QSFer Kim Fielding has a new MM fantasy audio book out:
Ennek, the son of Praesidium’s chief, has rescued Miner from a terrible fate: suspension in a dreamless frozen state called Stasis, the punishment for traitors. As the two men flee Praesidium by sea, their adventures are only beginning.
Although they may be free from the tyranny of their homeland, new difficulties await them as Miner faces the continuing consequences of his slavery and Ennek struggles with controlling his newfound powers as a wizard.
In this sequel to Stasis, the fugitives encounter challenges both human and magical as they explore new lands and their deepening relationship with each other.
KIM IS DONATING HER ROYALTIES FOR THIS SERIES TO DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS
THERE WAS a pattern in the wood grain on one part of the ceiling: a knothole and some curved lines. The more Miner looked at it, the more it looked like a whirlpool, the sort rumored to swallow entire ships. He tried not to look at it at all, but that was difficult when he spent so many hours confined to the tiny compartment and when there wasn’t much else to see.
He didn’t have to stay inside; he could have wandered the decks as Ennek often did. Like Ennek, he might have found a way to help out, to coil ropes or swab decks or whatever sailors on the Eclipse did at sea. He could have kept his slave collar covered in the thick scarf his lover had given him and nobody would have thought anything of it, because the weather remained cold and blustery and clammy in a way that seeped into his bones and made them ache. And really, he should have yearned to go outside, to have open skies above him for the first time in three hundred years.
But he didn’t go above deck, at least not often, because then he would inevitably see the water tossing and foaming beneath them. And despite the angry words he muttered to chastise himself, he couldn’t face the ocean without trembling in fear.
Ennek spent hours up above, returning to their small space with hot drinks and spicy stews and hunks of dry bread, his black curls wild and his skin smelling like salt. But he seemed very understanding of Miner’s terror, and perhaps he tried to tamp down his enthusiasm over their adventure, instead drawing Miner against his muscular body and telling small tales of the day’s occurrences.
And sometimes after the sun had set, when only a few other men remained awake, Ennek would persuade Miner to climb the ladder to the top deck, and Miner would stand with his back to the railing—even though it was too dark to see the water well—and he’d breathe in some fresh air and try not to tremble noticeably.
“I won’t let anything hurt you,” Ennek told him one night in a low voice. “Not again. Thelius is… gone… and this is only water, no more dangerous than a bathtub.”
Miner had been afraid of the bathtub too, at first. He didn’t remind Ennek of that, but only nodded. “I know. I’m sorry. It’s just….”
Ennek set his hand on Miner’s shoulder. “I understand. What those bastards did to you, it was hell, and for so long…. You’re not going to get over it right away. We’ll give it time, all right? And anyway, we’ll be on dry land in less than a week, and then I promise you, we can stay far away from the ocean.”
“Thank you,” Miner replied. He knew Ennek didn’t fully grasp his fear—couldn’t. After all, Ennek had practically grown up on the water, had spent the best times of his life puttering around the bay in his little catboats or stomping about the great sailing ships as portmaster. The sea had been his lifeblood even before he’d learned he was a wizard with the element of water at his command.
“Do you want to walk around a little? I could show you how the steering works, or maybe you want to take a look at the aft rigging? It’s just a bunch of strings, but it’s so ingenious—”
“I think I’d like to return below.”
Ennek nodded. “Okay. I’m kind of worn-out anyway.”
Miner led the way back down the ladder and through the cramped corridor. Their room was actually a storeroom of sorts, and it smelled strongly of the spices that had been transported during the ship’s voyage to Praesidium. The low ceiling prevented Miner from standing up straight, and the floor space barely allowed for the mattress—so small they had to squeeze together, although neither of them minded that. Miner was happy the room didn’t have portholes. All in all, the room offered a serviceable means of escape and privacy.
As soon as they shut the door, they shed their damp clothing, piling it in a heap up against one wall. All that movement in the cramped space was awkward, and Miner knocked into the hanging lamp with his elbow, sending shadows careening crazily about. The dancing light revealed Ennek’s broad shoulders and the dark curls on his chest.
Ennek reached over to steady the lamp. He smiled shyly at Miner as they stood there in their woolen underpants. He was still timid about nudity and about the way they shared their bodies. Miner found it endearing.
“You must be going crazy locked up in here all the time,” Ennek said softly.
“But I’m used to it. Besides, I have my books. My reading’s getting much better.”
Ennek smiled again. “So why don’t you read to me tonight?”
Kim Fielding is very pleased every time someone calls her eclectic. Her books have won Rainbow Awards and span a variety of genres. She has migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States and currently lives in California, where she long ago ran out of bookshelf space. She’s a university professor who dreams of being able to travel and write full time. She also dreams of having two perfectly behaved children, a husband who isn’t obsessed with football, and a house that cleans itself. Some dreams are more easily obtained than others.