Rowen dug his feet into the sand that mingled with the grass and bracken of the forest. He wanted to look at the ocean he would never have even dreamed of before coming to the island, but all he could think about was how the setting sun reminded him of home.
His home that wouldn’t be saved. His parents, Lucas, even the people who had sacrificed him.
He had learned enough to know what sacrifice really meant now. They had delayed saving his village, and his people had died. His parents had died. The storm lords had to make sacrifices.
Rowen wanted to forget his old life, to make a new life here. But it just kept coming back. He was no storm lord. He was a well-digger. And even if he became a storm lord, he couldn’t save everyone. He would have to make sacrifices, just like Kristoff had sacrificed the people in his village by coming too late.
Rowen hated that word. He remembered the heat spells, the stifling, choking air that made his throat feel like sand. They would just keep coming, and his village would die when another city with more people had to be saved first. It would be sacrificed for others, just like he had been.
Rowen suddenly wanted to go home. He was a sacrifice too. He belonged there.
Splashing caught his attention, and he took a few careful steps toward the water. A familiar shape emerged against the evening sky.
Volkes paused when he saw Rowen. “Don’t tell me you waited at the shore the entire day for me,” he said with a laugh.
Rowen glared at Volkes, tilting his head.
“So what’d you do all day then?” Volkes said. Rowen wondered if Volkes was cold in the chill air after being in the water, but then again, the notherner was probably used to colder weather than this. Water ran down his body, and Rowen couldn’t help but look. He still wore nothing but tight shorts, and his wet hair made him look less like Lucas and more like he had the night before.
Heat flashed through Rowen, and he looked away. He didn’t want that now, did he? After all he had learned? Anger twisted inside him, anger at Kristoff and at himself. He wanted a new life, but now after all he had learned, his new life felt wrong.
“Hey.” Volkes got closer, putting his hand on Rowen’s chin. “What’d you do all day then, just wander around?”
Rowen nodded, not liking the way Volkes was pushing on his chin and making it harder to move his head.
“Whoa.” Volkes put his hand on Rowen’s face, then on his shoulders. “You’re really warm.”
Rowen curled his upper lip and shook his head.
“Are you sick or something?” Rowen shook his head again. Volkes pushed himself against Rowen, one hand going under his shirt. “You don’t seem sick I guess, just hot.” His touch teased, and Rowen allowed it for a moment, Volke’s hands cool from the ocean.
Then Volkes grabbed his chin again, pushing Rowen’s head up. He hated it when Volkes did that.
“Whoa!” Volkes leaped back, taking both hands off Rowen. “What did you just do?!”
Rowen blinked, then tilted his head.
“That had to be…lighting, right?” Volkes grinned. “It felt like you burned me.” He looked at his hand, then shook it as though he had just touched a metal basin left out in the sun during the heat of the day. “Huh. Maybe I won’t be the only one called Lightning soon enough.”
Rowen drew his brows down.
“Volkes lightning. That’s what they’ll call me, when I graduate, since I can affect the air well enough to create it. It gets rid of ozone that’s part of a heat spell.” Volkes took a few steps around him. “Most talented Stormlords get nicknames like that. It’s why they call Kristoff Kristoff Hurricane.” Volkes peered at him, careful not to touch him again. “Do you even know what you did? I’ve never done something like that, but I guess it’s because I have training.” He smirked.
Rowen shook his head, shivering a little when a chill wind blew. Volkes didn’t even seem to notice. Just another reason he missed home.
“What’s the matter?” Volkes said. “You seem pissed off. What, mad about me ditching you this morning?”
Rowen paused, unsure how to answer that. He shook his head, waving a hand.
“So something else happen?” Volkes’ eyes gleamed, and he got closer again. “You’re like me, I’ll bet. You use your magic when you get pissed off. So who pissed you off? Elise?” Rowen shook his head. “Sharon?” No again. “Kristoff?”
Rowen clenched his jaw. This was private, but he nodded anyway, anger boiling to the surface.
“Thought so. What, you went to him for a fuck and he turned you down?”
Rowen turned horrified eyes on Volkes and shook his head. Volkes burst out laughing.
“Just making sure I didn’t leave you desperate this morning.” Volkes moved even closer. “Forget about Kristoff.” The name sent more anger through him. “Why don’t I…okay, whoa.” He backed off again just before touching Rowen. “You are really, really hot. And I mean that literally. Maybe calm down first? Whatever the hell Kristoff did, I’m sure it’s not that bad. Mentors always piss off their students.” His words weren’t helping. “What’s the worst he could have done?”
Killed my people. Lied to me. Let my parents die. Anger boiled over, his face heating.
“Hey…” Volkes rolled his shoulders. “Don’t cry. Men don’t cry.” He stared at Rowen, and Rowen wished that he would just go away. He wished he could speak. Writing wasn’t enough, and he was no good at it anyway. He didn’t know what to do.
“Alright, when you get your shit together, find me again. Maybe.” Volkes snorted in derision, and soon enough Rowen was alone again, with just the dirt and sea for company.
It didn’t matter. He had only liked Volkes because he looked like Lucas. But he wasn’t Lucas. Lucas was dead.
He had tried so hard to put it all behind him.