The Teenage Laws have been enforced in Agate and teenagers are now citizens without rights. It is forbidden to walk the streets after sundown. Teenage males are training to be soldiers instead of attending normal school. Music with lyrics, singing and public dancing, are all prohibited, and that’s only five of forty new laws.
In a kingdom where shades of blood control human rights, tracking devices and little respect make teenage life an added struggle. Only their passion for music can save them.
Noble is a silver blood, a middle-class Crossbow, who has just begun training to be a teenage solider. He is happy to escape his abusive father but his training school is nothing like the brochure said. There are no hot showers, the dinners are foul, and his bed is as hard as cement.
Elsay, an Indigo-Blood from a high-class family of Blue-Blooded Gems, is dealing with the murder of her father and living with her new family. She struggles to live in a world where laws control daily life. It’s a faraway life from the one she lived running free in the woods with her Leaf friends.
When Elsay meets up with her old friend, Jasbow, who introduces her to Noble, the teenagers follow Elsay’s father’s map which leads to a hidden railway station in the deep forest of the city. It’s the perfect place to be lawless and play illegal music.
The underground kicks into action with Elsay invites her new school friends to join the club and Noble invites the rest of his roommates, all training soldiers who have never heard music with lyrics. They never thought they would want to learn to dance but once the music plays their feet can’t stop.
Just as the teenagers are starting to enjoy a lawless life, Elsay encounters a group of older teenagers hiding in the Tracks. The Outsiders warn Elsay she and her friends must leave. When Elsay refuses, the Outsiders declare a battle of lyrics. Whoever wins, owns the Tracks.
Targeted Age Group:: 11 – 15
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I first started writing Teenage Laws of Agate during my last year of high school. We had watched the movie Swing Kids in my dance class and a rage of inspiration flew inside me. I had a basic idea of the story before seeing the movie, I knew it will be set in a world known as Agate and the wealthy rulers of the land would be Gems, blue blood, and I knew music would be banned and an underground hideaway will save the teens, but I was amazed to discover how types of music was banned during WW2 and I pondered what would happen if modern teens had their ipods taken away. From there the ideas fluttered through my mind and slowly contented together to make sense.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Asking most writers how they came up with their characters is mostly a tricky question as mostly we don’t create them or come up with them, they come to us, sometimes fully formed and dressed, ready to be written into action, others are like a blank page, I may see someone in real life who looks the perfect image of a character, yet I know nothing about them so I fill in the blank details. Mostly they come to me and like meeting a new person for the first time I ask them questions about their life, starting off simple and getting deeper as we go on until I know them inside and out. Some characters are instant, some change over months, some are just there.
This winter I will become a teenager solider. It was decided when the laws broke and the Officials declared shades of blood as a freedom of life thing. Your blood colour means a lot of things, how many rubies you have, where you were raised. It can also tell if you are human or creature.
There are four core shades of blood in Agate: blue for Gems (the high class) silver for Crossbows (the middle class) Red for Ribbons (the rotten class) and brown for Leafs (the forbidden creatures). Our blood is determined by the class of our parents and the district we were raised.
I’m a Silver Blood: a Crossbow, born and raised in the Southern Region of my state, Amethyst as part as a ten thousand rubie payout for Crossbow families to have baby boys to send into the battlefield in case a war came. Fourteen years later, that expected war has arrived.
On the 15th of May this year I tried out for the training guards and made it into a prized training school. It was a chilly afternoon. The sky was inked oyster, the same shade as the bruise on my left cheek from my father’s fist. My fingers were numb from the bite of frosty wind. I kept them dug inside my wool jacket until training session begun, but my jacket was too thin to block the wind. I shivered for two hours in the line-up of try-outs until I made it through the gates and was ordered to change into my swimwear, meaning my underwear.
I was the only try-out who could swim three laps in a subzero swimming pool without coming up for air or freezing to death. I could have done five more laps but the captain pulled me out. He thought I was drowning. I was just getting started.
‘You’re a freak, lad,’ the captain told me. ‘You have the blood of a Crossbow and the lungs of a Red. A freak, there’s no other word to describe you. You’re a freak of nature, in deed. You will be on our team to win.’
The next hour, I was signing a few forms and was told I would be attending boarding school full-time starting the next month.
