Rebel Spring Page 1


Death cast a long shadow across the barren miles of Paelsia. The news of Chief Basilius’s murder spread swiftly, and villages throughout the land fell into a deep mourning. They grieved a great man—a sorcerer who could touch magic and whom many in this land with no official religion thought of as a living god.

“What will we do without him?” was a constant cry in the days and weeks that followed. “We are lost!”

“Honestly,” Lysandra grumbled to her older brother, Gregor, as they snuck out of their family’s cottage at twilight. “He never showed any true magic. It was all just talk! It’s like they forget he taxed us all to death. The chief was a liar and a thief who lived high and mighty at his compound, sucking back wine and food while the rest of us starved!”

“Hush,” Gregor warned, but he was laughing. “You speak your mind far too much, little Lys.”

“I’m sure you have a point.”

“It’ll get you in trouble some day.”

“I can handle trouble.” Lysandra aimed her arrow at the target on a tree twenty paces away and let go. She hit the very center. Pride warmed her on this cool evening and she glanced at her brother for his reaction.

“Nice shot.” His grin widened and he nudged her aside to take his turn. “However, this will be nicer.”

Easily, he split her arrow in two. She couldn’t help but be impressed. They’d been practicing like this for months in secret. She’d had to beg her brother to share his knowledge of archery, but he finally relented. It was unusual for a girl to be taught how to use weapons. Most believed girls were meant to cook and clean and look after the men.

Which was ridiculous. Especially since Lysandra was a natural at this.

“Do you think they’ll be back?” she asked Gregor quietly, scanning the small village nearby, the thatched roofs, the mud and stone exteriors. Smoke wafted from the chimneys of many of the small homes.

His jaw tensed. “I don’t know.”

A week ago, important-looking representatives of the conqueror, King Gaius, visited their village, asking for volunteers to go east and begin work on a road the king wanted quickly built, one that would snake not only through Paelsia, but through the neighboring lands of Auranos and Limeros as well.

Gregor and their father had been chosen to greet the men, and the pair had stood up to the bright smiles and smooth words without allowing themselves to be intimidated or swayed. The village had declined the offer.

The King of Blood thought he now ruled them. But he was sorely mistaken. They might be poor, but they were proud. No one had the right to tell them what to do.

King Gaius’s men had left without argument.

“Idiot Basilius,” Lysandra mumbled. “He may have trusted the king, but we’re smart enough not to. Basilius deserved to be skewered. It was only a matter of time. Makes me sick to my stomach that he’d be such a fool.” Her next arrow flew off course. She needed to work harder on her concentration. “Tell me more about the rebels who plan to stand up against the king.”

“Why do you want to know? Do you want to be the one of the few girls to join their ranks?”

“Maybe I do.”

“Come, little Lys.” Gregor laughed and grabbed her wrist. “There have to be a few rabbits we can find to practice your aim on next. Why waste arrows on trees and breath on silly words? Don’t worry about the rebels. If anyone will soon be joining them in their fight against the king, it’ll be me.”

“Not silly,” she mumbled.

But he did have a point—at least when it came to their target practice. The trees were scarce here anyway. Most of the area was brown and dry with a few small greener areas in which her mother and other women tended vegetable gardens that, each year, yielded fewer and fewer vegetables, but many tears. Her mother had not stopped crying since she’d heard of Basilius’s death.

It wrenched Lysandra’s heart to see her mother so upset, so inconsolable, but she tried to reason with her. “I believe we make our own destinies, every last one of us,” she’d told her mother last night. “Who leads us makes no difference.”

This was met with a sad, weary look of patience. “You’re so naive, daughter. I pray it won’t lead you astray.”

And now her mother prayed to the dead chief about her rulebreaking daughter. This wasn’t unexpected. Lysandra had always caused her mother grief by not being an acceptable daughter who did acceptable things. Lysandra was accustomed to not fitting in with her friends, who couldn’t understand her fascination with making arrows until she got blisters on her fingers or staying outside until her nose burned so red it practically glowed in the dark.

Gregor put his arm out to halt Lysandra’s steps.

“What?” she asked.


They were less than a mile from the village. Before them was a small clearing, barren of any vegetation at all. It was surrounded by dry bushes and leafless trees. An old woman, one Lysandra recognized as Talia, the eldest in their village, stood in the middle of the clearing. The carcass of a red fox lay in front of her. The woman had drained the blood from the animal into a wooden cup. With this blood, she drew symbols on the parched, cracked earth with the tip of her finger.

Lysandra had never seen anything like it in her life. “What’s Talia doing? What’s she drawing?”

“Four symbols,” Gregor said, his voice hushed. “Do you know what they are?”