The Galleon

Tuesday March 30, 2004 @ 04:26 PM (UTC)

← The Boy

Isabella and His Jubilant Might the Emperor Adelmar strolled down to the docks, with several chessmen following gravely. Halfway there, the Seneschal retreated in defeat, bearing the crown that Adelmar had pronounced too heavy for outside use. Only a few feet short of the water, Guano fluttered down to perch on a crate and address Isabella.

“Doll! Pal! Have I ever missed you! You’re such a…” the seagull’s eyes darted to Isabella’s coat pockets, “sensible person. D’ya have something to eat?”

Isabella shook her head sadly, passing an apple to Adelmar behind their backs. Adelmar was staring in frank amazement at the bird.

“What is that?” whispered the Emperor to the frank-faced lady beside him.

“A seagull, your Majesty.”

“Is it a sort of bird?” asked Adelmar in some doubt.

“Indeed, sire. A rather common sort of bird,” she said, pointing to the wheeling clouds of gulls above the dock.

“That explains it then. Do they all talk?” asked the boy, still shy of Guano.

“Not as a matter of course, no,” smiled Isabella.

Guano had watched this exchange with some interest, and, now that the boy-king’s eyes were on him again, became ingratiating. “Your…uh, Majesty, she said? You look like a very sensible person. And generous.”

Isabella nudged the Imperial Personage. The chessmen tensed as for an attack at the affront, but Adelmar did not seem to mind, and thrust the apple towards Guano.

“Sensible, did I say? Genius!” said Guano, and buried his beak in the fruit.

“I will see you later,” Isabella took her leave of the blissful bird gravely, and he murmured his goodbyes and thanks — it seemed — through a mouthful of apple that made them less intelligible than the squawks of the most stupid of his kin.

Isabella and the Many-Storied All-King made their way towards the docks, where row on row and rank on rank of black triremes sat passive and ready, swaying slightly on the breath of the waves. Isabella frowned into the distance, where the tidy order of the harbor was broken.

“What is that?” said Isabella, pointing to a ship right against the harborwall.

Adelmar squinted in the sun, but nodded, “That’s probably Eckbert’s Palace.”

“It’s a palace?” Isabella asked.

“Oh, yes. Eckbert is the only Emperor ever to have rebelled and built his palace outside the Avenue of the Emperor.”

“And it’s a ship?”

Adelmar nodded. “Everyone disapproves.”

“I think I like Eckbert,” said Isabella, “sounds sensible.”

And so they passed by a score of dour triremes, and stood in the shadow of Eckbert’s Palace. She was larger than any ship Isabella had ever seen, and Isabella was a child of the waves. She was a brilliant, joyous scarlet, with ribbons of egregious gilt tracing every shapely curve. She had three great masts, with strangely glistening sails furled at the ready. She exulted in her very garishness like a long-haired tortoise-shell cat, and her tier of shining windows gleamed like the smuggest smile.

“I think,” said Isabella to the small Emperor, “that we have found our ship.”

They climbed aboard by means of a gangway chessmanned into place at a thought, and surveyed the gleaming decks, the extravagant carvings, and the fine dark wood of the ship’s wheel. Adelmar smiled as the deck swayed gently under his feet, stared off at the sunlight glinting off the water, and turned his freckled face towards Isabella with a shy smile.

“I don’t think I want to be Emperor anymore,” he mused, and felt his heart grow light at the thought. He looked very thoughtful, and then said, unexpectedly, “Are elephants real?”

“I do believe they are, Your Majesty.”

“Then we’ll go where there are elephants.”

At this one of the chessmen, the harbormaster, apparently, from the shining anchor pinned to his robes, exclaimed, “But, your, uh, Extravagant Munificence! You are the Emperor! You cannot just leave!”

With the sunlight glowing through his wind-mussed hair, the little boy grinned a surprisingly gap-toothed grin and yelled in joy and excitement, “I go where I like, and I do as I please, and you can’t say better than that!”


‘Good day to you, Aubrey! I have here another letter from that dear Mrs. Whelan. She sends her very best. Please to read her latest story.’

‘Well now, what have we here? A talking bird?’

‘Damn you, Aubrey, read on, read on. Do you see how well she describes Eckbert’s Palace? Why, I daresay she has succeeded in rendering a positively nautical description of that fine ship!’

‘Indeed, indeed. Yes, positively nautical; a fine ship it must be. But I’ll have you know, Maturin - and Lord knows I should not have to tell you this - gulls cannot talk!’

‘Of course I know that, Jack. Why, if I am not mistaken, she says as much in the story. But you are missing the point, I think. I will leave you now; I must attend to my patient.’

‘Please to send Mrs. Whelan my compliments, and ask her if she had not considered a parrot instead of a gull?’

‘Yes, Jack. Of course.’

MWAHAHAHAHA! I have conquered the Captain at last! Of course, I’ll probably lose him again very soon—how can I long traverse the straight and narrow road of the possible?

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