.
“I think, Svet that it looks like a well-groomed carnation.” I poke her. She pokes me back. Then we both laugh.
“Hey Val, will you pass me that hairclip?” I point at a teeny weenie gold clip across from me.
“Sure.” She answers in a nonchalant tone. I brush back the front of my hair, ‘losing the part’, as Val would say. Then I stick in the hairclip.
“You’re going to be late for work, you know.” Val says.
“I know. That’s why I asked for the clip, silly.” I poke her once again. She just grins. I hop up, and grab my handbag. I turn to go out the front door.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Val’s voice startles me. I instinctively reach to my leg. My gun’s not here. I look around, and yes– Val’s holding it. Ever since Val found my gun one night, I haven’t kept secrets from her. I first only got the thing to feel protected. My past makes it difficult for me to feel secure without a gun. It bothered Val at first. She was abused as a child, much the same as I was. One time I got it out of her that her father beat her whenever she didn’t do what he asked fast enough. But now as I see the gun in her hand, I know having it means much more. It’s my way of getting even with the government. I was falsely accused of murder. My father, who was the real culprit-, turned me in. My gun is carried illegally. That’s not a secret between Val and I. There’s no way I could get a concealed carry permit with a record like mine. And also, the fact that I and Val are supposed to be dead could make it potentially much harder.
“Thanks.” I say, extending my hand and taking it from her. I carefully pull up the right palazzo pant leg, slipping the gun into the hidden holster. I turn to go again.
“Svet?” Val’s voice stops me once again.
“Yeah?” I answer back.
“You look nice.” Her words are simple, but undeniably sweet. I glance down at my 1940’s palazzo pants, and then finger the hem of my classy white tuck-in, button-up shirt. We love world war two clothing. It’s our disguise, so to speak. I figured out that it’s not unusual to find a small group of people who like old-fashioned clothing. There’s really some of everything here in New York.
“That’s sweet of you to say.” It really is. Val always looks perfect no matter what she wears. I, on the other hand, have to work hard just to look ‘presentable’. Then I walk out the door. Val and I never say ‘goodbye’. Perhaps there’s a part of us that’s afraid if we say goodbye- it really will be just that.
I pull on my apron and stand at the old-fashioned cash register. I love the coffee shop I work at. They try hard to look vintage. The tablecloths, the waitresses, and the menu- everything smacks of the 1940’s. That’s one of the reasons that I decided to work here. I fit in here. Clara, a fellow employee, and my friend- steps toward the old radio.
“Hit me with it, Svet! What should we listen to today?” she asks.
“Hmm…put on the swing music. But remember Clara, it’s background music- not central.” She laughs; no doubt remembering the time where she flipped it on and the radio volume came out full blast. All the customers were covering their ears.
“Gotcha’.” She giggles. That’s the only thing I don’t like about her. She’s giggles too much.
Why in the world am I writing another post today? The lovely reason is that I am going on vacation with my family! And so I will be absent for the rest of the week… 😦 But this is another writing post. Another one of my books. The story behind this book is simple: I was doing an assignment for my writing class. It was the very last assignment in the book. The task? Write a short story/novella from scratch. I quickly found inspiration and got started. And uh-yeah, I’m still not finished with it. I am exceedingly bad at writing short stories. I always end up with a full-length novel (if I ever finish the particular story). But anyways, I present the cover and the information for The Quest for Queen Rii.
One immortal fairy must give a baby to Jennisaar every year…
An Unwanted Princess…and an unusual one at that! Is a heroine who is a princess normally also a centauress?
An Exiled Skinchanger/Shapeshifter…Bror knows what it is to be different. On his first hunt he was exiled for turning into a lamb–instead of the lion he should have been.
And a Fairy Queen…Every year I am forced to give a baby to the land of Jennisaar. I am cursed. I only wait for another person to set me free that I may resume my throne and have my children returned to me.
WILL BE THROWN TOGETHER… here now our paths intertwine. Can we overcome the woes that await us? Will we be freed from the curses that plague our lives? We must find peace, for it is truly what we were made to enjoy.
