"I'm sorry?" he said, confused.
"You should be," Elise said, waving her hand. Immediately, the shallow young man disappeared in a puff of smoke. She continued eating her dinner. Maybe it was her omnipotence, but interesting dinner companions were getting harder and harder to find.
Suddenly a thought came to her in the middle of her moussaka. What if, she started looking for men sorely based on their conversational skills? That might work. Still, she had better get looking. There weren't a lot of eligible men in the area, and if she wanted a dinner partner for tonight she hadn't much time.
"Ha! Finally, Little Brother, we can get some much needed shore leave." said Doubar, clapping Sinbad on the back.
"That's true, Doubar," Sinbad replied, rubbing his back,
"And I for one don't want to waste a minute."
They both looked out at the horizon, a straight blue line that was marred only by a small island right in the middle of it. The island was the island Rium, a beautiful vacation spot.
It had several rather large villages on it, and the trade was kept brisk by the mines which produced diamonds of a excellent quality. It was also famous for an oracle, who dispensed predictions to any traveller, regardless of religion. Sinbad and his crew--his brother Doubar, the sorceress Maeve, the speechless Rongar and the scientist Firouz-- had all been looking for some much needed R&R.
Suddenly from below deck there came several shouts, and a great billowing of smoke. Rongar and Firouz both came running out, covered in soot. Sinbad went down to help them, since they were both choking and coughing. "What on earth happened?! Firouz, what did you blow up now?!"
Firouz stopped dusting himself off to give Sinbad a nasty glare. "I resent that implication."
"Fine. Resent it all you want. What did you blow up?"
Firouz sighed. "I was working on an experimental fuel."
"It blew up."
"Ah." Sinbad helped Firouz and Rongar to brush the soot off their clothing. Not that it was easy to get it off. "You'll both have to change, you know. We won't make a very good impression in the town with you like that."
Firouz snorted. "I'm not going to the town."
Sinbad was shocked speechless, as was Rongar and Doubar, although in Rongar's case it didn't make much difference. "Why would you not want to go to town?! We've been stuck on this crate for months!" exclaimed Doubar, ignoring Sinbad's glare on the insult of his ship. "I'm sorry, Little Brother, but any ship gets like that after a while. Firouz," said Doubar, putting his foot down, "You are going ashore." The scientist stared at Doubar.
"No I'm not?" he said incrediously. "I'm staying here to work on my fuel. It's made out of a miraculous substance I found. Although it looks just like plain black goo, I believe it can be used for many different--"
"Firouz." started Sinbad, both of his hands on Firouz's shoulders, "You have been working far too hard, and far too long. You need a break."
Firouz shook himself free. "No, I'm not. You don't understand. This fuel could be the answer to fuel problems everywhere. We could use it as barter, we--"
Doubar laughed, a short bark. "Now I know you need some time off. The world is never going to revolve around black goo."
Firouz sighed. He studied the faces of his captain and first mate. "I don't really have a choice, do I?" he said softly.
Sinbad laughed and clapped his arm over Firouz's shoulder. "Not really."
"And then I said, get your own moussaka! Ahaha!" Doubar's booming laugh echoed, drowning out the laughter of his crew mates.
"See?" Sinbad remarked to Firouz. "This is way more fun than sitting in the ship working." He took another sip of his ale. Suddenly his head swivelled 180 degrees and he whistled. Doubar, Rongar, and Firouz turned to see what he was looking at, and were all suitably impressed. It was a young woman, with waist long black hair, and violet purple eyes. She was at the counter, taking off her purple velvet cape, revealing the blue robes underneath.
Maeve gave Sinbad a playful shove. "Don't forget to breathe," she said with a smile. Sinbad gave her a grin, both eyebrows raised. "Or blink," she added.
Sinbad sat up, straightening his vest. "I have the feeling this night is only going to get better," he said with a smirk. Doubar cheered his brother on. "Just remember you have to be back tomorrow!" Doubar said with a grin.
