One of my favorite side-effects of blog hops, be they #IWSG, #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, or my own #BookBlast book launch, is meeting new writers. They are usually kindred spirits, writing and marketing their books with passion and intensity.
An author I recently met is Lynda Young. I’m delighted to be part of her book launch for her latest young adult fantasy adventure, Wielder’s Prize.
To survive the outside forces, she must first control the inside forces.
Snatched from the only home she’s ever known aboard the Wielder’s Prize, Jasmine is forced to work as a crew member of a different ship. To survive, Jasmine must dodge her captor who has a personal vendetta against her, outsmart a fearsome magic wielder who has taken a dangerous interest in her, and get back to her ship. Somehow.
Just when she thinks things couldn’t get worse, she learns she too is a wielder—an untrained wielder who is a threat to everyone on board if she can’t control her magic. And she’s not the only out-of-control wielder on the high seas. The secret of that wielder could shatter everything Jasmine thought she knew.
Time and hope is running out. At any cost, she must get back to her ship and discover the truth behind all the secrets before everything is lost.
“A tense adventure that will keep you guessing with all of its wicked twists and turns.” – Alex J. Cavanaugh, best-selling author
“Jasmine is one of the most fully realized fantasy characters I’ve read in a long, long time.:—Tyrean Martinson, author of Champion in the Darkness
Elle Cardy is the pen name of Lynda R Young. She is an author, editor, game developer, 3D artist, graphic designer, photographer, gamer and so much more. Wielder’s Prize is her debut young adult fantasy adventure. Under her real name she has a Christian non-fiction out called Cling to God: A Daily Devotional. She also has a number of speculative short stories published in print and online. Having lived in Sydney most of her life, she is now living in Brisbane with her sweetheart of a husband.
Curious? Here’s a sneak peak:
The sound of the first mate’s call caught in Jasmine’s ears like a gnat. It rattled through her and shattered her calm. She couldn’t mistake the tone of impatience.
“Where’s the dog?” he cried again.
She stirred from her hidden position aloft and swore under her breath. What in all the blue oceans did he want her for now?
Leaning out over the yardarm, she surveyed the deck below and spied Durne’s stocky form trying to tower over Cook’s large mass. It was an impossible feat, but it made Jasmine almost smile.
“Well? Where is he?”
Wiping his hands down his apron, Cook looked uncertain.
First Mate Durne swore a string of curses at her father. “You need to put a leash on that boy. When you find him, send him to me.”
“What’s this about?” Cook asked as politely as he could muster.
“Just find your dog.” Durne marched off.
She contemplated the possibility of staying hidden for a few more hours. As tempting as that sounded, it would only make things worse.
“Midge!” Cook bellowed across the decks.
Jasmine left her hiding place and climbed down the lines with the agility of a spider monkey. It was only when her bare feet touched the deck that anyone noticed her.
“There you are!” Cook grabbed her by the cuff of her shirt and near dragged her to the officer’s quarters. He punched Durne’s door as if it were her face and then left her there.
“Come in,” Durne’s voice called.
Jasmine entered. The first mate’s room was an immaculate collection of clutter. His cherry wood desk filled half the space and his bed the other. She scanned his room with little interest. She wanted to get outside where she could see and smell the sea.
Durne scratched away at some document with a quill. Finishing with a flourish, he took his time replacing the pen in an ink pot. It wasn’t until he rolled up his parchment that he turned his full stare on Jasmine.
“Cabin Boy Midge,” he said with a slow drawl as he absently straightened a small carving of a seabird. She wondered what had been so urgent but didn’t dare ask. “You’ve been with us for near on thirteen or fourteen years?”
“Fifteen, sir.” A lie. She was sixteen years old. Almost seventeen.
Durne made a point of looking her up and down. He didn’t seem impressed by what he saw.
“You are Cook’s son, learning Cook’s trade, yes?”
Jasmine nodded, wondering why he asked her questions when he already knew the answers.
Durne slammed a hand down onto his desk. The sudden noise made her jump. “You will answer me when I ask you a question.”
“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”
He stood and walked around his desk. She was as tall as he so they stood face to face. His gaze traveled along her narrow features and tanned skin. It touched on her chin, no doubt looking for stubble. He didn’t react to the bruises on her face. It was a common enough sight that no one commented any more.
The lack of room in the cabin made Jasmine feel cramped. Durne’s scrutiny didn’t help. He probably intended to beat her too.
At last the first mate spoke. “The captain wants you to deliver a message in port. I’ve written down your instructions—”
“I dunno how to read, sir.” It wasn’t the entire truth. An old man once took passage on the Wielder’s Prize. Writing was his trade. She thought it was a peculiar pursuit and had said as much. Over the next eight or nine months, despite her resistance, he had taken it upon himself to teach her the joys of reading. She had learned to recognize basic words and symbols, but he’d failed to pass on the joys. Once the novelty had worn off, she stopped practicing. It was easier to claim she couldn’t read.
