Samara rolled over in bed, pulling the covers tighter.
Get out of bed, Samara. You've been waiting for this day your whole life. The day you get a real future.
Now that the day was here, she wasn't sure she was ready to face it. The teachers had watched her, and all the others of her age-class very closely over the last month. Determining their final future.
It would be easier if they had just wanted me. Other children have it so much easier. But I will have to start with nothing.
In the city of Corus, all children followed the work of their family. Bakers. Merchants. Craftspeople. All, except the abandoned children. Raised by the Siblings of Mercy, they were raised to know of all the crafts, but never apprenticed. No parents to raise them in the way of a skill. The select few found the guilds willing to train them, but most? Most would become military. A few, laborers for the craftspeople. The menial workers no one cared about or noticed.
I will never be a skilled class, because I start too late. But what can I be? I have already failed the military entrance. What happens to those who are not chosen?
“SAMARA!” The crisp no-nonsense shout shook through Samara even as she buried her head under her pillow. “Samara, this room is no longer yours. I will grant you ten minutes to prepare yourself, before I remove you from the room, dressed or not.” That threat pushed Samara to get out of bed.
Sitting in the small chapel, Samara shifted anxiously in her seat, trying to be still. They always started with the prestigious assignments. One by one, her age-class was brought up and sent out to the guildhalls or the training camps. Am I actually going to be last? Samara closed her eyes, trying to look stronger than she felt. The rhythm of names being called, and lives being announced, continued unabated.
“The girl, Samara.” The voice cut in from behind her. Not the front of the chapel – not the Mother of Mercy - it was new, deep and commanding, nothing familiar. Samara opened her eyes. When had this man entered the room? How long had he been watching her? She took a breath and held it, waiting for permission to turn, to see where the voice came from.
“Who is interrupting our sacred placement of the abandoned children?” The Mother of Mercy’s steely voice cut down the hope that had begun welling up inside of Samara.
Steps rang out sharply, slowly, as the man walked at a deliberate pace to the front of the room. As he walked past Samara, she saw a military uniform, but one that looked finer than she had ever seen. “I believe you forgot she should have been placed first, but I refuse to wait. She comes with me.” Samara sat perfectly still and did not move. This time not because she wished to perfectly comply, but out of shock.
The Mother of Mercy stepped forward and looked him in the eye. “I did not agree to her assessment results and she will not be assigned with you.”
The man sighed. “I thought this seemed too simple for you. But if that is how you will have it.” He removed his glove, finger by finger, revealing a ring that caught the sunlight coming through the window so brightly, Samara could not look.
What could this ring mean? I don’t understand why this stranger thinks he will change the Mother of Mercy’s mind – it’s as if he –
Samara’s thoughts were cut off by the words she heard ringing through the hall. “Samara of the Wood. The Queen’s Guard.”