The Rambling Man stepped off the gangplank onto a mysterious island of silver, while behind him an evil leer scarred the Captain's grizzled face. He had ordered the Rambling Man out onto another excursion, same as before, threatening that if he didn't bring back anything more substantial than a box of bones and singing ghosts that he would cause harm to the crew.
Journeying with the Rambling Man this time was Cory the monkey, running excitedly along the ground with tail curled; Old Man Durward, whole and hale and human 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 with 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 and dusty silver. They, like the houses of copper, were uninhabited, and of mysterious origin. Their derelict appearance and dull reflections suggested that this place had not been inhabited for some time.
Once at the silver-lined courtyard at the center of the city, the three came upon an old man whose gray beard brushed the cobbles and whose 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 and flowing.
“Who dares disturb the King of the Sea in his private sanctum? Who dares disturb the ruler of all the waters across all the world—oh, hey Durward!”
“Ahoy, Richard!” called Old Man Durward with an energetic wave of his arm. The two approached, embraced like old friends, and began carrying on with light conversation and laughter, all the while the Rambling Man could only stand and stare, bewildered and perplexed. Puzzlement read naked across his face. He looked down at the tiny monkey, who actually shrugged back up at him then trotted off to join the others. The three stood there catching up on old times while the Rambling Man could only 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 King, 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 distance apart to ensure that they wouldn't accidentally see each other. To describe that unsightly scenario, he made reference to the wrath of typhoons and of the raging ocean.
“And if you thought she was a fun, you should meet my boy,” he concluded with a sarcastic laugh.
Soaking in the Sea King's unusual tale, of entire cities constructed to purposefully keep separate the three family members (two persons married, one person born), the Rambling Man was left perplexed. When he said as much to the Sea King, the old man looked back at him as perplexed as he felt.
“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 only shrugged.
Surely he and his sweetheart would still choose to be together after only a thousand years? They had vowed each others hand for no less than an eternity of happiness. In which occasions, he wondered, would not a blessed union fulfill itself to the very end?
“What brings you to my city, anyway?” posed the Sea King to the Rambling Man, pulling him from his thoughts.
“I've been forced to seek 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?” asked the old Sea King, with a hand scratching 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 clearly excited at the idea of being his human self again.
“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 with copper, 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 that 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 in his hands. He has proven 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 prevent this from ever happening.
"You will travel to the city of gold. There you will find what he has 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 faces to look upon, we can be certain of this. My son likes to gather for himself everything he enjoys, and you may find that they will defend him quite fiercely.
"You will return both the key and 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 this. Do this, 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, by the end, it won't quite be what he expected...”