The people need Justice, but she’s not listening.
One hundred years before, the Great Sickness reduced the world to three cities. Now the community of Asphodel is trapped underground, waiting for the prophesied maiden of Justice to return and save them from their Fates.
Sixteen-year-old Astrea is supposed to be this savior – too bad for them she isn’t a believer. Trea fights against her false destiny: she rebels against her family and friends, then refuses her arranged marriage to the charming but deceitful Lexan. Learning her life is in danger, Trea is forced to trust Lexan – until she discovers a power she never knew she had, and one he already knew he did.
As betrayal closes every door, Trea decides she must submit to her stars and accept her fate. Then a handsome stranger offers her an unexpected escape and the chance to create her own destiny.
Astrea was asked these questions at the beginning of the book, so she won’t give any spoilers.
1. If you could spend the day with someone you admire (living or dead or imaginary), who would you pick?
I think First Leader Firene could help me understand the prophecy more – why I have all these expectations on me. Even though she died before I was born, I’ve read her published journals, and she just seems so wise. I could never be a leader like that. It’s hard to believe someone like Lexan came from her…even two generations down. I think she would tell me the truth. Not just what I want to hear.
2. What is the most important thing in your life?
I’m supposed to say friends, or family, or leading, right? But it’s not any of that. The thing I want most, the thing I can never seem to have, is independence. Freedom to make my own choices. Find my own destiny. I know a lot of young people feel like they don’t have power over their lives – I just wish it could be different.
3. What is your idea of a good marriage?
My parents have a pretty good partnership. At least, I’ve always thought so. But then Mother told me about how Father wasn’t her first choice. And he still loves her anyways. I guess that’s good. They trust each other. They don’t laugh much together, though. I’d want a partnership with trust and love and fun.
4. What do you consider your strengths?
Everyone says bravery. I guess I’m brave. I see it more as just doing what I think is right, even if it makes someone angry at me. Is that a strength? [Laughs] I guess I’d rather do what’s right than what’s expected. Maybe that’s why Lexan seems so false sometimes – he just wants people to be happy. But sometimes happiness for one person means sorrow for another.
5. What is your biggest fear?
That the prophecy will somehow be true, after all my resistance. And that I won’t be what they need. I won’t be strong enough. I’m not a savior. I’m just me.
6. Where do you live and who do you live with?
I live with just Mother and Father. Most families have two or three children, but my parents only have me. It’s their fault. But I’m not supposed to know about what they did.
Asphodel is all we’ve ever seen. It’s a natural cave, but it’s all built up inside. In the Common Area and other big spaces, the floors and walls and ceilings are rock. But in our homes, everything is covered over to keep the warmth in. The river running under the city helps us with light and water and electricity. We have lots of room for growing food and there used to be animals, a long time ago. When our population got bigger, they couldn’t keep the animals. So I’ve never seen anything besides people and insects.
It’s very advanced and well-planned, actually. In school we learn all about Lakessa and Charles, and how they created this refuge for the people they could save from the Sickness. People thought they were crazy, but they lived, didn’t they?
7. If you could be any animal, what would you be?
Our books have really nice color drawings of all the animals. But I think I’d want to be able to fly. So, any kind of bird, I guess. Like a falcon or an eagle. Could you imagine? Flying anywhere you want, being able to see everything, but get away from it quickly if you needed to? That would be amazing.
Lexan was asked these questions at the end of the book, so there may be a few spoilers in his answers!
1. What was it like growing up underground?
Living underground was normal to me. We had comfortable homes, a busy schedule, and enough food to stay healthy – although there wasn’t a lot of variety. My favorite part as a kid was being so close to everything. There were always kids to play with and things to do.
I never needed or wanted anything different – I was happy as a child. But as I got older, I started to see some of the negative parts of our city. The schedule keeps us so busy we can’t cultivate extra hobbies or passions. The closeness of our homes and shops and social areas means we never have privacy: everything we do is likely seen by someone.
And the more I learned about the outside world and our religion, the more impatient I was to be able to see the world outside. Maybe that’s why I never connected with Trea about our Choosing Day – I was so excited to start a new chapter in our lives that I never thought much about the compromises she had to make.
2. Do you ever resent your destiny?
I think Trea and I will make good partners. I think she has all the fortitude and power she needs inside of her already – she just needs to learn how to believe in herself.
But there are other parts of the prophecy that she doesn’t know about yet. Sacrifices I have to make for her. Sacrifices she has to make for everyone. And yes, I do resent those very much. I know that leaders have to give up a lot to help their people, but what she’ll be asked to do just isn’t fair. Her sacrifice, and mine, will overturn the scales of balance.
3. What is your favorite thing about Trea?
She doesn’t back down. She calls people out. It’s infuriating, but I know it’s her inner sense of justice. But that’s what confuses me about Stian – she never calls him out on the things he’s done. How can she see so much and still be blind?
Sorry, that’s not much of an answer. I guess what I love about Trea is the person she’s turning into. Trea has so much potential. She just needs to learn to believe in herself the way others do. The way I do.
