QSFer Eule Grey has a new FF sci-fi romance book out, Volcano Chronicles book 1: I, Volcano.
When shy medic Jalob Baleine heads to war, it isn’t for romance. She only wants to help refugees who have no home or allies. Because they are kin. Jalob was born under the same glowering volcano, on an idyllic island surrounded by dolphins. Like the refugees, she fled the lava and secretly cherishes the old ways.
Then Jalob meets stroppy violinist, Corail Esplash. After an explosive introduction, they’re forced to spend time together. Stress makes them long for a reprise, and a fragile line dances between love and hate. Inevitably, the young women exchange island stories. Corail is head-strong and rude, a typical Ansar who loves to tease and be chased. And Jalob—strong, loyal, from Skarle—has such fast legs… Could the old rhymes about destiny be right? Ah, fate.
We pivot on a T-junction.
I’m the left arm of the T, tugging towards the sea, and home. Corail is the right arm, leaning towards Esk. There are no certainties. Whichever way we take could mean death. She breaks free, pushes my shoulders, and roars a guttural, inhuman noise.
“Enough! Jalob, you have to leave. Go!”
Her raw anger blasts me backwards, straight into a pile of fishing nets. In the panic to stay upright, I land badly. The pain is bad, but not from my ankle.
As if a decision has been made, she starts walking in the direction of the city. I can’t take it.
“Where are you going? You haven’t given me a chance to explain. Come back!”
Her head jerks to the side, but my call doesn’t stop her. Without faltering, she keeps walking, and the distance between us increases.
But she’s too weak for speed. I catch up easily and pull at her arm. Stress and adrenaline affect my mastery of the accent. My inadequate words are stilted and awkward. I don’t convey strength, certainty, or the depth of my emotion.
“We can escape. It’s still possible. My father says—”
She looks up. Moonlight illuminates the face that’s always on my mind. “Nothing matters anymore.” Her voice catches on too much anguish to be contained. “You have to go home, and I’ve got to join the army. Everything else is irrelevant.”
“No.” I tried to pretend it would not come to this. When she played the violin and music lifted us far from guns and soldiers, sometimes I forgot. It was me who ignored the temptations of despair and hatred, finding endless ways to cheer her up. Perhaps I was wrong. An ocean full of sea creatures can’t make us forget the things we’ve seen. “No,” I repeat, unsteadily. “That’s not true.”
“Our paths lead in opposite directions,” she states, her voice hollow. “It’s the only truth that matters.”
She watches my battle to accept her destroying words and then takes my hands. “Go, Jalob. Please? Don’t make this any harder than it already is. Let’s just do it. Quickly! I’ll walk this way, and you, that.”
“I can’t do that!” I wail. “Please, don’t leave me.”
“You ogre! Why are you making this difficult?”
She’s never sworn at me before, and I’ve never begged. She doesn’t sound like Corail, and I don’t sound like Jalob. We’re stifled people, squashed as flat as fruit on a concrete road.
By the inevitability of today, of this moment that has slunk towards us, gathering pace. Whichever decisions we chose, we were always going to end up on this beach, caught like crabs in a fishing net.
“You’re killing me. Every minute you keep me here makes it worse,” she says. “There’s no time left.”
She’s right. All the nights her head found a bed on my body and we dozed the hours away have leaked into yesterday. I want back every second. What a fool I was, to waste time sleeping!
I’m a hare caught in the headlights of her apocalypse eyes. Her name is all I can manage, and it’s a cry wrenched from my vital organs. “Corail!”
“Go. Please.” She pushes again, this time more of a caress than a show of force. Her head hangs low.
Our impasse ends abruptly, with deafening crashes and apocalyptic bursts of light. Each splintering blast means more ancient buildings destroyed. One heap of rubble collapses onto the next. All the arches that led from one flowering pathway to the next have been crushed. There are no options and no pathways in this city anymore.
We should be used to bombing; nevertheless, we leap into each other’s arms. She dives into my body the same way a person welcomes bed on a cold night. I’m where she belongs.
“Jalob,” she whispers. “I’m so scared.”
Although it’s only seconds, the explosion gives me time enough to refocus. I hold her in strong arms that still might not be enough, and try again.
“Listen to me,” I say harshly. “Please? At least let me show you what I’m trying to say. You know I’m no good with words.”
She allows me to lead her back along the beach, to the fishing huts. Normally there would be guards and dogs everywhere, but tonight, only hush hovers on the breeze. The beach is deserted. All the soldiers have moved inland for the final war meeting. The air tastes of salt, water, and the painful promise of home.
“All right, all right. I can’t go any faster!”
“It’s okay,” I say, stupid, stupid, stupid. It hasn’t been okay for our people for a very long time. “I’ll look after you.”
She leans heavily against my side. I slide my arm around and almost carry her. The pain in my ankle throbs, but it’s become meaningless. The beat of my heart starts to gallop. Please let the boat be there, I beg silently. Please, please, please.
When we arrive at the beach hut, I unlock the padlock and open the door as quietly as possible. “First, we have to dress you. It’s cold at sea.”
She wriggles away. “The sea? No, Jalob, I can’t.”
“Just give me a few minutes. Don’t argue until you’ve seen. Don’t you owe me that much? Please?”
“Whatever you say, but the longer you mess about, the less chance I have of reaching the army alive.”
“It won’t take long.” Despite protesting, she stands passively while I wrap a woollen scarf around her neck and pull a hat over curls that, even now, tumble over my fingers. “Step in.” I guide her into waterproof trousers. “Now you look like a proper fisherwoman.”
“I do?” She smiles grudgingly.
Eule has lived all over and settled, for now, in the UK. Has worked in education, various health services and was a rubbish butter-spreader in a sandwich factory.
Writes LGBTQ+ fiction. YA, NA, adult fiction and experiments with hybrid.
Eule is currently writing Volcano Chronicles, a trilogy.
Book one: I, Volcano is now available!
Published with Ninestar Press, Retreat West, The Selkie, Greentooth Press.
Today Eule is she/her and they/them. Yesterday he/him and they/them was a good fit. Eule has not yet arrived at a pronoun that feels right.