Young Natalie Raven has lived a life of loveless, fatherless bliss. One day, her world is turned upside down when she's ordered to be whipped at the hands of Valentine Raven, her own father, after her mother's death. How will she defend herself now? And who's been hiding her linage from her? Natalie will have to turn her outlook on life around on this quest to find out who she really is.
Pain burned inside my body as I walked the crowded streets of Istas, inhaling the cigarette smoke that hung thick in the air. My home is a place of cheap business, Warrior training for royal guards, worship for Gods and Goddesses and a stranger to me now. Inside, my heart ached and I felt nothing. I may as well be a specter going along with the invisible flow that binds me to this plain; because right now, I’ve lost nearly everything. I used to have this vision in my mind that my mother and I would grow old together and we’d die peacefully in our sleep. Only, she didn’t grow old with me. I was still seventeen and she was still thirty. She died peacefully in her sleep, after being put through the seven levels of hell for at least a month. The Council, Vice Council and Committee wouldn’t let me stay in our home. So, instead, they had Warriors hold me down while Valentine burned my house to the ground.
My mommy always told me that after her death, everything was going to be okay. Not worry about where she was or what would happen next. But she was wrong; even she couldn’t prepare me for this period in my life. I know that in seventy years, I’ll look back and think about how much of an adolescent and over-reactive teenager I’m being. But, seventy years didn’t matter at this very moment in time. Nothing’s okay, my mother lied. I want to train like a Warrior, maybe even exact my initial revenge on the Council, Vice Council and Committee. They should suffer the way I did. They don’t even know what it’s like to lose family, simply because they’ve never lost anything precious to them.
But, never mind all that. My life revolves around much more than bloodshed and violence; believe it or not. It’s revolved around being able to defend myself from those who reinforce the laws set by the High Council of Calista. I know, my life’s already planned out for me to the very last detail by my mother and father, but it’s time for a change of scenery. It’s not like I’m going to go wild and terrorize the townspeople. All I had to do was get to the Academy. For going-to-be-Warriors, the Academy was a haven; or at least, in my eyes it was.
“Natalie! Natalie, wait!” I heard someone call from behind me. I didn’t have time to brace myself for the impact before the person rammed into my fresh wounds from the whipping. I bit my lip in agony against the sheering burn that quickly flooded my body. “Oh Goddess,” the person squeaked, jumping away from me. “I’m so sorry, Natalie! Oh fuck, what am I going to do if you’re not okay?” I straightened myself out, fighting against my now protesting body. Pain is weakness, a voice in my mind growled at me.
“Well, shit, Natalie, you don’t seem like the type to go running off to walk down Misery Lane,” the person said. It took me a moment to realize who it was, Danni Dawn; partner in crime and long-time best friend. “I could see that that slave of your daddy’s didn’t want to hurt you, you know. But he did hit you hard. Can I look at the cuts, or should I just shut up?”
In a time like this, there was only one person that could even hope to brighten the ever darkening world of Natalie Raven; that one person was her. “He did hit me hard, idiot, and I think you just made it worse,” I grumbled. “How did you find me anyways?” I asked her.
“I followed your blood trail,” she replied cheerfully. It’s not like she intends to be happy about this situation we’re in, but it’s just how she talks. Valentine Raven, the head of the Council of Istas and professional dictator of civilization. Danni and I believe that one day, he’ll be the death of my city. She blames him for the death of my mother. I blame him for my birth. Because of Valentine, I lost almost everything that I held close. He was the one man that would always steal my mother’s head. Of course, I saw him a lot, but I never addressed him as “Daddy,” or “Father.” In return, all I was to him was “Raven.”
The city of Istas among a lot of things is no place to raise a child. The air was filled with cigarette smoke and the thick smell of fire. The sidewalks were always littered in splattered blood and ashes of the dead or burned houses. Danni and I were launched into an uncomfortable silence that was awkward for the both of us. My thought took over reality, as I stared blankly at the descending sun. I watched it slowly sink into the horizon, saying its good-bye’s to Istas. “Isn’t Valentine your father?” Danni asked, breaking our silence. I couldn’t blame her for asking, I mean, it’s not like as go around screaming it to the world. It’s not like Valentine wants to be associated directly with seventeen-year-old law breaker, Natalie Raven.
I glared at the stone sidewalk beneath me, feeling the out of place rocks stab at the soles of my bare feet. “Yes, Danni, he is my father. Among other things, he’s a traitor and a backstabber who never gave a damn about me, his own daughter. He only spent time with me because he had to, not because he wanted to. He’d come home only to eat her wonderful cooking, have sex with her and ‘relax.’ Never to see me,” I let Danni have a mere glimpse of everything I was feeling inside. All the years of only wanting my father to love me, all those years of only wanting him to notice me as his own and not some kind of mistake like I knew I was. All those years; they were all wasted time. “He only called me ‘Raven,’ never ‘Natalie.’ I wasn’t even worthy enough to have a name in his eyes.”
Danni fell silent once more, probably thinking I was the off-spring of a devil. Now knowing why we never had sleepovers at my beautiful home in the hills. Also why realizing why I wanted to hang out in the slums and middle-class neighborhood with her. I could never really tell what Danni was thinking with that over-reactive imagination I’ve come to love over an extremely long period of time.