Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: The Stormlords part 22


Kristoff was glad Rowen was learning to communicate better and more willing to try, but it only made him more frustrated when he couldn’t understand what Rowen wanted. He started walking, feeling the weight of Rowen’s eyes on him.

“Dr. Lorence told me he wants to…” he had said “speak with him,” but Kristoff didn’t want to use that word. “Examine you again. He wants to see how your burns are doing. And he mentioned being curious about something from your first exam.”

Rowen walked beside him, not behind him as he had the first day, and his gaze roved the surroundings as they headed down the hill through the trees toward the center of the island. The last time they had walked this path he had been confused and most likely in a lot of pain.

“You may or may not remember this, but as we go toward the middle of the island, you can find the medical center. The medical school is also there, in an enormous white marble building. If you ever see someone in a white or gold robe, they’re medical students or doctors. White for a full doctor, gold for a student, and a mix of the two for someone who’s completed their studies but haven’t passed their final exam yet.” Rowen nodded. “The other major building here is the governor’s building, also called the Storm building. That’s where we Storm Lords go to make our reports. All records are kept there.”

Rowen perked up at that. “We keep records of every heat spell we’ve ever dispelled, and how we did it.” Rowen followed his pointing finger, narrowing his eyes at the enormous, two story building. Kristoff’s stomach flipped at the severe expression.

“I’ll take you by there someday soon. Lorana—you remember her—works there. But for now, we have to see Dr. Lorence.”

Rowen looked back with a sigh.

***
“Well, just who I wanted to see,” the doctor said as they entered the building. “Rowen, you’re looking much better.” The redhead gave a tentative smile. “Do you feel better?” A nod.

Kristoff felt completely superfluous, but Lorence motioned for him to follow. “Rowen, now that you’re in less pain, I want to give you another examination. Is that alright?” Another nod. They walked up to Lorence’s office, the scent of something herbal wafting through the air.

“Fantastic. Kristoff, please wait out here for the examination.” Rowen turned big eyes on him.

“That’s fine. If that’s okay with you, Rowen?” He stared for a moment, then nodded again.

The door shut, and Kristoff sighed, swallowing against the tension. Dr. Lorence was kind and understanding. Rowen would be fine.

He just wished he knew more. He wondered if there were signs Lorence could find, marks or scars of a past that he could read and tell Kristoff.

Of course, Rowen may not want them read. The reason he had been tied up and left for dead, for example.

He hated thinking that way about Rowen. The man had shown no signs of hostility. But if something was wrong, something he could fix, Kristoff wanted to know. Rowen could just as easily have been a victim of something, and somehow that thought scared Kristoff more.

The door’s creaking interrupted his thoughts. “We’re ready for you.”

A spike of anxiety went through Kristoff as he entered the sun drenched exam room. Rowen stared out the window, his expression neutral. He was shirtless, and while his skin was still pink in some places, the bandages were gone.

“Look here, Kristoff.” Dr. Lorence held up a paper, covered in a detailed drawing of what looked like a seed.

“The first time Rowen came here, I asked him what may have caused his handicap. We were able to surmise that he was poisoned, right?” Rowen looked over, giving a careful nod. The sun lancing through the window and bouncing off the white bedsheets he sat on made his red hair look like fire.

“I asked him to draw me what he ate. He drew these, and surprisingly well, too. We may have an artist on our hands.” He inclined his head toward Rowen. “They look like seeds, though none I’ve seen. Probably a variety specific to that part of the world.”

Kristoff stared. The seeds were oval shaped, with two lines down the center. “Rowen, can you draw the plant that grows from these?”

Rowen shook his head, then shrugged.

“No plant grows from these?”

A pause, then another shrug. Rowen made a quick motion, a careful pinch of the fingers, and mimed throwing something in his mouth.

“Does everyone eat these seeds where you are from?” The doctor walked over to the bed. “Does it have this effect on others?”

Rowen stared, his jaw tense and his eyes lined with pain. Kristoff was about to ask to stop, to revisit the topic another time, when he nodded again.

“Is it curable where you’re from?”

Rowen shook his head, and Kristoff felt a hammer of dissapointment that he hadn’t expected.

