"Crossing the Bridge"


It was a clear spring afternoon in the city of Florence, Italy. The Renaissance was still in progress during the mid-16th century. The City reflected the mood of the times, touching all parts of daily life from religion, politics, and business. The old ways were being changed and with it an interest in the world beyond the current maps of the day. A rock that was once part of a stone bridge penetrated the water, causing an explosion that sent a ragged circular sheet of water upwards which generated a rippling effect of waves radiating from the epicenter. The current of the Flume Arno flowed westward and stretched the waves until they were erased.


 The rock was thrown by a young nineteen-year-old cartographer, Leonardo Vi. The talented young man had once apprenticed as a stone mason for his uncle. As a stone mason apprentice, he had worked on walls and bridges such as the one he and his father crossed this day. So throwing the stone was something he had done many times before. That stone had been broken off previously and was lying on the ground from its placement. Picking it up and looking at the rock Leonardo made a wish before throwing the rock. That wish was to see other lands talked about by the customers who would come into their Map Shop and share their experiences.


 Alongside him were his mentor and father Guido, a stout gentleman weighing close to two hundred pounds, but well-groomed and fashionably clothed. They were returning to the shop after visiting a supplier when the stone was thrown. Guido had stopped as well and looked out onto the Arno. After seeing the rock land upon the water he looked down at his reflection from the bridge. Guido thought back to when Leonardo was a young boy and how they would cross this same bridge. Leonardo would ask questions of "What is this?" and "What is that?" How precious those moments were not knowing it back then he thought as a piece of wood drifted by.


 Leonardo had an inquiring mind at an early age and it would continue to serve his imagination as he grew older. His keen sense of observation and wanting to convey what he saw by drawing it came naturally to him. Besides drawing, Guido would watch Leonardo build things such as miniature castles out of sticks and walls made of small stones. As Leonardo grew older, Guido’s older brother Mario mentioned to him that there was an apprentice position in his business and thought Leonardo might like to learn to be a stone mason. Guido wasn’t sure but thought it might make Leonardo more appreciative of map making after lifting stones of various sizes so he agreed to let Leonardo work for him. Under the watchful supervision of Mario, Leonardo learned the principles of footings to weight ratios, angles and heights, and the construction procedures. Safety was on the minds of the older workers especially having a young boy of 11 around them.


 After three years Leonardo had learned much, but his thoughts were on art, and his desire to further his knowledge on the subject matter was evident. So Guido enrolled Leonardo then fourteen years of age at the prestigious Raphael Academy of Arts. There Leonardo learned the skills of painting and sculpture and became interested in speaking Spanish and learning to read and write Latin. After spending four years at the Academy he was an accomplished young artist, but to repay his father Leonardo started working for him and quickly learned the map trade. This made Guido happy and furthered Leonardo's insatiable appetite for knowledge.


 Still looking down at his reflection in the water Guido sighed then told his son "Life is like this bridge we cross. So many memories will flow past you as you make your way across to the other side. Before you know it, you will be old and have regrets for not doing the things that you wanted to have done". Leonardo looked at his father and inquired, "What do you mean father?" Guido began walking and replied, "You will learn my son, you will learn”. Guido had once aspired to be an artist himself. His family was not prosperous enough to afford the cost of professional lessons and not having a sponsor to support his endeavors he went to work in the map-making business. Where his talents excelled and eventually led to his own successful shop. The naming of his son Leonardo was after the great artist Leonardo da Vinci whom Guido had admired.  


 “The more I observe the properties of water, the more it fascinates me. Like the ring of waves radiating from the disturbance in a timely manner and then if it reaches the shoreline as a wave it will start breaking. If the shoreline is deep the wave does not break. If it is shallow it breaks along the contour of the land underneath” said Leonardo looking at his father and then at the clouds in the sky. “I know what you mean. On my last trip to Livorno, I had time to take a walk along the beach north of the town. There I watched the dolphins riding inside the waves. They are amazing creatures, but getting back to the waves. If there is a point or protrusion in the land the waves start to break there and follow the contour as you mentioned. If it is a beach the waves break as one continuous wall unless there is a sand bar” said Guido with a smile.


 The pungent smell from the butcher stands at both entrances of the bridge lingered in the breeze. The noise from the passersby blended into a muffle as they made their way from one end of the bridge to the other. Leonardo and Guido noticed a couple in a disagreement, the man was saying he was sorry and that he loved her very much. The woman was not saying a word and had turned her back on him and was looking up. Guido looked at Leonardo and said “Lover’s quarrel. Oh pigeon poop, I just remembered Leonardo! I have an appointment this afternoon. I think we have just enough time to get back to the shop to meet them on time. 


 After reaching the shop, they put away their coats. No sooner after they had done so there was a knock at the door. A stately gentleman and his companion, a young lady entered the shop. He introduced himself as Captain Miguel Montoya a tall and fit man in his early 40s. His companion was his daughter Maria who had just turned 17. Her height of 5’ 8” and her full-figured appearance made her more of a woman than a teenager. Her chestnut color hair framed her eyes, and her smile reflected the gift that her mother had given her.


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The Captain was visiting Florence on official business for the Royal Court of Spain and was anticipating their return voyage within a few days. A letter of introduction was delivered from officials in Florence to expedite the procurement of maps at the request of Spain's King Charles I. Guido's abilities were well known in Europe so the appointment was arranged and it wasn’t long before the two met face to face. " My appointment was made for me through the office of the Casa de Contratación in Seville to visit you, Mr. Vi". "Yes, Yes please come in Captain Montoya I am Guido Vi at your service". "Thank you, may I introduce my daughter Maria," said Captain Montoya. "A pleasure," said Guido as he half bowed with a smile and continued "Allow me to introduce my son and partner Leonardo to you" as he proudly turned to face his son.


 "Pleased to make your acquaintance," said Leonardo as he extended his hand to shake Captain Montoya's then reached and held Maria's outstretched hand with a slight lowering of his head "Please come in and let me show you our shop," said Guido. “May I take your cape?" asked Leonardo to Maria. "Yes, you may Leonardo" Maria replied as she unbuttoned the cape near the neck and allowed him to remove the cape from her shoulders. "We have been thoroughly enjoying your beautiful city" she added in fluent Italian. After Leonardo heard her remarks his face lit up in agreement and added in Spanish “beautiful thoughts from a beautiful lady”. Maria smiled and Captain Montoya looked at Leonardo with reservations. Guido continued the introduction "Captain Montoya I was informed that you were primarily looking for the latest maps of the New World as well as the Pacific coast" Guido remarked. 


 "That is correct Mr. Vi,” said Captain Montoya as he moved to the center of the room where there was a large table elaborately painted like a map. "What a beautiful piece of art!" commented Captain Montoya as he admired the detailed drawing of Italy's coastline. "I must be boastful and tell you that Leonardo did that for me as a gift for sending him through the art academy here in Florence. He is very skilled and I hope you find that evident in the maps he produces for your review please call me Guido only the butcher calls me Mr. Vi, Guido added with a smile.


 "If this table is any indication of your maps then I am sure I will be well pleased with your cartography”. Left to themselves Maria and Leonardo were in a conversation, at first Leonardo chose his words to be polite. Maria on the other hand was charming and carried herself well for a young woman. She made Leonardo at ease with her humor and grace despite the fact that her beauty captivated him. Her father hearing the laughter looked over to where they were. With a casual glance, he produced a warm smile and redirected his attention back to the business at hand.


 Maria looking over to her father and sensing not to get carried away with socializing rejoined him at the table as Leonardo followed. Captain Montoya and Guido began talking about the new and unexplored lands of the Americas. “I have copies of maps that Juan de la Cosa who was the navigator on the Columbus voyages and by the Florentine navigator Amerigo Vespucci. Their work along the coast of Terra do Brasil is quite good. Leonardo and I are in the process of utilizing details from both into a newer version” said Guido pausing for a moment and continuing with his dialogue “Captain Montoya I have something very interesting to show you” said Guido as he excused himself and walked over to a shelf and brought back a protective leather carrying case filled with five books.


 After placing it on the table Guido explained what was in the case “The case contains diaries of a person who was a shipwreck on an island in the Pacific Ocean. To my surprise it was by someone I knew who had bought a few maps from me years ago. His name is Vincenzo Genoa a brilliant man and a wonderful person to be around. I recently bought these books from a Portuguese sailor at a coastal tavern near Livorno” remarked Guido. 


 “I was told about how and where the diaries were obtained by a sailor whose name is Chui. He could not read or write but knew the books may be of importance. I asked to look at it and he handed it to me to look at. As I looked through the pages it described who the author was and where he was from and why he had made the trip. Then it would describe his experience before, during, and after the storm in a general context and his stay on an island. It was cleverly done and an ordinary person would have read part of it and not understood the overall system of his writing. 


 There was way more information regarding the subject matter on the page that met the eye. He used Latin as his code to cross reference information on another book to be more secretive. I too didn’t know that until my son Leonardo solved the code” said Guido as he looked at Leonardo. Looking back at the books Guido continued “Chui was in a tavern in Macau when he met the sailor who had the books and wanted to sell them, the sailor's name was Jorge” said Guido pausing for a moment to gather his thoughts. “So, Chui goes on to say that Jorge met an officer whose ship found a canoe drifting in the doldrums of the equator with the diaries in it. The ship that found the canoe was sailing from Acapulco to Manila Harbor. 


 The officer who was in charge of the ship’s stores took possession of the diaries after the Captain and the other officers read the books and thought nothing of it because none of them knew Latin. It was locked away in the ship’s store and would be sent back to Spain on the next ship to Acapulco.  


 The officer of the ship’s store needed money and thought he could sell it to someone in town. Stopping at one of the bar/brothel establishments by the docks he sat at a table with the 5 diaries in a bag. Jorge sitting nearby came over and bought the officer a drink. They got to talking and Jorge bought another round. After telling Jorge the story of how the books were found on a canoe, the officer went upstairs to his room to rest. 


 The next morning the officer was found dead and his clothes and possessions were missing. One month later in a tavern in Macau, Jorge is having a drink and trying to sell the books. Chui being curious came over and started a conversation with Jorge. They got to talking and they both had stories to tell and found out that each was a sailor and was on liberties from their ships. Jorge invited Chui to take a seat and Chui obliged. 


 Before Chui had joined him, Jorge had made fun of a barmaid in the tavern an hour earlier. The barmaid told her boyfriend who had just got off work about how that sailor Jorge made fun of her in front of others in the tavern. The crusty bearded six-foot-tall longshoreman walked over to Jorge and asked “did you make fun of my girlfriend”. Jorge being half drunk and acting arrogant said “What if I did” as he went to grab his knife from his waist belt. 