"That's negotiable, since I'm the captain," replied Sinbad. Doubar whacked him on the back, and started laughing again. Sinbad sauntered off, and was soon talking to the young lady.
The whole crew watched Sinbad out of the corners of their eyes.
"He'll buy her an ale," predicted Doubar. Sure enough, within a few moments, Sinbad was signalling the barkeep. Doubar laughed, pleased at his accuracy.
It was obvious to everybody (even Firouz, who was not paying much attention) that the young lady was clearly attracted to Sinbad. Even though they were to far to pick up the coversation (unforunate for Maeve, who wanted to know which exact cheesy pick-up line Sinbad was using from his vast repitoire) but the body language was as clear as glass. With in five minutes Sinbad had his arm around her, and within ten they were kissing in the corner.
Doubar was extremely proud. "That's my little brother!" he exclaimed. Maeve merely rolled her eyes.
Firouz, in the meantime, had tried to keep his intellect occupied by explaining (in great detail) his theory on the beginning of the universe to Rongar. Truth be told though, he might have been better off discussing it with a wall, because the wall wouldn't have been making bets with Doubar on Sinbad's progress.
"Hey, he's bringing her over here!" exclaimed Doubar. Firouz looked over. Sinbad was indeed back at the table with his date. He introduced her to all his crew. They sat down, and got another ale.
And so passed the evening. It was a good night for everyone, full of ale, good stories, and in Firouz's case, good theories. Sinbad's date--he had forgotten her name, and was far too embarrassed to ask--was actually a scientist! She was up on all the new improvements as well.
"So you built, a, what was it called?"
"A ruby beamer."
"That's it. Very ingenious, Firouz. Very ingenious." she smiled at him, and Firouz got all tongue-tied.
"Well, uh, it was, uh, nothing, really." he stuttered. "Just based on, um, some, uh, experiments I had, you know, lying around, umm, yeah." He suddenly developed an incredible interest in the bottom of his glass.
"Now, now, don't be modest." she said, smiling even more. Firouz only concentrated more on his glass. Sinbad cleared his throat. Firouz looked up, grateful for the distraction. He was painfully aware he was on the verge of stealing Sinbad's date. Then he realised, that was pretty silly: who would dump Sinbad for him? Sinbad cleared his throat again.
"Maeve tells me we had better head back to the ship. Dermott has seen some strange people skulking around, and we should check it out." Maeve, Doubar and Rongar nodded in agreement.
Firouz nodded as well, stood up, put down his glass, and was the first out the door. The woman laughed.
"Well, my dear, it's been a pleasure," said Sinbad, gallantly kissing her hand.
"All mine," she replied with a laugh.
"I hope we can do this again some time," continued Sinbad. He was unable to listen to her reply for Doubar sticking his head around the door and yelling "Little Brother!"
"Must be off," Sinbad said. He sauntered off, and blew a kiss.
The woman laughed and returned it. When he was gone, she laughed again, pleased that things were going so well.
They returned to the Nomad within a few moments, but the men seen sneaking around it were long gone. "Let's go see if anything has been taken," suggested Sinbad. The crew nodded in agreement, and split off to search their respective quarters.
Maeve checked through her magical equipment, and clothes. Nothing missing. Rongar, Doubar and Sinbad all had the same outcome. Although it looked as if someone had been through their rooms, nothing was taken.
Suddenly, from below decks, there was shouting and curses. Firouz stormed his way up, yelling the whole time. "They stole all of my experiments!" he fumed. "All of them! Every single one! Gone! That's YEARS of research!"
Doubar followed up behind them. "At least nothing valuable was taken." Firouz turned towards him.
"How can you say that? That stuff--"
"Was nothing more than trinkets and toys. You waste far to much of your time with those baubles." boomed Doubar. Firouz was incredulous.
"I can't believe you! How many times have my inventions gotten us out of trouble?"
"How many times have they GOTTEN us in trouble?"
"Gentlemen, please!" Sinbad stepped in between the two, who looked as though they were ready to rip each other's throat out. Sinbad fixed a stern glance on his brother. "Doubar, Firouz's inventions have been a lot of help," and to Firouz he said "But Doubar is right. You spend far to much time working on them."
