Home > Red Queen (Red Queen #1)(3)

Red Queen (Red Queen #1)(3)
Author: Victoria Aveyard

“Champions, set your feet.”

They do, digging in their heels on opposite sides of the arena. Guns aren’t allowed in arena fights, so Cantos draws a short, wide sword. I doubt he’ll need it. Samson produces no weapon, his fingers merely twitching by his side.

A low, humming electric tone runs through the arena. I hate this part. The sound vibrates in my teeth, in my bones, pulsing until I think something might shatter. It ends abruptly with a chirping chime. It begins. I exhale.

It looks like a bloodbath right away. Cantos barrels forward like a bull, kicking up sand in his wake. Samson tries to dodge Cantos, using his shoulder to slide around the Silver, but the strongarm is quick. He gets hold of Samson’s leg and tosses him across the arena like he’s made of feathers. The subsequent cheers cover Samson’s roar of pain as he collides with the cement wall, but it’s written in his face. Before he can hope to stand, Cantos is over him, heaving him skyward. He hits the sand in a heap of what can only be broken bones but somehow rises to his feet again.

“Is he a punching bag?” Kilorn laughs. “Let him have it, Cantos!”

Kilorn doesn’t care about an extra loaf of bread or a few more minutes of electricity. That’s not why he cheers. He honestly wants to see blood, Silver blood—silverblood—stain the arena. It doesn’t matter that the blood is everything we aren’t, everything we can’t be, everything we want. He just needs to see it and trick himself into thinking they are truly human, that they can be hurt and defeated. But I know better. Their blood is a threat, a warning, a promise. We are not the same and never will be.

He’s not disappointed. Even the box seats can see the metallic, iridescent liquid dripping from Samson’s mouth. It reflects the summer sun like a watery mirror, painting a river down his neck and into his armor.

This is the true division between Silvers and Reds: the color of our blood. This simple difference somehow makes them stronger, smarter, better than us.

Samson spits, sending a sunburst of silverblood across the arena. Ten yards away, Cantos tightens his grip on his sword, ready to incapacitate Samson and end this.

“Poor fool,” I mutter. It seems Kilorn is right. Nothing but a punching bag.

Cantos pounds through the sand, sword held high, eyes on fire. And then he freezes midstep, his armor clanking with the sudden stop. From the middle of the arena, the bleeding warrior points at Cantos, with a stare to break bone.

Samson flicks his fingers and Cantos walks, perfectly in time with Samson’s movements. His mouth falls open, like he’s gone slow or stupid. Like his mind is gone.

I can’t believe my eyes.

A deathly quiet falls over the arena as we watch, not understanding the scene below us. Even Kilorn has nothing to say.

“A whisper,” I breathe aloud.

Never before have I seen one in the arena—I doubt anyone has. Whispers are rare, dangerous, and powerful, even among the Silvers, even in the capital. The rumors about them vary, but it boils down to something simple and chilling: they can enter your head, read your thoughts, and control your mind. And this is exactly what Samson is doing, having whispered his way past Cantos’s armor and muscle, into his very brain, where there are no defenses.

Cantos raises his sword, hands trembling. He’s trying to fight Samson’s power. But strong as he is, there’s no fighting the enemy in his mind.

Another twist of Samson’s hand and silverblood splashes across the sand as Cantos plunges his sword straight through his armor, into the flesh of his own stomach. Even up in the seats, I can hear the sickening squelch of metal cutting through meat.

As the blood gushes from Cantos, gasps echo across the arena. We’ve never seen so much blood here before.

Blue lights flash to life, bathing the arena floor in a ghostly glow, signaling the end of the match. Silver healers run across the sand, rushing to the fallen Cantos. Silvers aren’t supposed to die here. Silvers are supposed to fight bravely, to flaunt their skills, to put on a good show—but not die. After all, they aren’t Reds.

Officers move faster than I’ve ever seen before. A few are swifts, rushing to and fro in a blur as they herd us out. They don’t want us around if Cantos dies on the sand. Meanwhile, Samson strides from the arena like a titan. His gaze falls on Cantos’s body and I expect him to look apologetic. Instead, his face is blank, emotionless, and so cold. The match was nothing to him. We are nothing to him.

In school, we learned about the world before ours, about the angels and gods that lived in the sky, ruling the earth with kind and loving hands. Some say those are just stories, but I don’t believe that.

The gods rule us still. They have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind.

TWO

Our house is small, even by Stilts standards, but at least we have a view. Before his injury, during one of his army leaves, Dad built the house high so we could see across the river. Even through the haze of summer you can see the cleared pockets of land that were once forest, now logged into oblivion. They look like a disease, but to the north and west, the untouched hills are a calm reminder. There is so much more out there. Beyond us, beyond the Silvers, beyond everything I know.

I climb the ladder up to the house, over worn wood shaped to the hands that ascend and descend every day. From this height I can see a few boats heading upriver, proudly flying their bright flags. Silvers. They’re the only ones rich enough to use private transportation. While they enjoy wheeled transports, pleasure boats, even high-flying airjets, we get nothing more than our own two feet, or a push cycle if we’re lucky.

The boats must be heading to Summerton, the small city that springs to life around the king’s summer residence. Gisa was there today, aiding the seamstress she is apprenticed to. They often go to the market there when the king visits, to sell her wares to the Silver merchants and nobles who follow the royals like ducklings. The palace itself is known as the Hall of the Sun, and it’s supposed to be a marvel, but I’ve never seen it. I don’t know why the royals have a second house, especially since the capital palace is so fine and beautiful. But like all Silvers, they don’t act out of need. They are driven by want. And what they want, they get.

Before I open the door to the usual chaos, I pat the flag fluttering from the porch. Three red stars on yellowed fabric, one for each brother, and room for more. Room for me. Most houses have flags like this, some with black stripes instead of stars in quiet reminder of dead children.

Inside, Mom sweats over the stove, stirring a pot of stew while my father glares at it from his wheelchair. Gisa embroiders at the table, making something beautiful and exquisite and entirely beyond my comprehension.

 

Recommended
» November 9 read online
» The One (The Selection #3) read online
» The Elite (The Selection #2) read online
» The Selection (The Selection #1) read online
» A Court of Thorns and Roses read online
» End of Days (Penryn & the End of Days # read online
» Red Queen (Red Queen #1) read online
» The Fill-In Boyfriend read online
» P.S. I Still Love You(To All the Boys I've read online
» We Were Liars read online
Hot Series
» Surrender Your Love series
» Fixed series
» Beautifully Broken series
» Falling series
» The Arcana Chronicles series
» The Immortals After Dark series
» Stage Dive series
» Ten Tiny Breaths series
» Fallen Star series
» The Coincidence series
» The Secret series
» In the Company of Killers series
Most Popular
» Love, Chloe
» Hawke (Cold Fury Hockey #5)
» A Thousand Boy Kisses
» Wicked Sexy Liar (Wild Seasons #4)
» Beautiful Boss (Beautiful Bastard #4.5)
» Beautiful Burn (The Maddox Brothers #4)
» Endlessly Beautiful (Beautiful #1.3)
» Addicted After All (Addicted #3)
» Thrive (Addicted #2.5)
» Amour Amour