The brown City - Lübeck (1348)

A brown City

Prologue: 1348. A brown city. A city built ofbricks, from which seven towers rise into the sky. The black waterglitters and reflects rats, seagulls and people. But the waterdoesn't reflect me. I am neither body, nor mind, nor object. I am notreflected in water, iron, or other physical breakers of light. I'mhovering like a curse over the whole city. The heat builds up furtherdown, almost suffocating for the people. The residents stand on thestreets and shop and chat. They call this time noon. I don't knowwhat people mean by that. Some of them are sick in their homes andcannot go out. Soon they will no longer be alive. Their doors arefull of boards, their windows are closed. They don't understand thatthe boards can't stop what they fear. Even the pitch-clad ships haveno safety as they leave the city and the black river takes thembeyond the horizon. From this place they are followed by the odd ratand a trace of fear. The rats are my ignorant messengers. You willalmost always find a hole or gap. The busier the city, the easier itis. I love crowds, fleas and dirty corners. People don't know that.The people are increasing and the knowledge remains small, but thecity is still splendid and rich. Towers and ship masts proudly reachthe sky without paying close attention to me. This city is an easytarget. Traveling couldn't be easier anywhere.

1st chapter

It was a hot summer day and the sun beat down onLübeck and its residents. Among all the sweaty people, Antoniawalked between the wooden market stalls, with a basket full of breadin her hand. She was just on her way home. On her head she felt theshadow of the long house, a house standing across the market place.It was cooler here than behind her, and fewer people were walkingabout. In the background she could still hear the many people rantingon the market square. She had just got hold of the last dry breadfrom the day before. At the thought of fresh wheat bread, her goodmood was clouded by memories. She felt like finally eating somethingfresh again or being able to buy the sweeter cakes. But there was nomore money for that. She left the Long House behind and entered thePlatea lata, one of the widest streets in Lübeck. The sight of thebig houses always made her feel so small, as if she had shrunk. Shewas fascinated by the attention to detail on the facades of the largehouses. Her feet carried her in the direction of the fisherman's pit,she no longer had to think about it, she had walked this path sooften. Every week she bought the bread. Every week dry, except forthe week after the arrival of the floe, her father's ship, becausethen the goods from London were sold and they had a little more moneyagain. In the English pit she found her little sister sitting on thecobblestones. She played with marbles, which she didn't use formarbles, but as figures in a fantasy game. The marbles attacked eachother like in a battle. Antonia grinned briefly, then addressed hersternly. "Mia, father told you to stay in our house!" shereminded her sister. She stuck out her tongue in insult and collectedher marbles. "He allowed it," she claimed, mumbling. Shedidn't meet Antonia's eyes. Antonia liked her sister, but she wasoften incredibly disobedient. From time to time she wondered if itwould have been better not to have had a sister. She hadn't wishedfor one herself, and she was sure that she had never been so annoyingfor her big brother. Unfortunately, Mia knew exactly how to drive herolder siblings insane. But Antonia didn't often catch them. Now shehad seen it for the first time, secretly outside. In Mia's little,seven-year-old head, she calculated that Antonia had finally left,but Antonia had already gone through the front door and Mia couldn'tprotest anymore. It would be better for her to follow, otherwise shemight notice again that she was still outside. "Stupid snitch,"she murmured, crossing her arms. "I brought bread!" Antoniacalled up the wooden stairs. Nobody answered. Her father always wentto mass an hour earlier because as a businessman he had to fulfillhis duty to help. Her mother was gone a long time. In order not tohave to raise three children alone, there was the nanny Ava. Maybeshe went to the market today and couldn't pay attention to Mia. Thatwas all the better, adults often worried when there was a plaguewalking outside, like now. It wasn't fun to lock yourself up becauseof e.g let u "Mia, you have to go upstairs now and stay there."Antonia ordered. "Come on, go. I still have to... dosomething... for Ava. Stay indoors." Mia snorted and wentthrough a squeaky wooden door into the living room. Now it was timefor the part of Antonia's life I didn't want Mia to know about - andneither should the rest of the family. She had a secret. Actually alot of secrets. Her father didn't know her as well as he used tothink he did. The sixteen-year-old walked into the corner where thefamily's coats and shoes were kept. The loose wooden boards wobbledunder her feet and she smiled dreamily, because underneath she hideverything she needed now. She put on her smock, which she alwayswore when she went into the alley and met the fisherman boy Johannes.She didn't want to attract attention. Barefoot, she cautiously gropedfor the board that hid her bow. A blond tear fell on her face, shequickly wiped it away. She was impatient and therefore was a bitclumsy lifting the board. Under the board lay a quiver and a bow,which Antonia used to only look at proudly for hours before Johannesstarted teaching her how to shoot three days ago. With a practicedmovement of her hand, she placed the leather quiver on her back, thebow behind it. A door creaked. The living room door opened slowly andsuddenly Ava was standing in the doorway. Antonia looked up,startled. She looked at her pleadingly. Ava stopped, equallysurprised, and stared back. Then her eyes took on a knowingexpression that the girl feared. "Why do you look like that,Antonia?" Ava asked sternly. Antonia bit her lip angrily. So Avahadn't gone to the market after all. "" shestuttered. Ava smiled. “You take after your mother, girl. I knowexactly what you're up to. I have not seen anything." Oh what agood person Ava is! Antonia thought with relief. She was in for atreat when her father found out she was an archer! She stood thereundecided, still hoping that Ava would walk out of the room. Then itwould actually be as if she hadn't seen anything. The housewifesighed, half laughing, and closed the door again when Mia called her.As soon as Ava turned away, Antonia ran lightly into the backyard andjumped over a wall into a dirt alley. Nobody was on the streets here.The black death scared the life out of the houses. Some stood empty,nobody cared about the corpses inside. It was a cruel thing. Only thechildren of the town hardly touched it. Antonia was one of them, theplayful little spirits who almost got lost among the big ones. Evenif she lived to be much older, she would always feel like a child andfeel only pleasant horror at the sight of impending death. Or so shethought. Shuddering slightly, she ran around a corner where twopainted warning signs were hanging. "Johannes, here!" shecalled when she recognized her friend. John was standing at acrossroads leading to the canal. Upon seeing her, he waved her into agloomy courtyard with two sparse apple trees. He laughed, as didAntonia, although he was so much closer to the plague than she was.He was poor, like so many people who died in the Black Death. Butwhat Antonia saw in him was something completely different. Everytime she visited, all she saw was the laughter that filled his faceeven when he was very serious, and the light in his eyes. "You'recoming later than I thought," Johannes greeted her, "but Iwas dawdling anyway. Something happened?" "Ava got me,"she snorted, aiming the bow in his face for fun. "Will you teachme how to shoot now?" "If you lend me your bow, I can showyou. My bow isn't a real bow, it's made out of a twig." The boypicked up some arrows that he had planted in the ground next to thewall of the house. "Let's get going. I learned how to shoot inthe meadow next to the city, so we're going there now." Antoniafollowed him. When the sun had crept a few meters further, the twoyoung people were standing on the muddy meadow outside the citywalls. Only a small piece of grass lay between the water and theearth-brown wall. No guard up there was paying attention to them. Sheand Johannes were just two children. Recognizing the age of childrenwas difficult for adults. They probably also thought the bow inAntonia's hand was a stick, or maybe they thought she was a boy.After all, a few boys in town had shoulder-length hair. No one paidany attention to children standing in a meadow, even if they carriedweapons more than half their size. As firmly and concentrated aspossible, the girl stood parallel to the cold, muddy stones. She feltthe tendon and spring of Pf eile on her fingers, but Johannes did notlet her shoot yet. "You have to stretch out your arm, in a line,like, like... like an extension of your legs. Well, from theinvisible line between your legs. You have to be able to keep thatfor a long time.” Antonia tried to stretch her arm even further.She held the bow in her hand, with the other arm she held the arrowto the string. Her upper arms hurt, but she kept them up. "Whyso long?", she asked impatiently, "I could just shoot now."John shook his head. "You must still have time to aim! It's notabout shooting far. The gun must be held forever before you canshoot.” He watched Antonia intently and directed her even moreclosely. Antonia almost thought he was going to grin, but he didn't.Carefully she turned her feet towards him. Once he had already toldher how to stand. "So." Johannes walked closer and picked ablade of grass to chew on the way. "Put the arrowhead on theribbon and hold. Don't pull the arrow, pull the ribbon. You have todraw the bow on the ribbon. The arrow stays that way.” Antonialaughed, accidentally dropping the arrow. "That means string,not ribbon," she corrected, "and where am I supposed toaim?" This time she held the bow correctly. She had one fingerunder the springs, one over them, and the bow creaked as she drew it.She hit a tree. Not the one Johannes pointed out, but it was great tobe able to shoot a bow. Just shoot a tree. Antonia never felt suchtriumph when embroidering or sewing. Why had she become a girl? Butsometimes that's not so bad either, she thought, thinking about herSunday clothes, which she wore with enthusiasm, although she wouldnever show them to her family. The bells of a church began to ring.The friends stood there for a brief moment and pensively listened tothe music of the church towers. In the next moment, the cathedralmingled with the tinkling, the Marienkirche and the church of thefishermen. Something in Antonia's brain woke up and forced her tothink. bells and churches. The fair! As if struck by lightning, shestood there for a moment and widened her eyes, but she pulled herselftogether. "I have to go, John! The fair! I completely forgotabout her!” She shook off the rigidity and threw the bow in hisdirection to the din of the bells. Johannes broke away from the musicworld and looked worriedly after the running girl. Dong, dong, dongPeople streamed from the houses to the churches. There were seventowers. One for the bishops, one for the river boatmen and one forthe seagoers. St. Aegidien stood for the craftsmen, the leastmagnificent church with the most followers. The merchants had themost magnificent church. With two towers and a long, ornate nave, itwas more beautiful and richer than the Duomo or any of the otherchurches. Her father was standing in front of the portal with anangry expression on his face. "Where have you been again?"he asked. Antonia couldn't think of a suitable excuse right away. Soshe just kept quiet. She knew it wouldn't do much anyway. Her father,like all parents, could mysteriously see through any lie. An excusewould only make him angrier. "And how you look again! Just lookat you!" the merchant snarled, pointing to her dress, "Don'ttell me you haven't been hanging around." Antonia looked downand realized that she was all dirty from running around the alleys.Her feet in particular were a bit muddy and her legs were coveredwith a gray layer of dust. "And you're not wearing any shoes! Ifyou continue to behave like a street urchin, I will make sure thereare consequences. You're both like that, you and your brother, buthe's a boy after all!' Hans panted and hopelessly turned his headaway. A look that Antonia hated to the core. Actually, her father wasvery nice. Sometimes when he was in a good mood. He entered thechurch and hurriedly walked forward into the church. Antonia followedquietly through the gate, sat in the last row and listened to thebells dying away and the organ playing. The vaults were huge. Theyreminded her of huge caverns of stories and fairy tales she knew fromthe tales of the sailors with whom she often spoke. It was quiet inthe church after the music had also stopped. Suddenly Antonia heard aknock behind her. She turned and was surprised to find Johannesstanding in the doorway, giving a thumb sign around the corner. Heheld her bow and quiver in his hand. She knew he wasn't allowed tocome in because St. Mary's Church was reserved for merchants. Sheused sign language to let him know that she would meet him after Masswould open. She tried to use her body to cover what movements she wasmaking. Her brother sat nearby. He didn't look at her, but she playedit safe. Johannes nodded and left and the girl turned back to listento the sermon. After the mass, Antonia was the first to leave thechurch, unobtrusively. She ran to the spot where she had metJohannes. Her father would look for her again if she stayed long.Johannes chewed on a blade of grass and sat on a wall without beingnoticed by Antonia. "Boo!" he shouted as he jumped off thewall, but the blade of grass got in his way. He choked and onlymanaged a half-coughed cry. Giggling, Antonia patted his back to stopthe coughing. "Unfortunately I don't have much time." Shelaughed. "That's fine. Do you want me to take you home?”Johannes asked and coughed again. Antonia grinned and replied: "Notall the way home, but a bit. Do you have the things?" Johanneshanded her her things, which she had quickly thrown away on theriverbank. "Thanks," she said. Johannes patted her on theshoulder and they slowly set off. "Be careful not to choke on ablade of grass at some point." Antonia warned motherly. Johnlaughed. "Wait! If you didn't have the bow, I'd show you not tobe so cheeky with teachers!" he threatened jokingly. Antoniagrinned and jumped onto a wall. "Before you kill me, firstfollow my shortcuts in the city. I hope you remember these?"Johannes followed her onto the wall and the two of them continuedthrough the alleys and over walls. After a while, Antonia stopped ona flat roof and looked at the city from above. Johannes stood next toher and looked for what Antonia was watching, but then his gaze gotstuck on the masts that reached into the sky behind the attic. "Didyour father actually forbid you to shoot a bow?" Johannesfinally asked. Antonia looked at him with a grin. "Yes, he has.He doesn't know anything about it,- But I've always run away, as youshould know. I really have to go home now. You'd best stay here now."Johannes nodded and hugged her briefly. "Good luck at home. Ishould go too. My dad is going fishing again today when his mass isover and he goes to the boat." As in storytelling, he kepttalking. "Sometimes I really enjoy sailing and fishing. But younever get any further than down the river." Antonia was silentfor a moment, as if Johannes had preached a sermon like the priestbefore. "See you later." She then said and climbed onto alower wall. "See you later.", Johannes called and divedlike a fish on the other side of the roof.

