All I have to say is, at 50,390 words, at least I broke the barrier. Now, all i have to do is actually finish the story. Shouldn't be that hard, right? ...Famous last words...
In any case: An Excerpt, all of which is subject to change. (For instance, neither of the men who are mentioned to be dead actually aren't, and Paitris knows this, but the book was written out of order, and at the time, I thought they were dead. I'm just the author. what do I know?)
Back inside the safe dimness of the cabin once again, Paitris eyed the bed, but couldn't bring himself to lie back down. He'd already spent so much time on his back. He sat at the table instead, picked a few crumbs from the bread, but the thought of eating more made him queasy.
After a few more minutes of enduring the uncanny stillness, he got up and moved to the door where he could at least hear the sound of the water and the wind in the trees. Closing his eyes, he let the sounds of nature and the smell of the pine forest lap over him. It wasn't home. There was no whistle of wind over snow, no long, low groan of pack ice shifting or smell of sea salt, but it was better than the more recent memories of the ship and the men's concrete buildings. He could get used to it, given time.
Lost in the sensation, his hands wandered, trailing over his shin and up his knee, trembling slightly over the scales there. The sensation made him shiver and he almost didn't hear the approach of footsteps on the path from the beach.
"Yer up, then."
Paitris jumped, staggered to his feet, and gripped the door frame as blood rushed to his head and threatened to topple him. Tarn's big hand gripped his arm and steered him back inside to the table.
"You ain't et." The big man's voice rumbled and his face, when Paitris looked up, was clouded. Curly hair dripped in long wet ringlets down his bare chest and his loose pants clung damply to lean leg muscles.
Paitris swallowed and pushed back in his seat. "I wasn't hungry." Tucking his hands into his lap in an attempt to hide the scales and their tell-tale iridescent shimmer he looked at the floor.
Tarn grunted and picked up the bowl of berries. Gently, he set it in front of Paitris. "Don't matter. Get somethin' into you, or you'll never get strong."
"Why do you need me strong?" Paitris took a faceted black berry and put it in his mouth. It was less sweet than tangy, but the taste didn't disagree. He still didn't look at Tarn, and returned his hand to his lap.
"Paitris, you look at me."
Too frightened not to, Paitris looked up. Tarn's eyes smoldered, but Paitris couldn't tell what he was thinking behind the intensity.
"I ain't gonna hurt you. Not ever. You is free to stay, free to go."
Paitris glanced at the door, still standing wide to let in the cool autumn breeze. "Where would I go?"
"Home?" Paitris said nothing. "Do you not hear the sea?"
"Of course I hear it. I hear it every waking minute. I hear it in my dreams." It had been denied him so long. "I have no home to go back to." Maikil was dead. Jaidrin was dead. What would he tell Mairbel? He'd been a coward, run from the only thing he'd ever loved, destroyed the only friend he'd had. He couldn't go back.
Tarn cupped his cheek with his bent, ruined fingers, surprising Paitris too much to pull away. "Then stay." The naked plea in Tarn's eyes was unmistakable and frightening. How long had he been here, living alone in this far place?
"You don't want me, Tarn," Paitris said at last. "I destroy everything I touch."
He got up, having to push past Tarn's bulk to get out the door. It was too close, suddenly, inside the little hut. Pulling off his shirt and tossing it aside, he headed for the lake. He managed to struggle out of the pants, too, by the time he reached the shore, and quickly discarded the splint as well. His arm throbbed but he waded into the cold water. His scales near sizzled with the feel of the liquid caress and he gritted his teeth against the sensation. It wasn't a pleasure any more, but a reminder of everything he's lost, everything that had been taken from him. Splashing through the shallows, he waded thigh deep and dove, pushing off the gravely bottom plunging into the frigid waves.
The water closed over him, and for the briefest of instants, he flirted with the idea of containing the change, staying under until his lungs burst, but the water sang in his ears, caressed his scales, cajoled and he let go. He felt the scales climb up his thighs, across his buttocks, and trail in their languid swirls up his torso and over his chest. His gills opened, drawing in the clear, cold water, and he breathed.