The man shouts.
A large engine. A massive black boat.
Lots of shouts.
There is an explosion – a gunshot. Another gunshot.
Pain! In my shoulder.
I let go of the guardrail of Nate’s boat.
I bounce off a rock. It hurts.
Guns flash and bang. A full blown battle.
I can’t breath.
My eyes close and I pray to the universal father in whom I’ve never been allowed to believe in. Arms take hold of me.
The shooting stops. The engine is going away.
I’m lying on stones. Waves crash up the beach but they don’t reach me.
Pain! Pain! Pain! I'm wet, I'm cold and someone is screaming. It sounds like me.
Men with cherry red hair. Men with boot polish black hair. Men in green furred robes.
I'm in so much pain. Is this real? I’m a little dazed. The recent horrors in my life must be a dream.
A robed man picks cold slimy kelp off my face, he smiles at me. Others are manhandling the bottom half of my body.
The one that picked off the kelp kneels down beside me and nods. His face is full of freckles and his aquamarine eyes are kind. His voice is soft. “I'm Prior Shun. Try not to move. We'll take care of you.” He speaks in waves. When he touches my head an unnatural calm upsurges in my head and floods my body.
“I've immobilised his leg and sedated him, Prior.” A man with black hair bows to the prior.
“Infirmier. Is he ready to move?” Prior Shun asks.
“Yes. Ready men. 1… 2… 3…” the infirmier says.
Strong arms lift me onto a stretcher and pick it up.
Noises. People are busy round me. They're whispering.
My eyes are swollen and struggle to open. I detach my fur-lined tongue from the roof of my desiccated mouth. “Water?”
“It's good you are back with us, Child,” The infirmier leans over me. “You gave us cause to be greatly worried about you.” As he speaks he pours water from a pitcher on my bedside table, props me up and helps me drink. His movements are deft, efficient and confident.
The clearest, coldest, cleansing water eases my throat. “Where…” I can't decide which of the many question buzzing round my brain should take priority. Where am I? Is my dad alright? Where is my brother? Who on Litae are you, you black-headed freak? None of them get vocalised.
“Shh… questions can be answered later. Are you in need of sustenance?” He brandishes a syringe and lifts the bed covers to inject me in my thigh.
I shake my head. I'm too sick, too sore and too unsure of everything to want food. Although, if he was going to poison me I’d be dead by now and not lying in a hospital bed. I sink back into the wall of pillows.
The sedative takes effect.
“Infirmier Kim, you need rest. I'll watch over him.” It's the kind voice from the beach. Prior Shun he'd said his name was.
I'm not ready for a conversation so I don't open my eyes.
“When you're ready to talk I'm here, Child.”
Child? Seriously? The freckly face that looked at me on the beach can't be much older than me. Indignation forces my eyes open. “How did you know I was awake?”
“It's a gift. I’m older than I look.” Sat in the chair next to the bed, he taps his nose with his long spindly finger. “Feeling better?”
“Hurts and I'm hungry.”
“You've got two bullet wounds, a broken leg and a head wound – it’s bound to hurt. Do you know who you are?”
I nod. “Angus.”
“I'm Shun.” He stands up and opens a flask on my bedside table, releasing the most amazing smell into the air. “Do you know how you got to our beach?”
I shrug. “No.” There was Big Mac and Soc and Nate and the boat but that was a dream. People don't walk through the air. “I don’t think.”
Shun pours the contents of the flask into a bowl. He moves over to the bed and helps me sit up, fluffing up my cushions as though they are a face he is frustrated with. “Let's get you comfortable. Think you can feed yourself?”
I nod. Talking is still an effort. Not physically but there’s a lump of emotion in my throat and I'm afraid if I speak it'll… well it'll feel real and won't be a dream any more. The sandstone walls look so much like the palace, but the hospital cubicle is so alien.
“You're at The Order of the Sea. We've promised the Dark Earth Abbot that we will care for and protect you.” The tray he places in front of me is laid with a basic brown bowl with clear broth in it.
“My brother and my dad?”
“We only found you and a small boat.”
“This isn't real.” I use the pottery soup spoon to scoop up some of the soup. My mouth zings with vegetable. I’ve tasted nothing like it. Palace food was so cardboard-like and this is so real. It is forcing me to accept I’m conscious and actually in this place. I place the spoon down. “It can't be real...”
Shun sits on the bed, picks up the spoon, and uses it to offer me more broth. “Angus, it's very real and you need to eat.” He smells faintly of salty clean. I don't know how else to describe it.
I turn my head. “No. It can't be real. People can't walk on thin air.”
“Well they can but I can't show you right now. My powers don't work as well in enclosed spaces.” He holds the spoon closer to my mouth. Ifdrt smells so good.
My stomach rumbles.
He smiles and nods. “Take a mouthful.”
I let him feed me. There is the right amount of salt and a herb I don't recognise. When he offers me the spoon I take it off him. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” His pat on my plaster cast is affectionate. He stands up and takes a book off the seat of a comfortable armchair near the bed and sits down. “Would you like me to read to you? Do you like Hound of the Baskervilles?”
I shrug again. “Don't know. Fantasy’s my thing and I like the Earth series but I started Study in Scarlet and thought the Sherlock bloke was a bit of a prick.”
“This one's much better.”
“That's what Nate said.”
“Who is Nate?”
“Sir Nathaniel Smith, my tutor, he… he found my copy of… well once… he didn’t tell anyone though. And now he talks to me about the books. I just think it’s so clever the way all those old authors got together to write about the same place.” The soup is so good it doesn't take me long to finish it. “Grandfather would have had me executed if he’d known I’d been reading banned texts.”
“Yes I know him. Nate not your grandfather.” Shun’s face is a little less friendly as he puts the book down again and removes my tray. “I'll be back in a minute. You should get some sleep. We'll see if you can manage crutches this afternoon.”
He leaves me to stare at the ceiling and wonder where Soc and Nate have gone. Were they taken? I’m not sure how long I can pretend the last few days haven’t happened.
I’m wrapped up in a robe with thick wool blankets round me. There’s snow on the ground. Shun is pushing me in a wheelchair, through the cloisters. My foot is sticking out in front of me. After a disastrous attempt with crutches, Shun decided wheels were a better option, because if Shun hadn’t caught me I’d have ended up flat on my backside.
“I'm sorry about my attitude earlier,” his voice is quiet and calm and steady.
I'm still struggling to talk a great deal. I don't know if I my family is alive or if my home exists. Then there is this place and well I haven't made my mind up about it yet. The food's good but what about the rest well I don’t trust them. If I speak too much I may give them information they don’t need to know. Living in a palace with my grandfather taught me that discretion and keeping my own counsel.
“Nathaniel and I were both fostered by Big Mac. Do you know Big Mac?”
“I think so.” If I say yes I will be forced to admit I walked through the air.
“He trains the children of elemental abbots. Nathaniel and I shared a room. We didn't well… we don't share a sense of humour.” He does that speaking quickly thing people do when they're putting on a false front of cheerfulness. “But that should not result in me to speaking roughly to you. I will report myself to His Holiness for discipline.”
“Not on my account. I've got a brother – I get it. There are times I want to thump him, and I kind of like him.” I close my eyes and remember him telling me to stay on the boat. I’m not there now.
“His Holiness will know anyway.” Shun taps his temple. “He can hear everything we think.”
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.