Being a solider comes at a price. It means leaving everything I believe in, everything I thought I was behind, and moving forward, into the skin and blood of a man I never thought I would become.
They won’t tell me this before I enter the guards, but I know it. Every time I glance at my hands I imagine what they will look like stained with blood. It will be blood in the shades of red and brown from Ribbons and Leafs, but blood is blood. It all comes from the same place: a body that holds a heartbeat and lives some form of life.
I’m trying not to think of this now. If I think too much I will run and running means getting a yellow finch feather placed on my chest: the one symbol that states you can be killed by any class, anytime, anywhere and no one will be punished for your murder.
Besides my books, I’m not sure what I should pack for my journey on becoming this new person. Maybe if Eddy’s was normal school I wouldn’t be sweating my pants over it, but Sir Edson’s isn’t a normal school. It’s a training ground for teenage soldiers. I’m going to be a member of the H.O.G.Gs: Honour Order of Gemstone Guards.
‘Where are you going, Noddy?’ My little sister, Faye runs into my room and throws her twiggy legs on my bed.
‘Just down the road,’ I say. The truth sounds less bitter than it is.
Faye curls her blonde locks the identical colour to mine around her index finger and smiles with a twinkle in her silverly-blue eyes, just like mine. ‘Why are you going down the road, Noddy?’
‘Because,’ I tell her, ‘there’s a new school. You know the one they’re been building for months, Edson’s? All the boys from Ashfield are transferring there. It’s part of a new sporting program. The girls will stay at Ashfield and the boys are going to Eddy’s to learn how to hunt rabbits.’
That sounds right. Hunting rabbits, it’s not a complete lie.
I throw a couple of classic books with deteriorated spines and aged-stained pages in my suitcase. Now the question is should I take my complete set of Graham Wicket or the complete works of Lincoln Forbes?
Both it is.
‘You mean the castle, Noddy?’ Faye asks. ‘The big castle covered in ivy? Are you going to hunt rabbits from the castle because you can see all the rabbits from all the windows?’
‘That’s right,’ I say, trying my best to wear a fake smile that can please a five year old. ‘The castle covered in ivy with all the windows to see the rabbits. That’s where I’m going. You don’t have to worry. I will be home on holidays. We can see each other then, promise.’
‘Oh Noddy,’ Faye leaps into my arms and plants a wet kiss on my cheek that smells like peanut butter and honey. ‘Noddy, you’re going to be a prince. That’s why you’re going to the castle. You’re going to be a prince, Noddy. You’re going to be a prince and wear a diamond crown!’
‘What’s going on in here?’
My father appears in the doorway, whisky glass in hand, sweat and grease coating his mean face.
‘Daddy,’ Faye giggles, ‘Noddy’s going to be a prince.’
I haven’t heard Roger laugh so hard since Harvey knocked my front teeth out with a wood post for trying on Mum’s lipstick. I will get them fixed soon. It’s one of the perks of being a training guard. I’ve read all about it in the brochure. Every student training is entitled to free health care, dental care, board and food. It sounds too good to be true until I remind myself what is to come in the days that follow tomorrow. It’s been haunting me the last five weeks: thoughts of someone taking their last breath in front of me.
When that day comes, I have to remember it’s them who broke the laws, not us. The rumours about Ribbons and Leafs being murdered is rubbish, everyone knows it. They broke the laws. That’s what happens when you break laws, you get punished. They murdered thousands by bombing our capital city and perform forbidden acts of magic. Now they have to pay the price.
‘Noddy a little prince?’ Roger ruffles my hair, although it feels like he’s tearing it out. ‘You be careful, Noddy. You’re going to big school now. You know what’s going to happen, don’t you? They’re going to yank down your pants and see your little prince and see what a girl you are.’
Roger peers in my suitcase and discovers my books taking pride of place on top of my clothes. ‘What’s this rubbish?’ he snaps. ‘You can’t take these.’ My father pulls out my books and stares at the pages of wonder as if it’s something a dog would place on his lawn. Faye is already running to her mum, screaming down the halls that her big brother’s going to be a prince. ‘If any of the other lads see you reading this they’re gonna think you’re some type of – ‘other kind’.’
‘Father,’ I say as calmly as I can. ‘Please, give me my books back.’