 Before pulling his knife out the other man had already pulled out his knife and seeing Jorge grabbing for his knife, he lunged forward and stabbed Jorge in the heart as he sat in his chair. A silence followed and Jorge was leaning back with his head tilted to one side and his arms lay limp to his sides. Chui lifted both hands in the air and said “I had nothing to do with this man insulating your girlfriend”. 


 The boyfriend of the barmaid realizing the consequences of his deed ran out the door with a blood-stained knife in hand. Everyone in the tavern began to talk and move around. The bartender came over reached into Jorge’s pocket and took out 50 ducas for the previous drink and instructed another person to help him drag the dead body out of the tavern and into the alley. Where a person came out of the shadows and searched the dead man for whatever he could find. Another patron in the tavern went to get the authorities.  


 With the chaos around him, Chui calmly grab the bag of books and walked out the door. His ship was sailing out that afternoon and returning back to Portugal. The ship would make a right-hand turn around Singapore and then through the Malacca Straits into the open seas of the Indian Ocean and then across to Africa. After that, they would round the Cape of Good Hope and back up to Portugal. Where Chui would crew on another ship to deliver cargo to Livorno, Italy where we would meet. I asked if he wanted to sell the books and Chui said he did. After negotiating a price, I returned back to Florence and had Leonardo help me decipher the book” said Guido. 


 Captain Montoya looked at Guido as he explained about the books and Vincenzo. “Vincenzo Genoa was a scholar who had studied astronomy, cartography, medicine, alchemy, engineering, and military warfare and was a shrewd businessman who could speak five different languages. He had traveled to many parts of Europe and the countries around the Mediterranean and the Orient. He was also working for King Sebastion of Portugal on a secret mission. Leonardo is still deciphering that out currently, but the other things that I mentioned I learned from others” said, Guido. After hearing King Sebastian of Portugal mentioned Captain Montoya became very interested in the books and when Guido said there was a hidden map in one of the books Captain Montoya felt like he was served a few cherries for dessert. 


 After having read through one of the books and looked at the map that had been hidden within the book cover. He lifts his head and said “I will read more later” then looking at Guido asks "where do you think these islands are while pointing at the map”. "Oh! Those islands have fascinated me also. Leonardo has a good idea where they might be from the astronomical chart,” said Guido. “Astronomical chart?” asked Captain Montoya. “Yes, Vincenzo kept a record of his voyage from the time he left Manila to the time he was at the village where he was staying at. Each page had a code that related to the position of the stars to where he was. The last entry in his diary describes them in the canoe and were fishing, but that entry had no reference and was left blank ” said Guido.


 “Leonardo can you tell me more of what you know regarding the diaries and the map,” asked Captain Montoya. “Yes, as my father has mentioned Senior Vincenzo was very intelligent and he arranged his diaries in a very clever way. By indicating a Latin word to the area on another book that translated into a numeric value into a table in another book that gave the coordinates for specific locations on another map that is missing. It took me a while to figure that out” said Leonardo. 


 Captain Montoya asked Leonardo “would you be interested in accompanying us to the Pacific Ocean? Leonardo was surprised at the question and wanted to talk to his father. “Excuse me Captain Montoya I would like to talk to my father in private,” said Leonardo as he looked at his father and started walking towards the backroom of the shop. Guido said “Excuse me” and followed Leonardo. 


 Once in the room Leonardo turned and looked at his father and said “I would really like to go farther and experience what many have said about the world in which we live”. “I would like you to stay, but I remember what I told you on the bridge about regrets and not to have done those things you really wanted to do. You have my blessing my son if you wish to go. Leonardo replied, "Yes, yes father I really do want to go, this is once in a lifetime opportunity". They looked at each and Guido was overcome with emotion and gave Leonardo a hug as his voice had a crackling stutter “I love you my son please be careful and take care of yourself”. “I love you too, father,” said Leonardo blinking while holding back the tears. 


 After a few minutes, they return to the room, Leonardo walks over to Captain Montoya and said: ”After talking it over with my father I would like to go and be of service to you Captain Montoya”. Maria smiled as Captain Montoya walked over to Leonardo to shake his hand and said “It will be with high esteem that we welcome you to our mission and that we find what we are looking for, Thank you, Leonardo.”


 Leonardo smiled and looked at Maria. Captain Montoya took the necessary time he needed to review the paperwork that Guido made out for him to sign to consummate the purchase of the books and the maps of the Americas and the Pacific Ocean. Guido then placed them in a large leather binder with his signature trademark "V" on the clasp. 


 Leonardo we are staying at the Tuscany Inn, please join us for dinner tonight and we will go over the details of our departure. That evening Leonardo would find out more about Captain Montoya’s life. After dinner, they would sit out in the garden of the inn and have a glass of wine and talk about the Captain’s adventures. “I have sailed to all parts of the Mediterranean and to the New World a couple of times. Captain Montoya discussed his orders to sail aboard the Spanish treasure galleon, “La Rosa del Mar" from Barcelona to Porto Bello, Panama. Where he, his daughter, and Leonardo would leave the ship and cross Panama on horseback for another vessel located on the Pacific side. The La Rosa del Mar would then make its way to Cartagena, Colombia, and would become part of the Tierra Firme Fleet, and would return back to Barcelona laden with gold and other precious commodities.


 “This would be the first oceanic voyage for Maria,” said Captain Montoya as he continued to share his story of how he met his wife and the sad ending to their relationship. “I met my wife in the fishing village of Portbou near the border of Spain with France. She was from the French city of Narbonne, Chanelle was visiting her uncle's residence at Portbou when I met her. My family owned a vast amount of land growing Citrus in the inland regions of Portbou. As it was her habit, Chanelle was walking along the beach in the late summer afternoon when our lives intertwined. 


 I had just returned from a military voyage to Egypt and wanted to find some solitude and refresh my mind, I too was walking along the beach. Seeing her ahead some distance away I started picking up my pace then slowed as I approached within speaking distance of her. She turned when I abruptly spoke these words "Good Afternoon Mademoiselle." She was ascertaining if I was well-intentioned or not and replied "Bon Jour, Admiral," she said being not quite up on her naval insignia and as to not insult me. I laughed out loud which took her by surprise and broke the ice of formality. "Thank you for the promotion!" I replied as I extended my hand to her. "Lieutenant Miguel Montoya of the Spanish Fleet and I am pleased to make your acquaintance"


 "I am Chanelle D'arcy" she replied as she in turn extended her hand to mine and I sensed a magical flush come over me when we touched. "I am here visiting my uncle and enjoying the serenity of the sea...but then you obviously love the sea as well being in the Naval profession," said Chanelle. "Chanelle...such a beautiful name for such a beautiful lady" I boldly answered and was unwilling to let go of her delicate hand. "I sense we have much in common besides the sea," I said while releasing the words as if to open a door for her to step into my world.


 "You are more than kind, Lieutenant" Chanelle replied to me as she turned to continue the walk with me by her side. That walk was the beginning of our relationship which we fell in love and would be married a year later. Maria was born the following year and brought unspeakable joy into our hearts. The years came and went with happiness and prosperity filling our lives. Then when Maria was 16, tragedy struck while she and Chanelle were visiting their family in Narbonne. I was away on one of his many assignments at sea when Chanelle suddenly fell ill and then languished for months with consumption before she passed away. Once we were reunited I comforted Maria who was grief-stricken. 


 A prestigious assignment to the New World was assigned to me and Maria implored me for her to go. I requested the King to allow her to accompany me and King Charles being a father and grandfather felt deep compassion for the loss of my wife and her mother granted me the request. I was more than relieved to let Maria fill the void left by Chanelle's loss. Maria was young, but strong in spirit and kept her composure like her mother. I knew she would be tested in every aspect on this trip, but still felt it better for her to go than leave her in the custody of her aging uncle. One year later we met you and your father here in Florence” said Captain Montoya. 


"The Rose"


 “What do you think about the diaries Leonardo” Captain Montoya asked. “I think what those books contain is very valuable information. It seemed simple at first, but after finding a piece of the puzzle that unlocked only a fraction of what lay hidden between the lines. It is like finding a treasure map with a few dots and nothing else. That one piece was the word “IF” in Latin that I stumbled across on my third time looking at it. Then the tables in another area of the book just didn’t make sense at first, but now I’m approaching it with a different frame of mind, so that’s where I am currently” said Leonardo.


 “We will discuss this more as you continue to study those books Leonardo, but for now have your things ready for the trip by tomorrow night, we will be taking a coach to Livorno the day after. From there we will take a boat to Barcelona where the La Rosa del Mar is moored” said Captain Montoya as he took a sip of his wine while they sat in the garden of the Inn. 


The next morning Leonardo is packing his belongings and is saying farewells to his friends, family, and relatives that have stopped by. He had seen his father in the morning before he went to the shop but will be making a visit to the shop to get as much finish as possible before leaving. Guido is working on a project when Leonardo walks in. He walks over to his father and starts to discuss what is on his mind. “I’m getting prepared to leave, but there is something that is making me wonder,” Leonardo said.


 “What is it my son,” said Guido. “I was reading a book by Marsilio Ficino earlier this week its title is “The Book of Life” and it had a list of things that hold influence over a man's destiny,” Leonardo said. “I have heard he was a smart man” Guido commented. “I get this feeling that some mystical force is looming over my destiny,” Leonardo said with a confused look on his face. “You can change those things that you control, adjust to those things that you do not control, and let it go at that. What will be, will be my son, I can tell you are adding building blocks of philosophy to your way of thinking. Which is good” said Guido with a smile. Leonardo walks over to the desk to finish up on various projects before leaving. 

“Father I will need to get some supplies for the journey, I will be back in an hour,” Leonardo said finishing one map and rushing out the door. After returning he accomplishes the projects that he had planned to do and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with his father reminiscing about the past and imagining what might be. The next morning he gives a hug to his aunt, then his mother walks over to his father and shakes his hand, and gives him a lasting hug before saying “I will miss you all and you will be in my heart always”. “Keep an open mind, my son, and never stop learning,” Guido said waving goodbye.


 Leonardo is sitting inside the coach with Captain Montoya and Maria as they leave Florence. They make a stop at a village where the horse is given water and where Leonardo wanted to see the view by riding with the coachman. The coachman asked Leonardo “Where are going?” “I am with the Captain and his daughter and we are going to the New World,” Leonardo said. 

“I envy you, young man, for the last forty years I have been riding this coach from Florence to Livorno and back. I wanted to see the world like many of my friends, but I have a family to care for so I never got to go.” Leonardo looked at the coachman and replies “Angelo, your wife and family must be grateful for your devotion to their needs. You are a good man and shouldn’t be disheartened.” 

