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.