One Story, Two Versions – Part 1

The next 2 posts will be 2 different versions (mostly polished) that I wrote at the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2015. They follow the same general plot arc, but have some slightly diferent characters. Give a read… see which one you prefer.
Discovering Virtue (version 1)

Anasha was in her waking room when she heard feet come up the steps and stop on the landing outside. A heavy knock on her door was followed by a terse voice. “Message from King Columbus.”

 She opened the door and found a small New Man waiting, one she did not recognize. He handed her a small scrap of vellum. “Come to the King’s quarters in one hour,” he said. “This is your pass.” He turned abruptly and descended the stairs, leaving her as alone as before. And confused.

 What would Columbus want with her? She was not the Speaker. He had never even spoken to her before. Was she in trouble? Was there a problem with the current Speaker?

 She took the time to dress in her finest red robe and run a comb through her hair. Even if he was a usurper, he was a usurper who held much power and stood on much ceremony. His appearance was always perfect and he expected as much of those in his audience.

 Anasha departed her rooms and walked towards the royal halls. They stood majestic near the highest point of the city, where they could overlook the sea to the east and the plain to the south, and the canal dredged through to the interior. The red, black, and white of the stones of the tightly-packed city buildings blended color as the light faded. Men and women and children went about their business without hurry, but also without wasting time. In and out of the shops, foodhouses, galleries, and theaters of the great city, they moved with purpose. Dark would be upon them all within the hour, and the lamplighters too were at their work. She took cue from them and set her face to task.

 She arrived at the royal hall and presented her pass to the New Man guarding there. He turned and waved for her to follow. They moved through marble hallways where Anasha often spent time, as apprentice to the Speaker, but with the New Man in front. Approaching the one who sat in the Queen’s rightful place, it felt different. Intimidating. Like a stormcloud looming over the mountain.

 The guard opened a door and ushered her in. She made a small bow. The room was perhaps four or five paces across and twice that deep. Various New Men moved in and out, on this errand or that. He sat in a tall, cushioned chair, behind a brightly polished table of dark wood. Various pieces of paper, sometimes stacks, covered the surface. She could not read them, nor did she wish to try.

 He did not look at her as he spoke, but kept writing. His voice was low and powerful. The words of their foreign tongue rolled up and down, like forever ripples within the stream. “I know of the plot to kill me, Anasha. You should go ahead and try it now, get it done.” She inhaled sharply, without meaning to. He looked up and his eyes, deep set like those of the cunning rat, squinted at her discomfort.

 “You are afraid to try? Or have you not been prepared?”

 “I am sorry, sir, I do not know what you mean.” He would hear the thunder in her chest, she was certain. He would see the pulsing of her veins and it would betray her so soon. How could he know? Franco.

 He relaxed into the chair, resting his face on his hand. “So it was not you. Very well.” His voice slowed, became less accusing. “You will need to pack some things. You are going on a voyage. You should be excited.”

 “Again, sir, I do not know what you mean. The Advisors, the Speaker, have told me nothing of this.”

 He waved his free hand. “I do not care for Advisors.” He leaned forward, elbows on the desk. Prowling. “Your queens and kings give them too much power. They really should be more careful who they ascend to positions of confidence.”

 Another New Man entered, handed a sheaf of pages to Columbus, who glanced at them and signed with a flourish. “Ah, so much to do, so little time.” He spoke without looking at her again. “I am leaving the day after tomorrow. You will come with me and be my Speaker, to help with the transition.”

 Speaker? Transition? “I am sorry, sir, I do not understand. Where are you going?”

 “Back to Spain, of course. My time is almost finished here. Besides, the Princess is scheduled to arrive and take over the throne in just a few more days. I would not want to be in her way.”

 “And what do you want with me?”

 It was as if she’d said two and two make purple. “I cannot be expected to control five score of Atlanteans without knowing their language, can I? You will be Speaker for them on our journey and in the land. Franco has prepared you well, no? Your speech is much improved from even a few months ago, he tells me.”

