Authors: Antony John
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Text copyright Â© 2013 by Antony John
Map illustration copyright Â© 2013 by Steve Stankiewicz
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Firebrand : an Elemental novel / by Antony John.
Sequel to: Elemental.
Summary: In a dystopian United States, the colonists of Roanoke Island must find safety at the mysterious Fort Sumter, but as they get farther from their home, their elemental powers begin to fade.
[1. Fantasy. 2. United StatesâFiction.] I. Title.
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author or third-party websites or their content.
t was hard not to feel as though the world was ending. I stared at my tattered clothes, touched my bloodied lip, and winced from the pain of opening my mouth. I'd been able to block everything out as long as we were fighting for survival. I'd even relaxed for a moment at the thought that we had won. Now I wasn't sure what winning meant.
Below me, the ship, still at anchor, tilted gently from side to side. Light filtered through the bank of windows that ran along one side of the cabin. After the night's hurricane, everything seemed still. But the sense of foreboding that had consumed us for three long days was very much alive.
signed my deaf younger brother, Griffin. He looked as ragged as I felt, with disheveled hair and cuts across his face and arms. Beneath the grime, though, he seemed more alive than ever.
They. Find. Us,
I understood him well enough. This was no ordinary cabin. It belonged to Dare, the pirate captain who'd kidnapped our families and destroyed our remote Hatteras Island colony a few days earlier. And we'd just discovered that he was our uncle. His cabin had been locked all night, but now it was mysteriously open. Until we could explain everything, Griffin was right: We couldn't afford for our colony's Guardians to find us here.
But what about the logbooks arranged in chronological order above the desk, and the machinery bolted onto the shelves? There were answers in this cabin, explanations about who we were and where we came from.
Just. Little. Time,
Griffin's eyes shifted to the door and back to me again, reminding me of the stakes if we got caught. But what he signed was,
As always, we were a team. And neither Dare and his pirates nor the Guardians' lies about our past had done anything to break that bond. If anything, we were stronger than before.
I ran my hands across the machines and watched them spark to life at my touch. My element, whatever it was, still felt new. Power pulsed from me instead of flowing. I picked up a thin metal cylinder and focused my energy on controlling the light that instantly shone from one end. The beam seared through the dusty air and cast a yellow circle on the ceiling. It grew dimmer as my concentration waned.
I put it back carefully on the shelf.
Griffin turned his attention to a large map hanging beside the desk. Meanwhile, I touched each machine in turn, watching in wonder as they responded with lights and sounds and dials swinging wildly. Dare wouldn't have kept them all these years unless they were important, but I had no idea what they were for. It was exhilarating and frustrating. I was glimpsing something extraordinary here, but the picture made no sense.
I moved along to the final machine: a black metal box with two protruding knobs. I placed my fingers on it and channeled energy as before, wondering whether I'd be rewarded with lights or something else.
I leaped back as a man's voice filled the room. Heart pounding, I looked around for whoever had spoken, but the room was empty. Silent too. I studied the machine more closely. It couldn't have come from there. What machine could possibly trap a human voice?
Griffin had turned to face me. He must have felt the floor move as I jumped. Now he waited for an explanation.
He wasn't the only one.
With a deep breath I placed my fingers on the machine again. The voice returned instantly: “Fort Sumter, Charleston, South Carolina. This is a recorded message. All Plague refugees are advised to join the self-sufficient colony at Fort Sumter, Charleston, South Carolina. This is a recorded message. All Plague refugees are advisedâ”
I pulled away. I recognized the name
âI'd seen it on a map of the mainlandâbut I had no idea what the other words meant. I knew what Plague refugees meant, though. Unless we could recapture Roanoke Island from the pirates, that's exactly what we were.
I wanted to tell Griffin what I'd heard, but we didn't have signs for the new words. I still couldn't believe I'd made the machine work at all.
Griffin was back to studying the map again. He swept his fingers across it, committing the details to memory in case he never saw it again. It wasn't an ordinary map, either. Hatteras and Roanoke Islands were just ghostly outlines, whereas the areas of water that surrounded them were filled with indecipherable details. At the top was a large inland waterway marked
. Farther down was the sliver of Hatteras Island, our former home. Toward the bottom was a place called Charleston. And at the mouth of Charleston harbor, someoneâpresumably Dareâhad added four words:
Fort Sumter refugee colony
Griffin raised a hand. I assumed he was going to sign again, but instead he was completely still. As a panicked expression darkened his face, he pressed his other hand flat against the wall, closed his eyes, and felt for vibrations.
I didn't ask him if he'd picked up on something. I could hear the footsteps.
he signed. But he must have known it was too late for that. We'd be seen leaving, and forced to answer questions about things we barely understood.
“Thomas!” Kyte's voice rattled along the corridor. He was self-appointed chief of the Guardians and my greatest critic.
demanded Griffin, unable to recognize anything but the vibrations of the footsteps against the ship's worn planks.
For a moment, I considered calling Kyte to join us. I imagined his surprise as he realized what I'd been able to accomplish with my elementâthe one he'd kept secret from me my entire life. But then reality kicked in. It was more likely that he'd turn against us. He'd link us to Dare, our uncle, and hold us responsible for what had happened to the colony. He'd always hated me, after all.
I closed the cabin door noiselessly and leaned my weight against it.
Kyte was trying each door, so I grasped the handle as he reached ours. He twisted it sharply, but I held it fast. His breathing was heavy on the other side of the wooden door.
“Thomas?” he said quietly.
I held my breath and waited.
I closed my eyes.
A few moments later, he turned on his heel and walked away. His footsteps grew quieter. I breathed again.
Griffin leaned against the wall as though he was tiredâof running, and fighting, and hiding. And lying. I knew how he felt. Over the past few days, we'd dragged the truth from a lifetime of lies. But already the deception was starting up again.
The difference was that this time, we were the ones with the secrets. And I didn't feel bad about that at all.