"We have a bigger problem at hand, Sinbad," interrupted Maeve. "If someone has a hold of Firouz's inventions, who knows what could happen?"
Sinbad nodded. "First thing in the morning, we will mount a search for them. We can't let them fall into the wrong hands." The crew then split up, leaving Firouz on the deck by himself. He sighed a really loud sigh, and looked up at the sky. "They're only trinkets and toys," he muttered sarcastically, "But Allah knows, in the wrong hands..." He started back towards his quarters with one final shake of his head.
The next day started as innocently as any other. The sun shone, the birds were singing, and everything seemed almost perfect.
"I can't believe it, Rongar! I just can't believe it! Gone! All of it! All my work, all my experiments, all my theories...all gone."
Rongar nodded sadly. "It's just insane!" Firouz continued ranting. Rongar nodded again, unable to offer anything else in way of condolences.
Sinbad came on deck. "What's all this racket?" he said irritably. Rongar pointed at Firouz, who was telling all of his problems to a nearby seagull. "Oh." Sinbad rubbed his temple. He had had far to many ales last night, and now he was paying for it. "Firouz!" he yelled, wincing, "Do you think you could keep it down a bit?"
Firouz looked up startled. "What?"
"Could you keep it quiet. I know you're upset, but there isn't any reason to make us suffer as well!"
Firouz muttered something.
"What?" asked Sinbad. "I can't hear you."
"I said: SORRY TO BOTHER YOU!" Firouz yelled. Sinbad and Rongar were both taken back. They had never seen the usually calm inventor so angry. But Sinbad was in no mood to be sympathetic. His head hurt. His stomach hurt, he hadn't had any sleep what with Doubar snoring, and now Firouz was getting all wound up because of something that would probably turn out to be harmless anyway.
"Firouz," yelled Sinbad, "Why don't you just grow up, and live with it! They are gone, okay?! Make some new ones if you have nothing else to do!"
Firouz went very red in the face. He started to say something, but stopped. Instead, he turned, and stomped off the ship. Rongar started to follow him, but Sinbad held him back.
"Let him be," he said, "He probably wants to be alone."
Firouz sat down with a thump and sipped at his ale. It was the horrible bitter crud that they served last night, but as Doubar would have said, "Bad ale is better than no ale." Which didn't suit Firouz all that well, as he wasn't that much of a drinker. Only in the company of friends, etc. And well, maybe days like today.
It really hurt the way they took him and his inventions for granted. Doubar was especially bad. He would make fun of them to Firouz's face, and then forget to say thank you when Firouz had pulled him out of yet another scrape using Science.
Maybe that's it, thought Firouz glumly. Maybe they just don't like Science. Maybe they would just be happier living in the Dark Ages and relying on Magic. That thought pushed him deeper into his depression.
"Hey, why so glum?"
Firouz whirled around at the voice. It was the woman from last night. She sat down next to him. He returned to staring into his glass. "Well?" she said, with just a hint of amusement.
"It's nothing," he said, trying to sound like he meant it.
"Nothing? That's odd. Looks like something to me."
"Well it isn't."
"Um hm." she said. Firouz looked up at her. There was no trace of amusement on her face. She actually cared about how he felt. All the embarrassment and hesitation disappeared, as if they had never been.
"It hasn't been the best of days," he admitted. "In fact, all of my work--my experiment, blueprints, models--everything is gone. Stolen. While we were here, last night."
"That's terrible!" the woman exclaimed. "That really is dreadful. What will you do now?" Firouz shrugged.
"Start over, I suppose." The conversation started from there, and was off to a flying start. They had so much in common. He could even look her straight in the eye, he discovered. He had never been able to do that, with pretty women, in fact with any women at all. (Except, of course for Maeve, but that was because she was a close friend.) He felt comfortable, really comfortable, as if he was just sitting here talking to Sinbad, or Rongar. He stared at his half empty glass. Maybe it wasn't so mysterious after all....
