Chapter 2: The Broken Crew
“What has happened Bartolomeu? Can you get up?” The old man helped his ship’s navigator up with what looked like the strength of ten young men.
The little girl watched intently behind Babu as the old couple tended to the bleeding man. She did not flinch from the sight of blood. She had witnessed so many fights and while they always frightened her she was no longer surprised.
“I tried to stop them,” Bartolomeu finally was able to speak, “I told them to wait, that you will come soon. But they thought something may have happened to both of you and didn’t want trouble. When I tried to stop them, Manuel hit me with his lance and Cristobal threw me off the ship and left me for dead.”
“Do you know which way they went Bartolomeu,” the old man asked calmly.
Pointing towards the direction of the Mediterranean Sea, Bartolomeu started sobbing uncontrollably and speaking in a language no one could understand.
The ship had indeed gone and the old couple decided to find an inn that would allow them to rest for the night. "Come Babu, let us take care of this little girl and Bartolomeu."
Meanwhile, on the ship, a yelling match had erupted among the ship's crew. Many had not been consulted and did not know that they had left without the old couple and Babu.
"We need to go back and find them," Isabelle insisted.
"They are in trouble, or worse, dead. If we go back they will surely imprison us. We are not going back," Manuel was adamant.
"We don't even know where we are going! Only the old man knows where we should go and only Bartolomeu knows how to get us there!" Anger filled the ship and the chorus of voices had given way to a cacophony of languages as everyone slipped back into their mother tongue. If there was no reasoning to be had anyway, there was no need to be understood.
The crew of 18 was truly motley. They came from all around the world, people who had joined the old couple on their voyages searching to be lost. Each one was either in deep trouble or had given up on everything and everyone they had known. Only one had gone on board out of a sense of adventure, Antonio, the scribe. He wanted to write about the old couple's long sea voyages aboard an ancient ship in a modern world. Antonio did not know that none of the crew was hired until much later, which only made it more fascinating for him. But now, this was real trouble, not just the usual squabble.
"Listen," Antonio's deep, calm voice somehow muted the noise of the room. "I have been on this ship the longest and I know everyone here. I know all of your concerns, and I know how to keep you from trouble. We must turn back. Once ashore, give me 24 hours to find the old couple and Babu."
Cristobal seethed at Antonio, a frail figure of a man trying to tell him what to do. But he knew even with Manuel they could not overpower the other 15 people who respected the scribe.
"A Duel," Cristobal suddenly yelled. "I will fight you for Captain! If I win, what I say goes."
Antonio was no fighter so he nominated 18 year old Karl from Germany to represent him. Swift and muscular with no respect for either Cristobal or Manuel, Karl acceded immediately. This unexpected turn of events threw Cristobal for a loop and he tried to think of some devious means for his advantage.
Before he could say anything though, Henry the Cartographer thrusted fencing swords into their hands and asked everyone to go up to the deck. Faleiro the Physician then quickly declared that he would referee the match and 10 strikes to the body wins the duel.
As Cristobal and Manuel tried to think their way out of the situation, the rest of the crew yelled for the match to begin and it was immediately underway with Karl taking the first 3 strikes with ease. The older, more experienced Cristobal got the next 2, but Karl only had to learn the man's movements to be able to dodge the rest of his strikes.
In less than 10 minutes, the duel had been won. The crew cheered, even those who had at first agreed with Cristobal and Manuel. But when they turned to Antonio the Scribe, he was nowhere to be found.
Down in his study, Antonio leafed through his notes furiously. He knew Karl would win, but what he had to find out could not wait. Cristobal and Manuel were not men of honour. They could still try to take back control of the ship and so Antonio tried to find the notes he had tucked away for just such a possibility. When the crew came rushing down to tell him that Karl had won, Antonio paid them no mind and yelled for Cristobal and Manuel instead.
"Here Cristobal! Here Manuel! Here is why we need to go back to find the old man and ask him to lead us."
They couldn't believe their eyes as Antonio showed them note after note, invoice after invoice, the treasure the old man hinted at was real. "The only way you will ever get your money and live the life that you want on your own terms, off this ship, or on your own ship, is if we get the goods to the buyer. Only he will pay this princely sum."
Manuel scoffed at the thought that the old man had so much and paid them nothing for their labour, forgetting that they boarded the ship and stayed of their own free will. Taking another bottle of wine from the old man's cabinet, he poured them into the glasses reserved for guests.
"Drink up, drink up," Manuel tried to make certain that everyone was complicit in this theft.
"We probably shouldn't drink any more of the old man's wine," Hernando the Poet, seeing what Manuel was doing, tried to stop him.
"We're already going back for him, isn't that enough? What's a bottle or two? He'll never miss it!"
"He will," Antonio lifted his hands as if in surrender.
"Why? Are you going to tell him?"
"No, he keeps careful inventory of all the goods on the ship. His notes are even more than mine."
"You've seen his notebook," Cristobal suddenly became interested as the old man guarded his books fiercely.
"Yes, in fact I've copied some of his notes."
Handing over the pile to Cristobal to keep him in his good graces as the ship slowly made its way back, Antonio tried to explain what he found.
"I don't understand most of it. It seems to be in some sort of code. That's why I copied it down, so I could see if I could crack it on my own time. There are so many numbers though I am sure it is some sort of account. Anyway, I don't think he will mind too much that you have drunk his wine without his permission. He has always been kind to us. But I do think you should tell him and not risk him finding out some other way. You know how angry he can get."
The room fell silent at those words.
He was an old man with the strength of ten young men.