 Her throat betrayed her, would not let her speak. It held back her fear, her frustration, her anger.

 “Though you might refuse, of course. You are not my slave,” and he lifted the corner of his scowl. “I just wonder how it would look if your waking room were found to have a bottle of the poison used to kill the Speaker.”

 Her throat released its hold. “But she’s not–” she said, and fell silent.

 He returned to his papers, showing the top of his head. “I will expect you tomorrow evening, at the same time, for your decision.” He waved a hand.

 She made her slight bow and left, collecting a pass for the next evening from the guard. Once out upon the flagstones of the broad walkway leading up to the royal hall, she stood unconvinced that what had happened was real. She inhaled deep, held it for a pause, and then began to run.

 While she was with Columbus the sun had set behind the mountains to the west, the light had faded, and the streets were lit with only the lamps. They were bright enough, but still the effect, coming on top of the perilous offer, frightened Anasha. She hurried along the various stone-lined streets towards the Merchants’ Quarter, the place where men and women worked at trade. They would send sheep’s meat and the clothing made from the wool to the west, and receive wood and stone from the forests and quarries there, among other things. The businesses were transacted within the old buildings of the Merchants’ Quarter. And since business, like everything else, had been on the decline for the past thousand years, the Merchants’ Quarter was only half-full at any time.

 The perfect place for the Guild to hide.

 She passed through the old stone archway indicating the barrier between the Living Quarter and the Merchant Quarter, and felt the air cool immediately. The darkness increased as there were fewer and fewer lamps lighting the ways, on occasional corners or flowing out a window. She slid through alleys and around empty buildings, finally coming to a stop in front of an unmarked door.

 She knocked lightly. Tap-tap-tap, pause, tap-tap, pause, tap. She waited for a minute, counting slowly under her breath, then knocked again, in the same pattern. A breeze blew and brought a chill to her bones.

 The door opened slightly and she squeezed herself inside. Lamps lit the room, but just barely. Seated on stools all around the space were a handful of men and women, faces she recognized and one she did not. She saw Pensione, Demos, a young man whom she did not know, Bonia, and Zander, the leader of the Guild.

 “Is it safe to speak?” she asked, pointing at the strange boy. “Or will he go running to the New Men again, telling them more of our secrets?”

 He started to stand, and Demos put a hand on his shoulder to settle him. “He is with me,” Demos said. “This is my grandson, Kellar.” He stared at Anasha. “You have nerve, girl, accusing him, when there might be just as much thrown upon yourself.”

 “Of what? I have done everything you asked.”

 “Perhaps more,” came the reply, and the old man fell silent.

 Anasha felt her face flush, and turned to Zander instead. “I came to warn you,” she said. “Columbus knows about–”

 “Of course he does,” Zander interrupted. “Don’t you see?” He waved a hand around, indicating the mess within the room. Log books covered the floor. Cabinets lay overturned, their contents flowing across the space. The ink had been thrown across the room, shattering the bottles. A large stain that looked so much like blood covered one wall.

 “The New Men came earlier today,” he said. “They took everything.”

 Anasha gasped. “Then the plan–”

 “May still go on,” said Pensione. She was calm and collected. Anasha wondered how the woman could maintain such a statuesque figure.

 “We’ll have to hurry,” Anasha said. “Columbus leaves in two days’ time.”

 Pensione stood. “Good. We can just let him go.”

 “It is not that easy,” Anasha said. She told them of his offer, and his reasoning that she would accept.

 “That’s no bargain,” said Zander. “You can’t do that. Put fellow citizens into bondage. Ridiculous.”

 “We don’t know that it would be bondage,” she said, and immediately knew it was wrong. “Well, we can hope that it would not be.”

 “Hope,” Demos said, “is simply not believing what you know to be true. We have seen how the New Men treat us while they are here. Why should we expect anything different on a ship? Or when in their lands? You should not go.”

