The wooden ship, marked with a skull, hung from the sky by cables wide as men. Gangs of sailors heaved at pulleys and lowered the vessel foot by foot. But the pilot kept her distance from the island.
Hamlet surveyed the ocean: sun-faded blue and papery calm, there was little to see. The usually busy skies and sea were clear of ships, humans or debris. Few ventured to this place, though it called out to all travellers in an aching way. The cursed island ahead lured ships to destroy them.
The only life he saw was a mermaid resting on a rock near shore. A water-spirit. She must have had better vision than he, for as he stared at her through the spy-glass, she blew a kiss. Beyond her lay a beach, covered in rotted wood, rusted metal and a carpet of bleached bones. Other parts of the shore rose in steep cliffs. Inland, thick jungle. If there were fortifications under those trees, he couldn't see them. But he could see the scorched scar at the centre of the island, from which a jagged white castle rose like a tooth. The Rue-cult priestess who'd prophesied him here (before walking the plank) hadn't mentioned the architecture.
Hamlet put the glass down.
"Captain!" It was Guildenstern, one of his mates. "Sebastian's spotted a green bird flying straight at us, 2 o'clock sir—"
Hamlet raised the glass eye and swivelled. He couldn't help grinning, but resisted dancing a little jig. There it was, the sign he was waiting for, their guide and their protection.
"Anchor here and lower the boats," he said, still watching the bird. "Just two. No need to go crazy."
By the time by the parrot alighted on the rigging, the boats were on the water. Rosencrantz commanded one and Guildenstern the other, awaiting instructions.
"Squawk!" said the bird, as it swooped down and landed on the wheel. Hamlet and the pilot, Hero, jumped back a bit on instinct. "M'aidez! M'aidez!" it screeched at them.
"A French bird, are you?" said the captain, giving a little flourish and bow. Hero just kept backing away. "Comment vous appellez-vous?"
"Ariel! Squawk! M'aidez!"
"Well, Bird Ariel. Guide my boats to your mistress." For he knew already who they were here to rescue.
He saw the apprehension in the pilot's face. He hadn't told the crew his plans. Better not give them delusions of grandeur. Bad enough they knew about the curse. The crew was suspicious. He dug a handful of pills from his purse and swallowed them. He'd have to have someone flogged tonight.