Down sank Sadko, down all the way to the sea floor. The red sun shone dimly through the water above, while before him stood a white stone palace.
Sadko passed through a coral gate. As he reached the huge palace doors, they swung open to reveal a giant hall. The elegant room was filled with guests and royal attendants—herring and sprats, cod and flounder, gobies and sticklebacks, sand eels and sea scorpions, crabs and lobsters, starfish and squid, sea turtles and giant sturgeon.
Standing among the guests were dozens of maidens—river nymphs, the Sea King’s daughters. On a shell throne at the end of the hall sat the Sea King and his Queen.
“You’re just in time!” called the King. “Musician, come sit by me—and let the dance begin!”
Sadko set his gusli on his lap and plucked a merry tune. Soon all the fish swam in graceful figures. The seafloor crawlers cavorted. The river maidens leaped and spun.
“I like that tune!” declared the King. He jumped to the center of the hall and joined the dance. His arms waved, his robe swirled, his hair streamed, his feet stamped.
“Faster!” cried the King. “Play faster!”
Sadko played faster and the King’s dance grew wilder. All the others stopped and watched in awe. Ever more madly did he move, whirling faster, leaping higher, stamping harder.
The Sea Queen whispered urgently, “Musician, end your tune! It seems to you the King merely dances in his hall. But above us, the sea is tossing ships like toys, and giant waves are breaking on the shore!”
Alarmed, Sadko pulled a string until it snapped. “Your Majesty, my gusli is broken.”
“A shame,” said the Sea King, winding to a stop. “I could have danced for days. But a fine fellow you are, Sadko. I think I’ll marry you to one of my daughters and keep you here forever.”