Sinbad and The Eye of the Tiger (29 page)

BOOK: Sinbad and The Eye of the Tiger
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At last he raised his hand for silence. A major-domo rang his iron staff upon the smoothed flagstone and there was silence once again.

“I, Kassim, Caliph of Charak, accept this honor.” The High Priest stepped forward and placed the crown upon his head. There was still another cheer, then Kassim spoke again. “May my uncle, the Grand Vizier Balsora, live nobly until the gods decree.” He held up a hand which now held the seal ring of Charak. “May peace be upon our land. May we prosper and grow old with honor and good deeds.”

Kassim’s dark eyes swung toward Sinbad. “And may Captain Sinbad always be my friend.”

There was a cheer and the loudest came from Sinbad’s half-drunk crew. Hassan could be heard to say,
sotto voce,
“It is always good to have rich friends.”

Kassim waited until the cheers had died down, then he spoke again. “May Captain Sinbad live well and prosper. He is always welcome here in Charak!”

Balsora turned from looking at his nephew to smile at Sinbad and Farah. “Always . . .” he said, then turned back as Kassim spoke again.

“He has refused my offer of a palace and gold,” Kassim continued and there were startled exclamations from his crew at the back of the throne room. “But one awaits him if he should ever decide to settle down. But he has said the sea is his home . . . and he has gone home . . .”

Balsora turned, “By the gods, Sinbad, you . . .” His voice trailed off. Neither Sinbad nor Farah was there. The Caliph looked around. He saw Sinbad’s crew streaming out through the portals of the throne room and pushed his way through the nobles.

The men were running toward the sea. Hassan swept a woman into his arm and gave her a kiss, then released her and shouted as he ran, “Something to spoil you for other men!”

Aboo-seer threw some gold coins to a merchant and grabbed some wine bottles. Achmed pressed a coin into the hand of a butcher and took with him a roasted lamb haunch. And ahead of them, running, were Sinbad and Farah.

Balsora stepped forth. “Sinbad, I thought you were going to . . . !” He blinked, then his voice grew rough. “No, don’t take Farah with you . . . !”

But the bearded seafarer had no intention of risking Farah on a voyage into the unknown. He stopped on the quay, next to the fine new vessel he had bought with Kassim’s gold. He kissed Farah hard and long as the crew boiled aboard and began hoisting sail.

“Goodbye, Sinbad . . .” Farah said softly.

“I shall return, Princess.” He grinned. “You know I must take a share of gold to Maroofs sister and to Ali’s mother.”

“Goodbye, Sinbad . . .”

“No, Princess, only until we meet again!” He jumped from the quay to the deck of his ship as it drifted away from the dock. He turned and shouted back, “I will come again.”

“But where do you go now?”

The sailor gestured west, then south and east. “There are lands I have not seen,” he shouted.

“Nubia,” Hassan cried. “Dark wenches and golden thrones!”

“Atlantis!” cried one of the sailors. “Emeralds as big as bird’s eggs and fruit that tastes like wine!”

“The Spaniards speak of El Dorado,” Oki cried from the mast top. “Streets of gold, bricks of silver, wine bottles carved from rubies . . . !”

“India,” Aboo-seer shouted out. “Great gray beasts with tails fore and aft . . . palaces beyond description . . . dark-eyed women swathed in mist . . .”

“Simrana, and Patanga, the City of the Flame,” a sailor cried, his one earring gleaming in his ear.

“Lemuria lies west,” another man shouted over the rustle of the rising sail. “Zothique lies south, past the Dragon Sea!”

Sinbad grinned at Farah and spread his hands. “See, Princess? There are more places to explore than time!”

“But . . .”

“Aye,” cried out the sailor they had taken to replace Maroof. “Prydain . . . Dalarna . . .” His arm swept south. “Stygia . . . Kush . . . Ophir . . .” He grinned widely, his teeth white against his dusky skin. “Gryphons to fight, milady, wizards to outwit . . . !”

Sinbad jumped upon the railing and clung to a line as he shouted back at the dock where Balsora joined Farah. “We might stop again with Melanthius and take him to the ends of the Earth—!”

“Sinbad!” shouted Kassim from the steps of the city gate, his arm around Dione. Sinbad waved at him as the ship swung into the wind.

“There are worlds to see,” Sinbad shouted as the ship came about.

“And women to please,” shouted Hassan.

Farah lifted a hand, then let it drop.

“You cannot hold the wind, daughter,” Balsora said.

“No, Father, I cannot. Nor can any woman.”

Sinbad’s ship picked up speed with the evening tide and was quickly outlined against the setting sun. Farah heard a final shout across the water but she could not make out what it was. The wind carried away the words.

“He will return,” Balsora said softly.

Farah nodded. “He will always return,” she whispered, but her words were lost in the evening wind. She watched from the quay until the ship was over the horizon, dead into the setting sun.

A gull limped across the graying sky. The water was sleek and almost oily, reflecting the crimson clouds. The waves lapped on the beach.

Then it was dark.

In the darkness by the gate stood a heavily veiled woman. Perhaps it was a flicker from the campfires that were being lit, perhaps a stray moonbeam, but her eyes above the veil seemed to glow. They were slanted, almond eyes, and they burned . . . dangerously.

BOOK: Sinbad and The Eye of the Tiger
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