London The water here is cold. Muddy wetnessslapped against the small windows in billows. It swallows paths andthe roots of trees. Nobody here knows about me at the moment. Ihaven't left the brown city, and I haven't arrived here either. I canmove here, across seas and walls, but not be here yet. The riverpeople lock their doors to the wet tongue of the Thames. It flowsthrough the buildings like a dirty ribbon. The river is part of thecity. Here it belongs to the people, surrounded by roads and strongbridges that stand above the gurgling water. As if they hate him,they flee and abuse him, as if they haven't seen their need for himyet. But I can see that the sailors are not afraid of the water. Theysail, as always, or bring their sacks and cases to shore in rockingwooden bowls. But the boatmen are locked in stone cages next to thebig bridge, where they have to stay until they leave the city acrossthe river. I still have to wait. As long as I'm not here, I can'tsatisfy the hunger that rages inside me and wants satisfaction. iwant this city She is like the mirror of the brown city and has aconnection to it, just like two magnets are bound together by aninvisible force. The lines of their trading voyages run from one tothe other. I can't walk that far without being carried. But the shipscome from far away. I see that they are scuffed, like after longjourneys. Yes, nowhere could travel be easier than with ships andpeople. A small boat now leaves the wet shore and rows back to theship. The man in the boat waves to the people on the boat that hasthe brown floe on top and climbs up the ladder. The boat is pulledafter him. On the castle at the far end, a skipper raises his handand a crank is turned. I follow the ship out of the harbor onto thewater. It drives back to the brown city ck, leaves the gray city withits tongue-in-cheek masses of river. The ship will be my messengerfrom brown to gray if I don't lose it. It goes on a journey anddisappears in the waves until beyond the horizon. The water on theship's hull glitters and sprays the men on deck with foam as the grayslowly fades away. Unseen, unheard like me, the city is gone again.

2nd chapter

The weather was muggy and hot, depriving theEnglish Gruwe of the last of the day's oxygen. Only little Mia wasn'tin a bad mood and listless, the only person who felt fresh. Jakob wasback and present at the meal. It was two days since Johannespracticed with Antonia outside the walls. Ava didn't mention anythingand the whole time acted like nothing happened. Antonia kept thankingher internally for being so good at keeping quiet and hoping that shewould continue to do so. The bread tasted drier than usual. But Hansdidn't want to buy a new one just yet, not before the ship with thenew cargo of wool came from London. Then he wanted to raise money byselling the wool and buy new bread. Fresh. For a few days, until themoney ran out again. "There will be thunderstorms for sure."Antonia guessed with a look outside. Mia shrugged and sang toherself. The others were also rather silent and brooded over theirplates. "Mia, stop singing, my head is pounding." Jakobsnorted, "and we'll sit at the table." Antonia looked downat her plate in sudden silence. Otherwise Jakob was in a much bettermood, although he had no reason to be. Actually, Jakob had the leastto laugh about. Her father wanted him to be a businessman - but theeducated stargazer only wanted to go to sea. Traveling and furtherthan the horizon until he knew the stars no more. He had told Antoniathat, but otherwise he couldn't talk about it. Soon they wanted tomake their way to the quay. Under the sky that threatened tosuffocate everyone like a black blanket. If the sky were to fall, itwould destroy the whole world, the clouds were so heavy and low,Antonia was sure. In the almost night-dark hall she glanced out thewindow. At the same moment a drop flew into her face and into thedamp, oppressive air, the clouds broke and the sky emptied itsbarrels as if it had actually fallen to the ground itself. Nobody wason the quay. But the merchant family left their house, even Avastumbling on her clogs in the rain. The ship drew like a shadow outof the veil of rain and came towards the bank. Like a whale or aniceberg, an iceberg with a young flatfish at the tip of the ship'skeel. "If you keep standing here like the trees, we'll besoaking wet. At least stand under an archway!” Ava scolded andpulled Mia with her. When she struggled, Ava put an arm around her."Stop fidgeting. You shouldn't blame me if you need expensivecough syrup afterwards!" "Here we are, Mr. Heinar! HeinarScholle!” yelled Jakob and waved. "Stop using that nickname!"ordered Hans, "His name is Heinar - the floe is hanging at thefront of the ship." Jakob shrugged his shoulders behind hisback. Antonia said nothing and smiled quietly to herself. Only Miagiggled quietly to herself. "Tomorrow we'll buy fresh breadagain!" said Hans and nodded to the ship's captain. Herr Heinar,just Heinar Scholle to the children, shouted an order down to thesailors and waved to the family. Ava kept shooing her. "So nowyou leave it to the sailors to take care of the money - Mia, comewith me! We go home!" Mia sighed deeply and tried to scowl, butshe couldn't. Ava moved her to Gruwe, England. On the wall of numberone hung a white and black sign with the inscription "EnglishGruwe" Mia watched the drops that found their way over thewriting and murmured the name to herself. "Angel pit, angelpit..." "English pit," Antonia corrected, "it'snot an angel pit. Our neighbors are not angels. We neither.""But I think Engelsgrube sounds much nicer," Mia grumbled,"that's what the sign says." "Now you're lying, Mia.You can't read, you know that." Ava said smiling and patting hershoulder. "Your sister is right. But now in with you.” Avaushered the family inside. It looked sad in the rain. You couldhardly see the small windows on the floor above. Behind them laytheir father's dark granaries and fish stores. Bigger windows weren'tneeded there. But the living room and hallway had large windows thatwere divided into many small panes of glass. It reflected the lightof the candles in the room in the evening, but now when it rained rthousands of drops ran towards the ground and blurred the street whenlooking from the inside out. Ava, Antonia and Mia were three in thehall and looked at it. Jakob had stayed on the quay and was helpingthe sailors with the cargo. "It looks like a different worldwhen you look out through the rain." Mia murmured at some point.


Return The floe ship flies in the south-east wind,taking advantage of the strong wind under the sky. When the captainshouts an order, the ship pans slightly and changes course. Thejourney is monotonous for the sailors like an endless loop of waves.The emptiness is vast and desolate like a desert without livingbeings, the same horizon everywhere. Sometimes a person looks aheadand seeks the green-brown coast. She's still far away. Beyond thehorizon where the sultry air begins. Clouds of inky shadow now hangover the rooftops of their target. The sun is very reserved. Everynow and then, when a seagull hoots, people all look up in fear andwatch the sky above them, not seeing a hint of me lurking everywherebetween them. The dusty noon of the day before yesterday seems tohave hidden itself between the days and spread out again like puffsof fetid smoke from a huge fire. The muggy exhausts everything.People's senses no longer recognize scent and become slower in allthings. And at the top of this muggy her hands catch the first drops.Much later, the weary sailors also see the city to which they havereturned. I see a sparkle in her eyes. It's wet and windy, thethunder rumbles at them, but they're happy because they're home. Theywant to see their friends and family again. But not all of theiracquaintances will still be alive when they arrive, some have alreadyembarked on their final journey. Maybe that last trip was even herfirst. Ordinary people rarely leave their shores and almost nevertravel. The ship people are different, they travel all their livesand I travel forever. I just don't have a home. Sometimes I'vewondered what a home should be. You are bound to it. But I'm not tiedto anything in the world. The brown floe sticks its flat head intothe harbor where no one is waiting for it to receive it. Only a groupof tall and short people stand at the edge. The captain waves at them- yes, his home. His home is my biggest hunger satiator. A tall boystands in front, two girls behind, otherwise a woman puts her armaround their shoulders. A man greets the ship and also keeps close tohis children. You make it easy for me to jump from one to the other,don't you? But no one is available yet. I'm three brown houses away,but not with them. I hope they go my way! But they turn the otherway, down the dark, narrow alley. And only the rain drips from thesky. I'm disappointed, for a moment I thought the rain made me sad,but I don't even know what sadness is. I am the plague I don't havefeelings.

