The door swung open, startling Cora, Amor, and Oren. All three of them sat around the small table and look to it. And there he stood. Theyo with his bruised and bloodied knuckles, sweat running down his face, his hair damp against his forehead. Cora stood up quickly and ran to his aid. She used her sleeve cuff to dab away the sweat from Theyo’s face. His eyes were low, looking to the ground as his mouth hung open, his breaths deep and drawn out.
“Theyo, what happened?” Cora asked holding his hands and concern herself with his injuries. Amor and Oren both stood and walked over to Cora’s side, their hands laced with each other’s. Theyo looked up at Cora, sinking into her blue eyes. He looked to Amor then Oren and shook his head.
“We leave now or we never leave. Grab your bags, pack some food from the larder.” His voice coughed out the commands. He slowly walked past the group and sat at the table. They stared at him, so concerned and enveloped in his injuries and his tired face.
“Don’t just stand there. Do something.” He snapped at them and they rushed around, Amor and Oren running around to find their bags. Cora walked over to the table and tapped her bag that laid on it. She looked at Theyo, their eyes connecting, a shock running through both their spines as they stared at each other. Cora’s brows furrowed and her lips moved in slow motions, but no sound was let out. She shook her head and repeated the same movements. The same word over and over again.
“There are bandages in chiffonier, please grab them for me.” She nodded and scurried into the kitchen. She opened the door, searching through the cabinet until she finds a roll of white bandage. She pointed it at Theyo and he nodded.
“Grab the shears.” Cora looked around the room and found a small set of shears in the hand basin. She picked them up and walked backed over to him. She sat back down and gripped his fingers.
“I can do it myself, y’know?” Theyo smiled, barely even a smile, his lips moved so little that it was mostly curving of his cheek.
“I know, but…” She was about to wrap his hand when she was interrupted.
“You need to clean it first,” Oren spoke, sitting next to Amor on the daybed. Cora and Theyo looked at him, Cora’s face fell as she looked at him with scorn.
“Then if you know so damn much, why don’t you do it?” She uttered.
“I don’t want to.” He shot back at her.
“Then shut your mouth,” she got up from her seat to dampen a cloth.
“Make me,” Oren dared.
“Ore’, leave her be.” Amor patted his chest as he looked at him, staring at his amber-gold hair. How the sun shimmered off of it, the color of his fair skin, and his eyes. The eyes he could fall into over and over again.
“I was giving her advice. She was gonna infect it.”
“I was not!”
“Call him a pillow-biter.” Theyo jumped to look at Cora then staring down Oren. His glare washed the confidence from the young knight’s face turning it into a grimace.
“Another time.” Cora sat back down and dabbed at Theyo’s knuckles, then wrapping the bandage around it and cutting it from the roll. Theyo stretched his hand out and got up.
“Thank you. Now, we need to get going.” He headed for the door.
“I thought we were going to wait because of the lockdown on the ports?” Amor asked as he picked up the bag that sat beside him. Oren following suit.
“Change of plans. We are leaving today, grab your shit and let’s go.” He walked out the door.
The three looked at each other. Jumping from face to face, before.
“Let’s go!” And they rushed out the door and chased after Theyo.
They rushed down the sand and back through the door in the wall in complete silence. Once through, climbed into the wagon and began down the road.
“Keep your heads low. If these commoners see any of your faces, we won’t be seeing the light of day anymore.” Theyo spoke softly. Amor and Oren laid next to each other, Amor’s hand running through Oren’s hair. Cora laid on the other side, near the wall of the wagon and looked up at the sky. The bright blue sky, a lake filled with boats made from clouds, surfing the waves of wind and breeze. The warmth of the sun flowed on their skin, the feeling of that heat drew Amor and Oren into a sleep, Cora, on the other hand, couldn’t relax. Her back was tense her heart was beating faster than it ever had before. She’s running away from her home, the life she grew up with, everything would be gone.
They rode through the town and around the bends, over bridges until finally, they reached the Ports.
The stone wall ended and masts as tall as towers, ships bigger than homes, docks long and short began to reveal themselves... The blue waves that pushed against these still giants. Flags of different blues, shades, and hues so different they all meant something different, the emblem of the kingdom on all of them. Every single one of them was blue with the same family crest all of them but one.
This one was as large as the others, but its flag was dark green, a green so dark it looked almost black. The crest of Aecora was absent from it, what took its place were branches surrounding a golden crown.
