“Shut up, I’m fine. A…splinter.” Nathan looked at his finger for a moment before returning his hands to his pockets. He glared at Tom again as if daring him to say anything, and when the younger boy didn’t, he turned back down the hall. “C’mon, we’re almost at the end of this place. I think there’s a door up ahead.”
Nathan resumed walking, faster this time. Tom kept his hands away from the wall as he followed. How had Nathan gotten a splinter in the short time he had touched the wall? The wood was too smooth for that. He decided, though, that he would make an effort to be less annoying. Nathan seemed unhappy down here, which was odd considering it had been his idea to come down. Sure, the makeup of the ship was a little strange, but it was nothing menacing.
Soon enough, Tom spied a door ahead, and Nathan almost ran to it before suddenly slowing. He peered at the wood and the handle for a moment before turning to Tom. “You open it.” It was a weird command, but Tom shrugged and put a hand on it.
It was almost cold beneath his hand. “Wow! Look, Nathan-its metal! On a door handle!” His hand glided over it, impossibly smooth.
Nathan just rolled his eyes and walked through the door. On the other side, rows of doors stretched down a long hallway. Tom figured they must be where people lived.
“Think they’ll be unlocked?” Nathan asked, grinning mischievously.
Tom had an idea of what Nathan wanted, but hoped he was wrong, turning to him with wide eyes. “You’re not going to steal, are you!?” He had not thought his sometimes aggressive friend was capable of that. And from a different lord’s ship…
“Of course not.” Nathan snapped. “I just wanna look around; see how people’s houses here differ from ours.” Tom figured that made sense, and then wondered if he had left his door unlocked back on Ruthen’s ship. Were people from this ship looking through his room? He hoped not, and then wondered if they were even allowed.
Nathan crept down the hall and tried a few doors, and the click of one opening startled Tom from his thoughts. Nathan grinned at him and then disappeared inside. Tom’s stomach turned as he followed.
Nathan had vanished somewhere into the other connected living areas, but Tom was struck by the differences he found. The room was huge, dwarfing Tom’s. Numerous shelves lined the wall, and small wooden carvings sat on a table that shone with the same glossy wood as the wooden floors outside. Fresh air flowed in from a door leading out onto a personal deck. Tom stepped through it, feeling less like an intruder once he left the room. He hoped Nathan wasn’t messing stuff up.
Once outside, he felt much calmer. These small personal decks were much lower than the main ones, and attributed to the ribbed appearance of Auros’s ship. Tom could hear the waves lapping against the ship much louder on this small deck than he ever could on Ruthen’s. It was very nice here. Tom wished that his small, cramped room had something like this attached to it. The waves lulled him, and he imagined he could sense them without looking at or hearing them.
Something banged from inside, and Tom jumped. What was Nathan doing? He poked his head back inside the doors, only to see that the door leading into the room from the hall of the ship had been thrown open. A girl had walked inside, followed by a shorter boy. Both had brown hair and mean looking eyes, the girl rather stocky looking. Tom immediately knew he should not have come in here, and tried to hide behind the deck door.
“Who’s here!?” the girl yelled. Tom hoped Nathan had hid. The girl wasn’t tall, but she looked big and strong.
No such luck, apparently. He heard Nathan’s sandaled feet, and Tom could imagine his swagger, even in a place where by all rights he should not be. “Hey, your door was unlocked, so I just figured we could explore the room.” Tom’s heart dropped into his chest. Why had he said we!? He heard another boom as something fell, and figured that one of the two had probably started looking for him.
“You think we’ll believe that?” Tom frowned, risking a peek from behind the door. Nathan stood alone by the entrance to one of the halls, his hands in his pockets once again. His usual smirk was gone. The girl had her hands in fists, the other boy at her back, and Tom knew that something bad was going to happen.
Nathan took his hands out of his pockets, but before he could so much as make a fist the girl tackled him. Nathan was quite a bit taller, but the girl obviously weighed more, and Nathan staggered. She had his arms behind his back in a moment, and then the other boy jumped in.
Tom had no idea what happened, but the girl forced Nathan to stand up straight as the boy put his palm on Nathan’s chest. He didn’t see what the boy did, exactly, but Nathan shuddered at the contact, and as the girl let him go he collapsed to the floor, retching. Tom hid again behind the door, shaking with fear. He knew he should run, but he couldn’t, and who knew what they do to Nathan now? He didn’t want to leave him here if he was so hurt, even if there was nothing Tom could do to help.
“Where’s the other one?!” The boy shouted, talking for the first time. Nathan groaned.