The Rambling Man stepped off the gangplank onto a mysterious island of silver. From behind, an evil leer split the Captain's grizzled face. He had ordered the Rambling Man out onto another excursion, same as before, threatening more harm to the crew if he didn't bring back anything more substantial than a box of bones and a singing ghost.
Journeying with the Rambling Man this time was Cory the monkey, scurrying excitedly along the ground with tail tightly curled, Old Man Durward, whole and hale and human once again, and, as ever, the Rambling Man's trusty lute.
A cold wind pressed against the Rambling Man's cloaked back as he passed through the gates of the silver city. The natural winds of the world had returned after the recent escape of the sea witch.
Once inside the city proper, the Rambling Man and his company of monkey and reanimated sailor passed by many squat buildings of tarnished, dusty silver. They, like the houses of copper,were left uninhabited and of mysterious origin. Their derelict appearance and dull reflections suggested no inhabitants had lived here for some time.
Once advanced to the silver-lined courtyard at the heart of the city, the three came upon an old man whose gray beard crushed the cobblestones and whose thick, flowing cloak was the color of the midnight sea. He faced the new arrivals with bright turquoise eyes and wrinkled features. His voice was deep as it flowed over them.
"Who dares disturb the King of the Sea in his private sanctum? Who dares disrupt the ruler of all the waters across the world? Who dares spoil my fair city with their--Oh, hey Durward."
"Ahoy, Richard!" cried out Old Man Durward with an energetic wave and a bright smile. The two approached, embraced like old friends, and jumped right into conversation and laughter. All the while the Rambling Man could only stand and state, bewildered and perplexed, but amused nonetheless. He looked down at the tiny monkey beside him, imploring him for answers and received in reply a very human-like shrug of his tiny shoulders. Then he trotted off to join the others. The three stood there, catching up on old times while the Rambling Man could only stand aside and watch, excluded and utterly confused.
When finally asked how they knew each other, the Sea King dismissed the Rambling Man with a wave of his hand, claiming that 'they had been friends in a previous life.'
"So, you've met my lovely wife, then?" posed the Sea Kind, his face screwing up in disgust as if biting into a soured lemon. He elaborated on the details of their unusual relationship, including how they had to construct entire cities a great distance apart to ensure that they would not accidentally happen into each other. The describe such an unsightly scenario, he made reference to the wrath of typhoons and of the raging ocean.
"And if you thought she was fun, you should meet my boy," he concluded with a sarcastic laugh.
Soaking in the Sea King's fantastic tale, of entire cities constructed to purposefully keep separate three members of their family, the Rambling Man was left more perplexed than ever. When he explained as much to the Sea King, the old man looked back at him with just as much confusion.
"We've been married over a thousand years. Why would we ever want to see each other again?"
The Rambling Man chewed that over a moment and, left without answer, he could only shrug and say, "I'll let you know if that ends up happening to me."
Surely he and his Sweetheart would still choose to be together after only a thousand years? They shared plans of one day vowing each others hand for no less than an eternity--an eternity of happiness, surely? In which occasions, he wondered, would not a blessed union fulfill itself to the very end?
Perhaps when you live to be over a thousand, things begin to look differently.
"What brings you to my city, anyway?" posed the Sea King to the Rambling Man, pulling him from his thoughts.
"I've been coerced into seeking treasure on behalf of a ship full of pirates. They're threatening harm to my crew should I come back empty-handed."
"That a fact?" considered the Sea King as a hand scratched his considerable beard. "I believe I could give you something to take care of that situation properly, as well as help our little friend here." Little Cory sat at the feet of the Sea King and screeched up at him, clearly eager to receive the old man's aid even without knowing what that assistance would entail. He was more than eager to be human once more.
"Your friend the pirate Captain carries with him an item of particular interest--one that still belongs to me," explained the Sea King. "A small chest, covered in bronze, silver, and gold. Never to be opened. Believe me when I say that the contents of this chest are nothing that man needs ever lay his eyes upon. It is my good fortune that the Captain did not take for himself the key along with the chest. And it is my son who holds that particular key now. With the chest carried by mortals, I no longer trust that key to his hands. He has proven himself to hold fancies for human women, and has by now likely given that key away as a courting gift to some young lass. We must retrieve for me this key to prevent it from ever being used."
"You will travel to the city of gold. There you will find what he amassed for himself: hundreds of villagers, living like kings themselves and forever loyal to him for his generosity. They are his chosen, and in that place there are no shortage of pretty faced to look upon, we can be sure of this. My son likes to take for himself everything that he enjoys, and you may find that he will defend them quite fiercely.
"You will return both the key and the chest to me to ensure that no human hands ever obtain both. The results would be even worse than a chance encounter with my wife, I assure you of this. Do this for me, and I will give you whatever your heart should desire.
"Now, for your pirate Captain, I already have something in the works to tide him over, so fret not over your friends waiting in captivity. This Captain should be very pleased with what you offer, but let's just say, in the end, it won't be quite what he expected..."