This week, talented author, James Tallett was kind enough to share an excerpt out of his debut novel, TARRANAU…
Pushing his bowl back towards the centre of the table, Tarranau sighed. He picked up the utensils and crockery, and handed them to the ship’s cook as Tarranau made his way to the main cargo hatch. Pausing as he stood on the top stair, Tarranau took a long look around; the former apprentice wasn’t sure he would see the open air for some time. His feet thumped as they hit each step down, and the sounds echoed hollowly off the wooden decking. Turning, the apprentice walked towards the next hatch down, taking him to the water line of the ship. He was now on the lowest of the true decks, and below him lay the bilge. Tarranau looked at the hatch, already open. There was nothing for it, as waiting would only anger Gosaloit. Tarranau stepped to the hatch and descended.
The young man looked around. There was only the pool of light provided by the hatch, and that was dim, for no torches were lit on the level above. Tarranau paused below the hatch and listened, trying to see if the sound of breathing or the sloshing of water would mark the presence of Gosaloit. There was nothing.
Tarranau was not about to venture into the dark corners of the bilge, and so he bent down, careful to keep as much of his attention on his five normal senses as possible, and placed his hands into the water that sloshed around the bottom of bilge. Letting the water tell him what it felt, he expanded the range of his sensing slowly, looking for any disturbances or areas of warm water where someone could have been standing. Even before his senses reached the end of the bilge, Tarranau knew he would find nothing there.
The apprentice glanced upwards, wondering if he should return to the deck. Well, there was at least one way that was guaranteed to make Gosaloit reveal himself. Tarranau looked down at the water, first to the bow and then to the stern. The apprentice had an even chance of getting this right the first time, and he might as well put all he had into the magic. Still crouching on the floor, Tarranau withdrew his senses from the water and turned to face the bow, turning his hands palms up.
The young man aimed his thoughts inward and down into the water, gathering all the energy that he could from the sea around him. Reaching down into the liquid that ran along the bilge floor, Tarranau grinned and pushed, lifting with his hands and standing erect as he did so, launching a spray of water up and towards the end of the bow. All water in the bilge followed it, a tsunami knocking aside anything not tied down. The boat pitched slightly as the water raced forward, picking up speed as theFregyion’s bow tilted down.
Near to the bow of the boat, the wall slammed to a stop, momentum ceased in an instant. Tarranau shoved again, putting all the effort that he could into the water, but it while it bulged, it held firm, and began to turn back around. Tarranau probed at the centre of the wall, and rather than attempt to hold the entire wall in place, he left all but a single small area behind, and on that area he pushed again, launching out a fine spray of bilge water that splattered and ricocheted off of the wooden hull. Anyone standing behind it may not have been soaked, but was certainly not going to smell very pleasant until he bathed.
With Tarranau’s control lost on the wall, it turned and began to speed back down the hull towards him, and he scampered up the ladder, jumping off of the last step and ducking behind some barrels. The water ceased moving as it hit the hatch, and instead sprayed outward, a circular wave that soaked the floor, but left Tarranau dry. The apprentice resolved to stay on his current level, for Tarranau expected to face a nasty soaking or worse for his stunt. The captain was also likely displeased, wondering why his ship had rocked so violently, and with neither of his two trained water magicians to answer as to the cause.
Tarranau shifted so he was sitting on top of the barrels, facing the hatch. He kept his magic about him, for Tarranau hoped he could delay Gosaloit enough to escape if the need arose. The apprentice was not as powerful, but the unexpected could be just as handy.
It took a few minutes for Gosaloit to appear from the hatch. The ship’s mage was dry, having pulled the water from his clothing, but flecks of algae and other unpleasant waste that flourished in the bilge were evident in arcs and weaves across his robes. His face was a towering pillar of anger, his entire body taut and vibrating as he stared at the insolent apprentice before him.
“Tarranau! I will see you purify the water in the bilge before the journey is done! I will dip you in the ocean so that the fish may sup on your toes! You tried to sink the Fregyion! You actually, thoughtlessly, stupidly, tried to sink the Fregyion in order to find me! A wave of water, in a wooden ship? Had I been at the other end, waiting for you in the stern, I would have to explain to the captain why the bow of the ship bulged outwards and we began sinking. Even now, I’ll need to explain that sudden lurch. And then this! This!” Gosaloit pulled at his robes where the stains were the worst, angrily scraping off some of the film and throwing it at Tarranau.
“You attacked me with water! With water you knew was covered in slime and in filth, and while I was distracted trying to prevent the ship from sinking, you took that opportunity to cover me in this! I think I will have you sent down to the brig and locked up. You clearly have no idea of what it means to be a mage or a responsible person.”
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James Tallett is the author of a seven book series of fantasy novels set in The Four Part Land, the first of which was published in 2011 by Deepwood Publishing. In addition to his novel writ-ing, he keeps up a steady stream of short stories and flash fiction, much of which is published online. Aside from writing, he can be found on ski slopes across the world.