Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Waterlord Prequel, part 7

              “You should be sleeping!” the doctor told Tom as soon as Nathan had left. Tom failed to see why the doctor would care what he did, and didn’t feel like humoring him.

              “I’m not tired!” The statement came out whinier and more high pitched than Tom would have liked.

               The doctor raised an eyebrow. “Would you like a sleeping draught? There’s not much else to do, and you could use the rest.”

              Tom really didn’t want to sleep, but he couldn’t think of anything else to do, so he agreed. Once the doctor gave him the drink and left, though, Tom drank half and almost gagged. He set the rest down under the bed and hoped what he had ingested would be enough to make him tired.

                  It wasn’t. In fact, he didn’t notice any effect at all, and he grew increasingly frustrated. Finally, he decided he couldn’t take lying down anymore and sat up, looking around the room. It was cluttered with various objects that he had overlooked while his friends had been in the room. Many of the higher shelves contained numerous sharp objects that Tom probably didn’t want to know the purpose of, especially considering that they were located in an infirmary. Not all of it looked menacing, however. On one lower shelf, within Tom’s height range, lay what looked like measuring instruments for weather. He remembered the navigator talking of thermometers and barometers and other ometers…All the various names escaped him, but he knew them by sight. What the doctor might have them down here for, where they did not even function correctly, did not occur to him, but he decided he wanted to investigate further.

               He focused on getting out of bed, hoping that his weakness would fade.  He recalled almost falling earlier, and stood slowly, testing his strength. He felt slightly shaky, but strong enough to wander over to the shelves, and he figured that as he moved more his strength would return. The doctor must be an idiot if he thought that staying in bed would help.

               He made it over and looked at the instruments, trying to read them. The markings on the barometer were indecipherable, but the thermometer was easy enough.

            286 degrees. Wait, that didn’t make sense. Tom looked at it more closely, and saw that it did in fact read 286. He figured it must be broken.

                He rummaged through the shelf, and suddenly his eyes caught something silvery on the other side of the room. It was a small, open tank of water, with what looked like a comb in it. There was a lantern above it, and a piece of paper underneath. Tom thought it was a very odd assortment, and he shuffled over to look at it.

              It didn’t seem to serve any purpose. The glass tank just sat there with its comb, and there were no fish or anything inside of the tank. It disappointed him. Bored already of the room he occupied, Tom picked up the comb and ran it haphazardly through the water, and saw the ripples it made.

             Something about the ripples intrigued him with their beauty. He faintly saw their shadows on the paper below the tank before they faded. He ran the comb through again, and studied them more closely. Where did they go when they disappeared? It almost hurt, to see them vanish. He focused on prolonging their shadows with each stroke of the comb, and the shadows and waves became noticeably more defined. Finally, he stopped using the comb altogether, watching the waves and their shadows and focusing on making them larger. He grew dizzy without knowing why.

              The tank suddenly shattered, and the water flowed out onto the floor, soaking into the boards of the ship. Tom snapped out of his trance in horror, the comb still in his hand. He was in trouble; that tank had been glass, and glass was expensive and rare.

               As if on cue, the doctor burst in, and upon seeing Tom out of bed with the broken tank and water pooling around the shelves, his face turned purple with rage.

             What did you do!? It’s broken! That took me years to get!” Tom backed up and his weakness suddenly returned, landing him on the floor with a thud. The comb was still clutched in his hand. “You!” The doctor whirled on him, and Tom braced to get struck. Instead, the healer hauled him up by the arm and shoved him back into bed, grabbing the comb out of his hand. “Stay there!”

Tom didn’t even consider disobeying. The doctor marched out, and quickly returned with a flask. “Drink it.” Tom did, not wanting to upset the doctor any further, who looked like he was going to cry. It tasted awful, but fear of what would happen if he didn’t finish it made him drink without gagging.

              “When you wake up, you get out of here. I don’t want destructive boys like you around.” The drink hit him almost instantaneously, and Tom’s eyes grew heavy. The last thing he heard was the doctor sweeping up the shards of glass, but he could think only of the beauty of the shadows of the waves.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Waterlord Prequel part 6

           Part 6

    “Tom? Tom, you lazy idiot, get up! …Tom?”

