Check out our episode here! The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis
Clementine has just turned 16. She's finally a woman proper and her favor, the tattoo of a clementine flower put on her neck when she was 10, has bloomed. This beautiful flower does not mean beautiful things though. It marks her as a Good Luck Girl who has to work at the Welcome House for all the rest of her days, and now that she's a woman proper, she gets to have her Lucky Night, where she finally gets to take a brag. Mother Fleur, the housemistress, is helping her get ready and also threatening her with a visit by the raveners if she doesn't represent the house well. No one wants that, a ravener ripping inside your mind, making you live your worst fears. So she better do right. Her sister, Aster, has prepared her as best as she could, telling her don't take the sweet thistle and think of a song until it's over. Clementine tried her best but wasn't ready. She asked the brag to give her a moment, but he pressed on, forced himself on her. To get him to stop, Clementine hit him with the lamp. Hit him until he died.
Aster had always been told to be grateful to be a good luck girl. Especially as a dustblood in the Scab in Arketta. She'd never go hungry, always have a roof over her head, even get to go to the dentist! Dustbloods are the descendants of those that fought against the empire when they took over. They looked just like any other fairblood, except they had no shadows, those were taken away as part of their punishment. Now, centuries later, their descendants don't have them either, and are still paying off the nonexistent debts of their ancestors, forever kept below the fairbloods. The welcome houses came about as places for dustbloods who had one too many mouths to feed to send their daughters. They'd always be taken care of, but is that really the life you'd choose? No. No one would choose this life. Especially because of the favors. If you were able to escape, everyone would know you were a good luck girl and send you back to a welcome house because you can't keep your favor covered for any length of time or it begins to glow and burn. And that's even if you can get past the ravener at the door, which you can't. Probably should just give up.
Aster is worried about Clementine's first night as a sundown girl. She's tougher than her sister and really over protective, so she's worried that Clem won't be able to handle it. And well, really, she's right. After killing the brag, a terrified Clementine finds Astor and asks for help. This is not a good situation. There are brags and raveners and other girls all around. If they're spotted, things will get so much worse. They make it back up to Clementine's room and decide to hide the body, but he's too heavy to move on their own, so they find Clementine's friends, Tansy and Mallow, to help. They're not quite old enough to be sundown girls yet so they are upstairs in the attic, off work for the night. They come to help immediately and working together, the four girls shove the brag into the wardrobe. Then they have to figure out what to do next. Everyone will surely notice when the brag doesn't leave. Aster decides she and Clem will run, but there's no way that will work. And now, there's a rattling at the door. Oh great. They've been discovered.
At the door is Violet, mother fleur's favorite girl. She's going to tell on them for sure. Except... She doesn't. She says she wants to run away with them and so do Tansy and Mallow. They hatch a plan to use a knife they found in his boot to cut off the brag's hand and use his temporary tattoo marking him as a paid guest to sneak one of them out. And that one has to be Violet because she's a fairblood with enough confidence to pull off walking out past the ravener at the door. Aster will create a diversion so the ravener will be distracted enough to let Violet go by with her fake hand and then she'll then pull a cart around below the window that the other girls will jump down from. Surprisingly, it works well enough, except that Aster's diversion requires her to go upstairs with a brag and now she had to escape from him too. She drugs him with sweet thistle and jumps out the window to join her friends.
They meet in the stables and learn that Violet knows of a way to get rid of their favors. It really is a good thing they let her come along. She says they need to find a woman called Lady Ghost, who everyone thought was just a fairytale. Violet doesn't quite trust the other girls not to leave her behind, so she won't tell them exactly where they need to go to find Lady Ghost, just that they need to head toward the next town. So they steal some clothes, supplies and horses from the stable and set off.
On their way to the next town, they must avoid the ghosts along the Bone Road. The remnants aren't so scary but the vengeants are terrifying. You can't see them unless you're in direct moonlight and by then, it's too late. Clementine can see them, though, ever since she nearly died as a child, so that makes their travels a little easier. It also makes traveling easier that the vengeants seem to be avoiding them. Even the one swooping right in front of them just continues on its way with it's glowing red eyes, crown of antlers, black bat wings and wolfish mouth. Good thing. Violet drops something and the others go on without her, sure that she'll give up on whatever stupid earring she dropped and catch up, and she does. The next morning when they stop to water their horses, they realize why the vengeants left them alone. When Mallow took the brag's knife, Tansy took off his ring, thinking they could sell it for shine to pay their way, but they realize the ring is made of theomite, which keeps vengeants at bay. It's worth a lot of money, but it's probably better they hold on to it to keep themselves safe.
