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<span> A loud scraping noise abruptly ended the unicorn s sleep the next morning. </span> <span>  What is that? he wondered as he bounded through the forest searching for the source of the sound. </span> <span> Running between two giant oak trees, he tumbled headlong into a blue-and-white-striped elk, ending them both in a tangled heap on the ground. </span> </p> <p> <center> <img id="image_03" src="image_s_03.jpg" onfocus="this.src='image_f_03.jpg';" onblur="this.src='image_s_03.jpg';" alt="Furello meets Kelton." tabIndex = 0> </center> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> The elk rose, straightened and shook himself. </span> <span>  Humph, he snorted. </span> <span>  Now this is just what I need! </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  I am very sorry, the unicorn apologized,  but I heard a noise and ran to see what it was. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Yes, I suppose you did. </span> <span> I come here often to exercise my antlers against this tree, he said, motioning toward one of the great oaks. </span> <span>  But still, he continued,  there isn t any reason ... </span> <span> He suddenly stopped, then added more softly,  Besides, I have enough problems without you. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  I really am sorry, the unicorn said again. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  I guess I should expect anything these days, the elk sighed with a shrug. </span> <span>  Things haven t been going right, and I am about to lose my ships. </span> <span>  Ships? </span> <span> What ships? asked the unicorn, looking around. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> The elk studied the unicorn carefully. </span> <span>  My ships! </span> <span> He then said crisply,  My ships - Shira, Aquarius Rising, Gemini, they have been in my family for centuries. </span> <span> My great-great-great granddaddy, Shim-men, the greatest elk of all time, built them hundreds of years ago. They are the only talking ships in the world. </span> <span> I ve spent many long winters traveling back and forth across the seas on my ships. </span> <span> And now, he choked,  now I, Kelton, their new Captain, will lose them. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Why is that? the unicorn questioned sympathetically. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  We were sailing the high seas just two full moons ago when we ran into a terrible storm. </span> <span> The ships were badly damaged. </span> <span> Only one place in all the world could repair them, so I took them there. </span> <span> The cost was very high, but what could do? </span> <span> I had to repair my ships. </span> <span> Kelton paused for emphasis. </span> <span>  Unfortunately, I didn t have any money. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  What did you do then? the unicorn asked. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  To be truthful, I begged for mercy. </span> <span> I went to the head goat, the one in charge of the shop, and pleaded for my ships. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Did he repair them for you? the unicorn eagerly wanted to know. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Yes, he did, but only on one condition. </span> <span> I have to pay him a great amount of gold in six months, or I have to give him my ships. </span> <span> The elk looked hopelessly at the ground as he thought about the scowling old red goat who had repaired his ships. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> The unicorn pondered about the elk s troubles for a moment. </span> <span> Then suddenly, in a voice filled with confidence, he cried,  I think I can help you! </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> The elk snorted,  You? </span> <span> How could you help me? </span> <span> You are only a clumsy unicorn. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> The unicorn excitedly told the elk about his new friend, the prospector. </span> <span> He spoke of the reward promised if he could find an answer to the question:  What is the most important thing in the world, something even more important than gold? </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  That s all very interesting, sighed the elk,  but I do not have any idea what the most important thing in the world is. </span> <span> To me, it s my ships. </span> <span> But I cannot see how that would help him. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Can your ships sail? queried the unicorn. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> The elk raised an eyebrow at him, then cautiously replied,  Yes, of course, they can. </span> <span> But, why? </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Why can t we sail away on them and search for an answer? he questioned breathlessly. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Of course! </span> <span> That s a splendid idea! the elk exclaimed, cheerful now for the first time. </span> <span> Then his eyebrows knitted again. </span> <span>  Only the ships have become, uh, a little difficult to deal with lately. </span> <span> They might not want to sail. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Let s go talk to them anyway, the unicorn urged. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  By the way, my name is Kelton, the elk said. </span> <span>  What is yours? </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  I do not know... the unicorn spoke slowly, trying to remember a time before the valley. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Well, then, the elk snorted,  I will call you Furello -- little brother. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Fur-el-lo, the unicorn pronounced. </span> <span> Then he laughed. </span> <span>  Okay, I ll be little brother. </span> <span> With that, he leaped happily into the air, ready to fly with Kelton to the ships. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Wait a moment, the elk shouted. </span> <span>  I can t fly. </span> <span> Please come down from there! </span> <span> Furello came back to the ground, with a skid. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Oh, I thought that everyone could fly, he apologized. </span> <span>  I have so much to learn. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> The two of them dashed off through the trees, down into a long canyon that ended on a broad shore by a calm, deep lake. </span> <span> There three ships perched, two of them leisurely rocking in the breeze, but the waters surrounding the third ship, adorned with guitar-shaped sails, swayed as though in rhythm to music, her entire graceful structure splashing back and forth. </span> <span> Kelton lowered his head and looked at Furello with a downcast eye, motioning toward his ships. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  That one is Shira. </span> <span> All she wants to do is sing the most popular songs. </span> <span> She has ceased to care about sailing the ocean, Kelton lamented, sadly embarrassed. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Gemini, over there, indicating the huge ship with double sails, one with a vivid red exclamation point and one with a large blue question mark,  all he wants to do is argue about anything and everything. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span>  Last, but not least, Kelton continued,  is Aquarius Rising. </span> <span> A sturdy, solid, loyal fellow, if there ever was one! </span> <span> But, alas, he heaved a great sigh,  incurably optimistic about everything, and too ready for new adventures. </span> <span> That ship is altogether too daring and always blaming the stars. </span> </p> <p> <center> <img id="image_04" src="image_s_04.jpg" onfocus="this.src='image_f_04.jpg';" onblur="this.src='image_s_04.jpg';" alt="Kelton introduces Furello to his three singing ships: Shira, Gemini, and Aquarius Rising." tabIndex = 0> </center> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Then Kelton hesitantly addressed the ships and asked,  Would you like to set sail? </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Gemini repeated the question with a thoughtful air,  Hum-m-m, would I like to set sail? </span> <span> That s interesting. </span> <span> Why? </span> <span> The dawn arrived with fog. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Shira, the singing ship, sang enthusiastically,  Let us embark. </span> <span> I grow weary floating at anchor. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Aquarius Rising decided,  According to the stars, the time is right for sailing. </span> <span> Proceeding immediately would be most advantageous. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Kelton then asked in which direction the ships would care to sail. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> They discussed, then argued, the question amongst themselves for a while. </span> <span> Eventually Gemini spoke,  Let us sail down the Mystic River! </span> <span> No one knows where it goes and it constantly changes. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> They all excitedly agreed. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> Kelton climbed onto Aquarius Rising. </span> <span> Furello, lured by the prospect of this exciting adventure, leaped aboard Gemini. </span> <span> He was eager to help Kelton and the sad prospector in the barren desert. </span> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp; <span> And so it was that the two newly-found friends set out to search for the most important thing in the world. </span> </p> <br> <br> <br> <a href="chapter_3.html">Click here to go to Chapter 3.</a> <br><br><br> <!-- #EndEditable --></td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> <tr> <td valign="top" bgcolor="#000000"> <table width="100%" border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0"> <tr> <td><a href="http://www.host-central.net"><img src="../images/template_design_r6_c1.jpg" width="773" height="22" border="0"></a></td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table> </body> <!-- InstanceEnd --></html>