Yes, we've split the whole thing in 3 parts.
I not really sure how many chapters will be in each part.
They are logical breaks because they are at the points of the stories when everything gets turned on its head all over again!
Seeing as I've published some of it on Wattpad, I thought I'd publish some on here. Seems only fair!
So what I'm going to give you in this post is the first chapter.
"Left, right, left, right, left right!" the guard bellowed in a hoarse voice. A large straggly group of workers, wearing the city's logo, were marches along towards wrought iron gates.This logo made clear the division of rich and poor families in Shalo County. It was the mark of poverty. The Mayor forced the poorer members of Shalo to wear it in order to differentiate them from the privileged. As the gates emerged, the large crowd stopped, delving into their pockets for 5 copper coins.
There hadn’t always been discrimination like this in Shalo. It had only come about 15 years previously when the city had been invaded and betrayed.
“Orderly Line!” screamed the guard.
One by one, each of them handed over their precious coins to the sentinels. The Mayor of Shalo had closed the city entrance in case any intruders managed to get in. As a result, the poorer members of society had to climb over the walls using rope ladders and walk through the city with a guard and, therefore, were forced to pay their way into the city. The richer members were exempted from this, due to their superiority and evident trustworthiness. This entrance was one of four. The city was shaped as a perfect octagon, surrounded by tall brick walls, however inside the city, things were not so symmetrical. The snaking paths were interlocking and intricate, like the routes of a gnarled tree. Alleyways and sidewalks were entwined, making the streets of the city an endless maze. The sentinels and guards, who had the job of collecting the money, wore heavy helmets, chainmail vests and were armed with spears and shields. Swords were considered too valuable for such unimportant roles.
A certain skinny girl of fifteen years old held tightly onto the hand of a lean bald man while gingerly handing over her coins. As she rejoined the throng, she noticed a poster nailed to the side of a ramshackle house. At the sight of it, her heart dropped.
Tax due next week.
The hungry horde was marched forward, their clothes tattered and torn.
“Left, right, left right!” they went, through the cobblestone streets of Shalo City.
Surrounding them were run-down buildings, infested with rats. (The edges of the city were not nearly as glamorous as the centre.) As they passed through a small square, three figures could be seen suspended from ropes. They hung limp, with their mouths gaping open. Ravens were plucking at their eyes, their glossy feathers speckled with blood.
Pay your taxes is what you were taught. All who didn’t obey ended up at the noose.
The young girl started to shake, and felt the man beside her squeeze her hand. She turned to smile at him, but her smile was only half hearted – hardly reflecting the feelings of utter dread within her. She had recently overheard a whispered conversation between her Aunt and Uncle.
“But you’ve gotta pay it. You know what’ll ‘appen,” her Aunt had said.
“Course I do! D’ya think I’m dumb? All I’m saying is it’ll be tough.”
All around them, the crumbling houses became less shabby and significantly larger; each were adorned with colourful curtains and heavy oak doors. The crowd could only wish they’d ever have houses like this. Shalo’s economy was not as good as its Mayor had hoped it would ever be. While the richest had servants in their comfortable mansions and the middle class worked as shopkeepers or servants, the lowest class and poorest members of Shalo County were entirely forgotten. The jobs they were given included market sellers, road sweepers, sewage cleaners and so on and they were given just enough wages to keep the food coming and the fire going in their ramshackle tree top houses.
On the horizon loomed the towering pillars and buttresses of Shalo castle, situated at the centre of the thriving city. As the castle became ever nearer, so the prosperity of the houses grew. Each luscious garden was closed off with an iron fence and had flowers spilling out from various beds, in a multitude of colours. But this beauty was shadowed by the thick, cold, stone walls of the castle.
Within the walls of the city marched row upon row of workers, heading towards the bustling market. Past the tall houses they marched until at last they reached the walls of the city, paid their way over the walls and reached the market, which was by the port. The port was crowded by hundreds of different sized ships, each used for fishing or for transporting goods.
The crowd was then released into the market; the finest market in the land.
“I’ll meet you back home, Malina” the bald man murmured kindly to the girl.
Uncle Mike worked as a blacksmith at the far east of the market. Mike cared for Malina as if she were his daughter. She had lived with him and his wife since she was a tiny baby. Although his work was physically challenging, it had earned them enough money to survive. However, recently, Uncle Mike’s merchandise had not been selling particularly well, so the family had become dependent on Aunt Sarah’s market stall, selling berries and decorative plants, found in the woods. They didn’t usually go for much, if they were bought at all, but they just managed to keep the family’s heads above water.