“Perhaps you are right, I don’t know anything else I could do to make a proper living to feed my family,” Angelo said as he flicked the reins and the 4 horses began to move forward. “I will be making maps there” mention Leonardo as the coach swayed after rolling over a rut. “I hear there are many dangers there from wild animals, bandits, and government officials,” Angelo said and begins to laugh. “Please excuse me there is something I must do,” Leonardo said as he climbed down and enter the coach as it moved along.


 The ride to Livorno took most of the day, having stopped for a meal and to water and feed the horses. By evening they were settled in on the boat and ready to depart in the morning on the “Lady of Livorno” The sail to Barcelona went according to plan and as they entered Barcelona Harbor. After walking across the wharf from their previous boat, the Captain, Maria, and Leonardo were stowing their belonging aboard the La Rosa del Mar. Looking down on the docks Captain Montoya who was on deck was viewing the other passengers coming aboard up the gangplank. There was a priest and a sister whom Captain Montoya would walk up to and greet. “I am Captain Montoya,” he said. “I am Monsignor Roman Munoz are you the Captain of the ship,” asked the priest. “No, I am a passenger like your selves Captain Montoya said.


  I am being transferred to the Cartegena Archdioces and this is Sister Teresa Quillet who will be accompanying me. After a brief discussion, the Monsignor and the Sister nodded and went to their cabins. Captain Montoya gazed out into the harbor. How the Monsignor and the sister can be on this trip, can be traced back to a day at the Seville Cathedral. The Monsignor was going out as she was entering the Cathedral with the light behind her, he was blinded for just a moment before seeing her approaching him as if an angel from heaven had appeared he thought before introducing himself to the Sister. 

“Good Morning Sister, I am Monsignor Roman Munoz. I do not believe we have been introduced" He said. “Good Morning to you as well Monsignor, I am Sister Teresa Quellet from the Order in Gotarrendura in the Province of Avila. I have been summoned to Seville by the Cardinal” She said. "Please allow me to escort you to your destination. The Cathedral is poorly laid out. If one is not careful, one could easily become a Saint before their time if they ended up in the catacombs," Roman kidded her, which brought a smile to Sister Teresa.


 "Then I am at your mercy, Monsignor for I am not fond of dark and dusty places," she said. Her outgoing personality made her unique. The Cardinal having heard of her through the Church in Avila had sent for her to work at Seville. The ensuing months would find the Sister and the Monsignor consulting each other at times with trials and tribulations they are confronted with. Then the opportunity for them both to advance in the church with new positions awaiting them in Cartagena. As providence would have it the voyage together would give the two friends many days to share their anticipation of what God had ordained for them to do in the New World.


 As the Captain looked around the harbor from his viewpoint and then back he sees two men with musical instruments walking up the gangplank. They must be Troubadours the Captain thought to himself. Behind them were a man and his wife and a few other passengers. The King had also dispatched a platoon of 20 soldiers of the Crown's special forces in charge of the group Sargent Garcia. The ship's cook Pepe Lopez and his three assistants came aboard next then the ship's physician. 

"A motley crew" Captain Montoya said out loud with a laugh. Maria was unpacking her belongings in the cabin. The officers and crew of the La Rosa del Mar were preparing her stores. The munitions of cannon balls, gun powder barrels, and ignition materials were carefully loaded. One large cargo bay had also been loaded with additional cannons, arms, ammunition, and food and water. Other undisclosed items remained in a locker under lock and chain.


 The new day arrived and the crews were finishing up on last-minute loading. It was around noon and the breeze had picked up when the shorelines were untied as the tide was going out. The ends of the furled sails were flapping in the winds as to say “farewell. Leonardo was on the starboard side of the ship waving goodbye to a few of the dock workers who had untied the lines. Lieutenant Gutierrez walking up to Leonardo says ” Is this your first time aboard a ship?” “Yes,” Leonardo answered. “My name is Lieutenant Martinez Gutierrez but you can call me Martin,” He said as he extended his hand. Leonardo extended his hand and said “Leonardo Vi and you can call me Leo” as they shook hands. 

“Well Leo we will be seeing a lot of each other during this voyage and if there are questions that you might have, feel free to ask,” the Lieutenant said. “I will do just that, for there are many things about sailing I would like to learn,” Leonardo remarked. “What line of work do you do?” “I’m a Cartographer and have been studying some astronomy in my spare time,” remarked Leonardo. “What a coincidence I too am into astronomy, “I can see this will be an enlightening voyage for the both of us” answered Martin as the La Rosa del Mar with the outgoing tide and six longboats pulled her away from the docks, slowly moved into the channel as her sails were unfurled. Once past the harbor, the forward motion of the ship increased to a steady 5 knots.


 After the departure, the guests were in discussion with Captain Juan Fernandez and his officers on the main deck, 1st Lieutenant Panfilo Segovia, Lieutenant Martinez Gutierrez, and the Master Chief, Jorge Madrid. The other officers were busy down below. Captain Fernandez greeted the passenger and said "The La Rosa del Mar" is no ordinary treasure galleon. Her length is 200 feet and is made of the best marine timber by the finest wood craftsmen from Spain, France, and Italy. Her designers are well known for speed and hull integrity. Her mast configurations and sails make her one the fastest ever built. 

Besides swiftness, her armaments were streamlined and placed at the most advantageous spot on board the ship with the standard rolls of cannons alongside her hull. She also has four cannons in the front elevated focsule locker and a special row of cannon bays placed under the Officer's quarters at the stern of the boat and is non-conspicuous to the viewer from afar. Both placements of the cannons at the fore and aft positions are being tested for the first time. So ladies and gentlemen this is “The Rose” we travel on." 


 Halfway around the world Kai’ike is visualizing the ceremony and wondering about the young man who is studying the books that Vincenzo had written. He knows it is just a matter of time before that young man will be sailing into the waters of his village. But for now, he is getting ready to work on a surfboard and go surfing afterward. By the morning of the next day, they were sailing through the straits of Gibraltar. The gusty morning breeze of the Atlantic suggested a North Sea gale was occurring in the higher latitudes. 

The pops of the canvas sails were heard as they quickly filled and the speed of the ship increased to 10 knots. There were two helmsmen holding the course as she pounded her way on a starboard tack. The crews on the mast yards hauled in the sheets for a better trim with increased winds. Captain Fernandez sensed an increase in speed to 12 knots. "Hold her steady! Hold her steady!" Captain Fernandez said. The order was given to veer away from the wind and the speed decreased to 8 knots. The Captain then ordered the furling of the first two masts of their sails and reduced the sail areas to storm sails configuration. "Just in case the storm passes by our course," he added. "Aye, Aye, Captain," confirmed the 1st Lieutenant.


 "Just getting the feel of her rigging," the Captain mentioned to 1st Lieutenant Segovia. "She holds a trim well." replied the 1st Lieutenant as he turned to his Master Chief who said, "Yes she does,". Lieutenant Gonzales took over as the Officer on Deck as Captain Fernandez and Lieutenant Segovia retired to the Captain’s quarter to discuss the trip. As the speed of the ship decreased Maria stepped out to the upper deck of the stern and sat on the seating boxes that were next to the guard rails. Her long auburn hair wafted around her face with the different gusts of wind.

 Lieutenant Segovia had just finished his conversation with the Captain and noticed Maria alone on the Stern. He moved up the stairs and sat next to her and pointed toward the sea birds that were following the ship. He commented that they were long way out at sea. Maria turned and looked in that direction and politely agreed with his observation as their conversation continued and the wake of La Rosa del Mar disappeared into the choppy sea.


 The second night out and the routine of lighting the lanterns as the night watchmen made their rounds. In the main salon, the passengers and the ship's officers had been invited to a “Welcome Onboard” ceremony that evening. The chairs had been relocated to the bulkheads and walls. Doing so made the main salon open for dancing within a space of 20 ft. x 20 ft. The main salon was below the Officer's Quarters, and it had a view of both sides. A wall separated the 4 stern cannons from the large room.


There was a small portable stage in the room. The two Troubadours were on the stage with Lieutenant Segovia. The Troubadours having played for royalty and commoners alike were prepared to play the night away. Federico Gamez was taller than Roberto Ricardo, but both were slender in build and charming to the crowd. Lieutenant Segovia was privileged to have been trained with the guitar-like stringed instrument, the Vihuela, since his early childhood and was ready to play with the two Troubadours, this would be the first time playing together. 


 The Troubadours were tuning up while Panfilo was playing a few warm-up chords which aroused the attention of Federico and Roberto. Roberto asked the Lieutenant, “Can you make her sing?” referring to the instrument. "As sure as the sky is blue!" boasted Panfilo, as they continued preparations. In the opposite corner of the room were Leonardo, Alfredo Sierra the poet, and his wife Consuela. They were enjoying the moment and conversation. Captains Fernandez, Captain Montoya, and Maria enter the salon. Maria, seeing Lt. Segovia on stage walks over to him. "Lieutenant Segovia I didn’t know you played the vihuela!" said Maria. "Yes I do, as far back as I can remember," he said. "Well," Maria replied as she continued "I have sung at several gatherings before and perhaps you would know a few of the songs that I know." 

She mentions a half dozen and the Lieutenant responded back “I know most of those songs that you mentioned. Would you care to join us in a song or two” said Lieutenant Segovia. The Monsignor and Sister Teresa had arrived and were finding a place to sit along with the other guests. The Monsignor had been in his cabin or the guard rail most of the time. He had been seasick since leaving the dock and was just now developing his sea legs. Sister Teresa fair better since she grew up in the fishing village of Cadiz where she often helped her family out on the water as well as sold the fish in the marketplace. 


  Lieutenant Segovia began the ceremony with a brief introduction of himself and his two accompanying musicians. Then with a one and a two started the first song, a slow ballad of the sea, putting the room to ease with the lyrics and tune. Then as the applause faded the Lieutenant made a comment that flowed into the next song. With an upbeat tempo, it had everyone tapping their feet and clapping their hands. After a few songs, everyone in the room knew they were in the company of a talented officer. 

Waving to Maria to come up on stage, she nodded and moved towards him. "Ladies and Gentlemen... Senorita Montoya will be performing a song for your entertainment." As the Lieutenant met Maria halfway from the stage after making the announcement he extended his hand for hers and walked her back to the stage. She whispered a song title to the Lieutenant and he said “Si”. Not knowing what to expect the crowd lay silent as the performance unfolded. The Lieutenant began with a run of the frets and Maria followed with the melody of the song. Her voice was smooth like the velvet trim on the dress that she was wearing that night. Panfilo was awe-struck as he continued playing. There was magic in the air and both felt it.


