All through the journey South he noted the air. “Why did he always do that?”, he wondered. It changed, from the damp and the verdant, to the drier and more arid. Slowly the deep greens faded to yellows and the signs of spring became more advanced than back at the settlement. He could smell the port long before he saw it. There was the sea and that smell of people, of towns, blown inland on the breeze. There were more carts on the road, more noise generally. And his thighs and buttocks ached. He had been out of the saddle too long. What he wanted most now was a wash and a bed.
In through the gates and to the commanderie, they rode. In the courtyard they dismounted. The priest went with his man at arms to see the chief, there was much to discuss, plans to be laid. They had some time, a few days at most before the sailing. They were ushered in, to that grand room, bedecked as it was with patterned cloth hanging from the ceiling. The chief welcomed them and had a servant show them to quarters. He gave the priest the latest maps to peruse. They were to report back for dinner in a few hours and after that, the meetings would begin.
In his cubicle, things had started to arrive, some war clothes, the documents he had asked for and they were moving in a small table for him to work at. He washed briefly and dressed only in his cassock he went down to the sea-front. He kept his boot dagger, just in case. The port, full of bustle, was alive and an assault to his senses. Several large ships were there being filled with supplies for the journey. They looked a little ramshackle but would serve. The smell of seaweed and of fish was strong. All those people, busy. “Here we go again”, he thought to himself and sighed.
Unused to all the commotion he knew that he would have to endure the dinner, he was after all some kind of talisman and it would raise the morale of the men. He returned and dressed for dinner. Sat at top table next to the chief he did his part and soon they were in the war room. News had come in from Valletta by courier, they were ready, and his old friends would be waiting for him. There were things to do and things to see, for his eyes alone. Slowly the puzzle was coming together, they had tracked them down, up in the hills further away. And they would only speak with him. Exhausted after the journey and more than half full of wine, he made his excuses and retired.
Two days later they were at sea, and the breeze was fair. It took them swift from land and into sea. In the distance the port faded. And his thoughts turned to that piece of rock in an azure sea, nor far from Africa and his brothers waiting there for him….