Malina didn’t care much for what she looked like, but, very occasionally, she felt slightly ashamed of her neglect. Her hair was always messy, her hands covered in dirt. Her eyes were wild and wary, though she was too insignificant to those of Shalo to notice these minor traits. For Malina, life had always been like this. She knew no different. She had always helped her Aunt and Uncle earn money for the household and they had always just been able to scrape through. Her Aunt was determined to have Malina look a higher status than she really was, but due to Malina’s wild tendencies, this was almost impossible. Malina liked to wander the woods in search of solitude. She felt truly alone in the woods that surrounded her house. In Shalo, the rich did not tolerate the poor. They were forgotten and best to be avoided.
Malina liked an adventure, she thought, but she had explored the Shalo woods so much she could recognise every shrub! She wasn’t allowed to explore the city centre. The guards would not permit it. The city had been closed off to the poor. It had been built for the rich, the warning signs said. Her Aunt said it was all rubbish. She had lived within the walls herself as a child. Things have changed so much since then, she would say. But she would never say why.
Malina always dreamed of adventuring beyond the County’s ground, but she never believed it would actually happen one day.
Malina’s path took her to the market centre. She strode purposefully past the stalls; islands amidst the turbulent waters of the crowds.
She glanced at the stalls, selling goods varying from exotic fruits, shipped in from foreign lands, to elaborate jewellery, baskets and gowns, hand-made by the farmers’ daughters.
Finally she reached her first destination: a stall selling bread of all shapes and sizes. Brown loaves, black ones, beige and white. Hard and soft, old and new. Her mouth watered at the sight of the selection. But she knew what she had come for: a copper coin for five black loaves, burnt and dry.
After buying pork, mere scratchings and leftovers, dirty vegetables and mushrooms, she found herself pushed and shoved to the furthermost edge of the sea of stalls.
Fighting her way through, she felt like a stray salmon swimming against the oncoming tide.
Malina had long straight dark hair which shone in the sun, however messy it was. Her long legs, tanned skin and pointed ears distinguished her somewhat from the people of the distinctly human county, but she went unnoticed due to her low status. Nobody liked to pay any attention to the lower classes in Shalo. Her eyes were a brilliant yellow, with dark black slits as pupils and her tatty clothes were of the poorest quality. She tended to look to the floor in the presence of the higher classes, feeling her own inferiority. Her pockets empty, she trudged the longer – but cheaper – route back to her home in the tree-house village. It was, in fact, illegal for someone of her status to take this route, yet she decided to take her chances. If she was seen, she could get into terrible trouble. Her Uncle was angry when he first discovered her using this route and made her promise she would never go there again. She didn’t usually go against her Uncle’s wishes, but in this case, she simply had to.
On her way home, Malina passed the large Arena, used as punishment for criminals, which served as a form of entertainment.
From inside, an almighty roar swelled up, as a boar - its tusks bloodied - gored a yelping man. Malina suddenly had a fleeting memory of a man being dragged away last year having – supposedly – neglected his tax bills.
With no guard breathing down her neck, she felt free to wander. The trees of the beautiful park next to the arena drew her in and tempted her to join them. It held water-fountains, a lake, woodland, monuments and so much more. Malina was not usually allowed to explore, due to the fact that the park had been created for the more prosperous, however, into the posh park, she crept. She watched squirrels scamper up trees – their tiny paws tap-tapping on the bark. As the birds flew by, she dreamt of their freedom. Malina had always fantasised about being a bird – she felt connected to them in some way, as if she, too, was born to soar into the clouds. She sat down under a large oak tree and a little thrush settled gently on the branch above her. It tweeted a handful of pretty notes into her ear, cocked its head and flew away.
From behind a hedge of roses, she spied a watchful pair of cruel green eyes. Uh-oh! It was time for her to return home! The owner of these green eyes had taunted her many a time. They belonged to a rich boy who lived in the centre of the city in a large mansion.
She scampered away from the park and made her way back to the tree-house village, a place reserved for the poor; each house set high up in the trees and connected by rickety rope ladders. Those who didn’t live in the tree house village were workers in the farms to the west of Shalo City. Surrounding them were marshes, always covered in a low-lying layer of mist.
As she walked past the falling leaves and the autumn red trees, she pondered a life beyond her own.
I really hope you like this! I'm really excited to hear what people think :)