Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Waterlord Prequel, part 15

Part 15

    “Leave him, he’ll be out for a while.” Footsteps thudded on the wood, and Tom’s heart pounded. “Damn, we should be able to find him!”

Tom huddled by the door. He considered running again, and then wondered if he should climb over the deck. Swimming didn’t scare him. But then, there was Nathan…

     “The deck!” the boy shouted, and Tom froze. He should have run while he had the chance. He backed up, and the doors burst open. He faced the girl, the same one that had pinned Nathan effortlessly. She stared at him with a wicked grin on her face.

   That broke him. Tom ran, trying to reach the door to the hallway where he knew he should be able to outdistance this behemoth, but the girl caught him, and like Nathan, forced his hands behind his back. Tom screamed, kicking, but with him the girl also had a height advantage. She dragged him into the room, where Nathan still lay slumped on the floor. What had they done to him?

Tom saw the boy come toward him, and he closed his eyes as the boy put his hand on his chest. Tom expected to feel terrible pain, that kind that had so hurt Nathan. Nothing happened.

   He opened his eyes to the boy’s confused face. Instinct took over and Tom kicked out, catching the boy in the stomach. He wrenched free of the girl and on all fours scrambled toward the closed door, flattening himself against it like a mouse.

   The boy turned to the girl and whispered something, and she shrugged her shoulders, though she did not take her eyes off him for a second. “Why were you here?” she asked, the first time he had heard her speak without yelling.

   Tom figured he had better answer. “I was just exploring with…my friend, and he wanted to see people’s rooms…I don’t know, honest, I was just looking at the deck! We weren’t stealing anything!”

 The girl sneered. “Take your friend and go. I don’t know what the lying idiot told you, but you’re not allowed to just walk into anyone’s room.” Tom didn’t want to say anything else and possibly incur the girl’s wrath, so he walked over to where Nathan lay. How badly was he hurt? He looked over again at the two of them, but they offered no answers.

   “C’mon, man, we have to go.” Tom poked him, and Nathan stirred, groaning. Tom sighed, but was more afraid that annoyed. “C’mon, please? Don’t be lazy.” Tom tried lifting him, but it wasn’t working.

   “I’m not lazy.” Nathan pushed himself up to all fours, and Tom jumped back. The taller boy staggered to his feet, and managed not to waver once he stood up. He glared at the two who had felled him, and Tom thought they looked rather shocked. He didn’t have time to wonder about it, though, as Nathan grabbed him and dragged him out of the room. Tom knew by now to open the door for him, and once outside, he closed the door with more force than likely necessary, as if to shut the two others inside. Tom wished that their parents had come home, and not them. Adults wouldn’t have beaten up kids like that.

    As soon as the door clicked shut, Nathan staggered. Apparently his strength had only been bravado, and Tom barely caught him before he fell. Nathan sustained some of his own weight, but was incredibly weak, and gasped for breath. Tom shook under the strain of supporting him. He was really frightened now. What if they had broken Nathan’s ribs? He didn’t know what to do, and wondered if he should get a doctor.

   “Nathan?” Tom’s voice wavered.

    “Ssh!” Nathan hissed. “Just…let me get outside. I’ll be fine.” He started walking, and Tom was forced to follow, being Nathan’s major support. It seemed to take forever to get back to the stairs, and Tom had to open the door to the hall while Nathan leaned on him. Nathan was entirely unwilling to lean on the wall.

    Tom had no clue how to get Nathan up the stairs. They were too narrow to walk double, and he doubted he would be strong enough anyway. Fortunately, Nathan started up without him, and though his legs shook, he seemed to be alright. Tom followed behind in case Nathan fell, silently dreading that possibility. If Nathan did fall, they would both be tumbling.

   Thankfully, Nathan made it, and collapsed next to the deck rail once he was up, sitting with his head bowed and eyes closed. Tom sat down beside him, studying him for sings of injury. He couldn’t really see any, but Nathan clearly wasn’t fine.

