A snippet from my WIP. This is a Nikky scene, still fairly early in the story, and Nikky is still only fourteen.
This material is first draft. Please do not quote or repost anywhere. Thanks.
Nikky gave Tasha a feather on the street, in front of her aunt and cousin, and Gerring, his master, found out. After giving Nikky a beating, he sent him off to Taolin with Captain Dorn and Jai, friends of Gerring's, hoping the incident blows over. While on the streets of Taolin, he catches the notice of a rich and powerful woman. Though nothing came of it, Jai is not happy.
Nikky slipped away to sit in his favorite spot on the ship. The forecastle deck gave him a good view of the harbor and the teeming docks. He liked to watch the activity from this vantage point.
He became aware of Jai’s and Captain Dorn’s voices somewhere below.
“…I’m telling you that she singled him out of that crowd, Lemo, almost as if she knew him. It worried me,” Jai said.
“But you said nothing came of it,” Captain Dorn said in a soothing voice. “It’s nothing.”
“I don’t like it. I don’t like that kind of notice turned on us, and I don’t like it for the boy’s sake.”
Captain Dorn’s voice lowered, inaudible to Nikky although he strained to hear more.
His brows drawn, Nikky surveyed the busy docks. Could someone have really noticed him—somehow known him---enough to stop ten guards and a litter while she looked? He shook his head. The whole thing seemed too fantastical.
Nikky spent the rest of the day fantasizing that some great Taolin noblewoman would step forward and claim him as her long-lost son and spirit him away to a House, and he would be given clothing and shoes and servants…
He crawled into his pallet and fell asleep dreaming of having his own room and his own bed.
Deep in the heart of the night, Nikky came abruptly awake as a hard hand covered his mouth. He felt himself picked up and borne away. He struggled and kicked and tried to bite the hand covering his mouth, to no avail.
The quietness of it all terrified Nikky. Someone carried him through the sleeping ship, swift and silent and sure-footed. In mere seconds, Nikky felt the chill night air on his arms and legs, and he smelled the brackish harbor water. He knew that most of the crew slept not feet away, and that crewman Toskin patrolled the deck as sentry, but he couldn’t make one sound or one move to hinder his abductor.
And before he could even begin to divine what his abductor would do, both of them were airborne over the railing and the shocking cold of the harbor water drove the breath from his lungs. He tried to fight, sheer panic setting in; he would drown, he was going to die right here---!
An iron bar of an arm pulled his head above water. Nikky spluttered.
“Quiet! Or I’ll break something!”
Nikky felt the thread of voice more than heard it. The voice had spoken right behind his left ear. He froze, his hands clutching at the arm around his neck. Something in the man’s voice told Nikky he meant what he said.
Far over his head, he heard movement as Toskin came to the railing, looking for what had caused the splash. The bulk of the ship loomed above them, a black shape blocking out the stars. He realized they were treading water next to the ship’s hull, out of sight of anyone on deck.
Toskin moved along the deck above for what seemed an eternity to Nikky. The man holding Nikky kept them both afloat and waited for the sentry to lose interest with a kind of deadly patience that frightened Nikky as much as the spoken threat. He shivered, the cold water penetrating his flesh and making him feel lethargic.
Finally, Toskin moved away. The man in the water waited more long minutes, then flexed his arm.
“You swim?” his low voice asked at Nikky’s ear.
“S—some,” Nikky said.
“Then we will swim. But know this. If you so much as make a sound, I’ll go back and kill everyone on that ship. Understand?”
He could not see the man’s face in the darkness, but he didn’t need to. Horrified, Nikky suddenly knew the man could, and would, carry out his promise. He nodded frantically, his heart thudding in his ears.
The man released him. Nikky swam as quietly as he could manage, thoughts whirling. Why did the man want him? What had he done?
The exercise warmed his cold arms and legs. The docks loomed ahead of him and he considered how he might escape. If he could reach land ahead of the man, he could run and lose himself in the darkness, even if he didn’t know Taolin.
Straining as much as he dared, Nikky made for the nearest outthrust dock. His hands fumbled and found a handhold. He heaved his upper body out of the water. Something brushed past Nikky and he found himself hauled onto the dock as the man latched onto his wrist.
The man gave him only an instant to get his bearings. Confused and feeling more like crying than he had in years, Nikky climbed to his feet.
“Move!” the man ordered, and dragged him forward with that punishing grip. They moved through the streets at a trot, Nikky hopelessly lost. If this had been Camdia---but it wasn’t, and he wasted his time wishing.
Nikky stumbled in the man’s wake for what seemed like hours, cold and shivering and more scared than he had ever been in his life.