 “But what else can I do?”

 “Stay,” Zander said. “We’ll fight them. There’s not so many of them. We’ll call up the army and have them protect us.”

 “It won’t work,” Anasha said. “I hear the General and the other Advisors talking all the time. They cannot afford to make Columbus mad, for if he returns with half as many New Men as he has promised, Atlantis would be overrun and destroyed in two months.”

 “So you’ve given up,” Demos said. “Ah, well, perhaps we all should.” Her voice was a morning bloom wilting in the midday sun. “What’s the use?”

 Anasha pounded a fist on her thigh. “No. I love these people, and this way of life, too much to just give up.” A surge lifted her to her feet. “I can still do something. We can still do something.” She searched the shelves, pulled out drawers, opened cabinets. “The poison I was to give to the Speaker, for Columbus’s food. Is there any more? I can try tomorrow night. I still have audience with him, even if the Speaker doesn’t.”

 A firm hand stopped her. Zander’s eyes dug into her soul. She felt the pull she had the first time she’d heard him speak, sucked in and attracted to his desires for a better life away from the New Men. He might be young, he might be inexperienced, but she was those things, too. And he wanted something more. So she wanted something more. Because of him, she was willing to take the risk.

 The plan had been for her to pass the bottle of poison to the Speaker, and when the time came for the next ceremonial dinner, the Speaker could then eliminate their problem. But with her now succumbed to the same fate, or slated to be, as Columbus hinted, the plan would need to change. They talked into the night, considering this and that, and the other. Eventually, they settled on a new plan. One that would have to be done quickly, and with much risk.

 Anasha accepted her role and the two capsules Pensione produced as if by magic. She left near midnight for her next task.

 Franco’s room was close to the royal halls, down a walkway and off to a side way. The New Men had taken over a whole building, and she would find Franco there. Along the walkway she passed marble sculptures of the gods, carvings of history, and painted columns demonstrating the pride of the city. They all showed the wear and loss from many centuries of neglect, but Anasha ignored them in her haste.

 She reached the building, a three story wood and stone structure that had been maintained better than the decorations on the walkway. She leaped up the steps to the second floor and pounded on the door. “Franco!” She pounded again, and again. “You snake! Open up!” Others in the building, in their sleeping rooms, would hear her. Good. Let them hear. Let them judge.

 The door swung open and he stood blank-faced, unwilling to meet her eyes. “What do you want?”

 She pushed past him into his waking room. The small space was overflowing with his scattered clothing articles and books, covering the small table and the bench at the wall. Two small lamps upon the shelves threw dim light across the place. She turned and shoved a finger in his face, startling him backwards. “How dare you! You pretend friendship, acquaintance, and a desire to help my people. And then you turn around and give us over to Columbus so he can enslave us! What right do you have?”

 “I have the same rights as you.” He carried an empty wine glass. His voice was high, and soft, and smoothed by the wine so that the rounded edges of his language were even rounder, making the him hard to understand. “More, even. We came here and we won. So we get to make the rules.” He lifted his glass. “To the victor go the spoils.”

 She fingered the capsules within the pockets of her robe. If only she had one more.

 The books drew her attention. She stepped close and picked one from the floor. “Do you read that in here? Do you justify yourself by whatever this says?”

 He laughed. “That? That is a book describing the edible flowers of Africa.” He filled his wine glass from a bottle on the floor. “What could it have anything to do with us? I brought that in case we found strange plants. Instead, we found a whole forgotten world.”

 “And stayed a year,” she spat. A year too long. “You should have turned your boats around and left Atlantis the minute you saw the green edge of our shores.”

 “Come, now,” he said, “it hasn’t been all bad. We’ve brought you new things, told your people of another place.”

 “We were fine without you.”

 “You were dying. Your city is only half full. Your fields grow weak, your sheep, goats, your horses aren’t as strong as they used to be. Atlantis needs the knowledge within our cities, our culture. Our civilization.”

