Chapter 57: Sinbad's Choice
'Dragons' - Dragonese
Back at Syracuse, Proteus frowned at the setting sun on the day of his execution. As it began to dip down behind the horizon he stared at the chopping block on the deck. This was it. No sign of Sinbad, Marina, or the dragon riders. With the whole of Syracuse watching the prince stared down the axe and the wood that would end his life. He made a promise and he would never turn back on his word. If he was to die, it would be with honor. Making his decision, Proteus smoothed out his robes behind him so he could kneel. With his hands clenched at his sides he lowered down, resting his chin on the chopping block. He stared ahead at the water, keeping his face neutral. The ax raised in front of him, making a small metallic screech as it did. Just as the executioner began to lower the weapon, a knife swirled through the air, shattering the handle. Proteus' eyes snapped open and he felt his heart stop as the axe head thudded right in front of his nose. He stared wide eyed at his heaving reflection in the metal. Slowly raising his gaze, the prince grinned as a familiar face and his band of pirates pulled themselves up onto the dock along with the riders on their dragons, shocking everyone. Sinbad marched towards his friend who was gaping at him in shock.
"I bet you thought I wouldn't make it." Sinbad joked, clasping his friend's hand.
"I was…beginning to wonder," Proteus commented, nervously gripping his throat. He smiled, bringing his friend into a hug. Pulling out of it the prince's smile dimmed. "The book?" he asked. Sinbad shrugged, not letting his nervousness shine through.
"I did my best…it wasn't enough." He solemnly explained. Proteus' eyes widened.
"No, you came back anyway." He assured, clutching his friend's shoulder.
"How could I do anything else…my friend." Sinbad responded.
Proteus wrenched his eyes shut as he knew what would happen. However, Sinbad stared past his shoulder at Marina who was watching from beside his men. She stared at him sadly, unable to keep from shedding a tear or two. Sinbad painfully tore his gaze away and headed towards the chopping block, where the man held a sword this time. He slowly knelt and stared out at the ocean, knowing it would be the last time he did. Spike, realizing his owner's distress, began barking and tried to bolt but Marina held him back, clinging to him for comfort. The dragon riders wrapped their arms around their dragon's necks. The canine and dragons whimpered, while the rest of the crew stared at their captain in sorrow. Every muscle in their body protested letting their beloved captain sacrifice himself. They all wanted to stop him, but this is what he wanted. So they respected his wishes.
Sinbad clenched his fist, just as scared as anyone would be. He kept his gaze on the horizon, slowly willing himself to work through his emotional turmoil. Un-clenching his fist, he relaxed, resigned to his fate and placed his neck on the block. The executioner raised his sword up, aiming it so it would come down swiftly. Marina buried herself in Spike's neck and the riders buried their faces against their dragons' necks, not wanting to watch it happen. Sinbad closed his eyes and waited for the blow. As the sword was swung down, it broke into thousands of little pieces that remained midair around Sinbad's head. The crowd gasped at this along with the executioner. Sinbad opened one of his eyes and gasped in shock as he saw the floating pieces of metal. Sitting up he glanced around in confusion along with the rest of the crowd. Everyone watched in alarm as a giant storm cloud swirled just in front of the dock. The cloud created a tornado down into the water that swirled upwards within the wind. Out of the mixture a giant Eris emerged, glaring down at Sinbad distastefully.
"How dare you?!" Eris growled, getting her face into Sinbad's who flinched backwards. Sinbad backed up away from the giant goddess, staring at her in shock. "Everything was going perfectly, and now...you do this!" Eris snarled, swiping the chopping block into the sea below.
"Eris, I don't understand." Sinbad told her, confused.
"Don't play coy with me." She warned nudging him back with her fingers. Eris gripped the edges of the dock and leaned forward menacingly. "Maybe you can fool these people, but I know who you are. You're a selfish, unprincipled liar!" she glared. Sinbad's confusion cleared as he thought about why she was so angry.
