The Prisoner


5. The Ship with the Plum-Colored Flag

It was on a day in the middle of autumn when Kai received a rare day off, the royals

having already left for their winter castle, when he found his way down to the docks again.

He couldn ’ t believe that almost a year and a half had passed since he ’ d come here on that

ship, most of which he had spent in a dingy cell. His eyes scanned over the ships there, counting

seven of the crown ’ s ships.

“ Stunning, isn ’ t it? I never get tired of looking at it. ”

Kai jumped, swinging around to see who had spoken. Vague recognition flitted across his

mind. He bowed deeply, as he ’ d been taught, and addressed the finely dressed man, “ Captain

Ellsworth. ”

For a moment, they stood in silence, watching the ships gently bounce on the waves. Kai

shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. He wasn ’ t certain if he should leave or remain as he

was. Instead, he refocused on the sturdy ships and their plum-colored flags waving in the sea

breeze. The docks were alive with people, though from his spot on the hill, he was given the

impression of watching a mass of squirming ants carry off bits of a picnic. He assumed the crew

was loading crates and things onto the ship in preparation for wherever they were sailing to.

“ Have you ever been on a ship before? ” Captain Ellsworth asked absently.

“ No, sir, never, ” Kai breathed, swallowing hard.

He cast a sideways glance at the sailor standing beside him. Captain Ellsworth had a soft

smile on his face as he continued to study the distant horizon, looking past the ships and people

at the utter peacefulness of the open sea. Neither of them spoke for a long time, the sun cresting

higher in the sky. Eventually, Kai began to think that he was utterly alone and that he ’ d only

imagined Captain Ellsworth.

“ Well, I best be going — can ’ t keep those ships waiting, ” the captain sighed, beginning to

make his way down to the docks.

Kai didn ’ t know what to say and waved goodbye, knowing that the captain couldn ’ t see

him. The wind stirred the autumn leaves. Some were plucked from their branches and fluttered to

the ground. The ships began to set sail. He watched with rapt interest as each began to drift off

with the wind toward the shining horizon. He sat on the hill beneath a tree with his knees to his

chest and watched until he couldn ’ t make out the line of ships any longer. Like a dream, they

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