Hey guys!  Hope all your writing ventures are paying off!  I’ll have some more writing tips and help out soon, and I’m planning a new editorial, but it’s more of a comparison essay than anything else.  Don’t forget to enter the contest, which closes on February 20.  Email me at julia.fictionalfantasy@gmail.com to become an affiliate of FF, or fill out the form HERE. And without further ado, here is the next installment of Wrathgate by Jonathan Shelnutt!

Chapter 5, Part 2: Thunderhead

In the initial surprise after it had started raining, James had a hard time getting through the mass of people, who seemed jittery and nervous. They must have heard about the Ashen and perhaps some of them were about to leave the island. In any case, James was getting pushed towards the curved side of the tower, when he had intended to go straight past the fountain through the center of the atrium. Suddenly James found himself near one of the silver censers. The sweet smell of the incense burning was almost intoxicating, but a cold something pushed James on. Almost angrily he burrowed through the maze of people, until at last he reached the door. The guards gave him no problem, because they didn’t much care who left the Argent Spire, their job was just to keep the rabble out.

The rain was warm and the air was sultry and foul smelling, which was unheard of on Capria. The southern warmth was usually offset by a cool sea breeze, but today the wind was from the east, from the direction whence James had come in his tiny rowboat.

That’s ominous. James decided.

James could barely see the steps through the rain as he descended into the courtyard surrounding the Spire, but he had experience navigating there from his errands for his master Arnen. As he traced the familiar route out of the gate in the fence and down the road towards Cithara, James felt like he was being boiled alive. Suddenly a thought came to his mind, and he put his hand on the ebony wand, which instantly sent a chill through his body.

Too bad I’m an alchemist’s apprentice and not a magician’s. Then I would actually be able to use this thing. James thought. However, the wand seemed to be drawing its power from James’s own body, because by the time he had walked a few miles down from the Spire and the marble buildings of Cithara began to flank the street, he was exhausted. When a hot raindrop landed on his nose and then instantly froze, he retracted his hand from the wand like it had bitten him.

When a wide cobblestone street crossed the one James was traversing, he was faced with a choice. If he turned left, he would go down towards the docks, towards Arnen’s shop. If he continued straight, the wide street would climb for a bit and then terminate at the Cathedral of Cithara. James, however, decided on the third option without hesitation. He turned right, towards the cramped and crowded residential district. Towards home.

On the road from the Spire, James had seen no one, but now there were people everywhere. As he went through the sea elfin district, he saw them hurriedly but gracefully packing their meager belongings and passing him, going towards the docks, where they hoped to find a boat to take them from the threatened city. James wondered if Arnen was among them, or if he would stay.

When James passed through the Fey Gate to the human district, the people seemed nervous but they tried to live normally. The agora set up in Navonna Square seemed to be doing its business as usual even in the rain, because James was accosted by at least a dozen hawkers waving their wares in his face.

“Do I look like I am shopping for a Madeiran rug?” James spat at one swarthy vendor, and then felt disgusted at himself. I’m not normally irritable like that.James thought. When he had escaped the agora, James started becoming slightly concerned. The trip had only been around five miles, but his legs were shaking and he felt dizzy. Fumbling in his alchemist bag, he pulled out several crystal vials, only to find them empty.

“Thanks, Prince Alexander. Now I’m all out of blue potions.”

Thankfully, he had almost arrived at his destination. At the small terracotta bungalow that he called home, James walked through the iron gate and stumbled up the stairs into the veranda, glad to be out of the rain. When he knocked on the door, it was almost instantly opened.

“William, I just told you…” Emily yelled over her shoulder, and then looked at James. “Can I help you?”

“Hi.” James said to his sister.

“James!” she shrieked dragging him inside by his wrist with an iron grip. “I am going to kill you! Where in Capria did you go, you rascal, you? We were all worried sick! William, come here and beat this child!”

William walked in, eating a slice of cake. “Hey, kid, welcome home! Have a piece of cake.”

“Arnen told us you had disappeared, and mom and dad have been looking all over Capria for you, for three days!” Emily’s face was flushed with emotion.

“I need to talk to them, actually,” James said, hanging his cape on a hook and kicking off his soaked moccasins. His tunic was actually still fairly dry.

“Yes you do, but they are returning from the grottos across the island right now. They thought you might have gone there, because you like visiting them so much.” William said, eating the piece of cake he had brought for James. “But hey, care to talk to your siblings? I mean, we don’t even know where you were, kid.”

“Hm. I wasn’t far from mom and dad. I was over at the Argent Spire.” James walked into the kitchen and collapsed into a chair.

“For Anyana’s sake, why?” Emily’s wrath had subsided, and now she was bustling around, boiling water for tea. “Arnen didn’t send you there. How did you even get in?”

“It’s a long story.” James said.

“Does it have anything to do with the Ashen? There is a rumor going around that they’re back. The sea elves all are packing up by an order from the Prince. Going to Istris, I heard.” William said, snatching an apple from a bowl.

“They should go to Thornhill.” Emily said decisively. “But go on, James. Pray tell.”

James told them. At first they looked skeptical, but as the story went on, they lapsed into fascination, supplying a satisfying amount of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. The fruit bowl was empty by the time James finally finished.

“We’ve got to leave Capria, then,” Emily said with wonder.

“We should go to Thornhill,” William said.

“No,” James said. Both his older siblings looked at him curiously. “We need to go to Istris.”

“Why? Because the sea elves are going there?” William said.

“No. Because Prince Alexander is going there, and he has answers.”

William and Emily glanced at each other. Emily started to twirl her long blonde hair nervously.

“But James, mom and dad always said to go to Thornhill if we were ever in danger.” Emily said, and William nodded.

“I know, Emily, but they aren’t here right now. And the Ashen could arrive at any minute.” Outside the storm began to roar louder, and James had to raise his voice.

“Are you saying we should leave without our parents? James, me and William are only sixteen, and you’re only twelve. We might never see our parents again if we leave now.” Emily said.

Suddenly James felt a presence, just like he had when he was in Ravenna.

“We have no choice. They’re here.”



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