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.


2. The Ranking.

Lights poured onto the dark street below, the city hall appeared to glow compared to the dull square. The red flags of Aronath flew proudly in the sky as trumpet music played joyfully from inside. The hum of people crowding outside grew louder and louder, the cool evening breeze carried a sense of anticipation over the city.

Anuru climbed the steps up to the city hall with her mother and brothers. The stars slowly appeared in the sky; Anuru counted each one to steady her nerves. It took her a while to realize she was shaking. Other 13 year olds were here with their families, all dressed up in their smartest clothes. Anuru could pick out some faces from the crowd. She could see a well dressed girl chatting excitedly with her father, her blonde hair scraped back into a bun - complementing her pristine uniform. Bound to get an A, Anuru thought to herself. Other children were less relaxed, some could hardly control their shaking.

The music stopped and they made their way into the hall, which was beautifully decorated in red and gold. This made Anuru angry, the only time even the slightest bit of colour was allowed was at state affairs like this. A woman dressed in a red uniform directed Anuru to the back of the hall with the other children.

"We're proud of you Nuru." Mother whispered as she squeezed her hand. Anuru lined up with the other children, the ceremony had been well rehearsed and the routine drilled into their heads. Anuru ran over it in her mind, 'Wait for the Chancellor to arrive, march down to the stage, wait for your rank, leave.'

The music started and the velvet stage curtains opened. The Chancellor waved from behind his podium, a fake, icy smile painted on his face. Anuru felt herself walking towards the stage, up the steps, towards the line. She searched the crowd for her mother but the lights were blinding. She heard the Chancellors dull, monotone voice as he spoke to the crowd. She finally came to her senses as she heard read the first rankings.

"Kazia Wells, Rank C." Anuru looked round to see her classmate grinning, C was a decent rank. Anuru was glad for her. As she left Mundo Bunce walked up to the podium, his round face red and flustered. Mundo was probably the laziest, most stupid boy Anuru had ever known, and he hadn't even tried to change that at all. But as he approached the Chancellor, trembling with fear, Anuru couldn't help but feel sorry for him.

"Mundo Bunce, Rank K." the Chancellor boomed. There was a cold laugh in his voice as he said this; his mouth started to curl into a sly, mocking smile. Anuru's heart sank, as much as she pitied Mundo she was relieved that she couldn't expect to get lower than a G. She suddenly regretted all those times she daydreamed through class, but it was too late, she was next.

"Anuru Worth, Rank J."

Rank J! She couldn't believe it. She could feel the heat rushing to her face. She was furious, surely she was above a J. Anuru saw the Chancellor's mocking smile, one she thought was reserved for Mundo. She could feel the Chancellors eyes burning into the back of her head as she walked down the steps into the crowd. Tears formed in her eyes, blurring her vision. She forced a weak smile as she passed her Mother, she could hardly look her in the eye.

She sat at the back, anger brewing like the skies before a desert storm. She sat at the back with the others and shut her eyes. The Chancellors voice faded as she drifted off, only aware of the hard back of her chair digging into her neck. Kazia woke her for the final Rank.

"Anuru, wake up. Do you recognize her? I think she's new." Anuru focused her eyes on the stage. A girl with dark olive skin approached the Chancellor, her dark hair was left to tumble round her shoulders instead of tied up in a neat bun like everyone else. She wasn't wearing the usual Aronath standard grey uniform but a beautiful glittering dress. Gasps came from the crowd, all left speechless at the sight of her dress. The Chancellor was fuming, but quickly regained his composure as he announced her rank.

"Last we have a newcomer to the city, Lalia Melenos. I'm sure you quickly get used to our cities customs, we will have a uniform sent straight to your apartment. Rank J."

Lalia stepped off the stage, looking bewildered.

"Do you reckon she even knows what that means?" asked Kazia, smugly.

"Dunno, but she's in the same boat as me." Anuru said, immedietly turning Kazia's expression from smug to sorry. Anuru turned away, slowly coming to terms with the whole event. She would be sent down the mines, or worse to the factories. She sighed, too tired to cry. Father will sort it out, she thought, he'll fix this whole mistake.









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