There were men that walked about and around. Up and down the docks. Stalking the ships and watching every sway they made from the ocean waves. All dressed like the man before.
“We’re here, get up.” Theyo stopped the wagon before the end of the staggering barrier.
Amor and Oren jumped awake as the wagon came to a sudden halt. Cora laid there, still staring at the sky, blinking slowly.
“Cora, get up.” She let out a deep breath and lifted herself up.
“Now listen. These pieces of ironwork need to get going.” Theyo looked to the sky. The sun was almost right above the kingdom.
The group of four looked to the sky with him. Amor and Oren dazed and confused, but realization hitting Cora.
“The midday feast,” Cora looked to Theyo. She had completely forgotten about the feast. It happens every day and she had forgotten about. Theyo nodded, a smile on his face.
“But we can’t just wait for the bell to ring? They wouldn’t leave their posts would they?” Oren asked, staring at the men walking up and down the docks, the sun shining on their metal suits.
“Everything stops. Trade, merchant work, everything stops until the bell tolls in the next hour. Aecor’s weakest hour.” Theyo looked at Cora when he whispered the last bit.
“We’ll have to be careful, if they see us we are done for. Especially you two.” He pointed to Amor and Cora, their faces falling flat. The idea of them being caught. The fear that ran through them made their hairs stand on end. Amor didn’t want to think what his father would do. He’s seen what the man does to people, the abuse, the breaking, all of it he has been witnessed to and victim. Cora had never thought about her mother’s wrath. How a mere princess would fare against Queen of the Damned Sea, how she would face the woman who controlled her for all these years.
The toll of a bell ran through the air. The low, bellowing sound shocked them. Lines of guards began to walk from the docks, through the alleyways of towns and back into the center of the kingdom.
“Now is the time.” Theyo hopped from the wagon. Oren, then Amor following his path. Cora stood there for a minute, her eyes drawn to the tall walls of the palace. She shook her head and hopped from the wagon and followed the three men to the docks.
Theyo looked around to make sure everyone had left. He looked behind him to see Amor and Oren near each other, their hands bouncing against the knuckles of the other. Cora dragged behind them, fiddling with her fingers and her head down.
“My ship is down here.” Theyo led them down the dock, passing the large, wooden monuments that towered over them.
They walked until they reached the end of the dock and to their surprise, two men stood on Theyo’s vessel. The flag had been rolled up, the blue color with the golden tassels hanging from the edges. The men were dressed in a blue leather, the symbol of the kingdom on their tunics.
“Hey!” Theyo ran towards his craft, yelling at them, “this is my vessel, get going!” The men laughed as Theyo’s breath spiked, his chest rising quickly and falling faster.
“Come get it, Coaster!” One of them shouted from the deck as they kicked down the stairs. Rage had engulfed Theyo, his face turning a light shade of red.
“Theyo, wait!” Cora called running to his side, Amor, and Oren behind her.
“Look your Coaster friends are coming.” One of them taunted.
“There’s two of them. You’ll get yourself killed.” Oren’s hand rested on his shoulder.
“This is my property, I will gladly fight for it.” His nostrils flared.
“I said that there was two of them, there’s four of us.” He gestured to Amor and Cora who had stepped behind them. The two of them ignored his statement, pretending to be distracted.
“Okay, two on two.” Oren rolled his eyes.
“Three on two.” Amor stepped up and rested his hand on Theyo’s other shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze.
“Come on, Coasters, want your ship or not?” The men boasted out.
Theyo huffed and began to run to the steps. Amor and Oren chased behind him.
Theyo climbed the flat stairs, more bars of wood on a plank then actual stairs. He dashed towards them, his fist clenched. He threw his hand to one of the men and struck him on his nose, the man falling backward, stumbling on his feet. Oren mimicked him, jumping as soon as his feet were on the flat, wooden surface of the boat. His clenched hand launched at the second man. The man stepped quickly, trying to evade the attack, short-sighted when Oren hit his shoulder and sent him spinning around.
The four men went into a full brawl. Kicks and punches missing and landing on their opponents. Bruises from their feet and hands developing, cuts marking the surface of their skin.
“Cora, the sail!” Theyo yelled before he being hit in the jaw. Cora jumped and ran up the ladder-like stairs.
“Amor follow me.” She called for the prince. He quickly stepped to and followed the heir. The shifted around the fight as best they could. Amor had been knocked to the deck when They kicked one of the men in the chest.
