Antonio walked down the deserted streets of his city alone, taking in the night air and the peaceful lack of sound. He loved the bustling town during the day, and loved its people, but seeing it like this was a gift in and of itself. It was still, like a living painting. He wished to himself that it were so, and he could take it with him aboard the ship, but frowned slightly as he knew that could not be so. He looked over the buildings, bakeries, homes, churches..they filled him with fondness. Looking to the horizon he hoped that soon he would have such familiar buildings in the New World.

The New World.. He had gone out to these new lands before, but he still could not help but feel fire in his veins. Every time he thought about it all, it filled him with excitement. It was always so amazing, the things he would see and do. Yes, he did have to fight, but it would all be worth it in the end. His kingdom would be expanded, and the people of these foreign lands would serve not only his country, but the lord. And who knows, perhaps they two would one day live in these buildings, bustle the streets of the new Spanish territory, with smiles on their faces. Be his people. Antonio smiled softly. That would make him very happy. Yes, it would be perfect, except for one thing. His smile faltered.


He began to walk a little more slowly than before. It couldn't be helped. He had to do this, and Romano was too young to take with him. Even as a fellow nation, no, especially because he was a nation. And not just any nation, his precious follower. He would never let anything happen to the boy. That is why he must stay here, where Antonio knows he's safe. The sea is dangerous, the New World is dangerous, and Spain would never risk the fiery boy that called him names and demanded he make dinner, even though he served him and it wasn't supposed to be the other way around. Antonio laughed faintly at that. "So stubborn...and angry..and lazy..and cute.."

There was no way those things would keep Romano safe in the world outside Spain's mansion, outside his protection.

He sighed. "Next time...perhaps next time..." He told himself. Maybe when he was back from this voyage, by that time, or perhaps even later than that but before the next one came, Romano would be ready. He had already grown so much. By that time, he was sure that Romano would have grown into a man, maybe even picked up a sword by himself a few times.

...No, that was crazy, this was Romano he was thinking about. Rash and hot-tempered as he was, the Italian was still like his brother in many ways. He doubted he would fight. Not unless it was something that meant the world to him. But in the back of his mind Antonio did hope. He wished Romano would be grown and join him, and they could conquer the New World together. But that was just fantasy. Antonio hated to admit it, but by the time he was a mature nation to do something like that, Romano would most likely be independant. And when that happened, he doubted the Italian would continue to act as his follower by his side. That made his heart ache. He gripped his ax tighter as he walked. No, don't think about that now. It will be a long time before you must deal with that.

He walked on towards the marina, everyone must be loading the last minute things by now. He wanted to leave at dawn's light. He looked to the sky, still dark. But soon it would brighten, and soon he would be on his way on another journey.

Tailing Spain into town was easier than Romano had expected. He caught up with him in a matter of about fifteen minutes, and stuck to the shadows once he had his boss in view. He made sure to keep out of earshot, in case he stepped on any twig, or kicked any pebble that could give him away. The man walked swiftly down the near empty streets of the town, only slowing on occasion. He never once turned around or seemed to suspect he was being followed. The idiot. Romano watched as he turned a corner, taking the road he knew lead to the docks. He waited a moment before peeking around it, just to be safe. He did not want to be caught. When he cautiously poked his head around the corner, Spain was already pretty far down the road. Quietly Romano followed, sticking to the shadows and pausing occasionally to hide behind something, just in case. All in all, the Italian was very pleased with himself.

This one sided game of follow the leader continued for a duration, Romano had forgotten how far the docks were from Spain's home. After what seemed like an eternity, he saw it and stopped. In the distance, down the long sloped path, was the docks. Even though it was night, it was not dark there. Torchlight lit the surrounding area, making the turning water glow and flicker with shades of orange. And there it was. The ship. Even from this distance it was impressive. From the docks he could hear the echoed chatter of workers loading cargo and making preparations. They would be leaving at dawn.

Romano's heart leapt, remembering himself, and tore his eyes away from the distance to look back at the path. No sign of Antonio. He knew that the moron had just gone on ahead, but he couldn't help but walk a bit more lightly and breathe a little less freely as he quickly descended the dirt path leading down to the marina.

