Unlikely Rebel (A Dark Revolution Novella - Book One), page 1
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Book One of
THE DARK REVOLUTION
by Amy Boyles
Copyright © 2015 Amy Boyles
All rights reserved. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented without the express written permission of the copyright holder. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
For Mark, for believing in me when I didn't.
by Amy Boyles
Table of Contents
I loved him the moment his dark eyes met mine, and swore I would do anything to get him.
The year was 2087, the height of the second Civil War. The Patriot Party waged a fiery assault against the government in response to the oil drought. They were successful, winning cities and territories, burning as they went. I was nine. We lived in the city then, and though there’s not much I remember about that time, I do remember one night, the night I first laid eyes on Branthe.
Pop worked on unloading a wooden cart of food. It was a small load, some potatoes and apples, but if cooked right, it would last weeks. Mom had sent me out to help him. I hung a lantern on the peg outside our door and raised the wick. The dismal amount of oil we could afford barely illuminated half the cart.
A click sounded down the street. As far as I could see in the near darkness, the pavement was eroded, full of potholes that would never be filled. It wasn’t uncommon for horses to break a leg from stumbling in them. Because of this, many of the streets had been dug up, leaving packed earth as it was easier to travel on. But not this street.
Three men made their way toward us. Carrying sticks that they twirled like canes, the trio moved slowly, as if measuring up a man and his daughter.
“Hurry, Anna,” Pop said.
The first one, his cane twirling, twirling, twirling, said, “Unloading some supplies, are you? Looks like a nice amount of food. Looks like it could feed us for maybe a night. Maybe two.”
“Yeah, we could use a good meal,” added another.
“Maybe we could use a girl, too.”
The trio laughed.
“Go inside,” Pop commanded quietly as the men sauntered up.
I moved to obey, but a hand snatched my collar. I dug my heels into the ground, but the force pulling me back was too strong. The scents of sweat and urine filled my nose as a gruff voice whispered in my ear, “Where are you going, little one?”
My legs pumped desperately forward. Even though my focus was pinpointed on escaping, I heard something familiar yet foreign coming from behind me. It sounded like feet scuffing against rock, like a stick hitting something dull and like my father huffing and moaning. As I tried to move forward, the hand dragged me back farther.
“Leave her be!” Pop snarled. I turned and saw it then, the blood running down his leg. With a blade stuck in his calf and the flesh torn, the crimson trickle made its way to his ankle.
There wasn’t a nighttime patrol to call to for help. Those hadn’t started yet. The Patriot Army was still in the beginnings of creating itself, of discovering what it was. Men like my father’s attackers ruled the night.
Then he appeared. Out from the shadows he stepped, tall and lean with broad shoulders and eyes as dark as ink. Rebel and wanton, gentleman and rogue, traitor and fighter, people whispered that he was death and life itself. Hero and villain, lover and hater, he exemplified what every man wanted to be and what every woman simply wanted. The man stepped into the feeble pool of light provided by our lantern, the illumination pallid compared to his presence. Even the lantern seemed to shake, quaking before him.
“Release them and I'll let you live,” he stated simply.
They laughed as bad men are wont to do. A knife flashed a silvery reflection as it moved toward my father's middle. Before the shriek of horror in the back of my throat left my mouth, the stranger twisted the man's wrist, took the knife and gutted him. In three quick flashes, the rest of the men were laid out, howling and crying for mercy.
There was none. The stranger sliced each of their throats to silence them. It was no less than they would've done to my father. I felt no pity for them.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“Yes,” Pop said, studying the wound. “It's not deep. I can clean and sew it. It'll be fine. Please, take some food for your help.”
He shook his head. My eyes washed over him, stopping at his long hair. Secured back in the new style of the queue, the tip of it curled under. I wanted to pull it, but that was silly, something only little girls did. And I wasn’t little. I was a solid nine and a half, too old for silly things.
“I didn't do this for food.” He picked me up and sat me on his knee. I wasn’t too old for that, however. “And how are you?”
I rested close enough to touch his face. The tan skin angled sharply at the jaw. A bit of beard sprouted from his chin, making him appear rough, yet his eyes sparkled when they looked at me. It was the handsomest face I'd ever seen.
“Fine,” I whispered.
“And so you are,” he said, putting me down. He stepped into the shadows of the house and disappeared.
“Thank you, Branthe,” Pop whispered.
Branthe. From that day on, the name was burned into my memory. For in the moment when he saved our lives, I loved him and would never love anyone else.