"My," the woman exclaimed. "Look at the time." Firouz glanced out the window. It was the middle of the afternoon already. "I don't suppose you have any dinner plans," she asked coyly.
Firouz nearly choked on a sip of ale. He started coughing. The woman patted his back. "Because if you don't, I'd love for you to visit my villa and have dinner with me. You're very interesting, and no doubt have lots of interesting topics on your--" her voice was almost a purr now, "--Scientific mind."
"Thank you," spluttered Firouz. "That's very kind." She looked at him inquiringly, her head tilted at a slight angle. Firouz thought once of Sinbad, and smiled. "In fact, I have no prior plans, and would be delighted to join you."
"Marvellous. Shall we go?" She stood up. Firouz started to pay for his ale, but the woman stopped him. "It can just go on my tab," she said, nodding at the barkeeper. Firouz shrugged and smiled. He stood up and offered her his arm. She took it, and they strolled toward a door in the back.
"By the way," said Firouz slowly, "I am truly sorry, but I seem to have forgotten your name. I'm not very good with them," he added, apologetically.
"No problem." She smiled. "It's Elise."
Sinbad strolled into the bar, looking for Firouz. The inventor hadn't come back, and it was nearing evening. Doubar joined him a moment later. "Rongar and Maeve searched the market." he shook his head. "No sign."
Sinbad sighed. He hadn't meant to be so curt with Firouz, but he was in a bad mood. Not to mention Firouz was carrying this whole lost-experiments thing to far. Rongar and Maeve walked through the door. Maeve wore an expression of annoyance. "Why are we looking for him? He is a grown man, you know, Sinbad. Maybe he decided to have dinner out."
"I know he's an adult. But this is Firouz we're talking about. He never wanders off. Ever." Sinbad tried to explain.
Doubar laughed. "Maybe he's found somebody interesting to take to dinner. Maybe that woman you met last night, Sinbad." The crew had a big laugh.
"Seriously, where could he have gone?" asked Sinbad.
"Why don't you ask?" said Maeve, pointing. Sinbad whirled around, to see the barkeeper washing the bar.
"Good idea, Maeve." he strolled up. "Hello there, good barkeeper. Perhaps you've seen one of my crewmates? He's about this tall, curly hair--"
The barkeeper looked at Sinbad as if he was mad, and possibly contagious. "I see lots of men, in here," she said slowly. She thought for a moment, then said: "Did he talk a lot about `Science'?"
"Yes!" said Sinbad joyfully, whacking the bar top. The barkeeper looked at his hand distastefully. He gingerly removed it. She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear, and gestured to the back door. "He left with the Oracle, I'm afraid."
"Why does that make you afraid?" asked Maeve.
"You aren't from around here, are you?" They all shook their heads. She sighed.
"The Oracle lives on the mountain. She's immensely powerful. Some even say she's a goddess. She lived fine enough until her husband died, about seven years ago. She got lonely--who can blame her?--and so invited people to come and have dinner with her. The ones who were, I guess good dinner partners, got rewarded, usually by finding a diamond mine, or something like that, but the boring ones, well, they never came back. So many disappeared, that people are afraid to visit her. And that means, well--"
"What?!" all asked in unison. Her voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper.
"Some say, that she's so lonely, she's resorting to making people visit her. Using magic. It's the only way to explain how people who are afraid of her go have dinner with her."
"Oh no," groaned Doubar. "Firouz has been kidnapped."
"Where did they go?" demanded Sinbad. The woman sighed and rolled her eyes. She pointed to the door. "Oh, right." Sinbad unholstered his sword, and ran to the door. He tried to open it, but it wouldn't budge. "Doubar..."
Doubar ran to the door, but even though he hit it with enough force to send it flying, it didn't even move an inch.
"Umm, you can't go through there."
"Why not?" Sinbad said in exasperation.
"It's the Oracle door. Only the Oracle and her, ahem, friends, can go through there."
Doubar humphed and charged the door again. It didn't so much as quiver. The barkeep looked faintly annoyed. "I said, you can't go through. Can't. It's magic." she said, in a tone of voice reserved for talking to two-year-olds.