Roger raises his hand and wacks me across the face with my golden dictionary Mum gave me for my tenth birthday. It’s hard-cover, too, so it hurts as rough as Roger’s fist do. ‘Don’t talk rubbish to me!’ he bellows. ‘Don’t think you can put on a fancy suit and be tougher than me! You’ll always fight like a ‘Noble girl’. You have no strength to be a soldier. You’re not like your brother. You never will be! You’re a useless mutt. You’re not worth ten thousand rubies, you’re not worth nothing. If I had my time back, I would forget the money and force your mother to abort your pussy face.’
My father’s breath tastes like gin. His spit flows in my lips and I already feel drunk. I want to scream at him and make him beg for mercy. Mostly, I just want him to take back what he said, or at least tell me it doesn’t matter if I don’t resemble the strength of my older brother, Harvey, that I’m fine the way I am and worth every bit of ten thousand rubies.
I can’t do any of these things. Roger sends me out of his house like a stray dog he has had enough of. ‘Better get going now,’ he says. ‘Say goodbye to your sister and get out of my house, you rotten queer. It should have been your brother going into training, not you. If he were here, he would have been the greatest soldier of them all. What will you be? Nothing. You can’t fight. You can’t even hunt a chicken. How are you going to hunt a Leaf? Their feathers will kill you before you have a chance to shoot your bow.’
I match my father’s cavernous eyes and grab my suitcase and leave before he brings up anything else about Harvey. What he really meant to say, was that it should have been me who died, not him. He took up the guts to say it to me five days after Harvey’s funeral but hasn’t said it since, not in those words, just in his eyes.
I think about turning back and saving my books from the fate of Roger’s fury, but I can’t. Edson’s welcome bell is ringing down the road. It can’t be it. No school bell can ring that loud, but it’s Eddy’s. I can see the bell tower hanging over the city.
This is it, the day our nation’s been preparing for years. The laws are changing. There’s no time to be a teenager anymore. I have to go from boy to man with no in-between. I have no reason to be afraid now. I can’t crawl into my nightmares and cry in my sleep while I’m sharing a room with other boys who are no doubt going to be five times bigger than me. Not that I do that.
If I wanted to be sensitive, I could have gone to therapy, or tried crying. I guess this is therapy on its own, isn’t it? The lesson that comes out is to forget and stuck it up. So what if your brother was murdered in front of your eyes. What does it matter? Throw on your soldier uniform and life will move forwards.
That isn’t exactly what the guards said to me, but if they hadn’t been smoking their pipes so much while they took notes on my statement, they would have said it at some point. They placed their hands on my shoulder and handed me a flyer, instead. ‘You should try out, son. It’s an honourable way of remembering your brother, fighting to protect your homeland from filth.’
I’m the only boy who doesn’t have parents hugging and kissing me until I push them away from embarrassment. I have no mother offering to make my bed. No father patting my shoulder and telling me the spontaneous adventures he had at school and how the brotherhood he formed with his schoolmates will be the same as the brotherhood I will form with mine.
I stand in delusion in the centre of the crowded hall smelling of coffee and moth-ball suits, waiting for instructions on what to do. I look over my shoulder and see the only boy like me, standing on his own. He stands to the side, frowning at everyone with a violent expression.
When his olive green eyes look my way I duck my head and turn my eyes to the tesserae floor of white and grey marble, hoping he would walk past. He doesn’t. He walks over and starts with the questions.
Great, now I have to open my mouth and talk.
‘You’re new here, too?’ he asks.
I look around and tell him the obvious. ‘Everyone’s new. You have nothing to worry about.’
‘Yeah – I see,’ the boy says, running his fingers through his chestnut hair. ‘I just don’t know this city well. I’m still wondering if I’m lost.’
‘You’re wearing the school’s uniform already,’ I tell him. ‘You can’t be lost. Don’t worry, I can show you around. Amethyst seems big at first, but it’s a small city once you get used to things.’
The boy looks over his board shoulders, eyeing the crowd like he’s expecting someone to jump on him. He’s not holding a suitcase, just an old sack that appears empty. He’s more than lost – he’s misplaced.
‘I’m Jasbow,’ he says, spinning his focus back to me. ‘Jasbow Robin.’
Jasbow holds out his hand and we shake like grown men.
