Historical setting: A forgotten time, on the Saxony Shore
The officer tucks the stone Nic gave him under his personal bag in the bow.
I know I am breaking protocol, but I have to ask. “What is that stone Nic gave you, Sir?”
The officer is honest. “He said he wanted you to have a message from him so he marked a stone. Who would have thought he could write? Surely he means to apologize for selfishly holding onto his armor. And we are all sorry you won’t get his beautiful shirt of mail. I guess it was in his family and he doesn’t want to sell it off.”
I really just want his written message but it seems it is not forthcoming. “It’s okay, about the armor, Sir. But didn’t you say he wrote a message for me?”
“I don’t expect it can be read, even if one of us were literate. It looks like pretend scribbles not real writing. I don’t think he can read or write either. Maybe he just wanted to apologize.”
“May I see it?” He trudges to the bow and back with the rock. It is marked with letters. Nic may not pass a bishop’s penmanship standard on parchment, but on rock, it is clearly legible. I suppose the illiterate one is the head officer. In an exotic scrawl are the letters “C-o-n-s-t-a-n-t-i-a.”
The officer is waiting for my opinion of the rock. So I answer, “His letters wander, but I think he means for me to pay the due on my indenture when we reach Constantia. Is that one of our ports-of-call?”
“Without Nik we are already shorthanded. Surely you will stay until we find replacements. And, my boy, whatever would you do in Constantia? You didn’t even know it was once one of our ports? You will surely be a stranger there.”
“As I am also a stranger here. And yet you have taken me in. I hope I will find Constantia hospitable to a stranger.”
No more niceties. The officer turns on his heel and orders the coxswain to set us out to sea.
We are immediately untethered from the quay and turned seaward at a fast pace. We slip lithely passed the other ships of our fleet as though we are racing on a mission for a win though it is really more an officer’s momentary rage. Once beyond sight of Granonna the rhythm of the oars sighs back to normal.