               Tom tried to open his eyes, but he couldn’t. He felt too weak. The voice faded in and out, and he couldn’t place it. For some reason, he thought it was Nathan’s fault. Nathan had put him out in the cold, in the rain…

              Tom coughed, and suddenly he started shaking. His body seemed to be devoid of any heat, and his muscles clenched and unclenched. He could barely feel his blankets covering him.

              “Tom? Relax… fever?...what...God...if...dying.” Tom heard a door open and close, and he thought someone lifted him before he passed out again.
                All he could hear was the pounding whoosh of water. Or maybe it was his blood flowing through him. There was an awful lot of it.


               Tom woke up, his eyes snapping open. He sat up quickly, looking around. He was in the infirmary, at the very bottom of the ship. He tried as best he could to remember how he had gotten there, but couldn’t. All he could remember were shadows, and getting hit with water.

               “What a weird dream.” His voice was loud in the quiet infirmary.

                A skinny, pale man cloaked in traditional healer’s red came into the room. “Ah! You’re awake!” Tom thought the man seemed nervous. “How do you feel?”

                 Tom didn’t bother to answer. “How did I get here?”

                “Mm…Your friend brought you here, about three days ago. You were very sick, but no fever. Very odd. You shook all the time with cold, no matter how many blankets were on you. You’re lucky.”

              Tom had stopped listening after the man had said that he had been there for three days. That couldn’t be possible! He kicked off the covers and started climbing out of bed, getting tangled in his nightclothes and almost falling on his face after he discovered how weak his sickness had made him.

               “Careful!” The doctor rushed over and pushed Tom back into the bed. “You don’t want to relapse! You’re staying there until tomorrow, to get strength back.”

                 Tom felt like arguing that he couldn’t get his strength back by staying in bed all the time, but realized it would be futile. He was bored already, though, and quickly realized that he was starving as well. He looked up at the doctor, who was eyeing him warily in anticipation of any further attempts to escape.

               “Got any food?” Tom asked. That seemed to please the doctor, who laughed.

              “Good, you’re hungry! I have sandwiches, of course, and grass rolls.” The doctor disappeared before returning with a plate of the aforementioned items, which Tom ate greedily. Even the rolls, which were nothing more than seaweed cooked in fish oil, tasted delicious.

               The doctor left, and once Tom finished eating, he quickly discovered there was nothing to do. He flopped back onto the pillows, but didn’t feel tired, which he thought obvious considering he had slept for the last three days, according to the doctor. He tried to think of how he had gotten here, but all he could remember was the same sensation as before, that of being hit with water. He thought he might have been burned as well, but there was no sign of it. It all confused him, and he grew frustrated. He wished the doctor would return so he could question him.

                The door banged open, and Tom bolted upright. Nathan sauntered into the room, his eyebrows raising when he saw Tom.  

            “So you’re awake?” Tom didn’t know how to respond to that. Obviously he was!

            Nathan looked down at him, his gaze hard to read. “You missed a stop at port.” Tom’s stomach fell in disappointment. “I brought you some fruit. Fresh from the island.” He smiled, and Tom thought it was sincere this time. Nathan handed him the fruit, which looked juicy and sweet. He bit into it eagerly, the juice running down his chin, which he licked with his tongue moments later. The fruit was quickly devoured, only the stem remaining. Tom rarely had fruit that was so fresh. Usually it was dried and salted from the hold.

             “Not bad, right?” Nathan said quietly.

           Tom had to agree. “Really good!”

               Nathan smiled again, but it seemed half-hearted. The energy that he had entered with seemed suddenly spent. He looked almost…sad. Tom had never seen him like that before.

               “Are you okay?” Tom didn’t know whether he should be worried or not. He wondered what Nathan had gotten up to in the three days Tom had been stuck here.

             “You’re asking me? You’re the one in the damn hospital.” Nathan didn’t look at him. Tom noted that the older boy didn’t actually answer his question. “It was a pain carrying you here, you know.”

Tom bristled. “I didn’t ask you too! If you still feel tired from that, then you’re just weak!”

                Nathan laughed quietly to himself. “I’m not tired.” He looked at Tom then, so intently that the younger boy shrank back. “But you haven’t told me how you feel.” Tom thought he used a very odd tone for a seemingly innocuous statement.

