Their captain was known as diUmbria, it wasn’t his name, but he was from Assisi. He had come down from the ancient hilltop town to the coast and bought himself a ship. Now he plied the Adriatic and beyond, hawking wares in every port from Venice to Ragusa, Zadar to Naples.
Now he was fairly flying over the deep blue waters west of Rome, on his way home from a mission of adventure and exploration. He had been contracted by interested parties in Venice to lay out a viable shipping route between that city and Syracuse that would take less than 30 days one way. This he had done in just twelve. Afterward, he had decided to press on to the cities of Genoa and Pisa; he had found these quickly by sailing up the coast but lacked the permits to enter the cities.
On the way back, just west of Naples, he was attacked by Sicilian pirates. They had only a small single masted ship.
Captain diUmbria immediately gave the order to fire the cannon, to show the pirates they were in for a rough take. As he saw the size of the other ship, and the numbers of its crew, the captain made a decision to board her in turn as she had intended to do. They would turn pirate against the Sicilians.
Soon the two ships were lashed together, and a fierce battle ensued. Not long after, though, the pirates cut the lines and floated free again. After several exchanges like this, and a few volleys of well placed cannon fire, the captain from Umbria won the day and came off with 644 ducats, not bad at all.
diUmbria’s fortune had certainly turned since taking to the sea. Just a few short days ago, in Ragusa, he had seen a weathered old sailor and caught his name. It was a name from children’s stories he’d read while a young student. It turned out that the man did indeed know of the name, but the two were unrelated. However, the man, whose name was Wolfgaar, had so liked the demeanor of diUmbria that he gave him a fine ship, on the spot, right then and there.
It had been a lovely two masted bergantine dubbed the Ach Du Liebe. diUmbria knew no german, but he knew the purple sails and hull would have to be repainted. He had to sail to Venice for this; and he ended up with deep blue sails to match the sea at its finest, and a hull of olive green and white. The overall effect combined to a stately vessel.
Since taking over the fine ship, his fortune had in reality been somewhat mixed. Most of the trading had improved; the larger hold of the new ship enabled to him to move many more goods up and down the Adriatic. But once he took up with his nephew, who went by the reckless name of Captain Firebolt, and the nephew’s ill luck seemed to become his own. diUmbria had never in his life been attacked by so many pirates, nor stuck in winds so contrary. In the battles the Ach Du Liebe took blows it would never recover from, and diUmbria felt sorry for captaining it into such danger.
Meanwhile, after seventeen days at sea, he was still on the water south of Ragusa when pirates attacked again. This time the ill-fated Captain Firebolt was nowhere to be seen; but in a way his luck was better as his own speedy vessel quickly flew away from the marauders, with nary a scratch to hull nor rend to sail.
The stars shown like diamonds under a blue velvet night when, after a full nineteen days at sea, they finally docked at Ragusa.
The hold was swollen with a fine catch of fish caught on their long voyage. Even the captain did not know all it held. To this account, and because of the late hour, he retired to the small tavern that served the harbor and there went over his accounts alongside a meal of tuscan wine and bouillabaisse.
Ten crates of lavender; five crates of lemon oil; five crates of lace; two crates of ceramics; one crate of jewelry; two crates of bronze statues; two crates of antique art; and then the catch: two crates of blue mackerel; seven crates of sardines; three crates of horse mackerel; and one crate of spear squid. A fine haul, even if he knew some of the items were a hard sell. The lemon oil, for instance, he had bought in the Adriatic and been unable to sell at a profit without; unless the market turn he would be soon forced to take a loss.
Not that his fortunes were bad in any way; far from it. He had come to the shore two months ago with fifty thousand ducats in savings, after purchasing the ship and a small crew. From this, including the gift of the ship, he now held two fine vessels to his name and a total savings of some one hundred and eleven thousand ducats, plus the value of his hold. All in all, things were going well for the old man from Assisi.
In the morning he went to the market. Of his goods, only the ceramics went at a profit. Still, between these and the fish he took in three thousand, five hundred and four ducats, a fine amount. In exchange he took on duck meat, olives and wheat, though he had to make a withdrawal from the bank clerk to cover it. The amount tied up in goods in his hold bothered him. Soon he may have to take a loss just to clear the space.
Captain diUmbria sat at a table by the door in the tiny tavern set in the village Trieste. He was engaged in lively conversation with a local firstmate and a female captain from another ship. They were discussing a variety of topics; how to get permits for other ports, the difficulties peculiar to Venician sailors, the dangerous pirates off the coast of North Africa. Eventually diUmbria felt the sea calling again, the tuscan wine invigorating his bones for another voyage out.
Three days sailing brought him back to Venice, where he lay at anchor in the harbor for a fourth day set to fishing. It was pleasant beyond measure in the turquoise waters outside the mouths of the canals. Buildings faced with pink and tan faced the sea, their tiled roofs catching the sun. In the night, the stars sparkled in their multitudes above the gently rolling waters.
Within the city, after having spoken with the folks in Trieste, he had some idea now of how to obtain the new permits, or at least who to talk to. He looked forward to visiting new places; in fact, it was this desire that brought him down from the central highlands of Umbria in the first place.
So it was that laden with a varied cargo of trade goods and two weeks worth of food and water that Captain diUmbria sailed south from Venice bound for the unknown. At the very least, the streets of Pisa and Genoa would now be open to his explorations.
At the very bottom of the Adriatic, after five days of sailing, two pirate ships attacked. diUmbria knew by now the strength of his new ship, and with ease piloted it away from his attackers. They were no match for its speed and soon fell into the distance, with only a grazing exchange between the Ach Du Liebe and the larger of the two pirates.
There was no further disturbance until a Sicilian ship again attacked them just outside of Naples. Again the ship was small, no match for diUmbria, and again the captain soon turned the tables and pirated the pirates. They reached Naples without further incident late the next day. It had taken just over two weeks, but they still had a few days worth of food and water left in the hold.
Two more Corsican and a third unidentified pirate ship fell prey to diUmbria as he made his way north.
Twelve days at sea, and it happened. diUmbria was just setting down and getting out his drawing set, for he was a somewhat accomplished artist in his own right, when someone called out.
Then diUmbria realized his error; he had no fire buckets, no way of dealing with the blaze that soon took hold of his precious cargo. All his pepper went up; also some of the fish, and even his own boots were burned before the brave crew could quench the flames. The Ach Du Liebe was badly damaged, and would now be easy prey for any pirates that came along. Genoa was in sight, but still far up the coast, possibly days away depending on the winds. The crew set about repairing the damage as best they could while at sea.
Amazingly, none of the crew were harmed in the fire, which in truth came terribly close to sinking them all. Three days later they were still at sea, and still in dire condition.
It took two more days still to reach the port, but reach it they did. They all felt a bit more seasoned after the adventure, more than a bit gladdened to have the solid stone of the tavern under their feet.
The captain bought the crew a round, then drinks for everyone else.
Then he went back outside to have a look at the city before sleep overtook him.
It was quaint under a starry sky, thin whisps of clouds to the west. It was a town much like the one he called home, simple houses clustered close around stone lanes. An atmosphere of tranquility flowed from the well tended flowerboxes that adorned nearly every window.
Much like Naples, upon going inland he came to a broad plaza dominated by a stately cathedral. Here were the markets, which he visited first thing the next morning.