 “Oh, so you’re doing this for our benefit? You get nothing out of it?” He remained silent, avoiding her eyes. “Come, Franco, tell me. What exactly do you get out of sending me back in your place? I suspect it was you who put Columbus up to that. Admit it. Be honest. We Atlanteans pride ourselves on our virtue.”

 She stepped closer, felt his trembling as she put a hand on his arm. He jerked, splashing wine to his trousers.

 “I can not go back,” he said, and drained the wine. He wobbled to the chair beside the table and landed with a thump. She could almost pity him. Almost. “I can not.”

 “Why not? What is so terrible there that you must avoid it? You yourself say that it is the pinnacle of civilization. That it is so much better than here, that we must go there and learn. If it so good, so excellent, why not go back yourself?” She sat across the table. His eyes held fear, and longing.

 “Rosalina de Ignatio.” He tilted his empty glass and scowled, then tossed it to the floor where it landed on a rumpled cloak. “And her bastard child. She says it is mine, and I should help pay for its upkeep.” He let out a string of violent words he had not yet taught her the meanings of. “She thinks we’ll all be rich when we return, that we’ll have more gold than we know what to do with.” He waved an arm at the room, and laughed without glee. “Does that look like I’ve got more than two pesetas to rub together? My father will agree with her father that I should take a position in the mercantile and work there until I die.” He slumped, put his head on the table in the crook of his elbow. “I’d rather die here, free, having seen something of the world, than to return to that prison.”

 And Anasha, full of hatred and invective when she arrived, found that she knew his desire to avoid a burden forced upon you. Had she not done the same by accepting the position as apprentice, so long ago? Was that why she had pushed for her mother’s approval, when the Seekers came round? Why she hardly wrote anymore, why she hadn’t seen her sister in three years?

 “What you did was wrong,” she said. “I understand it, but it was wrong. I will never forgive you, no matter how you beg. Because now I must clean up your mess. When I was a child I promised my father I would never kill another person, and I am a heartbeat away from breaking that promise for you. But you are not worth it.” She left him, alone and lonely, within his waking room, and hurried back to her own.

 She arrived well into the early hours of the morning, stumbling through the door and falling onto the bed immediately. She slept for hours until a knock awoke her. A knock, then a voice, a woman’s voice, then a knock again.

 “Anasha?” Knock. The voice hurried. “Come, wake up, it’s your mother. We have to hurry.”

 The morning sunlight streamed through the window opening, lighting the place. She supposed it was nearly noon. She had her audience with Columbus in a few hours, and he would expect her decision. She hoped she could do what the Guild expected, what they had prepared her for. She hoped that it would be quick and easy. But her mother, here, made things more difficult. She would have to get rid of her quickly, so she could have time to ready her spirit for the task.

  She opened the door. Her mother strode in, sweating and dirty, smelling of the field and the horse. Her face was drawn tight, a worry she had not seen since her father lay prone after his return from battle. They hugged, and her mother pushed for inspection. “Oh,” she said. “You are doing very well.”

 “I have to meet–” she cut herself off before opening too terrible a door, “–the Speaker soon. For a lesson. I’m sorry I don’t have time. Tomorrow? Or the day after? Can you come back?”

 Mother shook her head. “It’s your sister, Anasha. She wants to see you.”

 “Where is she?” And then she knew. Knew from the sweat, from the look, from the way Mother held herself back. “Now,” she said, and they ran.

 The horses galloped for an hour, pushed to their limits and further. Anasha prayed silent and loud prayers for more speed, more time, more hope. Her mother said nothing.

 When they arrived at the family’s stead, the smells and sights transported her instantly back fifteen years to when she’d left. Playing with Phoebe in the springs along the hillside, running with father through the stalks of wheat before they were cut down. Cooing softly to keep the hens calm while they gathered eggs in the morning.

