With my knees tucked up so I can hug them, I sit on the cliff and gaze out to sea. It’s so calm today. So calm I wonder if I can swim home. I’m not supposed to be here, but the bullying has become unbearable so I slipped out of the Order of the Sea. The volcano in my chest wants to blow and beat them all to a pulp. What I want to do is blow the whole Order of the Sea off this damn bloody awful rock. The gentle sound of the sea does nothing to relax me.
Gorse squeals and flies off my shoulder, probably in search of food. The diet the brethren give us doesn’t satisfy his needs, and he’s learning to hunt or mice and rats. I’m always hungry and wish I could do the same.
“Hey, Angus.” Rei, the father-abbot’s daughter, stands over me. She smiles and plays with her hair. “Can I join you?”
“Sure.” It’s not like I can say no to his daughter. Although, I’m pretty sure she’s flirting with me. I’m not sure. I’ve told her I have a girlfriend and I’ve had the same girlfriend since I was about four, but she still won’t leave me alone.
She sits down next to me and coughs. “How are you, Angus?”
“I’d be better if I was back home in the palace in my real life. But I’m alive and that’s a start – right?”
And she responds with a simpering laugh. Why me? Universal Father? Please. She has plenty of other boys to choose from and I’m the only one who isn’t interested. It’s not that she isn’t beautiful, but I’m terrified of Beatrice’s reaction if she ever finds out. And she will find out because Beatrice finds out everything.
“How are you?”
“I am well.”
An awkward silence ensues. I wish she’d leave me alone. I’d wanted time to think but with her here all I can think is how to get rid of her. A dot in the distance. A lot of dots. I stand up and shield my eyes from the sun.
“Rei...” I point. “What’s that?”
Remaining on the ground, she shrugs.
“Boats. Lots of them….” I shout. “Rei, go tell the brethren. We don’t know if they’re going to attack.”
She simpers and stands up. She is so not my type. Not only would I not need to tell Beatrice what to do, she’d be ordering me around. “Go!” To emphasise it I point down the paths.
And thank the Universal Father for that, she obeys me and runs back towards the huge stone walls of The Order. I go down the path. I’m not sure why. Part of me hopes to be able to steal a boat and go home, part of me would like to be a hero and save the day and part of me, the bigger part of me, thinks these people need my help. They’re too small to be warships like the one that fired on me or took Soc and Nate. I sneak down the path to the pebble beach and hide behind a big rock.
The first boat arrives, and a man leaps off into the shallow water. He looks around. “We’re here. Get them off.”
When I see them unloading stretchers and helping sick people down off the boat, I dash to help. I strip off my robe, kick off my boots and run in in just my shorts. It feels great to be bare footed again. The temperature of the water barely registers as freezing as I focus on them.
“Hey, not Prince Angus.”
A second boat, a smaller fishing boat in bad shape arrives and my little blackmailer from Seatown stands on the prow. He’s got his leg up on the rail and is looking out with his hand shielding his eyes. “Hey.” He waves a like a loon. “Come help with my gran.” I stand beneath the boat. They winch down a stretcher and I take one end. Another lad about my age takes the other.
A lady, extreme in old age, lies on the stretcher. Her front is covered with green, foul smelling phlegm. It recalls the alley with Ursula. “What’s wrong with her?”
The man says, “No idea. Many are sick. We escaped the island. Are you really Prince Angus?”
I ignore him and we wade through the water in silence. Others getting off the boat have coughing fits as they wade to the shore. That same hacking cough that Ursula had. I search the faces, but I don’t see her.
We lay her on the beach. I look up the cliffs and see a line of brethren on their way. “Yes. I’m Prince Angus.” It feels good to say it. To be myself and not Novice Angus, bottom of the heap.
“Oh by the Universal Father, please don’t bow. We’ve got work to do. What’s your name?”
“Matt. Matt Godwin.” His legs are trying not to bow. He smiles. “If you’re alive there is hope. Your Majesty, please.”
“Call me Angus. Stop calling me that. My dad’s alive. My brother’s alive.”
He shakes his head. “You don’t know? They’re both missing.”
“Missing doesn’t mean dead.” I turn away so he can’t see my misery. “Please, let’s get the sick to safety.”
There’s a screech and Gorse reappears. He’s checking the people that are wading to beach. One by one. Like me he he’s searching for Ursula.
Infirmier Kim and Shun arrive on the beach. Infirmier Kim kneels next to the woman. He takes a scarf from his pocket and ties it round his head. “We need to quarantine them, Shun. Get Angus up to the infirmary and showered. He can work with me until I say otherwise. Everyone else in masks and gloves. I don’t want any other novices or masters down here.”
“Infirmier? If I have been exposed could I not to continue to work here? There’s many more to come.” My voice drops and I look down at the pebbles beneath my feet. “They’re… well my father would if he was here. Treat me as their prince and not your novice.”
Shun takes a scarf from his pocket and goes behind me and ties it round my nose and mouth. “We will get gloves and a proper mask brought down for yourself and Infirmier.” He reaches down and pulls up his robe from the bottom, stripping it off. He kicks off his boot. “Come on.” He takes off over the beach.
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.