Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: The Waterlord Prequel part 11

               Nathan stood on the deck, completely absorbed in whatever he was doing, which didn’t appear to be anything but looking at the sky. Tom felt a strange kinship for a second. Hadn’t that been what he was doing only a moment before?

 He shook it off quickly, though. Nathan didn’t seem interested in the rain as much as the horizon itself. Tom didn’t have any idea how Nathan could see anything, but his gaze still remained fixed far ahead.

              Tom was trying to decide if he should call out to him when heard a shriek in his ear, and he yelped in high-pitched fear.

             Tom whirled around as an albatross flew into the sky, and soon out of sight. He gasped, catching his breath and trying to slow his heartbeat. He soon realized that Nathan was smirking at him.

               “Nice, Tom. Real mature, to be scared of a bird.” Nathan laughed.

               “N-not my fault! Where did it even come from?” Birds didn’t fly at night!

              Nathan sauntered over and patted Tom condescendingly on the shoulder, much to his further embarrassment. “It’s alright, Tom. I don’t think the bird will hurt you.” Sarcasm laced his words, and Tom pulled away.

              “I know that!” Unfortunately, Tom couldn’t think of any further comebacks.

              Nathan rolled his eyes, holding out his hand. Then he frowned. “Damn, what the hell?” Tom looked at him strangely. It had begun to rain harder, but Tom didn’t think it anything to be concerned about. It suited his mood well.

   Nathan frowned, looking down at him. “C’mon then, let’s go inside. The rain is awful anyway.” Tom didn’t agree at all, but he headed inside, stepping down the stairs. He wasn’t even sure why he had gone out in the first place. The rain was pretty, he supposed.

             Nathan jumped down the rest of the stairs, appearing next to Tom’s shoulder. Tom’s annoyance grew when he realized how much taller the blond boy was, Nathan looming over him…which reminded Tom of what he wanted to ask. Nathan turned to him, probably to make some sort of scathing remark, but Tom spoke before the older boy could.

              “Hey, today I talked to some old guy and he said he knew you…” Tom trailed off, trying to figure out how to ask Nathan about what Archibald had said. Something about clash, and orientation? And he had seen him again at dinner, too. He wanted an explanation, but it suddenly seemed awkward to ask. Nathan smirked at him, but it wasn’t the playful smirk Tom was used to. It was stiff, and almost menacing.

              “What did he say to you?” He talked as if he already knew something, and Tom grew nervous. Was Nathan mad at him for something so strange?

               “Um…he said that there’s no clash, and that”-Tom didn’t finish before Nathan put his hands on his shoulders and roughly shoved him against the wall of the ship, grinning from ear to ear.

              “No clash, huh?” Tom tried to get away, but Nathan’s fingers dug into Tom’s shoulder blades. Tom tried to wrench away once more. Nathan let him go suddenly, and Tom nearly fell on his face.

              “What was that for!?” Tom screamed at him, jumping away from Nathan in case he tried it again. Nathan backed up, his hands out in front of him in a peacemaking gesture.

              “Hey, just testing something. No harm done.” He smiled.

              Tom shrugged his shoulders, his skin crawling as he tried to shake off the sensation of Nathan’s fingers on them. This day had been so strange it was ridiculous, and Nathan had just made it worse. He hadn’t even gotten an explanation of what the old man had meant! He sighed, suddenly tired. He hoped tomorrow would turn out better, and then the following day the celebrations would start.

               “What’s on your mind now?” Nathan spoke up, and he sounded actually interested. “You look thoughtful.”

 “I’m tired!” Tom shouted at him, hoping he would go away. His shout came out more of a squeak, much to his mortification. For once, though, Nathan didn’t laugh at him, simply regarding him thoughtfully, though with an expression that made Tom mildly uncomfortable.

              “You want me to help you back to your room?”

               “What?” Tom looked up at the older boy, who actually avoided eye contact. Was Nathan nervous? That was unheard of. Did he think he was getting sick again? “No, I’m fine, just tired.”

               “Fair enough. You’re going to bed now?” He sounded concerned, and Tom couldn’t tell if it was due to worry or because Nathan would be bored without someone younger to torture.

               “Well, that’s what you do when you’re tired.” The sarcasm came to him easily. Tom realized he spoke nastily, but he chalked it up to his being tired, and he felt very sick of trying to understand Nathan’s motives. He turned away and started down the hall, disappearing around the corners. His body dragged with his exhaustion, and he wanted to get some rest before the festivities started. He also felt like avoiding Nathan for a while.

               He had nearly arrived at his door when Nathan showed up behind him. “Hey, Tom, listen.” It was not a question, more of a command. Tom turned. He would give him 30 seconds. 