The magic fire here is drawn, sweet voice lift up in ancient song.
Ilarminine douran (open to me the ancient flames)
Ishaka! Ishaka! (Mother! Mother!)
Imaadula Vescarii (I call unto you)
Ishaka ven douran (Mother of ancient flame)
Who I am, Unwanted Centaur Princess
There she is-will she remember me? Will she fail the quest? Will she even answer the call? She is discouraged for now- confused. But soon she will know what she needs to know and she will have a chance to free me from this curse. I need her. I NEED her.
I travel on in silence. My mother says I came in silence. It’s a fitting conclusion, really. Tears stream down my cheeks anyway. I’m unwanted.I am a centaur princess. Born to privilege, raised to advantages. Why does my father hate me so? I brush my mane through with the tips of my fingers- I’m determined to stay clean and beautiful. No matter what, I will not forsake my breeding. It had all happened to me but a day ago. I smart as I remember what happened:
“Adeline, you must leave. Your father is very angry, worse than I’ve ever seen him. He wants you dead. You have become too powerful for him, my daughter.” My mother had pleaded with me to leave, but I would not. “Dear mother, I am a princess. My father cannot exile me. I must stay as is right for the centaurs’ princess to do.” I had insisted. Then my mother had left- and it happened. Father rushed into my room with ten centaurs and ten centauresses. They soon surrounded me. “Escort the Princess Adeline from the palace and see to it she never returns!” he had yelled, spent of all decorum. The centaurs glanced around awkwardly. Apparently, they at least- had some feelings. They had a sense of dignity and propriety. Grofan and Groros, the twin centaurs, looked at me. I could see the despair in Grofan’s eyes- and the devastation imprinted clearly on Groros’s face. We played together as children, I always won our races. And since we had grown up, Groros had been seeking my hand. But father hated me, and I didn’t love Groros anyway. At last, the centauresses decided they would act. Grabbing me by the arms they dragged me out. Kiver, the Centauress who has always hated me- gave me a look of pure joy. I caught Groros’s eyes before they dragged me out, and I knew by that look- that he will never forgive Kiver. But all that matters little to me, for I have more problems on my hands. I have only a little food, menial water, and no place to go or stay. And I still don’t really know why my father hates me so. I am the fastest of all in our kingdom, it is true. But how does that make me more powerful than father? I must seek shelter. No, I must find it. I will find it. And when that’s done, I will discover why my father is afraid of me, as my mother said.
Who I am, Exiled Skinchanger/ Shapeshifter
Ah, look! I see her helper…the chosen one’s helper. She is the antidote- he will protect her. Neither of them knows it yet or is aware. But soon they’ll both know-and when they do…quick! I must speak to him, and soon. He has seen me many times before this. He just has no idea it’s me.
Chop! Chop! Chop! This has become one of the many sounds I am accustomed to. I enjoy chopping wood. It’s a way to forget momentarily that I am in charge of guarding a wishing well instead of hunting with my pack. But they threw me out. It was many years ago- but I have lived on. I suspect my pack has lived on as well. I wouldn’t know; it’s not like I ever see them. That’s probably a mercy- is my dour thought. Perhaps you know someone who is different and is looked down on or treated badly because of it. Perhaps they’re even kicked out for it. Such is my fate. I was born into a shapeshifting pack. What did my pack shapeshift into? Lions. Those majestic creatures. But we (of course) also could be humans. When I was but ten years old, it was time to hunt with the pack. My father was the pack leader, and I wanted him to be proud. But instead of shapeshifting into my lion form- I changed into a lamb. My father was both furious and embarrassed. His son…turned into a lamb? It was not only unheard of, it was dangerous! What blood must be flowing in my veins to turn me into a lamb? And so the matter went before the council- and I was exiled. But my father who did love me…softened the blow. And sent me to guard the wishing well. He said it was an honorable task. He said all I had to do was await a time when I would be freed from my exile and able to return to the pack. He said a woman would free me from changing into a lamb. But after I was exiled- I discovered that I can also change into a lion like the rest of my pack. I prefer to think of myself as special instead of cursed. And then I made the discovery that I can also be a Skinchanger. Perhaps you think there is no difference. But I assure you, there is. A Shapeshifter has shapes that are a part of him that he can take on. A Skinchanger can go inside another animal and stay inside for a limited time. I’m not saying this is exactly the truth for all who are Skinchangers- but it is for me. So now I’m waiting for…I don’t know what. I’ll figure it out. I have faith in my father’s promise. I pick up the stack of new cut wood and dump them carelessly on the larger pile. Now for my chore: check on the wishing well. As I walk, I whistle. It makes me feel better- and helps me when I get close to the wishing well to remain composed. Why do I need to be composed? Because every time I get close to the wishing well, no matter how hard I try- I always am stunned by the breathtaking beauty before me. As I walk forward I see it is no different today: positioned in the middle of a quiet forest is the wishing well. Light comes in beams from the trees surrounding… the water of the wishing well gives off the usual blue sparkle. But as I approach…I see it- her.
