Friday, October 30, 2009

Afternoon, the Acmaeon's Hold

Monday, May 12, 1650

The passengers on board are directed downstairs and into the hold of the ship.  They are separated into two groups - one, much smaller, moves into six private cabins.  Salvador takes his leave and follows this group.  The remainder move into a large, common room, nearly fifty men, women and children.

Fully two thirds of these passengers are gypsies, looking like refugees, with few possessions and homespun clothing.  They gather to one side of the room, unrolling blankets and spreading them out together on the floor, settling down to mend their clothes, play games or speak together in hushed whispers.  The children look dull-eyed and do little more than sit and stare - they are unused to travelling and seeing others, and so their eyes catch every detail.

A Catholic priest and six acolytes also move together - it can be seen that they are missionaries bound for the Holy Land.  The priest lays out a heavy leather bag which the party can guess is filled with stuffing, and begins to sleep.  The lesser fathers take out their books, make notes, or rest sitting up, eyes closed, their lips gently moving.

Three of the passengers are low-end merchants, all Egyptians.  Another passenger is a mason, a large German fellow who picks a place on the hard board and lays on it, his back to the room.  There are two singers, who begin a gentle cant that underlays the murmuring in the room without disturbing it ... they continue for twenty minutes or so before beginning to talk to each other.

Two others are hard to guess at; one is clearly a Persian, and an unpleasant looking fellow.  He seems to be familiar with one of the merchants.  The other is an old, Libyan woman, between sixty-five and eighty.  Her only companion is a white and black cat, which sits on her lap and watches the room.  It seems to the party that the cat in particular watches them.

The ship has moved into the Adriatic, but there are no portals in the hold.  The party begins to feel some of the symptoms associated with seasickness ... but whether it will cripple them for the journey will not be known for some hours yet.


Alonzo Vezzali said...

Alonzo chooses a spot and tries to fall asleep.

Alexis said...

That's no trouble - you will probably roll up a pack and drop off.

Vespasiano said...

I try to find a spot near the old woman. I smile and say to her "Good day to you, Grandmother"

Telo Arhen said...

I eat a dose of honey to sooth my stomach, and offer some to Vespasiano, the dame and her cat.

Alexis said...

The old woman pushes the cat off her lap, not as though the cat were a friend, but rather as a pest. The cat moves to the centre of the room, bunches itself and then leaps six feet towards a beam at the top of the hold. Scrabbling, claws scratching the wood, it pulls itself on top of the beam where it's dark. The cat sits there, staring at Vespasiano and Telo, eyes glittering.

The old woman seems just as surprised as the both of you by this. But she looks at Vespasiano's face and says, "I know just what you need, dearie," and begins poking in her bag. At the offer of honey from Telo, she says, "No, oh no, I have just the thing." She produced a small polished walnut box, opens it and reveals a dozen little balls the size and texture of chickpeas.

She offers one to Vespasiano. "Take this, you'll feel better. Your first sea voyage, dearie?"

Vespasiano said...

I take one "I have taken trips along the coast and of course as a son of Venice I have spent much time poling through the canals of that city but this will be my longest journey so far. Have you made many voyages?"

Telo Arhen said...

I'll stow the jar and sit to keep my eye on the cat, ear to Vespasiano's conversation.

Alexis said...

Vespasiano discovers that his stomach settles almost immediately.

The old woman answers, "Oh my yes, many times. Twelve this is; every winter I go for my health - the dry air, you know."

The cat's eyes fixate on Telo.

Telo Arhen said...

Will keep my visual attention on it, while attuning finer senses to catch any apantomantic resonances.

Alexis said...

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