They are spotted by a man on the side of the road and manage to get away without him following, but then Violet starts feeling poorly. She dropped her sweet thistle the night before, couldn't find it and left without it, fearing Aster and it others would leave her behind. Now she's beginning to go through withdrawals and none of the other girls have used the sweet thistle, so they don't have any. They ride on for a little bit longer, but then Violet falls off her horse. She needs sweet thistle or she's going to die and as much as they dislike her, she's the only one who knows where to find Lady Ghost, so they have to help her. And now, the heists begin!
Aster and Tansy go into the next town with the others waiting in a rundown mine nearby. They plan to break into an apothecary and steal sweet thistle and other medical supplies they might need. Tansy has had some training by her mother before she died, so she knows what they'll need. They break in and are met by the owner's shotgun, but bash him in the face enough so he'll help them gather supplies. Pasted to the wall of the apothecary were wanted posters. All five of their faces, all five of them wanted for the murder of Baxter McClennon, son of the most powerful landmaster in Arketta. Ripping hell. They get their supplies, tie up the shop owner and get back to the others to break the bad news to them. Good thing Violet will be able to travel again soon, because they need to get a move on. Upon waking, Violet tells them they still have a long way to go to find Lady Ghost and will need 1000 eagles each to have their favors removed. That's a lot of shine that they don't have. Maybe they can pay her with the theomite ring? Aster goes to fill a canteen before they leave and is tackled by the man they saw earlier.
This young man is Zee, a dustblood rangeman, and he offers to help them in exchange for McClennon's ting. He just tackled Aster to keep her from getting gored by a mountain cat and says he's been tracking them since they left the welcome house. If he wanted to turn them in or kill them, he could have done it by now. He knows they have the theomite ring which would keep him safe on the road. The girls decide it would be good to have a rangeman to help them to travel the hundreds of miles they have to go to reach Lady Ghost, so he joins the crew. Clementine immediately takes a liking to him, which Aster doesn't like, but Clementine thinks it would be good to have him as a friend. They make camp again a little later, Zee going into town for some supplies. Aster follows and sees him coming out of a welcome house. Oh great.
Aster goes back to camp to tell them they need to leave because Zee is just another brag that's probably going to turn them in. They need money though, so they decide to rob a coach on the way into town. They see a statesman that they've seen before and Violet puts on a damsel in distress act and they ambush him, rough him up, steal his shine and tie him to a tree. They get back to camp and find Zee waiting for them, worried out of his mind they've been captured. They confront him about being in the welcome house and he reveals he's looking for his sisters.
Aster still feels uneasy about Zee, like he's still holding something back, or maybe it's just that Clementine is so giggly over him. She shares her mistrust with Violet who says you might not have to trust people, but you need to know when they're useful and suggests getting Zee to help with the next burglary. They only got 100 eagles from the statesmen and that's not near enough for Lady Ghost, especially if they have to give the theomite ring to Zee. Aster convinces him to lure a brag outside the next town so they can string him up and rob him, and that plan works just fine. A little bit of time passes, Aster and Violet make a deeper connection while Violet practices shooting and gloating that she's better than Aster at something. Aster reveals just why she prefers using a knife over a gun. A brag once played Russian roulette in her mouth. Violet reveals she can't stand when Zee touches her, not even to help her down from her horse. Aster feels the same. Later that night it's revealed that Tansy and Mallow are sweet on each other and Clementine's got a crush on Zee, which makes Aster jealous. Clementine says she's gotten to know Zee now that Aster and Violet are in cahoots. Their peaceful day takes a nasty turn when raveners get close in the middle of the night, led by Jerrod McClennon, Baxter's uncle. They have to make a run for it and manage to escape by cutting down a rope bridge, leaving McClennon and his raveners on the other side.
They make it to the next town and have their robberies down pat. They're almost through the Scab now but don't have nearly enough shine, so they decide to rob a bank. Luckily one of the brags they robbed just happens to be a brand new bank owner and had the combination to the safe written down. How perfect! The bank robbery is not so perfect though. The combination doesn't seem to be right! Was it even a combination at all? What have they gotten themselves into? The law is onto them now. Surely they're going to be caught. Aster tries the combination one more time, swapping out a number 7 for a number 1, it could be that after all... And it is! She grabs the gold and silver in the safe and is about to run when she doubles over in pain from her burning favor. It's been covered for too long and now their cover is blown. The lawmen know they are the wanted girls, so at least they'll be taken alive. The girls fire some warning shots and take off. They jump over a wall in the cemetery to the outside of town, expecting Zee to be there waiting so they can get away... But he's nowhere to be seen. Ripping hell.