             “I’m fine! The doctor said I’ll be out tomorrow.” Tom stuck up his chin, promising himself that he would be out tomorrow, even if the doctor didn’t want him to. He couldn’t let Nathan catch him being wrong, or weak, again.

                Nathan smirked, but the expression didn’t contain the attitude that it usually did. He didn’t say anything, only looking at Tom in a way that made him uncomfortable. It was analytical, almost, and sad. Tom got worried. Did Nathan think he was going to die or something?

              “Hey! What are you doing in here?” Both boys looked up to see the doctor in the doorway. “You aren’t supposed to have visitors! You can see your friends when you leave tomorrow!” The doctor seemed nervous once again, but his tone was commanding. “I told you every day, leave him be!”

            Tom’s eyes widened. Nathan had checked on him every day?

                Nathan put up his hands in mock surrender. “Alright, I’m out.” He turned back to Tom, and his aura of obnoxiousness returned. “See you tomorrow. Maybe we can fish again.” He grinned and sauntered out the door. Tom just glared at his retreating back. He didn’t understand Nathan at all lately.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Waterlord Prequel part 5

            Part 5

  Wake up.

            The voice reverberated throughout Tom’s mind, breaking through his dreams. Groggily, he put his head up, trying to find its source.

              Wake up, go out.

           Tom rolled out of bed and stumbled to his door. Who was calling him? It couldn’t be Nathan, could it? He wouldn’t be up this late.

Tom fumbled with the door in an attempt to open it. It was so heavy. It wasn’t usually this heavy, and his sleep fogged mind couldn’t comprehend why that would change. The doorknob rattled in his hand, and he took a break to gasp. The air felt thin as it entered his lungs, not fully filling them, and it made his head swim.

             After wrenching the door open, the metal sliding in his hand, he stepped out of the door to his room. Immediately he shivered. The planks of the ship felt like ice on his bare feet. That was odd, considering he was well below deck, but for some reason his mind could not wrap itself around the myriad problems his senses were presenting him with.

               Go out. Tom had to obey, the voice both dizzying and commanding. The ship bucked under him, and he seemed to have lost his sense of balance, but he managed to lurch to a staircase that would take him up. A cold draft of air hit him, and almost knocked him down the stairs with its strength, but Tom could see that the door was not open.

             Was he dreaming? He must be. He stopped and leaned against the wall, horribly dizzy. He could feel every movement of the ship under him. He thought he had heard the navigator speak of the Fire Lords not being accustomed to the movement of ships after living on their islands for a long time, but that had never happened to Tom before. He was dreaming, or ill, he thought. He should go back to bed.

              Come on, go out. Almost there.  Tom groaned, but staggered up the steps once more, stopping at the door that led to the lower decks. Cold air leeched from outside. Fear suddenly chilled him. If this was a nightmare, it was a good one.

              A draft of wind blew the door open, and Tom almost fell outside. A strong pair of hands grabbed him and dragged him out of the doorway. Tom could only see shadows, and noticed that it was raining. The storm still raged, wind and rain lashing him, and he was soaked in seconds.

              He tried to fight, but whoever was holding him would not let him go. “Sssh, boy, it’s alright. No one’s going to hurt you.” Tom had never heard that voice before, but for some reason the fight went out of him. His knees buckled, and he fell into a chair that was hastily placed behind him. The dizziness would not go away, and he thought people flitted around him. He thought they were talking to one another, but the howling of the storm took away their words. When he blinked, they were gone, like shadows.

               Tom stared into space, blinking at the rain that fell into his eyes. He felt incredibly dazed, but was almost positive that this was a dream. He would wake soon. His body shivered, and he couldn’t focus on anything but the cold and the rain until the shadows-were they people?-placed something in front of him. It radiated heat.

                “Look here, boy.” It was a book. Strange, curling symbols wound around the spine and over the pages. Tom was suddenly intrigued, and as he gazed at it, the shadows and the storm faded around him. It felt so warm. It seemed to float, and the goosebumps on his hands faded as he brought his hand closer, flipping the pages, not sure what he was looking for but following the symbols he saw. They weren’t words, but they circled the pages, as if spiraling to the center of the book. He flicked over one page that was marked with a dark stone, and around him the shadows seemed to breathe.