 Song after song, the night flowed by with the audience enjoying every minute of the night. Loud applause echoed in the salon as the two bowed to accept the appreciation of those in attendance as the performance ended and both were overheated and needed fresh air. They excused themselves and stepped outside. Standing next to the deck rail overlooking the moonlit sky they began talking about their lives. The Troubadours took over the entertainment while the captains were in discussion. 

Leonardo was enlightened by the verses Alfredo was reciting while Consuelo focused her attention on young Leonardo. The music continued to play as the lights from the salon shined on the wake of the ship and the milky reflection in the water disappeared into the night. The morning's light followed the night as the ship entered a new day. On deck were Sister Teresa and Consuela talking about the night before and how entertaining it had been. Maria was below dressing after sleeping in past the morning meal and then headed outside to begin her third day out at sea. As Maria stepped out to the fresh morning air, Consuela called out to her "Theirs our little songbird now. Come join us, my dear". As the crew was busy doing their work and other passengers were moving about.


 "Good morning, ladies," Maria said and added, “I'm afraid I slept in a bit". "Up late were you?" The Sister said knowing full well she and Panfilo had talked until the wee hours of the night, according to the night watchmen who had just come off duty before Maria got there. "Is it that obvious?" Maria unashamedly smiled back. "It's just obvious that there was more than music in the air last night" knowingly added Consuela. "You two make quite the handsome couple, not to mention the wonderful duets you sang last night." Maria sighed "It's times like this that I miss my mother the most. I want to share my feelings with her and ask her for advice on matters of love and life. 

My father is so protective of me that I feel he wouldn't hear me and only seek to guard my heart". "I know I can speak for Consuela when I say that we would love to be your confidants and would be willing to talk to you on whatever you feel you need to share with us" graciously offered Sister Teresa. "Oh, that would be wonderful of you! My mind kept me up all night thinking of the future and what I want for my life to be like" said Maria. "Why don't we just plan on the three of us meeting every day for tea and talk of life," suggested Consuela.


 "I would love to get to know you both more over the course of the voyage" agreed Maria as she warmly touched both their hands. "Shall we say mid-afternoon today here on the fore deck?" "Absolutely my dear," said Sister Teresa as she rose from the chair and continued "If you will excuse me, I must go now to write in my journal and then continue with my scripture readings. I'll see you both here later". While Maria and Consuela continued the conversation well into the morning, the work around the ship went on around them. This daily ritual of meeting with two wise and mature women gave Maria a sense of confidence to build on. The weeks went by and the temperature began to get warmer. The King’s Special Forces were always performing drills to keep in readiness.


 In his quarters Leonardo was reviewing the diaries, he had made copies of the books previously before going on this trip. Leonardo was going over the books as he has done since the start of the voyage. This time with a different outlook he came across something in one of the books. What if the pond was a metaphor for an ocean and the island was a stepping stone. If that were the case Vincenzo would have left information about where and how to find it, Leonardo thought. With that in the back of his mind, he placed the books back in his locker.


 To take his mind away from the diaries he would stop by the ship’s carpenter shop and talk with the head carpenter. Learning the finer techniques of woodworking. Leonardo would help out doing repairs on the ship and made a few items for the longboats stowed on deck. When Leonardo wasn’t learning something from the crew, he could be seen in conversation and laughter with Consuela as Alfredo was below deck busy writing poetry inspired by being on the open sea. At times Leonardo felt as if Consuela was trying to seduce him, his respect for Alfredo and Consuela kept him at bay from going overboard. Alfredo often would go to the stern of the ship at dawn and stare into the vastness of the dark blue rolling waves as he watched the first rays of amber turning into the light of day. One morning he came upon Leonardo "Leonardo what a pleasant surprise. What brings you here so early today?" Alfredo asked as he made his way towards the stern. "Good morning Alfredo I was charting a few stars before dawn,” said Leonardo.


 "You are so talented, How did you come to learn so much, so early?" Leonardo turned to Alfredo and answered, "It seems I grew up being inquisitive. When I was a boy of eleven I worked for my uncle and learned the masonry business which led me to want to design my own structures. Then I went to Art school and studied subjects like art, math, sciences, Latin, astronomy, and alchemy. It just grew from there and map making was my latest study. 

Growing up in Florence afforded me many opportunities to learn from observing the masters and up-and-coming artists ". "I admire you, Leonardo. You are so wise and gifted and still, have your whole life ahead of you. I do believe great things are awaiting you" said Alfredo. "You are most generous with your praise Alfredo. I admire your abilities as well. The ability to create on paper words that express the inner feeling and questions of the soul is a gift from God. Beauty is not only found in tangible objects but in the purity of truth well written."


 "There you go being wise again, my young friend. Shall I read you my most recent poem written last evening?" said Alfredo. “I would be honored," Leonardo said. Alfredo turned and leaned against the bowsprit rail with his back to the sea, as Leonardo awaited with rapt attentiveness. "I named this one " Evening's Light," explained to the poet as he began his soliloquy.


 The evening sails are full of wind,

 The orange clouds above the white caps of the sea,

 within a sunset horizon


 From beneath the spray, the Dolphin swims,

 While the wake flows to the stern’s twilight

 From nowhere they come, for however long,

 As many as four on either side of the Bow,

 They ride along, over and under each other,

 they move to the flow


 A pod of a hundred strong on either side,

  they too follow along

 As the day departs, so do the Dolphins


 "How beautifully true I have often enjoyed watching the Dolphins at play. You captured their nature perfectly" Leonardo said. Alfredo put his hand on Leonardo's shoulder while admitting "I am so glad it resonated with you Leonardo. I often feel as if I’m only writing for myself. When someone else shares my words gladly, then it gives me more inspiration to continue". "Please, I want to hear all the works that you are willing to share with me. I might want to serenade a young lady someday and could use all the insight I can receive, to soften her heart with poetry," said Leonardo after realizing that any hopes of winning the affections of Maria was fading since the second night out at sea when she sang with Panfilo.


 By now Panfilo and Maria had developed a special relationship. Whenever they could be together, he would play and she would sing. Sunsets were a favorite time for them to practice, as well as the late evening hours. When the last song was over Panfilo would move closer to her and pause for a moment before giving her a kiss. Then put his arm around her shoulder the two would sit and talk of the future. As they looked upward into the heavens the stars slowly changed their position in the dark sky. Meanwhile, In the Officer's Quarters, the Captains were in conference discussing strategies of the approaching harbor, security at anchor, where the men would be stationed during the loading of the gold, taking the civilians to shore, then procuring and loading the provisions for the longboats to bring back. As the Rose neared the islands of the Caribbean the air turned humid and hot. Off in the distance, a ship was spotted by the watch in the crow’s nest. "Do you recognize her colors?" Shouted Lieutenant Gutierrez.


 "No!" Replied the watch. Lieutenant Gutierrez ordered all hands to battle stations, as the horn to arms was blown. Captain Fernandez rushed to the helm and was briefed on the situation and the soldiers were ordered into battle stations. The watch yelled back "Still no colors! And her crew is busy loading their cannons on deck!" "Pirates, no doubt!" exclaimed Lieutenant Gutierrez to Captain Fernandez. "Very well then, Lieutenant, we will show them what the Rose has!" Confirmed Captain Fernandez as they prepared for battle.


The hatch cover for the windows above the cannons was lifted and the canon barrels pushed out halfway. "She has veered off to our port side and is preparing for a broadside,” said the watch. "Hard to starboard!" Was the command to the helm, while the two helmsmen pulled hard to port. The crew in the rigging were trimming the sheets on the sails, as they made the move. The Rose turned away from the pirate ship and revealed her rear guns and fired away. A direct hit to her bow, then to her main mast. With her bowsprit dangling on her running rigging, and half of the mast in the water. The pirate ship's bow was taking in water and acting like a brake slowing the vessel down. 


 Circling around to where her starboard guns took aim at the pirate ship. The side cannons started firing and made hits along her port side. Most landed on the deck and the side of the pirate ship. There was timber flying every which way and sending splinters of wood an inch thick to the unexpected crew. Yelling was heard below deck as the water quickly poured into the hull. 

The command of “Cease Fire!” was heard throughout the boat and the gun crew stopped loading their cannons. Captain Fernandez victoriously viewed the pirate ship sinking and her crew being swallowed by the sea. The order was given to the watch in the crow’s nest to continue pointing at the location of the sinking ship, as The Rose did a 270-degree turn into the wind. Her main sails furled and the hull speed slowly decreased until they were drifting by the site where the sinking ship was. The search for possible survivors began.


  "Stay a safe distance from her so as not to get caught in her rigging, have the longboats ready" the officer of the watch yelled to the crew while they were positioning two longboats into the water. The watch in the crow’s nest was still keeping an eye out for signs of life floating in the ocean. "There! On our port beam, some 100 yards away a group is holding on to a broken mast!" excitedly reported the watchman. 

"And over there, 4 points off the starboard bow, some others are holding onto timbers from the hull." after the crews in the longboats had fished the survivors from the sea, and were heading back to the Rose. Captain Fernandez instructed Lieutenant Gutierrez to prepare to set sail after everyone is back on board. The survivors were taken to Captain Fernandez to be interrogated. They were a mixed bunch of nationalities, two Portuguese, four French, one of which was a woman, and an Englishman, and ten pirates.


 Captain Montoya, who also spoke Portuguese and French, did the translating. All but the ten pirates had been prisoners of the English Captain “Brown Beard” and were held in the stern of the boat that sank. When the ship began to sink the stern was the last part to go down. The locked door had been blown away during the barrage of cannon fire and they quickly went above deck. Grabbing anything that floated, they held on while those who were fighting soon were sucked under by the sinking ship.

As the Englishman Jake described his captivity, Captain Montoya couldn’t help but look over at the French woman. She was staring down and her dress was torn along her neckline and at the hemline up to her waist along the side seam. He could see she had been abused by the pirates and her body language expressed the shame she felt. "Get blankets for this lady and the others" Captain Montoya ordered.


  The group followed Master Chief Madrid, who took them to see the ship’s doctor. The French woman looked up at Captain Montoya, and he at her. Their eyes looked at each other and Captain Montoya felt a strange feeling that he hadn’t felt in a very long time. He continued to stare at her as she was walking away. She turned and looked back at him with silence, but with a grateful smile before entering the main salon. A few days later it was Sunday morning just days out from Portobella, Panama. 

The crew was having Sunday Mass and Captain Montoya and the French woman whose name he found out to be Claudette de Lormecy. Having gotten acquainted over the last few days they were talking alongside the starboard rail. Captain Montoya had told Claudette of Chanelle and his life with Maria. Claudette shared her past and insight into how she came to the New World. She was married to a French Mining Engineer who was a consultant to King Charles V and was to oversee a mining operation in the mountains near Cartagena.