3rd chapter

The next morning Antonia woke with a start. It hadoccurred to her that she wanted to meet Johannes today beforebreakfast so that no one would notice. She quickly got ready. Shewashed quietly, put on her summer dress and then very slowly closedthe bedroom door behind her so as not to wake Mia up. She was a verylight sleeper and Antonia screwed up her plans often enough. She wentinto the kitchen, cut off a slice of the bread she had boughtyesterday and bit into it with relish. How nice it was to finallyhave fresh bread again! She stayed in the kitchen as long as shecould afford. Then she packed the bread again. It was cut in such away that when you looked at it you didn't notice the missing piece.She went down to the hall to get her bow and slipped out the doorinto the open. There she raised her head to the sky and took a deepbreath. After the rain shower, the air was fresh and light as cottonto breathe. She laughed softly and pulled her bow from her back tocradle it in her hand. She knew it was a good bow. The string feltstrange in the hand. You could feel how lethal this weapon could be.When the merchant's daughter drew the bow, she felt the power in itand the impact of the arrow when it hit a target. Why did sheactually learn archery from Johannes, someone who didn't do much morethan kill mosquitoes? Antonia wondered if there was a battlesomewhere, if she would fight. She probably wouldn't be good enoughyet. But if she were to go on a journey, I'm sure she would need somefighting skills. Her mother had taken a trip, one one zig. After thatshe had lived in a city without ever leaving it until her death.Apart from her, Antonia knew no other woman who had travelled. Buther mother was long dead and memories blurred. "Antonia, comehere, I finally want to see you shoot down trees again!", shesuddenly heard Johannes call, "Run, otherwise they'll try toflee!" Antonia laughed and passed Johannes without much trouble,he caught up and they stopped in front of the walls. "They openin five minutes. We have to wait.” Antonia said quietly. Johannesnodded and pointed to the bow. "I think that sounds mean, but doyou want to see how long you can draw the bow?" Sometimes youhave to aim for a very long time.” Antonia nodded and cocked it.One of the guards watched them suspiciously as if he saw her as anenemy archer, which was actually insane. Women were not even allowedto fight in the army. Not even to play. Antonia didn't care. Sheconcentrated again on keeping the bow taut. It was getting tiring.After a minute she gave up. "That was really good" Johanneswas amazed. "Thank you" Antonia answered out of breath andrubbed her arms. After another minute, the gate finally opened.Antonia and Johannes ran through it and onto the surrounding meadows.Over time, a small trail had formed to their meeting point. Arrivingat her traditional archery meadow, where there were probably a fewshot arrows lying in the long grass, Antonia immediately startedshooting at the target painted on the tree. The first shots missed,but then it got better. After a while Johannes stopped her: “Take abreak. Just shooting gets boring later. I have one more idea. In realfights, arrows need to be fired in quick succession while still beingpulled out of the quiver one at a time. Try it out" Antoniatried, but the arrow just wouldn't connect to the string. After awhile she became impatient. She just couldn't shoot two arrows injust a few seconds. Finally she shot a blunt arrow at Johannes withvery little tension and he acted out a very theatrical death. Lyingon the ground, he sang the dance of death from the church. "Youdidn't die of the plague!" Antonia corrected jokingly. Johnstarted laughing. ''All right'', He stood up again. The sun was justabove the city wall when it felt the meadow with its rays and Antoniaand Johannes, exhausted, let themselves fall on the wet grass.Antonia moaned, "Phew, that was exhausting!" "Yes,that's right. But you're getting better and better.” Johannesmumbled softly. "for only starting serious practice two weeksago." "Thanks! I also have a good teacher”, Antoniathanked. The arrows glittered in the cold sun, which was still verysmall and sent only a few rays to earth. She slowly climbed a churchtower and for a while neither said anything. "Would you like topractice again tomorrow?" Johannes finally asked. "I alwayswant to," she answered softly. It was the truth. Butunfortunately it didn't always work. "I do not know if I can.Dad often wants things from me that I don’t know about beforehand.”"Well then..." Johannes sighed. They lay next to each otherfor a while when Johannes suddenly pointed to the sun. "Don'tyou have to go back?" Startled, Antonia jumped up. ,,You'reright. I have to hurry if I don't want to be late again!” They ranback at a run. The security guard at the gate gave her a puzzledlook, but didn't check her. By now most of the guards knew her bysight, some even personally. A few steps further Johannes had to turninto another alley. "Goodbye!" Antonia called. He waved ather with a smile and disappeared. Antonia ran on when a gentleman infarts and a long green coat came up to her from the back of thebaker's pit. He rode a gray horse, a rare breed of horse in this partof town. Oddly enough, he rode purposefully towards her withoutdismounting and spoke to her; "Are you Antonia, daughter of themerchant(surname)?" "Yes sir," she replieduncertainly, having been approached by a stranger and, judging by theclothes, clearly a rich man. "Good. See you again.” the mansaid without any expression on his face. Then he rode away again.Antonia wondered, irritated, what kind of encounter that had been.She had no idea that she would soon hate him as deeply as she couldwith the little knowledge she had about him. "Antonia, dresssensibly! What's with the dirt stain on your dress? It wasn't hereyesterday!" Antonia crawled a little deeper behind he her platewhen Hans pointed to her dress. "Hans," Ava pleaded, "I'llmake sure you dress sensibly. Trust me. That's what I'm here for."Hans snorted and eyed Jakob and Mia, immaculately dressed and eating."And where did the stain come from?" he asked anyway, witha knowing undertone in his voice. Jacob looked up cautiously anddefended his sister: "The stain was there yesterday, father."The father turned angrily. "I didn't ask for your opinion,"he said. "It wasn't an opinion. It was a fact.” Jakob answeredwith a grin. He was quite a know-it-all when it came to things likethat. Antonia's father snorted and then became very gentle for hisstandards. He smoothed his forehead lines as far as they could besmoothed, relaxed his mouth, and tried to smile. "I'm sure youall know that we don't have much money.", he said friendly andlooked at Antonia. Antonia stared back. The look in his eyes meantI'm sorry, I'm sure everything will be fine. She got a little scaredbecause she couldn't interpret his behavior. Ava sighed. "Youhave the tact of a stuttering woodpecker. Get to the point, Hans.”She looked away as if she had nothing to do with any of this. Miastopped eating. "But we have a lot of money, father," shedecided firmly, "We have food, and we have a house, a ship, acaptain, and..." "We have all that, but it's getting lessand less," said Hans angrily, "Jakob hasn't managed to geta job yet, which is understandable. He can hardly become a merchantif we only have one ship. Mia is small. We have to come to asolution. I have therefore found a solution for the two older onesthat will not satisfy you, but it is the only one. It can't bechanged." Despite Ava's warning, Hans hesitated for a whilebefore telling the family what he wanted to say. "Jakob, you'regoing to take the ship to London in three weeks. Antonia, you'regetting married. I don't want to hear any protests," he saidthen. His face grew stern again and looked around so angrily that noone dared to say anything say. “Jakob becomes a merchant, travelsto London as a captain and sells our goods there. Maybe he'll get intouch with the other merchants, find supporters and anapprenticeship. At least you can communicate quite well.”, heturned to Jakob. The young man sat frozen at the table and stoppedhis spoon halfway to his mouth. His eyes were big. Inside, Antoniadidn't react to her father. But she noticed the looks she got fromMia and Ava. Jacob looked horrified. "What am I supposed to doin London? And how long should I stay there?” he asked helplessly."You must know that yourself, I have often explained to you howa merchant works." Hans answered. He looked like he'd had enoughof this conversation already. His eyes locked on Jacob so he couldn'tlook away either. "And what happens to Antonia?" , askedJakob in a somewhat calmer voice. Antonia stared into her soup.Marry. She should get married. It was one of those moments when lifeholds its breath just so you can understand what what you're sayingmeans. "No!" she suddenly said loudly. Jakob and Hansstopped and looked at her. Ava kept eating. She gave her a pityinglook. Mia gaped between her agitated siblings. The others wereshocked by the news or pressured into doing something they didn'twant to do. But Mia understood everything that was happening aroundher. Soon she would be alone in the house. Antonia, the funny bigsister, who often ran wild and merrily through the dirt, would becomea grown lady who cleaned, cooked and sewed and was nothing likeAntonia anymore. Jacob couldn't see her anymore. Then she had no moresiblings. No siblings to take care of them or soothe the father. Noweveryone just looked at Antonia, Jakob or her father, but nobodylooked at her. She started crying when no one spoke to her. "Idon't want them to go away Dad!" she screamed, looking at himwith pleading eyes. Ava stood up calmly and led Mia out of the roomto comfort her. The remaining family members were silent for a fewminutes, hearing voices from the stairwell where Ava tried to calmMia down. Finally they faded away. Ava walked Mia up the stairs."Father, I will promise not to roam around if I don't have toget married." Antonia begged softly. She did not want. She hadto be able to walk freely through the city and shoot a bow. Shedidn't want to be tied to a man! And what about Johannes? what wouldhe say When she met Johannes, they were just friends eat. By now shewas sure that their relationship was something other than justfriendship. "Antonia, I want you to listen to me carefully for amoment, okay?" Her father asked desperately. When Antonia lookedinto his eyes, she saw that he was about to cry too. She had almostnever seen him cry. The sight was even worse than the prospect ofhaving to get married. Her father was not allowed to cry! That justdidn't work. Very slowly she sat back in her chair. Without realizingit, she jumped up. "Keep calm," said Hans. "It wasnever about your being wild or stray, it doesn't bother me that much.I love you Antonia, do you understand?” Hans wasn't very good atsaying things like that. Antonia didn't move. "Even if you don'tunderstand. We've run out of money for all of us. There is only onepossibility: You have to start a new trip to London immediately.""Where am I supposed to find someone who has more money than wedo and wants to marry me?" she asked harshly. "Please don'tget me wrong," Hans replied, "but it's already settled.Your groom was here this morning. I received an application.”"Green Coat," Antonia almost whispered, "That was it?"She didn't dare to say more because Hans was still looking at herpleadingly. He nodded. She dropped her head in her arms and closedher eyes. When Hans tried to stroke her hair, she fell back. Shetried her best not to cry. Jacob didn't know what to say. There wereenough stars over the ocean. But Antonia's stars seemed to be dimmingfrom now on. “He is very wealthy and already knows his way aroundwomen. He has been widowed for two years. His house is higher up,near the town hall.” Antonia jumped up as she felt the tearswelling up in her eyes. She turned away from the others so theywouldn't see. Finally she left the room and retreated to the hallway.Hans followed her through the door. "Antonia, where are yougoing?" he asked loudly. "I go. somewhere. To the water.“,she called back choked and put her coat back on. Then she ranoutside. She didn't care about her father. She knew her way aroundthe stone labyrinths of the backyards, where she could happily greeteach dog by name. Her father did not follow her for long, it would bein vain. The water behind the city wall could hardly be seen. Antoniasearched the wall and the surrounding area for a place to hide andrest. She hadn't the slightest desire to go through the gate guardscrying. I couldn't believe it. No matter who, no matter how rich, shedidn't want to marry him. But just this silly rider in his greencloak? "Never!", She sat between two trees on the side ofthe road. But she knew that there was really nothing she could doabout it, so she hid a little deeper and tried to calm down. That wasjust the beginning. She didn't know how her father's decision wouldchange her life. It was evening when she returned. Nobody but Ava wasin the living room. She sat alone in a chair and stared into a candleburning on the table. The sun would probably go down soon. Antoniahad calmed down after a while but hadn't gone back home. Instead, shehad left the city to wander the surrounding fields. A lot of forestgrew around the city. Black, dark forest full of wolves or bears. Herfamily hardly knew anything about it. Her paternal grandfather hadcome from another city, but she had never met him. Her father grew upwith a merchant who adopted him after his grandfather's early death.Her mother came from London. Her grandmother had also lived there, ofwhom Antonia only knew a few rumours. But Antonia remembered none ofthem. Only her father was still alive and her mother had died shortlyafter Mia was born. Of anything. A cold, inexplicable grief, plus anexhausting birth. That was probably too much. Who knew? So manypeople died. Before Mia and before Jakob another child was born anddied after a few days or weeks. Now someone died every day from theplague that crept into the city. Actually, it was strange that allher ancestors came from other cities far away. This knowledgesometimes caused the girl dreams of rolling waves and rattling wheelswhile the stars moved in the sky. Sometimes she saw figures callingand singing on distant banks and walls, her mother and grandmother,and the siblings who had not survived. They were like ghosts ll whilethe world moved. But then those dreams seemed to stop and waves andwheels became a cage. Or to that dark dining room lit by Ava'scandle. After a while, Ava raised her head and looked at Antonia. Notjust friendly, as usual, but a little sad. "Your father isn'tangry," she said after a while. "I don't care.",Antonia answered and sat down opposite her, "that's clear, heknows exactly what he did." "If he had asked youbeforehand, you would have said no," Ava replied, "And hestill would have had to get engaged to you. He has no choice either.Or would you have said yes?" "No. It's not about that."Antonia stared at the tabletop and rested her head on it, "Whydid he do that if he loves me?" The trouble was, she knew fullwell. But actually she wasn't ready to give up all her freedom forher family. "You know that very well," Ava said softly.Both were silent for a while. "How am I supposed to get alongwith this guy?" asked the distraught girl. Ava raised hereyebrows. "Well then, this nice man?" Antonia finallycorrected, "In case you like it better." "Kid, you canget along with anyone if you really want to," Ava replied, "He'srich. He won't be around the house with you often. You just have tostop adventuring all the time and you act like you're a boy.Eventually..." She leaned forward and looked at her seriously,“…you are called a witch. Do you know what this means?"Antonia was a little startled when Ava got so serious. "I know abit about witches," she said softly, "The old widow Ursulashould have been one before she died of the plague. Then people saidmaybe it wasn't her after all. And witches are unpopular.” "You'renot just unpopular," Ava explained, "You're going to beburned, Antonia. It always ends badly after a while. When you'remarried, it's a lot easier not to be mistaken for one. Be careful.You are still a child. But that will change. Watch out you don'tbecome a witch please, just watch out you become a good housewife whowon't be mistaken for that, okay? I know it sounds a bit exaggerated.But I've been worried about this for a long time. Be a godly girl andsoon a woman.” "Why doesn't father send me to the monastery?"Antonia asked sullenly. Ava just laughed. "Ask him, Antonia. Nowstop sulking. I also wish you could have stayed a kid longer. I gotmarried earlier than you. Just be yourself without overdoing it.”"You just said that I should be braver.", she answeredconfused. But Ava didn't answer. Outside, the summer evening wasdrawing to a close. The bells began to play. Antonia listened withoutreally hearing them. "How old was mom when she got married?"she then asked. Ava thought dreamily for a while. "I never mether. But I think she was about your age when she came here.""Why?" Antonia asked. "I don't know.", Avasighed, "So. Soon only Mia will be here. I wish Jakob luck onhis journey. Go to your bed now, please. Sleeping on it definitelyhelps.” No it doesn't help. I've made up my mind. I don't know.Antonia thought it so loud on the stairs she thought Ava could hearit. She didn't hear it. But she already knew Antonia's thoughts wellenough.

At the quay

The girl who stood with her family on the stonebank two sunrises ago comes back there like a lonely bird. And like abird of prey approaching the sparrow, I'm getting closer. There arepeople near her that I already have in my claws. I know she's notescaping. This time she won't avoid me because I'm not just in thehouses anymore. I have no feelings. I never had any. Still, I'm notsure if she might escape the evil, the evil of the boarded-up doorsand windows. But this thought cannot be true. Nobody escapes me. aboy, looking at her, cautiously strolls near her. I recognize himtoo. He was also on the quay when the heavy rain wet the floe ship.But I don't recognize anyone else. I've never memorized people'sfaces since the beginning of time, with a few exceptions. Theexceptions were people I always slipped away from, over and overagain. People wither and freeze when they catch me. Some lose theirbreath. But some people never take me on their shoulders. There arealways such, but so far they have not changed the fact that myexistence has reduced human life. But I have these z two faces, therain family in front of the floe ship, noted. Maybe it was acoincidence. That's what people call these things. But almost nothingis a coincidence. They only name the moments and things that havehappened that they cannot explain and those that they do not want tobelieve and therefore deny. I don't have to do anything to get intothese two. I will deliver by myself. Today the sun shines. A badweather. All rats are in the shadows and humans are not. But on suchdays I can make people my messengers. For example, the old, hunchedwoman walking near the bank's edge. Like a rat, she approaches thetwo young people. The girl raises her head and turns it towards mybearer. She and her companion say nothing, but stand on the quay,staring into space as if searching for me in it. You won't findanything. I am not where I see them from, but very close to them, inan old human rat. The woman opens her mouth. "Do you have food?"she asks croakingly. She could have said something more dramatic as amessenger of the plague. I can think of things, but she has no ideahow deep I'm in her. People just don't know who I am. "No, I'msorry, we left without food," says the girl. She sounds soft andher voice is as weak as a sparrow's. She puts a hand on the woman'sshoulder as if trying to cheer her up. The woman growls something andpushes close past them. "I wish we could just escape," thegirl then whispers to the boy. You want to escape? How does she knowI'm following her right now? "I can escape," says the boy.I would laugh if I had a body. he cannot flee from me, the woman wastoo close to him. "I'm sorry Antonia. I didn't know about iteither. maybe if I make money I can do something, but it probablywon't work. Don't you like him?" "No. I met him. He had noexpression on his face, it was like talking to a ghost. He's hadanother woman before me! I'm only sixteen,-" The girl suddenlystops and puts her hands over her face. I do not know what thatmeans. I've seen it before. People do it often. But now she doesn'tdo it for me like they usually do I withdraw from the territory ofthe pylons and hover over the city again. I can feel it stretching meout and making me bigger. nevertheless I am not standing at the quaywall. Why am I not standing at the quay wall? I should be standingthere, but I'm not. Why am I not standing in the form of two youngpeople in front of the Schollenschiff, my new bridge to the watertown? The two children are still below me, but they have not become apart of me. It's like they fought me off. And I also know that theydid. They are like the few other people I slip on like glass. Likethe glass in which I can't see my reflection. It's good that Iremembered their faces. I will come back to you. I was very, veryclose to them. I will be again. They should be afraid of me next timeand cover their eyes because of me, with which they could not see meif they left them uncovered.