"Then we will go the other way," said Sinbad.
"Be my guests." She turned and started putting mugs away.
"Come, men, and Maeve," Sinbad commanded. "Let's rescue Firouz."
Firouz walked through the back door, expecting the outside of the inn, a small dingy courtyard, complete with goats. But instead he entered a veritable paradise...
It was an atrium, all white marble and lush potted plants. Some of the plants were actually trees, and he plucked a peach as he walked by. "This is amazing, Elise," he said. She simply grinned. "But tell me," he said, taking a bite out of the peach, "How did we get here from the inn?"
Elise smiled again, this time a small, secret grin. "I have my ways." Firouz shrugged and continued to marvel at his surrondings. As he finished the peach (which was delicious, one of the best he'd ever had) he looked around for a place to put it. The place was so beautiful, he didn't want to spoil it by littering.
"Oh, don't worry about that," Elise said. She waved her hand, and the pit disappeared. Firouz looked at her in astonishment. "I'm a sorceress, of sorts," she explained. "I practise magic."
"Ah," he replied.
"But I am far more interested in Science. Now, what would you like best for dinner?"
Firouz thought for a moment. "I'm not really fussy. Anything is better than ship's gruel and hardtack."
Elise laughed. "Then we will have one of my favourite delicacies. It's very good."
"I don't doubt that," Firouz said, looking in to her eyes. She returned the look with a steady gaze, until Firouz felt very uncomfortable, and looked away. She laughed nonetheless.
"Come, let's go to my study," she said snuggling into his shoulder. Firouz got a very funny feeling, but decided to leave her where she was.
Sinbad repeated his question. "Where would I find this `Oracle'? It's imperative that I find her." He was met with yet another look. Everybody in this town seemed to think him insane.
Then Maeve couldn't take the strange looks any more. She grabbed the fruit seller and held him by his collar. His feet were now dangling, and he wore a panicked expression.
"She lives on the mountain," he cried. "Go to her, if you are so weary of life!" Maeve dropped him suddenly. She stared at Sinbad with a worried look.
"I know, but don't worry, we'll find him." he said, confidently. He looked at the mountain, and could make out a small temple at the top. It should take an hour at the most to get to the top, but who knew what sort of dangers were along the route.
"C'mon then. We haven't got much time to lose."
The way up the mountain was hardly treacherous. There was a wide, well kept path to follow, with fruit trees growing along the sides.
"Oh yeah, really dangerous." snorted Maeve. Sinbad glowered. "Oh wait! I think I see a rock in the middle of the road! Watch out! We might all trip!" She laughed.
"Shut up, Maeve," snapped Sinbad. "How was I to know the Oracle was the biggest tourist attraction in these parts?"
Doubar snickered. Sinbad sighed, and wondered why, not for the first time, why he had decided to bring this brother along? He always ganged up on him, even as a child.
The large house/temple loomed ever closer. It was tall white marble, and it was almost impossible to miss. In fact, you would have to walk backwards to not see it. Even then, there were signs posted every few yards.
"Oh no!" cried Maeve. "I think I see a squirrel! Quick, Sinbad, it might eat us!" she started laughing hysterically. Doubar joined in merrily.
"I'm glad you're having so much fun at my expense," said Sinbad sourly.
"That's what you're here for, after all, Little Brother," Doubar boomed. Sinbad rolled his eyes, and continued walking.
"So you think that the Universe was actually created from the remains of another universe? Incredible!" Firouz shook his head.
"What's so incredible about it?" asked Elise.
"Just the conclusion you made...however did you arrive at it? Can I see your evidence?"
Elise had to keep from stifling a laugh. Firouz was so sweet, with his excitable curiosity. He was sweet-looking too, which made her evening even more enjoyable. She had to think quickly for an explanation. She didn't think that he would be satisfied with "I just know" as an answer. "I suppose you could see the evidence." she said slowly. "But first, let's chose our menu, shall we?" She clapped her hands.
