Prologue

The sky had never been more blue. The grass swayed softy in the late summer's breath, shifting shade beneath the traveling clouds. Hills of green rolled and knolled the land about them, and the sea, a few miles off, left a faint, salted moisture on the air.

Aphrah and her daughter waded shin-deep in a shallow pool set in the side of one of the hills, a sod- and- stucco town rising in the distance. The katniss and water potatoes were prime for pulling.

"Mom, it's-"

Suri tugged harder at the smooth leaves, but the roots held fast beneath the water.

"Don't just pull," Aphrah taught, grabbing the base of a potato stem. "Wiggle it a bit, so the dirt loosens."

"Oh, I got it."

Suri looked up from the water and at her mother with a satisfied smile. Something behind the elder woman caught her eye.

"Mom?"

"Yes?"

The sun caused a halo of red-brunette around Aphrah's head.

"There's someone by the fence."

The white- picket slabs that surrounded the entirety of the hilltop town and its territories sat at its border just behind them, maybe three metres off. A black-suited man with a black hat and a black tie stood with one gentle hand on a slab.

"Good morrow, sir!" Aphrah called, looking to him and stepping out of the pond.

"Good morning, miss," the man said, not removing his dark gaze from her face nor his slight smile from his lips.

"Can we help you?"

"I have a message for a Creator here, from my own," he said, articulating every consonant with great distinction.

Suri stepped out of the water, setting down the bag of tubers she'd collected so far.

"Another Creator?" she murmured, suspicious.

"Another Creator?!" Aphrah gasped, hands to her mouth.

The man gave one solemn nod and began reaching to the inside pocket of his black suit.

"Mom," Suri said, stepping closer to her mother.

The man brought out a white slip of paper and handed it to Aphrah, who took it gingerly, like a priceless relic. Truly, it might've been.

"I haven't heard from another Creator since the Last World War," Aphrah said with disbelief.

"Who is your Creator?" Suri asked, eyeing the note.

The man watched Aphrah as she unfolded it, as if waiting for her reaction. Suri looked over her mother's shoulder.

Upon the white parchment, in leaking, black letters freshly written:

DIE.