Children of the Desert.

All Anuru had ever known was a strict, regimented life, obeying the harsh rules of Aronath. Trapped by the high walls of the citadel, her life was ruled by exams and regulations. That was until she met Lalia.

New to the city, Lalia befriends shy Anuru and opens her eyes to life beyond the strict laws of Aronath. With Anuru's quiet logic and Lalia's free spirit can they escape to the freedom of the desert beyond.

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8. Father's Home.

Anuru sat in her little apartment watching light filtering through the windows. She watched the dust dance through the sunbeams, a pastime which had always amused her, for it had the wonderful affect of taking her mind off whatever was troubling it. Today Father was returning from the mines. She wasn't looking forward to telling him her grade, let alone about her trip to the mines. She wondered why she hadn't seen him the other day but this thought was pushed to the back of her mind by other, heavier thoughts bearing down on her worried mind.

As she watched, hypmotized by the swirling dust she heard familiar footsteps climbing the stairs. As the key turned in the lock the sleepy apartment errupted into a chaos of excitement. Kazak and Tyrik ran up to the front door as Mother tried to straighten the tattered tablecloth. Anuru just sat still, feeling detatched from all that was around her. Father's warm voice boomed through the tiny apartment.

"My children, my children! How have you been?"

"Fine Father, fine. Why did you leave us for so long?" Kazak and Tyrik exclaimed gleefully.

"I'm sorry children, there was a complication down the mines."

"Was it gas? Was it fire?" Kazak and Tyrik cried together, "Is everyone okay?!"

"Everyone's fine. Now go help Mother prepare the lunch. Anuru I want to talk to you."

Anuru's heart sank, she wasn't ready to tell Father. A lump formed in her throat and she was scared to speek for fear of breaking down in tears.

"What's wrong, little one?" Father asked. Anuru just shook her head and turned away. "Don't worry about your rank. Janu told me everything." Father wrestled with various emotions before resolving to keep a brave face for his daughter. "Janu will keep you safe, that you can be sure. Oh, my little child, they had no right to send you down there. It's such a cruel law."

"The dust chokes me and the heat makes me dizzy." said Anuru, finally daring to speak.

"You will become acustomed to it soon. Try not to breathe through your mouth. I'm so sorry. So, so sorry." said Father, his voice faltering.

"I let you down, it's all my fault!" Anuru wailed.

"No,no,no. You must never think that. The system's unjust, there was nothing you could do. Tell me all that's happened since I left, I've missed so much."

Anuru procceeded to tell him about the ranking ceremony, Lalia's little rebellion, the last day of school her new found friends and lastly of Mundo's miserable tale. As she told her story Father's face grew graver and graver.

"This is not right. This is unjust. Tomorrow I must speak to this boy. His name is familiar - Mundo Bunce. Yes I know his father from the mines. "

"Why is it allowed, Father. Why doesn't anyone just help. Surely the Chancellor can't control a whole city." As Anuru said this Mother came and sat beside them.

"Mira," he said to Mother,"it's time she knows." Mother nodded gravely.

"Kazak, Tyrik! Go to the store together, we're all out of butter." Mother exclaimed. She waited till she heard the door click shut before closing the windows anxiously. " Not here, come to the kitchen." she said, looking around nervously. Once they were sat at the tiny kitchen table Father began.

"Anuru, what we are about to tell you must never , ever be repeated to anyone. Do you understand me?" Anuru nodded. "We will tell Kazak and Tyrik when they are ready to know, it maybe that we never tell them, if we feel that that is right."

"30 years ago," Mother explained, "Aronath was abeautiful, happy city. Houses of all colours lined the streets in a higgledy-piggledy way. The streets themselves were crowded with market stalls, street vendors and children playing. Me and your Father were just children then, and we were very happy. The city was ruled by the present Chancellors Father, a kind fair man. He ruled according to the law and his people's happiness. Everyone loved him. When he died the city was thrown into a turmult of greif and sadness."

"When the present Chancellor came to power," Father continued, "He made new laws, harsh unfair taxes and unjust punishments. He spent the people's money, our money on his lavish palace. The people were crushed under his iron fist. The final straw came when he started the rankings. The people couldn't stand it. How dare he judge our children in such a way! And reserve the best jobs for the richest families!" Father was enraged, Anuru had never seen him like this, she was rather scared.

Mother tried to calm him down before carrying on, "So the people decided to rebel, the seiged the palace and refused to work, the Chancellor was under seige for weeks. He waited in his palace until the people were worn out. Then he sent out his armies. The people didn't stand a chance, the destruction was horrific. Whole families were killed. He left just enough people to keep his city running and then burned down everything, save for his palace of course."

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