Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: The Waterlord Part 19

 Tom struggled to move the wood, his heart pounding at the sight of his friend trapped beneath the water. His muscles burned. Even with the lesser weight of things underwater, it wouldn’t budge. He began to panic again. Nathan could be crushed. He had to do something!

   He reached for the control and strength he had felt. He pushed the wood again, and yelled in frustration when it didn’t move. He screamed, punching a beam, and a pulse of water moved it.   

     The whole pile shifted, and Tom didn’t let himself be surprised for more than an instant. He grabbed Nathan and pulled him out from underneath as the beams settled themselves.

   He had to get Nathan out of the water. All he could do was swim up from the direction the beams had fallen. He pushed from the ground, and shot up quickly, Nathan’s weight nothing underwater.

    Tom almost hit the ceiling of the hallway above, and cursed. There had to be a hole somewhere that led higher up. He feared facing flames, but with Nathan possibly drowning he had no choice. He swam along the ceiling, looking for any signs of air.

    Nathan sputtered, bubbles leaving his mouth, and Tom’s heart jolted. He punched the ceiling with his fist, and the soaked wood gave way. He hit it harder, pain shooting through his hand, but it was enough. A force accompanied the banging of his fist, and the wood broke apart. He rammed through it with his body, and suddenly dry air met his skin.

  He pulled Nathan through and laid him gingerly on the beams, stroking his friend’s soaked hair. He hoped Nathan wasn’t dying. He shook him, water dribbling from Nathan’s mouth when his friend began coughing. Yes! He was alive!
 Tom breathed deeply, ready to shout Nathan’s name, and started coughing, ridding his lungs of the water that had been in them. It was a few moments before he could breath air comfortably again, gasping.

    “Wha?” Nathan’s voice. “Tom?”

“Nathan!” Tom grabbed his hands, Nathan staring at him confused. “You’re okay!”

No, Nathan wasn’t staring at him. He stared at something behind him, fear in his eyes.

     Someone behind him grabbed his arms. It burned.

    He tried to run away, to push the hands off his, but it was no use. He screamed aloud, the pain unbearable. His skin was smoking, and he smelled burning flesh. This shouldn’t be happening! The pain was too great for him to be conscious. Nathan held him, punching something behind him, whoever was grabbing him trying to pull him away. He tried to hold on to Nathan, his friend yelling, and the last thing he realized before passing out was that whoever was hurting him must be a fire mage.

       When Tom awoke, the first thing he noticed was the intense pain in his arms. Somebody had tied them behind him, and the pain spread up to his shoulders. The skin on his arms screamed with pain from the burn. He couldn’t move, and couldn’t see, the room dark.

        It all flooded back. The feelings of foreboding before the ship had been attacked by fire, being able to breathe underwater. And a fire mage, attacking him. But why…why was he here, tied up? The ship was in one piece. Was the fight over? What had happened?

   As if on cue, he heard footsteps. They were faint, and he guessed them to be coming from outside a door or wall. He strained his ears to hear voices.

    “Their attack wasn’t too well thought out. Our ship will be here soon. Theirs is captured.”

     “And what of their mages?”
     Someone laughed. “We put to death three earth mages and an old wind mage by flame. Two were kids, but it serves Auros right. We lost children too in his asinine attempt.”  Tom shuddered. Could the two kids have been…?

      “That hardly matters. What about the fire mage? The one responsible?”

      “He got away. Vanished, seemingly.”

      “You know this means war again. We put their mages to death, it takes away Auros’s opportunity to call it an accident.”

        “So be it. If that’s the best they have, we should have no trouble. Auros is barely a spark compared to Ruthen and his boy.”

          Tom frowned. War, then?

           “What about that kid? The one the fire lord burned?” Tom listened again. They must be talking about him.

          “Dunno. They’re gonna have a look at him. Archibald says he’s not Earth or Wind, and I don’t see how he could be fire…but water? That’s impossible.”

         Tom’s veins filled with ice. Water mage. Him?

         “So what? We leave him?”

         “I guess so.” The footsteps faded again, and Tom grew cold. What would they do with him? They wouldn’t kill him, would they? It wasn’t his fault! He could ignore water, and be the same as before. He tried struggling, momentarily forgetting the pain in his arms until the ropes scraped the raw burns. He cried out, his world growing dim with pain, and he sat still until it passed. He wished it wasn’t so dark.

        He didn’t know how long he sat there, willing the pain in his hands to fade. He grew hungry, then thirsty.

            It was amazing how quickly things had changed. It had all gotten weird after he fell ill. Tom tried to remember how that could have happened. He had been out in a storm, but that couldn’t have made him that sick. And it certainly couldn’t have lead to him being a water mage, could it? He thought hard about that day and night. A memory tried to form in his brain, but he couldn’t quite grasp it. It had to do with the rain, though, and maybe the storm.