Cora had made her way to the mast without complication. She looked at the length and staggering height of the mast. There was a rope that hung like vines around the tall wooden pole. She gripped it, the feeling of the thread in her palms was so foreign, it was rough
“Pull it!” And she tugged with all her strength, the rope slipping from her grip and burning her hand, but she persisted and gripped it tighter. The sail creaked as she pulled.
“Keep pulling! Amor help her!” Amor ran to her side and gripped the rope with her. He looked at her and nodded. Together, they pulled and pulled until the sail was barely above their head.
Oren and Theyo were panting, covered in dark blue blotches and blood running down their faces. They wiped at the blood with their shirts, smearing it over their cheeks before wiping again to get rid of the residue. Both the leather-wearing men ran away. To where? Neither of them knew. They had been so beaten that paying attention to them was useless.
“We did it,” Cora said with a soft sigh.
“That was the hardest thing I have ever done,” Amor complained, ignorantly. Oren and Theyo rolled their eyes at Amor.
“Your boy is an idiot.” Theyo shook his head. Theyo agreed with him. Theyo walked over to a large set of stairs divided through the middle with a captain’s cabin. He climbed one set of stairs up to the ship’s wheel. He gripped two of the handles and twisted. The feeling of holding it sent peace through his body. He felt cleansed and not as if he was almost beaten to death.
“I need one of you to untie the ship. It’s at the end of the dock.” Theyo pointed to a thread of rope attached to the dock.
“I’ll get it,” Oren said as he ran down the steps. The wind began to pick up, blowing through all of their hair. Cora stared blankly at the castle and the light the sun emitted onto it. She slowly walked towards where Theyo stood, making her way to a beautifully designed rail. Cora began to fall into a trance, a flood of emotions filling her, and then began the waterworks.
“Cora,” Theyo turned to her. “What’s wrong?” He made his way over to her, looking at the castle with her.
“This is where I was born. This is everything. Theyo, it’s...it’s all I have ever known.” She choked on her words. Theyo reached for hand, holding it gently, hers felt so small in his.
“How am I suppose to leave? What about everyone there? Everdeen, what about her? My mother?” In a long time, Cora hasn’t felt this much for her own mother. The feeling of leaving her “tyrant” of a mother seemed heartbreaking.
“Everdeen will be fine. She’s strong. She’s smart. She will be fine, Cora.”
“How do you know that?”
“I didn’t marry any ordinary woman, Cora. And you didn’t select any ordinary servant. You selected her.” He whispered in her ear. The gentleness of his voice soothed her. “Cora, she is my- our…” He paused. A lost for words.
“Desta. She is our Desta.” She spoke slowly, nodding.
“Our Desta.” Theyo agreed with her, not entirely sure what the word meant.
“I got it!” Oren’s voice called, breaking the moment. He had finally untied the rope and began to wrap it into a coil.
“Good job, now get back up here!” Theyo shouted, “try and make sure you know that this is something you want and make sure it is right for you.” He squeezed her had before walking back down to the wheel.
Cora let out a deep sigh and wiped her eyes. It’s time.
The wind picked up once more and the sail filled with the breeze, almost washing away with the gust.
“Grab the ropes tied to the base of the mast!” Theyo command to the boys. They grabbed it together, looking into each other’s eyes with big smiles on their faces.
“Pull!” They pulled and the sail tightened. The ship hefted forward. The boys struggled to hold it, keeping a firm grip, their hands burning. With the large winds and the sail arching with each push of the air, the ship moved further and further, until they left the docks and headed for open waters.
“Tie the rope to the peg, right there.” Theyo pointed to a steel peg in the shape of a “T.” They slowly made their way over to it and began to wrap the rope around it. They tied it and relaxed.
Cora continued to look back at the castle, the kingdom drifting behind them. Her breathing began to shake, her hands sweating, her knees weakening. Her hand raised and rested on her chest. Something caught her eye as she looked back at the palace, something in a window, two shadows staring out. Her heart skipped a beat but as the ship drifted further to sea, she felt safe and smiled.
“I’m sailing the seas, Grandmother…” She whispered to herself, closing her hand over her heart.
Amor looked out to the ocean, the sun high in the sky, reflecting off of the blue waters. He turned to see Oren’s eyes, smiling once again. Oren turned to see his lover staring at him. He smiled too. He gripped Amor’s face and pulled him into a kiss, and once he pulled back, he uttered:
“We’re sailing the seas, my Love.”