So again he must set off on a journey.

At dawn, when Neemias boards the ship that will take him back to France, he does not make his way down into the hold, but wraps a woolen cloak around him, clutches the leather bag that contains Aster’s map, and finds a quiet place on the deck. He will stay here, he decides. He will stay here under the sky.

Friar Pere. Who would have thought? He cannot help but smile, thinking of the short, round man always greedy for the world’s goodness. For fresh bread and the smell of haymaking in the summer and a perfect Latin sentence and a beautiful map of the Holy Land.

Before he left, Jocef gave him instruction. “You must keep a log book. When do the attacks take place? What has happened before? Where were you? What were you doing? How were you feeling? The language of your body is no less important than Latin or Catalan or Hebrew.”

Bolstered by these words, Neemias calls the midshipman to the side. The man sniffs, makes it clear that he has other tasks, but Samuel has paid him well for this fare and the midshipman owes him this, at least.

He forces himself to straighten his back and meet the man’s eyes. “There are times when my body is under strain, and it reacts in certain ways,” Neemias says.

The midshipman guffaws. “There’s not one of us aboard who isn’t tired and got a rumbly tummy after being at sea for ten days,” he says.

“Yes. But this is more,”

The midshipman throws a roll of rope around his shoulder and waits for him to continue.

“There are times when an… an illness comes over me.” He forces himself to say the word. Illness. It is not the devil. It is not evil. It is simply illness, and he is like every other mortal — frail and subject to forces beyond him. “And when this illness comes I may fall on the floor and my arms and legs may flail. My eyes roll.”

Now he has the man’s attention.


“And then it will pass. I will grow pale and tired, and I hope that the fall to the floor will not have caused me too many bruises. And I will sleep for a long time, but then I will wake up and most of what has happened will have been erased from my memory. It will be forgotten to me.”

The man stares for a long time, then tosses the rope to another sailor who catches it neatly. “Then we’ll forget it, too.”

“And… and if people begin to say superst—”

“Sailors are known to be superstitious, lad. They believe of sirens luring them to sea and monsters in the deep.”

“I know. But if this should happen, I ask you to explain that I have here a letter from a great healer, and he explains that this is simply an illness, and that I am an innocent man. And although at times I may look strange, there is nothing to fear.”

“Nothing to fear,” the man echoes.

Neemias gathers his courage and reaches out and shakes the man’s hand.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 597)