 They had left Jamaica and were headed to Cartagena when Brown Beard and his band of men captured the ship they were on. Her husband defended her from the half-crazed men that had boarded the ship and had been killed, and she was taken aboard the pirate ship. "After being taken aboard their ship, I was treated like an animal,” she said with tears running down her cheek. Captain Montoya moved next to her and put his arms around her and said in a soft voice “It's alright now, those who have taken what was yours have paid the price for their crimes.” He slowly moves away and gives her room to catch her breath. She turns and looks at the Captain and says my whole life has changed, but I am grateful for being saved and given another chance to live my life.” “Yes,” Captain Montoya said while nodding his head a couple of times.


  Will you be continuing on to Cartagena from Portobella Captain? asked Claudette. No, my orders have me continuing on to the Pacific side of Panama. A slight frown appears on Claudette's face but turns to a courtesy smile. “I see” continued Claudette. Captain Montoya senses she is uncertain with her words, he takes hold of her left hand and says “after my mission, I would like to visit you if I may and get to know you better.” 

“Yes I would like that very much,” said Claudette. The Mass was over and everyone was returning to their duties or quarters. Captain Montoya and Claudette would see each other every day. On their last day together aboard the Rose, both had an empty feeling, she wanted him to stay with her and he felt the same. Claudette and the other French sailors, the two Portuguese, and Jake will also be getting off in Portobello. The two Portuguese would continue from Portobello and travel to Brasil.


 Completing the ports of call procedures the Rose was anchored offshore taking on supplies. Meanwhile, in Captain Montoya’s cabin, Lieutenant Segovia was standing next to Maria who was telling her father that she was in love with the young Lieutenant and that they wanted to get married with his permission and blessing. The Captain fully understood the intensity of what they were feeling as he had felt the same so many years ago. Captain Montoya said yes to his daughter’s wishes and gave them his blessings. He would ask his fellow traveler, Monsignor Munoz, to perform the ceremony on board. A request was made to Lieutenant Gutierrez to be the best man and Mrs. Sierra would be the matron of honor for Maria.


 The ceremony was held that evening on the deck with the entire crew and passengers as witnesses of a love born at sea. Captain Montoya took Lieutenant Segovia aside and gave him the ring that his wife had worn. Roberto and Federico played softly while the vows were exchanged as the lamplights shined on the two as the Monsignor finished by saying “I pronounce you husband and wife.” As the newlywed couple arose from their knees, The Monsignor said "May God bless you both with happiness. It had been a life-altering 46 days journey for all who were fortuitous to have set sail on The Rose del Mar. Maria now would have to say goodbye to her adoring father as he continued his quest while she embraces her new role as the wife of a military officer. 


  As the remaining passengers were leaving for shore Leonardo was saying his goodbyes to the Sierras. Captain Montoya drew his daughter aside and said “Maria, even though I am leaving you now to complete this assignment, I want you to know that you will never be far from my heart. I will always love you no matter how much distance or time separates us” She held him long and tightly as the tears flowed freely. 

“Father” Maria responded through the tears, “I now have Panfilo to watch over me. Thank you for all you have done for me. I love you. Be at peace in your heart. May God grant you all that you seek.” Then she turned and took her husband’s outstretched hand as Captain Montoya remembered that fateful day Chanelle first touched his hand and life together as husband and wife. “Godspeed Father” were the parting words of his beloved daughter and he turned his face to hide a tear before regaining his composure with a farewell hug to his daughter and a handshake to his new son in law, as he disembarked for shore.



"A Date with Destiny"


After landing at the dock of Portobelo Captain Montoya, Claudette and Leonardo reported to the office of Arrivals and Departures to debrief the local authorities. Miguel, Claudette, and Leonardo were told that their ship at Panama City was being worked on. It would be a month, maybe longer before they should make the crossing over to the Pacific side. The Captain understood about delays and would report back periodically to check on the progress. “Would you know of a place where we can get a bite to eat.?” Captain Montoya asked. “There is a local eatery across the street," the clerk said pointing in the direction he was talking about. "Yes, we will try it out," Miguel said and the others agreed. 


While having their lunch, the trio were discussing some of the options they might do before making their way to the Pacific side. Seated next to them were two explorers that worked for the Office of the Governor in Portobello. They have been assigned to a fact-finding mission in the Yucatan Peninsula. The two explorers were discussing the Mayans, the indigenous native tribes of the region. One story that another explorer told them was how advanced the Maya civilization was in astronomy, mathematics, and agriculture. But has since broken into smaller groups and the main body of governance had disappeared. Then the two explorers talked about a large disk that the other explorers had talked about the “Calendar.” Intrigued by the conversation Captain Montoya and Leonardo introduce themselves and explained where they were headed but not their mission.


 “Good afternoon, my name is Captain Montoya of his majesty’s navy and this is my associate Leonardo Vi a Cartographer, and Claudette de Lormecy“ Miguel said. The two explorers got up to shake their hands. My name is Felipe Santiago and this is Ignacio Vega Morales pointing to an overweight man in his late forties. We are on assignment to verify that the calendar does exist and we shall be returning after a month and a fourth night. Anything regarding mathematics and astronomy would catch Leonardo's attention and mentioning a calendar just added fuel to the flame. “What is this calendar you have mentioned” Leonardo questioned. “We were told that it has to do with how they determined luck days for such activities as sowing crops, building houses, and going to war,” remarked Felipe.


 “What does the Calendar look like,” asks Miguel. It's a circular tablet of something like 12 feet in diameter” Ignacio said. But the others who have seen it could not understand the markings continued Ignacio. Besides being a Cartographer, Leonardo is an artist also, mentioned as Captain Montoya. I see says Felipe sharing down at the table while thinking of the possibilities. Looking back up and continues with his thoughts “ Would you, Leonardo and Claudette consider traveling with us to the location of the calendar and Leonardo could draw the calendar for us, so that our office could see what the calendar looks like.” 


 Captain Montoya looks over to Leonardo and sees Leonardo shaking his head to say yes.” I must give it some thought and get permission from the Governor’s office but since our travels to the Pacific have been postponed till March it looks like we can go. I will get back to you by tomorrow, how should I reach you? “ responded Captain Montoya. We are on board the “Winds of Suerte” and she will set sails with the tide a few days” Felipe said. ”Tomorrow! that doesn’t leave us much time,” said Leonardo “Let's return to the Governor’s office and make arrangements after we finish our lunch,” said Captain Montoya in a hurried reaction. “Yes that would be fine,” remarked Leonardo with a grin on his face. All four men looked towards Claudette while she smiled and is thinking to herself what have I got myself into and what choice did she have?


 Sailing north up the coast of Central America with favorable winds and currents the Winds of Suerte made good time in their passage to the Yucatan Peninsula. Day by day the coastline looked the same and no boundaries of countries have been made yet, Leonardo kept a keen eye on all that he could observe both day and night. Arriving at the fishing village which would be known as Cancun centuries later, Winds of Suerte anchored offshore. 


 Felipe and Ignacio were busy getting their supplies ready for shore while Miguel, Claudette, and Leonardo were getting ready to go ashore. Leonardo went to look around the area and would meet back at the village later that day. Miguel and Claudette went for a walk and took some time to be alone, strolling along the beach. Leonardo stopped by some fishermen who were tending to their nets and began a conversation using hand language and some words in Spanish. The indigenous natives were friendly and tried their best to communicate. Somewhat reluctant, but try as they may. Leonardo knew how they felt and smiled as he shook his head up and down. Leonardo continued his walk and sees Felipe and Ignacio unloading their gear along with their luggage. Preparing the crew of native guides and donkeys.


 The exploration team of Captain Montoya, Claudette, Leonardo, Felipe, Ignacio, and their Indian crew of ten including their guide and interpreter. The guide knew the tribes in the area, those who were friendly and who were hostile. With this knowledge the team made safe passage through the jungle paths, and rivers to Chichen Itza, where the Calendar is located.

 After arriving, they went to the Kukulkan's Pyramid. The Indian crew and guide had been here before, but the five foreigners were at awe. Leonardo had heard of the great Pyramids of Egypt, but not structures of this kind in the New World. “Those who built this structure were much more advanced than those villages that we have traveled through to get here,” Captain Montoya remarked. They made camp near the Pyramid an old man approaches the camp and is greeted by the Indian guide. The old man was the great great great grandson of the last Priest of the temple and knew of its history from family history passed down through generations. 


 “How are you old man,” the guide said. The old man replied, “Older since the last time we met but wiser, thank you.” Leonardo having noticed the guide talking to the old man walks over from his tent and has the guide translate for him to the old man. “What was this place like back when your ancestors were alive?” Leonardo asked Pelaman the guide. Pelaman proceeded to translate Leonardo's request. After hearing the question, the old man said “Before the white man It was a great civilization, I was told. Our people built great buildings and raised vast fields of food. They studied mathematics, the stars, the seasons and develop a calendar for such events.” “The Calendar” Leonardo spoke out loud. The guide knowing what Leonardo meant, expresses their reason for being there to the old man. Shaking his head up and down, he points to the top of the Pyramid and continued telling the Palaman that the calendar is up at the top of the Pyramid, inside the room at the top. The guide tells Leonardo and Leonardo shakes his head in the same manner as the old man while saying “Thank you”.


 Captain Montoya, Felipe, and Ignacio were checking the supplies and Claudette was resting in the tent when Ignacio points to Leonardo,Palaman, and the old man. The Palaman points in the direction of Captain Montoya and the others as they were walking towards them. “Who may our guest be?” Miguel asked while looking at Leonardo. “Oh this old man is a native of the area and his ancient ancestors were once a Pyramid’s priests,” Leonardo said. “I see, what else did he tell you?” Miguel asked. “He says the calendar is over 3 hundred years old and is at the top of the Pyramid” Leonardo said. 


 “Can we go up there?” Miguel asked. “Yes,” said the old man. Then replied, “We will be going up there after we finish unpacking our supplies.” It wasn’t long before they were halfway up the steps. With Ignacio one step ahead of Felipe, he stops to catch his breath. Felipe taking the step that puts him next to Ignacio says “Are you all right” Felipe said placing his hand on his shoulders which were bent over and breathing hard. “Just trying to catch my breath give me a few minutes I should be alright,” Ignacio said. 


 Captain Montoya and Leonardo continued climbing the steps until they reached the top. “That was a good workout to get up to here,” Miguel remarked as he catches his breath. Leonardo talking out loud to himself says “91, 91 steps” before reaching the top platform. Walking around seeing the entrance to the chamber Leonardo leaves Miguel behind, while he looks in. There in the middle of the chamber on an altar was a round dish with symbols radiating outward from the center. This must be the Calendar he thought to himself. “Leonardo,” said Captain Montoya “where are you” Over here in the chamber” Leonardo yelled. Captain Montoya reaches the calendar and says “so this is the calendar, I can’t make heads or tails of it. What do you think of it Leonardo” Miguel said.” It's going to take me about a few days to draw up this calendar” responded Leonardo. “Yes it looks like a project for sure,” Miguel said. 


 Looking over the size of the calendar Leonardo decides to draw it in 4 sections. Leonardo and Miguel hear voices and step out to see, Felipe and Ignacio having reached the top plateau “So where is the calendar” Ignacio asked. He sees Captain Montoya and points to the chamber. “Oh, there you are Leonardo” Felipe remarked as he sees Leonardo behind the Captain at the entrance.”I’m going back down to get my drawing supplies and will be back” He said. Leonardo hurries down the stairs, being careful. “After looking at the calendar I think I will stay up here and view the scenery before going back down” Felipe replied. “Me too” added Ignacio. “Very well, I will meet you back at camp” Captain Montoya said starting his way down the steps.


 Back at camp Leonardo looks around for his drawing pad, some charcoal, and his feather pen and ink. Claudette enters Leonardo’s tent, “Leonardo where Is Miguel?” She said. “He is up on the pyramid, not sure if he will be up there or if he is back down. “Ok, I will go look for him,” She said leaving the tent and walking over to the pyramid. She sees him at the base and they walk toward each other. “How was it?” She asked. “You can see for miles, I can take you up there later. I wasn’t used to walking up those steps and my legs feel sore” Miguel said. “Ok, this afternoon will be fine,” She said as they walked back to the camp to discuss other matters.


It wasn’t long before Leonardo was back at the calendar and began to draw the symbols and markings. 3 days later Leonardo was about to finish his drawing and was at the base of the pyramid. About to finish up on his last symbols when he notices the shadow from the light was meandering down to the base of the pyramid where two snakeheads were located. What could have caused this he wondered? Stepping back and looking up, the shadow starts at the top platform. Leonardo begins to analyze, It was March 21, the spring equinox, and it dawned on him. That the Maya civilization was much more advanced than he had thought. 


Looking over the calendar sketch he had drawn Leonardo's curiosity grew. The expedition had got what they had come for and was returning back to Panama. As the group was prepared to leave the old man came to see them off. Leonard sees him and rushes over to Palaman with the drawings, telling the guide to follow him. Leonardo explains to the Palaman to tell the old man that he has drawn the calendar and wanted to show him before he left. 


Leonardo had tacked the 4 drawings onto 4 separate drawing boards and placed them onto the ground where they were, as a whole picture. The old man concentrates his sights on the drawings and tells Palaman to tell Leonardo 2012, the year 2012. Palaman does so and Leonardo wonders what he meant by the year 2012. The old man also pointed to 4 characters on the calendar that Leonardo had drawn. Leonardo places a small mark on each symbol and asks Palaman to ask: “What did it mean.” The old man said “There will come a time when the world faces a Great Disturbance beyond anything known before it” It was more than 4 centuries away, but how could the carver know of such a thing, or could he have been told by someone to end the calendar at a time? He thought again and wondered. Now he added the calendar to his list of what might be, along with the books he was solving. 


“Ask him what he meant by the Great Disturbance?” Leonardo said. Palaman asked and the old man said “The priests were told by the sky people, to put it on the calendar, they did what they were told” the Old man said. Being an open-minded man, Leonardo nods his head up and down to say he understood. And picked up the drawings and told Palaman to say thank him for his knowledge. Thinking he has pieces of a puzzle of the future, Leonardo places the drawing into a map-carrying case. The old man knew it was time for him to leave and slowly walks away into the jungle. Where he transformed from an old man to a space alien and was beamed up to his spaceship.


Meanwhile, Felipe and Ignacio had been exploring around the site and came across a burial chamber and found a mask and other items made of gold. Overwhelmed by the finding and knowing that their time was limited, they made an agreement not to mention their findings and would return later. Felipe and Igancio’s demeanor had changed and the others could sense it. The expedition returns to back Cancun for their return trip back to Panama. Felipe and Ignacio came up with an excuse to stay. They gather more supplies and return back to Chichen Itza. Captain Montoya, Claudette, and Leonardo waved goodbye to the two explorers and would never see them again. Having reached Portobelo by the end of March. Leonardo, Captain Montoya, and Claudette found out before leaving for the Pacific side of Panama that Felipe and Ignacio had been killed by hostile natives on their return trip back to Chichen Itza.


 Lieutenant Jose Crisco a messenger from Spain is in the garden of the inn talking to Captain Montoya. Looking around after the formalities of introduction Lt. Crisco hands Captain Montoya his orders and discusses the events that are occurring in Spain and mentions “Captain Montoya I have been sent here to notify you of your return to Spain and a new mission, and I will be taking charge of the fact-finding mission originally planned”. Captain Montoya pauses for a moment as he looks at Lt. Crisco and then out towards the ocean. “Yes, I will return on the next available ship back” replied Captain Montoya. 


 With that said the two officers enter the guest lounge where Claudette and Leonardo were chatting about the trip to the Pacific side of Panama. “Excuse me, I have some news from Spain,” said Captain Montoya looking somber at Claudette and Leonardo. “I have been called back to the court and Lt. Crisco will be taking charge of the mission we were on.” Claudette was taken by surprise and nervously asks what is going to happen. “Leonardo and Lt. Crisco will continue on with the mission and we (while looking at Claudette) are going back” explained Miguel to Claudette. With a sigh, she reaches out and holds Miguel’s hand and says “I will get ready for our return.”


 Leonardo was also surprised but kept calm and commented “ Welcome aboard Lieutenant, I can let you know of the plans for the trip across to the Pacific side and the arrangements made,” Leonardo said. “Good, I shall return tomorrow and we can go over the details. By the way, there is a banquet at the Governor’s estate this evening will you be attending?” asked Lt. Crisco. “Why yes” Captain Montoya replied. “We received the invitation a week ago and we shall be going tonight.” “Very well sir “ I will see you all tonight, slightly bowing as the Lt. turned and made his exit. Sensing Captain Montoya’s concern, Leonardo excused himself knowing Miguel would need to talk with Claudette in private.


 With a sketch pad in hand, Leonard walked out to the harbor where the ship was anchored and made his way down the beach. Having walked a mile down the coast to a picturesque cove he had been to previously on other occasions. He pauses for a moment and scans the area. He notices the large boulder next to a grove of palm trees, one of several locations he had drawn from. He walks over to the location and sits on the rock while being shaded by the palms from the afternoon sun. Collecting his thoughts, Leonardo begins drawing the sea and the landscape, his mind is focused on his surroundings and is at peace with his surroundings. 


After a few sketches, Leonardo returned back to the inn and found Miguel and Claudette having a cup of wine. “Oh Leonardo has a cup of wine with us,” said Claudette. With a smile, Leonardo notice an extra cup near the bottle and poured him some wine. “A toast, to all the good times that we had, and may your journey bring you the knowledge and a safe passage back my friend,” Miguel said as they raised their silver cups together. “Too Good Times,” they said as the moment marked the end of the map quest for Captain Montoya.


  That evening at the banquet Captain Montoya, Claudette, and Leonardo were walking through the garden while other guests were mingling with each other. To their surprise, Federico Gamez and Roberto Ricardo were entertaining the guest in the garden with their music. Without missing a beat Roberto notices the trio approaching them. With a slight bump of his elbow to Federico, they watched as they came closer. 


Waiting in the wing for the song to finish Captain Montoya nodded to the beat while Claudette and Leonardo waved to their two friends. The song came to an end and the friends from the voyage got reacquainted. “Well hello, strangers” jokingly remarked Captain Montoya with a smile. “How have you been Miguel and Leonardo I don’t want to be rude but we were never introduced to your lady friend” responded Roberto. “Oh, this is Claudette my wife-to-be” Miguel said while reaching for her hand to hold.


 “Congratulations to the both of you” mentioned Federico as he and Roberto began strumming their next song. “Please excuse us, we will talk later” continued Roberto. “Yes, yes of course,” Captain Montoya said while placing his hand on Claudette’s back, directing her towards the dinner tables. Leonardo gave Federico and Roberto a thumb-up gesture which brought a smile to both their faces. “Good to see you again Leonardo responded to Roberto, following the same by Federico. Later that evening after dinner Leonardo happened to notice a young lady by the fountain. He walks up to her and introduced himself, and she in turn does the same. 


 The noise from the party faded from Leonardo’s mind as he concentrated on her voice. “My name is Florencia Denise Ortega and I am the daughter of the Provincia Governor, Juan de Gusto Ortega,” She said. “It is an honor to meet you, I am Leonardo Vi,” He said with a smile. “You are new here” Florencia questioned. “Yes, I am. I’m on a mission to draw new maps and to learn about the New World” Leonardo said. 


 After which the two would share their thoughts on the people, and the landscape as the water from the fountainhead would cascade into the main dish of the fountain. Florencia would glimpse at the falling water occasionally as she would share her experiences and travels while the flames of the torch in the garden waved back and forth in the night. “Where is the water source for this fountain? “ Leonardo asked. “There is a small stream just to the west of the garden. The water is diverted into a clay pipe and travels downward to the fountain then leaves through another pipe and empties into a pond further downhill answered Florencia. “What an interesting concept,” Leonardo said. 


Thank you for the compliment. It is something that I learned in school while studying architecture in Spain before my father was appointed governor here in Portobello. Their conversation continued into the night. It was getting late and the guests were leaving. Leonardo sensing he may not have another chance to meet her again, asked if she would like to go sailing. She paused for a few seconds with a surprised look on her face. Leonardo's mind was quietly racing around not knowing with anticipation. Then with a smile, she said ” I would love to go sailing with you.” With a half-open mouth and a slight stutter, he responded with “We can meet tomorrow afternoon if your schedule permits, at the front of the wharf, say 2 O’Clock” He said. “2 O’Clock it will be” She replied back.


 Leonardo sees Miguel and Claudette approaching them from the house. “Well here you are,” Claudette said while holding Miguel’s hand. Leonardo introduces Miguel and Claudette to Florencia. Captain Montoya stands at attention and nods in respect and says “Captain Miguel Montoya of the Royal Court of Spain at your service.” “Thank you Captain” answered Florencia while extending her right hand for the Captain to kiss it. Having noticed his daughter with the newcomers, the governor walks over and stands beside his daughter.”Father I would like to introduce Leonardo, Captain Montoya, and Claudette. “I have met Captain Montoya and his fiancé earlier, but who is this young man I have the pleasure of meeting, “ the Governor said. “This is Leonardo Vi father,” Florencia said pointing with her hand towards Leonardo, who bowed in respect while looking at the governor. “What do you think of the New World,” the governor asked. 


 “There are many things here that are different from my home in Florence, the people, the landscape, the animals and insects, the climate, and especially the number of precious metals”. The governor nods and says “yes and adds to the list by saying “There is a danger when least expected and the beauty and wonder around each corner of this land ”. With a look of curiosity Leonardo holds back questions not wanting to pursue the conversation. The governor turns his head towards the departing guest “You must excuse me for I have to attend to my other guest who is leaving” the governor remarked while departing to the entrance of the hacienda. “We must be going as well” Captain Montoya replied. “Good Night Florencia” Claudette said and Miguel said the same. “See you tomorrow Leonardo” “See you tomorrow Florencia” Leonardo said as Miguel looked at Claudette and she at him, both curious about the two.


 The next day the carriage from the Governor’s hacienda arrived at the wharf where Leonardo had been preparing a modified rowboat for the sail. Since the days on the La Rosa del Mar Leonardo became interested in sailing and when he arrived in Panama he found this boat to use. It belonged to an old fisherman whom Leonardo first met when they arrived. The old man told him if he would like to use it, he could, since he hasn’t used it for years. So Leonardo added a mast, sail, and a few other items and went out sailing in his free time. Hearing the horses pull up Leonardo went to greet Florencia. “Good afternoon Florencia” greeted Leonardo. “Hola Leonardo” she replied. They walked over to the boat, and Leonardo gave a brief description of what they were going to do. The dock lines were let go and off they went. A new relationship that would last beyond the horizon. 


 A gust of wind pushes the boat faster and Leonardo has Florencia move over to the side of the boat where the wind is coming from. He too shifts his weight over to the same side while holding on to the tiller. Placing his hand onto the railing behind Florencia for safety reasons he starts a conversation. Florencia looks over to her right side and down at his hand and then at him. “I have sailed on larger boats, but this is way more fun” Florencia commented with a smile. The afternoon was spent sailing around the harbor area and the nearby coastal waters.


 On returning to shore Leonardo swings wide of the wharf and into the wind, dropping the sail Leonardo steers her close to the wharf as she slowly comes to a stop. With a line in hand, Leonardo steps onto the wharf and ties it to a piling pole within a minute. Turning to Florencia while wiping the sweat from his brow he reaches out for her hand. She stands and grabs his hand while taking a step and pushing off the rail of the boat. “We must do this again, I enjoyed being on the water and sailing with you” Florencia replied. “Yes, I too will look forward to our next outing,” Leonardo said while escorting her back to the awaiting carriage“.


 “I want you to stop by the hacienda tomorrow, will you come?” “Why certainly, what did you have in mind?” Leonardo asked. “For us to go horseback riding,” she said. “Ah, Ok, I’m not very good at horseback riding as I mentioned previously, but I have you to show me the ropes so to speak,” Leonardo said while opening the door to the carriage and helping her in. Looking out through the window with a smile “I will have my carriage pick you up tomorrow morning at the Inn, Jose shall we go.” With that, the driver motioned the horses to go and they started moving forward, both waving to each other for a brief moment before a dust cloud separated their views.


 Returning back to the Inn, Leonardo sees Captain Montoya and Claudette with their luggage “Ah Leonardo, we were informed recently that we would be sailing on a different ship and that it would leave with the tide in the morning” Miguel said. With a surprised look, Leonardo offered his assistance. “We have everything under control, Thank you anyway” continued Captain Montoya. “How was the day sail with Florencia,” asked Claudette. “It was very memorable and we both enjoyed it,” Leonardo said with a smile.


 “That’s good to hear and glad everything went well,” Claudette said while returning a smile. “Yes, and we are going horseback riding tomorrow,” Leonardo said. Claudette changed the subject and suggested they go out to dinner. Both men agreed and it wasn’t long before they were seated at the cantina and were in a casual conversation. The evening was filled with laughter and recollections.


 ​The morning would find Leonardo waving goodbye from shore as the rowboat took Miguel and Claudette away to their ship. An empty feeling engulfed Leonardo for the moment as he watched his friends leave. Remembering his date with Florencia, he races back to the inn and gets into the awaiting carriage. Florencia was out by the stable getting the horses ready when Leonardo arrived. After going over the basics and being reassured that the horse Leonardo was on had a good temperament, the two proceeded out on a 3-hour ride. 


 The trail that they took would be one that Florencia had ridden many a time to her favorite location, which was a bluff overlooking the ocean. It was an hour away across a river and lush vegetation and trees. An opening appears and the small bay with the bluff was in view. Once there, they dismounted and would walk the horses a hundred yards to Florencia’s favorite place where she would contemplate whatever was on her mind. From their location, they could see the coastline in either direction with the bay behind them.


 “This is a really beautiful location with the bay and the coastline and the waves wrapping around the point and into the bay” the sea breeze pushed Leonardo's hair into a lifting hairstyle as he spoke. “I love this place, it’s my favorite,” Florencia said as they tied the horses to a branch from a stump that was once a Contador tree. “I can see why,” Leonardo said complimenting Florencia’s choice, and then continued “My father once told me that life is like the water flowing under a bridge, I didn’t understand at first, but after my travels so far I think I know what he meant,” He said looking out to the horizon of the ocean and back to Florencia. “I brought some food for us to eat, shall we eat over there,” Florencia said pointing to a grass patch. “Yes that will be fine,” remarked Leonardo.


 After their meal, the conversation turned to gold and silver. Through his observations, Leonardo came to the concussion that the top individuals in government were the richest and the many indigenous people and some of the others were the poorest. “So, There is a vast amount of gold being shipped back to Spain, is some of it being used here to help the people?” Leonardo asked. “Sad to say not enough, I give to the church in donations in turn the Padres of the mission help those in need,” Florencia said. “I have attended the church where you speak of and I felt humbled to be there. The people whom I attended with, were very nice to me” Leonardo said with a smile. Florencia also had a smile as she stared at Leonardo with the look of having something deeply in common. “That is interesting,” she remarked.


 “So have you done any paintings or sketches during your stay here besides maps?” Florencia said. “Why yes, I have, a few seascapes and finished a portrait of a friend. She is back in Spain now, but she came over on the same boat I was on” Leonardo answered. “I have them in my room at the inn” Leonardo mentioned. “I would like to see them one day,” Florencia said. “Why yes, that would be my pleasure,” Leonardo said while nodding his head. “We must head back now,” Florencia remarked while getting up and walking over to the horses. Leonardo followed and got onto his horse and they began the ride back to the Hacienda. They rode in silence as a flock of pelicans flew by in a V formation along the bluff. Leonardo stopped and watched very intensely as they went by. Having brought his sketch pad in a medium-sized leather case, he began sketching a few wings and jotted down some notes. Florencia had also stopped and was watching Leonardo. Her attraction to him was growing as Leonardo was in a state of concentration.


 “What are you drawing?” Florencia asked. “ I was sketching the wings of those birds. I find flight very interesting and having the opportunity to notice the glide in how it relates to the various wing positions with the wind is what I was capturing” Leonardo said as he put away his pad "shall we go" he continued. Their conversation of flight made the ride back fly by.


 Once back from the ride, they dismounted and Florencia commented “I have never met anyone like you Leonardo, your talents amaze me. You imagine things beyond the ordinary and I find that to be unique” She said. “Why thank you, Florencia, I think of you as beautiful in body, mind, and soul. I couldn’t imagine anyone else so perfect in my eyes” He said. Florencia walked over to Leonardo and gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.


 “We need to clean up, Jose will show you to our guest quarters. My father is expecting us for dinner” Florencia said. After cleaning up Leonardo walked around the yard and noticed the difference between torch light and daylight. He was early to the dining room and was viewing the décor and a few paintings that were on display. “There you are,” said the governor as he enter the dining room and walked over to the bottle of wine placed on the counter. “How was the ride today with Florencia,” the governor said as he poured two cups of wine from his vintage collection. 


 With both hands occupied with wine cups, he offers a cup to Leonardo. “Thank you, sir,” Leonardo said after accepting the wine and remarked, “We had a wonderful time today, sir”. “Good, good to hear you two had a nice today” as the Governor sat at the head of the table. Leonardo walked over and sat down next to him. After a few sips, the conversation turned to business.


  “Leonardo, I would like to offer you a position working for me and assist around the land and assist my daughter in building her dream house. I can pay you 500 peso (gold) a month to start and increase your salary as the responsibility grows ” (the governor had a few drinks before entering the room) Leonardo thought over the idea for a few seconds and answered “Sure!” and took a sip from his cup. Florencia enters the room, just as Leonardo places the cup on the table. She views her surroundings and sits across from Leonardo. 


 “You look very happy Leonardo,” she said and he responded, “I will be helping your father and you, I mean The new house that you were talking about on the bluff,” he said following his statement with a big smile. “I’m so happy, that you will be staying here with us,” Florencia said expressing her growing affection in a subtle way. Having a new job and falling in love, Leonardo started thinking about a letter he will write back to Spain. Explaining his position there in Panama, and suggesting in having another person in charge of the fact-finding mission he was to do. The letter was neatly thought out, But for now, he was enjoying the dinner and floating on a cloud of good fortune. 


 The following morning Leonardo is moving his belonging from the Inn to the hacienda and making a list of what he will need to do, after being informed about the overall scope of his new position the night before. He and Florencia are to have lunch and go over a few things so Leonardo is rushing around labeling his boxes and loading them onto the wagon provided by the governor. After settling in Leonardo walks over from the guest house to the kitchen in the main house. 


 There to greet him was Florencia “I had a wonderful time last night and my father is taken by you, I have never seen him so inspired by someone working for him,” Florencia said “The feeling is mutual, I didn’t know what to expect when I first got here and now I have the opportunity to help you and your father,” Leonardo said as he looked at Florencia himself what a beautiful woman she is and what a lucky guy he was to be there with her. She in return was looking at Leonardo with calm composure, but with a feeling like she has never felt before. The feeling was growing with each passing day, since their first meeting.


 Leonardo walks over to her and gives her a hug and she returns the gesture on contact for a brief moment. “I must be dreaming I have never felt this way before” as he looked into her eyes and was lost for words. The cook enters the room and interrupts the moment by saying “Lunch is served” and could be seen with a smile on his face as he leaves the room. The two sat down and discuss what needs to be done regarding Florencia’s new house and the future developments around the main estate. 



