A Familiar’s Tale – Part X

Image by Dave Scelfo. Used under Creative Commons license 2.0How different the ocean air than that next to a river! I found it heavier and had to adjust my flight to compensate. Then there was the salt that accumulated on my feathers. I was not meant to live in such an environment and told Korbis so by projecting images of the Ebro valley we had left.

My needs, however, did not factor into his decision. Korbis wandered the area next to the docks, discreetly inquiring of this mystical northern island where the Romans did not hold sway. Although more than a few eyebrows were raised, no one turned him in, nor was information forthcoming until late in the day when he had stopped for food and a glass of wine. He met an old, grizzled sailor who said we might have better luck in a larger port.

“Not much happens here,” he told Korbis. “You’d be better off asking about faraway places where more ships put in.”

“Where would you suggest I go?” Korbis asked him.

“I understand there are learned men at Neapolis who might be able to point you in the right direction. It’s a large port with a lot of rich people. There must be someone there who knows which island you’re speaking of.”

“And how would I get to this Neapolis? I’m only a simple physician without much to pay for passage.”

“As it happens, we ply the Mare Nostrum and Neapolis is the other end of our journey. However, our captain has the flux in a bad way. That’s why I and my fellows are here, rather than on board, making ready to set sail. We’re a small ship without our own physician so if you can help the captain, he may see fit to carry you on our next voyage. Then again, he may not.”

Having nothing to lose, Korbis asked the man to show him to his captain.

Within the confines of the captain’s cabin, the odor was bad even for me. I cannot imagine how the humans stood it. The captain was lying in his bunk, curled in the fetal position with his arms pressed against his abdomen. Next to the bunk was a slop pail – this is where the smell was coming from. I flew back out on deck and listened to Korbis’ mind as I perched on one of the masts.

Korbis determined that the man had eaten some bad food. Or possibly been poisoned. But he guessed it was tainted food. That, he knew, would pass on its own in a couple of days. Telling the hovering sailor that he needed a jug of watered wine, he told the captain he would prepare a medicine that should help him in a few hours.

The sailor returned with a cup of watered wine. Into this, he crumbled some berry leaves from his pouch and held the cup over the flame of a candle on the captain’s desk to heat it.

When he was satisfied with the medicated wine, he helped the captain to sit and fed the wine to him in sips.

Once again, the hovering sailor was pressed into service as a cabin boy. Broth was needed, as was bread. The ship apparently did have a cook so it did not take too long for the required food to appear. Although Korbis had to cajole him, the food was consumed and the captain finally fell into a slumber.

(This entire sequence took far longer than I have described as the captain attempted to empty his bowels several times. I do not think I need to describe that in detail.)

“I have done what I could,” Korbis told the sailor. “He should start feeling better by the morning. May I stay to ensure that he does?”

“Not my ship but as my son is in no position to gainsay me, I will invite you to stay in his cabin in case he should need you.”

“Your son, you say?” Korbis was surprised.

“Aye. I had no desire to a captaincy but he wanted the money that comes with it. I prefer less responsibility.”

Korbis told the truth. The captain was feeling somewhat better by morning. Another dose of herbs in wine and more broth and bread had him on deck by noon. Physically pale and weak, the captain nonetheless gave orders to make the ship ready to sail with that afternoon’s tide. Korbis was granted passage to Neapolis in payment for his services and his “pet bird” was welcomed as a means for keeping seagulls from eating the fish caught daily for food. I may be somewhat smaller than a seagull and my beak not nearly as long but I am quicker and able to maneuver better in flight to chase those garbage hounds away.

To Be Continued…