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The earth dwellers, p.1
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       The Earth Dwellers, p.1

           David Estes
 
The Earth Dwellers


  THE EARTH DWELLERS

  Book Four of the Dwellers Saga

  (AND Book Four of the Country Saga)

  David Estes

  Published by David Estes at Smashwords

  Copyright 2013 David Estes

  Smashwords Edition, License Notes

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  Discover other exciting titles by David Estes available through the author’s official website:

  http://davidestesbooks.blogspot.com

  or through select online retailers.

  Young Adult Novels by David Estes

  The Dwellers Saga:

  Book One—The Moon Dwellers

  Book Two—The Star Dwellers

  Book Three—The Sun Dwellers

  Book Four—The Earth Dwellers

  The Country Saga (A Dwellers Saga sister series):

  Book One—Fire Country

  Book Two—Ice Country

  Book Three—Water & Storm Country

  Book Four—The Earth Dwellers

  The Witching Hour:

  Book One—Brew (Coming January 16, 2014!)

  The Evolution Trilogy:

  Book One—Angel Evolution

  Book Two—Demon Evolution

  Book Three—Archangel Evolution

  Children’s Books by David Estes

  The Adventures of Nikki Powergloves:

  Nikki Powergloves—A Hero Is Born

  Nikki Powergloves and the Power Council

  Nikki Powergloves and the Power Trappers

  Nikki Powergloves and the Great Adventure

  Nikki Powergloves vs. the Power Outlaws (Coming soon!)

  This book is dedicated to each and every blogger

  who has taken a chance on one of my books

  and shared what they thought of it with the world.

  IMPORTANT AUTHOR’S NOTE BEFORE READING

  THE EARTH DWELLERS

  The Earth Dwellers will cap off an eighteen month journey that has taken me from unknown Indie author to still-mostly-unknown fulltime Indie author. The change is a subtle one for most people, but for me it’s a dream come true. To the hundreds (and now maybe even thousands!) of readers who have come along for the ride with me, either by reading the Dwellers Saga, the Country Saga, or both, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  Now down to business. There may be some of you who have only read the three books in the Dwellers Saga or the Country Saga, and are now thinking you’ll read The Earth Dwellers, which is supposedly the 4th book in BOTH the Dwellers Saga and the Country Saga. Well, that’s awesome! However, I must highly recommend that before reading The Earth Dwellers that you read the three books in the Dwellers Saga AND the three books in the Country Saga. Trust me, doing so will greatly enhance your experience, as The Earth Dwellers takes significant characters from both series and crashes them together (yes, like a water country wave) into an action-packed tale of struggle and loss and hope and friendship…and maybe a little love, too ;)

  Anyway, that’s my advice; it’s up to you what to do with it. In any case, thanks for being a part of my own adventure, I’m a better person for having written stories for you!

  Recommended Reading prior to The Earth Dwellers

  The Moon Dwellers

  The Star Dwellers

  The Sun Dwellers

  Fire Country

  Ice Country

  Water & Storm Country

  A Guide to Slang and Terminology from the Country Saga

  Fire Country

  Wooloo- crazy or insane

  Baggard- an insult, use your imagination…Also, what Perry is!

  Tug- a large buffalo-like animal that provides everything from food to clothing to shelter for those who live in the desert

  Smoky- attractive (Circ, for example)

  Prickler- cactus

  Scorch- hell, or the underworld

  Searin’- a mild curse word

  Blaze- a somewhat-frowned-upon term for human waste

  Killer- large wolfish animals that roam the desert searching for food

  Burnin’- a stronger curse word

  Cotee- Mangy coyote-like animals that hunt in large packs and generally prefer already dead prey

  Call- husband or wife previously assigned during a Heater ceremony. “The Call” practice has since been abolished with the creation of the Tri-Tribes.

  Bundle- diaper

  Grizzed- angry

  Pointer- arrow

  Fire stick- gun

  Fire chariot- truck

  ’Zard- lizard

  Totter- a young child, a toddler

  Midder- older kids, but not yet teenagers

  Youngling- teenager

  Shanker- slacker, lazy person

  The Fire- the airborne disease caused by long exposure to the toxic air that has lowered life expectancies substantially

  Ice Country

  Yag- Large mountain-dwelling creature of ice country legend, not unlike a yeti, bigfoot, or the abominable snowman

  Icin’- a mild curse word

  Slider- a smooth-sanded plank of wood strapped to one’s feet to quickly slide down the mountain. Like a snowboard.

  Freezin’- a stronger curse word

  The Cold- what Icers call “the Fire.” Referred to as the Scurve or the Plague in water and storm country, respectively.

  Chill- hell, or the underworld

  A Guide to the Peoples of the Tri-Realms and the Countries

  The Tri-Realms

  Star dwellers- the lowest-ranking people of the Tri-Realms, living the deepest underground and in abject poverty

  Moon dwellers- the “middle class” people of the Tri-Realms, although in reality their condition can only be described as impoverished

  Sun dwellers- the ruling upper class citizens of the Tri-Realms, they enjoy a lavish lifestyle, artificial sunlight, and beautiful underground cities

  Fire Country

  Heaters- the original desert dwellers who lived in a small village in the center of fire country

  Wilde Ones- a Heater splinter group led by a young woman named Wilde. Comprised of only strong-willed girls, the members of the tribe have been trained to fight.

