Friday, August 15, 2008

Etched Maps

For those following the weekly updates on Captain Juan, this may fill in a riddle for you...Its a back story - set some 20 years before the good Captains yarns begin....

For all others - please subscribe to a message in a bottle and join us in a ripping yarn about The Astonishing Adventures of Captain Juan - a story being co-written before your eyes by Paul , Jodi and myself.

Ignatius shifted uncomfortably in his binds. Unused to rough treatment, he was close to weeping. The Turkish captors spoke in low voices beyond them gesturing occasionally and pointing towards Jerico. A camel snorted and sneezed spraying gloop across Peters face. Dominic stoically stared out to the horizon, calculating his options, planning an escape, even if it mean alone. His thoughts surprised him as he had thought to die in the Holy Lands and to join his wife, away from the pain on earth. And now, in the face of danger, his thoughts were of his children, both recognized and those who had resulted outside the sanctioned marriage.

The evening before had been like any other along their pilgrimage to each of the holy sites. Some 200 pilgrims had set up camps around the waterhole and shared the fellowship of religion, recounting the wondrous sites they had visited and giving testimony to the closeness to God each were feeling . Despite having traveled with Ignatius and the five other pilgrims from Venice for several months, Dominic distanced himself, sheltering his pain and loss in his stony silence. He had hoped that God would release his suffering in this pilgrimage , but was yet to find peace.

“Great wealth… open lands.. trade on all raw materials…. We could be princes in our own rights there!”

Flicking back the thick fabric of his shared tent and stooping to enter, he was faced with four guilty faces as they huddled over several pieces of hide map in the dim lamplight. One of them tried to obscure the map by leaning over the top of it.

“No use in hiding it from me. I know you have been up to something for weeks.” He growled. “What is it that you have?”

“The Doge of Venice, Andrea Gritti, entrusted me with these maps and has asked me to deliver them to his holiness the Franciscan provincial, Angelo Ferrara. I have been trying to piece them together, but they seem muddled or parts missing.” Admitted Ignatius. “ We have a single day before they leave my hands. I had hoped to decode them.”

Without gaining permission, Dominic grabbed the doe hide maps and stared at them,frowning. He laid one down and gathered another placing it partially over the top. Scooping another and twisting it about he laid it in place as well. Grunting in satisfaction, he queried, “ Any of you worldly travelers know where this is?”

Silence met his ears. “ Hum thought so. How do you propose to find these lush lands and become princes then huh? Ignatius, you of all people have not a coin to rub together. Might I remind you of your doorstep lodgings before I found you in Venice? Is this the way you wish to repay the Doge for his kindness. I thought you were a scholar, not a thief.”

Shamefaced, Ignatius, bowed his head. Dominic sneered inwardly. Devout Christians were so easy to manipulate with guilt. “And what of these maps? What makes them so important to the Popes Emissary in the Holy Lands?”

One of the other pilgrims stepped forward. “I had been waiting for months to be granted permission to travel to the Holy Lands. In this time, I familiarized myself with the Doges Palace and staff.” Tizio allowed himself to flush. “I overheard several times, talk on the existence of these maps and of the journeys to a distant land, unpopulated and lush with wildlife and sweet fertile soils.”

Dominic laughed. “Fantasies and frippery. Tales with no substance”

Tizio urgently continued “ I thought so too, until a sea captain and his crew arrived very late one night and were admitted immediately into the Doges inner chambers. They were richly rewarded and sent home. Sadly each met a violent death. There seems to be a great deal of interest at the Doges ”

Dominic cocked an eyebrow. “You seem very resourceful for a common pilgrim”

A flash of a ring on Tizios left hand made Dominics breathe a little faster. “One of the Brothers? But what brings you so far out of Rome?”

The Brotherhood of the Protectors of the Faith are in more places than you can imagine. We see and hear allTizio calmly countered.

“It still doesn’t really answer why these maps are so important out here in the desert.” Dominic pointedly argued.

“And that is exactly what the Pope would like to know as well” agreed Tizio.

“So back to these maps. I agree with you Ignatius. We need more time to study them. They fit together like a jigsaw. Sadly we will only have these for another day and I doubt anyone here has writing equipment with them?” Dominic looked from face to face, each downcast envisaging their passage to riches slipping out of their fingers for the want of a fountain pen and a scroll. The pilgrims had been set upon a week prior and most of their luggage had been stolen by desert pagans.

“Too many damned thieves around these parts”. Grumbled Dominic. He whistled sharply outside his tent and grunted in satisfaction as he heard Yildiz call his answer, his bare feet pattering on the sand as he ran. A quick word to him and the lad nodded enthusiastically, racing into the darkness on the errand.

Dominic pulled his tunic open and on his left shoulder a blooded and scabbed etching in his flesh sat still weeping and red. He rinsed a cloth in cool water and whipped away the dried blood to reveal an intricately sketched cross. “Through the pain, I will find salvation” it read.

He ignored the horrified looks. “It will be my constant reminder that God is on my side.”

Yildiz entered the tent landing an elder man carrying a small satchel of tools and knives.

“Bashir is one of his tribes gifted skin artists. Only revered and holy symbols are etched into the skin within his tribe. Many pilgrims have taken this tradition on and have had crosses etched on their arms or chests.”

The puzzled looks from the others prompted Dominic to continue.” I suggest that each of us has a piece of the map etched into our person; until such time we reach civilization and can transfer it to a scroll. We can then decode this puzzle together and with my resources, set an expedition off to these wondrous lands.”

Bashir set the tools of his trade up and looked expectantly towards the group of men. Dominic grunted and sat down, exposing his chest and pointing at the largest map piece. Bashir nodded and set to work, deftly pricking the skin and colouring each part as he went.

Ignatius needed to be held with a leather strap clutched between his teeth, and Peter groaned and quietly wailed as Bashir worked on him. Tizio refused to be marked by Satans score, so Dominic had the final piece etched to his back.

Satisfied with his evenings work, Bashir, toothlessly grinned and accepted Dominics gifts as thanks. The men admired the work on each others bodies, but quickly pulled tunics on as thunderous hoofbeats echoed closer toward the sleeping camp. Shouts and screams followed as the unarmed pilgrims were attacked by an distrustful tribe. Everyone not already out of their tents were roughly woken and the meager possessions they held; taken, including the precious maps.

Groups of prisoners sat in the warming sands as the sun rose steadily and the Turkish tribe shouted at one another. The stench of fear and murmuring prayers kept Dominic from falling asleep. He would wait for the opportune moment and make good his escape. If he were able to free the others who held the maps upon their skin, he would assist them. If not, his keen mind had taken in the key points and he was certain he could reproduce them at will. Besides, the information they had on their bodies was very little, compared with the detail on his; which as he smiled to himself, he had orchestrated purposely.


Jodi Cleghorn said...

Wonderful Annie .... now it all fits together ... why the maps and the intaglio still dont hold the whole story, and why there are parts missing (and why for the life of me I couldn't see anything when I was writing the last few installments). Good thing that Dominic whispered about those tattoos!

So can I ask you anything about ancient tattooing now. And what's or who is the Doge? OR do I need to go and google?

I love collaborative writing!! Cracking yarn Annie.

Lenore said...

Very nice! When I get the time I'm going to read more of these adventures. It'll be something to look forward to! :)