Immediately a young servant woman appeared from around the corner. She bowed to both Elise and Firouz. "What would you like?" she asked. Firouz shrugged.
"Whatever you would like, Elise." he said. Elise nodded. She turned to the servant.
"We'll have for a main course the delicacy from Italy. I think some fruit for dessert, as well. And wine. Gaulish." The servant bowed again, and left with her orders. "Now," said Elise, taking Firouz's arm. "I think I'll let you see my `evidence'." They took a stroll across the courtyard as Elise continued. "I have never shown anyone else this, Firouz. I have never been able to find--with the exception of my late husband--someone who was able to appreciate, even comprehend my... collection."
They reached a door, made of marble, and virtually blending in with the rest of the wall. It had no handle or hinges that Firouz could see. "What collection?" he asked. Then: "How does the door open?"
Elise laughed. She waved her hand and the door began to slowly open. "It's my collection of...everything."
The door opened, and Firouz was stunned speechless, beyond words, beyond even thinking.
"Come men! And Maeve!" shouted Sinbad. "We'll break down the doors!" Doubar nodded, and rushed toward the solid marble doors of the Temple. At the last minute, however, the doors opened, and he went sailing through.
"Can I help you?" asked the door-opener, who strangely looked like the barkeeper.
"We're looking for our friend," Sinbad declared, "And we won't leave until we've found him."
"Yeah, well, your friend is busy. Come back tomorrow, okay?" she started to close the door, but Doubar picked her up by the collar.
"Where is Firouz?" he snarled. The girl shrieked and struggled.
"He's with--you're hurting me!--the Oracle! And there's nothing you can do about it!" she tried wriggling out of his grasp, to no avail.
"There must be some way to stop her," Maeve said. "Shake her harder, Doubar."
"Okay, okay! There is a way! Put me down first, you big lug!" Sinbad nodded at Doubar, and Doubar put her down. She dusted off her robes. "Look, if you're so desperate, then you can try and look for the Rock Of Power. It's the source of her power, and only thing that will stop her."
"Where can I find this Rock Of Power?" Sinbad asked. The girl pointed to the mountains, and while Sinbad's back was turned, she dashed inside and slammed the door.
"What do we do, Little Brother?" asked Doubar.
"Only thing we can do, Doubar. Look for the Rock Of Power. It's the only lead we've got."
"Hey, Daph, are you all right?" Helena asked. The door-opener nodded, but rubbed her shoulder. "Those brutes! However did you get rid of them?"
Daph laughed. "I used the old "Rock Of Power" routine. They fell for it too." she giggled.
"Oh Daph." Helena sighed. "Surely that's the oldest trick in the book."
"Yeah, well, they fell for it," she said indignantly. "Fell for it like a...well, rock." Even Helena giggled.
Firouz gazed, spellbound. Beyond the door lay a vast collection of books, maps, and models. Suddenly, with a flash of light and a blur of motion, the models and books rearranged themselves.
"Why did they do that?" he said, gaping.
Elise shrugged, walking beside a tall bookshelf, running her finger along the edge. "So that you won't start at the end. If you were to read these books without reading the books that came before them, you wouldn't understand anything in them at all. So this way, you can learn in the right order."
"Oh." Firouz replied. He took one of the books--they were beautifully bound in leather with gilt letters--and opened it. He flipped it to the first page, and began to read the contents. "This is incredible!" he said. "It's the complete laws of hydrodynamics! Think of the uses!" He looked at Elise and grinned.
She smiled back. "I'm glad you like it. I have to tell you though: you are free to wonder only this section. In it is everything you already know, but in expanded form. So you will already know that fire goes out when you throw water on it, but if you read Fire: From Prometheus to Truman, you will learn why. Well, that and fire's many uses and relatives.
"You must also be warned: you can't read anything from beyond the fifth shelves, so you might as well not try. You can read beyond then--and only then--when you've read everything else. Knowledge is like that: linked to everything else. And in a sequence. No point reading about quantum astrophysics when you don't even know what a basic molecule is."