"Sailing to the Unknown"


Having been working at the hacienda for a few months Florencia and Leonardo are out by the stable and talking about what they are going to do when the Governor walks over. “Leonardo, I see you are doing a great job at whatever you are assigned, and that is good. There is a special assignment I need you to do in six month time. It involves traveling to Peru and be my representative regarding the shipment of gold from Peru to Panama, I will go into detail of what will be happening later this week” the governor said as he looked at Florencia.


A month later, Leonardo and Florencia are out sailing in the afternoon breeze on his new boat, a 40 ft. sailboat named La Flecha. They are enjoying being out on the water with each other. “What type of crops should we plant in the open areas Leonardo?” Florencia asked. “Banana, rice, and cattle,” Leonardo said as he changed their directions back to the harbor. With his first mate beside him, Leonard keeps an eye on which way the wind is blowing and the landmark to steer by. 


They were nearing the harbor and the dock to tie up to. “La Flecha” swings wide and turns toward the wharf. Leonardo lowers the sail as Florencia has the helm. The boat slows and Leonardo has the line in hand and then throws the line to an awaiting worker who ties the line to the dock cleat. As they are about to disembark Leonardo turns to Florencia and says “I will be right with you, I have to check the bilge to see if there is any water” he said as Florencia waited on the dock while Leonardo did his survey.


 Leonardo goes below and checks on the bilge area of the boat and sees just a small amount of water from the spray that had entered from the forward hatch. Leonardo finds a rag and wipes the water before closing the bilge hatch. Walking up to the forward hatch, Leonardo examines the hatch and he sees a slight crack at the corner. Jotting down a mental note, he soon is with Florencia walking towards their awaiting carriage. 


Back at the Governor’s hacienda, the governor hands a letter to Leonardo from the Spanish Court. He says “They still want you to go on the mapping assignment. But I have an idea, I know a person who is the grandson of Juan de la Cosa and he is in Cartagena. He has the skills of map making and has worked for my brother Phillip, he speaks very highly of him the last time we talked. I will get a letter off to Spain tomorrow and suggest that he could take your place instead” the governor said.


 “I will have to make a copy of the diaries and what I think where it might be, but the information in the books is questionable. Still working on deciphering it and I haven’t given it much thought lately. If the person who might take over can draw a map after finding the location, hopefully, that will be enough and that will please the king” Leonardo said. “All right I will add that into the message and see if that will do,” the governor said and continued “Also Florencia and Leonardo, it would be a good time to send you two to Cartagena the following week to convey a few things to my brother Phillip and you can find out about the map maker I speak of,” said the Governor. After a few more topics the meeting was over.


 A few days later the provision for the sail over to Cartagena was completed and stowed on board. Leonardo had informed his supervisors and foremen that he and Florencia would be gone for a week and went over what they will do. It was mid-morning when Leonardo pushed off the wharf and released the dock lines. Both Leonardo and Florencia waved to the servants on the wharf as they waved back. There was a slight breeze developing and the tide was going out. After rounding the entrance of the bay they headed East by Southeast. The breeze picked up and la Flecha is doing a steady 10 knots on a port tack. 


 Having time to discuss the various things on their mind, both establish a routine to keep themselves busy as the vast open space of the ocean passes by. Nightfall approaches and Florencia is at the helm, Leonardo comes out of the cabin of the boat and takes over the helm from Florencia. Taking some leaves out of a pouch he begins to chew on the coco leaves. “One of the supervisors gave me these leaves and told me they could be addicting but will keep me going when I get tired. I told him I will be careful not to overdo it” said Leonardo.


 “He is right, I have seen older workers use it daily and they act strange at times for overusing it. Drawing the line of when to stop using it is the hard part” said Florencia. “I have you to watch over me my dear,” said Leonardo as he looked out as twilight turned to nightfall. “I will take care in using the leaves,” Leonardo said while chewing on one as darkness settled in. The following morning Florencia awakens and steps out into the cockpit where Leonardo is looking over his map of Cartagena Harbor. “Good Morning Flo” Leonardo said. “Good Morning Leo” answered Florencia. “We should be in the harbor this afternoon” Leonardo commented as Florencia sat next to him. The sun was making its way up on the eastern horizon off the port beam.


 After landing in Cartagena the two went to the Harbor Master’s office to let them know that they are to see the Governor. A messenger was sent to the Governor’s office and about 20 minutes later a carriage was sent to pick them up. They went through town and the driver pulls up to the main 3-story office and the couple goes inside to be greeted by Phillip himself in the lounge. “Nice to see you again Florencia and a pleasure to meet you young man,” Phillip said as he gave Florencia a hug and a handshake to Leonardo.


 They discussed what governor Juan had told them, and talked about pirates, and the latest developments happening in Panama. “Excuse me, Sir, governor Juan said you knew of a map maker who was the grandson of Juan de la Cosa” Leonardo said. “Yes, he works for me, why do you ask?“ Phillip said. “I was originally assigned to map an island in the Pacific Ocean and we only know that it might be anywhere in the vast space west of Mexico. But during the time I arrived in Panama and now, I was hired by governor Juan to work for him. I fell in love with Florencia and we plan on marrying after I return from Peru” said Leonardo to clarify his question. “Oh, I can arrange for Hector to switch places with you and that should be fine” Phillip answered.


 “Florencia, you and Leonardo will stay at my place” continued Phillip. “Thank you Uncle, we would love to stay the night,” said Florencia. “That will be fine, you and Leonardo can freshen up this afternoon at my hacienda and we will have dinner. Then we can go over what your father has in mind tonight, but you will have to excuse for now I have a meeting to attend” Phillip said with a smile.


 That evening, dinner was served at Governor’s hacienda and he and his wife Ana were splendid hosts. After they conveyed the message from her father in detail, Florencia and Leonardo describe how they met and the things that they shared. Leonardo would share his history of growing up in Italy. After a couple of hours, they told Phillip they would be leaving the next day, with that said they retired for the night.


 In the darkness of morning, a lone rooster calls out that the light of day is about an hour away. Leonardo and Florencia are awakened by the call of the rooster and went back to sleep, and would wake up two hours later. They would have morning breakfast with the Governor before taking the coach back to the harbor. It was around mid-morning when La Fleca was ready to depart as a fresh breeze began to appear.


 The mainsail was hoisted and they started to move from the dock with the outgoing tide and the increasing breeze. The breeze became steady and La Flecha was traveling at 10 knots. Cutting through the water and making good time riding the current and wind as nightfall came upon them, they took turns at the helm and made landfall by the next evening. 


 The trip solidified their relationship and both felt that they didn’t want to wait and were married two weeks later. After their honeymoon, a letter from Governor Phillip came to Leonardo's attention. It was regarding Hector his substitute map maker who was in a bar fight and was killed by a couple of sailors. Governor Juan would send another message to the Spanish Court in Spain that Leonardo will go on his mission.


 Florencia said to Leonardo “I will go with you; I can’t bear to be without you.” Leonardo stood in silence while looking at Florencia and remarked “All right, but what about your father?” “He will understand,” Florencia said determined to go. After discussing her intentions with her father, the governor gave in and agreed.


Leonardo and Florencia made the trip over to Panama City and were at a local restaurant after reporting to the local officials after their arrival. “I feel this is the final leg of the journey to get to where the location is on the map. I have been studying the map on and off for quite a while. But it wasn’t until the Padre at the church in Portobello that things became clearer in how to approach the location” Leonardo said. “What did he say that made it clear and where that place is in the Pacific Ocean?” Florencia asked.


“After mentioning what I was supposed to do and not knowing how I should do it. He said have I read a book by Claudius Ptolemaeus known as Ptolemy. A Roman scholar recognized a need for a grid system to measure one's location. Using north as the top of maps and south as the bottom and having lines spaced out in those directions to a point where they all converge on a sphere. Then going from the east to west with lines equally spaced out in those directions, and getting less distance at the top or bottom of the sphere” pausing for a moment Leonardo continued.


“I did a mock-up of what was described, using the descriptions in the books. I estimated a location about two months west of Acapulco. So, that is where I’m guessing we should go. I will share this with the captain of the ship we will be on. But, before we depart I would like to take you to places here that I was told to see” Leonardo said. They would do just that within the time before the departure date to Acapulco, then out into the Pacific Ocean. After boarding La Buscador the captain told them what they were going to do. “First we will sail to Acapulco to unload weapons and documents for the government, then we will be loaded up with provisions and sail west into the Pacific Ocean,” Captain Rogelio Vargas said. “I would like to discuss my theory of where and how long it might take to get there,” Leonardo said to the Captain. 


 “Then using that concept and the general descriptions noted on the map of Vincenzo. I concluded that what we are looking for is due west of Acapulco. Having talked with some of the navigators here in Panama about their trip from the Philippines to Acapulco, I’m guessing around 40 days or so is where we will find land” Leonardo said. They made the trip to Acapulco, and after loading up with provisions, were off on the journey to the unknown.


 Leonardo and Florencia looked back as the mountains starts to disappear and the routine of being out at sea took over. Leonardo and Florencia would have dinner with Captain Vargas a day after leaving. The table was cleared after the meal and the maps are brought out. The Captain asks “Do you think the land we seek is west of Acapulco, Leonardo.” “It is a guess and I can’t guarantee that we will find what we are looking for. I know it is like finding a needle in a haystack, but the King wants us to find it and claim it for Spain. So Captain, I have my orders like you and these maps that I have is all that we have to go by” Leonardo said.


 “We will sail for 40 days and if no land is sited we will turn around and return to Acapulco. The supplies we have on board will last for 100 days. I have to think of everyone on board and their welfare” Captain Vargas replied. “Understood Captain,” Leonardo said back. The next day came and went like each day that would follow, blue sky and a breeze from the northeast. 

 Going over the map with Leonardo, the Captain, and the navigator discuss the course the ship will be on. Each morning the officer on deck would ring the bell indicating 8 am. Leonardo would have a daily meeting with the captain and a walk around the deck with Florencia. Each day would start and end the same as the previous day, they would discuss topics that came to mind. A group of individuals would have a Sunday mass service held around 10 am with an opening prayer, followed by a sermon, and concluding with a closing prayer.


 On the 35th day, a tern was spotted flying near the ship and the watch in the crow’s nest calls out “A bird off the starboard bow.” Leonardo rushes to see and observes the bird with his spyglass flying away north by northwest. The captain walks over to Leonardo and says “We shall make a slight adjustment in our direction and change our course north by northwest. After a few days, the watch in the crow’s nest notices a log floating by some 100 meters away. Then he notices on the horizon two peaks and yells “Land Ho, four points off the port bow”. Leonardo and Florencia were talking about home when the watch spotted land and both turned to their left and saw the two peaks. Not knowing the height of the peaks the Officer on deck guest it would be few hours before landing, it took nearly a day before they could see the base of the large mountains.