“I have a proposition for you both,” Dr. Lorence said. Rowen’s eyes widened. “It may not be curable where you’re from. But if I get my hands on these seeds, perhaps I can figure out more about them. Kristoff, can you fly to the village where you found Rowen and bring me back a sample?”

Kristoff wanted to agree immediately, until he saw the look of terror that flashed across Rowen’s face. Green eyes met his, and Kristoff wished once again that he knew what had happened.

This was the best way. Whatever had happened, whatever Rowen was afraid of or afraid that Kristoff that would find out, it had to be done. “I’ll do it,” he said to Lorence. “Give me the paper.”

When he looked back, a sharp stab of guilt went through his core. Rowen was looking out the window again, his face a careful mask.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Stormlords part 21


Kristoff had never seen anything like that, and he had sensed, and watched others sense, hundreds of times.

            The first time he had sensed a storm, he had been eight, and it had suddenly appeared in his mental image of the ocean—a swirling mass of air, an enormous hurricane in the middle of the ocean. There was one now, spinning harmlessly hundreds of miles away. Rowen hadn’t sensed it.

            But he had clearly sensed something. Kristoff had felt the tinge of magic, the same tinge that had clued him to Rowen’s location in the desert village. But the sensation, as he had focused on it, was foreign to him. He had never sensed its type before.

            It unnerved him, and he headed to the bar where Lissa usually hung out. He wished he knew more about his mysterious student, but only time would reveal it. It was best not to think about it for now.

            “Kristoff!” As usual, Lissa sat at a table by herself, drinking water and people watching. Not the usual reason a woman her age went to a bar, but Kristoff didn’t mind. “How is your student? Rowen, right?”

            “He’s doing well enough,” Kristoff slumped into a chair across from Lissa, the dark haired woman raising an eyebrow. “I think.” The strange magic, on top of everything else he wanted to know, wasn’t making his new role as mentor any easier.

            “Sure. And how are you doing?” She pushed her drink across the table toward him with a grin. “Looks like you need this more than me.”

            Kristoff gave her a weak smile. “I just never knew mentoring would be so tiring.”

            “Ugh.” Lissa took her drink back, taking a hearty gulp. “I hope I never end up with one. Between your mute and Franken’s annoying little brat, I’ve heard too many horror stories.” Kristoff wouldn’t call Rowen a horror story, but he didn’t argue. “And Katia is pulling her hair out over Volkes.”

            “Volkes? The rude northerner, Rowen’s roommate?”

            “That’s the one. Insufferable, apparently, and he’s gotten worse now that he’s getting close to finishing his training. A competitive streak a mile long, and the worst of the northerner traits. Chauvinistic through and through, no respect for Katia. At least he’s gay, so no woman will ever have to deal with him.”

            Kristoff laughed. “Sure. Shove him off on us.”

            Lissa raised her glass. “I’m sure no man will take him either. He’s very good at what he does, too. Doubly annoying We’ll have to deal with him as a peer soon enough. Katia hoped he would fail under her tutelage and get passed on someone else, but…”  She shrugged.

            “We can’t afford to let anyone fail,” Kristoff said. “Not with the way things have been going.”

            “Believe me, I know.” Lissa sighed, her smile fading. “We have 23 students, total. I may have to find a student, no matter what I want.” She sipped her drink again, her gaze distant. “And you will have to work hard on this Rowen.”

            “Believe me,” Kristoff parroted her. “I know.”
***

            “A change of plans this evening, Rowen,” Kristoff said a few days later. His student stopped at the door to the astronomy hall, letting the other students pass him by. Usually Kristoff met him at the mess hall in the evenings before their lessons on magic, and it was strange to see the adult man in a class with young teenagers.

At least Rowen looked better. Most of the bandages were gone, at least the ones that weren’t covered by clothing, and his skin had stopped peeling in most places. Kristoff tried to quell the thought that his student would be quite attractive when he had healed fully.

Kristoff waited for the other students to leave before he spoke, some of them casting curious glances their way. “Dr. Lorence wants to examine you again. Is that alright with you?”

            Rowen nodded. It had been nearly a week since he had first arrived, and had made what Kristoff considered good progress. He was learning his letters well, according to Lila, though he was not quite at the point where he could write out messages. It felt very strange to be told that an 18 year old man was just at the point of having learned to write his name.