 Phoebe lay on a mat at the back of the family’s small, simple hut. The large single room had space for everyone, the thatch roof kept out the rain and the sun, and the open doors allowed the animals and people to mingle freely throughout. It was like all the other spaces in the farming village, plain but not poor. They had enough. Not too much, and not too little, but enough. She had a blanket pulled up under her chin, though the warmth of the day had made both of the riders burn. A glow spread across her sister’s face.

 “You came,” she said, slowly and as if her mouth were filled with clouds.

 “I could never ignore your call,” Anasha replied. She took Phoebe’s hand. She sensed her mother was moving around behind, perhaps putting a pot over the small fire or arranging spices on the table. She was always good for things like that. “How do you feel?”

 Phoebe blinked, slow, and her eyes rolled when she did. “I feel fine. Doctor won’t believe me though. He tells me to lie down and Mama listens to him.”

 Mother oh shushed from across the room. Anasha lifted the corner of the blanket and saw the twisted leg, dark purple and swollen at the knee, with ugly red lines tracing upwards and down. Scabs oozed dark fluids that dripped and stank like a bog.

 “I had a accident,” Phoebe said, shrugging. “You should have seen the other rock.”

 Anasha smoothed her hair back from her face. “You’re going to be fine. You just rest.”

 “Will you tell me a story? You were always so good at telling Papa stories.” And she was. She had told Papa stories every day when he came back from the battle, unable to speak, unable to help in the fields. She had told him stories every day, first what she remembered from the book he had read to the sisters nightly, before he went away. When those ran out she started making new ones. Hearing stories had calmed him, help him sleep. Helped him forget the battle, forget his uselessness. Or so she thought.

 She told Phoebe a tale of the days of before, when Atlantis was great and beautiful and powerful, when there were kings in the land and ships in the sea. She told of adventuresome women and faithful men and sneaky animals. She told of the gods and their passions, of the mortals and their trials. And when she stopped, Phoebe was sleeping.

 She rose and turned to her mother, who had seated herself on a stool beside the fire. There were tears in her eyes, and Anasha found herself wiping sadness also.

 “Why did’t you send word earlier? Maybe someone in the city could have helped.”

 “The doctor said it might get better by itself.” She stared into a mug of tea, sipping slowly. “I never thought I would lose her, too.”

 “You still have me.”

 “You’re gone to the royal halls. Not much good to me here, are you?”

 Anasha did not wish to leave on a bitter note, but knew she must go soon to be able to meet Columbus. And, hopefully, end this madness. “I’ll do better,” she said. “I will come for a visit. I can–”

 “Oh, of course you will.” She waved a hand. “Just like you always did. Always promising better, always promising more.” She stared at her tea. Anasha burned at the accusation she had not tried, had not done enough. She had done enough! She would not let her mother make her feel guilty for all she’d done to survive, for all she’d done to make this a better place for all of them.

 “You’ll see, Mother,” she said. “You can’t control me like a child any longer.” She had a hand on the edge of the hut when she heard Phoebe give a small cry from behind her. She turned and saw her awake again.

 She knelt beside the mat, taking Phoebe’s hand. “It hurts.” “Shh,” she said, “I have something that will take away the pain. A very good doctor in the city gave me this when I told him about you.” Anasha reached into the pocket of her robe, her robe she had been wearing since the night before, and took out a small red pill, soft as butter. She held it out to Phoebe, who opened her mouth. Anasha put it on her tongue, and she closed her eyes and relaxed again.

 She left without saying goodbye to her mother. In her heart it was wrong, but her heart did not control her actions today. Her head had the final say, and her head said it was time to get back. She had more important things to do, and she could repair these bridges later.

 She rode back less swiftly, yet with no less a dread of the things about to happen. The plan was ruined. She only had the poison, not the antidote, so she would have to be that much more careful about how she administered it. Her risk would be that much greater. And there was no time to meet with the Guild and form a new one. 

