Title: Walking on Water
Author: Matthew J. Metzger
Publisher: Ninestar Press
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Word Count: 80,000
Identities: bisexual, transgender
When a cloud falls to earth, Calla sets out to find what lies beyond the sky. Father says there’s nothing, but Calla knows better. Something killed that cloud; someone brought it down.
Raised on legends of fabled skymen, Calla never expected them to be real, much less save one from drowning—and lose her heart to him. Who are the men who walk on water? And how can such strange creatures be so beautiful?
Infatuated and intrigued, Calla rises out of her world in pursuit of a skyman who doesn’t even speak her language. Above the waves lies more than princes and politics. Above the sky awaits the discovery of who Calla was always meant to be. But what if it also means never going home again?
For a long moment, there was nothing but silence. It rang in the room, clearer than any bell. A great oppressive thing, heavy and physical.
Then the chair scraped. The king rose. Crossed to the window. Hands clasped behind his back, he watched the busy hive of activity on the harbour and spoke slowly. Coldly. The king of a kingdom at war. He had no family in such a voice.
This time, there was no hesitation. The admiral bowed out without so much as a word. The first minister, usually so particular, crammed his papers together and scurried after. The silent priest did not linger. And then the great door closed, and they were alone.
“It is that foreign spy.”
Janez knew better than to speak.
“You would betray your kingdom for a foreign spy.”
“I betray nothing!”
“We have one chance, this alliance, and—”
“I am not your heir!” Janez exploded. He flew up from the table. The chair toppled, and crashed to the floor. “You have a daughter! A son! If Sofia’s complexion is to be believed, you will have a third before the summer comes! Why must I be the one sacrificed, when I have found love!”
“You have no right to love!”
Alarik’s thunderous reply stopped Janez short.
“You have no right,” Alarik repeated and finally turned from the window. “You may not be my direct heir, but Sigurd has no sons. Yours may well be future kings. This alliance would last for centuries—so do your damned duty, and—”
“Duty,” Janez sneered. “I have done every duty you have ever demanded of me, and now this.”
“You will always do every duty I demand of you. I am your king.”
“I was your brother, once.”
Alarik’s jaw visibly tightened. He turned back to the window. His hands, still clasped behind his back, clutched about one another into tight fists and shook faintly.
“Other kings have young sons and would entertain Ingrid for many summers in hopes of a match. Yet more have infant daughters, who would make pretty wives in time for your boy. They know nothing of love. They can grow together with their betrothed and love them. But I—I have found it, I do know it, and you would—”
“I would have a prince of my kingdom do as he is ordered.”
The reply twisted that shard of ice buried in Janez’s chest, and he swallowed. Looked down at the table and his shaking hands, pale fists upon it.
“You would have your brother miserable for the rest of his days,” Janez whispered. The truth—the pain, the anger, the burden of the second son only released from kingship in adulthood, too late to have enjoyed his youth—bled out like a suppurating wound. “You would make Father proud. Strip Janez of love, wherever he may find it, and condemn him to misery under the guise of a duty you yourself have never followed.”
The movement flashed in the dim room. The blow was heavy and hard. The ring— the sigil of their people—slashed into Janez’s jaw and left a great, gaping cut.
Slowly, painfully, Janez turned his face from window to his king’s face.
And smiled. It felt brittle. A bubble of blood burst and dripped down his cheek. His collar was damp.
And Alarik’s face was stunned. Eyes wide and absurdly young.
“I have no right to love, Your Majesty, because the kings of my land forbid it,” Janez said. “I have found it—twice—and twice it has been cut out from under me.”
Alarik licked his lips. “Jan—”
“I will pick whichever bride can birth a son the earliest,” Janez said icily, “and I will do my damned duty until she swells. And when she does, I will don my lieutenant’s uniform and return to the sea, and then I will pray—day and night until some god listens—for the storms to drown me and release me.”
A violent hand caught at his shoulder. Janez tore it away.
“If misery is all my duty leaves me, then afford me the mercy of making it brief!” he bellowed. The room was a virulent scarlet. The pain in his chest was a spear that pierced right through. He would bleed ice water onto the stones and dissolve into naught but foam, like the mythological mermaids of old.
He tightened his heart about the cold and sealed it. Pulled his shoulder taut. And clicked his heels. The prince. The lieutenant. A nameless, faceless man, to die a footnote in history, with no trace of any real life left behind.
“May I take my leave, Your Majesty?”
Matthew J. Metzger is an asexual, transgender author dragged up in the wet and windy British Isles. He writes queer characters living all manner of lives, but especially likes to write the stories from the pub, the beautiful game, and the terraces where he lives and works today. Although mainly a contemporary romance writer, Matthew has recently been found straying out of his zone and playing in other genres’ sandboxes.
When not writing, Matthew is usually at his day job, working out, or asleep. He is owned by an enormous black cat, so should generally be approached with either extreme caution, or treats.