        The door creaked, and warm light flooded the room from the hallway sconces. Tom looked at the ground, blinking. His eyes adjusted slowly.

       “Shit, Tom, this is my fault.”


“Shush. I’m getting you out of here.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: The Waterlord Part 18

Part 18 

A terrible sense of foreboding…A bang woke Tom. He jumped up wildly, looking around for the source of the noise, until he realized his water cup had fallen off the shelf. What time was it? He didn’t even remember falling asleep.

     Tom shook off sleepiness, hunger gnawing at his stomach. It must be close to dinner, then. Hopefully safe to exit the room. Tom hoped Nathan was alright. That old man had seemed so cruel.

  As Tom made his way down the hall, he was struck again by a strange dread, and suddenly his throat felt tight. An image flashed in his mind, an open flame in a room, or a book. He reached for the image, or maybe a memory, but it passed quickly. When it vanished, however, he felt even more weighted down. Maybe he needed more sleep.  

Nathan wasn’t at the mess, and Tom picked at the day’s meal, hoping he would show up. He didn’t have much appetite, and when he sat down he realized his chest felt tight. He tried to relax and force himself to eat.

            The food tasted awful, the fish crumbly in his mouth. Across from his table, a baby was crying, its mother trying to shush it.

       Tom put down his food, his stomach flipping. Something was wrong, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. The air felt strange, and he took a deep breath, his heart pounding. Something…something was very wrong.

            Then the ship shuddered with a tremendous impact. The tables jumped, chairs flipping, and Tom stumbled. Panic filled him. Something terrible was happening, and he had no control. The ship shuddered again, and suddenly he was sliding sideways, his feet slipping on the wood.

    “Mom!” someone screamed. Others were screaming too, and then he heard “The ship is burning!”

      It suddenly all made sense. He had felt it… the gathering of power. A fire mage had attacked their ship!

      Another blast rocked their ship, and Tom whipped his head around. Where was it safe? He let his instincts guide him, running from the mess where people were huddling, terrified.

    He didn’t know how he knew, but he could tell when the ship would rock from the impact of…what, a fireball? The ship would pitch, but Tom wouldn’t fall, able to ride out the waves created from the ship rocking back and forth. No storm could move a ship this huge like this. He half wanted to go to the deck and see the attack for himself, but he knew that would be suicide. A sense guided him away from the danger, lower into the bowels of the ship, past his room and near steerage.

    He smelled burning wood, and planks above him gave way, falling into the hall and spreading the flames. He jumped back, and terror filled him at the sight of the leaping fire. Smoke burned his eyes and throat, and he couldn’t breathe. He turned and ran the other way, close to panic.

   Another impact hit, but this time the ship didn’t right itself. As he ran, Tom’s foot fell through soaked planks. He screamed as the whole floor gave way. He swam now, in rising water, with flames above him. Planks from the ceiling fell around him, and he had no choice but to dive.

    It was darker down here, the only light from the fire above, and he couldn’t hear anything but muffled splashes and hissing as burning wood fell into the water. He swam away, faster than he though he could swim. He heard a tremendous splash, and suddenly everything became pitch black. The ceiling had collapsed.

   Panic filled him, and his lungs burned. He needed to breathe! He didn’t want to die down here! He swam up, but he had no sense of direction, so for all he knew he only succeeded in swimming deeper.

   He banged on the ceiling, or perhaps the floor, he couldn’t tell. His vision blurred, his muscles burning from lack of oxygen. His lungs hurt, and finally he gave up, breathing deeply. He expected to cough and drown.

      Instead, energy filled him. His lungs filled with water, he knew that, but it didn’t choke him.

He could breathe.

     Tom stayed motionless and breathed, shock freezing him in place.

Then something else hit the water, sending adrenalin through his veins. He had to get to safety. There must be a hole, he thought, that lead to another part of the ship. And in the water, he would be safe from the flames.

     He kicked his legs, and it was amazingly easy to swim now that he wasn’t panicking about breathing. He could barely see, but he sensed the slight movement of the water. He followed the weak current, and found a good sized hole in the side of the room he was trapped in. He squeezed through, and suddenly things grew much brighter.

    He was in a water filled hallway now, probably on one of the lower floors. He could still sense the fire, but the impacts of the fireballs themselves seemed to have stopped.

    He swam through the hallway, dodging planks of fallen wood. He knew he could probably surface somewhere, but he didn’t want to. He felt stronger here, and safe, and he could at least think without panicking.

            It must have been Auros, or one of his fire mages. The co-celebration must have been a ruse. He remembered the rich man on Auros’s ship, and the fear that he had felt. That man must have been a fire mage, if not a lesser fire lord.  