    Tom sat silently for a moment before speaking. “What happened? It didn’t look like you were hit that hard…” The thing those kids had done hadn’t hurt him, and then he had been let go. They couldn’t possibly know Nathan to dislike him, so why had he been hurt so badly? Why did they insult him?

     Nathan breathed heavily before responding, as if trying to summon energy to yell. “It’s nothing, Tom.” It came out breathy, and not convincing. “Don’t worry. Just go explore. I’ll be fine.”

     Yeah, right. Who had helped Nathan out of the room, and through the hall?

     Nathan closed his eyes again and leaned his head against the rail, as if exhausted. “Go on, Tom. I really…I just need to rest. You don’t need to help. I don’t even know what’s up with you. You’re so…” Nathan trailed off, and apparently seemed to be falling asleep.

    Tom sighed, wondering if he should nudge Nathan awake with his foot. If he hadn’t made him go into that room, then things would have been fine.

 He would explore the ship without Nathan, Tom decided. Nathan seemed fine here. Maybe he would find someone his age on Auros’s ship, and hang out with them instead.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: The Waterlord Prequel part 14

Part 14 

 “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.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

New Cover!

Check out the cover for The Storm Lords, coming out August 8th!

The heat took everything from Rowen: his parents, his voice when the local cure for heat stroke poisoned him, and the trust of his fellow villagers, who branded him a water thief. It would have claimed his life when he was deemed unworthy of precious resources and left in the sun to die, had not a strange man named Kristoff ridden in on the wind and told Rowen he had power.

Rowen works hard to become a Storm Lord, one of a secret magical group who bring storms to break the heat waves overtaking their world. But Rowen is starting his training at a disadvantage since he cannot speak and is much older than the other novices. The desire to please Kristoff inspires him to persevere even more than the threat of being sent back to his village to die should he fail. Still, he cannot gather rain, and when his abilities manifest, they are unlike anything known to the Storm Lords. Unless Kristoff can help him control his deadly powers, the entire world will be in danger.

Kristoff might be among the mightiest of the Storm Lords, but he’s never been a mentor before. For a chance to be with Rowen, he’s willing to risk everything.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: The Waterlord part 13

Part 13
“Good job crossing, Tom.” Tom smiled at the navigator. It felt nice to have someone he knew officiating in a strange place, even if it wasn’t his favorite person in the world.

      “Yeah, not bad for freezing up. I thought you’d delay me.” Tom turned to see Nathan hopping off the bridge after him, having crossed it quickly. The navigator snorted derisively, but Nathan ignored her. “C’mon, we have a lot of exploring to do.” He set off onto the deck, and Tom began to trail after him. He thought it odd that Nathan was so disrespectful to a teacher, but decided it wasn't worth fretting over.

     Tom looked around to see if he knew anyone. He knew that he and Nathan couldn’t be the only ones exploring the foreign ship, and knowing where other people were that he could meet up with would be comforting. Nathan walked too fast, though, and Tom had to abandon his search to keep up. What was he in such a rush for?

     “Hey, wait up!” Tom ran to catch up to the blond.

 Nathan turned in exasperation. “Hurry up, then! We have a lot to see!”

Tom frowned. How could they see anything when they didn’t even stop to look?

 Tom hadn’t known until now the difference longer legs could make when walking the length of a deck. It was just another thing that irritated him about Nathan sometimes, even though it wasn’t truthfully Nathan’s fault.

     “Where are we going!?” Tom yelled ahead.

 Nathan didn’t slow, but yelled casually over his shoulder. “How should I know? I’m just looking for something interesting.” Tom could sense Nathan’s grin.

He had to admit it was strange, though. Nathan seemed as if he knew where he was going, despite his denial. How could he, if he had never visited the ship before? Did someone describe it to him?

    While Tom pondered this, Nathan came to a dead stop, Tom almost running into him. He had stopped by a staircase that led straight down to an area below decks, an architectural feature that Ruthen’s ship did not share. Tom craned his neck to try and look down. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to below just yet; he hadn’t seen everything on deck. More accurately, he hadn’t seen anything on deck, due to Nathan’s impatience.