“Who are you?” I gasp. “I am the spirit of the wishing well. I have seen you often before- though I doubt you knew it was I.” she replies in a soft voice. “Don’t you have a- a name?” I stammer. I don’t like the idea of a- whatever she is not having a name! To my surprise she bursts into a tinkle of silvery laughter. I shiver. Her laugh seems to cut through my very soul. “My name- ah! I have not heard anyone say my name in years.” She says. “Why not?” I decide to be a little more in control of this unusual situation. I am a Shapeshifter of royal birth- of the lion tribe. I am not of mean blood. I am a lion. By now I am peering inside the wishing well and looking at the spirit’s face. She looks very like a woman- a beautiful, queenly woman. “Oh, that tends to happen when you are as old as I and all those who knew you are dead.”This is really getting out of hand. “You said you’ve seen me before.” The spirit smiles. “Oh yes…yes. I have, in the form of a doe.”I gulp. The other day I shifted into lion form and went on a hunt in these woods. There was a doe- and I naturally tried to catch her. But she disappeared and I didn’t see her again. The strange thing about this doe was that she was pure white- much like I myself am, when in lion form. “I didn’t know it was you, whoever you are. I didn’t mean…” I stop when she laughs again. “It’s okay, you know. You couldn’t have caught me anyhow.” Somehow, I don’t doubt that’s true. “But no more beating around the bush…Bror. We both want something dreadfully- and have both been waiting for it.” I stiffen. Yes, there’s one thing I want. I want to go home and join my father in the hunt. Soon- I would have to take his place as tribe leader. “We have both met with sorrow. But I am come to tell you…that the promised woman is come. She will free us both.”I shiver- this time in excitement. “Then- you are the promised woman!” “No, not I.” “No?” “No.” disappointment takes me. “Then who is?”The spirit’s eyes fill with sympathy- then with tears. A thought hits me- can spirits cry, and shed real tears? “You’re not only a spirit, are you?”I ask. “No. I am an immortal fairy. I am cursed.” She replies. “How are you cursed?” is my next question. “I am cursed with having to give a baby to Jennisaar every year- my own child.” No wonder she cries. My mother cried when I was sent away. “Who will save us? Who?” I ask again. “A woman who is a centaur. She will come here soon- and she will need your help. She will want to use the wishing well.” This is too bizarre! What in the world would a centaur want to use the wishing well for? Centaurs are content in themselves. They’re never discontent with who they are and what they do! “You don’t believe me, then?” her voice to me sounds understanding-yet reproving. Yet I feel guilty even speaking to her. So I simply remain silent. “Did you truly think that the promised woman’s coming would make sense? That it would be obvious that she was the one? You thought-Bror- that it could only be a woman who was wholly human?” “I hardly know what I thought at all.”