‘Noble,’ I tell him, ‘Noble Golden.’
A loud whistle sounds through the room. I jump at the piercing sound and glace up at five huge men as they appear on the hall’s stage.
‘Listen up everyone!’ the largest man demands in a husky tone. ‘All family must now say goodbye and let the lads get on with things. As you can see, there are three colours mapped around the hall. Those aged ten to twelve are in the yellow. Those age thirteen to fifteen are in the green, and those aged sixteen onwards are in blue. You are to make your way to your groups and met your head teachers for your year.’
‘How old are you?’ Jasbow asks me.
‘Fourteen,’ I say.
Jasbow nods. ‘Same. Great, we’re in the same group.’
We’re one of the first to escape the milling parents and make it in the hall. The green side is guarded by a beefy captain with a tight grin. He frowns at us when we walk over and runs his finger down his list.
‘Name,’ he says.
‘Noble,’ I say, my voice shaking, ‘Noble Golden.’
The captain laughs. ‘Noble Golden, what’s that supposed to mean? You don’t think you’re some type of upper-strength already, do you? Noble Golden is a pretentious name and from the looks of you, I’ll say you’re talking yourself up.’
I shrug. His insults don’t mean much. When you’re been treated like crap your whole life like it has to be a big insult to make a profound effect on you.
‘What about you?’ the captain asks Jasbow.
‘Jasbow,’ Jasbow says. ‘Jasbow Robin.’
The guard runs his finger down his list. ‘Jasbow Robin, a name rarer than golden-bean coffee. Well, Jasbow me lad, don’t see your name on here. We got plenty of Jaspers but not a single Jasbow. Don’t matter. I will put you down, seeing as you’re all set for the part. I will push that Leaf associated surname aside and judge you on the strength of your shoulders and that silver blood I see leaking from your lip.’
The hall gets packed in the next five minutes, older boys, younger boys, some tall, some short, some wide, some built like surfboards, some built like whales. We all have one thing in common: we’re all some class of silver blood, staring around the place with wide eyes like we can’t believe we’re out of a school with torn walls and broken windows.
The size of the hall is enough to impress us. It’s daunting, knowing this is only one tenth of our new school. We still have a vast ream of a kingdom outside waiting for us to take over its untouched walls: Tall, stone buildings and bell towers, mountains of steps to walk to an endless map of classes.
When the hall gets filled and every student has a blue, green or yellow tag wrapped around their arm, we are ordered to sit and wait. We bunch up on the freshly tarnished floor, knee to knee, shoulder to shoulder. The older students wearing the blue tags sit on bleaches. The rest of us get treated like toddlers and get bad doses of pins and needles as we sit, cross-legged on the rigid floor.
The captains sit around the hall on white velvet chairs. I can’t take my eyes of them, taking in every detail of their guns and badges. They wear the Agate flag proudly on their chest, along with several other badges I don’t know the meaning of.
‘Welcome, welcome,’ a loud voice rings.
I turn my eyes to the stage in front of the hall where the largest man I have ever seen is standing with his eyes searching over the crowd. His dark moustache is the same colour as his coal-stained boots.
‘My name is Sir Azurite Munich. I am pleased to say I am your senior captain for this magnificent new school I have helped built with my bare hands. I have blistered my palms and worn my bones, all for the purpose of helping you fine, young men develop yourself into strapping soldiers fit enough to fight for the proudest empire in the universe, your empire. Your ancestors have died to protect your nation, so you are able to stand here this very day and honour the same philosophy of pure blood thinking that has built this empire.’
Sir Azurite holds up his hands the size of a normal person’s face, proudly showcasing his blistered palms and dirt-filled nails. The back of his palms is encased in thick black hair, like a wolf. The rest of his bare skin is the same, coated in manly hair like a wicked beast.
‘Everyone who is in this room today,’ adds Sir Azurite, ‘is a part of profound importance. We Crossbows have blood of steel other than blue, but Crossbows have always been the warm brothers of Topaz’s greatest sons. You are the brothers Topaz has sent for protection of the finest blood. While you train here, you will strengthen your blood and values. Within months, you will make yourself as honourable as any pure, royal blood.
