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.