This is the first chapter of my new urban fantasy series Paragons.

♣  Want to see all the sample chapters? Check out the Table of Contents.

Paragons 1.1.1

Book 1  ♣  Episode 1  ♣  Chapter 1

The soldiers of Gaia’s Army arrive in Bayshore for the Choosing. Chapter 1 of the Paragons episode The Invisible Stranger.

Chapter 1: The Choosing

The soldiers of Gaia’s Army had another name, a name widely known but rarely spoken: the Watchers. Because they were always watching us.

The sun was just scraping the horizon when the armada of armored SUVs came to a roaring stop in the town square. The doors popped open all at once, and big, mean men in big, black body armor jumped out. They wore helmets that completely masked the humanity in their eyes. Assuming they even had any humanity left in them.

No one ran. And no one screamed. In fact, when the Watchers rounded up every sixteen-year-old in town and threw us at the General’s feet, people cheered.

Like every year, the whole town had shown up to bear witness to the Choosing.

“Dante Winters.” The General’s voice was sharp, serrated. Just like his face.

My heart squeezed deeper into my chest. They’d chosen my brother. I lifted my head to steal a quick glance. Dante’s eyes—one amber, one blue—met mine, and he winked.

Two soldiers pulled him to his feet and shoved him into one of the boxy black SUVs.

Thump. Thump. Thump. The General marched back down the line of teenagers who were kneeling in front of him, heads down. His frown hardened when he caught me peeking.

I quickly dipped my gaze again. Everyone knew the General was the most unpleasant man on the planet. It was mentioned nearly every day in the news broadcasts. Of course the General knew about it, but he clearly didn’t mind. In fact, he seemed to wear the title as a badge of honor—and he always tried his hardest to be worthy of that honor. People called him ‘the Iron Wolf’, and I could see why.

A pair of spotless black boots clicked to a halt in front of me. The sharp scent of aftershave hung heavy in the air, singeing my nose.

“What is your name, girl?” The General’s words sliced more than they snapped.

Razor-sharp gravel was cutting into my palms and knees, but I kept both hands and legs firmly planted to the ground. “Savannah Winters.”

The General’s eyes narrowed when I dared to meet his gaze. Then he glanced down at the bulky tablet he held in his hands and declared, “You are not on the list.”

No big surprise there. Of course the Government would never choose me; they would never make someone like me a Knight. Magic was way too precious to waste on people they couldn’t control.

“Nevada Rey.” The General looked down on the cluster of teenagers kneeling at his feet, waiting.

Slowly, keeping her head down, my best friend Nevada lifted her hand in the air. Her long, delicate fingers shook slightly, like wildflowers trembling in the wind.

The General watched his soldiers usher her into an SUV, his lips slightly parted. He looked almost startled by Nevada’s appearance, like he couldn’t imagine that the Government had chosen such a gangly girl to be a Knight.

“That is all,” the General rumbled, like thunder. Then he turned sharply on his heel and disappeared into the biggest, boxiest, ugliest SUV of them all.

The crowd waited in the town square—silent, as motionless as a forest after an ice storm—until the armada had driven away. Then, suddenly, everyone was moving and talking at once. Into each other. Over each other. Through each other.

My classmates peeled themselves off the ground. Some were crying. Others were screaming. Most moved aimlessly, their heads dangling in defeat, their shoulders slouched, crushed beneath the heavy weight of their fate being sealed.

They hadn’t been chosen.

Every year on the first of January, the Government rounded up thirty sixteen-year-olds—and only thirty—from towns all around the world, and they chained these Chosen to the Spirit Trees.

The Blending was the spirits’ gift to humanity. Because when the ceremony was over, when the chains came off and those thirty teenagers rose to their feet, they weren’t fragile human beings anymore. They were something else. Something magical. Something supernatural. They were the champions who would save the world and beat the Curse.

Every teenager dreamt of the day they would be chosen. They spent almost every waking hour of their lives studying, exercising, performing—anything they could do to convince the Government to put them on that elite list. They were determined to be chosen. They had to be chosen. It was the only way out of here.

The only escape from this nightmare.

The only path to a better life.

The only chance they had of ever being anything more than a slave.

So why didn’t I cry with the others when that promise of a better future drove away? And why didn’t I scream?

Well, you see, I didn’t need the Government to choose me. Because I already had magic.

Copyright © Ella Summers

♣  The Knights of Gaia  ♣

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