The pirate ship plowed unnaturally through the quiet waters to the superstitious pirates’ discomfort. And The Rambling Man sat pondering.
It was the princess who had caused all his problems in the first place, from her unfortunate proposal which led to her somber moods and her eventual disappearance. Somehow, he thought, she would be the key that would solve the problems. The old witch said to look for a champion. The one to drink the tears and all that. But The Rambling Man was not convinced that he was that champion. And so he sat and he thought until they arrived at the island.
It was no ordinary island. No, it was a mountain of bronze rising out of the still sea. The bronze had been carved or cast into an immense city with a great wall about it and many towers rising to poke holes in unsuspecting clouds. The bronze that was near the water had worn bright green which faded into mottled, weathered browns as it climbed away from the salty sea.
There was no movement in this marvelous city. No curtains fluttered in the solid bronze windows. No boats gather at the bronze piers. No soldiers marched along the protective walls. It was a silent and brooding city of metal. It was like a memory of a once colorful and living image, now but a faded-bronze photograph, tucked into a bottle and lost at sea.
The unnatural wind that filled the sails stopped blowing when the strange island came into sight. The pirate ship moved forward with momentum a little, then stopped dead. Grumbling, but somewhat relieved that the weird wind had stopped, the pirates put The Rambling Man in a little boat and rowed him the rest of the way to the island.
The Rambling Man paused only a moment on the lonely pier before boldly entering the city. He wondered why this city, which had clearly been so lovingly made, had been deserted. Though the roads were now coated in brown-green rust, there were places where the bronze showed through, polished to a once-glossy, and still somewhat slippery shine. He paused and slid his foot over a shiny spot, the heel of his shoe removing some of the dirt. Perhaps the roads had become too slippery and treacherous. Then there was the strong, almost overwhelming smell of metal. The sickening stench might have eventually become too much for the people.
The Rambling Man distracted himself with these thoughts as he made his way through the city. There was no use thinking about what was to come, as he would not know how to respond until he met what he was up against.
He turned onto a broad road near the middle of the city and there she was. She was tall, and wore a shimmering sea-green gown that flowed about her perfectly formed feminine body in delicate waves. Her broad shoulders were left bare, revealing soft milky-white skin. Her hair, dark as the deepest part of the sea, fell about her shoulders then down her back, mingling with the green of her dress until it reached the ground. Her face, with its perfectly sculpted nose and lips and high cheek bones, would be considered beautiful by any man or woman. But it was her eyes that trumped all. Large, deep, luminous and green, they seemed to look into The Rambling Man’s soul. She walked towards him slowly, and in such a manner that one could in no way mistake her for anything but a woman.
His eyes caught on her face and his heart caught in his chest. There was no way any man could have not been attracted to that wild and gorgeous face. Then he paused and in his mind brought up an image of his wife’s slightly rounded face and warm smile. The strange woman before him faded into an abstract and no longer desirable beauty in his mind. He smiled slightly at her and shook his head a little. She realized right away that her beauty had failed to trap this man, so she began to speak to him.
“Ah, little Rambling Man, your ramblings have brought you to strange places, far from your cozy home and far beyond your scope.” Her voice was soft and gentle and her words pierced right to his inner self. She now stood right before him, looking into his eyes with hers. “The world is big, and very dangerous. I can look after you here. We can wander this world together. Riches, I promise you, and adventures.”
The Rambling Man felt himself being drawn in, spellbound by her lovely voice. So he pulled back and began to speak himself. The first thing that came to mind was some of the strange poetry of the ghost. “Shantle thy grantle and tell me away. Time is a passing for you with me to stay.”
She ignored him and continued to speak in her soft-low voice. “The world is our home. The sea is our road.”
“Shiggle thy swiggle and talk to a toad. I long for the song of the last open road.” He chanted the words stiffly, forcing her voice out of his mind. As he did so, he removed his lute from its bag over his shoulder.
Her words slowly became more menacing as he pushed her out. But still she promised wonderful things that would tempt the heart of any adventurer.
The Rambling Man accompanied the last phrase of ghost-poetry with his lute and his voice rumbled deeply with song. “Wittle and mittle, I can’t go with you. My heart is in chains, my soul captured too.”
“I know that rhyming,” she hissed as her face transformed into a terrifying mask of fury. She stepped back and seemed to grow taller. Her dress raged about her like the sea in a storm. Her voice rose till it was like the howling of the wind among the waves and clouds began to gather in the sky above. She screamed curses upon the Rambling Man and he took a step or two back in fear and the tune of his lute died in his hands.
Then she began to chant. Wild, raging chants like one imagined one heard in the most ferocious of sea storms.
The Rambling Man realized right away that she was going to put a spell on him. But then he remembered something he had learned on his wanderings and courage filled him again and he spoke loudly out against her raging. “I do not believe that you can enchant me. You may be able to charm the sea, or the break the hearts of weaker men, but you have no power over me. I do not believe that you can cast a spell strong enough to change me. And you know the laws of magic. If the victim does not believe, the spell is useless.”
His words deflated her like a lake flowing through a broken dam and she shrunk down and the waters of her dress slowed their splashing. She wailed in defeat.
“What do you want of me Rambling Man?”
“Your chest of gold, and your word that you stop terrorizing people.”
“You can have you stupid chest. But my freedom is my own.” With those words she turned and stormed away along the bronze path. He followed her, stepping over the large chest that now lay in her wake. She turned off the road and climbed a thousand steps up a bronze tower. He waited at its base. After a few minutes she emerged at the top, a speck of billowing green in a bronze window. With a roar she leapt from the window. Her leap was so powerful that it brought her all the way over the bronze city’s towers and walls and she landed with an awesome splash in the now raging sea.
The Rambling Man sighed, put his lute away, and walked back to the chest. It took him a while to drag the chest through the bronze streets and back to the pier. When the pirates saw him come out they sent a boat to meet him. He sat upon the chest and watched them approach; the little monkey bouncing around in the stern.
Once aboard the ship, The Rambling Man sat down, exhausted, on the deck while the pirates went to work opening the heavy chest. When at last they had pried the lid open they all stepped back with cries of surprise. The Rambling Man rose and looked inside. There was no mounds of gold or necklaces of pearls. Nothing at all, except a pile of bones and a white human scull.
The mutterings of the pirates were interrupted by a familiar ghostly voice. “Wiggle your jiggles and get out of my way. You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for this day!” The dejected ghost, now very excited, pushed his way through the crowd of pirates.
When he reached the chest he gave a shout of joy and leapt into it. The bones moved then flesh formed around them and a moment later a man jumped out of the box. He looked like the ghost, only real now. He began dancing around on the deck for joy.
“What happened to our gold?” growled the ugly pirate captain.
“Oh,” the dancing man paused to respond, “she’s probably got it on her other island. The silver one.”
“Silver?” asked the Rambling Man.
“Yes indeed. It’s like the bronze one only made all of silver. It was I who filled your sails with wind, and although I can not do that anymore, because I’m no longer a ghost, I can give you directions to get you there if you like.”
“I do like,” said the pirate Captain.