He kept turning the pages. It chased away the cold and the wind from around him, and for a moment Tom expected to open his eyes and be safe and warm in his bed, the book and all of this a dream.

Tom flipped one more page, and for a moment he caught the shadows moving in the corner of his eye, and the warmth retreated. That was no good. Tom’s hand wavered, and the book did as well. There was a stone there in the center of the book. It gave off light, steadily, but the light did not reveal anything, the symbols still unreadable. Tom suddenly darted his hand forward, as though by instinct, and his fingers touched the stone.

               It burned, and Tom saw himself screaming. The shadows whirled around him, their voices humming or yelling or screaming with him. Tom even thought he heard Nathan’s voice, echoing with his pain. He saw flames in front of him, dancing a bright orange, and he was incredibly happy, smiling through the burning. This was flame magic, what he wanted!

             Then the flame turned blue, and he was hit with waves of ice. His screaming stopped, and everything was deathly silent. The book was no longer warm. The ship stopped moving, and he could no longer feel the rain or wind. Fear filled him. The shadows had stopped as well, and suddenly Tom felt horribly sick. He felt himself falling, and then everything was gone.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Waterlord Prequel Part 4

              As he did every evening, Tom ate in the mess hall. While those with families usually sat with them, sometimes others would join Tom at the children’s tables after grabbing their dinner. It was almost a separate room, partitioned off from the rest of the ship. Tom was ravenous, and got double helpings of everything. He intended this dinner to make up for the lost sandwich.

            It was lonely, with only Tom and another boy, Sam, sitting at the tables. Everyone was probably sitting with their parents because of the storm. Sam was young and childish, probably only here because he didn’t get along with his older sibling, but Tom appreciated having someone else here. He wondered where Nathan was.

             Nathan didn’t appear until Tom was nearly done with his food. Upon closer inspection, the older boy appeared to be limping, and had a stormy expression on his face. Tom laughed when it struck him. “Hah! Did you get hit by the teacher for skipping all the time?”

        Nathan looked up with a glare, pointing his fork threateningly at Tom. “Shut up, you little shit.”

        Tom raised his eyebrows, but took it as an affirmative. That was a fitting punishment for Nathan’s leaving him out in the storm. Sam giggled as he reached for another slice of fish.

Nathan banged the table with his fist, making the tableware jump. “Shut up, or you’ll regret it!” Sam only laughed harder.

                Nathan growled, and suddenly Sam’s plate shattered in front of him as Nathan slammed his fork through it into the table. The sound of the plate breaking finally made Sam hush, and even Tom froze. This wasn’t like Nathan. He played pranks, but he usually didn’t get this mad.

Nathan leaned over and enunciated very clearly. “Shut. Up.”

Sam squeaked in fear, and Tom froze, not knowing what Nathan would do. He didn’t think Nathan would hit him, but Nathan had never been so angry over something as trivial as this before. If it did come to a fight, Tom knew Sam stood no chance against the older, stronger boy.

            “C’mon, Nathan, he didn’t mean it,” Tom said. “He’s just—“

            “Why don’t you sit with your family and leave us alone?” Nathan growled at Sam. “You don’t belong with us.”

            Sam squeaked again and left, abandoning his plate. Soon it was just Tom and Nathan. The ship’s orphans, alone again.

“What’s with you?” Tom asked. The ship lurched, and he grabbed his plate before it slid. The broken pieces of Sam’s plate swept off onto the floor. “That was…mean.”

“Once we get old enough we’ll be off this stupid residence ship anyway,” Nathan said. “Why do you care? We’re orphans. Our parents are dead. Making friends with people who’ll stay here is dumb.”

Tom opened and closed his mouth. He wished he had known his parents. He had been abandoned, he knew, moved from one residence ship to this one when he was 10. He had lived in an orphan’s hold before, and it had hurt to leave it. But being independent and getting education was better, wasn’t it?

“But isn’t the freedom we have a good thing?” he said. “We can do whatever we want. Maybe…maybe even become mages.”

