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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1. The desert beyond.

Anuru woke to the sound of the morning bell. She sat up, still in the space between dreaming and waking, with the sound still ringing harshly in her ears. She rubbed her eyes, the world around her becoming clearer and clearer. Realisation rushed over her as she suddenly remembered what day it is. She sunk under the covers not wanting to face the day, the sounds of her family carrying out their usual morning routines floating in from the other room.

The sound of clattering pushed it's way into her mind, Mother must be making breakfast. Muffled thuds and tired mumblings drifted in as her brothers, Kazak and Tyrik got out of bed.

"Mother, is Father still home?" she asked sleepily.

"No, he left for the mines at dawn bell. Sorry Nuru, were you expecting him to attend your ranking?"

"No, no - it's okay."

Anuru sank even further under the covers, she was sad that Father was gone but in a way she was relieved. If she got a bad rank he wouldn't have to witness her bring shame on the family.

That was how it worked in Aronath, you went to school, studied hard, performed well and when you were 13 you recieved your rank. A good rank, such as an A or B would ensure your families future - you could get work as a lawyer or even an apprentice for the governers. You and your family would live comfortably.

But Anuru didn't get on well with school, she could expect an F rank if she was lucky. She might become a messenger or store clerk. At least she was safe from the dreaded K rank. Noone with a K could expect to find work anywhere, they would starve.

Anuru was glad to have her brothers to fall back on, they were smart, they could make it in Aronath. She could hear them now, in the kitchen with Mother, arguing over something. Anuru smiled and managed to relax a little.

In the kitchen Mother was standing over a pot containing a suspicous looking mixture.

"Breakfast?" Anuru asked.

"Yes, Nuru. It's looking a little burnt don't you think?"

"I'm not hungry anyway." Anuru sighed as she walked over to the window.

"Nuru, I know there's a lot of pressure on you right now but it's going to be fine. Father will be proud of how brave you're being..." but Anuru wasn't listening she was gazing out the window, out into the grey, blank streets. She always wondered how they were kept so spotless. The only colour in sight was bright orange desert plains beyond the city wall.

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