Ten years passed before I saw him again.
With the war long finished and the Patriot Party in power, things were different. You could ask almost anyone, and though they wouldn't tell you the truth for fear of retribution in the form of imprisonment, or worse—to become slave labor at a Farm—the word patriot was a hoax.
The new government used the term because of the revolution of 1776. They saw themselves as setting the country to right, destroying much of the technology that had poisoned our water and air, even going so far as mandating that everyone dress from the era. Personally I hated it, despising the plain linen and scratchy muslin. I especially hated corsets because they were so ridiculously tight. It certainly wasn't a woman who demanded that all those of the female gender burn their bras and don a wardrobe that was three hundred years old.
But I digress…
What food couldn't be cultivated required purchasing, and money didn’t grow anywhere, much less
That left me.
“Going to go check the traps, are you, Anna?” old Mrs. Sims asked while scouring an iron pot.
I nodded, snatching a piece of cold bacon left over from the colonel's breakfast. A lock of mousy brown hair fell into my eyes. I pushed it away. “I plan on it. That is, unless you have some terribly boring chore you’d rather I do instead.”
She smacked my hand. “Better not take from the master's plate. You know what he's like.”
“Ouch,” I replied in mock pain. “What he doesn't know won't hurt me. Besides, it’s not as if he needs another piece of bacon.”
“Are you commenting on the master’s weight?”
“No. I’m commenting on his disposition. Rather fat and salty, wouldn’t you say?”
She laughed. “He’ll have you locked up in the stocks if he hears you.”
“Better the stocks than his chubby arms. I told you he tried to corner me in the pantry last week, didn’t I?”
She nodded. “Mmm. You and every other girl here.”
“So as I see it, I’m entitled to his leftover bacon.”
“As long as no one sees you eating it, I have no reason to say anything.”
“Thank you. But if he did find out, I suppose he’d find some sort of suitable punishment for me, no doubt. Something worse than scouring pots.”
Gray wisps of hair poked out from beneath her bonnet. With a pudgy finger, she set them to right. “Don’t be smart. All this work needs to be done. Even cleaning pots. Besides, men in charge of prisons aren't known to be the most merciful. Be careful there, girl.”
“I’m always careful.”
“Make sure you continue to be, and yes, I do have some utterly boring chore I need you do for me before you set off for the forest. I need the candlesticks from his room. They're tarnished and in need of a good cleaning.”
For all my bravado, I was wary about going to his room alone. The colonel not only had roving eyes but roving fingers as well. I looked out the kitchen window for his mechanical carriage. “Is he gone?”
She eyed me. “Would I send you up there if I knew he was here? He's gone. He left a little while ago for the prison. It should be safe.”
Shoving the last morsel of bacon in my mouth, I wiped my hands on a mostly clean towel. “I'll be back.”
I took the rear stairs two at a time, each one creaking under my weight. Before the colonel was assigned the old plantation house, it had been a historic site. There were front stairs and back stairs, servants’ quarters and main rooms. In all, the mansion oozed grandiosity, being much too large for a single man and his household.
I found myself whistling a nonsensical tune as I approached the bedroom. In a few minutes, I would be out the door and looking for snared rabbits for the rest of the afternoon. That being one of the few things I looked forward to between work and home, I wanted to put this task behind me and get moving.
I knocked. Not that I didn’t trust Mrs. Sims, I simply wanted to ensure the man wasn’t there. No answer. I pushed on the solid oak barrier. The door opened with an eerie creak. A quick scan of the room revealed the candlesticks on the mahogany desk, exactly where they always were. I dashed in. The room always made my skin tingle, as if warning me that bad things would happen there. So I quickly picked up the candlesticks and turned to leave, but stopped short when I spied a letter.
Curiosity getting the better of me, I sneaked a quick peak. Penned from someone named Lord Andrews, it was an invitation for the colonel to stay in his mansion in Corinth. I smirked. Good. Maybe the colonel would go and never return.
The door groaned shut. I turned to see the figure of Colonel Mann, the warden who wasn't supposed to be there, the man Mrs. Sims promised she'd seen leaving only a few minutes earlier, standing with his prominent backside against the wall.
“Anna, I didn't expect to see you.”
I curtsied. “Mrs. Sims needs to clean the candlesticks. She sent me to get them for her.”
He raised an eyebrow over his acne-scarred face. Plump cheeks puffed out, half hiding his beady eyes. The small mouth puckered like a fish in dire need of water, and his tongue slithered over his lips like a snake tasting the air. His features were repugnant on a good day and hideous on all others.