Nathan laughed out loud. “Sure. Right.” Sarcasm dripped from his words. “Good luck with that. Do you even have any idea how mages are chosen?”

“I…no. You know they don’t teach that.”

“Right. Because very few people can do it. You have to have the talent. Pass the test. And you won’t.”

“How do you know?” Tom retorted, pointing with his fork. “How do you even know there’s a test?”

“What else would there be?” Nathan put up both hands. “It’s innate ability. It’s not taught.” He grimaced, rubbing his arm. “And you have to obey the rules of the Fire Lord anyway. There’s no freedom in being a mage.”

“But you won’t be stuck here,” Tom said. “Riding on ships forever.”

“Yeah. Sure.” Nathan didn’t sound convinced. “Keep being young and stupid, Tom. You don’t know how good you have it.”

“What do you mean?” Tom yelled, but Nathan was already getting up. “Why are you being so mean to me?”

“Just…sleep well tonight, alright?” Nathan called back. “You’re better off the way you are.”

Tom was once again left alone at the table, staring at the wood and the silverware as it slid back and forth as the ship tossed. He and Nathan had been close once, the only orphans on the ship. But lately he was so hard to understand.

As he put his plate away and headed back to his small room, he just hoped Nathan wasn’t so mad in the morning.

The fury of the storm rocked the ship, but it only helped Tom to fall asleep. The falling rain couldn’t be heard this low in the bowels of the ship, but Tom could swore he heard it anyway, like quiet whispers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Waterlord Prequel part 3

Tom had almost dozed off. Fishing was surprisingly boring.

“Hah!” Nathan’s voice jolted him out of his stupor. Nathan had caught something, and he quickly began reeling it in, backing up from the edge of the ship. Tom jumped up from where he was sitting, trying to gauge how big the catch was from the bend in the line. He had wanted to make the first catch!

Nathan seemed to be having trouble with it, though. He was pulled toward the deck by the fish, and for a moment his line rolled out again before he regained control. “Damnit…” His brow furrowed, and he jerked the line toward the ship. Another fisherman came over to watch, cheering Nathan on.

               “C’mon kid, you got it!” This seemed to spur Nathan on, and he pulled the line more, backing up and inadvertently bumping into Tom.

               “Move it, damnit!” he shouted, and Tom jumped backward, more annoyed than ever. Why did Nathan always have to do everything? He eyed the water intently, trying to see the fish that Nathan was struggling with. It’d be funny if it got away.

               With a twang, the line snapped, and Nathan stumbled backward, landing ungracefully on his rear. The other fisherman laughed.

                “Tough luck there. I really thought you had him.” He walked back over to the nets, leaving Tom to deal with an angry and embarrassed Nathan.

              “Um..” Tom began. “Too ba-“

              Nathan was up in a heartbeat, grabbing Tom by his collar. He stared into his eyes for a moment before yelling. “That was your fault!”

              “What did I do?! It was the fish!” Why was Nathan blaming him?

               “Humph.” Nathan half dropped, half threw Tom down. “You always get in the way.”

    Tom scrambled to his feet, irate. “I do not! And you’re the one who asked me to fish with you!”

  “I didn’t know you’d be bad luck!” Nathan shouted back, but he seemed to have lost his initial anger. Like a bird smoothing its feathers, Nathan seemed to suddenly relax, and a thoughtful, almost conniving expression came over his face. “Let’s see what you can catch.”

     “Huh?” Tom was caught off guard by Nathan’s sudden change of mood, but then, that was typical. He figured he should be used to it by now. He shook off the strangeness of his companion and picked up his fishing rod again, staring out to sea as Nathan restrung his line. He could feel the other boy’s eyes on him, probably willing him to screw up somehow. He didn’t know if he wanted to catch a fish and show Nathan up, or not catch anything and avoid his wrath.

               Tom decided to simply fish, and let luck do the rest. He heard the whirr of string as Nathan cast his line again, and he watched as the bait plunked into the water. The bobbing of the string and the motion of the ship was almost hypnotic, and Tom suddenly felt tired once more. He heard the wind whistling in his ears, which was odd because he hadn’t thought it was that windy before. His eyes drooped, and he heard Nathan snicker before he fell asleep.