            Rowen was not stupid by any means, though. Considering his background, which Kristoff wished he knew more about, he was doing wonderfully.

            Kristoff wished he saw more signs that Rowen was making friends, but with his classmates being several years younger than him, he supposed there was nothing to be done about it. He could only hope he was getting on with his roommates. He ate with them, at least.

            There had been no repeats of the strange magic Kristoff had sensed, either. Every evening during his instruction, Rowen had not revealed any hint of magic at all. It wasn’t unusual for a new student, but Kristoff wished he could have a chance to analyze that magic again.

            It took Kristoff a moment to realize that Rowen was looking at him with one eyebrow raised, his mouth twisted in a careful, questing smirk. Where had he learned that expression? “Just thinking,” Kristoff said.

            Both eyebrows raised. Rowen pointed at the door, then shrugged.

            Oh. Of course. “I’ll go with you. If that’s alright?” Another nod, but he didn't lose the curious expression.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Stormlords part 20


Rowen nodded, raising an eyebrow at Kristoff, but the storm lord didn’t offer anything else other than his advice to help “about anything.” Rowen hoped he didn’t mean about…what Volkes had said. His heart beat fast, wondering if Kristoff sensed the same tense, awkward air he did.

 Rowen relished the silence as they walked up a steep incline. Getting the chance to use his magic would be interesting, he was sure. He concentrated on breathing. He was still weak from the ordeal, and his few remaining bandages clung to his body with sweat by the time they reached the top. Stars had begun to appear in the dusk sky.

The island lay spread on either side, and the mess hall was now a speck in the distance. Rayen’s mouth fell open. His desert village had been completely flat. He had never been able to see things from a vantage point like this one before. He wondered if it would be even better if he could learn to fly like Kristoff. His worries about Volkes and about what Kristoff might think faded in the face of the view.

“It’s nice, isn’t it?” the storm lord said, smiling at him. “I suppose you get used to it, but the first time seeing the island from here is pretty impressive.” Rowen nodded emphatically, turning to look at the houses that dotted the green landscape.

“This is where most apprentices learn to sense,” Kristoff said. He sounded more formal now as he gave the lesson, and Rowen turned to attend. “There are different types of atmospheric changes that a storm lord can learn to sense, and some have affinities for certain types over others.” Rowen blinked, struggling to decode his words.

            “Now, Rowen, I want you to close your eyes.” He did so. “Feel the breeze on your skin.” There wasn’t much of one, and the bandages blocked most of it. “Can you stretch that awareness of the air around you?”

            Rowen tried. The air was cold against his skin, raising goosebumps when he tried to focus on it. He tried to stretch his sense of it the way he thought Kristoff meant, but all he could do was imagine what the world underneath the hill looked like.

            There must be more than just the island, though. On the edge of it, there must be the ocean. His father had talked about the ocean, an enormous body of water that was always in motion. They had flown over it, he knew, although he hadn’t seen much under the swirling air that Kristoff had conjured.

            Rowen wondered what his father would think of Rowen flying away from their village on the wings of a storm, becoming someone who would have saved him. Should have saved him.

            He opened his eyes and shook his head. “Is there something wrong?” Kristoff said.

            He shook his head again, closing his eyes and focusing once more. If he was going to save anyone, he had to do better.

            He felt the air around him again, and thought of the ocean. Again, however, his thoughts were dragged to the desert. His old home, his family. He screwed his eyes shut tighter, sweat trickling down his forehead despite the cool air. Heat suddenly flashed through him, and he gasped, opening his eyes.

            Kristoff placed a hand on his forehead, his mouth a thin line. Rowen cocked his head.

            “Did you sense anything?” Kristoff asked. He shook his head, face flushing. “That’s alright. It was a good try. I did sense you using magic, though it’s too soon to tell what type. I would guess…lightning?”

            Rowen brightened, his eyebrows raising. He had used magic? He hadn’t even been aware of it.

            “Well, this is good news.” Kristoff said. “It’s certainly reassuring that you can use magic.” Rowen’s face fell. He had doubted it?