4th chapter

It was Friday, three days since the arrival of thefloe. After getting up, Antonia found only Ava in the kitchen. Shewashed the dishes that the others had used for breakfast. ,,There youare! Everyone else has already had breakfast, but I was able to saveyou a piece of bread." Ava greeted her kindly. Antonia took thebread and bit into it tiredly. She had lain awake late in theevening, thinking about what had happened To come to Johannes andtell him what had happened. She just needed to get rid of everythingand she didn't know what to do besides meeting Johannes. He was agood listener. "Where's Jakob?" she asked softly. Herbrother had taken her to the wharf and spoken to her after ignoringeveryone all morning. The news hit him too. But Hans hadn't enteredinto any discussion with him. "He's in town with your father,"Ava replied. Antonia swallowed the last of the bread and hurried toget to Johannes. She stood up unexpectedly quickly and Ava jumped,almost dropping the plate she was washing. "Oh, sorry,"Antonia said quickly, "I'm going outside for a walk." Avajust nodded and grabbed the dishcloth. She was still a bit takenaback by Antonia's sudden jump. The girl introduced her en plate nextto the pile of others and left the room. "Thanks for thebreakfast!" she called back over her shoulder. She ran down thehallway and was almost at the stairwell when she tripped over theloose floorboard. She sat a little higher than usual. Antoniasquatted on the floor and decided to put the bow away better. Ittowered above the ground level, she had probably forgotten to push itproperly under the floorboards the day before. She lifted the boardand tugged at her bow, but the other end was caught somewhere.Antonia carefully slipped her arm into the hole, almostshoulder-deep, and unclipped the bow from the protruding board ornail it was caught on. She checked under the floorboards again to seewhat had been holding him. Something bright lay near where her bowhad jammed. It had never occurred to her that there was anything elsein the compartment. When Antonia stuck her arm deep into the subflooragain, she felt something thin and soft under her fingers. What isthat? she wondered. She reached for the dusty thing and pulled out atied stack of scrolls, all with broken red seals. She stared at thepackage in surprise. The seal on the parchment was that of herfamily. There was no way Antonia could read the letters here, whereeveryone could see them. She quickly placed her bow neatly on theleather quiver, pinned the floorboard and went upstairs to her room.She was lucky, the room was empty. Mia was probably playing outsidesomewhere. So she had her peace for now. Antonia excitedly sat downon her bed and pulled the first letter from the ribbon that tied themtogether. She had to cough, it was so dusty. After she waved her handin the air a few times, the gray dust settled and she was able tostart reading what was written on the small piece of parchment. Theletter was addressed to Viola. That was her mother's name. Antoniastared at the name in disbelief, looking at the neat, intricatehandwriting that seemed unfamiliar to her. The letter looked as if ithad been under the floorboards for some time. Probably since hermother died. Dear Viola, she deciphered. unfortunately I have tobring you bad news. You probably remember how much I always likedpicking mushrooms and how well I know about herbs because of myhusband. After his death, however, some people suddenly becamesuspicious of me, why I can cure illnesses with herbs. They watch mewhen I go into the forest and whenever someone dies after drinkingone of my herbal potions, rumors spread that I was involved, eventhough it has usually been years since that person drank my potion. Ijust want to help people, but instead they call me a witch. It's nota lot of people. But it's enough to make it dangerous. I promise you,my daughter, I am not a witch with magical abilities, I have nothingto do with the dead. But it doesn't matter if other people think it'sme. I just hope the rumors stop soon and don't get to the priest. Youknow how things usually turn out. Hopefully people will come to theirsenses, but once they find a victim, it's very unlikely they'll giveup. I have no choice but to wait. Please don't tell anyone aboutthis! Maybe then you will also be called a witch and I would like toprevent that at all costs. I will write to you as often as possible.Please take care of yourself! Your loving mother. Antonia caught herbreath. Your grandmother was accused of being a witch! But whathappened? And what did grandfather have to do with it? Wasn't he adoctor? Then it's very likely that her grandmother knew about him.Then why are people making such a fuss about it? After letting thequestions roam through her mind in horror, she thought again aboutwhat the witch hunt meant for the persecuted. She had never thoughtabout it. But now she remembered what Ava had told her that evening.Is it a coincidence that I am finding these letters now, the nextmorning? And did Ava know that grandmother might have been cremated?She said something like that happens to witches. Her gaze wandered tothe sealed scrolls of parchment beside her. Her grandmother must havehad money, as much parchment as that was. But back then the familyhad just been richer. Dejected, Antonia read the letter again. Sheremembered a little of her mother. She'd had blond hair, like her,but much darker eyes. When she was about seven re had died beforethat day, there had been a big funeral service. Just two years later,the misfortune seemed to be spreading to the finances. Aggressively,Antonia shook off the memories and slowly opened another letter. Itwas a letter almost seven months later. It was about almost the samethings. Nobody had informed the pastor. But no one took her herbalpotions anymore, except for some mothers who were worried about theirsick children and didn't know how to get out. He ended up like thefirst. i will wait Take care and don't tell anyone about this.Antonia scanned some of the other letters. For a brief moment sheforgot about the marriage, Jacob's departure and the meeting withJohannes. She had believed it herself, and once even participatedwhen a few people here in town called the widow Ursula witch andlaughed at her, or some threw clods of earth. But if she had been awitch, she could have fought the plague she was sick with. AndAntonia's grandmother would have fought back against the people whoattacked and teased her. Antonia stared thoughtfully at the lastletter. It was short and to the point. She had received a messagefrom the pastor and would not write anymore. A last greeting to thedaughter and a wish that she should keep everything secret and takegood care of herself. Antonia Ava had not believed that witch huntscould get so bad. Was she cremated like so many of the witches oralleged witches? Antonia found the idea terrifying. In fact, she hadnever really thought about whether the women allegedly accused ofbeing witches really were witches. In general, she had never beeninterested in this topic. But now that she knew how her grandmotherhad fared, she was angry and sad. Angry at the people who persecutedand bullied her grandmother and sad that she had to suffer so andthat some innocent women were sentenced to death. She decided evenmore than before that she absolutely had to tell Johannes about it.That was the best way for her to organize her thoughts. Maybe hecould help her figure out what to do next, too. She hid the dustypackage back in the compartment under the floorboard. She also gother bow right away. But this time she couldn't help but think aboutwhat could happen to her if she refused to marry and behavedsuspiciously. She stormed out the door and ran through the narrowstreets of Lübeck to Johannes Haus to get rid of the gloomythoughts. Luckily, when she got there, he was already sitting on awall next to his house, tightening his bow. Johannes saw them andjumped off the wall to greet them. ,,Antonia! What are you doinghere?" he asked happily. "I absolutely have to talk toyou!" Panted Antonia out of breath from running, "A fewthings happened. You won't like it." "Then shoot away."Johannes replied with a worried frown. Antonia closed her eyes for amoment and rubbed her face. "Maybe we can do archery?" Shethen asked, "I have to distract myself for a moment. It's toomuch on my mind. That's why I want to calm down first and then I'lltell you everything." Johannes nodded and they went to theirarchery range. When they got there, John made them draw the bow againfor a long time. Antonia had practiced a little at home. So this timeit worked a little better. "Very good!" Johannes praisedher. But he still seemed concerned. He didn't mention a word ofserious events and after a short time managed to get Antonia fullyfocused again. After they practiced a little more, he challenged themto a shooting contest. "Whoever shoots all arrows first and hitsthe target wins. The prize is new arrows from me for you if you win,and you get me a new bowstring if I win." "All right."Antonia replied with a mischievous smile on her lips and hitJohannes's outstretched hand. "What is it?" Johannes askedand looked at her. "Oh, nothing," Antonia replied, hidingher grin. But Johannes had overlooked one small thing that wouldensure her victory. He seemed too focused on the shooting competitionto notice the mistake. Johannes looked at her a bit skeptically, butthen went into position. Antonia looked at his bow. Carved from athick sprig of hazelnut, it was quite good, but still not a real bowlike Antonia's. Johannes was better at archery. They could aim aboutequally, but her friend was probably faster. A Bo at the prospect oftricking the money and the purchases into trouble with her fatherAntonia could well do without getting a longing for genes. But not onthe new arrows. Some of their old ones were a bit blunt and Johannes'self-made arrows were better than any other arrows they could get.She quickly positioned herself next to Johannes in the shootingposition. "On your mark, get set..." Johannes lookedquestioningly at Antonia. She nodded. "Ready, go!" Both ofthem nimbly drew the first arrow from their quivers. Johannes, withyears of practice, had already fired his third arrow and was pullingout his fourth just as Antonia had just finished her second. She knewthat if she wanted to win, she had to hurry. After a short time shewas already screaming stop. She had ten arrows in the tree and herquiver was empty. "How are you done?" Johannes asked,puzzled. Antonia just shrugged her shoulders. "I was about toshoot my eighth arrow when you yelled stop." Antonia smiledwidely and said jokingly, "Well, maybe I'm just better thanyou." "Pfft" made Johannes, but immediately had tosmile. "Come on" he said, "we'll see how many arrowshave hit." Together they went to the tree where their targetwas. There were ten arrows from Antonias and eight from John. Hemarked his with pitch or something similar so he could recognize it.But that didn't do him any good now. ,,That is impossible! I wouldhave missed only two arrows and it would be at least a tie. It lookslike I need to make you some new arrows." Johannes said with asigh. "Yes, it seems so." Antonia replied with a broad grinon her face. Then she could no longer resist giggling. Spluttering,she looked at Johannes and was quietly happy about his completelyconfused face. Now Johannes was really taken aback. "What's sofunny?" he asked a little uncertainly. "Oh nothing,"Antonia claimed. Johannes continued to look at her questioningly."It's really nothing!" But she immediately had to startlaughing again. Johannes hadn't noticed why she had won. It was soobvious. Now Johannes no longer believed her. He stood there with hisarms crossed and looked at Antonia skeptically. "Now tell me,what's the matter?" Suddenly he had a flash of inspiration. "Didyou cheat?" Antonia stopped laughing and looked at him with agrin and a little guilty. ,,I knew it! I knew something was wrongwhen you won! It would also be funny if you were suddenly better thanme." Johannes exclaimed a little conceitedly and asked with asmile on his lips: "Come on, speak up, how did you manage me,me, him greatest archer of all time to trump?" Antonia had tolaugh. "All right, I'll tell you, greatest archer of all time,but first you have to promise me that the bet will be voided."Antonia looked at Johannes and both had to grin. "Okay, but onlybecause you cheated and I lost. So tell me, how did you do that?"Antonia smiled. "Quite simply, there were four arrows stuck inthe bark from our previous exercise, and since you didn't look, Ijust left them in place. But I still had to make quite an effort sothat you didn't overtake me. But it's too funny you didn't see it!"Johannes had to grin. "I'll definitely check that next time.Pretty clever of you to just keep it a secret! Next time you shouldlook more innocent." He pulled one of their arrows out of thethick bark and examined it closely. He did the same with a secondone. "Should I still make you some new arrows? Yours are almostready for firewood.", he commented on his objects ofinvestigation. Antonia had to laugh, but nodded her thanks. ,,Yesvery much! But I can't meet my price. I don't have spare bowstrings.But you can borrow my whole bow if you want." "Too bad. Youcould also carry my bow for me.", Johannes suggested. "No,"Antonia said firmly. "Not even this one time?" Johannesasked mischievously. "No." Johannes averted his gaze andthen looked at her seriously. "Shall we now discuss what we'regoing to do next and then tell me what happened to you?" Antoniajust nodded. She hated to be reminded of what had happened, or whatwas likely to happen soon. It took her a moment to suppress thethoughts again. "Well," Johannes began, "I thinkyou're already really good at a lot of things. That's why I thoughtthat next time we'd practice hitting the target from a long distance.Because you're sure of your aim, but the enemies are coming in a realfight and are still far away n. So I think it would be good topractice that too. Do you want?" Antonia nodded vigorously."Yes, I'd love to!" She wanted to learn as much aspossible. "But what about today's exercise? I can't really do ityet." "Oh, fast consecutive shooting just takes a littletime to master. We can do that again and again and at some point youwill be able to do it. I'm not really good at it either. But you getbetter at it every time. And now finally tell me what happened! I'vebeen waiting for this all morning. It doesn't seem like it's a goodthing when you visit even your worst enemy for it." He grinnedamiably at his irony and carefully pulled the darts out of thepainted target. Antonia sighed and nodded. Together they sit down onthe grass and Antonia started to talk. She told everything from thestrange man she met to her brother's planned marriage and futureplans, all of which were arranged by her father. She said nothingabout the letters. These should remain her secret for the time being,until she found out more about them. The two sat silently side byside on the grass, lost in their thoughts, trying to sort them outand understand what had happened and find a solution from it. AfterAntonia had told Johannes everything, she felt much lighter, like astone had fallen from her heart. It was good to talk to someone aboutit and get rid of all thoughts and events for once. Johannes hadactually just sat there quietly while she was telling her story, perhaps nodding now and then. Everything Antonia had said was somehowtoo much for him. Why on earth should Antonia get married? He couldunderstand that marriages were arranged, especially when money was atstake. It was good to be married to someone rich. He knew that.Actually it was normal to get married at Antonia's age, but Antoniadidn't fit the role of a wife. Well, such marriages were normal, butwhy did Antonia have to get married at all? She wasn't allowed to bemarried, at least not yet. Because if she did, their time togetherwould stop immediately. He knew that. He also knew that Antonia wouldnever willingly consent to the marriage, and he knew there wasprobably no way around it. Because Antonia's father had chosen a richman. This marriage would end the family's problems, so her fatherwould never break off the engagement. It was probably best to acceptthe whole thing and enjoy the remaining time together, but he didn'twant that, nor did Antonia. Both hung on their thoughts for a whileuntil they got up and went home in silence. They parted at thecrossroads behind Stadtrot. When Antonia got home, there was alreadya surprise waiting for her. She was just stepping through the doorwhen her father gave her an unusually boisterous greeting. ,,Thereyou are! I've been looking for you everywhere! Come on, let Ava helpyou clean up. We have visitors." Already Ava came and draggedAntonia with her. Jakob was standing nearby and wanted to saysomething, but then silently retired to his room. Ava pulled Antoniainto her bedroom. "First of all, go take a bath, Antonia, allthe dirt has to get off you, after all we want you to look neat forour guest!" Ava said and started pouring hot water into the tub.She winked to her encouragingly and took the empty kettle back intothe kitchen. Antonia wondered who this important visit was supposedto be. Maybe a trading partner of her father? But then why should shebe there? Her father usually always met privately with his partnersand strictly forbade them to disturb. Ava would not be spoken to whenshe came into the bathroom and refilled the water. Antonia slowlyundressed and climbed into the tub. When Antonia came out of thebathroom, her finest Sunday dress was already lying on her bed. Sinceshe was supposed to be in her best dress, it must be a reallyimportant visit. Normally she only wore this dress on publicholidays. Ava helped her get dressed and then tied her hair up in abeautiful braid. Antonia never wore her hair like that. When she camedown, her breath caught. The strange man with the green coat - whichhe wasn't wearing right now - was sitting next to her father at thekitchen table. "Ah, there you are!" said her father when hesaw her. "Come sit down with us." Antonia slowly approachedthe two until she finally sat down across from them. Meanwhile, thestranger had watched her with interest the whole time. A shiver randown Antonia's spine. Her father immediately started talking: "Youknow each other h almost not yet, that's why I introduce eich to eachother. Antonia, this is the fiancé. His name is Wilhelm vonAarensforst. He is a very noble man and would like to enter into thebond of marriage with you. Isn't that nice?" He looked at herinvitingly. His fuss seemed only to make Antonia act like she waspleased in front of the man. Antonia is just starting anapprenticeship. She was too stunned to say anything. What was shesupposed to say anyway? nice to meet you? How great that you ruin mywhole life and want to marry me even though we don't know each other?That would be a lie. Well, except for the last one. Because theyreally didn't know each other. Her father hurried on to break theawkward silence that had fallen. "Please don't be surprised."Said her father smiling at Willhelm. "Antonia is a bit shy.Would you like to get to know her a bit? Then she would be more open.For example, you could tell something about their occupations. Iheard they like to go into the woods. Antonia likes to go for walkstoo!" He gave Antonia an encouraging look. But she stillcouldn't move. "You're welcome to ask Antonia questions, too!"Her father said, now addressing the man again. "Antonia, forexample, is very fond of reading, which is a bit unusual for girls,but her brother taught her." "Oh really?" said thenobleman. It was the first time that he spoke during this time. Hisvoice was deep and firm. Not as determined and swinging as herfather's, soft like Jakob's or cheerful like her from Johannes.Antonia didn't like that voice. It sounded wrong. As if someone elsewas speaking for this man. "I have a large library at home."Willhelm continued. "You're welcome to read all the books therewhen we're married. But always put them back in their place! I don'tlike it when things are messy." The first rule. thought Antonia.But she couldn't help feeling longing for a moment. She knew almostno books. There was a Bible in the church that she had read from timeto time, but everything was written in a foreign language. If thisgentleman actually owned books, that was the first opportunity forher to read a book. "You'll have to get used to a lot of newrules." Her fiancé continued straight away, as if he heard herthoughts. "We always have breakfast and dinner together. Youhave to eat by yourself at lunchtime, as I'm often out and aboutduring the day. And as for walks, always ask my permission. I don'tlike it when my wife strays around, it wouldn't be becoming and itwouldn't be okay either. I'm saying this specifically because I'veseen you often and heard from you. My wife should be like you aretoday, no different." Satisfied, the man leaned back andregarded her longingly, which made Antonia feel even moreuncomfortable. Anger rose in her. She didn't want anything to do withthis man who was already acting like they were married and Antoniahad already broken all his rules. What was that supposed to mean? Shewasn't allowed out of the house without his permission? That wasworse than her father's curfew, because with him she would have toobey it. She choked back tears of anger and just stared into theman's eyes. To her, he would just remain the greencoat. That was morefitting than the name Willhelm, because it made her sick. The man wasalready talking. "I have some employees. You will get to knowher. They will always accompany you, especially when I'm traveling.Then a lot will change anyway. But you will definitely grow into yourrole! It will be wonderful living with you. When will our weddingbe?" Unsure, Antonia looked at her father, but he looked to theside. Apparently he was uncomfortable looking at her. He quicklyasked Willhelm: "What do you think of half a year?"Willhelm stared down as if there was no question that he would marryAntonia right now. "After all, Antonia is still young and thenwe can prepare her a bit. Unfortunately, the death of her mothernever really prepared her for life as a wife. But Ava, ourhousekeeper, will prepare her perfectly," added her father . Itwas disturbing for Antonia to see him as a subordinate. The noblemanthought for a moment and then contradicted: "Half a year is toolong for me! What do you think of a month? I am sure by then she willhave learned everything she needs to know. Finally you assured methat she already knows quite a bit and a lot too is willing. Soteaching her the rest shouldn't be a problem during that time. Or wasit all just empty promises?" "No." said her father,"Antonia is a very good girl. But she hasn't spoken to you yet.It will take a little time. She's sixteen." "That's theright age to get married! In addition, I have a longer business tripthat I have to take during this time. So I would have liked to havedone it beforehand." Willhelm von Aarensforst replied. "Sir...your daughter was promised to me, so I determine the time of themarriage." Antonia sat stunned. The two talked about her as ifshe weren't even there. As if it were all just a trade. It probablywas. Hans bowed his head briefly and looked at Antonia in amazement.She had her head focused on the table top. Her father nudged herbriefly, trying to get her to be more polite. He wondered for amoment if perhaps Antonia had been too immature for marriage afterall. It was different from marrying a merchant's son, although itmight have been easier. Antonia stared wide-eyed at her father,though she tried to look relaxed. Then she looked Willhelm vonAarensforst in the eye because her gaze automatically wandered tohim. Suddenly she wished she looked like she had just come out ofarchery. Then he wouldn't want her anymore. "May I ask you whereyou live?", she finally got out with an extreme effort. "Itdoesn't matter to a woman where she lives. You won't have to go tothe market," he replied promptly, "I have no children. Mywife died three years ago, but we have several maids and servants . Awoman like you will enjoy living there, especially after years ofliving in an impoverished family." Antonia bit back everythingthat came to her mind at that moment, because the last sentence hadreminded her that she and her family had no other choice. Trade withLondon slowly picked up speed again, but Hans had lost almost alltrading partners. They needed money. Antonia felt like she was beingsold. With a glance at his watch, the coat man finally got up. "Well,I think we've discussed everything! Antonia will marry me in a month.In the meantime, I will take care of the pre-formal matters and youprepare Antonia accordingly." With that, he turned and walkedout of the room. Her father looked apologetically at Antonia. Then hequickly walked through the door to escort the man out. So in a monthshe was to marry this man with so many rules. In a month! Until then,she should also learn how to call a wife and what to do. Somethingshe had avoided all her childhood by running away. Before Antoniacould get really upset, Ava walked in and hugged her. At firstAntonia was still a little confused by this gesture, but then all thefeelings that had accumulated suddenly broke out of her. A tear fellfrom her eyes, then another. She cried, screamed, scolded, and criedagain. She was angry with her father for just marrying her, angrywith himself for not being able to do anything about it, andparticularly angry with the green man because she didn't want to callhim anything else. He didn't deserve to be called by his name. Avadidn't say anything but just listened to her quietly until shestopped and leaned slightly against her. Then her nanny pulled her toher feet and hugged her like that again. Antonia suspected Ava didn'tknow what to say. "Every girl your age gets married, Antonia."She finally said softly, "What did you think?" "ThatI'll always be a child.", Antonia replied and broke away fromAva, "I thought Jakob and I would remain children. He's threeyears older than me and isn't getting married!" Ava kissed herforehead and brushed her hair back. "Jakob is a boy, darling.You know the difference. Think how much you help your family! Andwhat good bread you will eat, what beautiful books to read."Antonia said nothing and tried to suppress the rebellion in her. Avawas right. She was no longer a child, she had to get married andmoney was needed. Money, it's always about money.