    Typically, though, Nathan didn’t give him a chance to voice his displeasure. “C’mon, let’s go.” He practically shoved Tom down the narrow stairs, following after him to almost force him to walk down.  Tom did so, though not without a bit of resentment. He vowed to explore the ship on his own later on, when Nathan wasn’t around to be annoying. Why did Nathan want Tom to come with him anyway? Nathan could be nice if he wanted to, but sometimes Tom felt weird around him. Nathan was such a jerk sometimes, and when he wasn’t he was…confusing.

     Tom was so focused on his thoughts that he didn’t notice the two missing steps at the bottom of the stair case. “Watch it!” He heard Nathan yell at the last second, but too late, and Tom fell. He managed to keep himself from face planting, but he hit his knees painfully on the wood of the floor. He stared at the planks for a moment, his eyes tearing. It was glossy and well finished, but it didn’t seem fire forged. He could barely see the grains it was made of. How odd…

     “Are you okay?” Nathan grabbed his arm and hauled him up, interrupting his study of the floor. “You didn’t hit your head, stop looking moronic.”

 Tom forgot about the odd floor, pulling away from the older boy. “I’m not moronic! Why did you shove me down the stairs anyway?!”

     Nathan looked at the wooden ceiling above them and sighed. “I didn’t shove you. You fell. Now let’s go, as long as you can keep from falling on your face again.” With that, he walked off down the dimly lit hall. The oil lamps weren’t as strong as on Ruthen’s ship.

    “I didn’t fall on my face!” Tom shouted, running after him.

      Nathan didn’t respond. The interior of the ship was very different from Ruthen’s. Tom ran his hand along the wall as he walked, and was surprised at the smoothness. If he had done the same on Ruthen’s ship, he likely would have ended up with nasty splinters.

     Nathan walked ahead in a slouch, his hands in his pockets. If Tom didn’t know any better, he would say Nathan was nervous. About what, though? Tom smiled and ran up to him. It served Nathan right for trying to control everything.

     “What’s wrong? It was your idea to come down here.” As he ran to Nathan’s side, Tom’s flimsy sandals clacked on the floor. Another odd effect of the wood, he guessed.

     “Nothing’s wrong!” Nathan snapped, straightening. “Don’t be idiotic!” He walked faster, ahead of Tom, who shrugged his shoulders and followed. Nathan was definitely uneasy, but Tom had no idea why. He continued running his hand along the wood, and tried to dig his nails into it. It didn’t work, it was too slippery. Tom decided that whatever wood Auros used to design his ships was cool. Dragging his nails along the wood made a funny scratchy noise, and Tom grinned at the sound, his sore knees forgotten.

     “Would you STOP THAT!?” Nathan whirled around to face Tom, his yell echoing down the lengthy corridor. Tom jumped and backed up against the wall, and Nathan advanced on him angrily. “Do you have any idea how annoying-DAMNIT!” Nathan had put his hand on the wall in an attempt to force Tom to back up, and now he pulled it back as if burned. He shook it, cursing, and Tom darted out of the way. Nathan looked like he wanted to punch somebody.

    “Um…are you okay?” How could Nathan possibly hurt his hand leaning on a wall for a half second?”

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: The Waterlord Prequel part 12

 Part 12

The air froze his every breath, but the clouds formed were beautiful. The white plain stretched out before him, untouched by wood, and he realized he wasn’t on a ship. He wanted to float, but the ground-was it ground?-remained hard under his feet. He stood  above a freezing, foreign world, and yet he was entombed in it. It was too quiet, too still, and strangest of all, there was water everywhere and yet none….

         Tom heard his door creaking, and then a flurry of knocking. He rolled over in bed, trying to ignore it. It was warm in bed…

     “Tom, get up, damnit! It’s already noon! ” Tom groaned and snuggled further into his blankets. The person pounding his door outside was obviously Nathan, and Tom didn’t want to deal with him right now. It was rest day; what was Nathan bothering him for? Usually the older boy slept longer than he did. Tom almost fell back to sleep until the banging started again.

      “TOM!” You’d better not be sick again!” Nathan’s voice rose in volume. Tom rolled over, facing the door.

      “I’m not…g’way!” He buried his head under his pillow.