I am working on a series of posts dedicated to my writing endeavors. I have at least ten novels ‘in progress’–but operating this way kinda’ shoots me in the foot. Because I have so many ideas and almost no time to spend working on all of them at once. But I have to or I lose my ideas. So I have decided to share this one. I currently have about a chapter typed out (but the whole plot in my head). I am going to share an excerpt in this post somewhere. I am also going to share the cover I designed for the book (I did it in a hurry, so it’s not my best)–which as you will notice has the pic I drew of an unfinished eye (which you can find here). Here’s the cover and the information follows it. 🙂
Genre: Dystopian, Scif-fi, (possibly some elements of…) Fantasy.
In a world built after the fall of a once-prosperous civilization, the six cities were founded. Beacon, the city built so that the world would never lose light. Sunrise, the city built that the world might not lose its hope. Combatant, a city built that the world might never lack protectors, the city of warriors. Data, the city built that the world might become wise- that the world would not fall. Jollity, the city built to ensure that joy and worldly happiness might not be lost. And Vigor, a city built that the world would be healthy and thrive in its new environment. Many years after the cities were founded, the world was falling once again. From the seeming peace- the school was built. A school dedicated to finding the gifted- the superior. A school dedicated to putting the people in their proper rankings. And from the danger that was nearing- a seeing force was rising. A team- WATCHFUL.
Sweat trickles down my face. I rub sweaty palms on my gray pants-and swallow hard. It’s okay, it’s okay. They can’t hurt me. It can’t be bad- Mom and Dad sent me here!
“You okay, kid?” the girl next to me asks. I lift my head just enough to see a girl with short, red curls and green eyes staring at me.
“Sure, I’m okay.” I declare, craning my neck to see what’s happening at the front of the line.
“They’re all squawking like a bunch of chickens up there. You’d think we were at a slaughterhouse.” the red-haired girl mutters. I sneak a quick look at her. She’s pretty tall for a girl, and seems very social. Too social, for my tastes. To my embarrassment she looks at me, and before I can look away sticks out her hand.
“I’m Prisl Smith, from Beacon.” I hesitate. In Vigor, where I lived, it’s a huge act of faith to give out your name. And to shake someone’s hand pretty much makes you their friend. Then, somehow I’m shaking her hand. I trust her.
“Jessica Graye, Vigor.” She smiles. I look at her, trying to pierce through the layers of her character.
“My friends call me Jess.” I add after a moment.
“My friends just call me plain old Prisl. In Beacon, no one has nicknames.” Do I detect a hint of longing in her voice? Yep, she wants someone to care enough to give her one. Now isn’t the time though, I don’t know her well enough yet. At last we reach the front of the line. A woman with an impassible face shows me something. A ring? The woman slips the ring on my finger- it fits perfectly.
“Your paperwork.” I take the folder from her outstretched hand, but focus on her name tag.
“Thank you, Maud.” Her eyes flicker- she is quite suspicious. Obviously she doesn’t remember that her name is pasted for all to see. ‘Maud’ gives me a brisk nod. Almost immediately I am whisked away by a tall man into one of the waiting trucks. As I enter I notice only one person- Garth. He’s really all that reminds me of home now. I gravitate toward him without a second thought and squeeze into the open seat between him and a brown-haired girl. Garth turns toward me and smiles, a warm smile that sends heat surging through me.
“Rough day today, huh?” he asks.
“Tell me about it. I feel about as well-cared for as a sheep going to get sheared. And it’s so crowded in here!” I complain in a quiet voice.
“Yeah, I know. I think we’ll only be in here for an hour or two though. I’ve heard talk of planes to take us to the school.” I nod, for some reason not really wanting to talk anymore. The thought of the school we’re all headed to fills me with dread. And something else, fear? The door to the train slams shut from the outside and we lurch forward as it starts down the bumpy tracks.
“Neat ring you got. From your parents?” he inquires, in a tone that asks for me to acknowledge he’s speaking. I hold out my hand instinctively- and gaze at the ring in depth for the first time. A twisting sterling silver band, a circular center gem which has what looks like an- eye– engraved on it. And one word, so tiny I can barely see it. I’m almost certain my ring says ‘watchful’ on it. What does that mean?
“No, I was given it by a- friend.” I stammer. I don’t think I want him knowing that a lady with a less-than-pleasant face named Maud gave it to me. That would just make him curious and I’m not in the mood for talking.
