even numbered chapters by nooshin azadi
illustrated by rhoda penmarq
to begin at the beginning, click here
chapter 3: on the horizon
ships routinely came to port, sometimes to trade, more often because they had lost their way. the princess, on seeing them on the horizon, always thought them to be bringing news of prince carlo, but on finding otherwise, was invariably gracious and helpful to those actually arriving...
jimelda watched the latest ship approach as the rain fell a little harder. gruno produced a large red umbrella and held it over her. gruno himself and geova seemed indifferent to the wind and rain.
the ship, by no means the largest the princess had ever seen, came within hailing distance and a boat was lowered and approached the sea wall.
a young man in the uniform of a captain of the atlantean empire's navy stood in the front of the boat. a pair of elegantly dressed and coiffed ladies sat behind him, their heads covered by umbrellas held by a pair of sturdy sailors. two other seaman, a bear and a gorilla propelled the boat with perfectly coordinated strokes of the oars.
"good morning, sir," the princess shouted into the wind. "do you bring news of prince carlo?"
the captain smiled good-naturedly. "i think you have asked me the question before, miss. and since i haven't been here for at least a year i am sorry to hear you have still had no word."
the boat reached the wall and the sailors helped the two ladies on to the dock. both nodded politely to jimelda and headed toward the castle with their baggage and retinue.
the captain bowed politely to the princess and turned to go, but she held up her hand.
"stay a moment, sir. tell me, would it be possible to book passage on this ship, whenever you leave?"
geova and gruno exchanged glances.
"why of course, if you want to go where we are going. i can not alter my course for you." he smiled. "much as i would like to."
"so, you are not returning to the city of atlantis?" jimelda asked uncertainly.
"no." the captain glanced up at the sky. "and unfortunately my orders prevent me from telling you or anyone else at this port exactly where i am going."
"so you would have to take your chances on your destination."
beside jimelda, geova snickered openly at this.
"even so," jimelda told the captain, "i will consider it. tell me, when are you leaving?"
"at dawn, two days from now."
"and the cost of passage, for myself and my two servants?"
the captain glanced at geova and gruno. "it depends - on who you are."
"i am the princess jimelda."
"in that case, there will be no cost."
"thank you, captain - "
"johnson. captain johnson at your service, princess." he tipped his hat and headed for the castle.
the rain had picked up slightly. geova waited until the captain was out of earshot and laughed openly. "surely you are not serious."
"oh, i am very serious. i am afraid this encounter has opened my eyes. a year ago! it is high time we stopped waiting and started searching."
gruno scanned the darkening horizon. "perhaps you should wait for a sign."
"maybe - if one appears quickly enough," jimelda answered.
"look there." geova pointed to the skyline. a lone bird was barely visible.
"yes, i see it."
"if it's a blue bird we will go. and if it's a gray bird we will stay."
the princess smiled. "very well. but stay only until the next ship - and ask it."
"and if the bird is neither blue nor gray?" gruno asked.
"we will just wait here for another bird."
the rain fell a little harder.
"yes," said geova. "there are plenty of birds - and plenty of omens."