    A tremendous crash up ahead interrupted his thoughts, and he saw bubbles rise from the settling wood. How odd. As he swam closer, the sight chilled him. Someone was trapped underneath the planks. He rushed to the wood, and saw a wisp of short blond hair.

His blood ran cold. 


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: The Waterlord Prequel part 17

Chapter 17

     Nathan scoffed when Tom didn’t answer immediately. “Fine. I can make it on my own.” He got to his feet, and Tom could not help but notice Nathan’s shakiness. He leaned on the wall for support, his head down as though he fought off dizziness. Tom immediately felt bad for delaying.

    “Okay, let me help. I’m…sorry.” He didn’t quite know what he was apologizing for, but he knew Nathan needed help. Tom wished Nathan would tell him what was going on. Maybe if Tom helped, he would tell.

     Nathan grunted, and let Tom support him. It was not quite as difficult as before, when Tom had helped him down the hall. Nathan had gotten stronger since then, at least, and could support more of his own weight. Once he was securely on his feet, though, Nathan pushed Tom away.

   “I don’t need to constantly lean on you. Just…be there if I fall, okay?” He tried to make it commanding, but his tone failed due to his weakness. It sounded pathetic, almost pleading, and the blonde sensed this. He looked away from Tom as if ashamed.

   Tom didn’t know what had Nathan so weak and upset, but he didn’t care if Nathan sounded pathetic or not. He would help him, and then maybe later Nathan would help him if he needed it. Nathan had been the one who carried him to the doctors, hadn’t he? Tom brushed that thought away as soon as it surfaced. It embarrassed him to think about it, for some reason.

    Tom followed as they passed by some other people, and Nathan tried to straighten up and look stronger than he obviously felt. Tom felt a pang of empathy at that. Didn’t he, too, want to look competent all the time?

It didn’t last, and as they walked Nathan began to lean on Tom slightly for support. Tom began to worry. What exactly was wrong with his friend? He helped him to edge of the deck, and then suddenly panicked. How could Nathan get across the bridge? Where was the official for this side?

      “Let me rest for a second…I can make it.” Nathan sat down near the railing, catching his breath. Tom waited nervously, eyeing the bridge. He hoped Nathan made it without trouble. They couldn’t go two at a time.

      “You go first. Don’t fall, okay?” Nathan grinned sardonically at him, and Tom felt a little better. If Nathan could make jokes about it, he couldn’t be that badly off, could he?

      Tom wandered over to it, eyeing it once more. He glanced back at Nathan one more time, who almost appeared asleep, before hopping onto the bridge. He took a deep breath and ran across, not letting himself get psyched out by the height. Before he knew it, he was back home, and the navigator was smiling at him.

     “Good job. You didn’t get scared this time.” Tom just smiled back and stood at the railing, waiting for Nathan.

     He didn’t wait long before he saw Nathan step up onto the bridge from the other side. He took his time, though, not running like Tom had, and Tom grew nervous until Nathan made it safely back on Ruthen’s deck.

    “C’mon, back to my room.” Nathan spoke up, breathing hard, and Tom silently acquiesced. He hoped Nathan felt better soon.

     Tom followed Nathan again, who didn’t appear quite so willing to lean on him now that they were back home. They made it down to the lower deck where their rooms were before they were suddenly stopped.

      “Hm. Well, I figured you were up to something.” Tom looked up and saw the same scary old man that he had run into in the hall. Archibald?

       Tom’s reaction was nothing compared to Nathan’s. His eyes widened, and his knees suddenly shook. “Mas…Archibald, I’m sorry”-

      “You’re right. You will be sorry.” Archibald spoke. Nathan suddenly pushed Tom roughly away and took the old man’s slap full force across the face. Tom jumped back, terrified. Nathan fell down from the hit, his hand to his face. He was crying now, his eyes tearing soundlessly.

      Tom looked up at the man. What did he want with Nathan? Archibald saw him looking, and sneered at him. “This is none of your business, boy. When you have subordinates, you keep them under better control than him.” He pointed contemptuously at Nathan, who lay on the ground trying to control his tears. “Now get out of here!” He raised his hand again, and Tom split, racing down the hall as fast he could. He heard Nathan cry out again, but didn’t look back until he reached his room, locking the door.

      Something was wrong here. Nathan was obviously terrified of Archibald, but why would Archibald have control over him? Nathan was his subordinate, but why? What had Nathan done? Gotten into a fight? Tom felt terrible. Nathan had been crying…Tom never witnessed him cry before. Tom brought his knees to his chest, fighting the urge to cry himself. 

Life wasn’t fair sometimes. He had been looking forward to this day, to exploring, and all this had happened. He would stay in his room until dinner, he decided. He didn’t want to leave again. What if Archibald came after him? He felt like a terrible coward.