“Hey, what’s the matter, Jess- I do something?” he suddenly is studying me a little too closely for comfort.
“No, I’m okay. I’m just tired.” I shrug away his concern.
“Miss your parents?” Stop it Garth! Can’t you take a hint?
“Not really, no.” he frowns, obviously not convinced. Don’t ask me again, please. I beseech silently. Finally, he gets the hint.
“Okay, I’ll leave you alone- but I’m here if you want to talk.” I smile gratefully. Garth may not be the best at taking hints, but he’s kind anyways. And he doesn’t push when he sees it’s pointless. I spend the next hour with my head resting on the back of my chair- dozing. But soon Garth is nudging me awake.
“What?” I grumble.
“Something’s happening.” Sure enough a woman’s voice comes in over the loudspeaker.
“All students are requested to stay in their seats. We have almost reached our destination. A nurse will be coming back to inject each of you with a micro chip which will ensure your safety should you get lost. We are being held personally responsible by your parents for your safe arrivals, and must take these measures for their comfort.” Garth frowns slightly. Kids in the train car begin murmuring. My apprehension heightens. Something akin to terror seizes me, and I shake violently. I grab Garth’s arm impulsively.
“Is it safe?” I blurt. Garth relaxes- probably for my sake.
“Oh yeah, I mean what harm can it be? It’s only until we get to the school, right?” I nod my head. I hope that’s all it’s for- safety. The nurse comes in through a door which separates our train car from another room. She’s carrying a big syringe- and an evil looking metal box. You’re acting childish. You grew up around needles! Why are you scared? Despite reproach of myself- my palms start sweating again. But I’m not shaking anymore at least. Slowly the nurse makes her way around the car until she’s next to me. I bite my lip and hold out my arm- steeling myself for the worst.
“What’s your name, dear?” the question from the nurse startles me.
“Jessica Graye, what’s yours?” I fire back, determined that if I’m to give out my name- she’ll have to give out hers. She does look surprised.
“Well…” she begins (I look away as I realize the needle is ready to go),
“…my name is Ashley.” I draw in my breath at the sting. Much bigger and sharper needle than any I’ve ever gotten stuck with. A tear of pain slides out of my eye. She wipes it away with a tissue.
“You did very well, Jessica- is it? How old are you, dear?” Ugh. Why does she want to know all this?
“I turned seventeen this May.” I answer. Suddenly, without even thinking about it- I fall into an old habit. I look deep into her eyes- and I realize she’s just a kind person. She’s not probing, or trying to find me out- or get me in trouble. Ashley’s mouth twitches once again.
“You did well, dear.” Then, her eyes suddenly train on my ring. She freezes.
“Where did you get that?” Is it hers or something?
“Um- a friend gave it to me. Do you recognize it?” I ask. Ashley shakes her head quickly, and then just moves on to Garth. Confused, I sit and wait. Soon, Garth’s attention is on me again.
“What was that about?” he asks me.
“Uh- I don’t know. It seemed weird to me, actually.”
“Yeah, to me too.” I notice his eye gravitating back to my ring. I jerk my hand away, while at the same time pulling the ring off and sliding it into my pants pocket. Garth just shrugs. He’s quite used to my guardedness obviously. The rest of the trip is a blur. I remember walking around- in a daze to keep from falling asleep. Then there was the airplane. But I was just too tired to care much. And then, before I knew it- we had arrived at the school. The institute. I pull my hair out of its braid- and brush it until it shines. I look in the mirror of my new room. I see her for the first time- me. I’m healthy, of course I am- I lived in Vigor. But it’s the plainness that startles me most. The normalness. I have soft, long brown hair. Blue eyes and freckles. The other girls I’ve seen are beautiful. Blond hair, bright blue or hazel eyes, tall and attractive.
“I’m just me.” I say aloud.
“Duh, get some sleep- silly.” Prisl Smith, who is my roommate-, giggles. I look in her direction. I like her; I think she’s my friend. And with those final thoughts, I climb into bed.