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Name: Shannon Cortazar Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Title: Silhouette
Tiny bells. I hear them echo through the cold still air. It’s a sparrow returning to us, a warning that death’s reach is imminent. I know it’s only a matter of time before the Throne comes. They’ll breach our border to find the remaining survivors of their onslaught. My skin prickles at the thought. Its young girls they seek.
It makes me wish I was already too old or too dead to matter.
I tuck my hair inside my mother’s long wool coat and kick the frozen ground with my boots. The hooded coat keeps the chill away, but my insides are trembling. Shoving my hands inside the rough fabric pocket, I make my way toward the salt wall.
The wall surrounds the perimeter of our village, known as the Fray. The courtyard serves as our marketplace and our small shacks are built against an old salt mine we found. The mountain behind us and the wall in front are our only protection from the Throne’s legion. Winter has arrived early here, which means the impending snowfall will hinder our resources, making us vulnerable. I imagine the Throne will find us soon and mark those they capture. Their mark allows mortals to go on living, though I wouldn’t call it that. What happens to the marked ones is something unnatural, something other than living.
The captured will either accept a mark of allegiance, or be left to starve, some will be slaughtered, others, like me, will be taken. No doubt some will try to escape, but they won’t make it too far.
I think our new ruling power believes we’ll come begging for salvation. But I’ve never been a begging kind of girl. They will have to try and take me, I dare them.
I watch a shadow of a raven gliding above me, hidden behind the ever present fog. It’s itching to find prey outside our barrier. The ground around me is littered with their ink stained feathers, our only triumph against the the Throne. My eyes follow the trail of plumage across the pocked earth and I hear a break in the air above me.
An arrow hits the foul creature and it falls at my feet.
“Another one down.” I say to myself. “Thousands to go.”
They’re the watchers for the Throne. They seek out anyone whose will has reached its limit. Nothing is right since the day they arrived. They possess a power that controls everything in their grasp, even the animals.
I turn and see an archer high in the watchtower, lowering his bow, seeing him brings out my smile. The grin on his face is enough to lighten my mood. Finn, my friend since we all settled here, it’s his watch and the reason I stand so close to the edge of safety. It’s my sixteenth birthday and he left a note on my door to meet him in the village circle. I already know what it’s about, he’s giving me a trinket, the only hope I have comes once a year, Finns gift. It’s not the gift so much as how he acquires it, he travels past the salt wall, and that in itself is enough to pique my curiosity.
“How many is that today O’Leary?” I yell up to the tower.
“I’ve lost count.” He says in his scratchy voice. “Another year Noelle Frost, long may you run!”
I shake my head. He’s been saying that ever since the day we met. We were five or six when I snagged a rabbit with a slingshot I found hidden in a fallen tree, it was Finn’s, and he chased me when it was discovered that I was the culprit who took it. He didn’t catch me, I used to run, fast. The next day he found the sling on his doorstep, I had returned it later that night. My mother was overjoyed about the rabbit, that I had taken the slingshot, not so much. Ever since then, he’s been a good friend, a rare gift nowadays.
“I’ll be down soon, you should eat.” He says gesturing toward the line for rations. “Before there’s nothing left.”
Food and water are scarce, controlled by the powers that be. Without a mark from the Throne, there is no purchasing of goods, no water, no anything. It’s the wild and ingenuity that keeps us alive. Most of the fruit bushes and springs have depleted over the years. Water is scarce, but can be found after a hard rain. Food is a different story, most game has been killed off and we’re running out of options.
“See you in a while.” I say, making my way back toward the line for food.
I can go days without eating. I’ve given up on trying to sate the growl in my stomach. The little portion doled out to us doesn’t curb anyone’s hunger. My mother took sick a while back and she needs it more than I do. The smell of the days’ broth hints there will be some flavor, Raven.
The bells I hear near the small armory we have remind me that the sparrow would have brought us a message, if any was to be sent. So I make my way to the weapons area and see Cornelius Thatch, our resident jack of all trades.
“Is there any news?” I ask.
“Sorry Noelle, nothing. The last few times I've sent the sparrow out, hes returned as he left. No messages since the last one a few months back. But we’ll keep trying.” he adds.
At first, when everyone scattered to escape the Throne, a network of communication was set up. People would send out sparrows, like a mail system. Sharing news and warnings. That was the only way we knew about the girls being taken and the mark the Throne branded on the living. Since then, the messages have dwindled to nothing. My fear is that there’s no one left to warn us, that they’ve all been taken. It looks like we’re the last, which means they’ll be coming.
We’re cursed, I believe it in my bones. The last recorded birth was years ago, I was seven then, the miracle of life ended after the Throne arrived. There’s little hope that we will be able to fight them off, from what we know, the legion they send to find humans is---unnatural. So we do the only thing we can, we leave. Already some have started to pack up enough to carry and move out, but there’s only so far we can go, they rule everything, everywhere. We’re trapped, being herded-- like sheep to the slaughter.
The line for food spans around the courtyard in town, by my count there’s about a hundred of us here. Since last year I notice there’s less people to feed. Winter last year was long, and some gave in to the Throne. Those that had are now living far from here in the keep. Able to purchase any goods they might need, within limits. They were our neighbors, friends to some, now they’re the enemy, and wouldn’t hesitate to hand over anyone they had once shared bread with. Once you’re marked, you’re different, tainted.
“You’re daydreaming again.” Finn whispers over my shoulder. “Anyone special?” his eyes are a tell tale sign that he hasn’t slept in a few days, always watching out for us.
“Yeah-- Alexandra Crow.” I say. She’s the woman at the Throne’s helm. “I’m plotting her death.”