Durne sighed. “Of course, you don’t read.” He muttered under his breath. It was probably something about useless dogs. “Take these instructions to Cook. He will explain your task. I don’t have time for you right now.”
He threw her both a small leather pouch and the parchment she’d seen him writing on earlier and then dismissed her. Jasmine dashed away, grateful to be outside.
She gazed up at the rigging, the billowing sails, the lines and pulleys above her. Her hiding place beckoned, but she was already in trouble with Cook. She had a barrel full of potatoes she had to peel before midday.
She scuttled to the galley. It was a cramped hole of a place that stank of over-boiled stew, dried fish, and old seaweed. Cook was nowhere in sight, so she threw the first mate’s items into the corner, overturned an empty bucket and sat down in a tiny patch of sunlight streaming in from a hatchway above. Pulling out her knife, she set to work.
Her knife sliced through the rough potatoes with deft motions. She’d peeled so many in her short life she suspected she was faster than her father with the blade.
A thought flashed through her mind. She could use that knife against her father. It was sharp enough. He’d beaten her more times than she could count. But did she have the mettle? Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps one day she would find out.
Cook entered the galley. It was almost as if by thinking of him she’d summoned him. Her father’s large form blocked the shifting sunlight and Jasmine felt her anger rise. She refused to look at him. She refused to see the agony that rode in his eyes every time he looked at her. She refused to see regret weigh on his shoulders.
To cover her anger, she went on peeling potatoes. Starch covered her brown hands and turned them milky like a maiden’s. Seeing that made her afraid and she tightened her grip on the knife. She told herself it was to keep from throwing it at him. In truth, she was afraid he’d found another reason to beat her.
“Mind if I join you?” Cook asked, uncommonly polite.
He didn’t wait for her response. She wasn’t going to reply anyway. He found a bucket similar to her own makeshift seat and set it down beside her. His old knees creaked as he bent. Jasmine hoped the bucket would collapse under his weight.
“You know I don’t mean to hurt you, Midge,” he said without looking at her. “It’s for your own good.”
She stopped peeling and turned her full attention to her father. His greasy apron stretched over his large frame. Hidden strength snaked under his arms every time he flexed. He was built for hard labor or battle, instead he was a mere cook. He seemed too big for such a small space. Physically anyway. Once he might have been a great man. All she saw now was a hollowed out shell, eaten away by some conflict. She knew he loved her in his own unfathomable way, but each beating made it more difficult to forgive him.
“I hear you got instructions you need me to read?”
Jasmine relaxed. She had expected something else. It was rare Cook ever sought her out on purpose. She handed him the parchment and watched him unroll it. He peered at it, frowned and then held it away from him as if it gave off a terrible smell. It took him some time to finish reading it.
“Says here, you have to find a Madame Bruosh in Port Lemos. You have to hand her the pouch and wait for a response. There’s a pouch?”
Jasmine had almost forgotten the pouch. She rescued it from the corner and began tugging at the strings.
“Ho, there, boy.” Cook thumped the nearest cupboard door. “Don’t be opening other folk’s business.”
“Don’t you wanna know what’s in there?”
“Don’t go messing with things not meant for you. I don’t know why the captain wants you on this errand. Makes no sense, but I’ve enough of a noggin not to question ’im.”
She could tell there were coins in the pouch. She just didn’t know how many or what kind. Perhaps the captain wanted to make a payment for a service rendered. Or maybe he planned to buy something and needed her to carry it back to the ship. She hoped it was small and light.
“Can’t I take just a little peek?”
A dark look came over her father’s face. It was like a storm cloud had moved across the moon.
“Stop that,” he said.
“Stop that pouting. Makes you look…girly.”
Jasmine’s eyes widened. “I…I didn’t mean it.”
“Why’d you have to be a girl?” Cook asked this question at least every third day. She could never answer him and she’d given up apologizing.
Cook ran a fat thumb along her jaw line where the bruise he’d given her had almost vanished. “And why’d you have to be so damned beautiful?”
She suspected he only thought her beautiful because she was female. A man at sea for so many months would think even the ugliest females beautiful. She’d seen women in port that the sailors admired. They all had long glossy hair. Their skin was flawless and pale. They wore fancy dresses and heeled shoes. Jasmine had none of those things. She was tall, thin, and lanky. She owned no shoes and if she did she wouldn’t wear them anyway. Her skin had browned in the sun, and Cook had cropped her dark hair so short she looked feral compared to real women. She even sported a tiny scar on her upper lip from when her father had forgotten his strength. The only thing beautiful to Jasmine was the sea itself and its changeable nature.
“Jasmine, please forgive me.”
It wasn’t the begging that softened her heart, or his need to be forgiven. It was the use of her real name. It was such a rare thing to be heard. It seemed to come out from the dark ocean depths and shine like a pearl in sunlight. He spoke to her, the real her, not some made up person they’d created. Not the ship’s boy she was meant to be.
