Chapter 6

Having hiked infinite miles, hopped on and off buses and taken four gruelling train journeys, we finally reached the coast of Lower New York Bay, as the Sun began to settle. In front of us, the vast Atlantic Ocean sparked in the dazzling sunset. In the distance, I managed to see a faint silhouette of a few mountains, surrounded by rocks and forests. Zapped of our energy and strength, we slumped on a nearby bench.

“Is that the place?” I asked, squinting and pointing out in the direction of the silhouette.

“Looks like. We made it guys,” Zak sighed tiredly.

I heard footsteps from my left coming towards us. A dockworker. His clothes were ragged and his eyes had dark circles around them, evidence that the long hours on the docks had taken a severe toll on him. His hunched back suggested he should have been working a less active job and his scruffy hair made him look older than he actually was.

“What do you three want?” he rasped.

“We just want to explore the ocean for a bit,” Zak replied.

“Well, now is not the time. No boats are available for today. Come back tomorrow.”

“I’m afraid we can’t do that,” I said.

He glared at me. Then his face lightened up. “Wait a minute, what are your names?”

“I’m Marco and that’s Zak and Rachel,” I said slowly. “Why?”

“Oh so you are the three teenagers I was expecting!”

I exchanged a confused look with Zak and Rachel.

Sensing the confusion, he explained, “I’m old friends with Gerard Ramirez. He told me that I would be expecting three teenagers here. He told me to come with you guys.”

“What?” Zak said.

It all seemed too good to be true. I wanted to be certain this guy was on our side and not betraying us.

“How do you know Señor Ramirez?” I asked carefully.

“Around ten years ago, we both served in the Army. Then, an incident happened which forced us both to quit.”

“What incident?” Rachel asked.

“Look you three, your principal has explained everything to me and ordered me to come with you and retrieve the Golden Leaf. Listen, I was in the Army for most of my life, so I know what I’m doing. I’ve fought in battles you guys wouldn’t even dream about,” said the dockworker firmly, ignoring Rachel’s question. “So, I will come with you three whether you like it or not.”

Zak, Rachel and I looked at each other and we nodded in mutual acceptance. I cast aside my doubts.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Adrian,” he replied. “Now wait here and I’ll be right back.”

One question nagged at my mind. Why hadn’t Señor Ramirez mentioned Adrian to us? We had no other choice but to trust this mysterious man, despite Señor Ramirez telling us the complete opposite.

I looked out to the ocean. The beautiful sunset cast serenity across the landscape. The sky was light pink and the waves were gentle whilst there was a very soothing breeze. No one was around, and everything seemed so perfect. Little did nature know what we were about to enter.

All of a sudden, the waves started to pick up and the wind grew in speed. Alarmed, we turned around and witnessed the greatest thing we’d ever seen.

A cruise ship.

Sailing towards us, Adrian waved and ushered us towards the docking station.

With an infinite number of windows, a luxurious outside deck and at least fifty floors, I gaped in awe. Shaped like a shark, the majestic ship boasted an air of confidence and domination, seeming to already have owned the ocean and its tenants.

“All aboard! Marco, Zak, Rachel, come on! Check this out!” Adrian exclaimed, now looking fresh, with khaki trousers and a vest that showed his toned muscles. Now he looked like a man that had worked in the Army, his muscles and straight posture signalling years of experience and hustle, and his brown eyes conveying courage yet a sense of caution.

Zak sprinted off to explore the endless number of rooms, whilst Rachel observed the view and I looked at Adrian, rather stunned.

“Ready for this, kid?” he asked.

“Umm, yeah I guess so.”

“Señor Ramirez told me that you’re a natural leader here, so I have high expectations from you.”

He walked off to the control room and started the ship, leaving me smiling at Señor Ramirez’s compliment.

I strolled to the outside deck, where it remained as picturesque as before, and gazed at the spectacular view in front of me. This was it.

The cruise ship’s engine roared into life and left the docking station, leaving behind my ordinary life.

I would soon return with the Golden Leaf as a much stronger boy, who’d endured hell and survived.


After what seemed like an eternity, Adrian slowed down the cruise ship. Immediately, we rushed to the edge of the outside deck to view the mysterious island and it was only within seconds that our positivity and enthusiasm had evaporated and condensed into fragments of apprehension and pure fear.

The beaming headlights of the cruise ship and the glowing full moon lightened up Stingray Island. With dark mountains overlooking the island, Stingray possessed an aura of insecurity and menace. Shrivelled leaves hung on the crippled aspen trees, whilst thick tree trunks lay sprawled all over the beach. The sharks – emasculated by the sheer immensity of our cruise ship - panicked and dispersed in aimless directions. As Adrian drove the cruise ship closer and closer to the island,

I looked at Zak and Rachel.

“Listen, it’s now or never. Let’s make everyone at home proud by bringing back this Leaf. Look how much we’ve gone through and endured to get to this stage. We are not leaving this island without that Leaf,” I declared firmly. 

Adrian gave me a nod and smiled.

“Yes, let’s do this,” Zak agreed.

Rachel nodded.

“Guys, we’ve reached now. Let’s go. Just remember, we look out for each other and especially remember this,” Adrian said sternly. “Locate the Leaf, get the Leaf and get back to the cruise ship. We will definitely encounter some obstacles, but we are prepared for that.”

I glanced at my watch with its sword and shield immersed. With Zak’s fighting skills and Rachel’s exceptional archery ability, retrieving the Golden Leaf seemed possible.

All we didn’t know was the precise location of the Leaf and how many soldiers and warriors stood in our way.

We were taking a leap into the unknown…

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