This will be a masterpage containing excerpts from current and incoming chapters.
Ezra Reeves clung to the railing, her eyes staring out at the mysterious town that awaited her. The mainland was teeming with life and the only blemish against the greenery was the dark mountain off to the west. It stood proudly against the thick vegetation, but its darker color was welcome.
Ezra looked over the shoulder at her tour guide, finding that he was also staring off at the mountain. He sensed her staring and smiled, pulling one of the many pamphlets off his person. Her tour guide had brown skin that shone gold in the setting sun while the ship continued to glide across the waves. They had been sailing for months, so she had seen his golden skin many times. He was one of the few passengers who grew seasick when the occasional storm caused the waves to buck against the boat. Ezra wasn’t spared from the seasickness, and they had spent quite a few nights clinging to the railing, releasing their late dinner back into the ocean. Not that the ocean welcomed the half-digested fish and occasional shrimp.
“That’s Mount Orlin,” Robin said. He planted his feet against the wooden floor and stretched. He was so good at stretching without nearly falling off the boat that Ezra had been dismayed when she found out he suffered from seasickness. He seemed to be at peace with the water, much more than she would ever be. “A few miners like to go dig around in there. They still come back with a few gems.”
Robin leaned on the railing, a smile on his face. “Beau has a nose for it.” He said, a chuckle following his words. “He loves to explore the mainland. If it wasn’t for him taking a peek in Mount Orlin a few weeks ago, the mountain would have been undisturbed for two hundred years. But, you know, Beau had to see what was going on in there.”
He gazed out at the water like a proud farmer staring at his thriving crops. Ezra felt a pang of jealousy twist her stomach. She would never experience such peace with the ocean, or any amount of water. She still flinched back from stray droplets when she washed her face.
“One of the rumors circulating Highpoint Springs is the idea that the town is full of people like Beau. People who can do magical things all on their own. No parlor tricks or hidden wires.” Ezra glanced over at Robin, happy for the change in subject. The word magical had caught her attention. “It’s true, of course.”
“It is?” Ezra asked, but not loud enough.
“Highpoint Springs houses a small community of mystics. That’s what I call them.” Robin stretched again and she heard the bones in his shoulders pop. “I’m one of them, so I get to call us whatever I want. We have a barter system of sorts. We keep the town full of tourists for our talents, and in turn, the city officials let us stay.”
“For free?” Ezra cocked an eyebrow.
Robin laughed. “No, not for free, but at a nicely reduced rent.” He glanced over at her now. “You’ll find that it feels like home, more often than not. I think you’ll like it here.”
Robin’s dark eyes darted to the splotch of ink on her wrist and then back to the ocean. Ezra’s eyes shifted to the ink cloud on her wrist. It had been a pale M, obviously for “mystic”. She hadn’t known what the M meant before. Maybe the farrier who let her aboard for free knew that something had gone wrong. She remembered his kind eyes, much like Robin’s, and she had prayed to see nothing but kind eyes in her new life.
Robin turned to look back at her, as if sensing her thoughts. He beckoned her forward to gaze at the sparkling water with him. Her eyes scanned the water while she waited for him to speak.
“So, what are you running from?” Robin asked in the quiet. “I know what that M means.”
Ezra looked over at him, her dark brown eyes widening at the question. He knew how to jump to the point. Her stomach lurched as she struggled to answer. She didn’t owe him anything, not a word at all, but due to his kindness, she felt the need to give him something. She had been very grateful to not be the only one holding to the railing while she fought the waves of seasickness.
“Myself.” Ezra said.
Robin’s eyes had always been so calming to look at. The sea terrified her, always did, and she gravitated to his comforting presence like a sailor adrift in the tumbling ocean. Maybe that’s why he did so much of the talking. He knew she was recovering, had nothing to really say.
Robin turned his eyes away, taking her temporary sense of peace with him. Left to stare at the ocean alone, Ezra’s uneasiness turned into fear. Her wrists trembled and she squeezed the railing. If she had lighter skin, she was sure her knuckles would be white. The squeezing did nothing for her nerves, though, only revealed how much she was shaking. Ezra released her grip and tucked her quivering hands into her pockets.
“Did you hurt someone?” Robin asked.
She risked a peek at him to see that he was staring right at her now. He had to have noticed her shaky hands.
“Can you hurt people by existing?” Ezra asked as Robin’s eyes drifted up to her face.
Pain crossed Robin’s face and he reached out to pat her on the shoulder. Their eyes locked and while her belly burned with anxiety, the look in his eyes was gentle. As she gazed at them, she realized it wasn’t a gentleness that lit up his eyes, but a deep understanding.
“We all want you here,” Robin said. “Every single one of us. You don’t have to worry about taking up space in Highpoint, okay? If anything, we expect more and more mystics to find Highpoint all the time.”
Ezra’s eyes filled with tears. They burned, like the anxiety in her stomach, and she turned her head away. “They were my family, Robin.” She sniffled, her throat hot. Everything in her was burning. Her eyes, her chest-
Robin pulled her into a hug, rubbed her back with one hand. “And it may always hurt.” Robin said. “But you don’t have to worry about any of us making you feel that way here. At least . . . not intentionally.”
He pulled away to look her in the eyes again. This time, she was able to stare back.
“Okay?” Robin asked. There was an intent, questioning look in his eyes now.
Ezra nodded a tight nod and wiped at her eyes. Now that she was consoled and he was at ease, she could feel her old self bubbling back up. “I hate crying,” she mumbled.
“Don’t like expressing your emotions?”
He caught her again. Ezra sighed and tried to summon up her characteristic eye roll. It didn’t work. She had been rubbed raw by recent events. Her nonchalant, “don’t care”, tough façade was gone. Maybe for good.
Robin didn’t press her to speak this time. He only patted her on the back and pointed out to the mainland. To Highpoint Springs. The island was getting closer.
“We’ll be on the shore in about an hour.”
This excerpt comes directly from chapter one. You can read the full chapter here.