Read Ascension Online

Authors: Hannah Youngwirth

Tags: #Romance, #Adventure, #ascension, #Middle Ages, #hannah, #distopia, #ahrenia, #cethin, #croxley, #fara

Ascension

 

 

Hannah
Youngwirth

[email protected]

Ascension

Summary:

Imagine that, suddenly, everything
was taken away from you. Your home, your belongings, even the sun.
Sent to live underground, you have to toil away in the mines for
hours, the monotony of your efforts interrupted only by a sharp
bark of a guard, a crack of a whip, or the drip of water from the
dark ceiling above. Your food is as tasteless as it is colorless,
but you eat to survive. Everything you do is to survive.
Eventually, you have children, who grow up and learn how to survive
themselves, long enough to have children of their own, who they
then teach to survive. And with each generation, knowledge of the
sun, trees, and fresh air, become bedtime stories told to help the
children go to bed.

Sometimes,
you

ll find
that you

ve
been graced with a special talent. You are smarter than those
around you, you have the voice of an angel, you

re more beautiful than most. Try
as you might to hide them, eventually you will inevitably attract
the attention of a guard, and they will send you in for evaluation.
If deemed worthy, you are sent to work the surface as a slave for
the King, trading the cold, damp darkness for the warmth of the
sun, trading your family for a life of slavery, never to return
back to your home.

This is the life
I have been born into, but it

s not the life I am going to
live. Survival is getting harder and harder, and my people are
fading away into the darkness. I will be the one to lead them into
the light.

 

Ascension is a story about
challenges, love, and self-discovery.

 

Chapter
1


You there.
932.

I was walking back from the well,
my bucket dragging on the floor, heavy with water. I stilled after
hearing the guard call my number, a few drips spilling over the
side as the water splashed around in protest to my sudden halt. The
back of my neck burned as the guard held the lantern behind me so
he could read my numbers. Even though I

ve had them since I was a child,
I still woke up in the middle of the night, the memories of the
pain from that day they marked me refusing to leave my mind. I
don

t know if
anyone else had the same nightmares. I

ve always been too afraid to
ask, not wanting to appear any weaker than people already think I
am. We all have our numbers branded on our neck.
It

s something
we

ve all had
to go through. Every man must wear his hair short, and every woman
must wear her hair up so that the guards can identify us with ease.
Down here, under the earth, we aren

t supposed to have names. Down
here, they tell us that Cethin is where the dirt belongs, and
grains of dirt aren

t important enough for names. Instead, they gave us
numbers. Our individualism is a mere whisper when the coast is
clear. The names we choose for ourselves are known only by those
closest to us.

If you work hard enough, you can buy
a real name. The King chooses your name, and with it comes a
colored cloak, stained with colors otherwise not found underground.
The rest of us are consigned to simple, brown tunics. These men and
women are among the leaders of our underground world. Well, as much
as one can lead with the guards watching our every move.

To those that
live above in Ahrenia, we are nothing but scum. Decades ago, after
a great famine scoured the land, all the blame fell upon us, the
marginalized in society. Anyone who didn

t have enough money, anyone who
suffered from illness or handicap, anyone who was not ideal, was a
victim of the King

s wrath. We were told that, if it weren

t for the poverty we created, no
war would be able to fester. They blamed every criminal act, every
failure, every sorrow, on us. And so, in what has become known as
the Great Purge, the rulers decided to send us all down to the
mines, where we would work until the day we died in the darkness,
never again seeing the light of the sun. Sending the strongest of
us ahead to expand the mines, we built an underground village that
was large enough to hold all the rejects of the kingdom.
Collectively, we became known as Nethers, the ground-dwellers, the
scum of the Earth. This was the beginning of
Cethin.

Life on the
surface of Ahrenia has returned to normal, continuing on without
ever looking back to those that were lost. Any hope of a return to
the surface has all but faded. We

ve learned to adapt, living off
groundwater, tubers, and roots. The few things we
can

t grow or
build for ourselves are brought by the guards in order to keep us
alive. Otherwise, they wouldn

t have anyone to do the hard
labor. They would have to find some other way to support their
luxurious lifestyle.

