Toss… water gushes over the weir. Turn… fast and furious. Dad hates me. The sight of the water raises my adrenalin. Everyone hates me. Fidget.. I stand on the guard rail of the bridge... Why am I doing this – it's a long way down? Twitch… spread my arms. There's a screech. One, two, three and leap…
“Shh, Gorse. Angus.”
… My quilt's talking to me, that's weird… I'm flying down the Lang River…
“Angus, get up.”
I'm falling… I don't want to die. Where'd my wings go?
“Get your coat on?”
“Huh?” There's a thud and my school great coat lands on my bed.
A massive dark shape is highlighted by the moonlight.
Did I leave the curtains open? I can't remember. Wait... “Who?” I'm on my feet with my fists raised. “What you doing in my bedroom?”
The figure is huge. Doubt I can take him, but I'm mot being kidnapped without a fight. Who are you kidding, Angus? You couldn't take a fly. “Lights on.” At least if I can see them I'll know who murdered me in my bed – well standing next to it in my pyjamas.
“Lights off.” The deepest voice I've ever heard responds. If he'd been in a choir and singing he'd be a contrabass. And my room obeys him. I've been hacked.
“My dad will pay the ransom. I'm not worth killing nobody cares about me anyway. Read the papers.”
“Young man do as your brother says.”
“Huh?” I wipe my eyes and look round. Another shape. This one has a cloak and Gorse on his shoulder. “Soc?”
“Dad sent me to get you. Get your coat on we have to leave the palace – Now.”
Seeing Soc reassures me a little, but I'm not convinced the hulking man with the deep voice is real. I'm still dreaming. I must be. I put my school uniform great coat on and cross to my desk.
“Angus, we don't have time.”
“I'm not leaving without the copper.” I scrabble around in the drawer for its waterproof carrying pouch as it looks like I won't be allowed my rucksack. I find a sweet – seaberry and cat hair flavoured I spit what is virtually an entire fur ball out.
Mr Deep Voice opens the doors to the balcony. “Out here. My powers are stronger in the wild.”
“Sir.” Soc salutes him. Gorse is still on his shoulder.
“What's… I mean where? No maybe I mean who?” I'm still practically asleep and formulating words is taking time. “What the hell is going on?”
Still very much in control of the situation and to a certain extent myself, Mr Deep Voice interrupts me, “We have to get down to the beach, Nathaniel should be waiting for us. Have to get yourself and Socrates out of the country.” Whoever he is he is wearing a cloak and a wide brimmed hat. Looks even more like someone out of a cartoon book than Soc and Dad do in their regalia. He's a superhero. Wonder if his superhero name is Deep Voice.
I'm following him despite a desire to run away. Soc could have been kidnapped and be… no nobody could force Soc to do anything. Even our mad and bad grandfather was scared of him.
The big hulking man gets up on the guard rail in a moment reminiscent of my dream – that's it I'm dreaming. “Join me.”
Soc obeys without any question. “Angus, just do as your bloody well told. The palace is crawling with Cycloneican soldiers.”
“Don't know. He wanted you safe. Now get up next to Big Mac.”
I stare at Soc. Dad… soldiers. I remind myself it's only a dream and allow the man he has called Big Mac to help me up next to him. When I start to wobble he places the biggest arm I've ever seen round me. He smells warm, of woodsmoke, kelpy and fresh air – safe… he whispers in my ear, “Step off the balcony with me and keep walking. If you don't trust me then trust your brother.” His gigantic, dark face nods at Soc. “Ready, Socrates?”
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.