She continued to allow him to beat her, so how could she forgive herself if she couldn’t forgive him? She had to forgive him. Every time. She put down the knife and rested her small hand on her father’s thick arm. She couldn’t say it aloud. That brief touch would have to be enough. She couldn’t give him more even though she knew he had only beaten her to protect her.
“You are growing more beautiful every day.”
She removed her touch. The compliment was his way of explaining why he had to beat her. He had to hide that beauty somehow. They couldn’t allow anyone to discover their secret. If anyone found out that the cook’s son was actually his daughter they’d both be banished from the Wielder’s Prize. Or worse. All right-minded seafarers knew it was both bad luck and dangerous for a female to live aboard a ship.
Then she read in his shadowed expression what he planned next. The ship seemed to lurch, or was that her stomach?
“Land ahoy!” cried the voice of a watchman topside.
For a moment father and daughter sat in the galley, transfixed by the call. Land meant so many things. It meant fresh supplies, fresh water, maybe even new clothes. Shore leave meant drinking and celebration. It meant coin in their pockets and a time to relax.
To Jasmine it meant a flurry of activity would bring the ship to life. The sails would be furled and the rigging set. The anchor would be lowered, the lines tied. She was never allowed to do any of these jobs because she was just Cook’s apprentice, but she loved everything about sailing. She knew all the jobs even if she wasn’t allowed to perform them.
Excitement rose in her. And dread.
“You don’t have to do this now,” she said.
Cook shook his head. “I do. Especially now.”
She saw in his eyes there was no point fighting it. She nodded once then stood. A cold nothingness filled her heart, as it always did. She had to be brave. She had to be strong. She had to face this like a man, not a girl.
Without thinking, she straightened her posture and squared her shoulders. Her female shape became evident for anyone to see. Her breasts were small but they were a curse as bad as any plague.
Her father surged to his feet. “How many times do I have to tell you, Midge? Never stand with your chest out like that.”
Her vision exploded in stars. She fell back into a barrel of potatoes and knocked over a pot of hot water. Her head hit the corner of a wooden crate and she bit her lip on impact. The familiar taste of blood filled her mouth. Pain reverberated inside her head. Her left cheek pulsed with fire where her father had struck her. She curled up into a ball on the wooden planking and refused to cry. Only girls cried.
She sensed Cook hovering over her. He never knew what to do at this point. He shifted from one foot to the other. He had done what he had come to do and now she assumed he wanted to escape with his shame.
“Clean this mess up, boy.” After a pause, he added, “And don’t forget to return to the ship straight after you finish your errand. Port Lemos ain’t a safe place for a girl on her own.” Cook stormed out of the galley.
She likely wouldn’t see him again for a few days. He’d go to port and collect the ship’s food supplies for their next voyage. Then he’d probably sample the whore houses or the local inns. She didn’t care what he did. Even if they hadn’t come to land, she would have done everything in her power to avoid him on the ship.
For an hour, she remained curled in the dark. Her tiny patch of sunlight had moved away as if it were too ashamed of what it had witnessed. She listened to the ship in its flurry of activity. The captain and the first mate barked out commands to the crew. She didn’t see the ship sail into port. She didn’t feel the wind against her face. She missed the sailors bending their backs to their tasks. She missed it all.
Slowly she sat up. Her left eye had swollen closed. Her lower lip felt too big. She tentatively touched her wounds and winced. Cook had done a great job this time.
With aching slowness, she worked on cleaning up the mess of peeled and unpeeled potatoes littering the floor.
“What ya do this time, Midge?”
The voice startled her and she almost tipped over the bowl she’d used to collect the escapee vegetables. She relaxed when she saw it was only Matthews. He was one of the newer seamen, having only sailed with them for two months. He was harmless enough as sailors go, but she didn’t trust him. She didn’t fully trust anyone. She made sure she hunched over and she made little eye contact.
“Your father has quite the temper,” Matthews went on as if she’d encouraged conversation. “It’s strange though. I wouldn’t have pegged Cook Brusan as a child beater. The captain, yes, but not ’im.”
Surprise registered in her thoughts. Not many were brave enough to say anything negative about the captain. Jasmine ignored the man and hoped he’d go away.
He reached out to touch her damaged face, but she ducked.
“You should go see the ship’s surgeon. Make sure the wound don’t get infected.”
She saw him note her reaction. They both knew she wouldn’t see the doctor.
He shrugged with indifference. “Anyways, I just came down to see if there’s bread left from yesterday.”
She tossed him a stale loaf. He saluted her with a smile and left.
Once she was alone again, she felt fresh tears rise. She pushed them down with fierce determination. Perhaps she would finally abandon the ship when they reached port. She could keep the coin for herself and find a new life.
She lifted the lid of the brewing stew, hocked up a glob of saliva and spat into the crew’s dinner.
Who was she kidding? She loved this ship almost as much as she loved the sea.
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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, In the Footsteps of Giants, Winter 2021. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning