Gold, Galileo and Guadalcanal: A Tale of Blood, Sins and Dreams

Inspired by a pair of threads that asked for an AH timeline with a plausible Spanish and French speaking parts of Australia.

Setting: The 1640s

Summary: An Englishman who claims to be a disciple of Galileo thinks he has found a way to travel from Italies to Australia, the mythic continent of the Pacific Ocean, and the fabled Chief Island of the Gold Mines of King Solomon - Guadalcanal. His actions set in motion a series of events with far reaching consequences for French and Italian politicians and rulers. And things don't entirely go as planned, for nearly everyone involved.

Goal: To have fun

Historical characters: Many, but a lot of fictional characters are here as well
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Chapter 01
The lackey stood beside him bedecked in the House of Durazzo colors, as he had stood there a thousand times before. Two burly guards in almost matching livery of the same House flanked the door through which he would soon walk, as he did a thousand times before. And on the other side of that door... Well, hopefully there would be only a dozens or so of Them today. Two and twenty days past, only five came to pester him. He was out of that room before Sext. It was a wonderful day. He felt twenty years younger bounding out of that room and retreating into things that matter - politics. Real politics. Genoa politics. Not... that and not Them.

Giovanni Battista Durazzo let loose a little self-pitying sigh and gestured. The guards opened the door. The lackey came out with his staff, struck it three times into the tiles and announced the former Doge of Genoa. Durazzo went into the audience chamber, past the bowing courtiers and ascended his not quite throne. The majordomo approached on his sinister side.
"How many?"
"Six and twenty, your Excellency."
The former Doge of Genoa suppressed a shudder, just. And felt all of his seventy plus years.
"Who is the first?"
"The nephew of the Cardinal of Lucca."
Were not at least twelve people watching him, the former Doge would have rubbed the bridge of his nose. But Doges, even former Doges, of the Most Serene Republic of Genoa did not do that sort of thing. So he gave a brave nod instead.

In was brought in a mincing little man who flattered him for what seemed to be eternity. Eventually the small creature got to the nut of it, some scheme to send ships and men to some distant shore of Africa, with much profit to be had and little to no risk. Which meant there would be blood. The former Doge did not mind blood much. To sit in the chair he sat meant he had to spill it. That was the price of holding power and any who thought otherwise were saints or fools. The former Doge was head of the House of Durazzo and he had spilled much blood for his family. And he would gladly spill more, if there was true profit in it. This... did not qualify. The former Doge willed himself to smile and refused the man with all the Italian bending skill the Genoese dialect could offer.
Exit one small creature, enter next.

Thus the former Doge's day went, with a parade of seekers of fortune at his own expense, with only short breaks to take in Prime and Terce prayers. Sext came and went, and still They came. And now Nones approached. As did the majordomo with a list of still more names.
"Your niece, your Excellency, and an English baronet."
"Which niece? Which English baronet?"
"Olympia, and the English gentleman goes by Sir Augustin of St. Ives."
That sounded strange and wrong already, and they were not yet even there to make their case. Then again, Olympia came from the side of the family that... well, best not to get into that. Let us just say, for now, her father may or may not have gone mad from an affliction born of the pursuit of Venus and treated by mercury.
The former Doge gave another brave nod.

Olympia marched inside, dressed in a blend of male and female dress. The former Doge's cousin, and now Cardinal, clucked at that, which made the former Doge smile. Durazzo were not utterly debased perverts such as Medici, but neither were they prudes, or at least they should not have been. If Olympia chose to walk about with a sword and man's doublet, hose and boots, then so be it. Her companion by comparison was a mild fellow, larger than Olympia, but slightly stooping and thereby appearing to be near enough her height. He was clearly nervous. That was a welcome change as well. Most of the parade of seekers of Durazzo fortune were bold as brass.

"Darling niece Olympia, so good to see yet once more, and you as well, a, uh, gallant gentleman. What do you wish of the House of Durazzo?"
Olympia looked to her companion. He blinked. She put a hand at the small of his back, and he seemed to draw strength from it, for he squared his shoulders and made eye contact with the former Doge.
"Five sea going ships with holds big enough to carry the gold from the mines of King Solomon."
The words were uttered in Tuscan, a dialect far harsher to the ears of denizens of the Most Serene Republic than their own. There was also the trouble of the man's other accent, ugly and too English. And so the full import of the words was not felt by all natives as quickly as it should have been, and the shock those words brought came in lapping waves to the men and women in the room as each ciphered out the bold words of Olympia's companion.

The former Doge stared at the Englishman, then at his niece, then at his courtiers and then thought. Cardinal Durazzo was going mad in silence, and only held his tongue because this was the chamber of the former Doge and he was here as a guest and observer and could not speak until he was bade. Still, that courtesy would hold only for so long, and the pressure of all those eyes of the court upon him made the former Doge speak only to buy time to formulate his real response:
"You mean to find Solomon Islands?"

At this the Englishman merely nodded. The former Doge expected more. The other seekers he had suffered today spoke in far bigger volume and would have layered him with hot promises at any pause. But this one... The courtiers began to murmur and former Doge found it necessary to gesture them to silence. He still could not understand what was standing before him, a charlatan, a madman or...?
"Only one man found - or rather stumbled into - the fabled isles. And he was unable to find them again on any of his return voyages," said the former Doge carefully.
"I can, and will," answered the now bold Englishman and added nothing more.
A charlatan, a madman, or...? Or...?

"You may speak now, cousin," said the former Doge most slowly.
Cardinal Durazzo cleared his throat. It was like uncorking a bottle of sparkling wine. A sparkling wine gone sour and used only to clean weapons with which to torture heretics:
"This madman will next tell you he can find Atlantis or Australia!"
At this the Englishman grew hot and felt the need to react, "Australia is not..."
"... a real place. It is a myth. We are here to talk of the fabled, but much real, isles of King Solomon. And Sir Augustin was an apprentice of great Galileo and learned much from him," interjected Olympia quickly, much too quickly.
That explained the shit Tuscan accent to the former Doge. That now blind heretic was cooped up under house arrest in Florence. The Englishman must have visited him there. And, come to think of it, did not Olympia last draw her gold by being spy for Medici in that once great city?
"Galileo, eh? Another madman," smirked the Cardinal.
At this the Englishman grew hotter still and his eyes flashed thunder. But up came Olympia's arm and settled on his lower back and she purred with the purest Genoese:
"They called Columbus mad."
"And they were right," bellowed the Cardinal. "He was mad. He mistook Haiti for India!"
Olympia favored the Cardinal with a small smile, and the fool did not understand why.

"You would call Genoa's greatest native son 'mad,' cousin?" said the former Doge almost evenly.
And now, and only now, did the Cardinal blanch. "I only meant..."
"The Great Columbus made Spain the richest and most powerful empire in the world. Spain, cousin, not us." There was much bitterness there, but not whole truth. For Genoa could, at times, almost rightly, be almost thought of as part of the Spanish Empire, in all but name. She was a Spanish bride, of sorts. Or concubine, or whore, if you were not from the Most Serene Republic and wished to quarrel with those who were. Genoese bankers helped Spain and in return... well, some relations are far more complex than words in any mortal language can transcribe.
But in the meantime, the words of the former Doge and his tone meant the Cardinal could not speak more on the matter and could nothing but bow and let the matter lie, and this he did, though all nearby could hear his teeth grind.
"But, dearest niece and gallant baronet," continued the former Doge, almost evenly still, "Columbus only required three ships to find the New World, not five. And so you will get three as well."
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Chapter 02
Midnight found Louis de Bourbon-Soissons, the Comte de Soissons sitting on a pile of corpses. He meant to share his wine skin with the Duc de Guise, but the Prince of Sedan had chosen to ride up just then and so to the senior man on the field went the spoils. As the Prince forced himself to ignore the smells, sights and the sounds of post battle all around him and drink the piss warm stale scarlet fluid, the Comte took in the vista with delight.

"From this, the Plateau of La Marfée, one can see all the way to Paris, cousin!"

All the Prince saw was a pile of dead men and horses with broken spines trying to helplessly move about. And not even a giant from the days of yore could see Paris from Sedan. Still, the metaphor did hold. They, the so-called "malcontents," had just defeated the best army Cardinal Richelieu has had to offer. The road to Paris was now clear. For a moment, just a moment, the Prince allowed himself to picture the tall old man swinging from a gibbet, a new King sitting on the throne and true prosperity returning to the lands of France now usurped by a smattering of sycophants arrayed around a madman.

A messenger arrived, out of breath. An officer by the look of his horse and disposition. He clutched a leathery scroll bound hastily with cord.

"A message! A message for my lord the Prince-Comte de Soissons! My lord, I bring urgent news!"

The Comte signaled for his bodyguards to step aside and gestured for the man to come. The messenger bowed deeply from the saddle. Hopped off. Bowed again. Walked fast, his left arm outstretched with the bound bundle. Then the poor man stumbled. His toe had caught against a dead man. He dropped the bundle in the mud. And then to compound his pathetic error, when reaching for it, kicked it with the toe of his boot now much too free of corpse. The bundle cracked. All eyes fell on it.

And the messenger withdrew a pistol and shot the Comte in the face at near point blank range.


Lord-Bishop Mazarini stood in the hidden passage to the chamber and waited for the grizzly task inside it to pass. He fingered his pectoral cross and thought of pleasantries. Inside the chamber, a weak old man let loose a shuddering groan. Mazarini winced and grasped the cross tighter. A pleasantry. An image of an Italian lady - no names, please, for he was a gentleman - came to mind. She lay upon her bed. Well, it was bought with her husband's money. But, still, her bed. Her hair was crumpled underneath her head upon a pillow. Well, not exactly crumpled. "Crumpled" is too silly and ugly word for it. It petaled under it. Yes, yes, it flared out like petals of an exquisite... a scream came from the chamber. Mazarini winced again. He counted to a hundred and knocked on the secret door.
"Enter," said a weak voice.
Mazarini crossed himself and did.

Inside the chamber sat one man: Armand Jean Duplessis, Cardinal de Richelieu; the lord and master of France and its true ruler; the smartest man in Christendom; and the finest politico of his or any other age, as far as Mazarini was concerned. The Cardinal half-sat, half-lay upon a once imposing chair that now looked silly, for it was much too big for the venereal-disease ravaged, and aged beyond its years, husk it housed. The Cardinal's now always pale face was wracked with pain. His sleeves were thankfully rolled down so Mazarini did not have to look upon the effects of the leeching he had to overhear in the passage.

Mazirini gave his most suave smile, bowed deep and intoned, "My lord the Cardinal-Duke."

The husk in the chair managed to incline its head and croak out, "Sedan?"

Mazirini took a deep breath, but willed his face to remain smiling.

"I am told, though it is far too early to confirm through sources anywhere near liable, my lord the Cardinal-Duke, that the royal army experienced a... setback. Though I hope the casualties are light."

The ends of the mustaches of the near corpse in the chair curled upward.

Mazarini blinked. He had no seen the husk smile in a while.

"3,000 lost to death or wounds. 5,000 captured. That is neither light, my dear lord-bishop. Nor can it be called merely a 'setback.'"

Mazarini did the smartest thing, he merely bowed. There were times one could forget the husk in the chair before him could still think rationally even as his body gave out. One could. But one should not. Another lesson learned. Then came a second:

"Though I am also told the Comte de Soissons is dead, my dear lord-bishop. Shot by his own officer. How... tragic."

So many words said all at once, so shortly after bleeding, drew too much effort and the husk fell silent, as Mazarini absorbed the full import of what was uttered. With the true leader of the malcontents now dead... The rebellion was finished. All of Paris can breathe free. And so could one devilishly handsome Italian born bishop. Then came two more disquieting thoughts. Did the husk arrange for a hopeless battle to be fought just to get a man close enough to the Comte to shoot him...? It was just not... practicable. Was it? The second, given the Comte was said to be a good friend of the current Pope what did his, uh, unfortunate death do to the chances of the aforementioned handsome Italian born bishop to be made a cardinal by the said Pope?

"You'll get your red hat in due course, Jules. Do not fear."

Mazarini did his best not to flinch at having his mind read by the husk and gave another bow and smile. It seemed to be the safest thing.

"Now, let us speak of your travels in Piedmont and other Italies."

And they did. Mazarini gave full account of all he saw, heard and read. The bribes he handed out. The bribes refused. Assassinations arranged. Accidents thwarted. Spanish intrigues. French interests. The escalating feud between the Pope and the Farnese family. And the curious goings on in Genoa.


"Yes, your Excellency. The fabled Atlantis of the other seas."

"And this... new student of that blind heretic Gallileo claims he can find it?"

"So the rumors hold, your Excellency."

"Could... Australia actually exist?"

"Aristotle spoke of it as certainty. As did Ptolemy. And Johannes Schöner saw fit put it on his maps, your Excellency."

"A better question then. If it does it exist, what can it offer?"

"I... do not know, your Excellency. Though there is talk of jewels and gold."

"Talk or proof?"

"Talk, Excellency."

"And does this talk explain how to get to these fabled far off lands where some many others failed?"

"Gallileo's student claims he has found a new way to navigate to it, your Excellency."

"A man of miracles, this student. Do you believe in miracles?"

It was a rather strange question for a cardinal of the Holy Mother Church to ask its bishop, doubly so when posed to a papal nuncio by the head of the largest spiritual offices of the most populous kingdom in Christendom (Spain did not count to the two men having the dialogue we now read, for Spain, in their eyes, was not a solitary kingdom such as blessed France, but an unwieldy empire made up of various states at odds with itself. Gascony might be full of people who were quite bothersome, but in the end Gascons thought of themselves as French. Few Catalans called themselves Spaniards).

Mazarini struggled to answer the query given in such a way as to both prove his wit and kidney.

The husk took pity. "Did anyone take up this madman on his offer?"

"Yes, your Excellency. There are as yet to be confirmed reports the House of Durazzo is outfitting three ships to sail under his direction. Though I am told he did not broach Australia to them, but rather spoke of finding passage to the, uh, Solomon Islands?"

The husk's eyes kindled.
"Solomon Islands?"

Mazarini gave a nod, for that once more seemed safest.
"I think that be the name of the isles he mentioned, your Excellency."

"Find out more."

Mazarini nodded and bowed.

"Solomon Islands hold gold, Jules. And hold it in abundance. The Spaniard who found the isles saw it flaking on the riverbeds. Nuggets large as a man's fist lying in the soft mud. But the Spaniard was never able to find passage back to it again. If there is even a remote chance this... student of Gallileo has found a way to get to the isles, it is in the interests of our most Christian kingdom to help him guide us to them. Australia is but a jest, not worth repeating. But the islands of the King Solomon's mines... that is a prize worth pursuing. Find if this man is mad. Pursue it if he's not."

Mazarini bowed.

The husk fell silent. Too many were said for it. Far too many. He was coated in sweat now.

Mazarini bowed once more and waited to be dismissed by a weak wave.

When the wave came, Mazarini left. His thoughts in a jumble. If Australia was but a jest, then what did that make an island that was held by some dreary Spaniard to hold the lost mines of King Solomon? Mazarini sighed. If the husk wanted him to run a fool's errand, then he would play the fool. There were worse things in life.
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Chapter 03
Bishop Mazarini sat in his chamber and ruminated on his condition. Cardinal Richelieu pissed fire and King Louis XIII, it was said, coughed blood. It would not be long now until this troubled land with which he fell in love would have urgent need of a new principal minister and a new ruler, and more troubles would come.

France, beautiful, beguiling and, uh, something else that starts with the letter "B" that the bishop could not think of, would be surrounded by a pack of wolves: meddling aristocrats, princes of the royal blood desiring more power, Spain and her allies (and "allies" they were, for a scoundrel polity such as Spain had no true "friends"), and then the women.

Oh the women. As beautiful and as beguiling as France itself, and even more aristocratic. The noblewomen would plot, scheme and attack him and each other.

Chaos. Utter chaos all around. And in the midst of all this, while they should be shoring up their garden against these wolves, the Cardinal asked him to look into the distant shores of fabled Australia and slightly less fabled Isles of the Mines of King Solomon. It was silly.

But while the Cardinal lived, he was to be obeyed, and not haphazardly, but with all power. Besides, what if the husk was right? What if the gold in Solomon Islands could be gotten? It would be the final nail in the coffin of the Spanish Empire.

The Bishop glanced down at his desk, picked up a quill and organized his thoughts on paper with the help of the coded reports he had smuggled out of Italies. Query: what did he know about this student of Galileo who had had claimed to find the route to the fabled Isles? Answer: precious little.

The student was said to be an Englishman, and went by the name of Sir Agustin, the Baronet of St. Ives. That the name and rank were false did not require the fine mind of a man such as Mazarini to decipher.

The Englishman arrived in Florence less than a year ago, with his sister and her Roman (or Sienese, for there were differing accounts) bed-warmer in tow - one Salvatore Spadaforte. The sister through her various charms convinced the hapless ruler of Florence, and indeed the whole of Tuscany, the Grand Duke Ferdinando II of the House of Medici that she was an art expert and a picture monger by providing proof the print all had thought Giorgione had painted was instead executed by Titian.

This excited many, for Titian was second only to Da Vinci in posthumous value of his works and thus the grateful Grand Duke learned he had possessed a much more sought after painting than he had first thought. The flattered Grand Duke then installed this Englishwoman, Ashley of St. Ives, in his palace and treated her as a curio - a female picture monger with which to banter and to trot out. And yet, it was said the Grand Duke did not bed her. Then again, it was said the Grand Duke's taste to his chamber partners ran... more Greek than proper. Thus more rumors about the bed-warmer of the sister also warming the bed of the Grand Duke. Typically Medici, greedy and degenerate.

"Sir" Augustin's tastes did not run to art, or Greeks, and he had quickly made a reputation among locals as a warlock and alchemist for his desire to learn optics, navigation, astronomy and to be granted audience with Gallileo. "Gallileo?" Mazarini blushed. There was only one "L" in the first syllable of "Galileo," not two. He scanned the rest of the reports and realized he had at least been consistent in his errors, always spelling it with two instead of one. T'was a good thing no one else read these but him then.