 She arrived in Atlantis late, later than she was supposed to be meeting Columbus, and hurried the mare along to the stable. She knew she should go back to her rooms and make herself presentable, but that would be more time, would keep Columbus even longer, and she feared what he would do if she displeased him further.

 She presented herself to the New Man guard. Again he led her through passages and hallways. They went to the same room as before, but this time it was empty. The guard learned that Columbus had gone to the docks to inspect the ships and led her that way.

 As if she needed him to tell her how to find the docks. She was a resident of the country, him one of the interlopers. One of the usurpers. She would be glad when they were rid of the New Men, when they had Atlantis back to themselves.

 They found Columbus and his second, and others of the crew, at the Santa Maria. She did not see Franco. They were inspecting the holds, the provisions, the “gifts” that had been made from the kingdom of Atlantis. Her guard left and she followed the men as they meandered around, in and out of the crates and barrels filling the dark space. It took time for Columbus to acknowledge her. And when he did it was dismissive.

 “You are late,” he said. Even in the foreign tongue she could hear the distaste in his voice, how the words came faster than usual, ends clipped, tone lower. “Well? What say you?”

 She had to have more time, more time to think, to adjust. Stall. “I need to know who would be going along,” she said. “Who you are enslaving. Can you take me to meet them?”

 “What does it matter?” He waved a dismissive hand. “We will go there next.” Again he pretended she was not there while he discussed rations, extras, trade goods, salt and spices with the men. She waited patiently, and when all eyes were off her, gently slipped the blue capsule into her mouth.

 It was a special type, the Guild had told her. Simply put it between your teeth and squeeze. Designed to be held in the mouth for long periods to avoid searches of pockets and bags, it would release the poison only when she intended it to. And it was supposed to be used with the antidote pill at the ready. Squeeze the poison, empty into a glass. If some gets on the tongue, or lips, or teeth, then simply do the same with the antidote.

 But she had given the red pill to Phoebe, leaving her with nothing to protect her if things went poorly. She felt the small lump between her cheek and gums with her tongue, hoping that it did not make her speech strange.

 They moved to the Nina, where they again inspected the holds. Only this time instead of flour and spice and sugar and meats, there were also Atlanteans belowdecks. Fifty of them, sitting huddled in the space, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, men and women healthy and strong who should be outside, walking the promenades and taking in the theater and singing songs with their nieces and nephews.

 The final ship was even worse. Another fifty Atlanteans. Another hundred eyes staring at her, boring into her soul. Begging her for mercy, for freedom. Among them a friendly pair.

 “Zander,” she whispered.

 “Fancy meeting you here,” he returned.

 “Are you okay?”

 “I could be better.” He tugged at the cuffs on his wrist. “I think I need a size smaller, this one is a little loose.” He pulled his lips back in a wicked interpretation of a laugh that scared her. “What’s the plan?”

 “Same as always,” she said. “Kill the monster, steal the treasure, live happily ever after.”

 He rattled the chain. “May the gods be with you.”

 She stood and rejoined the crew as they were leaving the ship. They made their way back to the royal halls and to a dining room set with a lavish spread. Tables overflowed with the bounty of the land, fruits and nuts from the interior, breads and rolls from the wheat of the coast, flanks of sheep and cattle prepared hot and cold, with sauces and gravies. Dozens of wine bottles lined the wall.

 Columbus seated himself at the head of the table, beginning immediately to rip hunks of flesh and fruit. The New Men with him filled the table around, smacking lips and grinding their teeth on the bones, slurping the wine and telling jokes she did not understand. The laughter came easily. None offered her a place at the table, and it was half an hour of revelry before Columbus noticed her standing at the edge of the room.

 “Come,” he said, and waved a hand. She felt something turn inside her stomach. Above the din she somehow heard her steps echo as she approached. It seemed to take long, too long, to make the short crossing. She stood close enough to feel the heat rising from him, pride in a job well done and satisfaction at the opportunity awaiting.

