The Captain's Quarters
You stride through the busy port town, taking in the delicious fragrances of savory street food, market stalls brimming with exotic spices, and flowers dripping from the lattices on the nearby buildings. The sun is warm and the sky above a pure, shining blue.
Stopping before a stall of ripe fruit, you purchase a mango, sweet and yellow. Another merchant waves to you, offering to sell you a silver knife. You exchange it for a few coins and then cut a slice off the mango and pop it into your mouth. It tastes fresh, sweet, and warm. Your pace slows as you continue.
At the end of the street, a great, sprawling harbor filled with tall sailing ships opens up. Colorful flags flutter in the fresh sea breeze. Gulls cackle as they dive for fish in the azure waters of the bay. All around you, busy sailors bustle, loading and unloading ships, whistling and singing as they work.
You pause to watch the seabirds playing. One catches your eye among the flocks of gray, white, and black fowl. A bright red bird with trimmings of blue and gold glides above the water before coming to roost in the boughs of a tree overhanging the bay.
Recognizing this vibrant bird as a parrot and wanting a closer look, you hurry down the docks and soon find yourself standing in the shade of the tree. The bird cocks its head to one side and looks down at you.
"Where'd you come from?" you ask.
The bird whistles and clicks its beak at you before calling out, "Hello!" in a croaking voice. You offer the parrot a slice of your mango, holding it out as high as you can. The bird hops down to a lower branch so it can reach your offering then greedily gobbles it up.
"Ahoy! Ahoy!" it calls out, walking up and down the branch. It extends a claw and you offer a second slice. It devours this and then hops upon your shoulder to preen your hair.
"Ahoy, matey!" It laughs in your ear, its voice merry.
The bird hops off your shoulder and begins to walk, not fly, back down the dock. It goes a few feet then looks back over its shoulder at you.
"Ahoy! Ahoy!" it says, its tone somehow coming across as an order.
With nowhere else to be, and entranced by this clever bird, you follow as it waddles up the dock, passing sailors and fishermen.
A man mending a net looks up and calls out, "Well, hello there, Bartholomew! Found yourself a new friend? The captain will be pleased."
The parrot nods and whistles before turning to climb a gangplank onto one of the stately ships.
When you hesitate the bird looks back at you and whistles. "Ahoy, Matey! Ahoy! Ahoy!"
Finally giving into your curiosity, you follow the bird up onto the deck where it takes flight and lands upon the shoulder of a barrel-chested man in a long red coat. A three-cornered hat trimmed with gold is perched upon his head, and a massive, bushy black beard covers most of his face.
Upon seeing you, he laughs merrily. "Looks like my Bartholomew has taken a liking to ye. Welcome aboard the good ship Sea Siren. What caused ye to tickle me parrot's fancy so?"
Sheepishly, you hold out the half-eaten mango, and the captain's laugh rings like a bell.
"Aye, that be the fastest way to Bartholomew's heart. Well, since he has stolen your rations, come aboard, and I'll share mine."
The captain leads you to his cabin. A tray of fruit, cheese, and bread sits upon a heavy, hand-carved wooden desk next to a crystal decanter of golden liquor and a stack of leather-bound books and charts. Upon entering the cabin, Bartholomew wings his way to a golden perch in the corner and carefully preens his gorgeous feathers. The captain offers you a comfortable chair and your choice of alcohol, tea, or coffee. You graciously accept your favorite.
"Ye seem new to these parts. A traveler perhaps?" he considers you with keen dark eyes.
You explain your purpose. You are a seeker of adventure, of beauty, of magic if such a thing exists.
His smile broadens. "Ah, adventure, beauty ... magic. I can tell you much of such things."
The captain spins yarns of the sea, of lost kingdoms on isolated islands, dolphins and mermaids, and the great monsters of the deep. You listen, enchanted, to epic tales of adventure and exotic shores. The ship rocks beneath you as the shadows grow long across the cabin.
The captain lights a candle, and its flames flicker against the polished brass and wood of the cozy space. It illuminates the charts upon his desk, maps of islands, continents, and far-off kingdoms.
Your head begins to nod, and the Captain gives you a knowing smile. As you drift off to sleep in your chair the last thing you hear is the whistling of Bartholomew on his perch and the crackle of the candle as it burns. Tomorrow will be yet another adventure, but tonight you are Bartholomew's guest, and that has earned you a stay in the Captain's Quarters.