“Ohh... Ow.” The princess crumpled into the captain, knocking them both to the ground.
Wincing, he groaned, a throbbing knot forming on the back of his head. “I tried to warn you.” When he blinked eyes back into focus, Levi jolted his head back, hitting his head a second time ─ the princess’ face just inches from his own, her eyes as wide with surprise as his own.
“Sorry!” she struggled to scooch away like an infant just learning to crawl. “I─ OWW!” Seering steel wires shot through her right leg. When she glanced down, instead of her foot, she saw a bundle of white bandages. “What’s that?”
“You have four or five puncture wounds in your foot. Firious says it’ll heal, you just shouldn’t put weight on it for a couple of days. What did you do? Step on a nail repeatedly?”
“I stomped on Kosu’s boot, actually,” the princess admitted, winning her a look of approval from the captain.
“Let’s get you back in that bed, eh?”
Just as she settled into the pillows, Firious came barging in. Two crewmen dragged in a young boy, bound in rope, and dropped him on the floor. The first mate reported,“We’ve found a stowaway, Captain! I think his pals left him behind.”
The boy’s big brown eyes shined with a kaleidoscope of emotion ─ terror, mistrust, devastation, and… loathing. Filth caked his skin thicker than the children of Mahgnitton, making his blond hair appear brown. Despite a family-crested ring on his finger ─ adorned with gilded rabbits ─ the lad’s clothes were stained, tattered, and torn, and his feet were bare and calloused.
Gently, Levi kneeled down and removed the ropes from the boy’s wrists. After glaring at Firious as if to say Was that really necessary? he smiled kindly to the boy, “My name is Captain Levi. What’s your name?”
“I’m Zephyr,” the boy’s voice cracked, “and I’m ten years old.”