Song of Rust Book 1
This is the finished first book in my trilogy. The next two novels are Song of Glass and Song of Gold, both almost done. For information on background or stuff, just ask me on my wall or my owls, I have plenty of lore that's behind the scenes. And I'll start putting the first couple chapters of Song of Glass in the library as well once this is posted. I'll put a link here once that's done. BOOK 2 WIP: https://www.hogwartsishere.com/library/book/39489/
Five minutes left. I think, glancing up at the clock with my foot tapping under me. The shiny piece of armor I am scrubbing is nearly done. I dip my sponge in the cleaning solution, then get the last of the rust powder off of the breastplate, leaving it warped, but clean enough to be melted down.
I grab a soft rag, cleaning the cold water and bubbles off of the silvery metal. I put the breastplate onto the conveyor belt that leads over to a dumpster-sized bin of metal, then reach for the next item.
I grab a small thing from my rust bucket, something I can finish in five minutes. It’s a plate of armor meant to cover the knee, crusty with red rust. It’s at least two centuries old, this one. I’ve seen similar armor to it, on other days. I’d give anything to see the full suit. I grab the rust solution, and dip the knee cover into it, then scrub it with steel wool.
“Break time!” The warden yells, once my item is barely on the conveyor belt. I quickly stand up, moving towards the stairs with the other workers. Instead of turning right to the locker rooms with everyone else, I turn left towards the Supervisor’s office. I step into the scanner machine, and hold my rust-stained arms above my head.
“Olive Ferrum. Age 17. Metal Division. Iron Subdivision. Occupation: Rust Cleaning,” The scanner says in an automated voice that makes me shudder. “You are cleared to pass.” I step out of the scanner and knock on the Supervisor’s door.
“Come in,” The Supervisor says in a lazy voice. I walk into the office, and keep my head down, as is the custom for an Iron in the presence of a Silver. “Well?” He asks, not looking up.
“It’s my sister’s birthday today, sir, and I was hoping to get a few hours taken off work this afternoon so I could be home in time for our family dinner. It’s her last birthday before she has to leave school,” I repeat what I’ve been composing in my head all day.
“Your sister’s birthday?” He asks. I nod. “And why should that be more important than work?” He stares at me, standing up, and setting his file down.
“I’ll work extra hours tomorrow. I’ll skip breaks,” I bargain. “Please.” The Supervisor laughs, finally looking at me as he walks over.
“You have good manners for one of your station,” He says. “I thought the lowest of the low knew nothing about etiquette.”
“Don’t call me that,” I say, folding my arms.
“I’m your Supervisor. I can say what I want.” I look him in the eyes, breaking the rules. He looks me up and down, tilting his head. “Get back to your break,” He orders, shoving my arm. Before I exit, he speaks again. “Your sister is Casey Ferrum?” I nod. “My son is in her grade at school. I’ll tell him to…” He pauses. “...pay his respects. It is her birthday, after all.” I clench my fists, nauseous.
“I hope you step on a nail on your way home,” I curse, then leave the office, my arms folded.
“I don’t walk home, because I’m not worthless, Ferrum!” He yells from his office doorway. I ignore him and enter the locker room. The other workers are speaking to one another, ignoring me. They’re all at least two years older than me. I walk over to my locker and pull out a bottle of water.
The end-of-break bell rings, and I groan. “Back to the rust bucket,” I complain, putting the bottle back into my locker. The warden shoves me to move faster, as I’m trying to roll up my sleeves on the way there. I curse under my breath, and reach for a dull knife blade covered in ochre.
I finish my last project after the bell rings at ten, then grab my bag from my locker, heading through the crowds towards the door. Flint waits in the brick piles outside, and climbs down with a grin. My best friend hugs me tightly as I arrive, kissing me quickly.
“I wasn’t sure if you’d be here. Supervisor didn’t let you off early?” He asks, pulling back, and taking my hand, starting to walk with me.
“No, he’s annoying. I even offered extra hours tomorrow,” I tell Flint, who nods, squeezing my hand. “The moon is super bright tonight,” I point out, as we get to my neighborhood. The only lights are the flickering streetlights, swarming with moths and other disgusting things.
“You can almost see it through the clouds,” Flint comments, smiling. He turns to me. “I’m sorry you didn’t get to have dinner with your family,” He mumbles, as we turn onto our street.
“It’s fine,” I say, shrugging, and glancing down at my Metal tattoo.
Everyone on the island has the same one. We get them when we’re five years of age, on our left wrist. Because we’re Metals, it’s a triangle in a shade of dark gray. If I went to the mainland, I’d see a range of different colors. Green, Blue, Yellow. But I’ll never go to the mainland. I’ll stay here and work until I die.
“We don’t talk about your work a lot. What’s it like in Steel nowadays?” I ask, my voice wavering. Flint chuckles.
