Non-binary university student LEVI is attacked in a queerphobic hate crime. Unable to fight back, they are saved by the quiet and intelligent VEE who shelters Levi in his family’s home until the next day. Levi learns a war has broken out between the Astraliser Democratic Party (ADP), an Isadonian nationalist group, and the People’s Republican Party, who represent all Isadonian citizens.
MATS, a mutual friend of Vee and Levi and son of a prominent politician, holds a party to celebrate the start of a new term at university, which Levi attends due to an unrequited crush on Mats. During the party, nationalist forces bombard the town with shelling and artillery fire. Levi’s magic gives them a premonition of the attack but too late to prevent it. Vee, Mats and Levi all return to Levi’s house, where they realise the city may be besieged indefinitely.
Levi documents their life online, sharing the reality of daily shelling and food rationing. Levi also starts to get frequent visions, something that’s never happened before. Vee and Mats both attempt to join the Staritref Liberation Battalion (SLB), a paramilitary unit defending Staritref. Mats is accepted, Vee is not.
The three continue to try to live their lives but as the siege continues, they realise life can’t continue as they knew it. Levi clings onto Mats for emotional support, but is rejected. Levi continues documenting their life on the internet, and accepts Vee’s awkward friendship as a way to escape the horror of their daily life.
As Levi and Vee become closer, the war intensifies. When a friend steps on a landmine, the two work together to try to disarm it and save their friend –but fail. Distraught, Levi posts a vicious and heartfelt video online about his friend’s death that goes viral.
Vee and Levi finally confess their attraction to one another and learn that Levi’s magic is amplified by a latent ability of Vee’s.
In response to Levi’s video, the ADP cut all internet in Staritref. Levi is now a target of the nationalist forces, who want them dead. They remain trapped in the house, under constant watch from the SLB until Mats is put on guard and lets them leave the house. Unfortunately, it is at that moment that Nationalist forces attack the city.
Leveraging his father’s power, Mats calls in airstrikes to slow the Nationalist’s advance. Levi and Vee put together a plan of defence and booby-trap key locations in Staritref and buy them time to escape. Vee is captured but Levi activates their magic, saving them both.
When no airstrikes happen, the ADP sweep into the city. Vee ensures his family and Levi escape the city, but is unable to find Mats before the group is split up in the surge of people fleeing to safety.
Years later, the war is over. Levi finishes their degree abroad, and returns to Staritref to reclaim their house. They meet Mats at the hotel, who tries to convince Levi to abandon Staritref for good. Instead, Levi decides to visit his destroyed home. Vee finds Levi there and the pair reunite.
Audience: New Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Length: 90,000 - 120,000
Major Plotline: The major story arc follows the characters of Levi, Vee and Mats, as they live in the besieged city and attempt to disrupt the nationalist forces surrounding Staritref. It is resolved when the nationalist forces take over the town, with the three characters fleeing only to return years later to be reunited.
Minor Plotlines: There are three plot lines surrounding the three main characters. Levi’s follows his growing confidence in who he is and his own skillset, from being a character who thinks of himself as too stupid to take part in politics, to being the main videographer of the war’s effects in the city. Vee’s follows his growing acceptance in reconciling his cultural background (muslim), his political beliefs (leftist) and his sexuality (wibbly-wobbly). Vee’s rediscovery of a hobby from before the war - ballet - that he had given up to project a ‘tougher’ image is the culmination of his arc. Mats’ plotline follows the higher levels of the politics of the story, with Mats having access to information from politicians and the military, and him learning to abandon high-handed idealism and arrogance and instead begin to focus on the humanity of survivors. It is Mats who takes on the Astralisers in the military towards the end, and his arc ends with him considering self-sacrifice to save the others - only for that noble act to be taken from him by Vee.
Unique Aspects: I wanted to show a cast that looked more like my friendship group and my city. There’s strong LGBTQ presence within the main cast, and the work has Own Voices non-binary rep with Levi. I also wanted to show the endpoint of the rise of extreme right-wing rhetoric and what that may look like in a pan-European setting that didn’t shy away from examining what the effects are on marginalised people. I’d describe it as a niche work, with wide appeal with how it looks at the issues of war, refugees and propaganda.