4. What is the most important thing you learned in school?
The things I thought were important have turned out not to be – like our supposed history. Lies. And the things I wasn’t worried about now seem so vital. Like our short book lessons on starting fires and solar energy and plants and animals and weather. Weather! There’s no weather in a cave. I had no idea how to keep my feet dry, or how to keep from getting sunburned. The people of Asphodel are so unprepared for life outside.
5. What is your favorite food?
I’ve always loved golden apples – they’re so sweet and crunchy. But I have to admit, my new favorite is Madna’s bacon! We don’t have any animals in Asphodel, so I had never tried meat. The deer and rabbit were all right, but that bacon was pure happiness. I could eat it for every meal. [Laughs]
6. What was it like to go outside for the first time?
Almost indescribable. It lived up to every dream I had. The night sky was mesmerizing. I thought that once Trea saw the stars, the moon, and the sun, she would believe. But she didn’t.
Sorry, that was off topic. Outside is so different, I hardly know where to start. There are so many colors – shades of blue and green and brown, plus all the bright colors in the flowers and animals. The smells are almost overwhelming – especially after it rains. Everything is such a constant contrast. Nights are cool. Days are warm. Rain and sun make the air feel different. In the cave, everything was the same. All the time.
7. Do you believe in astrology? Or do you think that people make their own destiny?
This is complicated. Of course, as a trained minister, I absolutely believe in the astrology and prophecies of our people. But I ‘ve also seen people make choices that try to go against their personal star charts, or that try to preempt the prophecies. I think that there is a balance between human free will and the horoscope and prophecy. I think we can make our own destiny to an extent, but certain major personality traits and events in our lives are set, and we can’t change those even if we try.
I hang back from the other girls, but the shopkeeper has been watching me as I run my fingers along each dress, reluctant to commit any to the changing room. I’m hesitant to see my plain reflection next to Isa’s curves and Garna’s elegance. She waves everyone away and takes my shoulders gently.
“Let me find your dress. You should look like the star, shooting from heaven,” she tells me quietly, kindly, her eyes lingering on my diamonds. Her subtle admiration gives me pause – in the midst of all my preparation for the worst, I have failed to remember the hope my Choosing Day means for the people of Asphodel.
We are an underground people. People who worship the sun, moon, and stars, yet have never seen such things ourselves. My partnership with Lexan allows the prophecy to begin. The star-bright maiden and her scales of justice.
I am – without asking, without wanting – a savior of Asphodel.
The impending reality of this thought sends me to my knees on the floor of the small changing room. I never wanted this. I’m not even seventeen. I can’t run a city…I can’t even manage my own small life. How can they expect this of me?
Then I realize that this is precisely why Keirna is angry – in her mind, we do not need a child savior. Surely there are others who feel this way as well, some who are certain Asphodel does not need a revolution, no matter what the ancient prophecy requires.
A knock on the door. A bundle of red fabric passed hand over hand. A click of the latch. And I’m alone with my destiny.
I open the door and peek out, shy but strangely proud. Several girls are grouped at the edge of the mirror, chatting and giggling. Isa sees my face first.
“Well, come on out, silly! I want to see you in that dress!”
Hesitantly, I open the door a bit further. Isa’s enormous smile lends me the courage I need to emerge, and the girls’ squeals and spontaneous claps prompt me to look in the mirror.
The dress is exquisite. Brilliant veins of orange and red flow around me, catching the true fiery pigments of my hair. The light fabric envelops my body, showing off muscles I have recently developed and curves I never knew existed. A lower skirt of ash gray, sewn with thousands of tiny crystals, swirls beneath the ribbons of sheer red fabric, sparkling in competition with the diamonds in my cheek and lighting up my dark gray eyes. The neckline is low enough to cause me embarrassment, and the back dips as well, held in place by a dozen thin strands of crystal.
I am...beautiful, somehow. I was made for this dress.
I look powerful. Vivacious. I could twirl and combust and consume everyone if I desired.
Lexan's Pledge [A Starbright Secrets Novella]
Author's Note: this is not a full-length sequel to Justice Buried. It is a short novella telling Lexan's side of the story!
There will come three…
A child of peace, born in a place of war.
A child of right, born in a place of many wrongs.
A child of lawfulness, born in a place with no laws.
The secrets of Asphodel continue to spill as Lexan tells his side of the story. Lexan has been pretending for so long that he barely remembers why. All he knows is that it’s getting harder to be the image of perfection that everyone expects. With Keirna plotting murder, Saloman having visions, and Trea throwing tantrums, Lexan just might be ready to risk his world for the chance at a better one. Available now on Amazon!
About the Author
Hilary Thompson is an independently-published author who released her debut Young Adult novel, Justice Buried, in January, 2014. Justice Buried is the first in a dystopian fantasy series incorporating mythology and astrology, with the second full-length title due later in 2014.
She also teaches high school English, which gives her some insight into her target audience, and helps her maintain a thick skin.