QSFer Andrew J. Peters has a new fantasy book out:
A new fantastical adventure by the author of The Seventh Pleiade. After escaping from a flood that buried the above ground in seawater, a fractured group of boys contend with the way ahead and their trust of an underground race of men who give them shelter. For sixteen-year-old Dam, whose world was toppling before the tragedy, it’s a strange, new second chance. There are wonders in the underworld and a foreign warrior Hanhau who is eager for friendship despite Dam’s dishonorable past.
But a rift among his countrymen threatens to send their settlement into chaos. Peace between the evacuees and Hanhau’s tribe depends on sharing a precious relic that glows with arcane energy. When danger emerges from the shadowed backcountry, Dam must undertake a desperate mission. It’s the only hope for the Atlanteans to make it home to the surface. It’s the only way to save Hanhau and his people.
Dam made his way directly to his bed in the far corner of the room. Then he noticed that Aerander’s boyfriend, Lys, was sitting on his pallet. Like lightning shot from the sky, Aerander materialized in front of Dam.
“Where did you go?” Aerander said.
“The bathing lake,” Dam said. He walked past Aerander to the clothing shelves. His tunic was soaked through in places. The evacuees hadn’t had time to grab belongings before coming underground. They were left to rewash what they had been wearing or to dress in rationed garments. Dam stepped into a pair of scratchy trousers and wrestled out of his tunic.
Aerander stared at him, somehow appearing to be genuinely baffled. He wore the bone amulet given to him by the heavenly princess Calaeno before they had all evacuated Atlantis. That bit of regalia plus his bossy manner gave him the credentials he needed to lead the survivors. He told Dam, “You know how dangerous it is.”
The backcountry was dangerous, with boiling geysers, tremors that rattled through the land every now and then, and fire scorpions the size of bulls. But Dam knew his way around better than most.
“Why are you checking up on me?” Dam said.
“Someone has to do it.”
Dam’s roommate Hephad squirmed a bit as he sat cross-legged with the kittens on his lap. Aerander had that effect on people. Even the kittens didn’t mew. Dam sat down on Hephad’s vacant pallet, kicked off his sandals, and examined his feet. He had been meaning to trim his nails. Like his hair, they seemed to grow twice as fast underground.
Aerander hovered in front of him. “I asked you to respect the rules. You want everyone to go running off on their own whenever they please? People will be losing their way in the backcountry or breaking a leg and getting trapped in a gulley. You could get killed by something out there.”
Dam retrieved a coring knife from beside the pallet. It did a fine job stripping off overgrown nails. He started working on his big toe.
Dam said nothing.
“Do you want to get yourself killed?”
Dam carved an arch of white from the nail of his big toe. The rest of his nails hadn’t grown out too bad. A file would do the trick better than his coring knife.
Aerander’s voice rose, quavering. “For crying out loud, Dam, you’re all I have.”
Dam looked up from his trimming. Aerander had lectured him before about family obligation, but something about the way he said it this time pressed the meaning deeper. Aerander had lost his father, his stepmother, his half-sisters, and everyone else to the flood. Dam had become a bit cold to that. He had lost his mother and father years before. His father had been orphaned at a young age like him, and he hadn’t known his mother’s side of the family. He had heard that they were poor, which was why Aerander’s grandfather had plucked Dam from the countryside, stowing him away to protect the family land.
He noticed that Lys had turned his gaze to the floor. It hadn’t been the best thing for Aerander to say in front of his boyfriend. Dam felt bad for Lys sometimes. He was monumentally in love with Aerander, and Aerander didn’t give him much in return.
“You can’t keep me like a pet on a leash,” Dam said.
“You’re so dramatic.”
Dam looked up at Aerander sharply. “I’m back now. You can get some sleep.”
Aerander heaved a breath. It seemed that he didn’t have the fire in his belly to push things further that night. Dam noticed that his cousin looked more pale and weathered than usual. Living underground had taken its toll on everyone, though no one more than Aerander. He had taken on the responsibility of the welfare of the evacuees. Not only did he manage complaints from the others, he also dealt with constant questions about when they would be able to return aboveground.
The amulet he wore was enchanted. Somehow, it forged a bond between Aerander and the goddess who was sworn to be his guardian. Calaeno would tell him when the sea had pulled back and it was safe to come above. Every day, many times a day, Aerander checked in with her. Days had stretched into months with no good news.
They exchanged a quiet glance. Aerander turned to go. Lys followed him, looking at Dam on the way out. That made Dam feel terrible. He would help, but what was he supposed to do? Aerander wanted him to keep the boys in line, but that wasn’t what Dam was good at. He wasn’t much good at anything except sneaking around on his own. He’d look like a phony reminding people about rules, not to mention that no one listened to him. The ones that caused trouble, the highborn boys, treated him like dirt.
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Andrew J. Peters is the author of the Werecat series and two books for young adults: The Seventh Pleaide and Banished Sons of Poseidon. He grew up in Buffalo, New York, studied psychology at Cornell University, and has spent most of his career as a social worker and an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. Andrew lives in New York City with his husband and his cat Chloë.