Today's Reading

CHAPTER 1

Paedyn

Thick, hot liquid runs down my arm.

Blood.

Funny, I don't remember the guard nicking me with his sword before my fist connected with his face. Despite being a Flash, he apparently couldn't manage to move faster than my right hook to his jaw.

The smell of soot stings my nose, forcing me to clamp a grimy hand over it to stop a sneeze from slipping out.

'That would be a very pathetic way to get caught.'

When I'm sure that my nose won't alert the Imperials lurking beneath where I'm hiding, I return my hand to the filthy wall my back is currently pressed against with my feet planted opposite me. After taking a deep breath that nearly has me choking on soot, I slowly begin my climb upward once again. With thighs burning almost as much as my nose, I force my body to continue shimmying while stifling the sneeze.

Climbing up a chimney isn't exactly how I thought I would be spending my evening. The small space has me sweating, swallowing my fear before scrambling to the top of the cramped corridor, eager to replace grime-caked walls with a starry night. When my head finally peeks over the top, I greedily gulp down the sticky air, then climb up and over, immediately bombarded with a new concoction of smells far more unpleasant than the stench of soot clinging to my body, my clothes, my hair. Sweat, fish, spices, and I'm quite certain some sort of bodily fluid, blends to create the aroma that surrounds Loot Alley.

Balancing atop the chimney, I strain my eyes on the shadowed roof to inspect my sticky arm. I'd nearly forgotten to examine it without the usual biting pain that accompanies a sword slash to remind me.

I rip off a strip of cloth from the sweaty tank that clings to my body, dabbing at the gash with it.

'Adena's going to kill me for ruining her stitching. Again.'

I'm surprised when I don't feel the familiar twinge of pain as I rub at my arm with the rough fabric, impatiently sopping up the stickiness.

And that's when I smell it.

'Honey.'

The same honey that belongs to the sticky buns oozing out of the many pockets in my ragged vest and dripping down my arm—mistaken for blood. I sigh, rolling my eyes at myself.

It's a welcome surprise, nonetheless. Even honey soaking my clothes beats trying to wash blood out.

I take in a deep breath and look out over the crumbling, run-down buildings cast in shadows by the flickering lampposts dotting the street. There's not much electricity here in the slums, but the king generously spared us a few lampposts. Thanks to the Volts and Scholars using their abilities to create a sustained power grid, I have to work exceptionally hard to stay in the shadows.

Farther from the slums, the more the rows of shops and homes slowly improve in condition and size. Shacks turn into homes, homes turn into mansions, leading up to the most daunting building of all. Squinting through the darkness, I can just barely make out the looming towers of the royal castle and the sloping dome of the Bowl Arena that resides beside it.

My eyes flick back to the wide street stretched out before me, scanning the surrounding sketchy buildings. Loot Alley is the very heart of the slums, pumping crime and trade throughout the city. I trace the dozens of other alleys and streets jutting off from it, getting lost in the maze that is the city before offering a sigh and small smile to the familiar street beneath me.

Home. Sort of. Technically, a home implies that one has a roof over their head.

'But stars are far more fun to stare at than a ceiling.'

I would know, seeing that I used to have a ceiling to stare at every night, back when I had no need for the stars to keep me company.

My traitorous gaze sweeps across the city to where I know my former home lies wedged between Merchant and Elm Streets. Where a happy little family is likely sitting around the dinner table, laughing and discussing their day with one another—I hear a thump, followed by the murmuring of voices that drag me from my bitter thoughts. Straining to hear, I can just make out the muffled, deep voice that belongs to the guard I so kindly relieved of his duties a short while ago.

"—came up right behind me, quiet as a mouse, and then...then the next thing I know, I get a tap on the shoulder and a fist to the face."

A very irritated and very shrill female voice echoes up the chimney. "You're a Flash, for Plague's sake—aren't you supposed to be fast or something?" She takes a deep breath. "Did you at least get a look at his face before you let him rob me? Again?"


...