brown hands

The gray city stands still this time. It'sraining. It's been raining for days and the sky reflects the exactcolor of the city. The ships are washed clean by the open gates ofheaven. There are always new ships coming from distant places. Idon't know their names, but I know them. But no ship comes from thebrown city that can bring the black death here. No ship with ratsaboard to serve me. Tue This time I don't see the city from above,but from below. I'm in the mud, in the corner of an alley, looking atthe gray stones. They look like old, faded bones stuck in the wallswithout pride or strength. The wall feels like a wall underground,it's so wet. Brown hands stroke it and feel it. And I can feel it.I've been here before. A long time ago, but that doesn't matter. Ikeep coming back I don't know exactly where I'm coming from. I wasjust always there, somewhere, in the lows or the highs. The boatmenare too proud to stop sailing because of me. They are also too proudto notice the rain. They go out and steer their ships out to sea assoon as they have their cargo. That helps me. Maybe someone will cometo the brown city, or someone from there. I watch them from the quayand then float behind the ship into the Regenstoben. Not a drop stopsme. You almost seem to avoid me. I don't feel them. But I feel thedead from all the shipping towns. Dead. Another word from the people.The motionless, rigid, cold something that eventually embraces her,meaningless apparently, and almost always when I possess her. Exceptfor these few that shake me off. As often as I come every time Like agust of rain, I float from gray to brown to keep an eye on thesepeople. The two, the girl and the boy from the wharf, are still inthe brown city. But they are nowhere near a messenger like the oldwoman. She's lying in her bed coughing. I still have no sympathy forher. I have no pity for people. The two children are in a housesurrounded by brick walls. They sit there and eat things, throwingthe rest to the rats when they're done. They are stupid and ignorant,their ships don't change that, not even their houses. It's easy toget them. From them I am carried, and from them I get my reward. It'sall so easy as long as it works. But it does not work. Not at all.That's why I decided to catch her.

5th chapter

The family had one day left before the floe left.Ava assumed that Antonia and Jakob had calmed down, since neither hadprotested since the rich man in green coat entered their house. Aftera few days, Antonia desperately accepted that the future could nolonger be changed. Actually, she had wanted to live her life easily,but now someone planned it for her without asking her permissionfirst. A thousand thoughts fluttered through her head as she leanedon the windowsill and looked out of the bedroom; Thoughts of hergrandmother's letters, of the old widower, of Johannes and Jakob andMia. Actually, she hadn't thought that she would one day miss livingin the same house with her, but apart from Jakob she was the only onein the family , who protested against the mantle, and Jacob hadproblems of his own that mattered more to him. She was grateful toher sister for disliking the man. In the coarsely paved English pit,the sailors of the floe worked loudly to mark the trade cargo withthe sign of the merchant family and to bring it into the hold of theship. Antonia was not allowed to stand in the way, she was onlyallowed to sit in her room and look out. Jakob gave the orders, butthere was so little space in the narrow alley that he kept trippingover something or getting in the way of someone. when the bells ranghalf past five, her brother looked up at her. She looked back untilthe older one turned his head and climbed onto a barrel set aside sohis legs wouldn't be constantly hit by rolling barrels. Antonia hadto grin at this statement. From time to time, despite all themisfortune, it was fun when Jacob clumsily tried to follow hisfather's orders. Now he had finally found his seat and was givinginstructions from above. He looked like he'd settled into a trade,although he'd never wished to. The alley was full of red lights and alight wind blew down from the city hill. The sailors wore red andwhite shirts with canvas trousers, Jacob looked as if he were wearingthe same now. Only his hat set him apart from the others. He lookedup again very briefly and gave his sister a short nod. Antonia noddedback and then looked up at the sky. The sky was grey-orange. Noseagull was out. But it couldn't all seem like the day would be aromantic farewell to seafarers. Amid the rumbling of the barrels,Antonia heard cautious footsteps behind her. She turned around. Herlittle sister stood in front of the clothes chest and opened it withdifficulty, dug out a dress and looked at it. "It has spots too,Ava." she called out. She hadn't noticed Antonia. "It can'tbe, it's fresh out of the wash! Bring it down, I want to see that!"Ava called from below. Mia mumbled something to herself before hergaze caught the girl in front of the window. "Why are youlooking at me like that?" she asked beastly, trying to stretchso she looked a little taller than usual. "I'm bored,"Antonia replied. She felt the anger inside her again. Nonetheless,she continued calmly: "I can't go out anymore, I have to learnall the thousands of things you can do with fabric in here! I can doone of them so far; cut the fabric to shreds. Be glad you're stillallowed out of the house! You You have no reason to complain about melooking at you Mia, there are far worse things than that!" Shespoke with great emphasis, but she didn't raise her voice. Mia hadn'tbeen the one interfering in her life, so Antonia just felt the needto explain why she was bothering her. Mia was now staring at her withher mouth open and asked in amazement, without the slightest remnantof her beast, "I always thought you didn't like it when I wentout." Antonia gasped in surprise when Mia answered without anymeanness. But it slowly dawned on her that Mia was right. She saidthat Antonia had forbidden her to go out and now she really realizedthat she had said that a lot, although at the same time she had hopedthat Mia would also get wilder than other girls. What she hadn'trealized yet was that Mia already was. She seemed to have beensomewhere by the water, her dress was wet at the hem and she hadtwigs in her hair. She morosely shook out the new dress and lookedreproachfully at Antonia. "It's not like that," Antoniaprotested. For a moment she didn't know what to say. "I onlyalways said that because I thought father wanted it that way.",she then said quietly. Her little sister wide-eyed and glanced at thestairs, if Ava came, then she whispered back: "If father forcesyou to stay in the house now, then just get out." Antoniagiggled. Downstairs, Ava called for Mia, but Mia stopped next toAntonia. "That's not funny. I'm serious." Mia assertedfirmly, "You always leave. You can do that now, then fathercan't do anything anymore." Antonia stopped giggling and stareduncertainly at Mia in case her sister was joking. Mia looked backseriously. "Mia! What are you waiting for? Shall I come up?"Ava called and entered the first flight of stairs. The little girlturned and ran down the stairs. Antonia got up and closed the bedroomdoor before picking up her sewing practice kit and staring listlesslyat her. Mia was right, she should run away. There was just, as herlittle sister probably hadn't noticed, no way to travel far enoughinto the unreachable distance fast enough. Outside, a plank rumbledacross the pavement and someone called a name. Antonia stopped again.An idea had crept into her mind, spreading quickly like a drop ofwater on a piece of cloth. She was wrong. There was, of course, a wayto travel far away very quickly. Jacob drove very far into thedistance, probably so far that new signs of the zodiac would appearin the sky and everything would look different. If she came with himand sneaked onto the ship secretly, no one could do anything. Shequickly jumped up and leaned out of the window again. The sun wouldset very soon, leaving the city in darkness. The wind, picking up,blew her hair to the left and got her wet because it started rainingagain. It's very simple, Antonia thought, It's so simple. I'll travelwith Jakob without anyone noticing until we're on the high seas. ThenI'm free to do what I want. And then, by the way, she was finallyable to find out what really happened to her grandmother. Maybeeverything turned out fine after all. Antonia put her sewing thingson her bed and started looking for a sack in the clothes chest. Ifshe didn't want to miss the departure, she had to hurry. She waslooking for clothes to come on the ship in. Any seaman on permanentduty knew her and would recognize her. In the short period of timebefore departure there were always some on board. But apart from oldSundays, wool and canvas dresses, she had no clothes. At the bottomof the chest she found a gray burlap sack formerly used for grain. Ithad a few holes and could therefore only be used for clothes. Antoniapulled it out and closed the chest. Then she got up. If she waslooking for boys' clothes, she should look in the room of the onlyboy who lived here. With any luck, Ja noticed It didn't matter if shetook the clothes that were too small for him or if he didn't use themoften. Antonia opened the door to the stairwell and scurried to theother room with the sack. As fast as she could, she opened the lid ofthe chest, carefully rummaged down through Jakob's unexpectedly neatclothes, and pulled out a shirt and a pair of trousers. Jakob onlyhad one belt, the one he was wearing. Antonia decided to use one ofher own belts and got another old hat out of the chest. Despite thefear of being discovered, she took a moment and examined the hatclosely. She had never seen Jakob in this cap. That probably meant hewould hardly notice the loss. "Antonia, are you almost done?"Ava called from below. Antonia froze. Ava stood just under the stairsand looked up. What should she tell her? Panic spread through her.She suppressed them, stuffed the clothes into her sack and made up anexcuse. She helped Jacob pack. Better to say that only in emergenciesthough, Ava knew she should be in her room sewing. "I'm makingprogress!" she replied, her voice slightly hoarse, and stalkedto the door so she could watch Ava. "I don't believe you now."' Ava called back. Antonia took a deep breath and tried to find amore realistic depiction of her sewing. "Well, I'm not reallymaking any progress. I just have to try this again. Let me do it,"she then shouted. Ava, who was staring at Antonia's door with afrown, now nodded and took a few steps back. "Do that," shefinally shouted. Antonia breathed a sigh of relief and scurried backto her room as soon as Ava was behind the door. Then she sped back attop speed and closed Jakob's clothes chest, she had forgotten thatbefore. Back in her room, she placed the sack behind her bed forsafety and searched the room. Somewhere there was a pair of scissorsthat she sometimes used to cut her hair. She just wanted to take themwith her, just to be safe. For the first time she was able to safelyhide her hair under the hat, it only reached just over her shoulders.She picked up the device from the second windowsill and carefullyplaced the scissors in her sack. Then she remembered the things underthe floorboard and crept downstairs. If she was lucky, Ava would staybusy with Mia for a while or cook dinner. What happened if not,Antonia didn't want to know. Ava stayed in the kitchen. Jakob andHans weren't there and Mia contented herself with the excuse thatAntonia was hiding her sewing things somewhere. When Ava put dinneron the table and Jakob walked off the quay, completely exhausted,Antonia was no longer there. She snuck through some backyards andclimbed over walls and a flat roof, then jumped off and landed on thepavement of the English pit as Ava climbed the stairs to call her todinner. Dressed like an ordinary fisherman or sailor's son, she hopedno one would recognize her. She had her sack over her shoulder andher bow on her back. So maybe she got on the ship unseen. She stayedin the shadows of the houses until she stepped onto the quay. Itdidn't take long for her to spot the floe. The sailors had loadedalmost all of the barrels onto the ship. One or two workers remainedon the wharf, for most of the time the captain and a few seamenstayed on board to watch over the goods overnight. Antonia knew thisfrom her father and decided to be on the lookout. To her right weremore cogs and larger ships, to her left were the small fishing boats.A group of young men was coming from there, carrying baskets of fishinto an alley. Maybe Johannes had been working there today. Of coursehe didn't know that his best friend was leaving Lübeck. He wasusually at home in the evenings. Antonia didn't know whether to behappy or sad about it. Maybe she could return. Someday she could setfoot on this ground again, but not now. For about a minute she leanedagainst a house wall across from the floe. Then she overcame her fearthat Heinar might discover and recognize her, and strolled across thepavement with her hat pulled down. She realized late that she hadforgotten to do something with her hair and retreated back into theshade. Half a minute later she tried again. Heinar didn't pay anyattention to her. She looked like an undersized boy from the poorerstreets, although her clothes looked very neat. Jakob's things weretoo big for her, but that wasn't unusual. She stopped on the bank andstared at the ship. The floe was only a meter or two from the quay.The brown planks didn't look like kö if you climb them. If sheclimbed the ropes she would probably fall off, and even that would betoo conspicuous. But if she put her mind to it, I'm sure she couldfind a way to get on the ship. Heinar instructed two young men tostow the last of the barrels and then pull in the gangplank when theyboarded. Antonia was startled and then retreated behind a tree.Someone approached behind her. She turned quickly and stared into theface of a very familiar fisherman boy standing behind her. Johannesstared back as surprised as she felt. She didn't expect to meet himas she fled. But he was right in front of her and had recognized her."Antonia? Why are you disguising yourself as a boy?" herfriend asked in a whisper, staring at her. Antonia could see that hisbrain was working hard and he tried to guess her intention. Antonialooked at him searchingly and decided that she wasn't going to lie tohim. But she couldn't be slowed down by having to explain things tohim. "I smuggle myself onto the ship and leave," she saidbluntly, "I'd rather hide on a ship for weeks and then inLondon, if the seafaring is still so hard, than get married."for a moment Antonia's will began to waver. She wondered if itwouldn't be a lot easier if she stayed and got married as she hadbeen told. But then she thought again of the longing she felt to seeother countries. If the dead side of the family from their strangedreams wasn't waiting on the other side of the river, then at leastmore memories of them were waiting in London. Johannes stared at heras if he couldn't quite believe it. Antonia felt bad about leavinghim, so she bowed her head. "Actually, I believe you. But you'renot fooling me, are you?" Johannes finally asked. "No, I'mserious!" she replied. Johannes stood in front of her with hisarms hanging down and looked at all the ships in the harbor with anabsent expression on his face. He seemed to be thinking hard aboutsomething. Antonia felt again to see if all the hair was hidden underthe cap and peeked around the tree at Heinar Scholle. The sailor nowentered the ship over the plank and all the sailors but one followedhim. He strolled away and apparently said goodbye to his wife, whowas waiting for him at the house wall. The plank lay unguarded, as ifawaiting Antonia. Antonia turned to Johannes. "I wish you thebest of luck, Johannes. I'm sorry that I have to go away. I wouldactually like you to come with me, but I only decided to leave a fewhours ago." She waited for an answer and hoped that he couldtell that she was really sorry. Johannes stared at her and answeredwithout hesitation, "There's nothing stopping me from comingwith you." The disguised girl eyed him questioningly. It wouldbe nice if he meant it, but could it be? "Do you really want meto come with you?" the boy asked less uncertainly than could beexpected for the moment. "Of course! I would be completely aloneon the boat and in London because I am not Jakob's little sister onthe journey, but the invisible ship spirit. But nobody knows whereyou are going, you have no things with you, your family needs you andyou like Lübeck very much. Despite everything, I wish you would comewith me, although it's not possible." Johannes grinned broadly."What are you waiting for? I don't have anything with me excepta fish knife, but I have almost nothing else to take with me. I haveseven siblings who will be happy to eat one less. I'll just comealong. This is the biggest dream for me, to sail away by ship.""You're not tricking me either, are you?" Antonia asked tobe sure. "No, why should I?" Johannes answered and turnedback to the ship. With one step Antonia was next to him and gave hima grateful and unobtrusive hug for a very short time beforeinnocently standing next to him and looking at the ship on which thefinal arrangements were being made. She didn't know much about it. Afew ropes were stretched and knotted, two young men looked at thecleats on the aft side of the ship. But for the first time Planke wasunobserved. Johannes patted her on the shoulder and carefully pushedher further forward. "I'll hire," he murmured softly. "Iassume the captain knows you, so you're sneaking into some storeroomwhile I'm talking. But watch out for the other sailors." Antoniaquietly replied "Thank you" and stood a little to one side.She could hardly believe her luck. It was the best coincidence of herlife that Johannes was on the quay. "But watch what you do,Johannes.", r she teased jokingly over his shoulder before heleft, "at sea there are no blades of grass to chew on."Johannes nodded, half laughing, and took a few bold steps forward. Hepaused at the plank and crossed it more cautiously, then ran towardsthe captain and the seamen. "Ahoy, comrades!" he shoutedover the rattling of the ropes, "Will we be leaving here soon?"He immediately drew a few surprised looks. Then Heinar went to meethim. "What is your purpose in coming to our ship?" he askedsternly. Johannes looked at him apologetically. "I'm a fishermanlooking for work on a ship bound for London," he claimed. "Iheard the plank is about to be lowered. But before that, I'd like toask to be accepted into the ship's crew." Heinar now looked athim with different interest. "So, what is your experience withsailing?" "I often sail in my father's boat. I can handlenets and mend them. I can also mend a sail if necessary, and I alsoknow my way around ropes," said the sixteen-year-old Boy whomAntonia admired for embarking on such a voyage without hesitation,"My experience with it has been very good. It won't be longbefore I can get used to a big ship like this too." Crouching,Antonia crawled over the plank and ducked behind the mast, hoping noone spotted her. Luckily for her, the captain and the few sailorswere busy with Johannes or her work. While her boyfriend was hiringat Heinar Scholle's, she crawled to the waterfront railing andwatched the Scholle's two seamen working on the bow fort and who wereclosest to her. She didn't know them by their names.

