A serial novel by Lauren Stinton
The first time she saw the sea, she loved it. The wildness. How big it was, stretching on and on until only the clouds made it stop. It seemed like fire to her—something good and wonderful and dangerous, but not dangerous for her.
Her love of the sea, Mr. Liam said later, was unusual for a flamemaker. Most flamemakers didn’t like large bodies of water because water was the one thing that could make their gift useless. Fire could drown, just like a person could. So she shouldn’t have liked the sea.
But Radiance was unafraid. She walked up all the way to the edge of the cliff, so close that the huge drop at her toes made her stomach swim and her knees feel funny.
As sunlight broke through the clouds and washed across her skin, she held her arms out and felt the cool currents pulling on her clothes. The air smelled like salt—so much salt that she wondered if it would cling to her clothes and her hair, and she would smell like the sea for days. This, she thought, would be a very good thing.
“Radiance!” Mr. Liam said firmly. “Get away from the edge!”
A rough hand with dirt under the fingernails jerked her back from the cliff. The frothy waves far, far below her toes vanished, and the water’s surface seemed to lose some of its shine.
“Foolish, carefree girl,” Mr. Liam chided.
Radiance tried to escape the weight of his hand, but he didn’t let go.
“You are my chance taker,” he told her. “There’s one in every class, and this time it’s you. Go back to the others, Radiance. You’ll learn more from Mrs. Semos than you will from a tumble off the cliff.”
He was bigger than she was, and he didn’t let her wiggle away. He just turned her around and started to escort her back to the group of little girls standing under the pavilion. Most wore cloaks to keep off the rain, but Radiance did not. She never hid from rain. It made her feel like something good was just about to happen to her.
Mr. Liam was a grower. He didn’t understand.
Mrs. Semos was a reader, so she didn’t understand either.
“I am a flamemaker,” Radiance said through gritted teeth as Mr. Liam pushed her forward. “I must have freedom to move.”
“You’re eight years old,” Mr. Liam replied. “That’s all the freedom you need. Let’s go.”
His grip didn’t loosen until the cliff was far behind them. She shook her shoulder free and stomped the rest of the way to the pavilion, where Mrs. Semos was talking about pirates.
Radiance was interested in pirates. But she would be more interested if the lesson took place down below on the shoreline.
Mrs. Semos had a voice that warbled like a much older woman’s. She reminded Radiance of a little grandmother, even though her hair was still black and her face wasn’t very wrinkly. It was just the way she walked and how her voice sounded.
“Captain Faber,” Mrs. Semos was saying, “lived nearly four hundred years ago. He’s one of the most famous pirates in our history, and he was from this very city—from King’s Bay. He sank ships up and down the north coast for twenty years. One morning when the sky was just starting to lighten, Captain Faber looked out and saw lights on the water, but there were no other ships.”
Mrs. Semos grinned. For just a moment, she didn’t seem like a grandmother at all. “That was one of the last confirmed sightings of e’nethaine in King’s Barrow. The lights were spotted from an old watchtower as well—” She gestured to a distant point up the coast. “—so it was certainly the e’nethaine. There have been no confirmed sightings since then. Four hundred years.”
Lights on the water.
Radiance turned and looked thoughtfully out to sea. She tried to mark every detail in her mind, the way an artist would. The rain sliding across the water. The dark surface that moved all on its own. The clouds swallowing up the sunlight. A storm was coming, the rain growing closer. Lightning flashed in one of the darker places, but thankfully none of the weathermakers noticed.
The hour was still early, barely noon. Soon Mr. Liam would interrupt Mrs. Semos’s lecture and start talking about how hungry everyone was. Mrs. Semos didn’t know when to stop talking, so she relied on Mr. Liam and his stomach to remind her.
When Mr. Liam’s stomach started growling, they would start the short walk back to the inn with its innkeeper who smelled like cheese and all the mice that hid under the tables and ate up the food that people dropped. It was a dirty place, but Radiance thought she was probably not supposed to notice. This was a school journey, paid for by the town council—she was supposed to enjoy herself and learn things.
Radiance sighed. Staring across the water, she tried to imagine what it would be like to see lights bobbing on the waves. It would have to be firelight, of course—not some silly weathermaker lantern. Those things barely cast any light at all compared to fire. She didn’t know what weathermakers were so proud about.
Mr. Liam tapped her shoulder and whispered, “Stop frowning. You’ll get wrinkles.”
She looked at him in surprise, and he laughed—quietly, so Mrs. Semos wouldn’t hear him.
Thunder rumbled, faraway and heavy over the sea. All the weathermakers in the group instantly stopped listening to Mrs. Semos’s story about pirates and turned to stare at the storm.
Someday, Radiance thought as she looked at the sea, I will see the lights of the e’nethaine too. And when I do, I will go back to the school and tell everyone what happened. My sighting will go into the history books, right next to Captain Faber’s. It will be the first time in four hundred years.
Lightning sliced the sky, and all the weathermakers cheered. Mrs. Semos frowned at the interruption.
Mr. Liam said it was time to get back to the inn, before the storm rolled in the rest of the way.
“Oh, we don’t mind the rain,” Misty told him, as if he didn’t already know this about weathermakers.
“But I do mind,” he replied. “I’m too old to play in the rain. And this is my last clean pair of trousers—thanks to that one.” He pointed at Radiance.
As everyone turned to see where he was pointing, Radiance lifted her shoulders until they touched her ears and pretended she didn’t remember what he was talking about.
“I don’t believe that innocent face for a moment,” he said. “Go, ladies. We’d better hurry.”
The others began running toward the sandy path leading back to town, but Radiance stayed right where she was, just for a moment.
“I’ll be back,” she told the sea.
She took a deep breath and smelled the salt. She wanted to go down to the beach and touch the water—her fingers ached for it. She could almost feel the sparks, and she wasn’t even trying to use her gift. It was like the sea called to her.
“Tonight,” she promised, because she didn’t want the water to be sad. “I will come back tonight.”
At the base of the path, Mr. Liam shouted at her.
Radiance ran out from under the pavilion as the sky rattled with thunder and the rain began to hang from the clouds like curtains. She held her arms out and, as water dripped off her elbows, she thought, Tonight I will do this with the sea, and no one will be there to stop me.
But that was not exactly what happened.
– R –
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Copyright notice: © 2019 by Lauren Stinton. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.