Here's another passage from the second chapter:
“Necia’s with Briony,” Lark said. “I’d better join them to keep the peace. Coming?”
I shook my head. I considered Necia a friend, and tolerated Lark’s younger sister Oriole, but my stomach lurched at the thought of spending any time with Briony. She reveled in taunting me about my less than ladylike activities and knew exactly what to say to spark my temper. Tonight, I didn’t feel like causing a scene.
“You go ahead. I’m going to find Sven.”
It didn’t take long to find him. He, Nassir, and two other fellows, Dietric and Arvid, gathered near the center of the meetinghouse. He smiled and nodded when his eyes caught mine, inviting me to join them. I weaved my way through the crowd to join them.
“It’s ridiculous,” Dietric said, “requiring fellows to enlist. Papa says— holy shnipes!” He appraised me from head to toe. “You look like a maiden.”
I settled on the bench beside Sven. “That’s what I am, you blockhead. Lark insisted I look the part tonight. You were saying?”
“Er, where was I?” He shook his head like a dog ridding water from his fur. “Ah, yes. Fellows didn’t have to enlist before the war, so why now when the war is supposedly over?”
“The war was lengthy and brutal,” Sven said. “Think of all the men who lost their lives and the ones with injuries that removed them from service. It’s taxed the military’s numbers. Ogden needs all its young fellows to carry the load.”
Dietric scoffed. “Easy for you to say. You’ve yet a year before you must enlist. Me . . . well, come summer, off I go to pledge my life and honor in service to His Royal Madness.”
“Show some respect, Dietric,” Arvid said. “He is, after all, our king.”
Over the years, King Ludiford’s cruel reputation and renowned bouts of insanity earned him such titles as His Royal Madness and the Rabid King. But people only called him such in private circles. If overheard by the wrong ears, the names would bring imprisonment or worse.
Dietric slapped Arvid on the back of the head. “Who’s goin’ to rat on me, chum? You?”
“’Course not,” Arvid said. “It’s just . . .” he pointed his spoon at me, “we’ve a maiden in our midst.”
Dietric shrugged. “’Tis just Celeste. If anyone has a reason to call him mad, it’s her.”