They run through the wilderness, thinking it would be better to get attacked by vengeants than raveners and lawmen and... that's exactly what happens. Mallow gets taken by one, but Zee shows up just in time to get her back. She's hurt really bad though and needs a hospital. Yeah, right. Zee knows somewhere they can go where they'll be able to get Mallow the help she needs and stay safe at the same time. Aster rides with Mallow to keep her awake as they travel and learns that she had a twin brother. She says it felt like their souls were in the wrong bodies (which is beautiful and sad). They make it to Zee's settlement, which is not a town, but a hidden community inside a rundown mine. The Scorpions. When they realize the Good Luck Girls have come to their mine, they're welcomed with open arms.
The Scorpions have plans to build their mines all the way through the Scab and out of Arketta to Ferron, where dustblood debts don't exist. Wouldn't that be nice? They have a good night's sleep and meet the leader of this group of Scorpions, Sam, the next day and find out some things from him about Zee that don't quite add up. Just stories from their past that seem out of the ordinary. Aster works with Sam's brother Eli in the kitchen all day and that night after dinner the girls play a game of cards with a group of guys where they learn secrets after each round. It gets a little touchy when they ask about how they came to be good luck girls. Mostly because their parents didn't have enough money to care for them and sold them off. Except for Violet. Her mother was a good luck girl, too, only her surgery to keep her from getting pregnant didn't work. Her father was a wealthy steel magnate who was supposed to get her and her mother out of the welcome house, but that never happened and then her mother committed suicide. Not a great end to the night.
They leave the next morning for the next town, the last one on the way out of the Scab. They realize they have enough shine to get their favors removed plus a little extra to get them all the way to Lady Ghost. Perfect. But then they see a ravener with a little girl, taking her to a welcome house and they decide they must rescue her. They do and end up taking her to an aunt's house and then THEY GIVE THEM ALL THEIR MONEY SO THEY'LL BE SAFE. The law is after them again and they somehow manage to escape, again. Aster and Zee both get hurt this time. Zee got shot and Aster got bit by a vengeant, but they ended up using the vengeants to get away from the lawmen and they make it onto a train.
While on the train, Aster and Violet tell the rest that they gave away all their shine AND EVERYONE'S OKAY WITH IT. They say they'd have done the same and they'll just have to steal some more, but they're all pretty ragged. Zee decides that these girls are his family now and if he never finds his sisters, it'll be okay because now he has more. He gives them the theomite ring back to give to Lady Ghost then finally reveals his secrets, that his father was a ravener and he used to help him take girls to welcome houses and do all the other terrible things raveners do. (Aster's like I TOLD YOU SO.) But they all forgive him because he's family to them now too. They make it to the outskirts of the town where Lady Ghost is and make camp for the night. In the middle of the night, Violet takes off, but leaves behind the suicide note from her mother that's supposed to tell the way to get to Lady Ghost. It doesn't really though. It kind of hints that a bedtime story she used to tell will lead Violet to Lady Ghost, but it also doesn't seem like a suicide note.
Aster goes into town looking for Violet and finds her on the front porch of her wealthy brag father's house. She sees him with his real family and wants to kill him. Aster tells her that her mother note wasn't a suicide note and Violet reveals that mother fleur told her it was and that her mother never wanted her and killed herself because of her. Yeah, she's a real piece of shit. They are about to head back to camp when the law pours out of the house and takes them to a prison in Jerrod McClennon's cellar. Not long after, just when they're thinking it's a good thing that the other girls aren't here, they're brought in, too. The cellar is guarded by raveners and there's no escape. They're tortured and starved in the hopes that one of them will crack and tell McClennon who liked his nephew. The only way they'll get to eat is if they work, and that's the kind of work that they use to do in the welcome houses. They refuse. They try to work out the clues to finding Lady Ghost and plan what they're going to do when they're finally free, but come on, that's probably not going to happen. But wait. Clementine takes off the bracelet that Aster gave her for her birthday and pulls a pin out of it. Aster picks the lock and they escape while the raveners and McClennon and his men are out chasing Zee.
As they're escaping through the plains, Violet falls and says they have to leave her behind. She's still suffering from sweet thistle withdrawal and is too weak to go on and is dying. The girls go on without her because if they don't, then they'll all be dead. A little while later they are found... By Zee! They talk to him about the bedtime story and the clues they've been trying to work out which lead them to another abandoned mine. Inside the mine is Lady Ghost. Well, three Ladies Ghost. Like the Scorpions, these Lady Ghosts help people across the border to freedom, no payment necessary. There is no getting rid of the favors, but even with them, they'll be safe across the border. Tansy and Mallow leave, and Clementine and Zee, but Aster decides to stay behind, to become a Lady Ghost, to help others cross to safety.