"Wait a minute….I didn't lie…I came back." he realized with a grin. "That's why you're here, this is all part of your test. I told the truth." He continued smugly. Eris rolled her eyes in annoyance. "And wasn't there something about being "bound for all eternity"?" Sinbad asked pointedly while crossing his arms in front of his chest.
Eris straightened up, revealing the 'X' still marked on her collarbone. She growled, holding up a fist above him. The goddess brought it towards him a couple times, grunting in effort, obviously wanting very much to squash him. Everyone watched the two worriedly. With a reluctant sigh, Eris unfurled her fingers and held out the book of peace to Sinbad. He gently took it from her, running his fingers across the cover.
"Well, well, well, this has got to be a little embarrassing for you Eris." Sinbad looked up at her smugly as slightly tapping the book with his palm. She hummed.
"Don't push your luck Sinbad. You're cute, but not that cute." She mused in distaste. Sinbad watched as she morphed down to human size leaning up against him; he shifted uncomfortably as she did. "And lucky for you I've got places to go, things to destroy, stuff to steal." She explained, caressing his face before floating upwards. "Ta." She said before disappearing in a flash of black smoke.
Sinbad looked down at the book with a grin before smiling over at the crowd behind him. He gingerly reached for the edge and looked over to Proteus with a raised brow. The prince nodded in confirmation. Sinbad beamed as he opened the book and stared down at it in childlike wonder. He then lifted it up and braced himself as the light poured out of it, into the skies and breaking apart the clouds overhead. As the light returned it fixed all that it touched, spreading out across the kingdom and further across the land. Restoring it to its former glory.
Sinbad fell to his knees as the power cut off. He smiled while huffing for breath as Proteus approached with a wide grin. He held out a hand to help his friend up.
"You know for what it's worth, I think the council believes you now." Proteus grinned, as they glanced over at the gobsmacked senators that had sentenced him.
"Ya think." Sinbad chuckled in amusement. The shouts of cheering erupted as Sinbad walked the book back over to Dymas.
"King Dymas." He greeted. As the older man reached for the book Sinbad teasingly jerked it away. "Uh, whoa, hey. How much you got on you?" he asked. The king rolled his eyes at the man.
"I offer you the gratitude of the 12 cities and the apologies of a King." He told Sinbad sincerely. Sinbad chuckled.
"No, really. How much?" he asked again jokingly.
"Sinbad." Dymas scolded lightly. Sinbad shrugged impishly, handing the book over. Dymas nodded his head in gratitude towards Sinbad who returned the gesture. Then Dymas and the council headed back to the tower to put the book in its rightful place. As his father left Proteus grasped Sinbad on the shoulder.
"Come on, this is going to be a heck of a party. Everyone is going to want to hear about the voyage." Proteus insisted. At this Sinbad's grin dimmed.
"Fair winds, calm seas. Nothing much to tell." He shrugged off. Proteus stared at him incredulously.
"What's the matter? No fun if you're actually invited?" he chuckled. Sinbad frowned, glancing at Marina out of the corner of his eye.
"No its just,..uh…there's a hammock in Fiji with my name on it." He supplied instead with a strained grin. Proteus smiled reluctantly, knowing that it was just an excuse. He reached up and clasped Sinbad's hand tightly.
"Good sailing Sinbad." He muttered sincerely. Sinbad nodded and began making his way down the dock, but turned back briefly.
"Get a haircut. You're gonna be king someday." He pointed out with a grin, getting Proteus to chuckle in amusement at the teasing. Proteus watched his friend go down the dock, his gait not as chipper as he claimed to be. From behind he watched the crew say their goodbyes to Marina and the dragon riders, the former looking more torn up about it. Spike brushed up against her leg and whimpered as Marina gave him one last scratch. Once the men had turned their backs, she teared up and bolted back into the castle which confused Proteus.
The greatest sacrifice is when you sacrifice your own happiness for the sake of someone else. - Unknown