 “Tell me,” he said. “Do the provisions meet your standard?” He laughed then, a soulless laugh that sounded throughout the room and silenced the rest of the conversation. All turned to watch them. She suddenly felt as if she were naked, exposed. How could she do anything without them noticing now? The thing rolled again within her.

 “They are acceptable,” she said. “Though I would prefer that your men wore the chains and Atlanteans sat at the table.” The crowed aaahed their approval at her audacity. Even Columbus gave her a smirk and a nod.

 “Are you trying to negotiate? Or simply showing off your stupidity?”

 “I have nothing to bargain with. You hold all the power, sir. I am at your mercy, sir. You seem to do whatever it is you wish, sir. We are simply your puppets, your toys to be played with and thrown out after.”

 His eyes narrowed, his grip tightened. “Be careful, girl, not to bite the hand that feeds you.”

 She took the glass in front of him and raised it above her head. “To Spain!” The men took theirs as well, and she raised it to her lips. They cheered and drank. She moved the pill between her teeth. She would swirl the wine inside within her mouth and back to the cup with the poison inside. She had only a moment. As the cup approached she could see the inside, the dry inside, the empty inside. Her teeth beginning to squeeze, her lips on the rim of the cup, the corner of her eye catching a glimpse of Columbus sitting and smirking as if the Queen herself had just promised him her hand. The empty inside. The dry inside.

 She started and shook, setting the cup down with a bang that drew their attention and stopped the chatter again.

 “We leave at midday,” Columbus said. “Have you packed a bag?” The audience laughed, and he joined in, a real laugh that touched his eyes and made him lean into the chair.

 “I will be ready,” she said. “It is customary within our society to send off a voyage with a kiss, for luck. May I?” She had one more chance. She took his chin in her hand and pulled the arrogant, stinking, enslaving face towards her own. She pressed her lips to his, squeezed the pill and felt it burst within her mouth. She spat its juice onto his tongue. He twitched and tried to pull away, but she wrapped her other hand behind his head and held him close, held him tight. His eyes opened wide at the sensation and she pulled back, wiping her lips.

 The New Men around the table hooted and cheered, raising their fists and wineglasses and shouting to the heavens. Columbus stared and tried to stand, but fell heavily back onto the seat. Anasha felt a heaviness in her head, and as she sank down beneath waves flowing over, she heard much commotion and running feet, hands pushing her this way and that, she felt herself hit the floor and then she was under.
She woke to Zander’s face above her. They were in a small sleeping room of the apartments near the docks. She could see the three ships from the window. New Men and Atlanteans moved in and out, checking on her, talking with Zander and Franco and trying to talk to her, asking her questions, Zander pushing them back and telling them they had to wait for her to recover. At one point she thought she saw her mother in the room, but certainly that was just a dream. Zander pressed something to her mouth, to her lips, and she drank a warm broth, and it felt good, and she was under the waves again and she was fine, she was beautiful, she was sleeping.
When she had the strength to ask, and stay awake long enough to understand, Zander told her the story. That the New Men had decided that whomever woke first of the two would be the new captain. That Columbus had died an hour after they had both fainted, that she had lain without waking for two more days. That she had revived and gone under again for two more days. And that as she was restored now, she had command of the crew and the ships.

 “It was only right,” he said, “as Columbus had displaced the Queen and taken her place, that you do the same for him. And the men never really liked him either.”

 The Atlanteans had been freed from their bondage by order from Franco, and some had asked to stay on and join the crew. That had been agreeable, and now all were simply waiting for her orders. What did she wish them to do?

 They sailed a week later, leaving behind some of the New Men who wished to stay, and Franco, who had been offered the position of Ambassador. They took true gifts, and true trade, and they took Anasha’s mother who asked to see the world. They sailed for opportunity and for glory. They sailed for history and for the future. They sailed to bring Atlantis back from the depths of obscurity, and to bring the world to Atlantis. But mostly they sailed in partnership, bridging the voids between old and new, wrong and right, legend and truth.