“MAN, O’ER BOARD!” came the call from up above and as the crew of The Icerunner peered into the grey sea they saw a body, face down and bloody. The sailors give the sign of the Lord with their hands, lowered their head and returned to their duties.
“What are you men doing?” said a voice gilded by authority “Save that man.” The sailors paused with looks of a father who must put down an injured animal.
“Sir…” one of the sailor’s spoke up, “that man is dead, there’s nothing we can do.”
Disgusted, the well-spoken man said, “Surely he deserves a proper burial?” but the sailor just shook his head and returned to checking the ship. He had turned his attention back to his duty for less than a minute when there was a loud “SPLASH.”
“MAN, O’ER BOARD” cried the lookout again and the sailors all rushed help their fallen comrade. It was the articulate gentleman, he swam towards the body of the dead man as the freezing sea tried to paralyse him. The sailors gave panicked shouts from above and raced across the deck looking for safety lines. A group jumped into a lifeboat and plunged to the rescue of their passenger. Reaching the dead man, the gentleman grabbed onto his piece of flotsam and tried to kick his way back to the ship. But nothing moved. His legs were paralysed by the sheer cold. He felt more tired than he had ever felt in all his life and strangest of all, he felt warm. A numb warm that soothed him, a warm that said “just close your eyes and sleep” like a mother to a child. He felt a sharp tug, and all went dark.
A voice echoed in the gentleman’s head.
“Well, well, well, my saviour is none other than Prince Elmer Snowthrone himself? Quite a selfless act for someone of your stature.”
“Who said that?” said the gentleman prince as he looked around the black space. “Where am I?”
“You’re quite safe my prince, quite safe. My name is Oceanus and you saved me.” Said the voice.
“The sea god? How is this possible? Am I dreaming? Am I dead?” said the prince steadily.
“No, not dead, I couldn’t let you die for your bravery… However, I’m afraid your legs could not be saved, they were destroyed before I gained consciousness.” Said the voice matter-of-factly.
The prince looked down for the first time and saw that he was floating in the darkness and both legs were gone below the knees. His hands were also in a sorry state with his left hand now missing three fingers and his right missing a pinkie. The prince did not sob or madden, he just kept looking between his hands and missing legs, strengthening his soul.
“You are a brave man Elmer, you handle your fate like a true champion.” Said Oceanus with a godly appreciation.
“What I really wish to know Lord of Seas is, what were you doing unconscious in your own waters?” Spoke the prince, Oceanus simply chuckled.
“There is something you mortals do not understand, that there are worse fates than death. We gods are immortal, yes. But, there are others, older and determined that would make us wish to be mortal. I can say no more.” His tone was sombre and fearful, the prince could not bring himself to question the god further. “Now my prince, it is time for you to wake up.”
When the prince awoke he was safe in his cabin propped up in bed by soft feather pillows. It was a bright morning outside the window and the seabirds were wheeling and squawking around the ship. The prince knew that could only mean one thing, they were home.
There was a peculiar numbness around the prince’s body, his vision was blurred, and he was extremely lethargic. He moved his arms as if to use them to prop up his body, but a sharp shock of pain collapsed his effort. He looked at his hands and to his surprise they were encased in thick bandages, though it was clear that his left hand was little more than a stump. Panicked, he tried to kick away the blanket to check his legs, but the sheets would not move how he expected them to. He screamed, not in pain, but in defeat. The screams turned to tears as the doctor rushed in.
“My lord, you’re awake? I am so sorry, but we could not save your legs, the damage was too severe!” explained the doctor.
The forlorn prince simply looked at the doctor and said, “Where is the other man?”
Before the quivering doctor could say anything, the man walked through the door completely unscathed, bowed and made his way to the prince.
“My prince” he said in the same voice as the god in him dream, “It is an honour to be able to thank you in person.” The man bowed again and extended a hand. The prince laid his right, bandaged hand on the mans and felt a strange, calming warmth from him, the ocean sounds amplified in his watery head and all the pain from his shortened joints left him and he fell back to sleep.
“How strange” said the doctor checking the prince’s vitals. “He’s just gone back to sleep. It almost looked as if he was relapsing.”
“He’ll be fine doctor, you did a splendid job. Let’s get him back to his quarters in the palace where we can get a better look at him.” Said the man.
The doctor agreed and ran out of the room to start getting the transport ready for the long walk back to the royal palace.
“Sleep for now, my prince, for we have much to discuss, you and I, much…”
Categories: Book I