She only knew the helmsman Fabian and Smutje Paulbetter than through a few exchanged words or by sight. She knew thesetwo, a black-haired, scrawny youth and a tall man with long brownhair tied back from loading and unloading the barrels, but had neverspoken to them. They checked the ropes on the stern sail for damageand chatted laughing. Under the stern fort and between the stairs upwas the hatch to the captain's cabin and the hatch to the stairs.Antonia knew the deck well and had been here several times, but shewas unfamiliar with the ship's belly. She found the entrances, butshe had never set foot on the lower deck. Hoping that she wouldn'tget lost, she crept to the door, opened it and wanted to enter thehold of the ship and immediately close the door again. But her arch,which she had almost forgotten since she was on the quay, was toohigh for the door and caught on the frame. "Damn," shewhispered and ducked. There was a scraping sound, but the rattle ofthe evening breeze in the sails and ropes drowned out her stumble andthe soft bang as the door slammed shut behind her, her bow clear ofthe way. The light was suddenly gone. The only thing Antonia felt wasthe wood under her feet and against the wall and the swaying of thefloe. Now she suddenly felt very uncomfortable in her own skin. Shecouldn't escape from this situation. She couldn't get back on deck,but she couldn't even see down to her feet and didn't know exactlywhere the stairs started. Slowly she felt her way down the wall,although she kept banging the bow against something, and then satdown as best she could with the gun on her back. She slid on hertrouser legs until she found the top of the stairs, and so she sliddown step by step. On her brief visits to the ship, she had sometimesnoticed the difference between the feeling on deck and below. On thedeck the wind blew sharply and it was loud. Lots of people swarmedaround and you could see the ship moving, sometimes as if it weredancing, sometimes as if it were swaying gently in its sleep. Youfelt like you were in a rocking horse-drawn carriage, from which youcould see everything moving, although you and the carriage were notmoving. It was always as if the world were passing you by, not as ifyou were driving yourself. But as soon as the door closed and youwalked under the planks of the deck, everything felt different. Quietand mysterious. here you saw no water and no sky, you only saw thestrangely shaped, almost lightless rooms, adapted to the shape of theship, and felt the rocking that seemed much deeper and more unrealthan outside in the harsh light and wind. It was like in a dreamwhere you knew you were flying, but you only heard the wind and feltgravity without seeing anything. This place seemed to Antonia withits dim light and wandering shadows on the caulked ho lz beams, theconstant rocking, gurgling and soft creaking like a cut-offunderworld without time and change. On the stairs her eyes slowlybegan to rediscover shapes. She saw the bottom of the stairs, butonly as dark brown ground. Then she noticed a few faint streaks oflight falling through cracks in the ceiling onto sacks, crates, andcasks like shining ribbons. This light made it just a tiny bitbrighter. In front of her feet she saw a few wooden planks, behindthem the hold of the ship opened up, filled to the brim with thecargo thrown into it. The barrels were stacked like wine bottles ontop of each other in the lowest part of the hull and at the bow up tothe ceiling. In front of those only visible barrels, Antonia spotteda pile of grain sacks, square boxes or chests on the right, and moreof the like all around in front and behind her. Behind the stairs thestoreroom reached almost to the bow. The whole hull was filled up tomaybe two meters from the ceiling. Antonia got up carefully andhopped onto the load to find a hiding place. She gingerly climbedover the swaying ground and stumbled more than three times.Everything moved. A stronger swell was probably coming up, pushingthe ship a bit sideways, but she couldn't hear anything from thedeck. Now that she had managed to get into the storage room, Antoniadidn't know what to do. She sat amidst the soft sacks and lookedaround again with strained eyes. She had to hide somewhere, but therewere enough hiding places here. the last barrels had been laid hereand there like fallen apples, between the piles of sacks, crates andeverything else that had been loaded. Antonia gripped her own sacktighter, tucked it close to the side behind some studded chests, andadded her bow, which got in the way of her running. She listenedsilently to the creaking and gurgling around her as she waited in thetimeless darkness for the evening to pass. "Do you have your ownweapons with you?" asked the skipper and looked at Johannessearchingly. "I suppose no. Each man does his own service to thecrew and the Hansa by defending the ship from attack, preferably witha sword or a bow. Do you have either?" Johannes shook his headand looked at his long fishing knife. He had neither a sword nor areally good bow. His bow was a cut piece of hazelnut, not a bow tomatch Antonia's. He taught her archery because after much persuasionhis father's friend, a soldier from the city guard, had shown him howto do it and told him stories of battles and wars that were probablyabout a quarter true. "My father is a fisherman," he said,"I have a homemade hazelnut bow in our house, I've never seen asword up close. But can't I defend myself with this knife?"Johannes raised his hand and showed it to the captain. Mr. Heinarseemed to think it over carefully and Johannes hoped he liked thesight. Then one of the sailors who had been working on the bow fortcame up. "We still need the new rope for the dinghy, Heinar.",he reported. Heinar turned to him. "It's good that you remindme. If there aren't any other damaged parts, then run and get a newone from the watch," he instructed the older sailor, "Andif you meet one of our crew on the way, ask him right away if he hasa second gun." He turned back to Johannes. His gaze wasfriendlier than before. He slapped him on the shoulder, then pointed,while turning to the old sailor, he continued, "We can use thisboy well, and he needs a weapon. You can't fight with this knife. Buthe's very sharp at sea , I'm right?" he winked at Johannes.Johannes smiled back in surprise, "Yes Lord, that is true."The old seaman next to Heinar bowed his head briefly in confirmationand began to lay out the plank that the seaman who had stayed ashorehad pulled in behind him. He looked at least forty, his hair wasgraying, but he seemed no less powerful than others. His shirt lookedlike it had only seen water for at least ten years. "I knowsomeone in the city guard." Johannes interjected. "A friendof my father's, he has a bow. But I don't know if he can lend it tome." "It would be more than a loan to give away his bow forthe sea voyage to London," Mr. Heinar replied, "We don'tknow before the voyage how long it will be before we get back. LeaveThomas to get you a gun ." "And where does he get themfrom?" asked Johannes. Heinar looked at him Appealingly, "Itvaries, Thomas knows a lot of people. Not all the sailors who areusually on the floe go every time and can lend their sword or bow. Doyou know how to use a sword?" John said no. "But I canshoot a bow," he added. Heinar nodded. "That should beenough." he turned to the stern fort. "Ruediger!" Astrikingly thin young man with black hair looked up from his ropesand then hurried down the stairs. "What's up?" "HelpThomas with the dinghy when he comes back, and be done with your sideby then.", Heinar called and turned to Johannes, "As longas you are seaworthy, you are accepted on board. Go and help theother men when you want to stay tonight, or be back when the bellsring first. We'll get a bow for you." "Aye", Johannesanswered and hoped that this expression was also used on this shipand that he hadn't just heard it wrong. Then he made his way to thequay and stopped halfway. Of course he hadn't told his family wherehe was going. They all knew that he would eventually leave because hehad always wanted to. But it didn't seem right to just disappear.Suddenly the sailor who had been at the stern fort with the young mannamed Rüdiger appeared next to him. "Homesick already?" heasked in a deep voice, looking like he was laughing amiably at that."No, it's about my family. They don't know that I'm leaving.",Johannes replied, "That worries me." "Hm.", thelong-haired sailor narrowed his eyes at the shore, "Of coursethat's a pity. But call someone at the port to tell your familysomething, as long as they live here in Lübeck." "That's agood idea!", Johannes thought and felt better again. Someacquaintances worked at the fishing boats. "May I leave the shipand come back immediately?" The sailor laughed, "Of course,if you come before dark. Hurry up and you'll make it. Johannes noddedhis thanks and this time crossed the gangplank faster than the firsttime. He followed the water's edge to the right and reached thefishing boats. "Ahoy, Noah!" he called to the boy on thesecond punt. "Ahoy!" he yelled back, looking up from hisweb. "I'm going to London! By ship! I've signed on!",Johannes called and came a little closer. "You don't mean thatseriously.", his distant friend claimed. John sighed inwardly."Yes, I'm serious, but I need your errand services. My parentsdon't know about it. Can you knock on our door today or tomorrow andtell them where I am? But I don't know if I'll be back." Noahgiggled to himself and turned to his web, shaking his head. "Whoelse manages to forget their parents besides you? I wouldn't havebelieved you capable of it. Well, I'll do that. Have fun in London!But watch out for Kaventsmann and giant squid." "Thank you,Noah. And you on the plague. Take care. Goodbye!", Johannesshouted and hoped that he would actually see him again. It was only adistant friend of his, but he had been a nice companion nonetheless.It now remained engrossed in its net, searching for holes, just asthe floe's sailors did before they set sail. "Goodbye," hereplied. Johannes nodded, turned away and walked towards his new homenext to the masts in the sunset, which would take him to the otherside of the sea through waves and storms.


