New Draft at Post #27
Here it is, just under 1,000 words. Comments, critiques, and criticisms are all welcome.
15-year-old Kal believes that he is a reincarnation of a god, but the only way to prove it is by by completing the Finding. This involves earning a second name from a Patron god, and then searching for the name of his original incarnation. Only then can he master his flame and prove to the monks at the monastery where he was left as a baby that he’s not a nobody. On the other side of the shekel, 14-year-old Nia’s life is boundless in her airship with Senna, the Republican streetrat who took Nia in the day the Republic stole her family forever. Although she is one of the Reborn, Nia doesn’t care about her past incarnations. She only wishes to find her brother. So once a year she takes a day off from flying to wait at the Hall of Names, hoping he will show up for his annual allowance.
While waiting and hoping her brother will show up, bombs rock the city and a cloth covers Nia’s mouth and knocks her unconscious. She awakens, shackled within a camel-drawn wagon bouncing over the dunes outside Uruk. At the same time, Kal’s attempts to steal Nia’s airship but crashes into the ziggurat. After the dust settles, Abgal Zu, the only monk who believes in him, makes a deal with the temple administrator: Abgal Zu will accompany Kal south to Eridu, where he will train at the Lion Temple. After Senna’s airship is repaired, Kal will assist Senna in freeing his sister.
Kal’s training begins by swallowing his pride as Zara, the ten-year-old patron god of Eridu, mocks him for his inability to control his flame. But at least he gets his own lion cub out of the deal. Meanwhile, Nia’s new life of drudgery begins. The prison guards shave her head, apply a tattoo to her neck, and finally lead her to a room lined with chairs full of leather straps, wires, and green, glowing glass bulbs. After a half hour of torture, Nia learns why the Republic kidnapped her: they are using the Reborn as a new energy source by sucking the flame out of them.
After a week of gnawing on rock-hard barley cakes, sweating in a tightly packed cell, and daily torture sessions, the guards lead the prisoners outside for a demonstration. Armod, the Republic’s second-in-control, gives a speech about a future where Shumeria will power the Republic. When he introduces the one responsible for this technology, Nia can’t help but shout the name of her long-lost brother. Meanwhile, Kal makes a discovery of his own. During a trip to the market, he encounters a girl with a Republic tattoo across her neck. Assuming she is a spy for the Republic, Kal attempts to capture her but fails. He decides to keep her discovery a secret as he doesn’t wish to jeopardize Zara cancelling the test to earn his second name at the end of the week.
Despite sleepless nights and unrelenting training, Kal fails his test after he notices the spy in the audience. After chasing her down, he discovers that her name is Aria, an escapee from the House of Ashes. Aria wants nothing more than to get back at the Republic for killing her family. After making a mysterious deal with Abgal Zu, she agrees to accompany Kal, Agbal Zu, and Senna on their quest to rescue Nia, but Nia might not be there by the time they arrive. After fighting against the guards to reach her brother, Nia is tortured twice daily, which begins to unleash her latent power to control the wind. Her brother arranges a secret meeting and explains how he began working with the Republic after their parents were killed, eventually developing the gargantuan weapon known as the Humbaba. All of which he regrets. He promises to break Nia out the next day.
The escape plan fails when Armod’s right-hand man, the Mask, catches wind of her brother’s treachery. Instead of a life with her brother like she always dreamed, Nia watches her brother’s life sucked away by his own creation, converting his flame into a green blast that melts a building-wide hole through a sand dune. Her flame is then sucked out until blackness folds over her eyes, which is when Kal, Senna, Abgal Zu, and Aria burst in. While Kal holds back the Mask, Senna slings his unconscious sister onto his back. They run, but the Mask strikes Abgal Zu down, prompting Kal to defend the only man who ever believed in him. In the end, Aria forces Kal to leave a dead Abgal Zu behind and flee the House of Ashes.
After returning to Uruk, Kal, Zara, and Aria join the Brotherhood, a rebel group with the intention of releasing the Republic’s hold on Shumeria. Using Nia’s newfound intelligence, they plan a counterattack that is obliterated in the face of the Humbaba. Meanwhile, as Senna is flying Nia away to safety, she takes charge of the airship and flies them into the thick of the battle, just as Kal and the others attempt to destroy the Humbaba. A final, disastrous confrontation between the Mask and Kal ends with Kal locked inside the Humbaba to be destroyed just as Nia's brother was. But due to Kal’s enormous flame, he is able to overload the machine, which explodes and brings the Republic army to its knees.
Kal survives and wakes three days later to a festival in honor of those who fell and those who triumphed. He learns the Brotherhood captured Armod alive while the Mask escaped. Zara congratulates both him and Nia, and as a means of rewarding their growth, she bestows upon them second names. They prepare for the award ceremony that night and have their first real conversation together, during which they finally greet each other, having been too busy or too unconscious previously to do so, using their new names for the first time.