            “It’s far too soon for you to start summoning storms, though. It felt very unformed. Don’t worry,” he added quickly, noting Rowen’s expression. “It takes years and years of training to summon any sort of storm.”

            Rowen wished he could ask him about his power. Kristoff Hurricane, Volkes had called him.

            “Good job. I guess…that’s enough for tonight. Let’s head back down.” Kristoff turned, and Rowen followed, aching to ask questions he never could. But he couldn’t. Not until he could write.

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Early again, so get a good’s night sleep.” Kristoff said as they made it back down to the base of the hill. “Lessons will be just like this for a while, until you begin to make progress.” Rowen nodded.

            He intended to make progress as quickly as he could.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wednesday Briefs: Stormlords part 19


By the time the class was over in the afternoon, Rowen’s head was swimming. Not only was he expected to learn his letters, but to learn history and geography, to read maps and weathermaps, to calculate with numbers...it was overwhelming.

            As he packed up his things, Kristoff appeared quietly over his shoulder. “Dinner, then I'm taking you up to the reader's hill. I want to see if you're capable of sensing anything.”

            Rowen nodded. Kristoff looked uncertain. It was no longer the nervousness that Rowen usually sensed. Had something happened?

            As he followed his mentor, Rowen reaffirmed his desire to learn to write.
           
***
            “Rowen!” As soon as he entered the dining hall Volkes intercepted him, so suddenly that Kristoff walked a few paces beyond them before turning back. “Why don't you sit with me?” It was less of a question and more a demand.

            Kristoff nodded at Rowen's questioning look. “Half an hour, then meet up at the door.” He looked even less happy than before, but Volkes steered Rowen toward the food before he had the chance to think.

            “You didn't tell me Kristoff was your mentor!” Volkes said as soon as they had sat down. Rowen just stared, then shrugged.

            “He's the youngest graduate ever, and he's the strongest Storm Lord there is. You know what they call him?” Rowen shook his head, his mouth full of food. “Kristoff Hurricane. He can summon one by himself. He can single handedly destroy a heat spell.” Rowen kept eating.

            “Don't you care? Your mentor is the most powerful guy there is!” Volkes said. “Being able to out perform Kristoff is my goal!” Rowen just shrugged again.

            “I guess you don't understand what that means yet.” Volkes took a wolfish bite of his meal as Rowen glared at him. “Although, if he's so strong, maybe he's better at sensing, so he was able to sense someone who wasn't so strong.” He grinned, and Rowen kept up his glare.

            “I've heard he's interested in men, too.” Volkes said. When Rowen cocked his head in confusion, Volkes elaborated. “He fucks men.” Rowen nearly choked.

            “That got a reaction.” The blond laughed.

            It wasn't just Volkes' coarse language. Rowen had never heard of anyone, other than him, who favored other men. He had told his father, and his father had told Rowen to be careful. Lucas was not like him, he had said, and favored women as most men did.
Rowen’s face heated at sudden mental images, of what else Kristoff could teach him as his mentor, and how the older man had looked on the island, naked while he washed his clothes. He drank his water quickly, hoping that and his recovery from his near choking would mask the blush.

            “You don't seem so offput by that.” Volkes grinned, wiping crumbs off his chin. “Maybe he'll teach you more than just storm sensing.” Rowen blushed hotter, giving up on hiding it behind his food. He shook his head with a quick jerk. That certainly wasn't what he wanted people to think! Why would Volkes discuss such things out in the open? They were private!

            “Too bad, then. I could have taught you too.” Volkes smiled, taking another enormous bite of his food, which was now almost gone. “It's about damn time I got another guy in the house.” A chill went through Rowen at his words—he wasn't something Volkes owned—but a twinge of arousal went through him too. Such frankness...was this normal here? He was careful not to nod. He didn't want that, not yet. He had too much work to do.

            “I didn’t see a no there.” Volkes grinned, and Rayen froze for a moment before shaking his head. “So you don’t like men?” Volkes pressed. Rayen tilted his head. How would he answer that?

“Do you like men or not?” Volkes asked. “Just, yes or no. Do you prefer men?”

Rayen didn’t move, every second more awkward than the last. His father had said to be careful, but if Kristoff was open about his relationships with men, which he was if Volkes was anything to go by, would it be so bad to be honest? He had never liked women that way, and Lucas…pain twinged somewhere deep at the memory of Lucas. He nodded, dropping his gaze.