‘You will work side by side as brothers. You will be treated be as brothers. Your bond will strengthen as brothers. Your self-respect will rise above all others. Be proud of yourselves as young men willing to take this challenge. There are no finch feathers on your chest. Therefore, you are solid workers of solid ancestry.’
The hall breaks into rowdy applause. I clap limply, unsure of my new philosophy.
After the thick applause, the Topaz chant rings thick through the hall. After the Nineteen Day our nation’s pride has risen tremendously. We each know the words better than our ABCs. We should, we are taught it before the common first words of Mamma and Papa.
‘Our royal soil of wealth, pure and obtained. Our empire of liberty and home of the fearless. Bless our souls and flood our veins. With pride we stand. With your guidance we live. Under your watchful eye we do not hide. We accept your fate as you choose what is right. When the time comes to fight, you will watch us from dawn to dusk and gift us with bravery and honour.’
The other captains are introduced after the Topaz Vow: Captain Spinel, leader of the juniors, a tall, smiling man with an eye patch on his left eye. General Alexandrite and General Heliodor are the leaders of the sixteen-plus groups. They’re the fittest and strongest.
From their scars around their eyes and thickness of their shoulders, it’s easy to tell they have been in more battles than they can count on their fingers.
Captain Wesley is our leader. He’s a big, beefy man with powered-sugar covering his beard from his lunch of doughnuts. Just our luck we got stuck with the dopey one. It’s too early to tell yet, but I normally have a good sense about people when I first met them. My sense of Wesley isn’t much but a beefy man who pretends to be tougher than he is.
Once introductions and copies of the Teenage Law booklets are handed in our youthful fingers, each groups’ captains lead them out of the hall and across to their staying dorms. This is when it gets massive, not understatement massive, but massive as in this has to be what walking through the royal gardens feels like, massive. I’ve been watching the school be built for the last seven years and never guessed it would finish this vast.
No one was sure what the school was being built for. Some say they always knew there would be a war but admitting to such thing would be admitting to knowing the Nineteenth Day would come and not doing a thing to stop it. I was sure it was a place for officials of some kind, but I never guessed I would be standing here today as part of history. It’s an odd feeling to know in years to come, people will look back on us and might see us as some type of evil murderers.
We walk across an enormous courtyard surrounded by three sets of huge, stone buildings, each flying a colour flag matching the year group the dorm will house besides the flag of our nation, one large diamond with sixteen diamonds tucked inside signifying our nation and sixteen states. On the other side of the buildings is a gigantic sporting field complete with running tracks and different obstacle courses: rope climbing, mud pits and five, enormous rock walls.
‘Move it along, lads!’ Wesley orders as we walk dawdle along the stone path, observing the sights.
The blue teams have the building to the left. The yellow team has the right. We lucky greens are further away from the main buildings, across the sporting field, down a grass track leading into the woods. Our boarding house is a tall, timber shack built of logs covered in moss. I think of the photos in the broaches: fluffy carpet, fireplaces, games room, library, beds with thick blankets, and a kitchen for making sacks out of meal times.
What we get is complete opposite. Captain Wesley stops at the shack and shows us the inside of our new home. There is no carpet in the driftwood shack split into five levels, divided by a set of spiralling wooden stairs made from old wood and rusted blots. There is no television, no games room and no kitchen for making popcorn and hot cocoa. We don’t even have a chair to sit on.
‘Get a move on!’ Wesley says. ‘Break up in groups of four of so and get yourselves a room, unpack your rubbish and met me back here in an hour or so. Gotta go and get lunch, maybe duck in town for a bit. It’s a bit far out here, isn’t it? Didn’t really realise. You South-Siders, I tell you, you’re a tough country bunch, aren’t you?’
Everyone else already has a friend or two they want to bunk with. They don’t have a problem slapping each other high-fives and introducing themselves to friends of friends then running upstairs and letting out a roaring thunder of cruse words when they see our beds have no mattresses or blankets.
Again, there’s no carpet in our room, no heaters, no air-con. It’s nothing anyone expected of a boarding school. It’s not like the photos in the brochure of four-post beds dressed in royal-red velvet, sitting on fluffy white carpet with flat screens and paid channels. It’s like something out of a work camp for Cast-Out Ribbons.