The alley is glowing. The glow is not hot like theair a few days ago, but the sun burns down the first evening shadowswithout heat, only with light, while it can. The boy in the oversizedcloth clothes does not enter the alley, but climbs over the glowingroofs, over the battlements and ridges, as if he wanted to belong tothe seagulls. The sun is shining behind him. Or behind her. i knowwho she is Again the same one escaping me again. Beside her is awindow no longer made to look through, but as a warning of what isinside: death, black and cold. But she escapes. She always escapes.She hurries to the masts. Wherever I want to go. They want everyoneon board. People keep trying to fight me, but too often they want thesame thing I do, like they do today. They want to go to the graycity. They want to go to the grey, bony walls in the mud. To where Ilet them carry me. There's a knock in one of the alleys. Perhaps aboard is nailed to a window. But I can't say what I feel. I startedhunting. This one girl and this one boy, because they're escaping me,and I don't want to let them escape. It's also like they know I'mfollowing them. you seem to be ide to flee. But I won't let herescape. It's bullshit to hunt them, people would say. I have nodesires, I have no feelings, I AM not even right. But what I feel isthe desire to hunt her. Although I shouldn't have any wishes.

6th chapter

Antonia woke up with white streaks of light on herface. She lay with the sacks of grain that pressed uncomfortablyagainst her back, and at first everything hurt. She slowly sat up andwondered when she had fallen asleep and whether the ship was still inport. It felt like it was driving. The water sloshed against the walldifferently than before. She scrambled wearily behind the barrelsbeside her and peered at the door in the bow, the door into the crewcabin. In the evening she had heard voices there. Loud snoring andbreathing later that night. Only once was Johannes voice among them.So she was reassured about him. He was on board. She wasn't alone.The light fell through the crevices of the hatch to the deck abouttwo meters above her. The crew's voices and footsteps sounded muffleddown from there. Antonia stood and shook her head to shake off thedim spell that still held her captive. She was hungry and thirsty,she hadn't eaten since noon the day before. But there was too muchactivity on deck. No one would miss her as she snuck into the galley.The next few hours became a very monotonous morning. Antonia crouchedbehind the barrels for a while, and when her muscles began tocomplain too much, began to wander. No one showed up in thestoreroom, though she tracked down a ship's cat snuggled up behindthe wine casks. But the animal just yawned at her and went onsleeping. So Antonia went to the stern, searched and remembered allthe hiding places and exits. She found the water store in the crewcabin just before noon and drank greedily from the ladle hanging fromthe first water barrel. Burlap and canvas hammocks hung low to theground and close together. They swayed back and forth in the swell asif bats were hanging from the ceiling. At first Antonia was repelledby the thought of sleeping in such a rocking blanket, then shewondered if they weren't actually a lot more comfortable than a pileof hard grain. At that moment, the flap opened almost directly overAntonia. She backed away, startled and wary, and then squatted down,hoping that would make her less noticeable. The light blinded her andcaused black spots in front of her eyes. "Steer a little toport!" she heard someone on deck shout. Then a body shaded thelight from above and stretched its legs in so that they found footingon a beam. Antonia backed away a little and held her breath. Thesailor who jumped into the chamber had blond hair, a sword at hisbelt, and looked quite young and unsure. Antonia had never seen him,except when she was loading the barrels, watching the alley from thewindow the day before. He turned and looked at the water barrels.Antonia sat on the ground two meters away from him and silently triedto slip behind the water bed. He was very close. If he noticed her,she would have to abandon ship. The sailor grabbed the ladle andbegan to scoop water into a pot he was carrying in his left hand.Antonia breathed out and in again and then didn't move at all. Butthe young man only looked at his hand and the pot. The water keptthreatening to spill over whenever the ship moved, it did so at highspeed because the rudder was now being reversed and the cog was beingsteered around a bend in the river. "Ahoy!" someone shoutedoutside again, as softly as if it were coming from the shore.Heinar's voice answered. Antonia sat between the barrels like a mouseand didn't move. The young man put the lid on the pot and pushed itout through the hatch. He needed a few beams of help to keep up.Antonia noticed that the floor of the crew cabin was slightly lowerthan the storage room. She straightened up. The flap closed again.She scurried to the storeroom door and left the cabin as fast as shecould, letting her breath escape. At the moment she wished she couldfinally be on deck and talk to Johannes if he was there, or at leastsee the good weather. A smell of freshly baked rusks drifted aboveand below the planks. Since there was nothing else to do anywayexcept wander around, went back to the other side of the ship. Brown,shimmering silver on the metal fittings, and dark, the rear wall cametowards her again. With sleep on board, her feet had achievedsomething close to seaworthiness. she stumbled no longer about thegoods, but used them like a normal floor, even if the ship swayedmore. The door at the top of the stairs also opened. This time,Antonia just stood there and stared intently at the glowing rectangleon top of the barrels. Her heart skipped a beat, but she knew thatcoming out of the glare into the dark lower deck, she wouldn't beseen for the time being. The shadow in the door bent andstraightened, then the door was closed and a lantern was lit in itsplace. Antonia slowly hid behind a barrel. The shadow became a pairof legs and a figure descending the stairs. Antonia recognized theface in the candlelight and stood up again. "Johannes!",she said softly and came towards him. Johannes turned and held up thelantern. He looked happy when he spotted Antonia. "There youare!" he greeted her quietly. "Did you have a good voyage?"Antonia nodded. "Yes. I got in here easily. But I'm reallyhungry. I didn't have any supper yesterday, no breakfast today."she was holding her stomach. "That could be the biggest problemon the trip." "It's lunchtime up on deck.", Johannesexplained, "I can try to get you something. But it might fail,and I don't know where the rusks and all that is kept. Can you eatdried fruit?" "Why do you ask?" Antonia asked."According to the reports of the other sailors, every day thereis only dried fruit, rusks or now and then fish and some porridge.But it's worth being on board here!" Johannes looked excited,his hair was tangled and his face reddish, "It's a dream to sailon such a big ship. A dream! The crew is very nice by the way, if Ihave to tell you that. Only the clerk is gets grumpy very quickly ifyou don't do what he says." "Do you already know thehelmsman?" Antonia asked curiously, glad to finally be able totalk to someone. John frowned. "His name is Fabian, right? Imostly know his brother." "He has a brother?" "Arnold,a very tall man with long brown hair.", Johannes explainedenthusiastically. Antonia wondered if her best friend had always beenthis passionate about sailing. She had never heard him talk aboutanything so happily. "I have to be on deck right now," hemurmured, suddenly worried again, and looked up, "I have to goupstairs in a moment. I'm sorry if I can't make it with the food. Butbefore you starve, show me you yourself, right?" "If I'mstarving, I probably can't count on you to keep your mouth shut."Antonia answered and took a few steps back. Suddenly, the two wereblinded by the bright daylight falling down the stairs onto thebarrels. The door above opened once more and a stern voice penetratedbelow. "Who's down there shirking work?" Antonia flinched.That was the voice of the mate - she didn't know his name either.Johannes ducked a little and came sheepishly into the light. "Sorry,I was just looking for something," he claimed. "What areyou looking for down there?" the voice asked even harsher thanbefore. Johannes seemed to have no idea how to answer, and alsoseemed to regret that he had even stepped into the light. Antoniastood there and didn't dare to move. "I asked you something!What are you doing there?" the voice repeated. Johannes clearlydidn't know what to do and looked back and forth between Boden andMaat at the door. "Can I help?" asked a second voiceupstairs. Antonia took a step back. She wondered which would beworse; if the mate came down and found her, or her brother. "Thenew seaman is standing in the storeroom and has forgotten what he wasdoing there," the mate explained. Jakob slipped into the gapbetween the mate and the door frame and came into view with his legs.He climbed down, stood on the planks at the bottom of the stairs andturned to Johannes. "You're the new sailor, aren't you? What'syour name again? And why are you here?" he asked. "Johannes.",Johannes answered, thinking feverishly and seemed to refrain fromlooking in Antonia's direction with difficulty. She stepped back stepby step, trying hard not to trip. Only now the ship seemed to pick upspeed again and the ground swayed alarmingly. Jacob looked atJohannes' face and then took a good look around the whole storeroom.Antonia, surprised by her brother, ran a few steps and stumbled intothe sacks trying to get behind the nearest barrel. "A littlesurprise, Daniel! We have a stowaway on board!", ri ef Jacob upthe stairs. Antonia narrowed her eyes and mentally cursed the wavethat had tripped her. Johannes gave Jacob the lamp and followed himcautiously and with bowed head. Antonia's brother approached her frombehind and didn't react when Daniel shouted from above that he hadn'theard correctly. "Who's there?" he asked. Antonia got upslowly and pulled her cap down over her face. Either I have to lie,she thought, or I'll tell him the truth and come back. But heprobably recognizes me anyway. Jakob always somehow knows everythingand knows what I look like. She turned and put her hand in front ofher eyes to keep the lamp from blinding her. Her brother looked ather with an indefinable expression, then passed the lantern toJohannes, who looked quite unhappy, as if feeling guilty that Antoniahad been discovered. "I think I should have expected that,"he then suggested, "What exactly are you thinking about beinghere on board, Antonia? And why are you wearing my shirt andtrousers?" "I'm thinking about fleeing to London andtherefore not having to get married.", Antonia answered quietlyand noticed how her voice rose again. But she still couldn't come toterms with the fact that her father had been unfair enough to get herengaged. "Antonia, father would kill you!" Jakob saidloudly and clearly. "I don't want to be a businessman either,but I'm still on my way to London! Nobody asks our opinion. Ifeveryone wants you to get married, don't you find it much easier tostay in Lübeck? The man is still a Man, not a troll or witcheror..." "Grandmother was a witch." Antonia said softlyand more to herself. Jakob was startled and stared at her inamazement. "What did you say?" Antonia immediatelyregretted her objection, but she just wanted to say something."Grandmother lived in London," she said haltingly, "thenpeople started hunting her." she decided not to say more on thesubject. There was just enough to discuss. But in the end she had togo back anyway. "Would you like to go to London now to find outsomething about her?" Jakob asked in surprise. Antonia noddedhalfheartedly. To be more precise, she wanted to flee Lübeck. But itmade no difference. Nothing made a difference. Her father would notlet her escape a second time, and she had been spotted. "It'sall a funny mix of reasons. Why did you have to run away?" Jakobasked unhappily and turned to Johannes. Antonia felt a little sorryfor him. He would have to turn her back now and would incur herfather's wrath for not taking advantage of the good wind and sailingfast. He also had to explain to Heinar Scholle that they had to breakoff the trading trip and turn around in the narrow river. It wouldactually have been better for Jakob if they hadn't been discovered.Jacob examined Johannes with his eyes without looking back. He wasstill looking at his feet and holding the lantern absently. "Doyou have anything to do with that?" Jakob asked. Antonia noticedthat he seemed to be trying to sound stern, but couldn't quite manageit. "I'm a friend of hers," Johannes brought out. Jakoblooked at him again, rather surprised. He knew his little sisterbetter than her father, but he didn't know of a back alley friend. Infact, he'd always wondered who Antonia was actually with when shewasn't at home. "A friend?" Johannes asked, slightlydoubtful. "Johannes is my friend, but he has nothing to do withthe runaway." Antonia interjected, "He came with me becausehe caught me and didn't want to leave me alone. Can you please keephim out of this?" For the first time in the discussion, she madean effort not to appear defiant or angry, lest Jacob really includeJohn in the flight. To her surprise, her older brother only gave hera cheeky grin. "Ah, your friend," he commented vaguely,then stopped smiling again. "You know that we actually have toturn around and drive back now, don't you, Antonia? That was anincredibly bad idea. Why are you wearing my clothes again now? Youthought that you wouldn't be recognized with that?" "No,but that makes me much less conspicuous if someone watches me out ofthe corner of their eye." Antonia hissed, who was irritated byJakob teasing her about the seriousness of the situation, "Thenthere's him nice perk of not being hit on by total strangers likethat greencoat." Jakob lowered his head briefly and thought.From the deck, Daniel was coming down the stairs, his sword drawn.John turned si I turned to him and held the lantern higher. "Whois that?" asked the ship's mate past Johannes to Jakob. "Thereis no danger, I even know our little ship ghost.", was Jakob'sanswer. He had continued staring into space by the end of thesentence, "I don't need any help. You can go on deck and I'lltake our visitor upstairs in a moment." Antonia was surprisedthat Jakob didn't immediately reveal to the crew member who she was.At the sight of the drawn sword, she suddenly realized how lucky shewas to have been caught by Jacob and not by another sailor, whoimmediately lunged at her. "Are you sure?" the mate asked,coming closer. He studied Antonia by the lantern light, then laughedand put the sword away again. "Well, that's hardly more than achild. I think you can handle that on your own. Best take him to thecaptain." "Aye." Jakob mumbled and kept his eyes onAntonia until Daniel was gone. "Your shirt is inside out,"he said absently to his sister. Antonia snorted. "Can you pleasestop the fuss? I don't want to go back, I don't think I can go backand that won't change if you talk to me like this is a game. Nowplease just say what you're going to do! " Stifling thedesperation that surged up inside her, she turned her attention toher brother. Jakob stood there thoughtfully, while Johannes walked upto Antonia with his lamp and tried to give her an encouraging look.Unfortunately he failed. Shipping had just fulfilled a longing in himand almost immediately after that he probably had to turn around andgo back to Lübeck to his overcrowded, poor family, who lived in fearand ignorance of