But, back to the Englishman. The Englishman was granted audience with the now blind heretic living under house arrest, after an intervention from the Grand Duke (idly, Mazarini wondered whether the Englishman's sister had asked the ruler directly or used her rumored shared bed-mate Salvatore to pass on the request). There followed a muddled chronology, for the Englishman had bribed the guards of the blind heretic to talk with him in private. How many times the Englishman had met with Galileo (one "L" now, mind), was thus disputed. Some said twice, others two dozen times. But regardless, gossip and innuendo soon spread Galileo had a new apprentice.

A neater scheme Mazarini could not execute. So far it read as sheer charlatanism. But there was more.

The Englishman had found a near relation of the House of Durazzo, one of the ruling families of the Most Serene Republic of Genoa, and used her to travel to the city that gave name to the republic and there met with a former Doge, also from the aforementioned House, and asked for five ships to be given to sail to the far ends of the Earth to reach the fabled Isles holding the Gold Mines of King Solomon. And the Durazzo gave him three. And the Durazzo were not fools. Well, not always.

Mazarini pushed the notes away, and scanned his study for tomes and texts on Australia and Solomon Islands. In preparation for his meeting with the husk that held the Earthly remains of a man that was once Cardinal Richelieu, the Bishop read up on both fabled places. No one sane had ever seen Australia, but one man did reach Solomon Islands, or rather stumbled into them. The trouble was that man could never reach the Isles again, no matter how hard he had tried, and no one else could for that matter either. Madness. And yet... all that gold. The gold from the mines of King Solomon.

There came a double knock, followed by a pause and a single knock, then silence.

"Enter, Comte d'Artagnan."

Charles Ogier de Batz de Castelmore, Comte d'Artagnan entered. He was a wiry man and wore a hastily put upon cloak over the uniform of an ensign in the company of Captain des Essarts of the King's Guards.

"Were you able to find anything, my good Count?"

"Father Joseph used to keep a pet alchemist to amuse the Cardinal. The man had apartments near Notre Dame. He was arrested, for a time, but returned to his black books and blacker arts."

"And he studied under Galileo?"

"Not exactly. He studied under a man who receiving instructions from Galileo."

Mazarini was about to make a joke of it, but stopped himself. The Ensign clearly looked out of sorts. Mazarini could not imagine why, then did. The silly siege of Bapaume. The King's army had the town in a ring and were thought to be on the verge of victory. The gallant ensign no doubt wished to be there with his fellows up on the Northern front to see the operation through, not shuffle through the sludge filled back alleys of Paris looking for alchemists.

It was always useful to remind oneself that not all thought as one did. Had the Bishop been standing in a muddy trench in a diseased camp on the outskirts of a castle he might have to rush under the cover of darkness with musket balls flying all around, he would have gladly taken an offer to return to Paris. But the Ensign... The Bishop made a note to himself to rid himself of the costume of a captain in the King's Guards now hanging in his wardrobe that he used at times to walk the streets of Paris. If the Ensign saw him in an unearned uniform of higher rank than him... jealousy has had ruined more good men than liquor and bad women.

"Where is this alchemist now, my good Count?"


For this outing, the Bishop dressed in the clothes of a prosperous mercer, not too extravagant, but comfortable and the profession of his disguise would help explain the exquisite lace gloves that would be hard to justify were he to go as any other jobbing burgher. A military uniform was out the question given the mood of his companion. They tramped up a filthy flight of stairs and found the alchemist at his dark deeds.

A no longer young man had his discolored sleeves rolled up and had his bloody forearms in the entrails of a butchered ram upon his table. Blood dripped down his leather apron and patched together boots. The rest of the awful small room stank of unwashed human bodies, feces and stale bad food.

The Ensign took it all rather badly, and placing one hand over his nose and another on his sword, shouted a profanity (though not a blasphemy) and demanded to know what the alchemist was doing.

The terrified creature jerked back from the dead animal and stared wild eyed. His mouth was slack.

"The student was attempting to make blood salt to aid his experiments, Ensign," calmly said The Bishop.

The Ensign flicked a glance. The terrified creature bobbed his head.

The Bishop walked up to the man and animal and looked about.

"I do not wish to interrupt, good man. And do forgive the intrusion. But I have need of your knowledge. You have studied under Galileo's principal assistant, have you not?"

The creature relaxed his posture and gave a nod, lying through his rotting teeth. The teeth and the marks on the man's skin helped explain the other smell the Bishop felt upon entering: Mercury. The alchemist was looking for a cure to Venusian maladies, either for himself or to sell. The Bishop forced himself to suppress a shudder and gave another smile, for he was never in short supply of those.

"Excellent, my good man. Most excellent. Tell me, does The Great Galileo have a theory as to the feasibility of journeying to the fabled Isles of the Mines of King Solomon?"

The creature puzzled. Then shook his head. Then stopped himself. And glanced at the Ensign.

"Speak freely, you're among friends." As the Bishop spoke, his hands found four coins in his pocket and he made sure to clink them. The sound of gold on gold trumped the pangs of fear in the creature.

"The Great Master did not speak of travel to the Isles specifically, my lord. But... travel to the far off places could be aided by his theories."

The Bishop gave a nod. Condemning the creature before him to jail. The "my lord" was what did it. The creature saw through the disguise, partially. He really should have had the Ensign travel incognito as well. After all, what mere merchant could enlist the aid of an officer of the King's Guards as his nighttime companion? Next time both should appear as burghers. Lesson learned.

"Go on then, my good man. And educate us, please." The gold coins clinked once more.

The creature licked his dry, disgusting, cracked and much discolored lips.

"Have you heard of The Great Master's lunar method, my lord?"

The Bishop shook his head. He heard some things, but wanted his creature to get comfortable talking.

"If you know a full moon is observed at midnight in Paris at such and such time, but you see it at ten in the evening in some other place, then you are two hours away from Paris."

Longitude. The Bishop almost had it now. No thanks to the creature before him. The Englishman is claiming he has solved the great riddle of longitude. But, hang about, no he had not. The Englishman claimed nothing. He had merely said he can travel to far off lands using Galileo's lessons. Interesting. The Bishop half-listened to the creature before him trying to speak in half sentences and ill formed thoughts about the great riddle of the vertical lines of time running around globe from north to south. Longitude. If the Englishman had solved it, this was no longer about Solomon Islands or Australia, it was about... the world. A polity whose navy knows where it is at all times could... If the Englishman held the key to the great riddle it would be the biggest revolution in the military arts since some half bright sod brought gunpowder here. The mind reeled, while the creature still prattled.

"Fascinating, yes. But, tell me, my good man, how effective the motions of the moon are when they occur so rarely? After all, if one wants to learn one's position based on a full moon, would not one have to wait two fortnights for it?"

"I speak not of the Earthly moons, my lord. But of the moons of Jupiter. Whose exact motions The Great Master now has had studied for more than twenty years. The positions of the many moons of Jupiter occur... why almost daily."

That statement triggered a vague memory in the Bishop, for he was a learned man.

"Did not Spain study Jupiter's moons as ways to travel for nearly on a decade and concluded they did not work?"

"Yes, yes, my lord. As did the fools in Holland. But they, all of them, did not understand the motion of the celestial bodies. It does you little good to try to use the motions of the moon if you do not understand the mysteries of orbits. If you think the Sun revolves around the Earth in a perfect circle... My lord, their views began with a false premise and went nowhere from it!"

The creature spoke in spluttered volumes after that, while the Bishop thought his own thoughts. It was feasible. The great riddle of longitude might be solved. And it was in the interests of France to aid its solving. The Englishman, charlatan or not, would be pursued and supported. France had no choice.
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Chapter 04
"And what say they of the Englishman?"

"This and that," said the ogre with the impressively hairy forearms.

Ensign d'Artagnan's face registered a tic. His hands began to badly itch. It was the third time since Vespers that he has had the urge to backhand the oaf sitting opposite him, drinking his wine and eating his food and speaking much too glib.

The Ensign's companion, a raw boned, pock marked, ill looking fellow, dug the toe of his almost falling apart boot into the side of the Ensign's much better kept one, and shot an almost friendly smile to the ogre.

"Oh but surely a man as experienced in the affairs of the docks of Genoa had heard more than 'this and that?'"

The ogre grunted, burped and drank more wine.

The Ensign resisted the urge to curl the ends of his mustaches, but his hand found the handle of his sword. His ill looking companion, choosing for that evening the improbably name of Boniface, put a dirty small silver coin on an even dirtier tavern table the three men shared.

The ogre made the coin disappear between his broken and misshapen knuckles.

"At first the lads feared him. What with him being a warlock and all. But then... He don't look like he ever handled a knife, sword or a boarding axe, or even learn how to use one."

It was the worst insult a Genoese sailor could give another man and no more could be said about a fellow after that.

"What of his woman?"

"Oh a tough bitch that one. Not ugly. Not pretty. Tough. Dresses as a man. Has a knife, sword and pistol and knows her way around them. Attached to the Englishman that one. Aristo blood in her from the looks of her. Though born wrong side of the blanket by the way she walks about."

Boniface nodded and added another coin. The ogre was almost right. Boniface knew, from half dozen previous conversations in the taverns of Genoa, Olympia Anne de Breuil was tough, wore man's boots, hose, breeches and doublet, carried weapons and was born of a gentle blood, but she was legitimate. Born of a family gone to seed due to allying itself with the wrong Pope, though people were hard pressed to remember which one and whether the error originated with Olympia's father, cousin or grandfather. It did not matter much.

Boniface knew the type. Though not born in Italies, he had spent enough time around the Lingurian coastal towns to meet these poverty stricken women, and men, full of pride, with names of ancient and noble blood dating back to the age of when sane men wore bedsheets in the streets. The poor, pride filled, aristo gone to seed with visions of vengeances and wealth keeping them awake at night and driving them at daylight held not mystery to Boniface. The woman he had understood.

The Englishman though... Boniface was still not clear what he was. The word "charlatan" kept dancing on the edge of his tongue, but that may have been due to the nature of Boniface. He who did not believe in men of miracles. He had met far too many alchemists. And they were all utter shits.

His companion could no longer help himself and adjusted his mustaches.

Boniface hid a sigh and wound the conversation down before the Ensign felt compelled to put a hole in the ogre's liver.


Boniface and Ensign d'Artagnan exited the tavern. Boniface took in a lungful of air. It held, as all port towns of Italies, the smells of desperation, success, failure, happiness and sin, all mingled in a spicy stew. Boniface did not hide his smile. His sword wearing companion took it as a slight, for he took nearly all around him as a slight, and shifted his weight.

Boniface did not stop smiling, nor did not he put his hand on his sheathed knife. He had no need for it. The alley where they stood was far too narrow for swords. The Ensign was but a danger to himself.

"We learned a great deal, did we not, monsieur?"

The Ensign chose to take that as a slight as well.

"He said nothing new!"

"Aye, and that is good. For he confirmed what we had heard before. That meant we are on the right track."

The Ensign did not see it as such, but some of the anger went out of him, for a time.

Boniface eased off his smile, in lieu of sighing. The Ensign was utterly unsuited for these types of affairs. Lord-Bishop Mazarini should have never sent him on such a mission, but wishing for things to change after they had already been done struck Boniface as a waste of time and so he, as he always had, soldiered on.

"There is a certain black-booker we have need to visit."

The Ensign did not grumble, for a change. The two unlikely companion trudged through the alleys.

"I was wondering when we'd be spied upon."

The Ensign nearly stopped and looked about.

"Pray, my good sir, keep walking. Keep on walking. Two urchins. Barefoot. One male and the other a girl, though given the marks of that disease upon her nose, I suppose she had been made a woman. They have been following us since we went into that tavern. At first I thought they meant to nip or tuck, but they are here to merely spy."

"Who do they work for?"

"All and none."

"Speak plain, the Devil damn your eyes!"

"Forgive me, sir, I am unused to bantering with gentlemen. What I had meant to say they spy on us for local interests. Then the locals shall sell information to any who would ask."

"By locals do you mean the government of Genoa?"

"Genoa has no government, good sir. It has men who pretend to govern. And no, by 'local' I mean some silly apple squire who run the shy place where the two urchins lay their heads at night. This is how they pay for food and lodging. They spy on newcomers who overstay their welcome."

"We should grab them and force them to talk!"

"Please, my good sir, keep your voice down. What would the children tell us? The name of their master? Some potbellied tough with a harem of gap toothed punks and witless house breakers? These are not serious people. Besides, I already know the names of the Spanish spies in town assigned to keep an eye on us, though the buggers do not know I know, nor do they know about each other. Spaniards, eh? How they have an Empire is a static mystery to me. And I also know of the sad little fellow the Inquisition sent as well."


"By which I mean the Pope. He has a nephew. Several in fact. All cardinals. One is in charge of Inquisition. His man here recently drowned in a puddle on a sunny day. This is a new man, sent specifically to learn about the Englishman. The poor fellow was preparing for an affair in Naples and was then sent here instead at last moment. His accent is all aft for Genoa and he feels ill used. He drowns his sorrows in a bosom of a lovely wench, not even sixteen years of age, who confesses her many, many sins to a priest with certain ambition to one day have an office in the Notre Dame.

The Ensign took some time to go through that. He then eyed his companion with newfound respect. It should not have made Boniface feel good about himself, but it did. There is something about respect in one's fellows, no matter how hapless they are, that elevates a man.

They soon reached the door of the black-booker. Boniface set two fingers to the diagonal plank nailed to a wall near the outer door frame, closed eyes and gave a silent blessing. Then he knocked thrice, then once and then no more.

The door creaked open and revealed a frightened wizened face.

"You, again?"

"Yes, though it has been many summers and winters, Teacher."

"Who is he?"

"A friend."

"He is armed?"

"More so than even I."

The wizened face sighed and the black-booker let them all inside.

The Ensign held his sword and dash near held his nose, though the small house did not stink. In fact, it was clean, of human soil. Of chemicals though, it did reek, a bit. Though not so much as to make faces as the Ensign did.

"The Englishman, Teacher?"

"Ah, yes. His bold promises reached your ears even then?"

"You do not believe them?"

"A curious word you use there, Avram."

"Boniface. Today I am a Boniface, Teacher."

"Well then, 'Boniface,' one should use the word 'believe' when talking of things worth believing. That which one reads of in the Holy Book. That is when one should talk of belief. When one speaks of science and scientific means, one should speak of proofs and reasons, not what you 'believe.'"

"And you see no proofs and reason in the Englishman's words?"

"How can I? When he has given none."

"Some love their secrecy, Teacher."

"And some use it to hide their ignorance."

"Is he ignorant then, this Englishman?"

"Oh I would not say that. What ignorant man could walk up to the House of Durazzo, just as they ail, and promise them much gold from far off hidden to all others means, all for a few measly ships and sailors to crew them? And what ignorant man would before all that ensure he was granted an audience with Galileo to be made sure all know he was associated in some way with him."

"You do not think him Galileo's student?"

"Galileo has many students. Too many. They bicker and each wants the blind man's shabby throne. And then there is his son, the musician."

"You disapprove of music, Teacher?"

"I disapprove of a man whose father wants to master the motions of Heavens turning to fixing mandolins."

"Lets us return to our rams as they said in Sunday school and speak of Englishman some more."

"As if you went to Sunday school."

"There was one a stone's throw from where I lived as child."

"And did you toss the stone at them or otherwise around?"

"Back to rams, Teacher. The Englishman. What is he ignorant of?"

"I just said he was not ignorant."

"Teacher, I have known you many summers and winters. You think him ignorant of something, else you would not try to prove to me what matters he is not ignorant of before."

"Ah, so you can learn then. Well, you're right. He displays ignorance of something, or he may be just a charlatan. He speaks of using Galileo's methods to travel across seas by Heavens. The so-called 'lunar method,' yes?"

"So it is said."

"Let us say it works. Let us say you can travel by it by seeing the eclipses and timing them. But how will you see them?"

"And you have lost me, Teacher."

"Do not overthink it. How can a man see the Heavens?"

"By spyglass."

"On a night free of clouds, on solid ground. Do these happen often in the seas?"

"I am not quite there. Please continue."

"He sets his spyglass and he peers to Heavens, hoping to see the eclipse of a moon and then determine when it has occurred at local time against the time when the eclipse was said to have occurred in Genoa and thereby fix his position on the globe against the position of Genoa. Yes?"

"That is what has been implied."

"And when is local time took when men are out in sea?"


"Aye, high noon. When sun is shining bright that is when one can tell 'tis noon. Now suppose it shines not at noon, nor after it. Suppose the weather is not nice that day, or the one after it, and on the third it is overcast as well. What then?"

"What then, Teacher?"

"Nothing. You are lost. If you do not know the local time, how can you know what it will be when you see the eclipse versus what it should have been at Genoa?"

"You cannot."

"Now suppose the sun was there. A perfect day is to be had by all at noon. The eclipse was seen at Genoa at three past midnight. And there you sit and wait to see it come where you are so can time it, for now you know local time. You wait there for the eclipse and then you get a storm. What then?"

"The ship is tossed about, Teacher. You are lashed with rain and you cannot see the Heavens."

"So much for the eclipse then. It comes and goes and do not know when, for you were too busy to be tossed about."

"So the lunar method falls?"

"No, no, no, I did not say that. Did I? The lunar method does not fall, Av… Boniface. It just has its flaws. Flaws that the Englishman did not address when speaking to Durazzo or to captains. Not that he has said much, one way or another. But if it were my money and ships, I would want those queries answered. Would not you?"

"So I would, Teacher."

The Ensign watched Boniface and the owner of the wizened face exchange a guttural mutter and then they left the black-booker's house.

"Now what?" asked Ensign d'Artagnan.

"A brothel, I should think."

"A brothel?"

"We have learned a lot. I need to clear my mind before I set my thoughts to paper to the Bishop."

"And you clear your mind surrounded by courtesans?"

"Dear me, of course not. Courtesans only cloud the mind. But whores, they clear it."

"The Devil take you. What is the difference between courtesans and whores?"

"A courtesan thinks she is there because she is a great conversationalist and wants you to think she has a mind as well as body, while a whore knows what a man wants of her tongue."

At this the mustached officer gave a rare wintry smile, though it was Summer and they tramped off.
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Chapter 05
Dawn found Boniface laying on his back on a narrow cot and thinking. His company from the previous evening lay her curly head upon his chest and snored most peacefully, though she would pass wind at irregular intervals to break up the monotony and peace of noises coming from her nose and mouth. The smells and sounds did not bother Boniface an iota. But the white lead paint the lovely used to paint her face in a no longer cunning disguise to hide her pox scars and age did rub off a bit during the night; and so the white streaks now marking up his shoulder, clavicle and chest would have to come off before Boniface left the establishment of ease.

Per the Lord-Bishop Mazarini's last instruction, if the Englishman's journey seemed feasible, Boniface was to give aid and comfort, though only after ascertaining the man's loyalty. One did not hand over French gold to men in the pay of Spain. There was little chance of that, however. For starters, Mazarini, being Mazarini, did not hand out gold and Boniface instead had but a sack of silver with him and not a large sack at that. Secondly, and more importantly for those fretting in Paris, the Englishman was no Spaniards' cat's paw. Spanish agents were mystified as to the Englishman's motives and though the principal minister of the Spanish Empire had as many foes as allies at the Spanish court, not even those parties seemed to have been in correspondence with the Englishman, or his woman.

That left Rome and the league now forming in North Italies to oppose Rome's ambition as potential patrons of the Englishman's ambition. Rome, under this current Pope, seemed to have not realized it was no longer the Dark Ages and once more tried to reassert its territorial ambitions in the Central Italies, drawing itself into petty but expensive feuds it could ill afford over polities that would bring more heartache than gold. The current feud with the Farnese family was but one example, as it was so badly done, it managed the seemingly impossible: array the bickering heads of Northern Italian Houses against it in the aforementioned Medici backed league. Neither Rome nor North threatened French interests, at this time, but both were to be watched and hedged against. Half the time Rome was set on policy which dovetailed that of Paris, but a third time it did not (the sixth of time, for those curious, Rome did what neither pleased France nor much displeased it). As for the North... there much confusion lay. Medici were not friends of Paris, except when they were used to check Rome's ambition, except when said ambition opposed Spain. As one said, confusion.

There was no proof either Rome or her many, many enemies in Italies assisted the Englishman's journey, or that the Englishman was their creature. True, the Englishman's woman worked for the Medici at times while she lived in Florence, but then again so did nearly all who dwelled in that once great city. On the surface, it really did look as if the Englishman's mad, or otherwise, journey was being financed by private concerns of the family Durazzo.

The bells pealed softly in the distance. Early morning prayers. And this being Sunday, a man calling himself Boniface in Genoa was bound to attend. He ran his fingers through the curly hair of the once young lady reposing on his chest and rested his index finger on a bump on the back of her head that did not appear to be a result of an incursion of a tick, flea nor lice. Her eyes fluttered awake and she gave him a lazy hug. He returned it.

"How much, to not have you report I am clipped?"
"Oh no one cares much for that these days, dearie. This is not Spain, or France, Rome."
"One must be thankful for small favors," said Boniface and put another silver coin upon the dresser.
"Ah, I knew you to be of a real generosi blood."

The curly haired once young lady then opened a drawer of a dresser and withdrew a dark glass bottle and a none too dirty pair of slightly chipped old glasses.

Boniface was about to refuse, when the once young lady withdrew a cork and his nostrils twitched.

"Irish whiskey? Here?"
"Aye, we have had many a visitor from all parts of our fair world."


Ensign d'Artagnan felt slighted, ridiculous and been made an object of ridicule. To be fair, the Ensign often felt thus, but to be fairer still, one can understand how a man might feel as such having to stand about the downstairs of a brothel waiting on a companion to finish and come down, having already done your deed. The first few minutes might make one reflexive on one's own conquest of the night before and the flirtatious advances of semi-dressed women are never truly unwelcome, but by the tenth time one has had to twist one's mustaches and demur their advances, one feels much annoyed. Then there were the other patrons. Some the Ensign could almost be made to tolerate. But others, with their braying laughter and their oafish ways offended him as gentleman. And it was a close run thing whether he would have to draw forth his sword and ventilate their kidneys. His eye fell to the top of the stairs one time too many, and he realized he had a choice to make. Stay here and kill a man, or go upstairs and mayhap kill one. He gripped his sword and trooped upstairs, his heavy boots landing with a determinate thud on each creaky step, his way made clear by the scattering of the semi-dressed women who have seen his like before and knew by trade skills how to spot a man with violent intent.

The Ensign booted open the door to a small chamber and startled a drunk once young lady and a snoring Boniface. With foul oaths, though none blasphemous, he gripped Boniface by the shoulder and shook him twice, to no effect. Boniface kept snoring and his eyelids barely made a flicker. The Ensign was on the point to slap the man, when up came the arm of Boniface to block the slap by gripping in an iron vise the Ensign's wrist and one of his eyes half hooded.

"You are late!"
"I feel much tired. Go to prayers without me. Go on, good sir, and let me sleep."

The Ensign was on the point of saying and doing something drastic, but he stopped himself, because the grip over his wrist had much more strength than he anticipated from the pock marked ill looking half-sleep man before him and because he noticed the fellow's other arm was curled by his belt, where the Ensign knew a knife lay. One cannot say the Ensign was scared. No, far from it. It just incommoded him to fight to blood a man in a brothel of a strange city far from home and country, while on a mission of importance. That is all. The Ensign flicked a glance at his wrist. Boniface released him. And thus they parted, with foul (but still not blasphemous) oaths on the part of the Ensign and Boniface crawling into bed.

By the time the Ensign tramped downstairs, all but the most foolhardy semi-dressed denizens of the brothel had hidden, but one brave soul greeted him below. She was not yet fifteen and with the impetuousness of youth and beauty asked the angry violent man armed with a sword if he would accompany her to prayers. The Ensign checked the first baker's dozen angry thoughts from giving forth reply and gave an imperious nod, and thus they departed to near universal gossip.


The charming and brave young girl whose name was Cinzia that morning guided her choleric tempered protector through the myriad of back alleys of Genoa, walking arm and arm, and slowing down their pace here and there by pressing her body into his shoulder and talking of the gossip of the city. At first, the Ensign vomited forth short replies, but at length he mellowed and soon was heard to laugh at the many silly thoughts the young girl gave fancy. Eventually, the two found themselves in an open square and the Ensign felt his companion slow and tighten.

"He's here. The warlock. Look. He's here."
"What warlock?"
"The Englishman. Sir Augustin of St. Ives. There he sits. And he is with his woman."

Being a man whose desires did not run Greek, the Ensign looked to the woman first. She was dressed in men's clothes and wore them well. Her hair was copper and her hard face was flanked by freckles that ran from crown to neckerchief. Her eyes were as hard as her face and missed nothing and no one. They brushed him once and then no more.

The Ensign could not tell the full shape of her body, because she sat in a low chair with a table between her and the Ensign. Neither did it help that the Englishman sat at the same table and had his back to the Ensign and by his sitting body blocked a lot of his view as well. Still, the Ensign liked what he saw. And took to looking at the Englishman much later than he had at first intended.

The Englishman looked like a million other men the Ensign saw. There was no distinguishing remark upon him, or at least none from the back that he could tell. His clothes marked him as a burgher. About the only other thing that could be said of them were that they looked much too clean. He wore a rapier at his waist, though it dangled in a most ridiculous fashion. What was it that the ogre with the hair arms said? That the Englishman did not look like he knew how to use a knife or sword or pirate weapon? The Ensign could well believe it.

The Englishman suddenly turned his head and stared directly at the Ensign.

The Ensign stared back, by reflex more than deliberate thought.

The Englishman gave a curious nod, as if to himself, stood and walked towards the Ensign. His clothes could now be better seen, though as before were not unique. The only personal touch seemed to have been a previously unseen half-cloak that dangled from a thick cord off his neck and hid his right arm and the right side of his back. It tapered off to the waist and had on it the insignia of some unknown to the Ensign House, and, in a touch to curry favor with the locals, was edged with small scattered symbols of the Most Serene Republic of Genoa.

The Ensign's hand found his sword handle yet again that morning and he squared his shoulders.

The Englishman's gait was most unhurried. His eyes never left the Ensign.

"Monsieur, I think I shall faint. He's coming here, towards us. Please let us leave."
"I do not flee from warlocks, girl. Stay. Stay and watch."

Cinzia melted into her brave companion's frame.

The Englishman stopped ten paces from the Ensign and spoke in horrid French:

"I heard you have been asking questions of me, spy. Well. Here I am. Ask me to my face."

The Ensign's face turned a shade of red only found in the tapestries of Papal residence in Vatican.

"I am no spy!"
"You wear civilian clothes abroad, and yet I am told you are an officer in the army of King Louis XIII?"

The Ensign blanched at that.

"Then again, perhaps you are merely ashamed to be seen in the uniform of the King's Guards?"

Cinzia left the Ensign's side before the Ensign could react. But as soon as she took a few sidesteps, the Ensign let loose a howl and jerked out his blade.

The Englishman took out his slim rapier with his left hand, shrugged his half-cloak to the side and prepared to parry.

The Ensign barreled forward to poniard his newfound foe.

Then all the dust and dirt exited the Ensign's jacket and ensconced him in a filthy halo. His body half spun to the left and doubled upon itself. His right knee buckled and he fell unto his left. While his left gloved hand jerked to his stomach and was soon stained crimson from scarlet fluid leaking through a newfound hole in his abdomen.

The Englishman's right hand held a smoking pistol.

The Ensign blinked against the sudden jet of sweat upon his brow. He tried to stand, but could not.

The Englishman slipped the pistol into his belt, at the small of his back. Adjusted the half-cloak to once again hide it. Switched the rapier from his left to right, and waited.

The Ensign marshaled all his will to stand. And stand he finally did. And the Englishman stabbed him in the lungs with rapier. Ensign d'Artagnan fell in stages to the unpaved ground. He gurgled blood for a few horrid moments. Then died.

The killing was seen by many at the square, including, most curiously the ogre with misshapen knuckles, whose underage companion somehow managed to convince him to visit the square at much the same time as the Ensign arrived there as well. Urchins appeared to rob the corpse, but held back by the presence of a man with naked blade.

No Genoese generosi would ever kill a child robbing his opponent. But this was an Englishman and a warlock to boot.

"The one who brings me his neckerchief may keep the dead man's purse."

At once a dozen urchins fell upon the corpse. The tougher, older ones fought over the neckerchief. The smarter ones took boots, belt and sword. And the youngest snatched the hat with a jaunty feather. The neckerchief was torn in half and at present the two halves were presented by four filthy pairs of hands. The Englishman took it and let them fight over the money, while he used the soiled, and torn in two, neckerchief to clean the blood off his rapier, before sheathing. He gave a half-smile and a half-bow to Cinzia, who bravely stood to side, and did not make a single noise through whole ordeal, though those nearby said she was pale and shaking.

"Good day, maiden."

Cinzia gave a curtsy, as if standing before a bishop.

The Englishman then walked back to his woman Olympia, slowing down his step at each turn to avoid a near run. Olympia was already on her feet, a blood lust smile on her face and eyes glazed with joy. She spoke English in a near whisper.

"You did well."
"I am going to throw up."
"Not here. Not now. Please. There is an alley nearby. You can do it there. Not here. Please."

The Englishman managed a nod, for he could not speak as bile geysered up his throat. Olympia led and Sir Augustin followed. And all eyed the warlock with newfound respect and a hint of old fear.
Chapter 06
Olympia was true to word and found alley that appeared deserted. She knew it was not. No alley in the great port city of Genoa was deserted, much less an alley in broad daylight, but it would serve. She pushed open a door marked with three white horizontal chalk lines, scanned the emptied room and nodded. Sir Augustin staggered through. Olympia shut the door, put her back against it and gestured. Sir Augustin let loose his cloak, his fingers trembling and his body all a-shudder, but he still had self-control to not get sick upon the cloak. Olympia marveled at his restraint in the past and saw it now yet again. Sir Augustin took off his cloak and then, and only then, did he plant a sweaty palm against a slimy piss and soured wine splashed wall, bowed his head and let loose sounds of lung bursting vomit.

As for Olympia, she chose at this time to emit a banshee yell of such pure ecstasy that all listening nearby felt pangs of jealousy. The women, for not having felt such as its like before, and men for never having have had their bed companions utter such noises in their company. Olympia timed her moans and groans with precision and no one afterwards could claim the Englishman was made sick by killing the Frenchman. Rather all told the same tale. Well not all. And there was disagreement as to why the Englishman killed the Frenchman, with theories ranging from simple dislike born of opposing nationality to the Frenchman having made a pass at the Englishman's woman, to the Frenchman having said something vile to the young girl we he was escorting to prayers with the Englishman gallantly leaping to her defense. The last theorem was much beloved by washerwomen, whores and bored ladies of good breeding with imagination. But regardless. All agreed on what happened after the Englishman killed the Frenchman: the Englishman's woman went near mad with lust at the sight of blood and death and had her base urges satisfied by the killer warlock in an alley.

As for the truth, when the sweat soaked body of Sir Augustin stopped heaving and shuddering long enough to pause and put upon its half-cloak again, Olympia tore a bit at her clothes. Then tore at Sir Augustin's and dragged her crimson thumbnail over his chest as t'were done in the heights of passion. Sir Augustin stood like a log during the proceedings.

"You did well. I am proud of you."

"I shot an unarmed man."

"He had a sword."

"And I a pistol."

"He had meant you harm."

"After I provoked him."

"We set sail in two days. We sail for the far end of the world. We will be trapped on those ships with dangerous men for a long time, yes? If those men do not respect you, they will ill treat you, and me. You had to earn their respect. You had to show you were capable of... putting a man to death."

"Murder. The word you are looking for is 'murder.'"


"Let us not have this conversation yet again. You told me what had to be done. And I did it. I did not enjoy it. But I have done it. Let us draw a veil."

"I will, if you shall."

"Must you always have the last word?"


At this the two coconspirators shared a smile. She leaned in for a kiss, but was stopped.

"I have bile in my mouth."

"And I have it my soul. No matter."

Olympia grabbed Sir Augustin and kissed.


Much later in the day, Boniface woke from his drugged stupor. He was in a different room. He was in a chair. His weapons were gone. But his money lay in a sack on a table before him. Olympia sat opposite.

"Tell good Lord-Bishop Mazarini we are flattered by his attentions, but we cannot be seen as French puppets. Where we are going, we will have need to rely on those who do not count France as friend."

Olympia stood.

"The rumors you will hear about your travelling companion... the heart of them is true. And if you are what I think you are, you will understand the reasons for our actions."

The copper haired woman with freckles left. Boniface saw his weapons on the floor behind her chair.


On Saturday, three old ships set sail from Genoese harbor: "Female Bastard," "Damsel" and "Fortune." In a busy port city, such as Genoa was in those strange and heady days, three ships leaving on a journey would be no cause for excitement, and yet experienced hands thought something was different about this small fleet. For starters, the head of the family Durazzo, the former Doge of the Most Serene Republic, and his cousin Cardinal, both showed in person to send off the ships. And though Durazzo were not as powerful as they once were, or thought, it was still a bit too much for a mere mercantile voyage. Also in attendance, an odd little man who spoke Genoese with a most awful Romanesco accent. He seemed to be too curious by half as to when and where the ships were heading. To mention nothing of the three sets of Spanish spies all in the town knew and loathed. They too were on the docks, each spying on each other and the three ships. And lastly, and he should barely rate a mention, an ambitious priest from Lucca lurked about in a laughable merchant's disguise and questioned sailors who parted him from his silver without giving anything away. It was thus an odd day.

As for the ships themselves, besides their age, there were only a few stories to tell. "Female Bastard" was the flagship of the squadron. She was an English copy of a Genoese trader that through a series of awkward events found herself in the very town where her bastardy was for all to see and thus earned her name. Yet, though no local would admit it within earshot of strangers, she had advantages. She was far sturdier than her more legitimate sisters, for the dock which spawned her built her for rougher North Seas. Not that the Mediterranean was a docile place, mind. Just less likely to plunge you into the icy abyss of horror that passed for the waters up in the Northern climes. Her captain was a Scotsman, or an Irishman, or English, the good people of Genoa could not tell, nor much cared. They knew he spoke English and some other language, and could make himself be understood in Genoese. He was new, but ran a pair of cruises to the Barbary coasts and brought back his ship in one piece and made profit.

"Damsel" was the slowest of the lot, but carried the most cannon (near dozen) and had the largest crew (at 44 souls). She started life as a Genoese trader, but some awfully Venetian ideas got through to her now bandy knees and stays, due to her previous owner being chock full of new notions. Still she sailed almost clean, and her captain was a local old salt, from an almost respectable family.

"Fortune" was the smallest and the fastest of the three. She was a true daughter of Genoa. Her captain was an old lunatic from the village (though locals called it town) of St. Peter of the Sands. The man had barmy thoughts and was said to speak in tongues on rainy days, but he brought his ship back from a storm that wrecked eleven of a twelve ship convoy.

Up on the "Bastard," the Englishman stood at the bowsprit and let the sea spray his face and closed eyes. He had on a smile of such utter serenity that even Olympia hesitated interrupting him. But he felt her before she could make a decision to speak.

"It can hold. You can return to your place of peace and dreams, alone."
"Oh I am not alone there. You are there, right by my side, wearing a crown and little else."

At this Olympia, who had drawn a man's blood before she had hers, who would admit no belief and who did not cross herself upon entering churches, blushed. And the Englishman smiled his smile, opened his eyes and turned to face his companion. The intensity and the warmth of the moment unmanned (if one may use such a word without irony with regards to a woman) Olympia and she felt need to bring up another topic, though she much regretted the one she picked, immediately, after she had done it:

"I have sent word to your sister in Florence."

All at once the smile died, the light in the Englishman's eyes dimmed and he gave a nod.

Olympia almost winced. She had never shrunk from performing cruelty, but only when it was intended. And here it was performed with an opposite desire at heart. Her mouth slit open to mutter an apology, but it was not used to making such and it hung there as she tried to find the right words. Seeing her distressed thus, made the Englishman will himself to give her a smile.

"Good. Mayhap she will keep out of trouble. So long as you did not say where we are going, or how?"
"I only told her that we are going on a long voyage and that we shall return rich."

The Englishman acknowledged it with a nod and turned to face the sea spray. Olympia thought of saying more, but could not. Later, when she had time to reflect upon it, she attributed it to not being able to give better words due to not being alone. The "Bastard" was not a large ship and any notions of privacy on such a vessel would be foolish. The other reason she found for her reticence was that some things one does not really say, but do, to alleviate pain. And she was not one to show her affection in public, despite rumors.

Leaving Sir Augustin with his thoughts and dreams, Olympia slunk off to their cabin to confirm, for the umpteenth time, no one had touched his notebooks and tools. Though to be truthful, the notebooks were not Sir Augustin's, but Galileo's. Obtained from the great now-blind man via his son. They may have held twenty years of observations of the moons of Jupiter. Or at least that is what Sir Augustin believed. And what he believed, Olympia lately found herself believing, owing to their conversations and his actions back in Florence.


And back in Florence, Ashley of St. Ives, woke in her bed and consulted the pocket watch her brother had built. Though she had forgotten to wind it the day before, she knew from past practice it would be off the next day by no more than half hour if not maintained. So though the watch declared it a little half past eleven, it could be in fact barely past eleven or just past noon. And this posed a dilemma. Ashley had resolved, upon coming into her current position, to live as a great lady, and part of such life, as she had understood it, was to never take leave of her bed before noon. If it was nearer to eleven than noon, then she should not rise. If it was past noon, she could. Erring on the side of caution, she decided to return to her slumbers. She shifted her ample body and examined her options. Her left side companion was her partner Salvatore and although he was warm, he had consumed some food that disagreed with him the night before and emitted a smell Ashley did not find pleasant and due tricks of light had come to resemble a nest of dead spiders. Thus Ashley turned to her other side and reached out to her young right side companion. Since it was a Tuesday morning, the companion was from the night before, that is to say, Monday. And Monday nights, the lady preferred to dine and bed with two male companions, thus the youth by her side, at this time, was a boy. Ashley nuzzled her nose into the back of his nape, wrapped her thick fingers around his much slender ones and thought of gold.

The same such thoughts occupied the mind of her patron and fellow occupant of the palace. His Highness Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinando II peered at a map of Italies in what he had on occasion to call his war room. He had with him half dozen generals, almost all locals, save for one man from almost decently Tuscan Pisa who had spent his youth in more savage places. Opposite the Grand Duke stood his brother Mattias, governor of the good city of Sienna, and more importantly experienced in the ways of war. Not just the type of wars fought then in civilized Italies, but also in the thoroughly savage Germanies, where bloody battles, and worse, were ongoing for near three decades.

The generals prattled on in support of or against Mattias. Wood blocks with colored flags were moved about and many words said. Hands were used to explain plans and cunning stratagems were unveiled, weighed in the balance and found wanting. And the Grand Duke held silence and stared at the map.

The Pope's armies were coming. That was the short of it. The long of it: Central Italies were to be lost. This mattered little to Medici in general and the head of its House in specific, for they held no lands in the middle of the beautiful peninsula. But the Farnese did. And more importantly, the family Farnese held lands in the North Italies as well. If the Central Italies fell to the papal armies, and half of the House of Farnese lands lost, could this Pope be counted upon to stop and go no further? Some argued, "Yes." The Northern league was after all founded upon the belief that by merely allying they would scare off the Pope. But suppose he did not? Suppose this ravenous scapegrace could not stop himself from marching up to Ravenna to press his advantage? And if those armies came there, where would they go hither? To reach Farnese lands in the North from Rome one had to march through Medici held lands. What then? War. True war. And that meant one thing and one thing only: gold.

To field armies and to keep them. To replace soldiers lost. To bribe commanders. To counter enemy bribes. To keep trade going while sending out warships to protect it. Gold. All this required vast sums of gold. And with wool prices falling even steeper than Bank of Medici interest rates, Florence had little to give. But, Rome it was said to have even less. It would be a war fought on credit. And it would be a coin toss whether Rome's credit gave out before that of the Northern league.

The lackey came into the room and whispered to the Grand Duke. He muttered a sigh and left, without excusing himself, for it was his room and his palace and his generals and his brother. The Grand Duke marched through the hallway covered with frescoes, mosaics and prints of great artists without taking note of any of them. He was... in a mood. His summoner stood waiting for him in the small private chamber. She had put on a court dress that still fit her now more generous figure than when she had first come under his patronage. When she curtsied, the immature part of the Grand Duke's mind took bets on whether she'd fall. She did not. And her smile still made him smile and soften his mien.

"You spoke of a new source of money, Ashley?"

"Yes, your Highness. My brother... My brother had left me a letter. He requested I tell you that 'the sinews of war are, uh, a lot of money?' and that he shall return with much gold."

Grand Duke blinked. He was not a man of superstition. And has had as yet meet any creature who answered to warlock whose powers were satisfied to him to be more than cheap tricks to gull simple. But that this message would come to him now... He bade himself to reveal nothing and gave a nod.

"Gold is always most welcome, good Ashley. I hope your brother returns with it. If he does."

"Your Highness, my brother is most bothersome. He never truly leaves. He always returns."
Chapter 07
"Captain Kelly, a word?"
Captain Kelly of the "Female Bastard" gave a nod to the English warlock and warily seceded room upon the quarterdeck to the strange intruder.

"We are fast approaching Cape Green?"
"Aye, if the winds hold."
"Will the griffins among us be made to answer to the Court of good King Neptune then, or do you think it too ill judged a thing on a vessel this small and a journey this long?"

Captain Kelly gaped.
"You...? You are a Son of Neptune?"
"I have such honor."
"When did you...?"
Captain Kelly stopped himself before he could give warlock actionable reason to think he had committed a personal indignity, but still thought he had gone too far indeed and felt himself compelled to clarify:
"I do not mean to question your seafaring, good sir."

"I understand, Captain. Pray be so good as to set your mind at ease as I do not think you offered me leave to resent. I know I do not look an old salt, but I was inducted into the mysteries of the Deep before my thirteenth birthday. My... uncle was a mercantile adventurer and I sailed with him down the coast of Africa to the ports of all nations and creeds."

Kelly knew the warlock was no lubber by the way he did not get sea sick, nor did any man who saw him crawl up rigging to study Heavens with his spyglass and sheaf of notes could mistake him as such, but still. The distance from not being an utter lubber to being a true Son of Neptune was as vast as that between a man who could recite a Hail Mary and deliver a sermon on a Sunday in a cassock.

"As to my question, Captain?"
"Ah, yes. I had not given it thought 'forehand. There are some who believe the Court to be a heathen thing, you know?"
"Yes, yes, you are right. I have known some to hold such a view."
"Still. How else is a griffin to become a true Son of Neptune?"
"Indeed. Reason I ask, if you decide to duck and shave or induct in another fashion... Lady Olympia is a griffin. I should take it as favor if you to allow me to judge her at the Court, were it'd be convened?"
"Yes, yes, of course."
"Good day, Captain."
And with that the strange warlock left.

Being a ship, soon every soul on it had known what transpired. With the Sons of Neptune among crew mystified to find warlock among their number.
"Suppose he gave lie?"
"Not even a heathen would lie about such thing," reasoned Pete the Fair, given such name for being so ugly, a sharp tongue once said he would not find joy in a nunnery without paying good silver first.
"Aye, not a heathen, but he be a warlock," pressed Bald Jacopo.
"Warlock or not. Even an Eden child knows not to give lie about being a Son of Neptune while in his kingdom."
"He is a warlock. He reads black books and changes natural things into unnatural."
"And I say still, if he has any sense, and sense he has shown, he would not lie of it."
"So you say."
"You question what I say?"

At this ugly silence between Bald Jacopo and Pete the Fair, an old hand, One Eyed Battista, jumped in:
"We are still within sight of land and your balls ache so much already that you are already at each other's throats? Peste! What shall it be like when we are out in the open sea, with no cunny to be had for hundreds of leagues?"
All laughed and the daggers were not drawn. But some lackwit just had to add:
"Did anyone sail on a ship with this black-booker before?"
A near universal groan greeted The Lackwit and the old hand gave him a one eyed stare stare and bade him to check the rigging on the main mast. The Lackwit blushed and left the congregation.
Still, once a question was asked, it lingered.
"Did he not say he sailed with his uncle?"
"See if he may part with his uncle's name. That may help."
Thus was the Great Matter decided.

Next morning, Captain Kelly informed Sir Augustin of St. Ives, he had decided not to celebrate crossing the line when the three ships passed Cape Green of the lands of Senegal and thereby spared the griffins from being judged by the Court of King Neptune, much to chagrin on the part of the true Sons of Neptune and near unanimous relief among all the griffins on deck.
"Oh, and Sir Augustin, we shall provision at River Gambra before crossing the Atlantic."
"Very good, Captain."

In 1641, the River Gambra made Germanies seem peaceful, with its northern and southern banks claimed by the Dutch, French, English, Portuguese and even the blessed Couronians. Forts appeared and disappeared just as quickly on maps, with names changing fast and furious and fresh graves dug. Still, if one wanted to catch quick and good trade winds from the African coast to the South American continent, the banks of River Gambra made for a natural departure point and the risk was seen worth it, even for a tiny mercantile fleet of three small ships with few cannon and little crew.

Still, Captain Kelly had the cannon run out and the three ships sailed close. And all sailors noticed the warlock's woman Olympia appeared on deck iron heeled and with a brace of knives and pistols. As for the warlock, he had on a grin and stood at the bowsprit, which some had taken to calling the warlock's spot owing to him being found often there. The warlock cast about a friendly eye on the sundrenched brown and evil looking shores of the northern bank of Gambra as if greeting an old love and was heard to mutter, "Barrah." When word of this, uh, word was passed to One Eyed Battista, he gave a nod.
"Aye, 'tis what this place is called by some. The warlock either learned his maps or been here before."

The first white man's place the "Female Bastard" sighted was a fort held by half dozen cannons of scared and scarred Portuguese traders. The "Bastard" somehow had no sailor who spoke porkchop, though "Damsel" was thought to have one, but while they waited for "Damsel" to get within shouting distance, the warlock stepped up and shouted foreign at the shore. They answered and a conversation started. This went on for what seemed an eternity to all those who did not speak the tongue, until the traders on shore were heard to bray laughter and the fort doors were unbarred and creaked open.

"If we part with some powder, they will give us fresh food, including pigs and goats, Captain."

Upon hearing this, the warlock's standing grew further still among the Bastards. So much so indeed that when the crews of all three ships mingled ashore, the Fortunes and the Damsels thought it was all a jest, 'til the goats and pigs were traded and the warlock was seen talking serious foreign with a local Jesuit and the Jesuit was seen to bow to the warlock afterwards.


Unfortunately, a far lesser opinion of warlock was held by a Roman Jesuit reporting his views concerning the feasibility of Sir Augustin's journey to the Isle of the Mines of King Solomon by the lunar methods of blind heretic called Galileo. The Roman Jesuit spat contempt and obloquy. His audience was Lord Cardinal-Inquisitor of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition Francesco Barberini, nephew to His Holiness the Pope Urban VIII (née Maffeo Barberini), brother to Cardinal Antonio Barberini and brother still to Captain-General of the Papal Armies Taddeo Barberini. Cardinal-Inquisitor Francesco Barberini was far from zealot and held his office due to being seen by his good uncle as being most reliable among all family members and even it was rumored most intelligent, for in that epoch the Popes could only be sure of the compliance of the unruly denizens of Rome, and indeed Central Italies, by force of armies and horde of spies. Thus, to speak plain, nephew Taddeo was given command of gendarmes in uniform while nephew Francesco was given gendarmes in plainclothes.

The Roman Jesuit paused his brimstone to catch his breath and spittle.
"Thank you, my good servant. You may take leave."
The Roman Jesuit was quite prepared to spew for another quart hour, nay a full hour mayhap, but bowed to the second most powerful man in Rome and walked off, his robes rustling on the rich inlaid mosaic on the floor of the Cardinal-Inquisitor's office. As for the Cardinal-Inquisitor, he leaned back and cooled his thoughts against the fiery painting opposite him: Judith Slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi. The pure naked rage in Judith's face as she butchered hapless Holofernes as if a hog often helped the Cardinal-Inquisitor clothe his feelings. These days it was more necessary.

The Cardinal-Inquisitor was still surprised by his own ability to deceive all around him when his good uncle announced to his face over family supper, with much aplomb, that he planned destruction of the family Farnese. Castro fell, but it was not enough. Now papal armies marched north, to Ravenna and beyond. There would be war, and that meant money. Money the papacy could ill afford to spend after his good uncle's... spree in Rome. Yes, the Eternal City was crumbling. But it has been crumbling for nigh on 1,600 years, why must it be not be made to crumble now? Why should there be all those obelisks and fountains to mark piazzas? Why on Earth should all those churches be renovated? Dear Lord, why?

If the papacy did little else but pledge itself to repay all its debts, it would take ten years just to pay down the growing interest before ever touching the principal that made such interest grow. There was talk of millions, but soon a new word entered the Cardinal-Inquisitor's already gargantuan vocabulary: billions. The debts were crippling. And now, a war, against nearly all polities of North Italies, save ravaged and much confused Piedmont and Lucca, whose forty ruling families could be made to barely agree on the divinity of Christ, much less a commitment to a war. A long war, and though it would be an Italian war with much movement, even more bluster and little bloodshed, it would still mean keeping men under arms, fed and paid. And paid gold, not in empty promises. The only blessing is that the Medici, the financial heart of the rebellion, were to be said in dire straits, but now... now there lurked a promise of a charlatan, madman or "warlock," as simple called him, with ties to Florence, capital of Medici held lands, who set sail to the fabled isles of the tranquil sea on the other side of the Americas containing the much more fabled gold mines of the more fabled still King Solomon. Danger lurked.

Even if all the Roman Jesuit said was true, if enough fools believed the warlock could return with gold it would replenish the credit of the banks of Medici and that meant their armies could stay upon the field longer than the armies of Rome and that meant... Cardinal-Inquisitor knew what his brothers dared not even ask, their uncle was not in good health, and should he expire in the midst of a losing war, the odds of their family holding unto the throne of St. Peter at the next election would be slim to none. The war must be either be won or be seen as won. But the longer the war went, the more the false premise of far off gold could extend credit, therefore...

"Lord, forgive me," said Cardinal-Inquisitor out loud. He knew what he must now do, but his mind trembled at finishing the thought. He willed himself to study the spurts of blood in the painting opposite him and finished his thought. If the long war would go against Rome, the war must be shortened. And there was but one way to shorten wars in Italies, dotted as it was with castles, fortified towns and marching and counter-marching armies, each making faces and bold gestures at each other. The war must be made too hard to bear. It must be made terrible. It must be made... German.

Cardinal-Inquisitor crossed himself and rang the third bell. His third secretary appeared and bowed.
"Call upon my good brother Taddeo, and tell him I have need to speak with him on a private matter."
Chapter 08
The Bavarian ate soup with his hands. It was all Cardinal-Inquisitor could be made to focus upon, then he realized the barbaric display was being done on purpose to shock him and was able to banish the unseemly sight from his mind. His good brother (and fellow cardinal) Antonio had more trouble with accepting with what was before him. His pale lips trembled and from time to time he had pinched the tips of his ears, a sure sign of displeasure. As for brother Taddeo, he was, after all these years, used to oafish ways of wayward souls that found themselves into the abyss of soldiery and was able to converse with the Bavarian with little trouble. Though there was very little trouble to be had in understanding the barbarian, for his questions devolved to two things: how much and how many? How much gold could the family Barberini offer and how many of his troops would have need to come down to Italies.

"Good Captain-General Barberini, pray tell how many German troops would be necessary to cow the North."
"Uh, 15,000 should do it, Lord Cardinal-Inquisitor. On top of the local ones we have now and will get."
"Captain Miller?"
"Pay good gold and I get you 15,000 Bavarians in here by Michaelmas, ya lordship."

Antonio Barberini shot his best smile, rested his forearms on the table and steepled his fingers.
"And if we were to pay in luoghi di monte, my good Captain?"
"My boys ain't what you'd call 'sophisticated,' yer Excellency. They won't understand none about these fancy collateralized debt obligations of yours. I'll need gold coin. Things they can touch and feel. Yes?"
"Naturally," interceded Cardinal-Inquisitor to relief of his brother Taddeo and annoyance of Antonio.

Later, when the details were hammered out, goodbyes made, bows done and rings kissed, with the barbarian gone, little brother Antonio lashed out at his elder.
"You call that negotiating?"
"Brother, we are dealing with beer swilling savages from the forest. One does not negotiate with those who are bereft of all civilized discourse by the awful nature of their country of birth and station in life."
"You do realize that creature will go back to his fellows and say we are marks, yes?"
"Let him. And when they come, they will not find us as such. We need 15,000 men. We shall get them."
"Dear me. 15,000, not 14,000, or 16,000. Exactly 15,000, yes, Taddeo?" dash near hissed Antonio.
Taddeo opened his mouth, but the oldest brother spoke for him.
"Antonio, if you are so smart, how come you did not talk our uncle out of his war?"

Antonio's eyelashes fluttered at that and his delicate hands flew up and his fingers fanned.
"How dare you...? Why must I...? What of you? What about all of you?!"

"What of us? Taddeo was told to prepare for war and was asked how to best use his troops. He was not consulted on whether the thing should be done. Surely you cannot say in any seriousness, dearest brother, that the Captain-General of the Papal Armies argue - yes, yes, argue - with the Pope as to whether those armies should be put to the field? Come now. But you, you are the official Cardinal-Nephew. You govern all foreign affairs of the states comprising our uncle's patrimony. And what affair is more foreign than an invasion of a sovereign polity in the..."

"Now you go too far, brother! Much too far. Castro is a fiefdom, not... The family Farnese are our vassals, not a... They had to be taught a lesson, it is just a lesson has gone too far. Much too far."
"It is the year of Our Lord 1641, brother. To speak of 'vassals' in our age is to not be serious. Farnese were tied by blood and land to the Medici. A blind man should have..."
"Oh and now I am blind as well? You are...!"

"Enough," bellowed Taddeo and pounded his fist on the table. This he had seen done before by an English officer under his command to bring to heel a degenerate table of Scots and the Irish officers of his company. It worked then and it worked now. His civilian brothers were stunned by display.

Emboldened, Taddeo pressed on, "Both are you right and both wrong. This is a bad war and more should have been done to stop it, but it was not stopped, thus it goes and thus we, uh, go with it. But, Francesco, you too have been hasty. Germans? Here? It is bad enough when we have the scum from the Southern Italies here, but now you want those barbarians to bring war to a close? No, no, no. It is much, uh, too much. Too much, say I. I tell you this, I say this as a general, it is easier to find troops than rid yourselves of them. And should Germans come here, they will not leave and then... I am no Suetonius, but it strikes me little good came of German troops being near Rome, yes, yes? And all for what? Because some charlatan black-booker may or may not find an isle no one has seen in ages and the one man who has was never able to get back to it. Are we not being... too fast, much too fast? For all we know, this charlatan will be lost at sea or return a pauper."

"Dearest brother, you speak reason, but were we governed by reason alone, then drums and bright lights would not excite and make us leave our senses. This Englishman does not even have to return with gold for the ill affect of such a thing to take hold in the minds of our foes and give them strength. The merest rumor, repeated without variation in enough taverns and banks would give aid our enemies and hurt us."
"But, but, there may be other options, are there not?"
"Such as?"

Poor Taddeo floundered, but he was too caught in the moment to show weakness and recovered his wits almost admirably:
"Well, this, uh, Grand Duke, he is at the heart of this, uh, rebellious League, is he not?"
Cardinal-Inquisitor deigned to give a nod.
"If we, uh, end him, then do we not end the, uh, rebellion?"
Antonio gave a sigh. Cardinal-Inquisitor shot a smile.
"Dearest brother, the worst thing to our cause would be for that half-sodomite half-wit to expire. Should the Grand Duke die, his much more able brother Mattias would take over, a man known for his skill upon the field of battle, experienced in ways of war and a beloved governor, or if we are lucky it may be his other brother Gian Carlo, who knows not the art of city-politics of Florence or Sienna, but is called by nearly all to be the finest mind for seafaring combat in the North."
Then silence held lease.

In the relative comfort of his office, the Cardinal-Inquisitor went over the affairs of state he neglected for the sake of dining with a German savage. The topmost pressing report was actually more than one, it was a bundle, put together by his fourth secretary on the strange affairs now going on in England, where the unhappy king of that cold desolate place decided to reaffirm his kingship at the expense of his people, who were less than pleased with him and spoke with a voice of tempered, but firm, rejection. Two of the agents presaged armed conflict between king and his subjects, while the other four spoke of a settled mediation once men of cool and more deliberate heads took charge.

Cardinal-Inquisitor set aside that bundle with a small note to have the information passed to his brother Antonio, but with the reports rewritten by a secretary to disguise the hand of his agents and, needless to say, their names stripped. There was a word for men in the world of spies who did not take care to protect their intelligencers: fools.

The second bundle concerned hysteric notes from Jesuits in Paris and a no less hysterical letter from Bishop Mazarini concerning the appearance and the spread of yet another crypto-Protestant sect in the lands of the Eldest Daughter of the Holy Mother Church. Cardinal-Inquisitor set the report aside. He did not have the carriage of mind to deal with Mazarini now, before he had his wine and hot food.
He rang his fifth small bronze bell.

Lord Bishop Mazarini had indeed written a letter to papal authorities in Rome that mayhap in retrospect read more strident than it should have been. But we must not judge the man too harshly. The bulwark of the life's work of Cardinal Richelieu was the expulsion of the plague known as Huguenots from the borders of France. Town by town, province by province, these foul Protestants were driven out, and so any appearance under a different animal skin in the French kingdom alarmed both the Cardinal and his presumptive heir. And for this reason, the latter had called upon a valued agent to give to him report in person of the various aristocratic women suspected to be in the thrall of his dangerous cult of Jansenism.
Boniface, who today was called Jean-Paul, stood before the Bishop and duly answered his questions.

When his lordship was satisfied and more put at ease, for no princess of royal blood were at this time suspected of being involved, Jean-Paul assayed a query:
"Has my lord the Bishop heard any news regarding the warlock and his expedition to the far end of the world?"
"Nothing of note. But pray tell me, why do you...?"
"I feel the affair is not finished, my lord."
"No doubt you are right, good Jean-Paul. But for the moment it is at an impasse. The last report I had on this so-called warlock, had him victualing his ships at an African port."

The Bishop was not ill informed, but it must be remembered that information in those days traveled slower than in ours, and Sir Augustin of St. Ives and the three ships of his fleet were in fact at this moment docked in a cove in South America, having braved the first leg of the journey over the Atlantic with relative calm. The cove was in Essequibo, then colony of the Dutch, who by their force of arms and sheer bloody mindedness carved out colonies from the Portuguese and Spanish empires. And the three-ship fleet of the "Female Bastard," "Damsel" and "Fortune" was received handsomely by the Dutchmen once they satisfied themselves they were dealing with private mercantile concerns of some family back in Genoa and not formal Spanish, nor Portuguese, interests.

Having found themselves once more on dry land after crossing the rough sea, the crews of the three ships behaved rather badly and more than a few bones were broken, some natives assaulted and three dozen fresh knife scars marked up sailors and the locals combined. Still, there were no deaths, no one got left behind to face local justice and Captain Kelly gave appropriate compensation to the white skinned injured parties.

As for Sir Augustin, he and his familiar Lady Olympia, somehow managed to impose upon the senior most Dutch West Indian Company clerk present in the colony to write out a good letter of introduction to the governor of the New Holland colony in Brazil at Mauritsstad.

Once the three ships set sail from their now more reluctant Dutch hosts, Captain Kelly paid his compliments to Sir Augustin, but was stunned to learn:
"I have no intention of going to Mauritsstad, Captain. The letter was just to throw off the scent. I suggest we make our landfall much further South, preferably some place that is ruled neither by the Dutch, nor Spanish, nor Portuguese."
Captain Kelly gave a nod, not wholly trusting his mouth at the moment. He had underestimated the warlock again and had no wish for the strange man to know of it.

The strange man, having delivered his message, shambled off to his cabin, where his familiar reposed. He found a chair and sat, looking more than a little ill. His familiar stood up without word, walked up behind him and hugged him.

"I am at peace, Olympia. Truly."

"I know how much you had your heart set on seeing the observatory and, uh, those other learned places in Mauritsstad."

"You explained to me why we cannot sail there. We will not. Let us draw a veil."

Olympia released her prey from her hands, but not her eyes.
"Let us not. Let us speak to it."

"We spoke on it, before."

"No. I spoke and you listened. Now I would have you speak."

"I did as you asked, is that not enough?"
His peevish tone startled him, and the Englishman made an effort to sit up more straight and give a smile.
"Forgive me, that was churlish."

"You are no churl."

"Hence my apology."

"I have no wish for an apology, beloved. But to... Let us speak on it. Truly. Please."

"This ship has ears."

"Then let us speak on it in a berth."

Sir Augustin nearly blushed, but did as he was bidden. And the two climbed in bed, in parallel, on their sides, so that one's back was to the other and one's mouth was over the other's ear. This strange and intimate arrangement guaranteed privacy, but only allowed one party to speak. And so after the speaker would come to an end of their statement, they would roll onto their other side and the listener they previously faced would shift 180 degrees to now face the turned speaker's back and find their mouth pressed to their ear and thus become speaker themselves while the previous speaker became listener. It made a conversation cumbersome and much longer than it should have been, but the two have had much practice at such an arrangement at sea and so long as they did not argue, it served them well. For as you can well imagine, if one person turned to speak and the other person was not prepared to stop talking themselves, they would merely find themselves face to face and have their words travel.

"Speak, please," said Olympia and then turned. And Sir Augustin turned with her and found his mouth pressed to her delicate ear.

"I really am satisfied that going to Mauritsstad was too risky and think it was not worth it. All's well."

At this Sir Augustin turned and it was now Olympia's turn.
"But I know how much you wanted to see it."

She turned to let Sir Augustin speak, but he hesitated before making the revolution to match his body position with hers.
"Olympia, I am quite unsure what you desire of me at this time. We have spoken on this topic before. I agreed with you then. I agree with you now. What more can I say?"

Sir Augustin now shifted. Olympia turned and her hot mouth pressed to his ear.
"What is in your heart on this matter?"

They shifted not quite in unison.
"My heart is in total agreement with your assessment."

Sir Augustin went to shift, but was stopped by Olympia's hand. She then rolled to face him, their heads touching.
And this earned Sir Augustin a kiss.
Chapter 09
The three-ship fleet kept for the most part within sight of land of the east cost of South America as they sailed southwards to the Strait of All Saints. It was a wearisome work, for often the fickle winds in that part of the world were against them, or on some days were nowhere to be found, and there were some storms and some bones were broken, but still there were no deaths, save for the designated sea-chirgueon on the "Damsel." That unfortunate drank too much one warm night and desiring to cool himself dove and forgot he could not swim. Though to be fair none on the dog watch on the deck of "Damsel" could swim either, and he drowned.

If there was one victory to be had in the hot days and cold nights as the ships stank of stale sweat and sour wine farts, it was the warlock's, for he climbed the rigging as an ape and took readings of the moons and compared it against his sheaf of notes pronounced himself quiet satisfied, and one day was heard to laugh atop the crow's nest and skylark down to deck. Those who overheard him speak to his familiar that evening said he felt he knew precisely where the ships were in relation to Genoa and spoke of traveling and time with much delight.

As for the sailors, they were tired, bored and in need of female company. The sojourn at the Dutch colony did not cool their tempers, but instead inflamed them and it was a good thing for Olympia and some of the more smaller framed teenage boys on ships that the fleet made fast near a native village well south of the Dutch Brazilian outposts. That night, the crews slaked their thirst and screams were heard for miles in all directions.

In their shared berth, that night, the Englishman could not keep to his notes and astrolabe and even his more cold blooded companion gripped her weapons and dared not to open her mouth, for fear she would make a noise which the warlock would take for concern and go and do some dash fool thing and try to stop the rapes occurring on the shore. She instead set her eyes on a discolored beam above her head and thought of pleasant things, though there were precious few in her life. To keep the vile sounds at bay, she forced herself to recall the first time she had sat her eyes upon the warlock.

It was the start of the year of Our Lord 1640, in Tuscany, which unlike the rest of Italies was celebrated on March 25th in all Medicean domains, for reasons too silly and obscure for us to now recount. A pair of English strangers found their way to Florence, having first been observed in Pisa for a month, and then in Sienna for sennight before. They had with them a Sienese scapegrace which did their reputation no favors, but the two English, alleged to be siblings per the drunken warblings of the female of the pair, were said to blessed with an uncanny skill at finding art thought long lost to ages and recognizing art thought to be attributed to others. Thus, it was said, that even Cavalier Cassiano dal Pozzo himself, an expert of all things in the world of art (and it was whispered alchemy and all things black-arts), the private principal secretary and antiquarian of the Lord Cardinal-Inquisitor Francesco Barberini, was convinced, by a correspondence with either the male or female of the English pair, and started through an introduction by a friend of the Cavalier's brother, of an existence of a third Da Vinci female portrait, in addition to Mona Lisa and, uh, the other one. Thus the trio was found worth watching.

The task of spying on the little brother of the English siblings fell to Lady Olympia. She had on occasion had pledged her sword to the family Medici and in return for this they favored her with benefices in cash and kind. Now, under no account can we say the lady worked for Medici, for she was an aristocrat and those of gentle blood do not work. Work is for peasants, monks and burghers. Rather, the aristos, as the lady did here, pledge support to a House they hold in enough esteem, and in return the House grants them gifts as fits their station. Though in this case they gifted a few silver coins to watch the warlock go about his daily life. And it thus, as an intelligencer, did Olympia spot Sir Augustin of...

The high pitched scream ashore came loose from a throat of girl barely in her teens. Olympia shook from her remembrances, gripped the hilt of her wide bladed knife with her left hand, while her right found the pistol Sir Augustin used to kill the Ensign of the King's Guards in Genoa. Sir Augustin sprung to his feet and unable to tolerate the cruelty strode up to the door of their berth to put an end to the assault on the shore or to at least do his dashed finest.

"Don't," said Olympia without feeling. She still not trusted herself not to speak from visceral fear, so she picked her words with care and used them sparsely.
"They are...!"
"... men. It is a dangerous journey. They may die tomorrow. They want to feel alive tonight."

The screams ashore soon turned to choked sobs and were followed by four barks of male laughter.

"Sit with me. Please."
The last word contained too much emotion and Olympia recoiled from herself and shifted her back to Sir Augustin lest he see her animal fear.

Sir Augustin slipped into the berth behind her, wrapped his hands around her body now a-shudder and gripped tight. For her part, Lady Olympia let loose her knife and gripped her left hand over his fingers, dug into his palm deep and exhaled. Sir Augustin said and did nothing, but lay still, only periodically loosening his grip on his companion's hand and then reasserting it, to show a sign of life. Each grip was welcomed by a grip from Olympia and thus they passed hours in silence, while on the ashore, the men did their deeds and staggered off to sleep, while their victims slunk off to cry in awful silence.

The morning found the sinners and sunned upon reluctant to think of what went on the previous night, and the crews did their utmost to put as much distance from the scene of crime. No word was said 'til breakfast, and no jest accompanied the meal. It was only when Captain Kelly made the shore disappear from sight than sighs of relief were heard among the cruelest rapists on the ships.

The fleet then made for the Strait of All Saints which separates the eastern shores of South America from the west, and all prepared their bodies for the lashing of the winds and sea and their souls for potential death. And in their berth, Sir Augustin packed the sheaf of notes in an oil cloth and then wrapped the package in yet another, weighing it down with his favored spyglass and his second favored one. This packet was then sealed and a leather cord tied through it and around the warlock's wrist. For her part, Lady Olympia cast off her iron heeled boots and contemplated the sad state of her toenails while the warlock had his back to her. She then slipped on a pair of wool socks that scratched but would do the necessary masque.

Captain Kelly had intended for the fleet to pass through the Strait at mid-day, but misadventures in the wind and an issue with the jib of "Fortune" made them cross closer to dusk. Just as they entered, a storm hit and thoroughly savaged them. The ships lost sight of another as they bounded through the Strait and foul weather kept them apart 'til they were through, and then all three were faced with squall.

In their berth, Olympia disgraced her scratchy socks by vomiting upon them most profusely, while Sir Augustin strained to listen to the deck, having been forbidden by his companion from going topside.
"If the mizzen is destroyed, we can still survive, but I fear if the main goes, we may not have enough men free to cut her rigging and she may bring down more," he said unhelpfully out loud as Olympia blasphemed and suggested half a dozen saints commit acts of anatomical impossibility.

By three bells at mid watch, the ship stopped being tossed about and by four, Captain Kelly was able to discern "Fortune," and her captain him. But none could see "Damsel." By morning watch, Sir Augustin offered his spyglass to a topmast Jack, and he saw wreckage in the water. By two bells it was identified as the awkward Venetian knees of the doomed "Damsel." No words of grief were said out loud, but some tears shed in the Stygian darkness amidships.

The madman in charge of "Fortune" wished to look for some survivors, and this Children's Crusade was authorized by Captain Kelly of the "Female Bastard" to keep peace in the fleet. When the eight bells struck at Afternoon watch, the madman was mollified and the two ship fleet made its away up the western coast of South America, as the warlock did his observations and made notes.


A much different set of notes were made by put upon Grand Duke Ferdinando II, as he attempted to puzzle out with all the skills of Archimedes reborn just how much would the war cost him by year's end (that is until March of 1642, per our earlier note, and not January 1st). The sum came out to a shade over million florins. And though it is hard to say with exactitude how much it would relate to our moneys today, it should be noted that in those days, a master mason earned 60 a year if he worked for 200 days. Thus, the Grand Duke's groan. The man's bottom found a chair and he called for fortified wine and was soon served.

The Germans had changed everything. To counter the Bavarian savages now in the papal ranks, Mattias had to get no less savage Saxons. And so the glorious ballet of marches and counter-marches, artfully, long and inconclusive sieges was soon replaced with a more violent sport. Pike crashed on pike. Sword fell on sword. And musket ball tore flesh, broke bones and left widows. It was a different sort of war than what the Italies were used to seeing. 10,000 dead in the last battle alone. And still more battles had to be fought and still more Germans found, and all this cost gold and credit.

The Grand Duke got beastly drunk that day, and servants stayed well clear of him, while his fat wife prayed for her deliverance from his mood in bed and was spared, for the Grand Duke found a page instead to satisfy his lust and need for violence. It was a miserable Christmas for near all involved.


But not in Paris, where Lord Bishop Jules Raymond Mazarini got his red hat upon presentation to King Louis XIII and did not feel his feet touch ground when the husk of Cardinal Richelieu bade him to his prviate chamber.
"You are to go to Rome, dear Jules."
Mazarini's smile never left his lips, just eyes.

"Come now, you must know how this works."
Indeed, the Bishop - nay, now Cardinal - suspected that to avert too much ill will, he would be sent to cool his heels somewhere out of place until the husk had need of him. It was already much remarked upon that her Majesty the Queen of France said to one of her ladies that no matter what the Italian did, she could never quite be mad at him due to his curious eyes and well proportioned mouth. That such a statement was never uttered by Anne of Austria and was baseless marketplace gossip only made the rumor more believed and many, many tongues were set to wag. Still, Rome was not a place one was safe from rumor, and given the intrigues of the War of Castro raging there... It would have been far safer were the newly minted cardinal was sent off to Avignon, in his not unenlightened view.

"When can I return, your Excellency?"
"When I have need of you."
"When must I leave?"
"By Candlemas you are to be in Rome."
"Good day, your Excellency."
"Hold. While in Italies, seek to find out more about the journey of this... Sir Augustin of St. Ives."
"Of course, your Excellency."
"Now you have our leave."
Cardinal Mazarini gave a bow and departed.
Chapter 10
Mazarini set a watery palm against a crumbling wall. His scarlet cloth suit had turned magenta from sweat since the start of the climb. His red hat was a soaked mess tucked in a belt. Rivulets streamed down his scalp. His armpits felt as putrid as a swamp. But worst was the pain in his side. That his lungs shook he could understand and that his legs felt as if they were broken was likewise no mystery, but why did his side hurt thus? He suddenly found himself panting. His companion stood behind him, in the cramped staircase, and was no worse for wear. For the journey to Italies he had picked a name of Allesandro, but was previously known to us as Boniface and for a time as Jean-Paul, though that was a much more fleeting moment.

"How...? How much further up?"
"We are halfway up, Excellency."
Allesandro said nothing.
"It did not look quite so, uh, long a, uh, journey from the ground."
Allesandro said nothing.

Mazarini pushed himself off and resumed the climb. The pain in his side subsided and though the sweat had remained, he was not going to let the Tower of Pisa defeat him. He set his feet carefully against the uneven stairs, slowing his gait and willing his legs to go forward. When his legs could go no more, he stopped entirely, finding something that could be mistaken for a landing. He set the seat of his cassock against a ledge and felt his stomach heave as if he was a dog. Sweat dripped down his eyes and blinded him. He patted him down and withdrew a handkerchief as bathed in sweat as his armpits. The neckerchief was more water than cloth at this point as well.

Allesandro offered an almost clean cloth from his neck.

Mazarini nodded, for speaking hurt too much at the moment and mopped his face. He returned the cloth to his benefactor.

"His Excellency may keep it."
"No, it would just become stained. You hold unto it, as you do not seem to sweat."
Mazarini checked himself, realizing he had almost made it sound like an accusation.

He stared up the winding staircase.
"How much...?"
"I would say we have gone three-fifths of a journey, Excellency."
"Three... You mean to tell me since I last asked, we have but traveled a one tenth of the whole ordeal?"
"Yes, Excellency."

Mazarini let loose a bull snort of defiance, gathered his robes and marched up ahead. He resolved to march 'til he collapsed. And collapse he did, not long after. The stairwell was far too narrow for a man of even such a slim frame as the newly minted Cardinal to truly fall and keep falling all the way down, and so he more or less plopped fell into the arms of the waiting Allesandro. The pock marked small man caught him quite well. Set him back on his feet. And gave him a bit of Dutch courage.

"Stop, stop. I cannot be drunk for this meeting."
"As you command, Excellency."

Mazarini then climbed much more cautiously, breathing badly through his mouth, not nose.

By the time he had reached the top of the Tower of Pisa, Mazarini had collapsed only once more, but made himself stop once Allesandro told him but one tenth of the journey remained. Wiped his face as well as he could. Dried out his red hat. Slipped it on and made the rest of the journey in silence and breathing through his nose, as Allesandro had cautioned.

At the top, the two men were greeted by Prince Leopoldo Medici, brother to the Grand Duke of Tuscany and former Governor of Sienna (an office now held by his other brother Mattias), as well as Governor Pietro Medici, a no account nephew of some lesser Medici distaff spinster relative who was granted Governorship of Pisa because no one else wanted it. We say this not to slight good people of Pisa, whose history is well known to all, but Pisa at start of 1642 (by our calendar, or that of Tuscans) was but a shadow of itself as a port, polity or a place of wealth.

"Good climb, eh?" said Leopoldo with what could be mistaken for a smirk or a smile.

Mazarini chose not to interpret the statement as a jibe, for the face of Leopoldo was so monstrously ugly due to generations of bad breeding that it made it impossible to read as whether one should take offense. It will surprise none of our gentle readers that ugly face was a quite formidable weapon which Leopoldo deployed infamously in his career as a politico of some renown. His opponents were never quite sure what to think of him, as they could not bear to look at him for any length of time.

At length, Mazarini found his breath and could bear a smile.

"I am glad you have chosen to meet me, my good prince."

"Oh I am always glad to have met a churchman."
And again that strange smirk.

"Could I trouble you for your views on the current affairs now engulfing the Farnese?"

"They are now at war, and we find ourselves at their side. We hope to win."

"Certainly. Tell me though, my good prince, what is the cost?"

"All wars are costly, my good cardinal."

"Certainly. What can you share of the journey of Sir Augustin of St. Ives?"

"A brave young man. I hope he finds what he is looking for."

"For his sake or yours?"

"Oh for all our sake. Imagine it, Australia found! Oh I know, I know, he claims he sails to find the Isles of King Solomon's Mines, but we know what he is truly after - the fabled Atlantis of the South Seas, the Great Unknown Southern Land - Terra Australis. The mind excites at the chance. The mind excites!"

Mazarini thought the only thing that made Leopoldo excited were men dressed as women, if ugly gossip was to be believed of his libertine upbringing in the cauldrons of degeneracy that were Medicean villas. Though some said it was utterly false and the poor ugly man merely shunned women and preferred male company because he wanted to focus on literature, arts and astronomy. Hmm. Astronomy.

"Do you truly think Sir Augustin can use the Galilean lunar method to travel the seas?"

The ugly face stiffened and the eyes glazed. The lower jaw was unhinged, but Pietro, poor relation Pietro of all things, stuck in his oar into the flowing waters of conversation:
"Have you had a good journey to Italies, my lord the Cardinal?"

All at once the ugly face slackened and eyes lost its luster. He could not be caught in that trap again.

Mazarini then set out to lay a dozen more traps in the same direction, but alas the game was ruined and they spent a perfectly banal two hours talking in circles and sprinkling Latin to sound smart.

Mazarini did not utter a word to Allesandro on the climb down, nor during his parade through Pisa, and only spoke to his companion once the two were in a carriage and two leagues from port town.

"What have you gathered on the Englishman's journey?"

"Little and none past what I have told you before we left Paris."

"The docks of Pisa yielded nothing?"

"Only that they follow anxiously news of his travels, but know nothing of it by rumor."

"Why would these Pisans care for an Englishman who sets sail on Genoese ships?"

"He lived in this town for close to a month, and made allies."


"He made fireworks for children of poor at the time of the Carnivale, won a chess tournament by defeating a self-styled champion from Florence who was much hated for being a Florentine and a boaster, and all local bankers and tradesmen found him to pay always on time."

"He conducted with bankers?"

"Aye, betting on futures of collateralized debt obligations of some small Luchese families."

Here Mazarini managed a nod for he was out of his depth and without rudder.

"Though some suspect his sister had a hand in those affairs."

"Ah, yes, the sister. The art expert."

"And more judging by rumor, Excellency."

And more the good Ashley of St. Ives was. Though she woke late, drank much and ate more, beneath the once pretty face with mushrooming jowls resided a mind as capable of discerning profit and loss as her brother and even more so, for we cannot ignore the truth in the statement it was not much easier being a woman in the year of 1641 than in our more enlightened era, and so opportunities that were open to Sir Augustin were quite closed to Ashley. Thus she made up for it by developing other skill sets and indulging her whims to compensate for the whims prevented. And so she woke late, drank much and ate more, and slept with two people a piece and whored out her male companion to her patron with ease.

But it was not with an easy heart did Ashley wake today, for she had a bad dream, too confusing and personal to recount in our pages, but in it her brother was much imperiled. The two siblings did not get along as well as some other brothers and sisters, but they shared a love, of sorts, and she did not wish him ill, most of time. Seeing her brother in pain and near death in her dreams much disturbed her.

Ashley snuggled against the soft flesh of her female companion, but found it coated with sweat congealed cold from the ardor of nighttime romance, turned away and hugged her male companion instead. She bade him to shave his beard some saints' feast days before, and he obeyed, with sullen reluctance but no debate. So she was no more disquieted by the spider like quality of his facial hair and slipped between his arm and rested her head on his chest. It rose and fell with a rhythm that rocked her to sleep and if it was not for the rays of the sun and the shifting of her female companion she might have slept until dusk, but shift the female companion did, and she woke before three in the afternoon, with an ill feeling because she knew she have had a bad dream, but could not recall its details. But one face from it she did recognize.

"Salvatore, dearest, what do they say of my brother's journey?"

"All manner of things, sweetness. Some say he has already sent couriers to announce his finding of Australia, others claim wreck of his ship was - no, no, no, they only say it, dear love, they say anything. Pay them no mind. I was just telling you of all the varied gossip. That's all."

"Fie on you nonetheless, telling me of wrecks."

"I only said what was..."

"You should have said it was nothing gossip and then told of me, or held your tongue."

"Can we not do this, here and now, before dinner?"

"Breakfast, not dinner is our next meal."

"It is nearly three in the afternoon."

"It is past three per this wonderful time-piece my brother made me, and the first meal one has after one wakes to break their night time fast is breakfast, no matter what is the time of day."

"I bow before your wisdom."

"I rather you kneel."

"What, here, now?"

"Yes, here, upon her, while I watch."

"She does not look as fresh now as she did under candle light."

"Fie on you again. She may understand us."

"She understands little enough, and none in English."

"Women know when a man speaks ill."

"Can we have this act done after we have eaten?"

"Oh well, if you insist. But you did not tell me what other things they say of my brother?"

"You interrupted."

"As is my want. Go on, speak now."

"Other rumor has him in Cathay, at the Court of the Great Mongol, still others say he discovered a race of giants and they made him their king."

"Jesu. The things they say in the docks."

"Oh this is the marketplace. What they say at the docks is but even more strange."

"But is there any fact to be had?"

"None, but one piece of gossip may interest. Guido Reni is said to be feeling poorly."

"Ah, that holds interest. If he pegs out, his art prints will double in price."

"Surely not double."

"Double. People will write nice things of him in death that they never said in his life and some bored aristo with more money than sense will want his painting in her inner garden or public chamber as token. And so will some other aristo upon seeing her rival thus equipped. Trust me. I know women."

"I shan't argue."

"How could you. But you spoke of gossip of painters. What of my brother? Is there a consistent thread?"

"Only one. Two different men said of a passing ship whose captain said a three-ship fleet of Genoese sails was fixing to cross the Strait of All Saints, but this would have many, many months ago. He is thus either on the other sea now, or, uh, on the other sea."

Ashley was much too smart to not know what the the pause before the second "other sea" signified and why her companion chose to pause as he did. Still, if any man could survive putting his head in the jaws of the watery lion that was the Strait of All Saints, it would be her brother. He was stubborn. Oh so stubborn.

Stubborn or not, there is not much a man can do in an age of sail when the wind does not come. And so for the last week did Sir Augustin of St. Ives pace the quarterdeck, while casting glances at the masts and the sky for reprieve, while steaming sun made boards creak and tar boil. The "Female Bastard" was low on fresh water they last took on the western shores of South America, as was the "Fortune." And if no rain or wind came, Captain Kelly reasoned they would have to sail back towards shore, as best they could, instead of streaming westwards to glory. They were on a parallel the warlock believed would bring them to the Isles of the Gold Mines of King Solomon. But that was still far off and further still with no wind. The crew was not disposed well towards anyone and it was only a matter of time til a quarrel broke out and expanded. This Olympia whispered into his ear one unbearable hot night where they lay side by side, stripped off all clothes (though Olympia wrapped her feet in some old sail clothes pieces for reasons Sir Augustin did not know but knew well enough not ask). Sir Augustin could feel the tension and it was thick enough to cut with a knife his companion bade him to wear at his belt.

The wind would not come.
Chapter 11
When people allow themselves to become angry over a trifling argument, we say that their tempers have "flared." Likewise, we speak of "heated" arguments when we mean people debate more vigorously than intended. And we say we are "inflamed" with passion when we take leave of our senses towards another person, idea or thing. Thus, our own language betrays a direct connection between higher temperatures and anger, discord and senselessness. And so did the sweltering heat work its awful tendrils on the fragile minds and sun drenched bodies of the crews of the two-ship fleet stuck listless without wind in the midst of the ocean.

"What are our true options?"

"We must wait for wind."

"Options, beloved. I asked for options."

"Waiting is an option."

Olympia was much irritated by the last snide remark, but knew it came from a place of the same swelling rage she now felt and so she suppressed it, with difficulty, and stared at the sweat streaked faced of her English companion.

"Options, not option, beloved."

"We wait for wind, or rain, or we... The Captain, I suppose, can send for boats to row us towards some object, but we are far from shores of Southern Americas, nor do I know of any island nearby."

"This rowing, why was it not done already? We have been here for more than five days."

"Seven, I should think. And it is done lightly, for it wears out the men quite cruel, and with food and water now dwindling, you many just increase anger with little to show for troubles."

"Is not doing something better than doing nothing?"

And now it was Sir Augustin's turn to choke back reply. The crude statement of someone who has spent her entire life moving forward and never glancing back unless prompted by drink or lapse of melancholy (possibly brought on by aforementioned drink) could not conceive of the notion that doing something badly was much worse than sitting about and doing nothing. Some of the best progress the Englishman made in his study of Heavens was when the sky was too cloudy to take sightings and he just stood about, waited and thought. But saying thus, even under the best of circumstances, would be a hard put affair, and now with a parched tongue and his armpits hairs glued into brimstone and stabbing his flesh... Sir Augustin decided to do that which had done already and choked back reply. Then he dimly realized a question from a lady deserving answering, forced himself to sound meek and warbled out:

"The Captain must know what he is doing."

Olympia let her nostrils make a sound in reply and stalked off.

Sir Augustin found a rail and sat on it. His fingers found the wood flanking the seat of his pants much too hot to comfortably grip and he let his fingers rest on the rigging, feeling the coarse rope warm his fingers, but not burn it too much. The hemp put him at ease and reminded him of few good days of his earlier youth. The journeys down to the African coast. The sights, smells and sounds. The lessons of life. He had piloted a two-masted ship into the mouth of an African river before his voice cracked. He...

"Move, warlock."

Sir Augustin snapped out of his revelry as Pete the Fair made a show of cleaning a culverin not far from where Sir Augustin had sat. The words could have been ignored. They should have been. For surely Sir Augustin heard worse in his life, and by that we mean far, far worse. And the smart and rationale act would have been to laugh it off, or rejoin with a jibe. But the sun was then in its zenith and Sir Augustin's face was caked with sweat and he had already used up all his patience with his female companion.

"You know, in Africa, we say 'please' when tell another man to move?"

It was not an elegant line even under the best of times, here... it was even less elegant.

"Well, you ain't in Africa no, are you, black-booker? You dragged us into the middle of a sea to die."

Pete the Fair made no effort to keep his voice down, and heads turned and work stopped.

But even here, and now, Sir Augustin could have flashed a smile of good teeth and told a joke, if he tried. But try he did not. Nor did he even think about trying. All he could think was about the knife suddenly grown heavy in his sheath. And he thought of all the other ill kept and dumb men who had tested his patience in his life, reaching down into the dark abyss of memory of his young years.

"Ocean, not sea, you dumb ugly bastard."

At this Pete the Fair felt relief. The gnawing feeling in his chest that started when he told the warlock to move went away. There was but one path to go now and he had but one way to reach it. Into his sheath dipped his big hand, out came a fat blade and with it he stabbed.

But Sir Augustin saw the motion before it transpired, slid off the rail and ducked the stab.

Or, so he intended, but he had not taken account for his backside being covered in as nearly much sweat as his now drenched face, nor did he think of the ship's rail being no smooth plank of wood, but an aged piece with shavings spurring this way and that, making a slide off it not as easyThus he did not move fast enough and his ducking was ill timed, and the fat blade sliced through his left cheek and caught chunks of his eyeball, before he staggered to side and freed his own knife.

The pain and the rush of blood did not unman the so-called warlock, only surprised him and the dull shock did not last much long. For as soon as he saw his attacker pull back to deliver a death blow, he burst forward towards Pete the Fair, swung low and stabbed him in the inner thigh, leaving the blade embedded and stepped back. Pete the Fair staggered, glanced down, paled, then flushed crimson and swung with his knife, while his half-blind quarry avoided the blows. A grimace danced on the Englishman's lips as he avoided the maddened lunges of blood lusting Pete the Fair.

Then Pete the Fair stumbled and nearly fell.

The Englishman did nothing but watch.

Pete the Fair muttered a prayer against magic and tried to right himself.

"No magic, just simple medicine. I severed your artery, you ugly dumb dead fool."

By the time Olympia rushed to defense of her man, weapons drawn, Pete the Fair was on his back, in his death throes, letting loose awful sounds and painfully jerking his limbs.

"Ash!" cried out Olympia, revealing to all the secret name of Sir Augustin.

"Sir Augustin," corrected her without thinking her still lucid companion.

Olympia got to him as he toppled into her arms.


In their shared berth, Olympia tended to her wounded companion, who seemed at peace though in terrible pain. Olympia had not led a charmed life and knew all about weapons and wounds and though college or university would grant her a degree of medicine even if she were a man, her practice and demonic drive more than made up for it, though her fingers trembled a little.

"Any chance of infection," asked the strangely detached Englishman without feeling.

"No, no, no. None, beloved."

"Oh but 'tis too early to tell. Besides, that's not the worst part regardless."

"You...! You may lose an eye or die! How can you...?"

"I am left eye dominant."

Olympia did not understand.

"My left eye leads me in all things, including the spyglass. If it is lost, I cannot observe the moons."

