I am Nathanial Briggs. S.J. asked me to stop by and introduce myself to you…though, what interest any of you young humans would have in an old Aliment I know not. However, as S.J. and I have been friends for a very long time (and quite frankly I was in the mood to oblige) I saw no harm in making myself known to you.
Where to begin? Perhaps at my rather humble beginnings. In the spring of 1397 A.D., Geoffrey Chaucer told the Canterbury Tales for the first time at the court of Richard II, the Union of Kalmar was established between Denmark, Sweden and Norway, and I in my insignificance was born. My parents, lesser nobles than those who ruled Houses, had a small but comfortable abode at the heart of Venezia…what is now Venice. My siblings all older than I had been born there as well. But then, my father was called to present himself to the King. He was made Second to a nephew of the Queen and as such our family was required to move so that father could take his position. I grew to be around eleven human years, just an infant really by our standards when a younger sister was born. Cira. Beautiful little dove, I remember her tiny wings, a cocoon of soft black down, cradled her chubby body. She looked every bit the part of cherub as she lay within her bassinet. We…we lost her during The Rending. Though I was very young, I remember so clearly the day they came for her…and me. Her wails as they took her from our mother’s arms haunt me to this day.
I must apologize. Such dark thoughts for our first meeting. Please excuse me. In my advanced age I often get lost in the memories of long ago times. Perhaps one day, when I know you a little better I will tell you that tale, but today I do not wish to burden you with such things.
As an adult…if I recall correctly…it was late in the 1750’s when tragedy struck again. Our King was struck down in his prime and another rose in his place. Supporters of the old regime were forced to flee or be killed while they slept at home in their beds. As a staunch supporter of the House of Semjaza, I knew my days were limited. I’d made arrangements to flee, booking passage for myself, my wife Alessia and our son, Armand along with his family on a cargo ship bound for the Americas. We boarded the ship to await the arrival of our family. When word reached us that Armand had been taken by the royal guard, I went in search of his wife and my grandchildren. Alas, when I arrived at their home, the only thing left was a burning pile of rubble. I asked others who might have witnessed the event and found that Armand was dead and his wife, Lina had been the one taken by the royal guards. A servant in their home had spirited the children away before the home was burned to the ground. I went to them immediately. Never in my life had I been so glad to embrace my son’s children. Claudina and Aletta were not only alive, but no worse for wear. I took them to the ship and handed them over into Alessia’s care. Knowing what the new king would do to my son’s wife, I could not in good conscience leave her to them. I pleaded my case to a friend who had sworn fealty to the new king. He agreed to help me find Lina if I agreed to take someone with me when I left for the Americas. I readily agreed, knowing it was my only chance to find the mother of my grandchildren. I returned to the ship to negotiate for passage for another person. The Captain was a surly, hard man. He agreed but for a very high price I could not pay. When a family arrived, I was stunned. I’d expected one person, not four and by the crest they wore a high ranking one at that. He introduced himself as Marco, the Padrone of the House of Samsaveel. His regal wife stood before me in all her grandeur. Though she presented a brave face, I saw behind the mask a frail, frightened woman who desperately wanted nothing more than to disappear with her husband and children. She grasped an infant to her chest and a young boy to her side as if she would protect them with her dying breath if the need arose. Little did I know then that she would in fact do just that.
But, I digress. Our passage was secured with two gold coins from the purse of the Padrone and both families were settled in. Yet I had to return to my friend’s home to see what had become of my daughter-in-law. By the time I made it to his side, he had nothing but dire news. Lina had died at the hands of the very men who’d killed my son. Devastated, I left his home intent on seeing my remaining family away from the shores of Italy, I never made it. I was taken by the King’s guard. To this day I do not know if my friend betrayed me. But, my family and that of the Padrone of Samsaveel sailed that night for the Americas. I would not join them for another seven years when I was finally released from my prison and banished from Italy.
What I found when I reached the shores of America is a whole other story…and one I haven’t time to tell tonight.