“It’s a lot cleaner than Rust, as always,” He mutters. “But it’s super hot in there, even though we’re well into autumn,” He says, rubbing his neck. “I’m just sweating whenever I step out of the factory.” His dark gray curls fall over his forehead. We all have gray hair in the Iron Subdivision, even the children and young adults. It’s a sign of our low status. “But it’s really cool pounding a lump of iron to make something,” He adds with a smile. I glance at his arms, firm with muscles from hours of pounding iron in the Steel factory. “Staring at me again?” He asks, back to his teasing voice. “I knew you liked me.” I look away, folding my own skinny, rust-stained arms. Flint grins.
“You’re annoying,” I mutter, as we reach my doorstep.
“I know,” He mutters, then leans down and kisses me, his traditional way of saying goodbye. He walks off towards his own house up the road, and I roll my eyes before opening the door and stepping inside.
The kitchen is the only room in the house with the lights on. On the round metal table sits a foil container of brown rice and chicken. Rations? For Casey’s birthday? I think, though I can’t really be a choosing beggar. I haven’t eaten since seven this morning, and that was a small breakfast.
I sit down at the table, and eat the rice quickly, wondering how I’m going to explain to Casey why I couldn’t be there for her fifteenth birthday.
“It’s okay, really,” Casey assures me, as I walk into our room, and change out of my work clothes and corset into my pajamas, which consist of a worn old t-shirt and gym shorts from school, which are too small. “I understand. You have work sometimes. It isn’t your fault,” She reassures, as I comb my long gray hair out, and climb under the blankets on the top bunk.
“I should have tried harder. I should have been more respectful to the Supervisor,” I mutter.
“You’ve never been able to keep your temper in check, Olive,” Casey says. “But what’s important is that you never use your temper on the innocent.”
“Well, unless you steal my clothes again,” I joke. She smiles, and shrugs.
“I’m fine with my birthday like this, Olive,” Casey promises, turning off the lamp, her hair hanging in front of her face. “I know not to expect much for my birthday,” She sighs.
“You should at least get to be around your family,” I mutter.
“I’m fine,” She repeats. “I don’t want any presents anyway.” Oh! Speaking of birthday presents…
“I found a cool scrap of metal today. Want to add it to your collection?” Casey lets out an oooh from the bottom bunk. I place the twisted bit of engraved iron in her outstretched hand. “It’s beautiful,” She says, turning on the lamp and holding it up to the light. She sets the bit of metal on the table, and looks up at me. “So, how are things going with Flint?” She asks, with a smirk on her face that’s mine, but smaller.
“He’s nice, I guess,” I mutter. “He’s doing well at work. And we’re going to hang out with Ember on the Saturday.”
“Okay…” She says with a small laugh, then turns off the lamp. “Did you take out the trash?” I curse under my breath, and start climbing down the ladder. “Whoa, language!” Casey says, as I leave the room. “You’re such a bad example for an impressionable youth,” She whispers.
I sigh, unable to keep a smile from my sister, and go to the kitchen, picking up the trash bag from the cracked bin. I shove open the back door and walk to the dumpster between our house and the road.
“Just hold the ice there, dear,” Mom says, obscuring my view of Casey at the table.
“What happened?” I demand, once I see Casey’s face. It’s covered in gray bruises, like her arms. Her lip is cut, but not bleeding anymore. “What happened to her, Mom?” I ask. Did I not see that last night?
“She got jumped after school yesterday. No big deal,” Mom says, filling another bag with ice.
“No big deal?” I ask, my eyes wide.
“Look, Olive. If it was that serious, she would have gone to an adult, like the school nurse or something,” Mom explains. Casey’s face twists into a pained frown.
“Mom, nobody cares at school whether a Rust gets jumped. Least of all the adults,” Casey says, throwing down the ice and picking up her backpack. “And if you cared, you wouldn’t have spent birthday money on teacups.” She mutters, gesturing to the shiny china set on top of the counter, something new that I don’t recognize.
Casey walks out the door, slamming it behind her. I turn to Mom. “Is that why she got rations for her birthday dinner, Mom? Because you wanted teacups?” Mom stays silent, and I grab my bag off the hooks on the wall. “Bye, Mom,” I say, walking out the door.
Flint meets me in his driveway, and walks with me towards Ember’s neighborhood. He reaches for my hand, but I pull it out of his reach, my eyes filled with tears.
“What’s wrong, Olive?” He asks, turning to look at me. I rub my eyes and keep walking.
“Then why are you crying?” He asks, standing in front of me to stop me from moving. “You hardly ever cry, Olive,” I look down at the ground. Flint pulls me into a hug, patting my head. “You can tell me, you know.”
“Casey got jumped yesterday and it’s all my fault.” I sob into his worn old gray uniform. He strokes my hair, pulling me closer. “And Mom and I were the best at ruining her birthday that we have been in years.” He kisses my forehead.
“You’re a great sister, Olive. Casey could never blame you.” I pull out of the hug and keep walking down the street, letting Flint hold my hand now, because I’m going to collapse if I don’t have something holding me up.
When we reach Ember’s house, she glances at our entwined hands, and starts to say something, but closes her mouth again. She walks with hands in her pockets, her silver hair tied up in a bun. We reach the Rust workhouse first, and Flint kisses me before leaving with Ember, both of them talking.