  Marked- another Heater splinter group that broke off in order to avoid the Laws of the Heaters. They are easily identifiable due to their markings, or tattoos, which represent how many lives they’ve ended, and how many they’ve saved.

  Tri-Tribes- an alliance between the Heaters, the Wildes, and the Marked

  Glassies (also referred to as Pasties or earth dwellers)- originally living underground, the Glassies are completely comprised of members of the Tri-Realms who made the trip to the earth’s surface, surviving only by building a large glass dome to protect their city from the toxic air.

  Ice Country

  Icers- the mountain-dwelling people who have long-survived a harshly cold world of snow and ice

  Water & Storm Country

  Stormers- a tribe that lives on the stormy seaside plains, surviving off the land and riding horses that they refer to as the Escariot

  Soakers- a pirate-like people that control a large fleet of ships and prefer living on the water, landing only to replenish their fresh water supply

  And now the end begins…

  Chapter One

  Adele

  I blink against the blinding sun and the crimson sky and the birds wheeling o
verhead, and they’re still there. My mind is spinning, whirling, remembering: the long journey with Tristan through the rock-surrounded shaft, the exhilarating walk down the tunnel to end all tunnels, the thrill of stepping out onto the surface of the earth, of kissing Tristan, of breathing the real, real air.

  And then the three girls appearing, as if from nowhere. But no, they stepped from the shadow of the very rock looming behind us. The middle one asked a question—something about who we are and a sun goddess, right?—one that’s still hanging in the air, patiently awaiting an answer.

  I open my mouth to speak, but nothing comes out; not a breath, not a word, not a sound.

  Thankfully, Tristan answers for the both of us. “I’m Tristan Nailin, a sun dweller, and this is Adele Rose, a moon dweller. We’ve come from the depths of the earth.”

  The girls just stare at us for a moment, the two on the sides not smiling, but not frowning either—just staring, like we’re covered in filth. The one in the middle, however, is wearing a thick scowl, her eyebrows bent and threatening to pinch her nose. I want to look away, to avert my eyes under their scrutiny, but I don’t. I stare right back.

  They’re wearing very little clothing, just small swatches of material that appear to be some kind of animal skin, around their chests and torsos. They’re beautiful and dark and, strangely, remind me of Cole—who I haven’t thought of in a long time—not because of their skin, which is several shades lighter than his shadowy complexion, but because of the undercurrent of energy that seems to surround them, both dangerous and exciting and the kind you want on your side. Especially the middle one, the frowner, who is musclier than I am, her toned, tanned arms hanging loosely at her sides.

  And then not.

  In a split second she’s managed to whip out a long blade, glinting in the sun.

  “Now, Skye,” the tall one beside her says, her voice smooth and almost soothing. She reaches out a hand and touches her fingers gently to the middle girl’s arm. Skye, I assume.

  “They’re burnin’ Glassy baggards, Wilde,” Skye says, her eyes darting between Tristan and me.

  “We don’t know that,” Wilde says, firmness in her tone.

  Shaking off Wilde’s hand, Skye steps forward, spinning her blade casually. “Yer from the Glass City,” she says. Not a question.

  “No,” Tristan says.

  “Yes,” she says. “Only the Glassies are vomited from the earth.” Welcome to Earth, I think wryly.

  “No.” Tristan again, but there’s less conviction in his voice now. This girl’s out of her mind, about two pebbles short of a cave-in. She won’t listen no matter what we say. She’s convinced we’re these “Glassies.” Whoever they are, they must be her enemies.

  For the first time, I’m thankful Tristan and I thought to bring our swords to the surface, for protection. Though I prefer to fight with my fists, or a staff, like my father taught me, when facing the sharp edge of a blade wielded by a crazy woman, I’ll take my sword.

  Before she can take another step, I reach over my shoulder and slide the deadly steel weapon from the sheath running down my spine. “Back off. We’re not who you think we are.” My voice is a growl, rumbling from my chest.

  The girl called Wilde—who, despite her name, seems the calmest and most in control—steps forward, one hand outstretched toward me and the other once more on Crazy-Girl’s arm. “There’s no need for that,” she says to me.

  “Tell that to Short-Fuse over there,” I say, pointing the tip of my sword in Skye’s direction.

  In the time it takes me to blink, I’ve got an arrow aimed at my heart, nocked on the bow of the third girl, the skinny one, who I’d almost forgotten about. From my training in archery with the star dwellers, I can tell she knows how to use it. I can’t count on her to miss.

  “Whoa, whoa,” Tristan says, extracting his own sword from his belt. “We all need to just calm down.”

  “Then tell your Glassy friend to stop pointing her searin’ sword at my sister,” the skinny girl says. So she’s the sister of the crazy one. Let’s hope insanity doesn’t run in their family.