             Apparently reading from Tom’s expression that he wouldn’t have much time, Nathan made it quick. “Hey, I’m sorry for manhandling you…I was just testing something.” Tom blinked. Was Nathan actually apologizing for something?

              “Um, okay.” Tom opened the door to go into his room, and Nathan left, vanishing down the hall so quickly Tom didn’t even see him. Nathan had no parents either as far as Tom knew, so his room wasn't far. Tom decided not to bother finding him, though, opting to sleep, and as he got ready for bed, he thought over the day’s events. If it was always this weird after getting sick, then he made a vow to never get that sick again. He hoped the holidays coming up would still be enjoyable, at least, and he focused on that as he fell asleep.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: The Waterlord Prequel part 10

Just a note--I had gotten the part numbering wrong. This is the real part 10!

Tom stared at the sky, his heart beating hard. He could suddenly sense…something. He felt like he could drown in the air, even though it also made him feel somewhat in control. He hoped he wasn’t getting ill again. He walked over to the side of the ship and looked down into the water. It was calming, somehow.

    He wondered if the water felt like the air did now. It was so damp, and yet he wasn’t wet. There must be water in the air…it dawned on him then. It was going to rain. He looked up, and as if on cue, a downpour started. His classmates on the deck groaned, and started heading under, their break for fresh air interrupted.

             Tom didn’t mind the rain, though. He had before, when Nathan had cruelly left him out as a prank, but now it was different. It was peaceful, and it made him feel strong, for some reason. He wondered briefly if he could catch the raindrops and throw them like a bucket of water.

             “Tom, what are you standing there for? It’s pouring, let’s go!” One of his classmates pulled him away from the edge of the ship, and he broke out of his daydream.

               He followed the others below deck, and he watched while those who had gotten caught in the rain attempted to dry off. They had taken some of the dampness in the air with them, and Tom noted how the wooden planks of the ship absorbed the excess water. That was probably bad for the wood, Tom figured.

               “Don’t you want to dry off?” someone asked. Tom didn’t really want to, but agreed anyway, running his hands through his hair to shake off some of the water. He had never noticed before how nice rain was.
              “Cruddy weather,” someone said. Tom frowned.

“I hope it lets up before the holiday,” someone else said next to him.

               “Holiday? As in, days off?” Tom perked up when the speaker nodded. He hadn’t realized it was near the Ship Lord’s holiday again. He couldn’t wait for the festivities. There would undoubtedly be food, and often they met up with other of Ruthen’s ships to exchange goods. He could meet new people, maybe explore another ship, and best of all, not have to worry about class for three days. Once he got through this one, he could eat and then have time to himself, and hopefully plan with Nathan what to do to celebrate. Nathan had been strange lately, but surely he would have time over the break to spend with Tom. Tom spent most of the lesson that afternoon pondering what he could do over the break from classes.

              Once classes were over that evening, Tom’s stomach growling with hunger, the navigator pulled Tom aside. Tom jumped in surprise. Was he being punished for something?

              It turned out that was far from the case. “Tom, I heard you were ill from a friend of the captain.”

              Tom tilted his head. He didn’t know anyone that was at all close to the captain, and he had no parents on the ship that would have such connections. It was true, though, so he simply nodded.

              “Well, if you ever need to take time off, that’s fine.” The navigator looked as if she was sharing some secret with him. Was she telling him that he could cut class…whenever he wanted? He tried to suppress a grin.

               “Uh, sure.” He replied, and quickly ran out after the rest of the class. That had been odd, but he figured the teacher was just worried about his health. How sick had he been, anyway? He didn’t know, but he was happy with all the benefits it had given him.

 Tom headed to the mess hall next, sitting alone at a table and enjoying his meal. He started when he saw the same strange man he had run into earlier that morning in the hall, sitting at one of the head tables. As if sensing Tom’s attention, the stranger put his head up and stared back at him, his eyes glittering. Tom’s heart jumped. He remembered his conversation with the man, suddenly. The guy’s name was Archibald, and he wanted Tom to tell Nathan about clash, or something. Tom figured he would, just to get an explanation of some sort for all the odd events of the day. Assuming, of course, that Nathan knew anything. Tom frowned. He couldn’t decide yet if today had been good or bad.  

            He should probably go find Nathan. Where he would be, Tom had no idea.

            As he headed down the hall, he could hear the drumming of the rain against the ship. He stopped, cocking his head. Had he always been able to hear that when it rained?

            He headed down the hallway, his skin buzzing with a strange sensation, like the feeling he got before a storm but…deeper. More obvious. He stopped by the door to the deck, staring at the wood. He could hear the rain pounding outside.

            This was stupid, he knew. But he pushed open the door anyway.

