Rowen sat on the couch in the house that afternoon, the sheaf of papers on his lap and the charcoal stick in hand. Volkes hadn’t returned, and the only candle burned low in the corner. He was tired, but he had to practice his letters. He was so close to being…maybe not normal, but to communicating. He just needed more practice. He had to convince himself of that. Soon, he could share his thoughts with everyone.
But instead of letters, as he drew the charcoal over the paper he found himself imagining scenes, likes the ones in the paintings. They had all been so beautiful, brush and paint on canvas, and he wished he could draw the same. He had drawn small things in the dirt with his father, guidelines to show where water could be found or arrows for direction, but they had been fleeting. Paintings would last.
In his mind, he imagined Lucas. The young blacksmith’s son, blond hair bright in the unrelenting sun as he lifted and carried rock that his father somehow made metal out of. He had delivered pans to Rowen’s parents. He had been so different from Volkes, despite how similar they looked. Lucas was kind—he would never have left Rowen on the beach alone.
The charcoal wouldn’t create the wondrous colors of the paintings he had seen, but the image in his mind began to form on the paper, flowing lines and shading. Lukas, at his door with a smile, a silver pan for water collecting in his arms. Behind him, small in the distance, he drew the scrub brush. Then a frown covered his face when he remembered the bitter taste of the pit seeds on his tongue, and he scrubbed away the marks with the back of his hand.
“Hey, don’t erase it!” He jumped, turning in his chair. Elise stood over him, her eyes wide. “Is that Volkes?”
Rowen’s face heated. It wasn’t just him that thought they looked alike. He shook his head.
“It looks kind of like him, but younger.” Elise narrowed her eyes. “Another notherner, I guess. You’re a really good artist, Rowen!” she suddenly shouted. “I didn’t know you could draw!”
Rowen shrugged. Elise scooted a chair across the floor and sat down next to him, peering over his shoulder. “If it’s not Volkes, is it someone you know?” Rowen didn’t know how to answer that. “Is it someone from home?” He gave a small nod.
“Aw…” her smile shrank a bit. “I’m from Linland, but I was really young when they found me. I don’t really remember anyone from my home. I remember snow, though.” Rowen tilted his head, then reached over to pat her on the shoulder, a consoling tap.
“It’s okay.” The moment of gloom vanished as fast as it had come upon her. “You’re lucky to remember. You know what it is we’re saving. All I really know is the Storm Lord’s island.”
Rowen stifled a grimace. He wouldn’t call himself lucky. If he had a choice, he wouldn’t remember home at all.
The lead ball of fear returned to his stomach when he remembered that Kristoff would visit there. No, it was getting late—he may even be getting back by now. And he’d want answers.
He turned the page of the sketchbook. He never should have drawn that in the first place. Instead he looked to Elise, then back to the paper and drew the letter A, then back to Elise and raised his eyebrows.
“You want my help?” When he nodded, Elise grinned. “Sure thing. We’ll have you writing messages in no time at all!”
Rowen bent his head, writing carefully. Thank yu.
Elise clapped her hands. “See!”
Rowen smiled. He could do it. He had to write to Kristoff.