Authors: Antony John
Published by the Penguin Group
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Text copyright Â© 2014 by Antony John
Map illustration Â© 2014 by Steve Stankiewicz
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Renegade : an Elemental novel / by Antony John.
Sequel to: Firebrand.
Summary: Thomas and his friends use their elemental powers as they fight the ultimate battle for their home on Roanoke Island in a dystopian future United States.
ISBN 978-0-698-17580-8 [1. Fantasy. 2. United StatesâFiction.] I. Title.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
mile behind our ship a sleeker, nimbler vessel carved through the ocean. The crew of five stood against the prow rail, faces turned toward us. They couldn't see us from so far away, but that wasn't the point. Dare, my uncle, the pirate captain, just wanted us to see him.
“They're gaining,” said my friend Alice under her breath. She leaned against a crate for support. “They're going to catch us. Soon.”
I wanted to remind her that her elementâthe ability to heighten her sensesâdidn't work as well hundreds of miles from our home on Roanoke Island. None of our elements did. But anyone could see that the other ship was lighter and faster.
I raised my binoculars. Lowered them again. I didn't need to see Dare's colorful arms to remember the man. I only had to think of Griffin, my younger brother. He was resting below deck on a pile of blood-soaked blankets, his lacerated skin and open wounds a shocking reminder of the lengths to which Dare was prepared to go to get his hands on the
âa mythical cure for the Plague.
Plague. For sixteen years we'd lived in isolation on Hatteras Island, protected from the rats that had consumed the mainland and the disease that had decimated the population. Waterways, too wide for the rats to cross, had kept us safe. But water was no deterrent for Dare and his men. They'd burned our Hatteras Island colony to the ground, and driven us to neighboring Roanoke Island. When they'd seized that island by force as well, we'd taken to the ocean in search of a new home.
We'd found it too: a self-sufficient colony operating in the remains of Fort Sumter, near Charleston. I'd dared to dream that the worst was behind us. But it had only taken a few days to realize that this new colony harbored secrets too. Once again we'd escaped, but not before Griffin had been bitten by rats; his friend Nyla, as well. We wouldn't know for another day if they'd contracted Plague, but if they had, they'd be dead before the end of the week.
“Thomas.” My older brother, Ananias, tapped my shoulder. “If we want to go faster, we need to get more out of the sails.”
I looked at the massive pieces of dirty white canvas already pulled taut by the wind. “How?”
He swept his right arm through the air, indicating the other elementals on deck. They were staring at the approaching ship too, and on their faces they wore the same expressions of defeat I felt on mine.
“We need more,” he said.
“Wind. Helpful currentsâ”
“Our elements don't work well out here,” I reminded him.
“Neither does my shoulder.” He pointed to the sling over his left arm, and the patch of dried blood where he'd been shot the previous evening. He'd always appeared strong to meâtrusted by our Guardians, and confident in his ability to conjure fireâbut now his voice carried a hint of desperation. “Our elements are all we have.”
Before I could reply, Dennis approached us. At nine, he was the youngest member of the colony. Physically, he was doing better than the rest of us, but the events of the past couple weeks had taken a heavy toll. Gone was the sheepish smile, the trust in our Guardians, and the unshakable optimism, replaced by a cold, neutral expression that I couldn't read at all.
“Let's combine,” he told me. “We can do more if we join our elements.”
Until recently, I hadn't even known that I possessed an element. Everyone else my age hadn't realized it either. The Guardians had kept us in the dark, afraid that if I tried to use it, I'd hurt someoneâmaybe even a Guardian. Now I took Dennis's hand and allowed my energy to flow, giving him extra power, boosting his element. He began to shape the air around us. A gentle breeze circled our legs and rose up, gathering force, until he unleashed it on the sails.
The sailcloth strained but didn't tear. The masts creaked but didn't break. The ship lifted slightly in the water, and as the sound of waves crashing against the hull grew louder, I knew we were moving faster.
Around us, everyone was still. No one spoke. They didn't want to distract us. But with each passing moment it was harder to stay focused. Staring at the endless expanse of ocean before us, I wondered where we were going. Would Griffin still be alive when we next made landfall? How would any of us survive when we already knew there was no food and water on board?
“Keep going.” Dennis's voice was small, imploring. “Please.”
I refocused, and the wind picked up again. But my energy was waning. During our escape from Sumter, I'd leaped from the fort into shallow water and sliced open my chest. Now, as my heart beat faster, pain flared through me. I tried not to let it show, but holding it inside just made me angry.
“This is useless!” I shouted. I pulled away from Dennis and broke the connection. “We can't keep this up forever. We're just delaying things, that's all.”
“What other choice do we have?” demanded Ananias.
I had no answer for that. As our ship returned to a slower pace, I think that we were all wondering the same thing: What hideous things would Dare do when he captured us?
I turned to Nyla's brother, Jerren. Jerren was injured tooâa bullet wound on his right forearmâbut he was a Sumter native, which meant he knew about the vessel that was pursuing us. “Tell us about that ship,” I said.
He exchanged a glance with Alice. They'd become almost inseparable during our short time on Sumter, and I got the feeling he was anxious not to step out of line now that he was among relative strangers. Alice responded with a brief nod.
“It's a reconnaissance ship, mostly,” he said. “Short-range missions. Good for intercepting slower vessels too.”
“Capturing,” he clarified. He was sweating, and his dark skin had an almost reflective sheen. “Without your elements, we won't outrun it.”
“Maybe we don't have to. As long as we keep moving, we don't have to outrun Dare. He can't board a moving ship. What if we conserve our elements until they get closer?”
“Then what?” asked Dennis. He kept his hand outstretched, urging me to combine again.
“Then we make sure that every time they try to pull alongside us, their ride gets a little more bumpyâextra wind, turbulent water.”
Ananias was first to nod in agreement. Then Alice. Dennis too. My father, eyes still fixed on the trailing ship, gave a murmur of consent. Under different circumstances, I'd have been amazed to see us unified. But there was one omission: Jerren. And his opinion was the most vital of all.
“What is it?” I asked him.
Jerren hesitated, as if he were weighing up how much to tell us.
“Give me the binoculars, Thomas,” my father said.
I eased the cord over my head and handed them to him. Alice was already following his eyes, honing in on whatever it was he thought he was seeing. I kept my attention on Jerren, though. “Is there something we shouldâ”
Alice inhaled sharply. I spun around as a puff of smoke rose from the fast-advancing ship, followed by a noise like a clap of thunder. There was a moment of stunned silence, and Father yelled, “Get down!”
I shouldn't have hesitated. Shouldn't have watched that plume of smoke, and wondered what it meant.
As I dove for the deck, the explosion threw me several yards.