NAMELESS is in development for film by Benderspink! That’s the same company who optioned Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen and produced the
I AM NUMBER FOUR film!
Jennifer is also one of the co-founders of Teen Author Boot Camp, and works with amazing authors like James Dashner and Brandon Sanderson to help teens master the craft or writing.
New York Times bestselling author Jessica Day George read NAMELESS and loved it!:
The cold air traveling over Zo’s skin smelled strangely mineral. She walked blindfolded with Tess in her arms, and the tip of a spear at her back. She memorized the turns as they prodded her forward, knowing it would do little to help if she couldn’t pass whatever trial the Ram leader had in store.The path sloped down and the moist air grew colder. Her foot caught on a rock and Zo fell to her knees, sending Tess flying into the darkness. Hands grabbed Zo’s collar and hoisted her back to her feet.
“Carry the small one,” the leader ordered.
“Zo?” Tess’ voice cracked, weak and distant.
“I’m here,” said Zo, straining to see through the blindfold.
She didn’t want her sister to say more. Her accent might betray them both.
The ground leveled beneath them, and a guard yanked off the blindfold, taking a chunk of Zo’s dark hair with it. She didn’t cry out.
They couldn’t hurt her.
She looked at the limp form of her sister in the arms of a bare-chested Ram guard and crumbled at the contradiction. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. If only Tess hadn’t followed.
If only …
Guards lined the opposite wall. Shadows from the torchlight made the scowls on their faces all the more sinister. Each carried a round shield at his back, a spear in hand, and a short sword at his hip.
A redheaded boy lay on a narrow bed in the center of the room silently weeping. His body was long, but judging from his young face, he couldn’t have been much older than twelve or thirteen. The deep wound just above his hip swam in dark red blood. He whimpered while biting down on a stick.
Zo didn’t ask questions. “I need blankets!” she yelled, as she washed her hands in a basin of scalding water. With pulsing, red hands, she took a stack of linens from a supply table and pressed it to the wound. The boy kicked and jostled.
“Hold him down or he’ll bleed out!” shouted Zo.
No one moved.
Two women in white robes came in through a different tunnel entrance carrying woolen blankets. When they saw Zo, they froze.
“Help me!” Zo snatched the blankets from their hands and rolled the boy onto his side. Lifting his legs, she wedged blanket rolls under his good hip. The redheaded boy cried out in pain but Zo needed to keep the wound above his heart. She wrapped a bandage around his trunk, keeping as much pressure on the open wound as possible.
The boy’s skin turned alabaster from blood loss. Zo yanked more blankets from the hands of the women, covered him up,and rubbed warmth into his arms and legs while muttering the words of one of her mother’s blessings. “Hold as still as you can,” she whispered into his ear. “You’re going to be fine. I promise.”
Zo approached the intimidating line of Ram soldiers.
Each wore animal hide trimmed with fur. Thick leather straps crisscrossed their chests housing a variety of evil-looking weapons. “Where is my pack? It has the medicines I need.”The men barely moved, barely blinked, with hands clasped behind their backs like dangerous statues of unfeeling.
The bald leader shook his head. A taunting, wicked, grin stretched across his face. Tess whimpered from one of the dark corners of the cave. Water dripped from the jagged, rock ceiling. The quiet symphony of sounds and silence contrasted with Zo’s rapidly beating heart.
She swore and darted to the opposite wall where the healers stood just as still and lifeless. “Do you have any pseudo ginseng root?”
The aging healer looked over to the Gate Master, shook his head, and looked down at his hands.So they would put this boy’s life in danger just to see if she would fail?
I shouldn’t be surprised.
Zo ran back to the steaming water and plunged four inches of her long braid into the basin. Sweat dripped from her forehead. She scrubbed the crusted mud from her hair and went to the closest soldier, holding out the dark braid. “Cut it,” she said.
His gaze swept over her body before fixing on her face.
His lips curled into a crooked grin.
She hated when men looked at her that way.
“Cut it!” she yelled, eyeing the knife at his hip, wondering
if she had any chance of taking it from him without meeting a quick death.
A young soldier to his left stepped out of rank. His long dark hair was tucked behind his ears, his brows knit together and a muscle in his neck leapt as he frowned. The unexpected flash of his dagger made Zo scream. A small segment of her braid dropped to the ground and the young soldier took his place back in line, ignoring the disapproving scorn of the Ram leader. Zo gasped as she snatched up the braid. She stumbled over to the sink again to rinse the hair one final time to prevent infection. Convinced the hair was clean, she darted back to the boy and removed the crimson-soaked dressing from the wound. The blood had slowed, but not enough. He’d die if this didn’t work.