             The rain hit him with force, soaking him in seconds, but Tom didn’t. He felt invigorated by it, and dashed to the edge of the deck, looking over the water. The spray of the ocean mixed with the rain from the sky, and he realized that they were different. He grinned into the storm, his face and hair already soaked. He felt powerful, out in the heavy rain like this. He wondered if anyone else felt the same way.

            He jumped when the door to the inside of the ship banged open. Tom peered through the rain as a figure walked to the edge of the ship, looking out over the water into the rain. Tom almost called out, but then closed his mouth. It was Nathan.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: The Waterlord Prequel Part 9

  The navigator raised an eyebrow at Tom’s interruption. “Oh? Well, what creates water currents, then?”
  Tom bit his lip. He had never actually attempted to answer anything on his own in class before. “Um…things. Like, when you drop something in the water, it creates little waves.”

                 The navigator smiled. “Yes, that’s true, but aren’t there tides and such that large currents follow?”

                For some reason Tom thought that was wrong, but couldn’t place why. He was very aware of the entire class staring at him. “Uh…there are large underwater currents, but if they followed tides…tides change, and that would mean that the currents would too, but they don’t. Do they?” He looked up at the navigator, unsure.

               She sighed. “Well, Tom, little is known of underwater currents. Wave studies have been carried out for years. It is thought that they follow the tides, and change with the weather.”

             “Oh.” Tom was confused. If waves followed tides, then how did the ships get anywhere? And in the tank, the waves created had disappeared after reflecting off the tank walls. Did the same thing happen with real ones?

The navigator moved on, though, to discussions of air currents, which Tom did not find half as intriguing. Weather did not shape all water currents, he was convinced. There must be something static that determined their motion. Tom opted to daydream again rather than listen to the teacher. Every time they began to discuss something interesting, it never seemed to last, and this lesson on air currents seemed to drag on forever. Apparently much more was known about it than tides and water currents, and Tom found that mildly annoying.

               “Ah, apparently someone has seen fit to join us for once.” Tom looked up in surprise at the change in the teacher’s tone. In the doorway, Nathan strode in, probably his first time actually attending class in a while. He didn’t respond to the teacher’s jibe; he simply sat down in an empty chair next to Tom. His assigned seat had been taken by someone else in response to the fact that no one actually expected him to ever show up. He smiled at Tom happily before turning to the teacher, as if he were actually going to try and learn something. Tom wasn’t fooled.

               “What are you doing here?” Tom hissed, trying to keep his voice low enough so that the teacher wouldn’t hear him.

                Nathan didn’t even turn to face him. “What does it look like? Schooling.” Tom could barely hear him; apparently Nathan had mastered the art of whispering during class.

               Tom wasn’t willing to let it go. “Why now?”

               Nathan looked at him this time. “Maybe I’m just looking out for you.” He grinned.

               Tom felt his face grow hot, and his own reaction irritated him even more. “What?!” He yelled the last, too loudly.

               The whole class looked at him for the second time that day, and this time the teacher was not amused. “Do I need to separate you two?” She looked tired already.

              “No…I’ll be quiet.” Tom attempted to whisper this time. The teacher just rolled her eyes and turned back to the board. Nathan snickered, and Tom tried to kick him under the desk. His legs were too short to reach and he ended up hitting the leg of the desk, making it jump. The teacher looked up, but Tom stayed motionless. Nathan laughed quietly the entire time, and Tom vowed to get him back for it.

               The teacher returned to the subject of air currents, and though Tom found it boring, he couldn’t help noticing that Nathan, of all people, had begun to take notes, the chalk grating on the board. He longed to ask the older boy why he had suddenly returned to class and actually shown an interest, but didn’t want to risk embarrassing himself further. He wished the teacher would talk more about water.

               Tom rested his head in his hands as the teacher droned on. He actually felt rather tired. Watching Nathan scribbling down notes made him feel like an even worse student. He couldn’t wait until it was time for lunch.

              “The nature of wind is akin to osmosis--high to low pressure areas. One can predict storms with a barometer, which measures pressure.” Tom thought he had seen a barometer in the infirmary. He hadn’t bothered to see how it worked, though. He sighed and looked over at Nathan again, who appeared to be grinning as he was taking notes. Tom wanted to smack him.

              Tom rested his head on his desk. Maybe he could take a nap without anyone noticing. He closed his eyes and let the teacher’s droning lull him. It sounded like water burbling…

              Someone punched him in the arm, hard. “Ow!” Tom stood up indignantly, glaring at Nathan. The rest of the class was getting up, and Nathan was folding up the board he had taken notes on. Apparently class was over. He followed the rest of the students out of the room, and stopped in the hall.

             “Way to sleep during class.” Nathan smirked at him.

             “It’s not my fault the teacher is so boring!” Tom growled back.

            “Right, right.” Nathan laughed, and gave Tom a shove. “Why not explore on deck for a while? See, all the little kids are going.”