the plague and death. The two sixteen-year-olds wereboth not very happy. They stood close together and watched thestargazer in front of them, who involuntarily traveled towards abusiness apprenticeship and actually wanted to be a seaman, which hewould only become for one trip. He really didn't look like he washappy about the fact that he was bringing her back. "I think itwould be very difficult to turn and turn back in the river now,"he said after a while. Antonia and Johannes didn't reply, but Antonialooked hopeful. Jacob continued to think. "You have to waitweeks for the right wind, we can probably tack in the sea too.",he murmured, "Antonia, how much do you hate this man?"Antonia's heart was pounding excitedly. "As much as I hatemaggots?" "You are ready to sail across the East and WestSeas, sometimes without clean food and drink, with pirate attacks andwithout knowing exactly when or if you will arrive. That's right,isn't it?" Jakob asked wearily. "Apparently you know mequite well.", Antonia confirmed his assumption slightly proud."Good, then so be it." Jakob sighed and shook himself. "Youlook like a boy right now and I can't and don't want to do anythingabout it, we're already too far. Do you want to lie to the crew now?Then Heinar Scholle doesn't feel the need to turn back. Although Ithink they all will at some point guess who you are. But youmentioned the nice side effect of hitting on." Antonia couldn'tquite believe what Jakob had allowed her to do. She stared at him fora moment, but the corners of her mouth were already curling up."Thank you!", she finally said warmly and hugged herbrother briefly and tightly. Then she released him again. Sheshouldn't be doing things like that on board with someone looking."May I have something to eat now?" she asked, noticing howthe tension fell from her. Johannes patted her on the shoulder andgrinned broadly again. Again she managed to enjoy the flickering ofthe lamp in the rocking of the ship without feeling exposed by it."Yes, after I convinced the people above that we have a littlecabin boy on board who is welcome to stay.", Jakob replied andtook the lamp from Johannes again. "Please try to look nice anduseful, okay? Damn, you need a gun too." Jakob just shook hishead with a sigh, clearly not satisfied that he was being so damnunderstanding of his sister. Otherwise he could now order the returnwithout having a guilty conscience. But Antonia ran a little way intothe hold and you could hear a light knocking. "Ouch."Antonia said softly and put something aside. "Antonia gets herbow, she has it with her.", Johannes murmured and chewed on histhumbnail for lack of a blade of grass. When Antonia stepped out ofthe shadows, her shirt was on right side up, and her quiver and bowwere back on her back. Jakob looked at the bow for a while and thensmiled. "Is that the arch of Ava's former husband ann?"Antonia nodded. She remembered it clearly. Ava was widowed and hadkept a few things from her husband, which she gradually gave away totheir three children or to friends. She hadn't considered whetherthat was proper or not. At least not after Antonia had been beggingfor the bow for weeks. "Let's go," she said a littletightly. Only with a lot of luck would Heinar not recognize her.Jacob climbed the stairs and opened the door at the top. Then allthree stepped out into the blazing bright midday light. Daniel waswaiting for her at the captain's in the bow castle. On the way tohim, Antonia looked around intently. She was stared at oddly by somemembers of the crew. Everyone was probably wondering who she was andwhy she was on deck. She spotted the young sailor with blond hair,someone who matched Johannes' description of Arnold, and the skinny,black-haired youth from the day before. Fabian stood behind them onthe stern fort at the tiller and held them straight ahead. Nearby, anold seaman was fastening a rope to the rail. The wooded shore rolledpast the railing and a path ran behind the reeds to one side. The sunwas shining directly from above. Antonia was happy to wear a cap thatgave her shade. Jacob led them and Johannes to the bow fort andplaced them in front of Heinar and Daniel. "Johannes was belowdeck because he heard someone, Heinar. We had someone on board whoyou don't know." "A little boy.", Heinar stateddisparagingly and only threw a short, stern look at Antonia, "Whatdid he do on board? Were they stolen?" "No, it looks likehe just wanted to go to London and didn't know how to get hired."Jakob laughed, "Besides the fact, I even know who he is. This isEmil, who is one street away from us Pretty smart guy for his age,but he's just his family's adopted son. That's why he wants to leave.Can't we let him on board, Heinar?" More than surprised, HeinarScholle looked back and forth between Jakob and Antonia. "Why doyou want him on board so badly? And are you sure he hasn't stolenanything or is on the run from a crime?" "Certainly not. Iknow Emil really well and like him. He always wanted to leave Lübeck.It's about his family," explained Jakob. Antonia listened to himand was pleased how true this story sounded, even though Jakobcobbled it together from the greatest nonsense that could be found inthe world. A little boy who was disliked by his family but preferredto sneak onto the ship rather than hire. She lowered her head andtried to appear terribly uncomfortable. "Why doesn't he tell usthat himself?" Heinar asked, piercing her with a searching look.Antonia lifted her head and looked back. For a moment there was akind of vibrating tension between their eyes, then Heinar looked awayand looked at his mate. Antonia was relieved. He hadn't recognizedher and didn't seem to think she was a thief anymore. "Mom andDad would have found me if I had asked if I could go on the ship,"she said quietly, trying again to slip into her role convincingly.Jakob, Johannes and the two senior members of the crew looked at her.Daniel's facial expression said nothing more, but Heinar's gaze hadchanged a bit. He looked at her more benevolently than before, almosta little pityingly. "So you don't get along with the family.That's one reason for wanting to get out of town. We can hardly putyou on the bank right there, that would be against our bids. And wecan actually use people, I can't do that deny it. But to travel withus, you must also help out, not get into arguments with others, andabide by our rules. The orders are given by me and passed on byDaniel, understand?" Antonia nodded. "Understood," shesaid, keeping her voice as deep as possible. Heinar turned toJohannes, "That also applies to you, still. I'm just saying itto be sure. If you hear something below deck, let me know and don'tgo alone. Stick to it. And get back to work." Johannes noddedand left the castle. But there didn't seem to be any work right now.The river was straight here and the wind pushed them on quickly. Fromthe galley below, Paul emerged with a pot and an armful of smallplanks. "How old are you?" Antonia was asked. "Fourteen,"she lied. Jakob had introduced her as a little boy and she wasshorter than most sixteen year old boys. Heinar nodded to Daniel andthen slowly started to move. "I'm surprised Jakob is committedto you, but he seems to like you ike to like and know. We need acabin boy. If you really aren't any good, which I doubt given Jakob'scommitment to you, we'll think twice about coming with you. Now cometo dinner. Paul just carried the pot out. Valentine!" Theblond-haired sailor turned to him quickly. "Yes?" "Getanother board from the galley!" Heinar ordered. The young manobeyed instantly and was back fairly quickly, then handed the boardto Paul, who was handing out food. There was a brownish mash thattasted like mashed potatoes. Antonia was included in the diningcircle and sat down between Johannes and Fabian, who was just tellingValentin something about the food on a ship trip. She herself didn'tspeak to anyone at first, not even to Johannes, so as not to arousesuspicion. She ate the porridge greedily and was given anotherhelping without asking. Paul looked at her carefully again. "Youlook familiar to me, boy. But first of all, welcome aboard.", hesaid and Antonia almost choked on her porridge because she wasfrightened. But nobody recognized her. She had managed her disguisewell. After the meal, the journey was still easy going. Fabian wasback at the tiller and Valentin sat down next to him on the railing.Jakob was talking to Fabian's long-haired older brother, whose nameAntonia had forgotten again, and the black-haired youth was busy withthe manager making a list. An older sailor was talking to Daniel andHeinar. He seemed to know Heinar well. The two acted like oldfriends, but Antonia had always seen him on the ship when it was inLübeck and thought she remembered the name Thomas. Johannespretended not to notice Antonia for a while, then he slowly walked upto her and grinned at her. "I'll show you the ship if you want,"he said loudly, and then murmured, "Better pretend we'refriends. Then nobody will be surprised if we do a lot together lateron." Antonia nodded and patiently let him explain where whichrooms were and who the crew was. But this time she could at leastremember that the name of Fabian's brother was Arnold. The managerWalter was easy to remember and made her smile briefly. The thin,black-haired man was called Rüdiger, she had been right about thename Thomas, and she could even tell Johannes more about the others.Valentin, who was the youngest passenger after them, and she now knewthe others by name. The afternoon was drawing to a close when thewind shifted a bit and she began to taste the salt in the air. Thesailors joined the rope in threes and pulled the sail into position,where it billowed and flapped, flapping. After a shout from Valentin,who had run onto the bow fort before the bend in the river, Fabianpulled the tiller around and the sail calmed down and filled withwind. Now the sailors reattached the rope and leaned over the rail tolook ahead. "The sea is in sight," said a voice behind thetwo newest members of the ship's crew. Arnold leaned on the railingbeside her and looked at the shoreline. "The sun is shiningbeautifully, isn't it? There's a good wind blowing, so we'll reachthe sea in a few hours. Look over there!" he pointed past thebow of the ship and the two youngsters, following his finger, saw agray-blue streak on the horizon behind the trees. "That's thesea. We'll be sailing there for weeks, no matter how good the wind,but who doesn't enjoy that, who lives on a ship and longs for thesea?" He looked at the two of them with a weather-beaten laugh."Yes, it's wonderful." Johannes agreed wholeheartedly.Antonia looked at the vastness of the woods and was too speechless atthe moment to answer. She had never seen so much of the world at onceand never felt so free to do what she wanted. "You can see sofar," she said very quietly, "I've never seen the sea. Andno forests that big." Arnold eyed her and then looked back inthe direction of travel. "Soon you will see a lot of sea if youstay with us. But before you get lost here, see the world from thecrow's nest. If you are not afraid of heights and can climb theladder to the top, then climb up." Antonia and Johannes turned to the ropes on the starboard rail. The crow's nest was reached byclimbing onto the railing and up narrow, knotted ropes and thenclimbing into the masthead at dizzying heights. Suddenly Johannesdidn't look so excited anymore. Antonia thought for a moment, thendecided to give it a try. She had on the roofs of Lübeck also had nofear of heights. She carefully grabbed the ropes and pulled herselfonto the railing and then onto the first ropes. The ship rocked andshe rocked with it. For a moment she felt as if she would land in thewater if she fell, then the deck was below her and she was higher inthe air than the castles were. "Be careful not to fall, A-,...Emil.", she heard Johannes calling from downstairs. Sherefrained from looking down for safety reasons and eventually reachedthe masthead. The ladder was only narrow and wobbled unsteadily. Nowshe just didn't know how to get her legs over the wall, so she juststood on the ropes and held on to the boards. Around them the landstretched out in hills and forests until it became a sheet of bluewater on the horizon to the east. The river widened and the bankscurved until the shimmering ribbon ended in the sea. She had neverimagined the country to be so big and above all she had believed thatthere were more villages and towns. But all she could see was thecoast ahead, and after a while she spotted the silloette of a castleon a hill to the north-west of them. She watched them for a longwhile, looking around, swept through by the wind, realizing her heartwas pounding with excitement and she didn't want to ever climb downagain. "Antonia!" It sounded soft and close below her. Sheturned her head back and looked at Johannes below her on the ladder,below the far deck with the sailors ignoring her. "I'll try toget into the crow's nest." Antonia promised and lifted one legover the wall, sat sideways on the edge and slid down the insideagain. Johannes couldn't fit in anymore, there wasn't enough space init, but he was able to take Antonia's old place next to the crow'snest. He looked around in astonishment as she did. "I sawsomething similar from our church tower when I asked the pastor tolet me up," he said, "but I hadn't seen the sea," thenhe fell silent. Antonia turned to the southwest and looked back theway they had come. Forests and hills were almost all she saw again.But just below the horizon, among a few hills that were not woodedbut full of corn and corn, she saw pale spiers rising like ship'smasts from a sea of houses and boats. A brown city on the horizon,encircled by glittering water, from which seven towers soaredskywards. Her gaze lingered there and she tried not to get homesick.A cloud lay over the city, reminding Antonia of the shape of a blackmask. Lübeck slowly disappeared and only the salty wind, the hillsand the sea remained on the horizon. When the floe reached the sea,everything at the edge of the water faded and evaporated, and thebrown city was gone. Antonia turned back and looked at her friend whohad been looking at the water the whole time. He didn't move,although his hair was flying around his head, just stared at thehorizon. There somewhere the exit from the bay opened, the exit tothe real sea. Without noticing it, they had stood at the top of themast until evening. Her boyfriend watched the sunset far to the east,turning the water golden, which neither of them had ever seen. Antonia looked up at the stars. "I think Jakob could be quitehappy sailing forever," she stated softly. John just nodded."Yes, I could too. What about you?" Antonia looked at theland again, then at the sea and sky above her. "Me too,"she stated quietly, mentally saying goodbye to the city behind her.


The floe ship drives fast through the glitteringribbon of river. I look at it. The sailors have set out on theirjourney. Maybe it will be her last. 'Cause I'm on a hunt Maybethey'll say goodbye for the last time, maybe they'll look back at thebrown city for the last time. Because people don't always come back.I do though. The reason they can't escape me. On top of the mastheadstands the girl, erect and happy, as if she were free now. As if shehad escaped. Strange how she stands there. As if she had been allowedto. Otherwise, the girls stay in their houses. Maybe they stay hiddenfrom me better that way, but not this one. She just stays on the runfrom me. But she should be careful: I'm on board too. And with the last twinkle of the evening sun, the ship disappears behind the horizon, taking me to wrap the gray city in the black breath of death.

End of part 1