She shoved the hair into the wound and piled the excess on top.
The boy screamed then passed out.
Zo placed her hands over the mound of hair and uttered words of healing. The flame of her energy flickered as she willed the blessing to take effect. Her head swayed without permission as she reapplied a bandage.
When Zo finished, she slumped to the floor before they carried her and Tess away.
Joshua’s dried blood tugged on Gryphon’s arm. A deathly plaster, equal parts unforgiving and taunting. He scratched away at the memory of the ambush, the way young Joshua’s eyes doubled in size when the arrow entered his side. It was Gryphon’s fault. He’d let the kid come with his mess unit against his better judgment.
It was his fault.
Gryphon took the mountain trail home from the caves. He attacked the climb like he would any enemy. After the first mile his legs warmed. After the second they burned. He welcomed the dull pain creeping through his fatigued muscles. Pain equaled progress. With enough pain he might outpace his grief.
Gryphon sprinted the last hundred yards of the climb. The wind picked up as he reached the summit overlooking the ocean below. High waves crashed into the cliff wall. An arctic spray carried on the breeze, stinging Gryphon’s eyes.
He turned and showed the ocean his back, casting his gaze over the valley of the Ram. Wind whipped his dark brown hair and made the metal of his weapons clink together. From this view he could see far beyond the training grounds and housing complexes, past the fields where hundreds of Nameless bent over acres of dying soil. Even beyond the fabled wall of Ram’s Gate that corralled the vast lands of his people.
He felt powerful. In control.
Not like this morning when he couldn’t slow Joshua’s bleeding.
The twenty members of Gryphon’s mess unit were encouraged to sleep in the barracks, even though many of them were married men. Unity meant everything to a Ram mess unit.Gryphon abided this and every other command issued by his leaders with exactness. But tonight, the thought of facing his brothers of war with all their questions and condolences seemed too much.
No. Tonight he would hide behind the walls of his inheritance like a child hides behind his mother’s skirt. The brick-and-plaster house sat back on a five-acre plot. It was one of the furthest family plots from the main gate and the center of town. A red sun dipped behind the towering wall of Ram’s Gate, casting an ominous glow around the house as Gryphon climbed the dirt path. The solid oak door whined with complaint as he nudged it open.
“Who’s there?” Gryphon’s mother reached the entry with her arms and hands covered in white flour and her graying bun sitting at an angle on her head. She studied Gryphon and the corners of her mouth sank into the frown he’d come to associate with his childhood.
“Wash the blood off your hands.” She retreated back to the kitchen without another word.
Gryphon leaned his long spear and shield against the wall and sloughed off his pack. He turned and noticed the rusted metal shield mounted above the hearth. His cheeks colored in shame. He looked away, but it didn’t stop the boiling wave of anger that always came when he looked at his father’s shield.
The symbol of his family’s disgrace.
Despite Gryphon’s countless protests, his mother refused to take it down. “It’s good to remember,” she would say. Then she’d go out into the forest where she thought no one could hear her and cry, rocking back and forth with her hand wrapped firmly about her stomach. As if she’d fall apart if she didn’t hold herself together.
No matter how hard he worked in the training field, that shield would always hang over his head. Always.
In the kitchen, Gryphon plunged his hands into a basin of water. As he scrubbed, the water turned the color of salmon flesh.
His mother kneaded her palm into a batch of dough with more force than necessary. She used her forearm to push aside a clump of silver hair that fell into her face. “How many?” she asked with her back to him.
Gryphon couldn’t scrub his hands hard enough. “One. We were ambushed.” His excursions used to be so boring. They used to go weeks without running into another clan, but lately …
“Who?” His mother stood up straight, prepared to take the news like a strong Ram woman was meant to.
“Joshua.” Gryphon felt his control slip. He chewed on his tongue until he could steel his emotions. “Spear,” was all he trusted himself to say.
Joshua wasn’t a member of a mess unit yet. The System didn’t allow thirteen-year-olds to join. He had still been in training, but he’d begged to go, and Gryphon—his mentor—didn’t have the heart to turn him down.
“Will he live?” she asked, kneading the dough again.
“I … ” Gryphon cleared his constricting throat, thinking of the dirty Nameless girl they’d let work on Joshua in the cave.
“I don’t think he will.”