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by Rojodi
Rated: E · Short Story · Action/Adventure · #2307339
Last one of 2023

It's been three weeks since the Santa Caterina had left Genoa, its destination the port of New York. Once there, the sailors would remove their cargo onto a smaller boat and head up Hudson’s River to Albany. Most of the men aboard do not know why they were hired, just that they were given their wages before leaving by a representative of the Papacy, with the promise of more when they performed their tasks and possibilities of even more coins if they return safely.

Poor and uneducated, the men were chosen for their sailing ability and their strong faith. They were older than most men that sailed for the captain, Riccardo DiCroce, something the man noticed and enjoyed. Experienced men would make the journey less stressful he predicted before leaving port.

Captain DiCroce had no idea of what he was bringing to the English colony of New York, but then again, the small chest of gold coins His Holiness’ representative, an Englishman simply known as Willingham, gave him to not ask questions and allow the Polish mercenaries free rein of the ship made his curiosity disappear. The added provisions that came about were another factor in his interest loss of what’s in the hold.

Kazimierz Sobolewski was a tall man, his stature of 6 feet, 6 inches made him a giant of a man and as such had problems when he was below decks. The leader of the soldiers of fortune had to sit mostly or hunch greatly when below to talk with his men. He was born into wealth, could have stayed in the home like most of his fellow noblemen, but when the Holy Father had asked him to go to the New World, to protect the small chest that sat deep within the hold and hidden among several others, he did not hesitate. The 30-year-old asked his best friends, Hussars, if they would follow him. And they, too, signed to sail. The cavalry men were not needed on the open seas, but Sobolewski sensed that they might be needed once they arrived in the New York Province, not in New York City, but when they traveled west from Albany.

Three weeks closer to the English colonies, and DiCroce had little trouble. It bothered him. Calm seas and good winds helped the ship trek a day ahead of schedule. Fair skies were welcomed by the superstitious mariners, clear and less colorful western skies welcomed them. Three weeks closer to another large payment.

One to not usually count payments before they were in hands, DiCroce allowed himself to dream of what he would do with those extra coins. He had few debts left: he paid most of them before leaving. He had already married off his daughters, his wife was not one to live beyond their means, and he did not gamble. His life was good, better than most captains of that age.

“Captain, what are you going to do once we finish this task?” his first mate, Claudio Benedictine, asked. “I know, you told me to never think far ahead, but with so much gold already home and the promise of so much more, I can’t help it.”

The educated man, a man who once studied to become a priest until he met the woman who would be his wife, looked up from his book and smiled. “I know. It’s tempting to think of how I could spoil Alessandra and the grandchildren.” He closed the book and paused, collecting his thoughts. He closed his eyes for a moment before answering truthfully.

“I don’t want to think that far ahead, Claudio.” The first mate, a man born a day after the captain, nodded in agreement.

“You’re right.” With that, he excused himself from the captain’s cabin. He opened the door and was met with the giant of a man. He turned around and announced Sobolewski’s presence.

“Oh, good.” DiCroce said. “I would love a game of chess now.”

“Thank you,” the nobleman said in his best Italian. He removed his hat and closed the door behind him. Offered a seat across, Sobolewski took it and took two pawns from the chessboard, one white, one black. Before he could offer his hands to the captain, the Genoese shook his head.

“Can I ask you something?”

The tall man nodded and leaned in. “I will do my best.”

“Let me get to the point. I know that the Englishman told me not to ask about it, but something has bothered me about it lately. Dreams of angels fighting and of betrayal by a left-handed redheaded man, portents of what we are transporting. I know this is true.” He exhaled and asked, “Do you know what the Holy Father has tasked us with transporting?”

He thought deeply. The nobleman knew what was hidden, what was in the small chest, and where they were headed once they landed in Albany. Though it was not specifically said, he inferred that the knowledge should be withheld, but mostly from the crew and his men. He was also sure that if asked directly by the former seminary student, he could answer truthfully. He took a deep breath and began to answer.

“Matthew, chapter 26, verse 15,” was his short answer. He knew DiCroce would be familiar with the chapter and verse. And he saw the man sit up straighter, his expression that one of shock.

The seafarer tilted his head and shook it, and an inquisitive look crossed his eyes. “It can’t be,” he whispered. “No, they could not have survived.” The head shaking increased. “Impossible!”

“No, Captain,” the Pole said in his best Latin. “No. They survived, all thirty pieces. The Pope had come into possession of them a year before. He wanted to announce that they had survived all these 1700 years, but the men who brought them into Rome told of what happened to others, especially on their trip from the Holy Land.”

“The Islamic devils?”

The Pole shook his head. “No, dreams of evil, of Judas, and of their own fates if they brought the silver to the Pope. The leaders ignored it all and continued on, but at a great cost.

“They started out with 2000 men, men from the peninsula kingdoms, from the land of the Poles, even from England. When they reached the gates, they were down to less than one hundred.”

“How did they die?”

Sobolewski waves him off. “It is best that you don’t know. My men were hired to protect not only the precious cargo, but you and your men.”

“Incredible,” the shaking and sweating captain whispered. He quickly said prayers for protection of his men, his boat, and all those aboard. He made a sign of the cross and asked the Pole to join him in more.

“Holy Mary, mother of God,” the nobleman began in his native tongue.
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