Olympia understood now, but did not attach as much importance to the topic at the moment. Right now, her priority was saving her companion's life, then came his left eye, then came fresh water, then the chance of wind to move the ships, and possibly half dozen items of import would follow before she thought of her companion being able to peer at the Heavens with ease once again. Luckily for the frayed nerves of Olympia, her companion fell silent and stopped being lucid and descended into the almost peaceful slumbers of fevered dreams.


"Is he dead?"

"No, he lives, Captain."

"Keep him in your cabin and out of sight. Pete had friends. Some think what the warlock did was cruel."

"If his friends wish to discuss the matter with me..."

"Damn your eyes, woman! I have a crew of 32 men. Now 31. I cannot afford quarrels and lives lost over dumb petty feuds. Keep your man in bed and away from others and this may blow over. Lord help us if it does not."

"The Lord helps those who help themselves."

"Jesu, would you quarrel with me as well? Go on, run me through if that be your wish. Go on, woman. And then be damned and damn all on this ship, for none here know as much as I about steering it. And do not think the madman on "Fortune" would be of much help. Go on then. Go on. Kill me!"

"I have no wish to kill anyone, today. But if Sir Augustin is threatened..."

"He stuck a man in a spot to bleed him out quick and then watched. He is a threat to others, not they to him."

"He would not harm a fly, lest the fly bothers him. If he is not bothered, he's as peaceful as lamb."

"Lambs? Flies? Jesu, but this be madness. Keep him locked up in that cabin 'til..."

And then the rain came.

It was warm and sudden and brief, but it washed sweat soaked scalps and dirty faces, and more clouds were seen soon. Not evil ones portending storm, but happy ones speaking of relief and rain, and soon they were shifted about by wind and the rain soaked crews cheered.

As for Pete the Fair, his corpse was quick looted and dumped in the sea (pardon us - ocean).


As for Sir Augustin, he hovered somewhere between death and life and dreamt dreams about twins. Ashley and Ashley they were both called. A cruel jest by a cruel mother, much bitter at being thrown out of a great house of an earl for not being careful enough to clean herself up after the fourth time the lord manor forced himself upon her in the buttery. Ashley and Ashley they were called and mocked by all in the village, but the lord of the manor was soon filled with strange remorse. His eldest legitimate heir had died and his youngest took sick and so he made a vow in the heat of passion that should the youngest be delivered from sickness, he would redress wrongs and give all those spurts of his that survived past their sixth year means to enter the world. Ashley and Ashley were by then in their eighth year, and if the good Jesuits are to be believed in such matters, by that point it is too late to shape a boy's character, and so it may have been. And though the earl made good on his promise upon the recovery of his youngest and sent the boy Ashley off to learn things and honorable trades in almost respectable schools with hot-gospel teachers who were filled with yearning to change the world and liberate minds of men from the shackles of servile superstition, it did little to form his character, for by then it was set in hard stone. And thus boy Ashley, surrounded, and educated, as he was by Precisioners of the most pure form of Protestantism, sought out a priest and turned papist, taking on a name of Augustin. And bore his expulsion from the almost respectable schools with a smile and squared shoulders.

And he smiled still, even in his delirium, remembering the opprobrium of his sneering self-styled betters. Their words of hate fueled him and confirmed in him that he was on the right track. For if the wrong people hate you, it is because you are not wrong. And who knows what sort of martyr boy Ashley would have become had it not been for his twin, the girl Ashley. For though he was ready to burn at the stake for his faith, or indeed anything worth burning just to spite the world and the dumber creatures that dwelt within it, he was not ready to throw his only living relation to oblivion and for her sake he...

"Beloved, can you hear me?"

Sir Augustin of St. Ives opened his one good eye, while the other opened itself as well by sheer practice and a sharp stab of pain wormed its way through his skull. His hand shot up and touched his left eye. A crude leather patch was over it and a scar puckered beneath.

"Did I lose an eye," he had meant to ask evenly. Though it may have come out much more shrill.

"Beloved, are you in pain?"

"Where are we? What parallel? How long have been traveling since the... fight?"

"We are near a strange island, not known to any other men prior. We are on the 27th South, I am told. It has been a fortnight."

"And did I lose an eye?"

"I tried to save it."

"I am sure. I know you did. But did you?"


"Olympia, please."

"I am no physician."

"So it is lost then?"

Olympia gave a sad nod, her eyes welling with tears.

"But you saved my life. Cheer up. We still breathe."

Sir Augustin of St. Ives tried to sit up, but collapsed, staring at his limbs in disbelief.

"Ah, yes, of course, I have not used my body for so many days it must have... Curious. Help me sit up?"

And this Olympia did.

"Beloved, you must rest."

"Tell me of his strange island you discovered while I gold bricked?"

"You did not... It is filled with giant statues of strange men's heads."

"Curious. I must see it."


"I did not say now. The berth is clean, how did you...? That is, you must have given me water and food over two weeks?"

"Water, yes. Food, after a fashion. I mashed it up and then fed you by spoon, after making you sit up."

"Thankee. But, if I had food and fluids put into me, I must have expunged them as well. How did you...?"


"So you changed my bedding as I shit and pissed myself, or did you put a pan underneath?"

"I... I put a soiled sheet underneath after each feeding."

"Smart thinking, milady. Dashed smart. Smart and beautiful, how did I get so lucky?"

Olympia was no stranger to sharp moods of her English companion. The rage at the world, followed by peace and offers of flowers, melancholia with bursts of smiles and laughter, but this was too starboard even for her and her face showed.

"I love you, you know?" said the warlock.

And Olympia blushed for a third time in her adult life.
Chapter 12
It took four more days for the warlock to regain his strength enough to be seen on the quarterdeck and he fortified his mind by playing chess against himself and amending his log book. He was cheerful when he walked the deck, though his frame was smaller than the crew last recalled. He wore an eye patch, but seem not to mind it and when Captain Kelly returned from the land, smiling still he outlined his plan:

"We are too far South to reach the blessed island with the Gold Mines of King Solomon. We must go North, Captain. And then the trade winds shall carry us as edge closer to tropics and the Isle."

"Sir Augustin, this part of the world... it is not mapped nor much known. How can you know there be trade winds?"

"Because winds are winds, Captain. And because the world is a globe. What we see near the tropics in Atlantic we shall see here in the Tranquil Ocean. Does it not add?"

"What we see in one sea is not what we see in another, and..."

"Captain, we speak not of seas, but of oceans. Larger bodies of water are... Look, I have secured the position of this heathen island where we not stand on a map and it shall mat your log book. We know where we are and can always return. Let us attempt to travel North and if we find nothing, we shall return here and plot another course."

"But there be trade winds there, we could not easily return here, going against wind."

"Aye, and if there be trade winds there, I win the argument, do I not?"

It was strange for Captain Kelly to argue such, with all the cunning of an apple squire offering a fat veiny tull to a drunk mark, but his mind was unsettled. He was loathe to leave the curious island. The bizarre statues of men's heads had filled him with notions of grandeur and majesty. He was seen wandering about between them, staring and muttering prayers and heathen things in his native tongue. And though all knew the other captain, the man in charge of the "Fortune," not the "Female Bastard" was the declared lunatic, now it seemed to many sailors the madness of the arduous journey had touched the young man in charge of the "Bastard" as well.


"This place grants us strength."

"So it does, and we shall return to it, but now we must leave, or set up a camp."

"In four days then."

"Captain, we are well South of the tropics. Seasons are as delayed here as hours of day, and while it is Spring in good Genoa, it is Fall here. Meaning, come Summer, it shall be Winter. Let us not face Winter this far from home."

"Three days mayhap."

There was longing in the voice, and Sir Augustin took care not to note it. Men do not take kindly to showing their weakness to others, and knowing another man knew what made you feel pain makes you despise the fellow easier later for having discovered something of you.

"As you say, Captain. Three days."

And so they went off, the Captain with a heavy heart, Sir Augustin with a jaunt in his step.

It took uneventful three days to make Captain Kelly part with the island, and so the two-ship fleet sailed North. And lo, warlock was right and there were trade winds and they carried the ships northwestwards with ease. For now we shall leave our crews 'til they meet misfortune or an island or some other glory or disaster, and return to the strange affairs of the Italies, where ugly and foreign war was ill fought.

The Northern League under Medici has mustered their German mercenaries and their troops and struck South, while the Papal Armies went North. The armies met each other in several bloody encounters, and though no principals we have met as yet were shot down, maimed or otherwise harmed, many of their followers fell and the cost of war multiplied. No one was winning. All were losing. Save perhaps Taddeo Barberini, who finally managed to impress near all in his family with his now famous victory over an army of mostly Venetians by a lake near Central Italies, though even that luster was dimmed, for on the same day a Florentine army (full of Saxons) routed two smaller papal armies attempting to link up.

In Florence and in Rome they celebrated victories in public, denied the defeats and tried to pretend it was all as before, even as the debts mounted. Thus the Grand Duke of Tuscany commissioned his favored female picture monger Ashley of St. Ives to find him a print worthy of opening a new Medici palace he ordered to be built to celebrate his family's victories, while the Pope decided now was the best time to rebuild both churches facing the visitors as they enter Rome through the people's square by the hill, and also commissioned a new statue in the same square as well to speak of his victories, and also had a new opera staged to celebrate Taddeo.

But not all in Italies had taken leave of their senses. Cardinal-Inquisitor Francesco Barberini presented a bill to his brother Cardinal-Nephew (as the post was then called) Antonio of the costs of the war and estimated that to win decisively they would have to spend a sum equivalent to 9,000,000 florins (back then, lands held by the papacy used a different sort of coin, but I think we are all better off if we speak of gold florins as units of cost in our tale). Cardinal-Nephew Antonio read the account with dread and thought it an impossible sum, till he redid the maths himself.

"How will we obtain this much gold or even credit?"

"We will not for we cannot."

"Brother, I do not understand you."

"I thought I spoke plain."

"You... It was your idea to bring in the Germans!"

"Certes. Though I recall you agreed. And they are now fighting a most thoroughly German war, more costly and depleting our treasury at a far faster rate than traditional fighting. But this is still Italies."

"I don't understand what you are trying to say, brother. So please, please, just say it."

"We cannot win a decisive war. Because this is Italies, not Germanies. At first sign of a breakthrough, every other family now on the fence will climb off it and join in the fray against us, because Italies are held in the balance, above all. What you see is the cost of crushing such a balance for a decade or two. I need you to understand before you take leave of this chamber that we cannot afford to crush our foes. Then, if you grasp that, please be so good as to tell our blessed uncle to achieve that which can be afforded, bring the war to a close, with us keeping Castro, but the North staying untouched."

"Was this...? Was this your plan from the very start?"

"Brother, I wanted to shorten the war and make us appear to be winning. And I have. But what I had not counted on were the strange voices of men with otherwise sound kidneys whispering in our good uncle's ear that somehow I have changed the nature of man, beast and states in our good Italies and that which was held impossible but five years ago was now within grasp. I did not talk to him of total victory, others did. Now we must return him to his senses. You must return him to Earth, brother."

"I... I understand."

"And I am glad for it. Do that which must be done, dearest Antonio."

But while Antonio understood, others did not. Among them, their dearest uncle, Pope Urban VIII, once shrewdest man in all Italies, but having come into a position where his every word is held dash near sacred and with advance of age dulling his memories and making him remember victories of his youth where he in fact suffered vile defeats, His Holiness was not of mind to listen to entreaties and instead talked of new fountains bearing the three bees of the crest of the family Barberini dotting the squares of Rome and of immortal tapestries now in the Vatican. He also said of feasting in Florence and of bringing the North to the heel, seeming to utterly forget his family once upon time have come from there.

And so, poor Antonio stood helpless, pleading with a man who chose not to hear him.

Much the same could be said of Ashley of St. Ives, who, being prudent, decided, in small doses, to convert the Medicean collateralized debt obligations gathering dust on curled papers in her strongbox at home into solid gold and silver at bank. She had then found that some third of the debt obligations were not in fact made out to her alone, but to her and her brother and that the bank clerks were not inclined to convert those papers into good coin. Nor could she appeal to authorities, for it would look rather disloyal for a good subject of Florence, or if not subject than at least denizen, to try to liquidate assets which bore the crest of the family Medici in the midst of a war the Grand Duke thought winnable.

But there were authorities who held power by means of their title, and then there were those who had authority by proximity and access to those in the first category. The first impulse of Ashley was to send a page with instruction to bring the Grand Duke to her line of thinking by hook, crook or cock, but she discarded such a plan as unworkable due to it being too risky. The Grand Duke was not of sound temperament and was even moodier than her own good brother, and she could not trust a page, or even hapless but loyal Salvatore to thoroughly turn the Grand Duke into letting her have her deserved gold without perhaps making the man think that she was trying to abscond with the money before things turned bad for Florence. She was after all a foreign woman living in a strange city far from kin and should she be thrown into stench and kept locked up there on a whim of a local ruler, none near him would raise a finger to help, nor would anyone protest. So she had to be careful, and the Grand Duke was the opposite of the said word.

There was small chance of using the Grand Duke's fat wife. For starters, she held no authority by position or even proximity to it. A political and very disastrous match, the liberal Grand Duke with his love of science, innovation, fine food and good wine had little in common with the pious and repressed woman he was forced to marry to maintain peace in the North. They did not frequently share a bed and when they did, little to nothing occurred there, and not just because the Grand Duke favored men, for even though he had and was most dissolute, he had it drilled in his head by his upbringing to give the Grand Duchy an heir above all things and still could barely bring himself to do his utmost in his marital duties and there was still no heir at this time.

That left Ashley with the Grand Duke's brothers.

And while she sorted through them, let us sneak a look at Cardinal Mazarini, who at this moment was too part of a plot involving money and war, though he first had not realized it upon his invitation to the villa Franciotti near Lucca, where Mazarini and his companion (still called Allesandro for now) were met by a dozen more senior members of the Franciotti clan. We shall not torture you with all twelve names, but there are worth knowing for now: the Bishop of Lucca, Cardinal Marco Antonio Franciotti, a man in a hurry to make his mark in the world; his brother Marco Battista Franciotti, one of the many, many, many governors of Lucca at the time; and their cousin Marco Augustus Franciotti, also governor. After polite remarks and at least one and twenty rounds of pretense, including talk of weather and books, the Bishop of Lucca got to the heart of the matter, by switching his speech from the noble sounding Latin to the much harsher Lucchese variant of the Tuscan dialect, with its emphatic and accusative pronouns.

"Lucca is dying, my good Cardinal Mazarini. Where once stood many republics in our proud Italies, now there are but three shells remain. Genoa, which is Spain's concubine in all but name. Venice, which inveigles itself in ruinous war against polities much larger than it. And then there is poor Lucca. Small. Confused. Weak."

Mazarini said nothing and his hands stood still.

"If the proud and ancient ways of Italian republics are to remain, they need saving. And none need more saving than Lucca, and should she be saved with French assistance, we would be much grateful."

Mazarini said nothing and his hands stood still.

"Lucca is in its hearts of hearts quite small. Quite small, yes? Were you to try to change the heart of hearts of Piedmont, you'd need armies of men and mountains of gold. But Lucca, why I'd say less than 2,000 muskets and a half million florins would do the trick."

Mazarini said nothing and his hands stood still.

"If our dear republic were to be led by men of determination and vision, such as those you met here, it would not do France bad in her stead."

Mazarini said nothing and his hands stood still.

"Your Excellency, I have named my bride price. Tell me if you at least find the lady pleasing?"

"My dear Lord-Bishop of Lucca, gold is scare and grows scarcer. It must be diligently parceled."

"Oh I agree, I agree, I agree, Excellency. And our banks and ports would be parceled to French interests and against Spain's."

These were not serious people Mazarini had long decided, but this was an exclamation point to their harlequin's screed. No sane and sober man could honestly think that one family out of forty, and not much of a family at that, could stage a coup by a feat of arms and take control of a midsized Lingurian port town driven by trade, only to openly side with a distant power opposed by a much greater local power and thereby slit the said town's throat by having their ports blockaded. This was a jest, and sadly the joke was on the jesters.

"I will have to get approval for such sums and arms."

At this many heads bobbed and smiles danced on their fat lips stained with spittle and bad wine.
Chapter 13
The two-ship fleet were buffeted by the trade winds and though every island they met on their journey since leaving the wondrous place with those strange giant heads was desolate and fresh water was not to be found on them, the frequency of the islands and the increasing good humor of the warlock cheered them. Every day and night, Sir Augustin of St. Ives would walk the deck with a smile, accompanied by his woman and show various constellations and babble of that star or this to her, and his laughter was heard up in the crow's nest. In addition to murder and cruelty he had shown earlier, he now revealed a childish side that infected others and though all knew him to be capable of the utmost violence, his cheerful presence and lack of concern warmed all but the most close held friends of Pete the Fair, of which there were precious few on the ship, for Pete was too quick to join others at tavern table and quicker to leave before reckoning was to be had and silver paid off.

Thus, no one took askance that it was Olympia that looked to the Heavens with Sir Augustin, or that more and more she was the one who was peering at stars dark at night with him looking less and less. All thought it was just him trying to show off to his woman, and none suspected that with his left eye gone, Sir Augustin had a harder time of it understanding where to look or when and that it was Olympia who had watched the motions of the moons of Jupiter, while Sir Augustin merely took notes and compared them against the blessed observations done over twenty years by the Great Galileo himself.

But, whether it was Olympia or Sir Augustin who peered to the skies, the result was the same, and as long as the sun shone bright and the storms did not threaten, Sir Augustin was able to tell precisely where they were relative to Genoa, while Captain Kelly himself or his lieutenants could point out with ease how far south they were off a given tropic. In short, the ships knew where they were at nearly all times. And when a storm did threaten, the ships would huddle near that island or this, and though the land was small and the harbors not always well suited, it still afforded protection and gave the warlock a place to use his companion to make observations.

And so the happy leg of the journey went on, until fresh water had begun to dwindle and Captain Kelly consulted the warlock about finding something more stable to land and to use.