“I thought so.” Rowen snapped his head up. “You seemed like the type. Plus you seemed to like me when you first saw me.” Volkes leaned back in his chair. “Any time you’re ready for something, let me know.”

“Rowen.” Kristoff interrupted, appearing at his side by the table, and Rown practically leapt out of his chair. Half an hour. He was late!

“It’s alright. Let’s go. Time to see what you can sense.” Rowen nodded and grabbed his tray, face burning. The last thing he wanted was to be late for an important lesson—or worse, for Kristoff to overhear what Volkes had been talking about.

By the time he had put away his tray, Kristoff stood by the door, and motioned Rayen to go outside. Rowen caught up easily, and followed him as he headed out down the walkway. In a few minutes, the chatter of the more populated areas faded, and trees began to reach over the path.

The cobblestones had given way to a gently sloping dirth path when Kristoff finally spoke. “Was your first day good?” he asked. “I mean, did everything go alright?” His voice wavered, just enough that Rowen realized that that was not completely sure what he wanted to ask.

He nodded, then put his hands up and spread his fingers wide. “A lot to learn, huh?” Kristoff said, smiling. Yes.

“Is Volkes…helping you?” he asked, not quite making eye contact, and Rayen’s face heated. He shook his head. Elise was, not Volkes. Volkes didn’t seem interested. Not in that, at least.

“Right. Well, if you need extra help, let me know.” He sighed, then fell silent for a minute. “About anything.”

Friday, January 1, 2016

A look back and a look ahead: 2016!





So, this past year has been a bit quieter than I would have liked. My personal life was quite busy! But there were two major releases this year, with more to come in 2016!

First, Book 5 of the Enforcers series, Recovery, was released!


Second, my book Freshman Blues was released as well! Not only that, but it won an honorable mention AND was a finalist in the 2015 Rainbow Awards! 



On the blog, I completed Aesthetics of Invention, which was a short look in Kenneth and Thorn’s college days. I’ve also begun The Stormlords, which is a fantasy New Adult, and pieces are posted every Wednesday as part of Wednesday briefs!

So, what is there to look forward to this year?

2016 will be all about the Enforcers series—Books 6 and 7, titled “Investigation” and “Undercover,” will be released this year! In addition, remember Aesthetics of Invention, posted in pieces all over the blog? That will be released via Extasy Books as a side story to the Enforcers series!

In addition, I intend to compile the erotic cyborg stories and seek publication with either Dreamspinner or extasy books—I’ll keep you posted! The anthology will have one or two new stories as well!

Finally, The WaterLord trilogy will soon be available in print!

I have plenty of other stories in the works as well—check the blog for future announcements!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wednesday Briefs: Stormlords part 18

The Stormlords part 18


Kristoff watched as Rowen paused outside the mess, staring inside the enormous building with what looked like trepidation. Others, students and Storm Lords who mentored them, and some others who were too lazy this morning to cook for themselves, wandered in and out, and the din from inside buzzed in Kristoff's ears. Kristoff was about to say something when Rowen continued walking, heading inside.

            Kristoff followed, hoping Rowen could figure out how it worked. “I'll meet you at that table,” he called, pointing, and Rowen looked over his shoulder and nodded before disappearing into the throng of people who were picking up plates.

            Kristoff sighed, too tense to be hungry, and sat down at the indicated table. Within moments he was joined by Lissa and Franken, and he groaned inwardly.

            “So let's meet this Rowen,” Lissa said eagerly.

            “Lucky, for getting one so old.” Franken's student was currently ten, and lived in his home with his wife and children. Kristoff got the distinct sense that he didn't like the kid.

            “Look, he's still new, and I'm sure you've heard about his, uh...”

            “Can't speak and is uneducated, right?” Franken filled in, taking a bite out of an apple. “That doesn't seem so bad. Once he learns to read and write, he'll be fine.”

            Kristoff hoped he hid his disgust well enough. “Right. Well, I just don't want to overwhelm him-”

            “Kristoff, he's what? 18? He's not a child. He needs to get used to things. You told him about us, right?” Lissa asked. “He needs to know who the other Storm Lords are, if you aren't around.”

