At the still unnamed colony, diUmbria walked, somewhat dazed, among the buildings. Almost two hundred people lived there now. He had come to be the sole director, at least so far, of the affairs of the colony. All of the resources had been his own, and all of the buildings had been surveyed and approved by the Venetian captain. To the end that his bank account was running lower and lower, by the millions then the tens of millions, he sailed eastward back across the Atlantic to secure a renewal of riches.
Etruscan and Roman sites could yield valuable artifacts, important archaeological finds that fetched fine prices in the markets of Europe. Even at sites that had been repeatedly scavenged, a sharp eye could still find money to make. Sure, occasionally you had to defend yourself against more aggressive treasure hunters, but such were the stakes.
About ten days east of the colony, a privateer attacked diUmbria and Laurent. It went disastrously, with all of the sailors on the frenchman’s ship either slain or captured. The Venetian managed to rescue two of them afterward; the rest were lost. The older captain’s own ship took several volleys from the pirate, but returned with torrential blasts of cannonfire. All three ships maneuvered in the open sea for several days, but it was no use; diUmbria had underestimated his attacker and should have fled as quick as his galleon could sail. Now he was completely out of cannonballs, had used a third of his raw logs to repair both ships, and was sailing with torn sails beyond repair.
Eight days later, they were attacked again, this time by a pair of much larger ships with red and white sails, he knew he had no real choice but to flee. To this end he made a risky decision to use Laurent as a sort of decoy, not to attract fire so much as split up and make it difficult for their enemies to predict which way they were headed. The two men were skilled captains, and even with Laurent’s limited crew both ships were quite fast; with the right wind behind them, they slipped away to the horizon before the vagabonds could strike.
After twenty two days at sea, diUmbria held a party for the crews of both ships. He himself uncorked special barrels of wine he kept special for such occasions, and then sat on the deck and played his vihuela for the crew all night long. The next day, everyone’s fatigue was relieved and no one felt frustrated, as sailors can be known to do on long voyages. In the meantime, diUmbria was also struggling with his calculations. How long should the voyage take? Was his he reading his maps right? Surely land should be on the horizon soon…
On the twenty fifth day, they reached the Azores, and were attacked by yet more privateers. This time, the two worked together smoothly under the leadership of the elder, and they easily slipped away towards the islands. However, with their sails in such sorry condition, they were still days away from getting into port. A few days away, still, they were attacked by three large ships with blue and white sails. These turned out to be very difficult to avoid, and they barely escaped with their lives.
At the Azores they found a new crew for Laurent’s ship, and a couple of hands for the diUmbria’s as well. A local shipwright was quickly set to work on hanging new sails and patching up the remaining repairwork on the two ships. Then they were off again, but more cautious this time.
As the days wore on, diUmbria’s mind turned to Juan Garrion. Lately the wealthy young man had taken an eye to more and more fabulous vessels. Recently he had spent hundreds of millions on an iron-sided vessel holding at least sixty cannons, sporting yard upon yard of canvas. The Spaniard was already speaking of making changes to it, increasing the number of cannon ports and adding even more sails. It would be without a doubt the finest ship either of them had ever owned, or even often seen. The older captain’s response had been his usual question when Juan Garrion obtained a new ship. After many months, he was still hoping to sail around Greenland, and thought it would be a great adventure for the younger captain. For his part, the Spaniard always thought he wasn’t ready for such an undertaking, though now his mind was changing. It did no good to explain how diUmbria had sailed similar waters with vessels much smaller and inferior in every way; still Juan Garrion balked at the voyage.
Nine more days brought diUmbria and Laurent to the Portugese port of Lisbon, and so they were returned to Europe.
Moving through the city to exchange goods in the markets, diUmbria was surprised to find the streets and plazas decorated with tall evergreen trees festooned with beautiful Christmas decorations. Was it that time of year already? He’d been so busy with exploring and colonizing, he’d hardly noticed.