Sitting on the rock next to Big Mac, I try not to feel like a puppet; deep within my innards churn as though he is pulling my strings. Yet I’m also feeling at home and safe.
Waves crash in the dark, white froth highlighted in the measly light from the narrow moon. Summer warmth brings out the blossom from the seaberries and the scents mingle with the salt of the sea.
My home is being invaded by my sister and her husband. My Dad might be dead. My life is changed. My chest heaves. I'm not at home. I'm not safe. I can't cry. There's nothing there. I'm trying to convince myself that this is real and I'm not in my bed asleep.
Soc is somewhere in the dark staring out to sea.
Big Mac pats my knee and I shrink from the touch of the stranger. Now we are down on the ground normal rules apply. “I apologise, my dear Angus. My son has spoken about you so many times that I feel we have known each other for years. He is very proud of his pupil.”
“Sir Nathaniel. I fostered him from when he was a wee fledgling.”
“He’s here,” Soc shouts. “I see him.”
Out in the dark, a small light appears. I focus on it. I’ve never been on a boat before. Heck I’ve never been in a car that travelled faster than a mile per hour. Dad has never let me leave the palace grounds on my own and I've been only allowed in the Royal Quarter, heavily guarded. The only way I’ve explored Seatown is by slipping my guards.
The small black, flat-bottomed boat comes closer. There’s a shush as it launches its cushions and turns into a hovercraft. In the paltry moon I can make it out as it makes its way onto the sand.
“Hurry up. The place is surrounded by the Cycloneican Navy,” Nate yells.
“Come on, kid. I am sorry to do this to you but the safest place for the sons of King Lorenzo II is the Order of the Sea under the care of my brother.” Big Mac whispers in my ear, “He’s a nasty piece of work. Don’t trust him. However he has a multitude of reasons to protect both yourself and Socrates.”
“Are you not coming with us?”
“It’s best I don’t. My brother is needed alive to keep you safe. If I’m in his company for more than five minutes I can’t guarantee he would survive.”
"Why don't you get along?"
"That's a story covering many centuries. One day I will tell it to you but tonight there is no time."
I don’t even know if I trust him but again I’m not fighting him. We’re walking together towards the boat. Soc launches into the air like a superhero and there is a faint thunk as he lands on board. It’s cold, my feet are wet and this is all beginning to feel a lot less like a dream.
My attempts to get on board are closer to a whale beaching than Socrates leap. I find myself hanging on the rail. It's painful as I clamber over it, it sticking in my ribs. My descent on to the deck is like a lead brick thrown off a balcony . I look over the side. “Bye,” I shout into the darkness but there is no response and I wonder if Big Mac is still there. Did he ever actually exist?
“Soc, get Titch out of sight.”
“Aye, aye, my captain.” Soc comes up behind me. “Angus, lie down and roll under the bench. There’s a blanket and pillow under there. Try and get some sleep we’re a few hours from the order. Big Mac is going to reset your room so they think you’re still in there.”
He helped me find the bench and lie down in the makeshift bed underneath it.
“Stay with me?”
“I’m needed on the bridge in case anything goes wrong.”
I’m left to try and get comfortable on the hard surface. My stomach rumbles and I fight with myself to be brave. All I want is my bed and my dad. This is too horribly real and I can't wake up.
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.