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Today's Reading

CHAPTER 1

Paedyn

Thick, hot liquid runs down my arm.

Blood.

Funny, I don't remember the guard nicking me with his sword before my fist connected with his face. Despite being a Flash, he apparently couldn't manage to move faster than my right hook to his jaw.

The smell of soot stings my nose, forcing me to clamp a grimy hand over it to stop a sneeze from slipping out.

'That would be a very pathetic way to get caught.'

When I'm sure that my nose won't alert the Imperials lurking beneath where I'm hiding, I return my hand to the filthy wall my back is currently pressed against with my feet planted opposite me. After taking a deep breath that nearly has me choking on soot, I slowly begin my climb upward once again. With thighs burning almost as much as my nose, I force my body to continue shimmying while stifling the sneeze.

Climbing up a chimney isn't exactly how I thought I would be spending my evening. The small space has me sweating, swallowing my fear before scrambling to the top of the cramped corridor, eager to replace grime-caked walls with a starry night. When my head finally peeks over the top, I greedily gulp down the sticky air, then climb up and over, immediately bombarded with a new concoction of smells far more unpleasant than the stench of soot clinging to my body, my clothes, my hair. Sweat, fish, spices, and I'm quite certain some sort of bodily fluid, blends to create the aroma that surrounds Loot Alley.

Balancing atop the chimney, I strain my eyes on the shadowed roof to inspect my sticky arm. I'd nearly forgotten to examine it without the usual biting pain that accompanies a sword slash to remind me.

I rip off a strip of cloth from the sweaty tank that clings to my body, dabbing at the gash with it.

'Adena's going to kill me for ruining her stitching. Again.'

I'm surprised when I don't feel the familiar twinge of pain as I rub at my arm with the rough fabric, impatiently sopping up the stickiness.

And that's when I smell it.

'Honey.'

The same honey that belongs to the sticky buns oozing out of the many pockets in my ragged vest and dripping down my arm—mistaken for blood. I sigh, rolling my eyes at myself.

It's a welcome surprise, nonetheless. Even honey soaking my clothes beats trying to wash blood out.

I take in a deep breath and look out over the crumbling, run-down buildings cast in shadows by the flickering lampposts dotting the street. There's not much electricity here in the slums, but the king generously spared us a few lampposts. Thanks to the Volts and Scholars using their abilities to create a sustained power grid, I have to work exceptionally hard to stay in the shadows.

Farther from the slums, the more the rows of shops and homes slowly improve in condition and size. Shacks turn into homes, homes turn into mansions, leading up to the most daunting building of all. Squinting through the darkness, I can just barely make out the looming towers of the royal castle and the sloping dome of the Bowl Arena that resides beside it.

My eyes flick back to the wide street stretched out before me, scanning the surrounding sketchy buildings. Loot Alley is the very heart of the slums, pumping crime and trade throughout the city. I trace the dozens of other alleys and streets jutting off from it, getting lost in the maze that is the city before offering a sigh and small smile to the familiar street beneath me.

Home. Sort of. Technically, a home implies that one has a roof over their head.

'But stars are far more fun to stare at than a ceiling.'

I would know, seeing that I used to have a ceiling to stare at every night, back when I had no need for the stars to keep me company.

My traitorous gaze sweeps across the city to where I know my former home lies wedged between Merchant and Elm Streets. Where a happy little family is likely sitting around the dinner table, laughing and discussing their day with one another—I hear a thump, followed by the murmuring of voices that drag me from my bitter thoughts. Straining to hear, I can just make out the muffled, deep voice that belongs to the guard I so kindly relieved of his duties a short while ago.

"—came up right behind me, quiet as a mouse, and then...then the next thing I know, I get a tap on the shoulder and a fist to the face."

A very irritated and very shrill female voice echoes up the chimney. "You're a Flash, for Plague's sake—aren't you supposed to be fast or something?" She takes a deep breath. "Did you at least get a look at his face before you let him rob me? Again?"


...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...