It’s a tavern like many others – dim and smoky, with wooden tables and benches and a bar overflowing with flagons of ale. A Buxom wench takes charge of me as soon as I enter and steers me to a quiet table with a cheery, “don’t want to hang out with that scum, Ducks, I’ll look after you.”
She bustles off to get my order of ale and stew, and I sit back and look around. This may be an Island of Temples, but the worshippers in this particular temple are as scurvy a bunch as you can imagine. I am sure I hear AM’s laughter rising from the general hub bub.Scurvy knaves or not, they’d better watch their step with her!
I have wrapped my cards and placed them in a fold of my skirt, and I finger the medicine bag around my neck,wit E’s walnut safe inside.Wll I need it here, I wonder? But for all the noise and the free flowing ale, thee is no sign of violence or disrepect toward the few women. Perhaps its the presence of those buxom wenches, who look like they could beak a head or two.
Still, I can feel eyes boring into the back of my head. Is someone watching me, concealed in the tavern shadows?
The wench brings my meal and slaps it on the table. Her name is Alys, she says and if I want to stay the night she will see I get a clean room. I gratefully accept and fish out a few coins from the ship’s exchange from my purse. Alys is painstakingly honest, counting out the exact amount for the meal and board, refusing a tip.
“Doesnt go down well with the Goddess,” she explains, and then leans closer to whisper in my ear. “There’s a man been asking about you – he wants to join you at your table.”
“Is he all right?” I ask, trusting her judgement.
“Well, he’s a bit of all right, if you see what I mean,” she chuckles. “But as to the other way – he’s a blackhearted pirate, they say, but I’d trust him with me rent money.”
“And your virtue?”
“If I had any? As sure as eggs.” She chuckles again. “For all his piratical ways, he’s a gentleman -but a strange one. His name’s Sinbad.”
I catch my breath. “But I’m looking for him! Call him over.”
She bustles away and leaves me to savor my stew. A few moments later I feel a firm hand on my shoulder and look up.
“I’m Sinbad,” he said. “You must be the Gypsy.”
He takes the seat across from me and whistles for the wench, who materialises quickly out of the crowd.
“I’ll have what she’s having,” he says, and laughs.
“Are you – or did you used to be – Farakh Sinbar?”
“That was my name in another life,” he agrees. “I understand you are interested in my paintings?”
Lucky Enchanteur, I think, to count this vivid,exciting man as one of her former lovers – but not surprising either. They would have been well matched.
“Your art is so amazing, so miraculous,” I say. “How could you give it up?”
“It wasn’t that hard. I entered one of my own portals, but I did not make the same mistake as poor Bunty. I can come and go as I wish. I have many identities, in many places. Here I am now a pirate, because its one of the best things to be in Lemuria. Back in Atlantis, I am still Farakh, the name I was born wth. It was there I learned the secret of painting portals from a great master.”
“Atlantis,” I breathe. “I would love to go there – they say my people came from there. Is it true?”
“Do you really want to find out?” He asks teasingly. Then his meal is delivered and he raises his glass of ale to me. “Perhaps I wil show you how – but you must promise to do exactly as I say, or you will not be able to return.”
“I will,” I promise, and raise my glass. We are having a fine time over the meal. He is amusing company, and very easy on the eye. He points out various pirates to me in the Tavern, and tells uproariously funny stories of his life at sea. I can see why he loves it so, and why he has become a legend.
The time flies by, and then he says – with genuine regret, it seems – that he has to go. But first he asks the wench for pen and parchment.
“These are exact instructions for going through the portals and coming back again. You must not miss any step, especially the meditation. Bunty was too impatient as always. But you have learned the value of patience, I think.” He pushes the parchment across to me. “Remember, do exactly as it says, or you may not be able to come back”
As he rises to leave, he takes my hand and kisses me on the cheek. “We will meet again, Gypsy,” he says..
And now he’s gone, and I stare after him, the piece of parchment clutched in my hands. When I can tear my eyes back to it, the first words I see are…”Go to the Mirror Lake, and know who you are.”