"Oh. Molecule?" Firouz asked. Elise shook her head. He understood, and starting looking around. "Still there's plenty of books here to keep me occupied for the time being." he smiled again.
"Indeed." Elise replied. "But if you excuse me, I have to check up on something. I'll only be a few minutes."
"That's okay. Take all the time you need," Firouz answered, his nose already buried in Water: Friend or Foe? Elise laughed, and left him be.
"Daphne, what is all this ruckus?" Elise came storming in. "For once I have an interesting guest instead of all these ignorant villagers."
"I know, m'lady, but I had to do something to get rid of them."
"Barbarians, m'lady. Came stomping up here--tried to break down the doors. Can you believe that? It's a good thing I lead them off on a wild goose chase."
Elise sighed. "Not the Rock of Power, again."
Daphne bowed her head. "I am sorry, m'lady."
"No matter. Just think up a new one, all right? This one is becoming tiresome."
"Of course, m'lady."
"Sinbad, are you sure this is the right way to go?" whined Maeve.
"Of course I'm not sure! I have no more idea than you do!" said Sinbad, exasperated.
"I just don't feel any magic around here." Maeve whined again. "I think she lead us on a wild goose chase."
"I agree with Maeve." boomed Doubar. "I think we should go back and break in ourselves."
"And then what?! The Oracle waves her hand, and poof! We turn into smoke?" yelled Sinbad.
"It's better than wondering around this mountain!" yelled Doubar back.
"No it isn't!" countered Sinbad. "If she's powerful enough to cast a spell on Firouz...well, she could just as easily do the same to us. Not now, Rongar!" Sinbad shouted at Rongar, who had been tugging at his sleeve.
"You've got a point...but how do we find it?" said Maeve. Rongar's pointing became more frantic.
"What?!" Sinbad yelled. Rongar pointed. At the large sign that said This way to Rock Of Power!
"I really, really love the Rium Board of Tourism," said Doubar with a grin.
"Yeah, well, let's get going." Sinbad charged into the brush.
"This dinner is fantasic! What did you call this again? I mean, I've been to Italy, but I've never had this delicacy." Firouz said as he took a bite out of his double-cheese-with-olives.
"Ummm, well, it's not exactly from Italy." Elise said, delicatly picking off the anchovies. They always screwed up her order.
"Where is it from?" he said, asgestured to her anchovies, and when she nodded, he put them on his own plate.
Elise sighed. "It's from the future, actually."
Firouz's eyes went wide, and he dropped his slice. "How do you get to the future?" He had no idea that she was that powerful...
"Through the door," she said, gesturing. Firouz stared at the simple, unassuming, wooden door. "You can go through if you want, just don't close it all the way behind you." Finished with the anchovy removal, she chowed down. Firouz stared at the door. The future. Think of the things he could learn.... He tip-toed carefully towards it. He took a deep breath and turned the handle.
"Hey, Vinnie? What'chu doing? You want I should fire you, or what? Hey! Mister! You with the vest! You ready ta order, or what?"
Firouz stared in incomprehension. What was that strange person trying to say to him? He was totally incoherent.
"Hey! Mister! Whatsa matta wit you? What are staring at? Hey! I'm talking to you! Vinnie, get over here! We gots another one o' them weird ones!"
"No you don't," said a voice behind Firouz. He turned around to see Elise. The door to the palace was right there, he could see the table, and his chair. "Just go through. I'll be with you in a minute," she whispered. Firouz nodded. "And close the door behind you." Firouz nodded again. He made his way out the door, and carefully latched it. He was very shaken. Who were those strange men? Why did they talk so weird? The door opened suddenly, and Firouz jumped a foot. It was only Elise walking back in. She slammed the door with her foot.
"What are you carrying?" asked Firouz. "Smells great. And who were those strange people?"
"Oh, don't mind them. Those are just the guys from Danny's Pizzeria. They didn't mean anything. And look," she said, putting the platter on the table. "They gave us free garlic bread."
"See men? And Maeve? This wasn't a wild goose chase after all. We have found it, the Rock Of Power!" Sinbad gestured proudly.