Jasbow and I take a room together as we don’t know anyone else to share with. I recognise some of the guys from Ashfield. Some were in my class, others I’ve seen around. None of them bother to talk to me because we weren’t ‘friends’. I’m the tooth-less guy they punch in the guts as we passed in the hallways.
A tall boy with pale skin, a face of freckles and dark brown hair sticks his head in our room. I don’t recognise him from Ashfield. He must have gone to Smiths, the Crossbow secondary school on the West Side. ‘You guys got a spare bed? Everyone else is full and I don’t know a jack’s arse from another.’
‘Sure,’ I say, still not believing I’m sitting on a bed of solid wood.
‘I’m Digan,’ the boy says, dropping his bags smelling of freshly baked goods on the mattress-less bed by the window. ‘I have a load of bakes to share, muffins and cookies, slices and things. Mum wouldn’t let me go without enough food to feed an army – ha, guess we are an army now, hey?’
‘Go for it,’ Jasbow tells him. ‘The most I’ve had in one room was two hundred. It’s a little airy, hey.’
Digan and I catch each other’s eyes, not sure what Jasbow means by sharing a room with two hundred. We would ask, but we both have no idea what to say. He couldn’t mean two hundred people, could he?
Before we get a chance to munch on Digan’s various selections of cakes and slices, from chocolate pie to vanilla-cherry tart to cupcakes covered in maple icing, Captain Wesley marches into our room with his hands griped on a small boy’s neck.
‘Found some fresh meat for you to play with,’ he says. ‘Boys, this is Marcus. He’s a yellow, as you can see, but turns out we were one place short on our team and the yellows are one place full on their team. Marcus here is the lucky last on the list. He’s going to have to suck it up and learn to play with the big boys. Aren’t you, Marcus?’
The red head boy nods, wiggling his round glasses held together by sticking tape with his little-box nose.
Digan turns to Jasbow as Marcus takes over the last bed.
‘He can’t be serious,’ Digan complains. ‘We can’t share a room with a yellow kid. Look at him. He’s eight years old.’
‘I’m twelve,’ Marcus says, glaring at Digan.
‘There you go,’ Digan adds. ‘He isn’t even a proper teenager yet.’
‘I can hear you,’ Marcus retorts. ‘Case you didn’t notice.’
‘Are you being smart with me?’ Digan says. ‘It sounds like you’re being smart with me.’
Marcus can’t think of anything to say this time. He sticks out his tongue, leaving Digan more upset about sharing a room with a midget red head and two freaks who can’t speak for themselves.
This is it, our pack of four weak, dangling limbs. Take one look at us and it’s easy to see we’re at the bottom of the pack, the low scum of Freshies. Digan and Jasbow could pass as decent and maybe Marcus will grow taller as he ages, but I’m nothing remarkable.
‘Should make myself at home,’ says Jasbow, emptying his rucksack on the bed. There’s nothing inside it except for a pocket knife and an old rabbit skin.
Digan sniffs the rabbit skin and gags. ‘That’s all you got,’ he asks Jasbow, ‘a dead animal and knife? Some people really do have problems, don’t they? I’m scared they will really make us sleep like this. I’ve never slept on a bed with no bed on it. Never slept away from home longer than a week. Not too sure how I will go being away every night. All year, except for holidays and such and maybe when my great aunt Sue passes I will get to go home for the funeral, but there’s a lot days in between, isn’t there?’
‘What do you mean no bed with no bed on it?’ Jasbow laughs. ‘You’re one of those soft city kids, aren’t you?’
Digan shrugs. ‘What are you, some country boy who was born in a barn?’
‘So what if I was born in a barn? Gotta be born somewhere, don’t I?’
Digan shrugs and opens up his cake tins. He lets each of us have what we want, which is a relief as none of us have any other food to eat and none of us Greens can go to the welcome lunch cooking in the courtyard, stakes, onions, sausages, and fish curry by the smells of it. Only the blue and yellow teams were invited to attend the feast. Wesley must have forgotten.
About the Author:
A.R Lucas has been writing since she was 13, before then she was a massive daydreamer who never thought about connecting ink and pen together to bring her daydreams to like. She loves staring at the stars at night, her iPod, her two dogs, and collection of books. She lives in a valley on the far south of Canberra, Capital of Australia near an old homestead where she writes tales of Red-Blooded slaves, and near a wonderful lake where she writes the underground tales.
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