Being
underground, we provide the mineral resources for the wealthy. In
the centuries that we have been down here, the mines have grown
deeper and deeper. Some take days to reach the bottom. Anyone who
causes trouble with the guards is forced to work in the deepest
pits, separated from their family and the few comforts we have left
to us. However, those who follow the rules don

t fare much better. Most of us
are destined to work until death. Those that are special enough,
the strong ones, the talented ones, the beautiful ones, are taken
from Cethin to work above as slaves to the kingdom. Not a single
one has ever come back. To keep us safe from this, our parents
raise us to be lackluster, to blend in, not wanting to condemn
their children to lives of slavery on the surface. But as much as
we try to remain inconspicuous, to disappear in the darkness of the
caves, the guards seek us out and beat us down, treating us like
the filth they believe us to be. Admittedly, living in Cethin
isn

t a far cry
from the life of a slave, but at least we can be slaves among our
family. On the surface, one would be completely
alone.


923!”
The guard
pulled me up by the hair and spun me around. I dropped my bucket on
the ground and lamented all the water that was wasted, now seeping
back into the dirt. The guard grinned in a way that sent my stomach
churning when he saw my face.

Ah, I knew
it was you. My little cave flower has somehow managed to bloom in
this waste heap. How

s about you and me go back to my room, and you can show me
a good time for all the hard work I

ve done here in this hell
hole?


Excuse me, sir.
I must bring this water back to my family.

I kept my eyes down, watching as the last of the water
disappeared into the earth, leaving the ground damp and dark; not
much different than the rest of the soil around it. I looked back
up at the pockmarked face of the guard, who was most likely in his
early twenties. The young ones are the worst. They seem to think
that they have the right to anything or anyone down here,
overly-confident behind the power of their uniforms and the the
sword at their side. The younger guards see us as little more than
ways to amuse themselves in these dark, timeless caves. The older
ones either grow quieter as the years go on, or they grow
meaner.


You speak as
though you have a choice. I wasn

t offering.

Grabbing me by the arm, he began to pull me up the trail
and towards the guard holdings.


Hey, mister! Hey!”
A voice caused the guard to turn around.


What, kid?
Can

t you see
that I

m busy?”
A spindly boy was tugging on the guard

s shirt.


But down in the
mine, there

s a
fight! 359 accused 973 of stealing his load, and then 973 punched
him in the face, and there was a bunch of hollering and fighting
and a pick-axe in the eye,


Damn! Can

t you Nether scum just work like
your supposed to? There

s a reason your down
here!

Muttering curses to himself, he
ran down the trail. When the coast was clear, I turned and looked
down at my rescuer.


Really,
Conor?

I whispered, making sure no
guards caught us using our names.

An axe
in the eye? I think you

re having too much fun with the
stories

I ruffled his dirty blond hair,
and wiped a smudge off his pale face. Without the light of the sun,
we don

t have
much color. There are a few of us that still carry traces of dark
hair and skin, but for the most part, we are unremarkable, fading
into the earth around us.


Well you keep
getting stuck with nasty men! My imagination is pretty good, but
sometimes my storytelling can

t keep up with your
troublemaking!

I realized the irony of
the chastisement I was receiving from a boy little more than half
my age.

I have to mix it up once in a
while! Honestly Faradene, you get yourself in more trouble that any
other girl around here.

I
couldn

t argue
with that. It was true. It seemed like every time I managed to lead
my room, I wound up in some situation. But is isn

t like I go looking for trouble,
I just happen to attract it. I

m what one would call
conspicuous.

Other than the
few glimpses I

ve chanced at the well, I haven

t seen my own reflection. I only
know that my hair is the same dark brown color as the table in my
family

s den,
while my eyes are made up of the same green as the carrot leaves in
our underground garden. These have singled me out from everyone
else

s
mud-brown eyes and dirty blond hair, leaving me in a category on my
own, which only serves to gain unwanted attention. The guards seem
to think that they are entitled to anything they desire, and
apparently I am in high demand. If not for the protection of my
parents, I would have very early on become one among many women
down here taken for the guard

s pleasure.


Then
it

s a good
thing I have you around to rescue me,

I
replied to Conor.

Now go ahead and get
back to your mother. Supper is coming along and she
doesn

t need
anything else to worry about. I

ve got to return to the well and
get more water. I

ll be home soon.

I bent down to
pick up the bucket, sighing at the thought of having to go all the
way back down to the well.

Well, I reminded
myself, at least I

m out. Rarely did I get the chance to leave the
“safety”
of my family

s den, which to me felt more
like a prison, so I greatly appreciated all my small outings, even
though I tended to get myself into trouble every
time.


Just
don’
t take too long! I
don

t want to
have to rescue you again!

With a wink,
he scampered up the trail and down the dark corridor. The lanterns
flickered in his wake, and I turned around to headed back down the
trail.

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