Once he made it to the docks came the hard part: getting on the ship. Romano hid behind a large crate at the far end of the dock, knowing it held little significance seeing as all the workers seemed to be ignoring it. This was a good start. He had something to fall back to and hide behind in case he felt he was going to be discovered. Now he just had to get close enough to slip onto the boat unseen, or find an empty barrel to hide in. Looking around, he didn't see any barrels nearby, they were all a good deal closer to the ship. So Romano crept quietly from his crate to another one not too far away, hiding there. He peeked out, and knew he had remained unnoticed. He then observed the layout of the dock more closing, choosing a route of things to hide behind or in between. He took a breath, and began. Quietly, he darted from place to place, never stopping at one hiding place too long. He was now a considerable distance closer. He moved out from behind the wooden beam that held torches to hurry behind a wine barrel when he heard a deep, gravelly voice.

"Oye, boy, get over here and help us lift this."

Romano's blood ran cold. He froze, rooted to the spot.

"Boy! Hurry yourself or I'll toss you in the waters!"

Romano turned. Two men stood near a large crate of provisions. "Now, boy!" Romano jolted at the tone of the shout and quickly ran over. The older man grumbled. "Can never find good young workers these days. All of your brains are rotten as my teeth." The younger man laughed and gave Romano a pointed look. "You'll do well to come when the first command is called. Now take one of the corners and lift." Romano was stunned. They hadn't seen him for what he was. ..What was he talking about, of course they didn't! To them he was a young worker, a grunt for the ship to do the meager tasks like cleaning the decks and securing knots. Romano nodded, grabbed the corner of the crate, and lifted. He grimmaced, it was heavy. What the hell could they possibly have in here, a boulder? Romano wanted to snort. Of course Spain would be stupid enough to pack a boulder onto a ship.

A sharp bark of "Boy. Walk." drew him from his thoughts. Hastily, he began to help carry the crate towards the ship. His heart was beating rapidly in his chest, eyes darting around at all the faces they passed. What if Antonio saw them? It would be over, quick as that. He couldn't let that happen. He walked with the crate as quickly as he could, much to the surprise of the two older sailors. "Eager, are you?" asked the younger. His tone was amused, and he had a half-smile. Romano looked away and mumbled "Just want to get going." He didn't want to draw attention to them, and definitely didn't want to become familiar with these men. If one mentioned the eager young worker with the unusual habit of saying "chigi" when frustrated, he was as good as caught. Eyes flitted around wildly as they brought the crate over to some others on deck.

"Put it down here." The elder sailor grunted. They set the crate down and Romano shook his arms a bit, they were sore. The man noticed this and grumbled "Kid won't last three days." Romano's eyebrow twitched but said nothing, walking away from them and back towards the ramp leading from the ship to the dock. Making sure no one was watching, he quickly darted to the left and crouched down behind a few wine barrels that hadn't been stored in the bowels of the ship yet. He let out a sigh of relief and sat there for a moment, waiting for his heart to stop beating so rapidly. "Meno male.." he said quietly, crossing himself. He thanked god for not bumping into Spain. As his heart calmed down, he began to feel weary. After all, it was well past the time he usually slept, and carrying that heavy crate didn't help him feel energetic. He looked out from behind his barrel and saw almost everything was packed or at least brought up on deck. Now that things were all on deck, they would actually put these barrels in the storage or in the galley, and ruin his hiding place. That was no good. He needed to find someplace else before he just fell asleep on deck and got discovered and taken to the captain for discipline. Or worse, tossed into the ocean. Making sure no one was watching, he stood and got up from behind the barrels. He looked around, where would be a good place to hide..?

Then an idea struck him. The crew quarters! Of course, he was a crew member, so where else would he sleep? And with everyone else doing their jobs on deck and scrambling to get everything ready before dawn, no one would even come down there and notice him! It was perfect! He quickly walked from behind the barrels and walked towards the doorway he assumed lead down to the crew quarters. Along the way he grabbed a broom that was leaning up against the wall of one of the upper deck rooms and pretended to sweep. He made his way to the door, opened it subtly, then quickly slipped inside and shut it behind him. The door clicked shut behind him and he looked around the room. Luck must have been on his side tonight, it was indeed the crew quarters. Row after row of hammocks for sleeping in filled the large room, along with some tables at the far end with unlit candles. He walked between the rows of hammocks, trying to decide which one seemed the least moth-eaten or stained and was in a place out of sight. He decided on one towards the far righthand corner, near the tables. It would be hours before someone entered this room, and there was no reason to walk to the far end of it. Romano sighed as he crawled into the hammock. It wasn't very comfortable, but it would do. Settling down, he closed his eyes and drifted off into a well-earned siesta.