             The ship listed badly to one side, and rain pelted it. The wood groaned and cracked as the flames consumed it, but Tom couldn’t move. He was out of his element, and couldn’t breathe. The air cut his throat. He tried to find ground, but couldn’t; he was floating. He felt he should have control, but didn’t. Fear caught his throat, and he couldn’t scream…

            Tom woke up, heart pounding. He was sitting by the deck still, but it was dark, foreboding clouds overhead. The wind kicked up, and the whistling hurt his ears. The details of the dream had faded into his psyche, but the uneasiness remained. It was quickly replaced with anger, however, when he realized that Nathan was gone, as were the rods they had used to fish.

              “That jerk!” Tom yelled aloud. He knew it wasn’t Nathan’s fault that he had fallen asleep, but the older boy could have at least woken him! He didn’t see the other fishermen either, and all the nets had been hauled up. Looking up at the sky, fear filled him again. Everyone was obviously below decks for an impending storm. If he hadn’t woken on his own…

             A drop of rain hit his arm, and he looked up just as the sky unleashed its fury. The decks were soaked in seconds, and Tom ran quickly to the door, trying to throw it open. To his horror, it was locked.

             “Let me in!” He was soaked to the skin now, his brown hair plastered to his forehead, and he beat his fists on the door in near panic. The wind howled, and he hit the door harder, terrified of being caught in a windstorm and blown off the ship.

               The door whooshed open, and an old man stood there. “Get in here, boy!” He shouted. “What were you doing out there?”

                Tom dashed inside, and the old man, an ancient head cook on the ship whose name Tom could not remember, slammed the door against the wind. Tom looked miserable, dripping water onto the planks of the ship.

              The old cook shook his head. “Anyone else out there with you?”

                Tom sort of hoped Nathan was out there, getting as wet and cold as Tom was now, but he doubted it. “I don’t think so.” He realized that not only was he freezing, he felt half-starved, and he mourned his lost sandwich. Damn Nathan.

               “Weren’t you supposed to be in class?”

Tom frantically tried to think of an excuse. None was forthcoming.

               “Feh.” The man ambled off down the stairs to the lower portions of the ship. Tom dashed down after him, hoping to change into different clothes, and maybe get some food. He didn’t know how long until dinner, but perhaps they would serve it early due to the storm.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Waterlord Prequel part 2

             Children were given their lunch in the galley rather than the mess on class days, but afterward took their food to whatever part of the ship they could find, given that they did not get in anyone’s way. Tom grabbed a sandwich, just meat between fish skins. He usually sat on deck, staring out to sea. It never changed, but neither did the interior of the ship he lived on, so it was more entertaining to at least be outside. It was a gray day today, and windy. The fishermen weren’t having much luck, and Tom watched them trail their nets, the water lapping against the side of the ship.

      “What are you looking at?” Tom turned to see a tall youth with platinum blond hair named Nathan. Nathan often skipped class. Maybe he was scared Tom would turn him in.

                “Nothing,” Tom said. Nathan rarely hung out with him anymore; he had grown distant ever since the older boy had hit a growth spurt. “What are you doing?”

                 “Hm. Fishing, of course. It beats sitting in that damn classroom. Why do you go there, anyway? Only the teacher actually cares.” He sat down next to Tom and draped an arm over his knee, lounging.

                 “I dunno. Maybe we’ll learn something cool, like magic.”

                 Nathan snorted. “You and your damn magic. If you ever get tested, which you won’t, you’ll probably be too scared to do anything.”

        “That’s not true!” Tom retorted. “How would you know, anyway!? You’re no mage!”

                Nathan raised an eyebrow. “How do you know I’m not?”

               “Because…because you’re stupid and never go to class!” Tom spluttered.

   Nathan threw his head back and laughed. Quicker than Tom could see, he darted his hand and grabbed Tom’s sandwich, standing up and holding it just out of the younger boy’s reach. “See? Magic!”

                  “Give that back! You know I can’t get more!” Tom jumped up to try to snatch the sandwich back, but in vain. Nathan grinned, taunting him, before throwing it several yards away-off the ship.

                “Oops…sorry. Guess it slipped.” Nathan grinned.

                 “You jerk! I was hungry!” Tom yelled. He tried to push Nathan, but the older boy barely moved, just laughing harder.