"There are a dozen islands spread out nearby, Captain. And the great discoverer of the Isles of the Gold Mines of King Solomon himself, Álvaro de Mendaña, visited one of them. Saint Bernard it is called. It should answer favorably. Let us go to the 19th parallel and go from there, yes?"

And so they did, but the warlock was thrice mistaken. For starters, the great Spanish sailor he mentioned did not visit the isle, but merely observed it in passing, and secondly, and much more importantly, the Saint Bernard isle offered neither deliverance in terms of food, nor in much fresh water, being a very small thing indeed. But the third mistake rectified the two prior, for the Saint Bernard isle was not on the 19th parallel. So the fleet did not see an island the warlock expected when they sighted a large mountainous island ringed by sharp and dangerous looking reefs. The place had a tiny barely safe harbor where a teeming mass of brown skinned natives stood, armed with clubs and their faces daubed in what appeared blood. They stood in the only spot where landing could be permitted and knew it, and thus appeared to know something of sailing which intrigued the back of the warlock's mind.

"Is there another isle nearby, Sir Augustin?"

"Mayhap, but pray tell, Captain, what do you find wrong with this one?"

"That is the only place where we can land and those people there do not appear friendly."

"I see no people, Captain. I see animals who have managed to walk on their hind legs and learned how to wield clubs. I should say a good discharge of powder will make them remember their true beastial nature and they shall flee from the shore."

At this Captain Kelly blinked, for there was iron in the warlock's voice.

"Captain, do you eat meat?"

"Uh, yes, when it is not forbidden by calendar."

"Most excellent. Then while you have some affection for animals, I do not doubt, you have no trouble in having them be slaughtered to meet your needs and desires. Those animals there need a slaughter."

All this was said with a smile on the Englishman's lips and Captain Kelly felt ill.


"Mayhap we should at least attempt to find a nearby isle?"

"As you wish, Captain."

The conversation did much to reconcile the warlock with the crew, who too were for the most part of the opinion the savages on the shores should have been cleared for fresh fruit and water all heartily believed was in abundance upon the isle. As for Captain Kelly, his standing fell. There was talk of him having misplaced his affection and trust, though in much cruder terms. For his part, the warlock simply said this to his companion as the two lay side by side and he whispered into her ear:

"My... uncle was a slaver. I learned how to sail on his ship. He taught me the difference between man and beast. And how one may have affection for animals, but not set them as equals to people. This captain lacks proportion and it will cost him dearly, if not on this journey, then on another."

Olympia did not entirely share her companion's view regarding man and beast, because all too often she found those who would use such terms placed women on the beast side of the reckoning. But she did not argue with warlock over the fates of the savages, for it struck as her as a silly thing.

As for the ships, onward they journeyed westwards and as the water dwindled and mutter was heard, Captain Kelly began to doubt himself and it showed, making his standing fall still steeper.

Shortly, the fleet caught sight of a strange isle, anchored as it was over three dozen smaller ones, and though it did not look inviting the stock of water forced the ships to try to land. Presently, they found a good spot to harbor and sailed inside. The mystified and terror struck natives fled as they landed. And while there was no meat to be had, fruit and water were found and for a moment there was a respite.

Sir Augustin walked about the main isle of the archipelago, making some notes, with his iron heeled, weapon laden copper haired companion as always by his side.

"Sir Augustin!"

The warlock turned to find the lunatic captain of "Fortune" approaching, grave concern on his weathered face.

"Yes, Captain?"

The lunatic captain struggled to find a common tongue in which to converse, but Sir Augustin flashed an awkward smile to calm the strange man and spoke in a slightly fractured Genoese dialect:

"We can speak thus, if I can be made to understand?"

The lunatic showed his relief and spoke in the same tongue:

"Is this not a new island?"

"I... Yes, I suppose 'tis. It does not appear on any maps, nor have I seen its description."

"Then we should name it, and give thanks, should we not?"

The warlock quickly nodded and off the three went, with the lunatic assembling his crew.

Sir Augustin of St. Ives looked about for a sword and was given one by his woman. This he planted blade first in the sandy bank. Kneeled before it and intoned in very good Latin:

"Under this sign we conquer."

And all kneeled and mouthed along with the Englishman.

Sir Augustin stood and so did others and he looked them about with his one good eye and spoke Genoese:

"I dub this island, the Isle of Mother, for she will sustain us as our good mothers did."

At this all nodded most favorably and solemnly, for even the worst rapist among them worshipped at the altar of motherhood and ascribed to their mothers traits they would deny all other women.

We say all nodded solemnly, but Olympia faked it, for she knew from past talks with the warlock as to his own tortured relationship with his mother and knew him to not be a man who by a false prism of nostalgia to misremember good deeds where bad ones occurred. Still, she was able to hold her tongue.

The occasion was broken up, and off the sailors went to loot and pillage.

The warlock resumed his walkabout.

"The Isle of Mother?" said Olympia, unable to hold her tongue any further.

"Aye, for 'tis not good enough to be Isle of Olympia."

At this Olympia could not help but smile and the verbal part of the conversation was at an end. Which was just as well, for the warlock was doing some profound thinking. The false Saint Bernard isle shook him much more than he showed. He quoted the wrong parallel off his own calculations from the notes of the Spanish sailor. Therefore his calculations were wrong or the Spaniard's notes were mistaken. Given both were driving the journey, Sir Augustin felt discomforted. This in truth prompted that bit of iron in his voice earlier, when he told the Captain to murder innocents to get some fresh fruit. He had as yet again took the anger at his own short comings and attempted to use violence to quell them, and this time he had not the excuse of bad weather or sweat. That too bore thinking about at midnight and he did and would still, for he was no ogre, no matter his choice of words spoken. But all of that paled in comparison with the idea that he was dead wrong about the location of Saint Bernard and by extension, mayhap, the Isle with the Gold Mines of King Solomon.

Olympia felt her companion stiffen, but she was enjoying the weather and did not wish to ask. But ask she still did, for she could no more help herself in this situation than the warlock could help himself in provoking Pete the Fair:

"Are you discomforted?"

"Me? I am walking arm in arm with a woman of beauty, who would kill all my enemies in an instant were I to ask. And we are at present walking on an island of warm and beauty, our bellies filled with good food and our lips quenched with cold springs. What sort of a manner of man could feel discomfort thus?"

"A man who has a lot on his mind."

"Ah, there you have me. I am thinking of how we got here."

And as this was truth, after a fashion, Olympia left him in peace, for now.

When they returned to the anchored ships, the warlock disappeared into the cabin, returned with some notes, maps and observations and found a good place of height from which to study them by the dimming light of the once radiant sun. Olympia washed herself after she knew no one was watching and returned to find Sir Augustin still in deep thought. She approached 'til she heard him mutter "Santa Cruz," then retreated, for the word was a talisman of bitter failure.

Álvaro de Mendaña discovered the Isles of the Gold Mines of King Solomon in 1568. But he was never able to find them again. On his last and most disastrous journey to find them, in 1595, the Spaniard stumbled into an island he named "Santa Cruz." There he founded a colony as he tried to think of his next step. And it all ended in blood. The soldiers were unhappy, having signed up to see gold and having found instead natives and malaria. They started trouble. There were killings of profit, revenge and pique. On that forsaken island, the Spaniard himself soon died, of a broken heart, and his wife and his brother gathered the bitter survivors and sailed for home.

That island to Sir Augustin signified utter failure. "Santa Cruz" did for him what the fiery depths of Hell did to righteous, an inspiration of terror to not err. And he had erred and erred quite badly in his calculations regarding Saint Bernard island and strove to rectify it, but could not find where he had erred. He was lost.
Chapter 14
Sir Augustin of St. Ives sat on a hillock and watched the sun set with his lone eye remaining. Olympia approached softly, as she always did. Her hands were on her weapons for ease and to prevent sound.

"It shall be cold soon."

Sir Augustin managed a nod.

"Shall we build fire?"

Sir Augustin managed a nod.

"Shall I get naked and make love to goats?"

Sir Augustin managed a nod, then checked himself.

"Good, so you are actually listening."

"I always listen, my good lady."

"Dear me, 'good lady?' Now I fear for your senses."

"Ah, but you are a good lady. Your veins hold the blood of the gentle since the age of Caesars."

"That makes me a lady, but not necessarily good."

"I cannot argue with a woman taught by Jesuits."

"The only thing Jesuits taught me was that some of them preferred boys and others liked girls."

"Did any of them...?"

"No. They went after those who could not fight back."

"Is that not the way of the world?"

"This conversation turns darker than sky."

"I am not the one who brought talk of buggery into the proceedings."

"True. But you were troubled before I spoke of it."

"I am always troubled."

"Tell me of your troubles."

"If I were to tell you of all my troubles, we would be up here for years."

"Not all then, but those that crease your brow here and now."

"I am not ready to talk of that just as yet."

"If you do not talk, how can you solve?"

"By thinking."

"Think with me."

"Would if I could. But if I were to open my mouth just now to speak of what ails me, it would be a torrent of fire cascading down Pompeii and it would scald."

"I do not fear fire."

"You should. Have you ever seen a fire gut a town? I have. One time in Holland..."

"First Pompeii and now Holland. Your mind is closer. Let me inside."

"We are fucking lost. There? Happy?"

Olympia blanched. The tone was pure evil.

"Jesu. I am sorry. I am... That was unwarranted. I did not mean to say the last two words. That was... Forgive me. That's twice that I have lashed out at you without cause. I am an idiot. Please forgive me."

"You are no idiot. You warned. I asked, and received. When you say we are 'lost'...?"

"We are lost. The ocean is a very big place and unless you know where you are going, you're finished. And at present we are quite finished. Though this a very pleasant Hell, with birds singing, good water and fresh fruit. Then again, the same was probably said of 'Santa Cruz' by the doomed..."

Olympia sat down opposite Sir Augustin.

"Why do you say we are lost?"

And Sir Augustin explained his thoughts from our previous chapter.

"Suppose the Spaniard is the one mistaken..."

"Then we have a big problem, for it is notes of that man that drove me to come here."

"But you said... Were there not others? The Dutchmen?"

At this Sir Augustin parted his lips quickly and barred his teeth.

"Jesu! I completely forgot about... Yes. Willem Schouten!"

The good Dutchman named by the Englishman was another seeker of mythic Australia, but while he did not find it, he did visit many isles near the area where Sir Augustin now found himself and he published a journal of his findings upon returning to Holland. Sir Augustin had read the original in Dutch and the English translation. But that was years ago, and though Sir Augustin was still a young man, the Journal of Willem Schouten he had read in his teenage years as he sailed along Africa and dreamed those big dreams of Australia. He had not the books on him, but he took copy of charts and after a kiss to Olympia, he bounded to the ship and found them.

The Dutchman did not find the Isle of the Gold Mines of King Solomon, but he found other curious things, and Sir Augustin did take calculations off the charts of the Dutchman, though that was back in Florence, when he was attempting to find an approach. Revisiting the calculations now and scanning the islands on the charts of the Dutchman, Sir Augustin spotted a good test of his abilities: the Isles of Hoorn. Hoorn was the town of the Dutchman's birth, and he named two isles he discovered in the nearby waters after them. If the trouble lay with the Spaniard's note, and not Sir Augustin's calculations, then the warlock should be able to find the two isles using his calculations. If the trouble lay with Sir Augustin, then he should not be able to find the isles. There existed of course a third possibility that the trouble was with both Sir Augustin and his Spanish sailing hero. And still a fourth that the Dutchman was too wrong and Sir Augustin's calculations based on his log were useless. But those thoughts the warlock banished from mind. He had an action to undertake and he did.

Still, he redid the calculations two more times, working in feverish state by the light of the candle, then dawn, but pronounced himself satisfied with them when he reckoned the same location for both isles twice over, and went to sleep as the sun rose. He slept 'til noon, thus sharing at least one habit with his twin sister, for one day at least. Having woke, he swam in the rivers and was once more at peace.

The crew was not sure what change came over the warlock. They could tell he was troubled a bit the day before, but was now yet again cheered, and after a debate that would put the House of Commons to shame, the crew decided that the warlock's woman told him she might be with child and he was riven with anxiety until she told him that she had not in fact missed her blood and her womb was still free. This naturally relieved a man of many fears and he now swam with an ease of man still free of brats.

Five days later, the rested sailors set forth to the Hoorn isles. And within fortnight they sighted them to Sir Augustin's relief and sorrow. Relief, for his calculations were right, once based on the charts of good men, but sorrow, because it means the Spaniard's notes were not entirely reliable. And it was the Spaniard and the Spaniard alone who had set foot on the fables Isles of the Gold Mines of King Solomon.

The bigger of the Hoorn isles met the strange white men with ease. The last such visitation having been remembered from scant thirty years ago. At present, a hog was brought forward to be butchered and a pair of women were offered, for all knew the pale faces were mad with lust at the sight of naked female flesh. But once the first hog and two women were offered for free, the others were bartered. And nails and hammers, as well as good knives, were asked in exchange for pig meat, coconuts, yams, young and willing women and crudely fermented drinks that could muddle men's minds. The sacred king of the bigger Hoorn isle welcomed Sir Augustin of St. Ives, Captain Kelly and the lunatic captain of "Fortune" into his home and much food was consumed, local brew was drank and many items were traded.

The Bastards and Fortunes judged the barter system put in place fair and there were no rape, murder or theft on the big island, but plenty of haggling. Made more active when, upon hearing the pale faces had returned, the king of the smaller isles arrived with fifty boats laden with women and animals and too joined the trade.

Sir Augustin had meant to use the respite of the isles to adjust his calculations and did, and after three days was ready to leave, but both captains agreed the men would not be shifted until they felt true relief and were willing to leave. And so the crews of the two-ship fleet spent an astounding 28 days on the islands, and good friendships were formed, tokens of love exchanged and foreign words learned. And there was a deputation led by One Eyed Battista, who approached Captain Kelly and petitioned:

"Me and lads were thinking, Cap'n, and thought it not a bad thing if you were to give the locals powder and muskets."

"You want to arm the natives?"

"Aye, to stop thieving and murdering bastards from abusing them, should the greedy Dutch return, or the backstabbing French or those whoresons the Spaniards. These people need protecting."

That such a statement were to be uttered by a man such as One Eyed Battista astonished Captain Kelly and temporarily left him bereft of speech, but he found himself nodding. He consulted with the lunatic captain and the warlock, who held no objections. And thus, the crew of the two ships gave out weapons to natives and taught the king's men how to use them and warned them of other pale faces.

The parting when it came was sorrowful for many, but dreams of gold overrode even the pleasure of living in this small corner of Earthly paradise, and so the two ships departed in search of the fabled isles, based on the reworked calculations of an English warlock from on the charts of a Dutchman and the notes of a Spaniard.

Sir Augustin of St. Ives stood at the bowsprit and let sea spray wash over him, his one good eye closed. His heart pounded against his ribs. He was in a cold sweat. Any moment now, if his maths were true.

"Land ho."

The good eye flied open and he took out a spyglass. Olympia was somehow instantly by his side.

"What is it?"

"Santa Cruz, I should think."

Olympia stared and Sir Augustin of St. Ives smiled.

"Though with the Spaniard dead, I should like to rename it. What say you to 'Isle of Ashley?'"

Olympia stared and Sir Augustin of St. Ives smiled.

"Come, let us see if I am right."

The two ships anchored near a natural harbor. Sir Augustin went down into the boat with chain mail under plate armor, with his heavily armed woman. The sailors exchanged a startled glance.

"The natives were much abused by Spaniards and may be ill disposed towards white men."

This explanation did not sooth any nerves.

The oared boat soon kissed the sand bar and the first man to hop over was Sir Augustin, who prowled the shore with difficulty as waves struck his metal, but powered forward til the water receded from below his boots. He found the beach deserted, oriented and as if guided by a spirit, and marched west. Olympia joined him. They soon found what they were looking for, the remains of a Christian colony. Long since abandoned, thoroughly looted and evil looking it is debased state.

"So I was right. Isle of Ashley it shall be. Come, let us leave it."

And with that the warlock left, before any native could see him or hear of the white man's return.

The boat returned to the ships, and Sir Augustin of St. Ives said loud enough to be easily heard:

"In less than a sennight, we shall have gold at our feet."

With that he went into his cabin, Olympia following mutely, though barely just. While on the deck, all started to talk at the same time.

Sir Augustin began to remove his plate and chain mail but required assistance.

Olympia gave none and stared.

"Why would you say that?"

"Because I am right. I know where we are now. I understand it. First the Isle of the Gold Mines of King Solomon. Then Australia."

"Please, keep your voice down."

"We are no longer in Genoa. I can say what I think. Australia exists. It is real. And I shall find it."


"I am on the far side of the world, Olympia. If I am right, all will be well. If I am wrong, we will all die."

It was not feasible to talk to a man in such frame of mind and Olympia knew enough not to attempt it. But even though she knew, she could not keep silent.

"Suppose there is a storm?"

"Ah, the crew will understand it then. 'Seven days, weather permitting,' did not sound as grand."

"Why not simply bide our time and not...?"

"I am tiring of biding. I have been quite tired of biding for some time. I sat on that island, watching them gorge themselves on pig fat and coconuts, while destiny waited upon me. I will not be denied."

"Jesu! Are you hearing yourself? Where is your prudence?"

"If I was prudent, would I be here, right now? If I was prudent, would you ever meet me? If I was prudent, would you join my quest? I am a chancer. But my dice and cards are my charts."

The words were all wrong. As if uttered by an actor on stage and not a man real, and Olympia suddenly knew it was an impostor before her just now. Not the true man she met. This was a terrified man bluffing, badly. And that understanding made her confusion ease and anger recede. "Santa Cruz" had unmanned him completely. Despite his other successes, despite everything, it unmanned him still. And this sudden loss forced him to mask it so crudely. She took care to remove pity from her voice and gave an indifferent shrug.

"As you say then."

Sir Augustin deflated. He wanted to argue, or maybe he did not, but he still expected it.

"You, uh, agree with me?"

"Beloved, let us find gold and then we shall talk?"

Sir Augustin found his air again and gave a curt nod, and even managed a flash smile.