I wake up beneath the blankets. My body chatters from the freezing wind that cuts through my meagre covering. I’m stiff. Sore. I’ve not moved since Soc told me to lie here. There’s no sound except for the sea. Gorse is growling. He’s hungry. So am I. I creep out. In the blackest dark I crawl to the wheelhouse on my knees.
My cheeks sting from the salt saturated air.
Every hand and leg movement forward is slow. My heart pounds like a big bass drum and I pray I won’t end up in the water.
Gorse flaps around my head. I can sense his nerves which makes mine worse.
“Gorse, can it.” My voice is harsh – harsher than I intended. “I’m sorry, boy. I’m beyond freezing and starving.”
He whimpers. He lands on my back. His claws knead me but they can’t get through my thick school coat. In the wheelhouse I use the wheel to get to my feet. Gorse growls at me as he falls to the floor. His wings flutter and he lands on my shoulder. “Where are we boy?”
During the journey Nate had kept the lights on 24/7. I search with my hands until I locate the key and turn it to the first position. The little in the wheelhouse comes on and I blink; the paltry light does nothing to cut through the night.
Over the past few days Nate showed me how to pilot the boat. He didn’t show me how to navigate. I don’t know where I am going. I turn the key again and take control of the helm.
Gorse goes beneath the table and brings out a packet of nuts. He sits on my shoulder and shares them with me. Without Soc and Nate I’m not sure how I can eat. They fished to bulk out our meagre rations.
A light. Flash. Flash – again. Flash – again. The flashes are at regular intervals. Lights mean habitation so I turn the boat and head towards it. Gorse is agitated, and he keeps chattering. My mood lifts at the thought of a warm bed and food.
Crunch. Oh crap! Fear. Gorse is chattering, screeching, barking. He’s making a full range of noises. The boat leans in the direction of the sea. What do I do? A captain should go down with his ship, or so I’ve read, but I’m not the captain. Unwilling to die at sixteen, I slip and slide out of the wheelhouse to the relative safety of the deck. When the boat tips, I cling to the guardrail. Port or starboard? I can’t remember. “Help!” It’s possible the owners of the light will see me or hear me. “Help!”
In the bright beam of the light I see rocks and glimpse a beach before the light goes again. Can I swim? Is it as close as it looks?
“Nathaniel’s vessel.” A loud shout. The voice doesn’t sound ancient; it has a giggle in it. “Brethren, we must check it for signs of habitation.”
“I’m over here.”
They might be enemies, but they are my passport off the boat.
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.