He took a step forward. “I don't think she'll be needing those immediately, do you?”
I shifted on my leg to pass him, but he blocked me. For a fat man, the colonel moved like an athlete when he wanted to. “She will miss them and me if I'm not in the kitchen in a moment or two.”
He took them from my hands. “I disagree.”
A cold tingle pulsed through my body. The realization of what was happening smacked me in the face. Mrs. Sims had set me up. That old woman had given me to this man that she knew I despised. He’d asked her to send me up, and she, knowing full well what would happen, delivered me to him.
He licked his lips. “I know how you like to run away from me. That may be hard to do now.”
Chin raised, I did my best not to let him see the fear that had taken hold of me. The colonel wasn't known as a nice or even fair man. “I just…I have a lot of work to do. Is there something you need from me?”
He stroked one of the candlesticks. “You, my dear. Very simply put. You. Tell me, Anna, have you been rendered? It's past time if it hasn't happened. After all, you're well past the age of marriage. It seems a girl as pretty as you should've gone through the ritual already. But if you haven't, we can do it now and I'll be sure to write up an official report.”
Rendered. At the sound of the word, a metallic taste filled my mouth. The purity test administered by the men in the Patriot Party to every young woman old enough to marry wasn’t something I wanted this jerk to perform on me. “I've gone through the procedure and was found to be whole.” It was a lie, but if I said anything else, he'd have me flat on the desk and my skirts up checking for himself.
“Oh, well then,” he said, shifting his weight toward me, “I know it's important to keep you wholesome. I can do that. We can play and I can keep you intact.” His fingers ran up my arm. “Would you like that?”
It was rumored that he tortured the prisoners—that in his office sat a cabinet full of knives and whips. I didn't need to give him a reason to put me in that place and do whatever he wished to me. Here, I was safe. Or, safer than I would be locked up.
“I…I must save myself.”
He laughed. “Come now, you can still save yourself. As I said, there are ways to keep you intact.” He stopped and then added, “I know you've been stealing from me.”
“I don't know what you mean.”
“You've been taking a rabbit here and there home with you. I don't blame you. People are hungry. But when you take, you must give.”
He dropped the candlesticks and pulled up my skirt. His fingers brushed my thighs, their touch rough and unkind. He felt the round curve of my buttocks, squeezing the flesh. His brazenness stunned me so much that I didn’t think to protest. Until I felt his mouth on mine. I pushed him away, but he held fast.
So I bit him.
He released his grip on me. His hand flew to his mouth, where he wiped away a streak of blood. He regarded me hesitantly. Then he said, “A little spitfire, aye? I enjoy spice in my women.”
He reached out. There was no way I was going to let this animal touch me. I cocked my leg back to knee him in the groin.
A knock on the door. “Master, are you in there?” Richmond, the butler.
He paused. “No.”
It was all I needed. With the surprise interruption, I grabbed the candlesticks and made for the door. “I must take these to Mrs. Sims.”
I opened it to find Richmond. He gave me a knowing nod that told me he'
I decided then and there that no matter how good the money, my time with the colonel was finished. I tightened my grip around the candlesticks and proceeded to take them to Mrs. Sims. After that, I would check the traps for rabbits, because if there was anything I deserved from the bastard, it was a good meal.
I had set five snares on the land behind the mansion. The tract normally yielded a good catch as the twenty thousand or so acres used to be a national forest. But that was when the state controlled the region, before the Patriot Party declared that all lands belonged to them. Still, the area delivered good food, my main concern. With some luck, all the traps would be full. It would be a nice going-away present from the colonel. That thought made me smile.
I knew the terrain well—back-of-the-hand well. My family's parcel of property sat only a half mile away, so I'd been exploring the woods for years and knew every rock and crag that quickly sprouted up. It didn’t take long for that to happen, either. About five minutes into walking and the trail and I reached a bluff. I walked the ledge until I came to a sharp divide in the rocks. It was built like a small ravine into the stone. I sat down, wedging myself between the two peaks. I'd slid down it a thousand times, but this time, probably because the encounter with Mann had distracted me, I forgot to tuck the fabric of my dress under my arm. The hem snagged and ripped, creating a long gash up my thigh.
AMY BOYLES SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Southern KarmaQuit Your Witchin' (Bless Your Witch Book 4)Southern MythsSouthern Magic (Sweet Tea Witch Mysteries Book 1)Southern CursesSouthern Fried Witchmasbless your witch 09 - southern witchingHold Your Witches
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