            “What?”

            Lissa sighed, and Franken answered for her. “Just because you have an apprentice doesn't mean you aren't going to be dispelling. Considering your strength, you should introduce Rowen to others as soon as possible.”

            Kristoff nearly swore. He hadn't even though of that. “I thought...if he just got independent...”

            “He may be living on his own, but unless you're suggesting he try to train his powers himself...”

            “No.” Kristoff felt like an idiot, and was suddenly grateful for Franken's presence. He didn't feel right asking Talia, but asking someone who was in the same boat didn't make seem like as much of a cry for help. “What do you suggest I do?”

            “Stop treating him like he's a child. Just because he may not be able to speak doesn't mean he can't do things for himself.” Franken said. “He probably doesn't need your help as much as you think he does.”

            Kristoff snapped his mouth shut. Was that really what he had been doing? Had he been so concerned with Rowen's well being that he had been treating him like a child because of his handicap? How had Franken hit on the issue so quickly, if it wasn't at least partially true?

            But what was he supposed to do? He still wanted to make sure Rowen was happy here. He wanted to know more about him.

            Rowen's arrival interrupted his thoughts. “Oh, uh...Rowen, this is Lissa and Franken. They're both Storm Lords like me. Franken has a student too.” Rowen's tray clanked on the table as he waved to them both, and he cocked his head at Franken.

            “He's 10. You don't know him.” The older Storm Lord answered the unspoken question. “Have you had your first lessons yet? With Lila?”

            Rowen shook his head.

            “Benjamin is also learning to read and write. You'll meet him today, assuming you're starting with academics?”

            Rowen nodded again. Respect for the way Franken handled the mute student kindled in Kristoff's chest, along with something darker. Why couldn’t he be that good with him?

            “So how do you like your roommates? Are all three of them well behaved?” Franken continued.

            Rowen paused for a moment, then held up two fingers, nodding. Then another finger, with a shake of his head.

            “They can't all be good. I know Kristoff used to have issues with his old roommates, didn't you?”

            “Uh...” How dare he bring that up now! Rowen didn't need to know about Kristoff's old problems, did he? “It wasn't that bad...”

            “Now that you mention it, who are your roommates?” Lissa cut in. “There aren't many students near your age. Volkes is your age, Rowen, is he one of them?”

            Rowen nodded again, and blushed ever so slightly. Interesting.

            “Is he the bad one?” Franken smiled, and Rowen blushed hotter as he responded in the affirmative. Kristoff would have to explore that further when he had the chance.

            “Let's see, who else is there...Elise, Sharon, and David. David is probably too old, though. Elise and Sharon?” Rowen nodded through a mouthful of bread, the butter he had dipped it in dripping onto his tray. He hurriedly swiped at it with a napkin.

            “The only ones older are Kristoff's old roommates and Seleste. That's not many.” Lissa frowned, her brow furrowing. It seemed like every day they realized just how few students they had, compared to the magnitude of the task they needed to do.

            All the more reason to get started. “C'mon, Rowen,” Kristoff urged. “The sooner you start your training, the better.”
           
            When they arrived at the classroom, filled with the dozen or so younger students who had only recently begun training, Kristoff felt better about their chances. He explained the situation to Lila as quickly as he could, not wanting to embarrass Rowen by dwelling on his introduction to a class where most of the students were half his age.

            The redhead didn't seem overly concerned about other's opinions of him, though. He eyed the books with interest, and shook Lila's hand professionally before taking his seat.

            Kristoff wanted to wish him luck, but Franken's words stuck with him. He left without saying a word, mind heavy with thoughts about how he could better handle Rowen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wednesday Briefs: Stormlords part 17



Kristoff knocked on the door as the sky was pinking, hopeful at what he would find. Rowen had seemed eager to begin his lessons, and while it was early, he hoped to get the young man in the habit of starting work at dawn. Talia had forced him to do the same, and his progress had been quick, not to mention that Rowen needed all the extra time and help he could get.

            A sleepy looking blond answered. Volkes, he figured, as he was the only other male living here. “I'm looking for Rowen,” Kristoff said briskly. “Is he awake?”

