The Honorable Lord Ilya the Wanderer
As told to me by my mother, I was born in March of 1540. My father was the captain of a trading ship and we lived in Stockholm. When I was two years old my mother and I went with my father on one of his trading voyages. A great storm that lasted seven days forced the ship off course to the South until it ran aground and broke up. My mother and I were the only survivors. My mother was lost for weeks in the unfamiliar land until she was found by a caravan heading for the Caspian Sea. The leader of the caravan had known my late father and took us along. After more than a month of traveling to the South the caravan was attacked by cossacks from the Don river. Those of us not killed in the attack were taken as captives. A cossack chieftain took a liking to my mother and took in my mother and me.
The Attman raised me as his own son but he was a rigid man who I never learned to like. I grew up in the Cossack settlement of Razdory where the rivers Don and Donets flowed together. Over the years I learned to handle a boat on the river, to ride a horse, and to fight like the Cossacks. I was the leader of a kuren of ten men when at the age of seventeen years I attended my first Krug, the Cossack General Assembly. Much of the Krug consisted of politics going on around fires by small groups of men drinking vast amounts of everything. I learned to drink, which I liked, and about politics, which I didn't.
Two years later my mother died of a fever in the spring. I took my possessions, which consisted of some clothes and my weapons and left the settlement. I joined a caravan as a guard. My job was to ride on the flank of the caravan to ensure we were not being followed. It was a mostly solitary task. I spent the time thinking about and planning for the future. The caravan traveled for thirty-six days before it reached the city of Peshwar. There the goods were put on boats to travel down river. I was able to use the expertise with boats that I learned on the Don and Donets to guide one of the boats down the river called Indus to the Sea of the Indies. We then followed the coast South to Goa.
Goa is a trading center run by people called Portuguese. Several days were spent unloading the cargo onto the dock at Goa. The work was long and hard but gave me the chance to learn a few words of the Portuguese language. Mostly I learned how to say I was sorry for being in the way. After the cargo was unloaded the leader of the caravan was able to sell the goods to a local merchant. So we received our pay immediately Wishing to see more of the world I used my pay to take passage on a Portuguese ship sailing for the East. It took four days to reach the port of Jaffna on the north tip of Sielan and another thirty-one pleasant sailing days to arrive at Malacca. In Malacca cargo was exchanged at the port. Because I had only learned a little Portuguese I had to stay on the ship. We sailed again after what was for me a dull ten days. I used the time to study the lines and sails on the ship as well as the cannon she mounted. From Malacca it took twenty days to reach the trading post at Maccao on the coast of Cathay. The voyage had been mostly fair and I learned a little about sailing a ship but I learned more about the ship's guns and how they were used. The ship mounted twenty bronze guns that could fire a six pound ball just over a mile. I was allowed to learned how to load and aim the guns because there were pirates sailing in the waters between Malacca and Maccao and the ships gunner said that an extra hand at the guns never hurt.
While ashore at Maccao I became sick with a fever and was left behind when the ship sailed. I was cared for by a local Jesuit priest. Who after I recovered taught me to read, write, and some languages. He was an educated man from a country called Spain who had a small library. From his books I discovered an interest in architecture. I got a job keeping repaired the port defenses and with the influence of Father Diaz I was allowed to learn from the engineer in charge of the defense of the harbor. In my duties I was able to travel up the coast to the enclave at Canton. I spent several months there working on the emplacement of six new guns that had arrived from Europe. I spent three busy years in Maccao and learned much about architecture, gunnery, and military engineering. However the attitude of the officials remained fixed and uninterested in adopting anything new. Even if it was obviously better.
I came to the conclusion that there was a limit to what I could learn in Maccao so I resolved to go to Europe to learn more. I hired onto a ship sailing back to India as a gunner. The voyage to Goa took two months, passing through Jaffna and Madras on the way. In Goa I took passage on a Turkish dhow to Akabah, a port on the Northern Red Sea.
A dhow is an odd looking ship. It has a triangular sail and it sails well in all winds but is not very fast. It took almost as long to make the journey to Akabah as it took to sail from Maccao. With the distance being some 1100 miles shorter. From Akabah I traveled overland the ten days to Jerusalem. I stayed in the Levant for four months visiting the holy places and studying as well as I was allowed to, the great castles Margat and Krak de Chevaliers that were built by the crusaders.