Nothing had gone right today. Hopefully it would be over soon.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: The Waterlord Prequel part 16

 Part 16 

 It hurt a little to leave Nathan, but he wouldn’t go too far. Or at least he didn’t plan to. Tom took twists and turns on deck, soon enough ending up where the captain’s quarters would be if he were on Ruthen’s ship. Here, though, there appeared to be numerous quarters, perhaps where the wealthy stayed. The areas between them resembled streets. Tom wondered why his ship didn’t have such an interesting feature. He would love to live above deck, rivaling the houses of the ship lords on land!

    Shouting startled him, and he jumped, hiding behind the corner of the house he was near. He was doing a lot of hiding today…

     “That won’t work! He’s a master fire lord! And he has numerous family ties. It’s a stupid plan! You don’t know if they’ll have support!” Tom cocked his head. Were they talking about Ruthen? He was a fire lord. Or Auros? And what plan?

      “Trust me, I would know. They have none on that ship. And we’re reinforced if they have some untrained potentials.” Tom heard someone laugh, and then footsteps. He scooted further behind the corner, and managed to slip, falling with a thud on the wooden planks.

       “Shush!” Then “Who’s there!?”

      Tom knew running was out of the question, so he stayed put. He looked up as a shadow fell over him, and stared into the face of an elderly man who wore three earrings in his left ear. They glinted in the sunlight, and Tom thought it rather funny. This man must be rich, he thought.

      “What are you doing here, boy? Where are you from?” It had been the first speaker. The man had a rough tone, but it was not hostile. Tom felt at ease. They had probably just been talking about meeting someone on Ruthen’s ship.

      Before Tom could answer, another man walked up behind the first. Tom backed up against the wall, suddenly terrified. He couldn’t explain it, but this one had an aura of dangerousness. Tom didn’t want to be near him, and he flattened his back against the wall of the house.

     “What have we here?” The man had brown hair and eyes, very plain, but he was not dressed so. He wore what Tom could only think was fur around his neck, and he had gloves on. No one wore gloves. He had on a cloak that was trimmed in shiny material. He cast another shadow over Tom, eclipsing the older man, who looked up in what could be a silent request for orders.

     “What are you doing here? Speak up.” His tone was commanding, but Tom could not find the voice to speak. His fear choked him. He had no idea why, but he wanted to get as far away from this man as possible.

    The man’s eyes narrowed, and he looked frightened for a moment. “You look…” He reached for Tom, but with a squeak Tom darted away, racing down the makeshift street of the ship. He did not stop until he reached the deck on the other side. He had traveled the width of the ship, and he sat down to rest, his paralyzing fear suddenly gone. The man had not followed.

     Tom sighed, trying to figure out what had happened. The first man hadn’t been scary, despite his weird earrings, but the second…there had been something odd about him, more than just his rich clothes. Tom decided he didn’t much like wealthy people. That must have been it, he reasoned. He wasn’t used to seeing such wealth. It sounded weak to him, but he didn’t dwell on it. Besides, there was much more of the ship to explore, though he would avoid the area where he had seen that man.

    Tom started exploring again, this time much more cautiously. Auros’s ship was full of weird people, apparently. He stayed on the deck, but well away from the center. He would circle around, and see if he could find anything interesting.

He walked the length of the deck slowly. On this side, he could barely Ruthen’s ship across the lines of the houses that took up the center. Auros’s ship was different from Ruthen’s structurally, but there were many similarities, as well. Both served the same purpose, to support thousands of people on the ocean. Tom wondered if Auros was very different from Ruthen at all. They were both fire mages, weren’t they? He wondered how they had originally designed the ships, or how old the ships were. Maybe Auros’s ship was newer. The wood was certainly nicer. Or perhaps instead of age being the factor, Auros had different kinds of wood on his island. They were trees, right? Depending on climate, they differed, or at least he was pretty sure they did. He had slept through that lesson too, probably.

     Auros’s deck was huge, more expansive than Ruthen’s. Most likely it was to support the houses he had seen before. And the personal decks, on the room he had seen with Nathan, were a very nice touch. Auros’s ship had a lot of wood, or at least it was really reinforced.

   Tom neared the end of the deck, and he saw that it tapered off to a point at the prow before going around again on the other side of the ship. He found Nathan again, sitting just where he had left him.

            “Hey, are you asleep?” Tom asked.
     “No…not exactly.” He didn’t elaborate, and Tom wondered how you “didn’t exactly” fall asleep.

     “So…do you want to keep exploring?” Tom asked. “The upper decks look neat.”

      “Look, I don’t want to…?” Nathan trailed off, his voice weak. “I just…can you help me back to Ruthen’s ship? I don’t feel well.”

      Tom frowned. He had been excited about seeing another ship, but the whole day had been kind of disappointing.