     “Fine…I guess I’ll have to explore Auros’s ship by myself.”

       Tom shot out of bed at that, running to the door and wrenching it open. “What?!”

Nathan laughed, his eyes roaming over Tom’s frame. The younger boy realized he was still in his pajamas, and blushed, but that didn’t matter now. “What about Auros’s ship!?”
 Nathan paused. “Well, the festivities start tomorrow…but the ship came today, in preparation, I suppose. They just started letting us explore it, after the captains met.” He raised his eyebrows.

 “Let’s go!” Tom raced back into his room, not bothering to anchor the door or wait for Nathan’s response, and quickly changed into clothes. When he turned back to his door, Nathan was leaning in the frame, having caught the door. Tom raced past Nathan into the hall, looking for any signs that festivities had begun. He could see none until he got to the deck.

     Instead of the typical endless blue of the sky on the ocean, a gigantic ship filled the skyline. Tom stopped dead and stared, trying to take it all in.

     The ship was about as large as Ruthen’s, but it had ribbed hulls, and the back was narrower. The lining of the sails was also a different color, a much darker orange versus the bright red that adorned all of Ruthen’s ships. The wind blew, and the foreign flag danced in the mast. It was an orange leaf on white, whereas the one that flew on Tom’s home ship was a fiery tree. They rarely flew the flag, only on holidays and when meeting other ships, though this was the first time in Tom’s memory that the latter had occurred. A narrow wooden bridge spanned the two ships, though there was a rope ladder on the side of Auros’s for those who opted to swim rather than risk crossing it. Tom figured that their ship probably had one too, though he couldn’t see it now.

     “Nice, huh?” Nathan had walked up behind him, Tom being too absorbed in the view of the ship to bother turning around. His annoyance with Nathan the night before was temporarily forgotten.

      “How do we get onto it? That bridge?” Tom could see a person on each side of the bridge, probably making sure that traffic was kept under control. The bridge looked flimsy, basically only a plank of wood, and Tom could see why their presence was necessary. It didn’t stop him from wanting to cross immediately, though.

      “Well, obviously…You have to ask, though. They’re monitoring the crossings.” Tom moved toward the area of the ship where the bridge was anchored. He heard Nathan greet someone, and wondered briefly who it was while he walked closer to the bridge, before being intercepted by the woman who was monitoring it. She held a sheaf of palm paper in her hand.

     “Where are you going?” Tom couldn’t remember seeing her anywhere, and he wondered if she was an official from Auros’s ship.

      “I was going to see the…Auros’s ship. We’re allowed, right?” Tom hoped it wouldn’t be a problem.

      “I don’t see why not. You’re awfully young, though.” Tom frowned at that. He was 13, not that young. “Where are your parents?”

       “You need parents?” Tom’s face fell. If he needed some kind of guardian to get on the ship, he couldn’t visit it! He would miss another opportunity, like seeing Ruthen’s island.

       The official frowned. “Don’t you have foster parents, at least?”

      “No…I live alone. I can still see it, though, right? I won’t cause any trouble.”

      The woman muttered to herself about “strange foreign customs” and made a mark on her papers before turning back to him. “I don’t see an official problem with it. Be careful, though. And cross slowly, or you’ll be swimming.” She waved him on.

        Tom grinned and hopped up on the bridge. It was rather thin, but it seemed solid enough. He began to run across, and then stopped dead when a gust of wind hit him. For a moment he stood paralyzed. It wasn’t that he was afraid of the water, but it was a long fall. He turned back to the side he had come from, the wind whistling in his ears.  

      He saw Nathan then, who was waving to him. He was probably yelling at him to hurry up. Tom swallowed hard, and looked ahead to Auros’s ship. It wasn’t that far…

     Suddenly, the whistling stopped as the wind seemed to die. Tom looked around, taking his chance and racing ahead to the end of the bridge. He jumped off onto Auros’s deck and felt stupid once he looked back. The bridge wasn’t that long at all, and it wasn’t that high. He shook off his fear. He wouldn’t let himself freeze up on the way back, wind or no wind.