My stomach rumbles and I want to puke, but I can’t because there isn’t enough food left in my body to produce any more vomit. I pull my school coat round but it’s not doing much to keep out the icy weather, my naked feet are blue. This is real hunger and real cold neither of which I have ever experienced.
Three days on board Nate’s boat and the novelty of being so far from Seatown has worn thin. The hum of the engine, the warmth of the sun and the splish of the waves has become monotonous and boring. I sit on the bench and watch. Sea, sea and more sea. Not even a fish jumping or a bird flying over breaks the view or interferes with the white noise. The salty air is now normal. What I can smell is my body. I’m still wearing the pyjamas I wore when they dragged me from my bed. It is the main reason I’m sure this isn’t a dream. But if I accept this isn’t a dream, then I have to accept I walked through the air. Soc won’t talk about it. He says I have to wait until we get there for full explanations.
Nate and Soc have not spoken much. They stand together in the wheelhouse grim faced and ignoring me.
Gorse sleeps on his back grunting and farting. It’s a welcome noise that isn’t sea or boat engine. The battery on my copper has run out and Nate won’t let me use his boat’s battery to charge it.
Dusk comes on us quicker tonight than it has previously.
Nate cuts the engines. He comes out of the wheelhouse, stripping off his top and trousers as he goes. “I need exercise. We’ll take it in turns to swim. Tomorrow… well we should be there tomorrow.”
“The Order of the Sea.” He’s naked and standing on the bench. “Coming for a swim with me?”
I shake my head. The water looks icy. “Where is this Order?” I’m becoming sceptical it exists. My grandfather said he had destroyed them.
“In the North.” He looks back in Soc’s direction. “Angus is staying with the boat, Hon.” Balanced perfectly on the guard rail, he places his hands in a pyramid high above his head. He plunges in before I can ask any other questions.
Gorse opens his right eye at the activity.
In the nude, Soc runs from the wheelhouse. He jumps up on the bench and dives into the sea.
“A more paranoid person might think they were avoiding them.” I tickle Gorse’s belly. He closes his eye again.
Both of them are strong swimmers and laughing, they race round the boat, pulling themselves back into the boat, wet and their skin bright red. From under the bench, Soc finds a couple of towels.
Nate is drying himself off, he stops and stares. “Soc!” He points straight ahead. “Get yourself dressed and hide the boy.”
“Shit.” Before Nate has finished speaking, Soc is pulling on his black trousers and top. “Angus, under the bench. Now!” He pulls my blanket out and stares at me. “I’m not pissing around. Do it.”
I obey his command and roll under the bench. Gorse curls up in the crook of my arm.
He covers me head to toe with blankets. “Hopefully, they’re under the impression you’re still in your room in the palace.”
I pull the blanket so I can see him. “Who are under that impression?”
He covers me up again. “Trust me. Stay here and don’t move no matter what happens.”
“I’m trusting you a lot,” I mutter under my breath. I do trust Soc but I’m getting fed up with not being trusted in return. I don’t understand why I am in the middle of the sea. When I understand why, I find things easier.
It feels like hours but is probably less than ten minutes. A boat with a much bigger engine than Nate’s approaches.
A crack – a gunshot – tears through my body.
None of the shouts are in Islander. Nate and Soc are both shouting, but I can’t understand them.
It goes quiet.
The bigger engine disappears into the distance.
Waves lap against the boat.
There are no other noises.
Soc told me not to move. So I didn’t move. I should’ve moved. Fear froze me in place. A wimp that didn’t help his brother. He didn’t tell me when to move. Gorse licks my tears.
A night of blood, mayhem and magic thrust Prince Angus, the youngest son of the king, onto the throne of Covesea Island. He's never wanted to be king. Social media calls King Angus a clown. His subjects don't rate his ability to lead them in the trade negotiations with one of the planet's superpowers.