The City

Monday August 25, 2003 @ 05:07 PM (UTC)

← The Trireme

The chessmen tilted their hoods in what might have been a quizzical gesture, but was certainly not an ominous one. Isabella shrugged, and said, “How about, take me to your leader?”

“A most daring request,” the middle chessman intoned.

“We must confer,” the right-hand chessman added.

“In private,” the left-hand warned.

Isabella did not budge, and so with a faint ‘tsk’ the chessmen floundered over the boulders until she and Brogg could not hear their conference. In a moment, they returned.

“You may travel with us and be awed by the Majesty that is the Empire and its Golden Visage.”

“Excellent,” said Isabella. The chessmen turned and streamed awkwardly towards the water. The little woman cocked her head at Brogg, who was looking dumbfounded. “If the tower’s comfy,” said she, “Go ahead and stay. But I’m not sure this lot is worth eternal devotion. They’re a bit pompous, it seems to me.” With an impertinence that almost broke her fingers, Isabella leapt up and pinched Brogg’s cheek before turning to go.

She traipsed over the boulders behind the chessmen and smiled to see that they did indeed have a boat, concealed at the foot of the promontory. It was grey, and flat, but it held the chessmen and Isabella perfectly well, and floated silently towards the trireme moored in the bay. Isabella jumped up and down, just to see, and the raft bobbed but continued unperturbed on its way. The chessmen turned to face Isabella, who said, “You know, scowls are more effective when one can see them.” The figures turned slowly away with an aura of affronted dignity. Isabella waved to Brogg, who was standing, confused and ponderous, on the rocky shore.

The raft met the trireme, and was raised to the deck with four lines. Isabella stepped off, sniffed the salt air, and smiled around. No one took any notice of her, moving as they did like self-important ghosts to their silent tasks. The ship slowly lurched into movement, the sails now tightly furled as if to impress upon the visitor still further that their ways were dark and mysterious. Isabella walked around the deck of the ship, peered at the unmanned wheel, and followed the hooded sailors on their pacing crossings of the forecastle. At last, she turned her face to the great gray mast in the calm blue sky, and climbed into the crows nest. There she produced a pear from her cloak, and wiled away an hour in snacking and attempting interrogation of the local gulls.

Finally, a stark white gull from the stern caught sight of the game of cat-and-mouse, or rather, gull-and-pear, that was transpiring, and rose to investigate.

“Refreshments can only be provided to intelligible sources,” Isabella was warning the squawking birds with a stern expression.

“Howzat now?” said the white gull, “I’m a seagull, not an intelligible source.”

Isabella smiled, “We shall see, and perhaps you shall eat.” The gulls who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, talk, settled onto the rigging with bad grace and much ruffling.

“You’re not a cat, are you?” the gull asked.

“No, why do you ask?”

“You climb up high and you’ve got a tail,” the gull eyed her braid.

“No, I’m a human being.”

“And that,” the gull pecked in the direction of her pear, “is something to eat.”

Isabella raised an eyebrow and held the pear even more protectively. “Do you travel with this ship much?”

“Off and on, last few months.” his beady eyes watched the remaining pear eagerly.


“Makes a change.”

Isabella nodded. “An excellent answer.” The seagull looked hopeful. “How does it move?”

The seagull looked exasperated. “I think something under the water pushes it.”

“What might that be, do you suppose?”

“I’m a seagull, not a scientist!”

“Indeed. What is your name, seagull?”


Isabella blinked. “May I ask why?”

“Simple. Guano’s white, so am I,” he cocked his head, “What? It’s not like they named me after something to eat or something insulting like that.”

“All right, Guano,” Isabella smirked, “Have a pear.” She produced a fresh pear from her cloak, and Guano retreated to the stern, dropping under his heavy burden and attempting to guard it from the swarm of argumentative seagulls. A chessman looked at the raucous birds, and up at Isabella. “Lovely day, isn’t it?” she called.

The hours passed in the rocking, breezy way hours do on a calm sea in a smooth and silent boat. Guano returned to the crows nest to offer information of dubious import in hopes of further payment, but the other gulls saw he would get naught and returned to their usual business. The sun put her toes into the ocean and dyed it with her radiance, spreading the red and violet behind her into the leaping waves. She sank into her damp slumber in a slow exhalation of color, and Isabella heard a chessman below ring a chime. On her left, as she watched the sunset a dark mass of land had crept up, and now stood quiet and dignified in the fading light. It was, of course, too dark to see it properly, but the frail pinpricks of human light and the regular, dark shapes scaling the skies told Isabella that she had come to a city. The ship entered the harbor under the watchful eye of a flame-tower, and the chessmen tied up to a rather obnoxiously clean pier. A particularly short chessman with a particularly self-important gait approached the mast and looked expectant, so Isabella shimmied down and smiled at him.

“The most Radiant and Scintillating Metropolis of his August Serenity Adelmar the Fourteenth, Emperor of the Perfect Lands of Hereabouts.”

“For a scintillating and radiant metropolis,” remarked Isabella as she gazed on the sleeping city, “it’s rather dark.”

A sniff caught her attention, and she turned to see a new, lean chessman walking up the gangplank, his black costume brightened with a steel pin in the shape of a coronet.

“His most Cogitative Excellency, the Seneschal,” offered the short one in a rather smug manner.

“How dare you mock the multifarious beauties of the resplendent Imperial Seat?” he said, in a rich, deep voice at odds with the slight width of his habit and full to the brim with indignation and repugnance.

“I go where I like, and I do as I please, and you can’t say better than that.”

The Palace →


I think I’m beginning to detect a pattern here…

Yup. I did want it to have some form, as opposed to just completely stream-o-something. Hope it doesn’t grate.

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