  I glance at Tristan and he nods. I lower my sword halfway, but not enough that I can’t defend myself if Skye takes a swipe at me.

  “Good, that’s a start,” Wilde says. “Now you, Skye.”

  Skye flashes an annoyed look in Wilde’s direction, but lowers her blade to the same level as mine. Despite her more relaxed stance, the tension remains in her body, her muscles taut, her knuckles splotched with white as they grip the hilt of her weapon.

  “And you, Siena,” Wilde says. Siena. The sister. Wilde, Skye and Siena. Earth dwellers?

  Siena continues to peer at me down the length of her arrow and I can’t help but hold my breath. All she has to do is release it and I’m dead. Whose stupid idea was it to come to the earth’s surface anyway? Oh right, it was mine.

  “Siena!” Wilde says sharply, and the skinny girl lowers her aim, releasing the arrow with a dull thwock, embedding it into the dry earth.

  “We don’t want to fight,” Tristan says, lowering his own weapon. Speak for yourself, I think. The way Skye continues to glare at me makes me want to crack a forearm shiver across her jaw. Why does she hate us so much? She doesn’t even know us.

  Skye shifts her death stare to Tristan. “You shoulda thought of that ’fore you murdered our people, ’fore you declared war on the Tri-Tribes.”

  Murder? War? The Glassies. The people she thinks we belong to. “The Glassies murdered your people,” I say.

  “Don’t play wooloo,” Skye says. “You were probably there with the rest of ’em.”

  “We don’t even know who the Glassies are,” Tristan says. “I swear it.”

  “Swear on the sun goddess,” Siena says. She pulls another arrow out of the pouch strapped to her back. Doesn’t nock it, just holds it. Like a warning. Lie and die.

  “I don’t know who the sun goddess is,” I say, “but I’ll swear on her and my life and the lives of my mother and sister, too, if that’s what it takes for you people to listen.”

  Skye suddenly stabs her sword into the ground. Chews on her lip. Sighs, as if exhausted. “If yer not Glassies, who the scorch are you? Yer as white as the snow-capped mountains of ice country, but yer not Icers—not dressed like that. And yer not Soakers ’cause yer not freckly and don’t smell like the big waters. With yer pale skin, you can only be Glassies. And what in the big-balled tug are you wearin’ over yer eyes and on yer heads? Looks like somethin’ them Glassies would wear, ain’t no mistaking.”

  “Dammit!” I say, shoving my own sword into the ground. I’m angry and the sun isn’t helping—it’s hotter than I ever could’ve imagined, drawing sweat out of my skin like I’ve been running laps around the girls in front of us, rather than just standing here across from them. “We’re not freaking Glassies!” I rip my sunglasses off, but the light is so bright I have to shut my eyes, so I put them right back on. The brim of my hat casts a shadow down to my chin. Amidst the confrontation, I’d forgotten we were wearing them until Skye pointed it out.

  “Adele, stay cool,” Tristan says, sliding his sword into his belt. Turning to our adversaries, he says, “Forgive us, we’re not used to the heat, the sun. We just came up here to have a look around. We don’t know who the Glassies ar—” He stops suddenly, like he’s been slapped. “The Glassies…” he murmurs, almost under his breath, trailing off.

  “Tristan,” I say. “What is it?”

  “Adele and Tristan,” Skye mutters, “what kinds of names are those?”

  I ignore her, my attention fixed on Tristan, whose eyebrow is raised to the red sky. “Oh no,” he breathes.

  “What?” I ask again.

  “I think the Glassies are the earth dwellers,” he says.

  Chapter Two

  Siena

  I don’t know what it is, but I like something about this girl, Adele. She doesn’t look like us, certainly doesn’t talk like us, but the way she didn’t back down
from Skye, never so much as looked away, reminds me so much of my older sister I can’t help but like her. If there’s one thing I learned from all my ’xperiences, it’s that you can’t judge people until you get to know ’em. The Icers, who I thought were the baggards of the earth, turned out to be mostly okay, ’cept for mad King Goff who was leading ’em. And the Stormers, who at first I had hated hated hated, were really the ones trying to do the right thing. Even the Soakers—despite their roughness and somewhat creepy lust for war ’n blood—weren’t so bad once the devil-incarnate Admiral Jones was dead. Scorch, my sister, Jade, even has a thing for one of ’em, and she was a slave for six years, so she’d know the good from the bad.

  Now Adele is staring at the guy, Tristan she called him, with such intensity I almost wanna laugh. But I also wanna know what they’re talking ’bout. “What’s an earth dweller?” I say, thinking of Perry right away. My prickly friend is most definitely stuck in the earth, so I s’pose you could call him an earth dweller.

  But Tristan doesn’t seem to hear me, or if he does he ignores me, ’cause he and Adele are staring at each other. Adele says, “President Lecter is slaughtering their people?” like it’s a question, but the look on her face tells me she’s not looking for an answer. She’s gone even paler, her cheeks a white sheen even under the shadow of the ridiculous piece of stiff cloth on her head.

  “Who the scorch is President Lecter?” Skye asks.

 
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