Simon sat in the tavern, listening to the merchants gossip about various speculative ventures. Two of them were right now discussing the spice trade. “Since Constantinople fell to the Turks, it’s been much harder to get shipments through Syria. That’s why the Portuguese are trying to find a way around Africa. ” “Yes, they get a little bit further every year, but they haven’t found a way yet”. “And then there’s this Colombus fellow.” “I haven’t heard of him.” “Oh, he tried to get the king of Portugal to finance an expedition of reaching the East by sailing west. My patron heard about it. The king turned him down, his council decided the fellow’s geography was wrong, he thinks Cathay is about a fourth the distance away most geographers think. But I hear he’s a most bold and persistent fellow and keeps talking the idea up.”
Simon’s brain whirled. The geographers were right, of course. He had been there and measured the positions. Besides that, the unknown Western lands were in the way and there was no way through. He had walked their bounds long ago. But he usually went the long way around, using short hops from port to port. He wasn’t bold enough for these great leaps into the unknown, and a long sea voyage had its own dangers. These Europeans didn’t have a clue about the special diet needed to survive without getting diseased. They also didn’t have his tricks of navigation and sailing. His secrets were still his own, although more and more of them were being discovered. No, this Colombus fellow wouldn’t reach Cathay or India by sailing west, although if he got the expedition financed, and if he were very lucky, he might find something else even more world changing. This was something Simon needed to observe.