                “Then fish with me, obviously,” Nathan said. “You can eat what you catch.”

              “You have to cook it first!” Tom shouted. “You’re such a jerk lately!”

             “You’re just a stupid child,” Nathan said. “Relying on handouts.”

            “I’m only two years younger than you!”

               The bell signaling the end of lunch break sounded then, making Tom jump. Tom was still hungry, but dared not let Nathan know that, and began to walk back to the hold where afternoon classes were held. Suddenly, though, Nathan grabbed his arm.

               “You’re not actually going back to class?” Tom looked at him warily. What did he care?

             “You’re hungry, right?  C’mon, fish with me. I didn’t meant to actually throw it off the side. Maybe we’ll catch your sandwich.”

Tom was unsure if this was a lead to another prank, or if Nathan was being sincere in his invitation. He also wondered briefly if it was possible to catch a sandwich. “Look, you don’t want to go back and get yelled at by the teacher, right?”

He had a point.

              “Fine, I’ll fish. But if we catch anything good, I get it first!”

               “Fair enough.” Tom wondered at Nathan’s sudden change, but decided to let it drop. Arguments never seemed to last long between them, no matter how annoying Nathan was. It came from both of them being orphans, probably. There weren’t many of them, and they had to stick together.  

      Tom followed Nathan to the bins that contained the fishing gear. Nathan grabbed a fishing pole and tossed it to Tom, who promptly dropped it after catching it. Nathan gave him a humorous look, and Tom defensively picked up the pole, trying to ignore the strain it put on his arms. He was annoyed when Nathan picked up another effortlessly, and did his best not to drop his or hit something with it when he followed Nathan to the prow of the ship where other fishermen were casting nets.

            “You know what to do, right?” Nathan asked.

Tom snorted. “Of course!” He knew how to put bait on a fishing rod.

             “Fine, fine. Just don’t lose the bait.” With that, Nathan deftly cast his line, the string unraveling and the bait dropping into the water. He fastened his end to the edge of the ship, and the motion dragged it along.

             Tom suddenly felt unsure, but wasn’t about to let it show. He tried to cast the same way Nathan had, but his line ended up in a huge tangle in the water. He glared at Nathan, daring him to say something, but the older boy only focused on his own line.

               After several tries, Tom succeeded in casting, and the two boys relaxed while their lines trailed. When Nathan wasn’t being a jerk, he was still okay to hang out with, Tom decided.

               They sat in silence for a while, Tom hoping that he would catch more fish than the older boy, when Nathan spoke up.

              “Storm coming.” His voice was almost a monotone, and Tom looked at him oddly. The day was perfectly clear, with not a cloud in sight.

             “What? How do you know?” Nathan looked over at him over his shoulder.

              “Magic.” His eyes twinkled with laughter, and Tom sighed. He hated it when Nathan made fun of him.

             “You wish!” Tom shouted. Nathan just laughed at him.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Love Wins released today!

Love Wins is a charity anthology of LGBT stories from Dreamspinner press, released today! You can get Love Wins at Dreamspinner or through Amazon!

With time comes healing, but Orlando and the LGBT community are still recovering from last June’s tragedy. To show our ongoing support for those affected by the Orlando shooting, our authors, editors, artists, and staff have volunteered their talents to create this second benefit anthology. All proceeds will be donated to LGBT organizations in central Florida. Join us as we reaffirm that no matter the obstacle, love always wins.

Below are brief descriptions of all the stories in the anthology.

Abstract Heart by Lucie Archer
Nick spends nearly every lunch break at the modern art museum, hoping to catch a glimpse of docent Kris. Kris has noticed the cute guy hanging around the exhibits too but never manages to approach him. It will take a matchmaking security guard to bring these two introverts together.

Cats and Christmas Trees: Trouble Waiting to Happen by M.A. Church
What’s a half human to do when Christmas rolls around? Kirk tries ignores it, but his shifter mates Tal and Dolf, being sneaky kitties, persist in finding out what’s troubling him so they can make it better.

A Chance for Hope by Deja Black
In the aftermath of tragedy, freelance writer Brad Truscott is drawn to ease Paul Bachman’s grief. But will Paul ever be ready to take another chance on happiness?

