Thursday, November 18, 2010

             Rodrigo had made the mistake the moment he walked to the dock. The prior weeks had been what he imagined the be Hell—rations would soon run low, the heat (regardless of the autumn) had become even more stufling since leaving the Azores, and he served under Beelzebub himself, the Admiral.
            The Admiral was a cruel man. Most ship’s captains would enforce the law of their floating fiefdom to maintain order and safety upon the sea, but Colón had brought his shrwed, paranoia across the Ocean Sea with his “fleet.” Beatings, while not uncommon to enforce a ship’s discipline, savaged on sadatic brutality—many seamen privately wished for the merciful treatments their war-service compared to the mania of the journey.
            The Inquisition—a nightmare the likes of which agnels could not have forseen. The Marranos had changed their names, they had moved across nations, they had hid—but mostly died. The Beremejo name had been too well-known in the quarters of Seville as  Jewish family—too noble, too rich, too secure--- the new queen had seen to these families and their “support” for la Reconquista over the whole of Iberia.
            A “New Christian” was the polite term for his family now.
Last year’s Beremejo, this year’s la Triana. Survival had its costs. Hiding had its trials, but both Poseidon and the Admiral were merciless.
Worst of all, Rodrigo mused, was that the Genoan was an outright liar.
            The crow’s nest was the only area of peace Rodrigo would find on the Pinta. Under the light of only the stars and waxing moon, a man could be free with his thoughts to consider the world. The night watch was also a coveted post as the Admiral had promised ten silver to the first man to sight the Indias. Having seen a flock of birds perhaps ten leagues to the south—flying west—the other day, Rodrigo had told no one, and managed a second consecutive night at the top of La Pinta.
            In the pleasant coolness after midnight, Rodrigo saw a flicker in the distance. The half moon’s light on the great , choppy waters wassomething which one came well-acquanited to after the weeks at her whim, but this night’s was something entirely different on the horizon—shadows. Something which should not be in the south-west, in fact, was: a faint image of s shore breaking the monotony of the Ocean Sea.
            Rodrigo turned away from the sight to re-acquaint his eyes. Turning back, he blinked and squinted again, seeing an unmistakable umbridge on the horizon. Grinning at the thought of ten extra silver in his pocket on the return to Spain, he stopped himself from speaking for a moment to alert the crew; this moment—this island perhaps thirty leagues distant—was his and his alone. Juan Rodrigo Bermejo’s ephemeral kingdom.
            A sleepy Javier on the deck below was pulling up the knotted ropes to measure their speed as the Marrano shouted downward,
            “¡Tierra! ¡Tierra!”

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