The king of the sea arranged for a deep and fast current to guide the pirate ship through the ocean to the distant city of gold. Three days and three nights after their meeting with the king of the sea they arrived at the golden city.
Dawn arrived with a flash of brilliant light across the tattered sails and quickly turned the sky to cyan blue and the ocean to glimmering, light-filled sea-blue. It could not have been a more glorious day that the tiny pyramid of gold appeared on the far horizon. As they neared it, they saw similar fortresses and buttresses and walls as had graced the silver and bronze cities. But these were alive with blue flags and laughing children and pacing soldiers. The city was blinding in the white morning sun which reflected off the many smooth golden surfaces.
They could hear the hubbub from the city across the waters as once again a little boat was lowered. Cory sat on The Rambling man’s shoulder, absentmindedly plucking dark locks of hair out of the thong that held them out of The Rambling man’s face and feeding them through his little gray fingers. The little monkey chattered away to himself as they approached the city, caused The Rambling man to wonder if the man hiding in the monkey’s skin was a talkative fellow.
When the boat bumped up against a golden pier, three sailors right away secured it. And when Old Man Durward and the Rambling man, with monkey and lute, stepped onto the golden boards, there were four tall, handsome and immaculate city guards in blue and gold uniforms standing straight to greet them and guide them to the palace.
The city was full of music, laughter and industry. And everywhere, everywhere—gold.
“If there was ever a perfect city,” spoke Durward, leaning close to the Rambling man, clearly made nervous by all the action and noise, “it was this one.”
“Oh, I’m sure it’s got it fare share of problems, like every other city. They just don’t lie on the surface here,” replied the Rambling man, who was wise to the ways of the world.
Suddenly, at his words, a silence and stillness fell on all those around who had heard and a big man, large golden bellows still grasped in his hands stepped towards them, saying, “there are no problems here. The city of the prince of the sea is a perfect city in every way.”
“Oh, yes, of course,” said the Rambling man, quite aware that he was very outnumbered by the large circle of onlookers who had suddenly become silently menacing and unsure if the four soldiers standing around him would be on his side. “I am new here and but spoke out of ignorance. I do beg your pardon,” and with these words he performed an elaborate low bow which made Cory shriek and cling to his hair, but from which he rose gracefully from all the same.
The Rambling man’s charm and apology calmed the tension and everyone returned to their happy work and play. The sailor and the Rambling man moved on, and the Rambling man muttered wisely only for Durward’s ears, “as I was saying.”
The palace was magnificent, inside and out, and the many courtiers who filled the great throne room, dressed in the finest blue and gold were even more gorgeous than the Rambling man had thought possible. They milled about, amusing themselves with food, music and conversation. Many paused to watch the travel worn Rambling man and his strange and dirty companions, still guided by the four stiff soldiers, pass through the massive room towards the throne. There were probably twice as many young women in the room as there were young man, but every face and body, male and female alike was brilliant in the full beauty of youth and vigor.
When they neared the throne, the Rambling man’s eyes were drawn to the man on the throne. The Prince of the Sea was a gorgeous young man, with a perfect masculine body draped most stylishly in lavish blue and gold. A delicate golden band circled his straight black hair that glimmered a mysterious deep-sea blue fell down behind his back. A perfectly sculpted face, with large dark-blue eyes presented a slightly bored expression to the world.
Standing by the prince’s throne, with her hand resting gently on his forearm was a most beautiful young lady. She and the Prince were in conversation when the Rambling man, pirate and monkey approached and it was not until they looked up that the Rambling man recognized her.
It was the princess who he had left his home and wife to seek. The woeful one who had wept for weeks on end and refused to wear colour. But how could it be that she stood here, arraigned in lovely clothes and more beautiful than ever before and a clear favourite of the prince of the sea? Her eyes met his and he knew she recognized him. Then his eyes moved from her face and caught upon a glittering piece of jewelry that graced her milk-white neck. It was a delicate and ornate golden key upon a golden chain. The Key--he had little doubt of that.
“Who are you and what unnatural current of the sea brings you to my hidden city of gold?” the Prince demanded of the Rambling man and his companions.
Durward stood stiff and wide-eyed, and Cory cowered in the Rambling man’s hair, so it was up to him to respond.
“We come with greetings from your good father and with the gravest of news.”
“Alright,” the Prince lounged on one of his arm rests and took the princesses delicate hand in his strong one. “But you have ignored my first question. Who are you?”
“I am known as The Rambling Man, and this is Cory and this; a friend of your father’s, Old Man Durward.”
“The Rambling Man, eh? Do you then play that lute you carry, or does your monkey?” a crooked smile crossed his perfect lips and his courtiers laughed.
“I do play upon it.”
The Prince nodded slowly. “Now, you say that you bear grave news. What is that?”
“In brief, it is as follows. Your mother has been captured by Golgolorth, the Stone King of the mountains. He has fallen in love with her and keeps her in his mountain fortress to please him.”
“And what does that have to do with me?” asked the Prince, not moved in the least.
“You know very well that with your mother absent the sea will rebel and, according to ancient prophesy, if she remains gone to long, none but her son will be able to stop its raging and that only at the forfeit of his own life.”
“Prophesies, prophesies, I tire of prophesies. How do I know this, that my mother is captured, to be true?”
“It was your father who spoke this information to me through this truth-shell—” as he said this, the Rambling man produced with a flourish a glimmering white conk shell.
Mutterings filled the crowd around at the presence of the extremely rare and precious shell that prevented anyone who spoke into it from lying.
The Prince on his throne looked at the Rambling man and his ragged companions for a long moment. Then abruptly declared: “Soldiers, bring these visitors to the guest hall and see that they are looked after. I will decide what to do with this news.”
And so, without the Rambling man even getting a chance to exchange a few words with the princess, they were ushered away, out of the shining court, down many shining passageways and to a lovely shining golden guest suite.