            The boy's eyes widened briefly. “It's awfully early to start lessons, isn't it?” Volkes replied with a yawn.

            The statement took the Storm Lord aback. “That's an awfully disrespectful tone, isn't it?” Kristoff knew he may be young for a full storm lord, but he wasn't about to let himself be questioned by a student!

            “Hm.” The blond looked away. “He's still asleep, I think.”

            Kristoff stepped through the entranceway, Volkes forced to step back. “Try not to wake up the whole house,” Volkes muttered.

            Kristoff didn't know if the boy had meant the statement to be audible or not, and he warred with a desire to put him in his place. He would never have spoken in such a way to his mentor, and especially not to a Storm Lord he had never met! Talia would have punished him severely, no matter his age.

            Ignoring the barb, the older man headed up the stairs. While Kristoff didn't have direct authority over Volkes, he could easily speak to Lorana about him, and the thought was enough to calm him down. He was here for Rowen, after all.

            He knocked lightly on his student's door, and when no one answered he opened it just enough to peek inside. The lamps were unlit, and through the gloom he could make out Rowen's sleeping form, uncovered by blankets.

            Kristoff slipped into the room like a wraith, shutting the door behind him. The window was shuttered too, and he fumbled to light the lamp.

            The fire's glow illuminated Rowen, sleeping on his stomach with his face on the mattress, the pillow discarded on the floor. Some of the bandages had been removed, and his skin was still peeling in places, but he looked much recovered compared to the time Kristoff had first seen him in the lake.

            “Rowen,” he whispered, unwilling to shake him. “Rowen, it's time to get up.”

            The youth stirred, his body shifting. “Rowen, it's Kristoff. It's time to get up.”

            Green eyes opened, and he stiffened once and looked around before his gaze settled on Kristoff.  His mouth opened in a little o, and he sat up, pulling the covers over his lap.

            Kristoff politely kept his gaze just above Rowen's head. “I'm sorry to wake you, but I want to establish our training regimen early. Your classes will begin just after breakfast, and there's a lot I want to show you before then. Can you be ready and come outside in half an hour?”

            Rowen blinked, looking a bit lost, and then finally nodded. Kristoff felt there was some confusion, or misunderstanding, but he couldn't begin to guess at it.

            “Alright. I will meet you at the front of the house.” Rowen nodded again, already getting out of bed as Kristoff left the room.

            A clattering in the living room caught Kristoff's attention as he walked through the foyer, and he paused in midstep, caught with curiosity. He remembered living in a house like this one, when many of his peers had hid things in bookcases, usually alcohol or illicit drawings. It would certainly be satisfying to confiscate something from that rude northern boy.

            With a shake of his head, he left the house. Not worth it.

            The air was cool outside, but no cooler than the night air had been the night before. Summer was ending, or should be, but it seemed like it would be another warm day. Kristoff closed his eyes, sending out his awareness. Sensing long distances was not his forte, but you didn't need that when the heat built on your doorstep.

            He let out a sigh and relaxed. Not dangerous, not yet.  Knowing what they did, every Storm Lord was hyper alert to the beginnings of a heat spell.

            The front door burst open, and Rowen skidded to a halt on the gravel path, tiny stones skittering.

            “Ah...you have fifteen more minutes, you know.” Kristoff almost laughed.

            Rowen smiled slightly, and it dawned on Kristoff that Rowen probably didn't know what minutes or hours even were. While the village hadn't looked that primitive, apparently clocks were not something just everybody owned. Another little bit of education he would have to include.

            “Alright, follow me. We're heading to the mess hall first, because as I'm sure you've noticed, you don't have a kitchen, or access to a stove. While some students store food, for good meals you're going to want to go here.”

            Kristoff's explanations continued as they walked, and Rowen appeared to eagerly absorb the minutia of life on the island, eyes wide.

            He was doing well enough at teaching so far, Kristoff thought. But he was no closer to really understanding Rowen, or anything about his personality. He was so...passive, focused on learning and understanding. Kristoff found himself wondering what the youth's hobbies were, what he had done for a living in his old home. He was nearly an adult, and may already be one by the standards of his village. Did he have a rebellious streak, the way Volkes seemed to? What were his goals? Kristoff wanted to learn all he could about his new student.