Changing Things by Nicole Dennis
Despite his allergies, Ryan puts up with the two rescue cats his boyfriend, Seth, adores. But when an especially severe asthma attack sends Ryan to the hospital, Seth realizes something has to give—either his relationship with Ryan or his guardianship of Fili and Kili.

Especially in Orlando by Troy Storm
When bighearted mover Dalton is hired to haul away a hot young guy’s belongings after a breakup, he can’t help returning to see how the good-looking older man is dealing with the transition. George is happy to take Dalton up on his offer of solace. But then George’s ex, Peter—aka Mr. Prissy Pout—has second thoughts, and while George isn’t interested in taking him back, he and Dalton are willing to share their experience—and more.

Free to Love by Kris T. Bethke
Henry is tired of hiding their relationship, but Shane is afraid to risk losing his job and his parents by coming out as gay. When his worst fears prove true, Shane finds that life outside his parents’ repressive control is so much better than anything he could have imagined.

Happily Ever After, After All by L.A. Merrill
Once upon a time, Princess Aubergine dreamed of a fairy-tale wedding to the girl of her dreams. Things haven't exactly worked out that way. Locked in a tower for ten years, Aubergine managed to scare off all the princes coming to rescue her. Now it's up to her to do the rescuing—until a band of students from the local Ladies’ Academy happen upon her tower and devise a daring escape plan.

The Importance of Pride by Ravon Silvius
College history professor Patrick Levine is looking for a subject for a research proposal when he discovers his granduncle’s journal. To his shock, not only was Uncle Marty gay, but he’d been at the Stonewall riot in 1969. Will learning more about his uncle’s history help Patrick face his own fears about coming out?

The Insomniac Sommelier by Julie Lynn Hayes
Kirk Westmoreland dreams of owning his own restaurant someday, but for now he fights insomnia while working at family-owned Venezia with his control-freak older brother. After work he tries to de-stress at Sweeties, a small diner run by his sister and her wife. When Kirk meets the diner’s new server, Ashley, he ends up going home with him—to the best sleep he’s had in forever. If he can’t keep his life at Sweeties compartmentalized from his life at Venezia, Kirk will have to decide which one he’s willing to give up.

Looking for George by David C. Dawson
Betty’s innocent crush on actor George Clooney became something more when he saved her from a fall at the hotel she works at in London. When she discovers her Italian holiday trip will take her only a few miles from the actor’s summer villa… well, surely fate means for them to meet again.

Love Over Lotto by Jude Dunn
Craig Batson and Tom Rendelle have plenty of joy together but not so much money. Determined to improve their finances, Craig borrows a library book on the secrets of winning the lottery and empties their rainy-day fund to buy dozens of lottery tickets. Tom explodes when he finds out, leaving Craig to wonder if their love can survive.

More Than His Scars by Jana Denardo
Facing the anniversary of the day he lost his arm while serving in the Middle East, Aaron is understandably depressed. It’s up to his lover, Rhys, to plan a special day to help Aaron see how amazing he really is.

Overcoming Fear by Grace R. Duncan
In the year since a global pandemic ravaged their world, Duncan has done everything he can to ease Mark’s fears of losing him. When a minister and his wife seek out Mark for help, Duncan sees an opportunity to show Mark another level of commitment—if Mark will dare to take it.

Prevailing Zzz's by Tray Ellis
After eight months together, Greg wants Win to move in with him. But how can Win agree when Greg's snoring leaves him sleep-deprived and miserable?

Pushing Back Oblivion by Alicia Nordwell
Fighting a rapidly growing brain tumor, Cohen promises his partner, Jaime, that he’ll never give up. Through surgeries and setbacks, at times that promise and Jaime’s voice are all Cohen has to cling to.

Reluctant Valentine by Xenia Melzer
A best-selling thriller novelist, Dean writes romances as a relaxing hobby. But when writer’s block strikes, sexy handyman Morgan shows up to provide all the inspiration he needs.

Taking a Chance by Renee Stevens
Gabe and Toby work for the same company, Gabe in the US and Toby in London. After meeting at a convention, they spend nearly every moment of their time together, but when they both have to return home, their only option is to attempt a long-distance relationship.