            Tom scowled. “I’m not a little kid!” He was thirteen and living on his own! Granted, he had to because he had no family, but that independence had to count for something.

            Nathan ignored him, though, and Tom frowned and headed up to the deck. He wished he understood the other boy.
            When he looked up at the sky, and noticed it was cloudy, and the air felt oddly heavy with humidity that he could not feel, yet somehow sense. He was very aware of the dampness in the air, and wondered if anyone else noticed. His heart began to pound.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: The Waterlord part 8


Part 8

    When Tom woke up once more, he had no sense of what time it was. His mouth tasted terrible because of what the doctor had given him, and he quickly remembered that he was supposed to leave once he awoke.

             He crawled out of bed quickly, not feeling the same weakness from before. The shelves and glass were all cleaned, all traces of the tank removed. Tom felt a pang of sympathy for the doctor for destroying it, but it was not as if he had meant to. It had just kind of…happened.

              Tom looked around for anything Nathan might have brought here, but he couldn’t find anything. He would have to go back to his room wearing nothing but his nightclothes, which he found slightly embarrassing.

              He peeked out of the door and looked down the hall, but there was no one. He began to race back to his room, and  almost made it there when he turned a corner and ran smack into someone. He yelped, and jumped back in fear.

                It was a tall, mean looking man who Tom had seen once or twice while walking to the children’s tables in the mess hall. He gave Tom a glare and grabbed him by the arm, squeezing it painfully.

             “You’re Nathan’s little friend, aren’t you?”

                Tom wondered how this man knew Nathan, and whether or not he should answer.

                 “Hmm…odd. I would not have taken you for one. Odd initiation. Very odd.” The man mumbled to himself, and Tom was more than a little frightened. He pulled back his arm from the man’s grasp, and the man sneered at him.

               “Tell Nathan that Archibald saw you, and there’s nothing to worry about. No clash.” He leered at Tom, and Tom didn’t even think about offending the man before running the rest of the way back to his room in fear and locking his door. What had that guy been going on about? He wondered if he should tell Nathan what had happened. He wanted an explanation, but he was too scared to get one from that man…Archibald, or whatever. The last few days had just been weird.

               He changed out of nightclothes and into normal ones. It could be the middle of the night for all he knew, but he wasn’t tired so he wasn’t going to sleep. He was thirsty, though, and hungry. He hoped it was near mealtime. The last time he had eaten was in the infirmary, who knew how long ago, and he wanted the aftertaste of that sleeping concoction out of his mouth.

                He waited for a while, hoping that freaky man would get out of the hall, and then exited the room, heading toward the mess. He saw a few people on his way, which mostly ignored him, and he knew it must be some time during the day. His suspicions were realized when he got to a window that looked out on a clear dawn sky.

               Morning, then, and there was probably still time to get food. He wandered into the mess hall and up to the serving tables, looking for leftovers.

               “Ah, it’s you.” The chef who had let him in all those days ago was looking at him, but this time in sympathy. “I heard you were sick when you didn’t come and do dishes.” Tom just nodded, still roaming the table for decent food.

                “Here, take a bit of this.” The chef handed him a fish roll, which was an odd choice for breakfast. Tom did not complain, though, and thanked him, wondering how sick he had been if even this cook treated him well.

               “Off to class with you now. You’re probably late.” Tom nodded again and shoved the whole roll in his mouth, darting out of the mess and toward the classroom.

               He was late, and the whole class turned to look at him when he walked in. Rather than scolding him, though, the navigator simply motioned for him to sit down and continued with her lesson. Getting sick had its advantages, Tom thought. He figured they probably wouldn’t last longer than today, though. He didn’t see Nathan anywhere, which figured.

              “The Coreolis effect is interesting in that it affects both the air currents and the tides. Of course, it’s not as much an influence on tides as the moons are, but were the rotation of our planet to change, tides would change as well as the air currents. Can anyone tell me how the movements of air differ from the two hemispheres?”

               Tom was lost already. What was the Coreolis effect? He wondered, considering he had missed the beginning of the class, if it was safe to ask.

                A girl on his left spoke up in answer to the navigator’s question. “The air is generally clockwise in the north hemisphere, counter in the south.” Tom looked at her in confusion. Was there an equation for that?

                “Very good, Amelia. Now, let’s move into something else. What are the similarities and differences between air and water currents?”

                Tom thought he might be able to actually answer this. He thought back to the comb and the broken tank in the infirmary, and the wave shadows. Could you see shadows of air currents? Did air currents reflect? He was at least sure that air could break stuff…

                “Air and water currents are both forces, but air moves from high to low pressure, whereas water follows tides,” a boy said.

                Tom thought of the comb. “No, water currents don’t follow anything, something has to create them.” The class turned to him, and he realized that he had spoken out of turn.

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.