"Yeah, yeah. Let's go rescue Firouz from the evil clutches of the Oracle. Who knows what horrible stuff she is doing to him?" said Maeve.
"Good point." Sinbad lifted the Rock Of Power from its holder. "Hmm, that's odd."
"What is?" Doubar asked.
"This Rock...it's so...light. It's too light for rock.."
"What else could it be?" Maeve said thoughtfully. "Maybe it is formed of a material not of this world."
"Maybe." Sinbad looked at it carefully.
"Anyway, before you all become geologists, or something, let's go rescue Firouz." Doubar said. Rongar nodded vigorously. Sinbad nodded as well, and sauntered out of the cave.
"Firouz has nothing to worry about," he said, picking his way down the mountainside, "Now that we've got the Rock, she can't stop us."
"This has been a great evening," Firouz said, leaning back. "I really mean that. It's been so long since I've had someone who understands my ideas, and appreciates hearing about them."
Elise smiled. She snuggled a little closer. "And for me...well, it has been a long time, period, for me." she snuggled a little closer, and put her head on Firouz's shoulder. He was confused for a minute, but then realised she wasn't just talking about meaningful conversations.
"Oh." he said simply. "That's the same for me, too, I guess. At least I think I guess. We're not talking about, well, talking, are we?"
Elise laughed. "That's what I love about you..you're so funny." she got up a bit and looked him in the eyes.
"Yes, well, uh, um, yes." Firouz stuttered. Elise leaned in closer...
"FIROUZ!" yelled Sinbad, as he bashed down the door, "We're here to rescue you!" He, Doubar, Rongar and Maeve ran into the room, brandishing swords. The maids milled about in panic.
Elise jumped up, her eyes flashing. "How dare you--"
"Uh uh uh," said Sinbad, "I've got the Rock Of Power." He took it out of his bag and gestured wildly.
Elise merely rolled her eyes. One of the maids fainted. Firouz looked around in confusion. Maeve ran up and grabbed his arm.
"Don't worry, we've got you," she said.
"But I'm not--" he protested. Maeve didn't listen to him. She started to drag him away. Elise started after him, but Sinbad ran up, waving the Rock Of Power.
"Oh no." she said in a perfect monotone. "The Rock Of Power. My strength is being drained away even as I speak."
Sinbad, however, wasn't going to take any chances on the Rock Of Power. When she wasn't paying attention to him, he quickly hit her head with the Rock. She dropped, well, like a stone.
"Elise!" yelled Firouz. "What are you doing?!"
"Don't worry, we're rescuing you," said Doubar calmly.
"I don't need rescuing! Elise!" Firouz struggled. Maeve looked questioningly at Sinbad. He nodded. Maeve whacked Firouz on the back of his head, and he lost consciousness.
"Poor guy. The spell must have really been strong." Doubar commented.
"Ah! The smell of salt air! It's something that you never forget!" Sinbad grinned at his crew. He was in a particularly jolly mood. Maeve walked up to him.
"Sinbad, something is wrong with Firouz. I did all the spells I could, but I think that he's still being affected by the Oracle's magic." she said, looking concerned.
"Really? How so?"
"Well, he seems, really...bitter."
"Then maybe I should go talk to him." Sinbad grinned and sauntered off. He walked up to Firouz. "So, Firouz, how are you? Any bitter feelings we should know about?"
Firouz just stared at him.
"C'mon, now, what's the matter? Can't have you like this all the time, you know." Sinbad grinned again.
"I just want you to know," Firouz said quietly. He beckoned Sinbad to lean in closer. Sinbad did. Firouz yelled right in his ear. "YOU JUST RUINED THE ONLY DATE I'VE HAD IN FIVE YEARS, EXCLUDING THE WOMEN WHO HAVE TRIED TO KILL ME!"
And with that, he stomped below deck.
Sinbad rubbed his sore ear. "Boy, you save a person's life and..." his voice trailed off. He was already looking over the horizon, and Firouz and his troubles vanished immediately.