Born of Water hints at Ty’s first visits to the illicit port city of Sardinia without providing many details. Why Ty makes his way there is a story on its, own and one that is given in Born of Water. Escaping from manipulation and the threat of abuse during his apprenticeship, Ty washes up on the shores of Portoreayl and almost immediately falls in with a questionable savior, Via. Via doesn’t care that Ty has abandoned his apprenticeship, providing Ty food and a refuge. With few options other than finding a way home to face his disappointed family, Ty begins a new life, one with dark depths that drags Ty in with slow ruthlessness. What pulls him out can be found in the Born of Water Novel Companion, but how he became entangled in a life so far from what his upbringing and set path determined is found here…
He didn’t have anywhere to go. That’s why Ty didn’t say anything when Garath and Via said they sailed for Sardinia. Not even the Gypsy Empress had dared to visit that port city, and her crew, or at least the Air Elemental who guided the ship and blackmailed her captain, were the most dangerous sailors Ty knew. Though he didn’t know his present company very well.
“Don’t look so worried, boy,” Garath said. “The rumors about Sardinia aren’t all true.”
“Not all of them,” Via added, eyes full of dark mirth. “Be careful of the harbor. The rocks are shallow and I don’t want to have to find a new boat.”
Via’s boat was smaller than most merchant ships in his family’s fleet. Despite the length, the wide beam made her sail like a barge. That alone would have made Ty nervous. When the first rocks appeared with broken boards wedged between rock and spray, Ty nearly turned around.
There were no channel indicators or buoys marking dangerous shoals. The turbulent sea between him and the small city rising along the ridge of the peninsula was a sunken maze with pitfalls that risked life and limb. That neither Via or Garath appeared worried told Ty that either he was overly concerned or both of his new friends had no idea on how to sail. Having watched Garath struggle to untie a slip knot, Ty doubted it was skill.
He eased the ship through the rough waves while searching for signs of a safe channel. Attention absorbed on hidden rocks seen only be odd waves and occasional spray kept Ty from glancing at the town known as the most dangerous port in all of Myrrah until he brushed the boat alongside a dock. The first thing he noticed was the dock looked ready to fall into the ocean.
The pilings leaned seaward with rotting boards nailed as bracing. Ty didn’t trust stepping off the ship onto the poorly framed mess, much less thought it would be stable enough to tie the ship to. Via didn’t share Ty’s doubt. He threw a line to a man standing with legs stretched over a gap of missing boards. Before Ty could protest, the boat was attached to the tenuous mooring. He hid his distrust of the dock and the town by taking his time lashing the sail.
“Nice boat,” the man on the dock said to Via.
“We picked it up in Portoreayl,” Via said with a glance that slid over Ty without sticking. “And the boy too. Bastion, this is Ty. He comes from a sailing family down coast. Says he’ll help us out for a bit, right boy?”
Ty nodded, not liking the shores of the town he found himself about as much as being called ‘boy.’ He was eighteen, but Via made it sound like he was twelve and a runaway. The three men chuckled at his reaction. The minor humiliation was still better than the treatment he’d received on his abandoned apprenticeship, especially considering the treatment that had been planned. Ignoring the three was not that difficult.
Garath and Ty hefted bundles of merchandise onto the dock, being sure to keep the bags on the most solid boards. Even with help from Bastion, it took several trips down the length of the dock to get everything to shore. By the time he made the final trip, Ty had memorized most of the gaps that needed to be jumped as well as a wide space crossed by a narrow plank.
Dropping the last of the bundles in the back of the cart that Via had arranged, Ty caught Via’s gaze sweeping him with an evaluating stare. “See I told you, the boy would be useful. He’s got good sea legs on him,” Via said to Garath. Garath grunted, flicking Ty a thoughtful glance as Ty climbed into the back of the wagon.
Garath snapped the whip at the small donkey hitched to the cart and they started the slow climb up the hill. Buildings in not much better repair than the ramshackle wharf lined a dirt street. Broken bottles glinted in untrod corners.
There were parts of Mirocyne, the town where Ty had grown up, that were rough, especially along the poorer docks. But nothing from home matched the broken windows set in buildings of cracked and unpainted boards. Ty had run through the streets of Mirocyne even at night as a boy. Navigating the streets of Sardinia, in daylight, as a young adult dried Ty’s mouth.
But there were people about. Most were hooded and kept their faces in shadows so that Ty couldn’t guess home ports or gender easily. His first taste of Sardinia validated every rumor he’d heard about the place. Worries about the men who’d found him and helped him in Portoreayl crept into Ty’s mind even though he tried to ignore them. He had no choice and nowhere to go.
Just when the warnings hissing through his mind became too much to ignore, the cart slipped under an arched gate set in an old wall. Ty stared. The rough and decrepit building were gone. In their place was a market unlike any he’d ever seen or heard.
The cobblestone main street was lined with shops set beneath deep overhangs. An assortment of tables and chairs set outside a cafe. The smell of coffee and sweets infused into the air as they passed. Tiny side streets, some barely wide enough for an adult man to walk down, led off between buildings. The signs of shops glinted in the dim light of the narrow pathways.
“Told you Sardinia wasn’t so bad,” Via said with a laugh.
Ty blushed. “What is this place?”
“The heart of Sardinia: its bazar. We are heading to my home, set up there in the nicer section of the city,” Via set with a nod toward the pinnacle of the ridge. “I want to look through everything once more before we take it to a few stores in the market.”
Larger buildings rising several stories crowned the height of the peninsula, trees peeking from balconies and rooftop gardens. That section of Sardinia competed with the better parts of Mirocyne. Ty was impressed. He settled back into the cart with a bit more confidence.
Perhaps his worries about Sardinia, as well as Via and Garth, were wrong.
“I have a favor to ask,” Via said to Ty late in afternoon of his fourth day in Sardinia.
By the end of those four days, Ty knew his way through the bazaar. At least all but a few places Via warned him to avoid. Just like every town, the market hosted all sorts of commerce, including ones that ran from pickpocketing to slavery. Ty listened to Via and kept to the paths and stores that were safe, returning each day to the complex where Via lived.
Via had given him a room along with some money to buy clothes, telling Ty he could earn the money back by carrying bundles to the various stores throughout Sardinia. Ty didn’t mind. He enjoyed seeing the market as much as earning some money. There were stores selling items Ty never considered purchasing, or even had existed. Everything from food to carpets, silk to leather shoes. If he had the money, he could buy a boat or have one made. Or simply buy all the pieces to make a boat. There was more in the market than he had seen in the six months he’d spend sailing on the Gypsy Empress to ports across Myrrah. More than he had seen growing up in a family of merchant sailors.
“There is a man who stole something from me. You’ve seen that Sardinia is not as bad, well not all of it, as is said. But there is no authority here, no one to settle disputes like this. So we have to take care of it ourselves,” Via said.
Via’s expression was sincere, but the request crawled across his skin. “What do you want me to do?” Ty asked.
Via huffed a laugh. “Nothing as bad as the look on your face would make out. I just need you to sneak in and unlock the door for us. No one will be home and we’re just gonna get back what he stole. Fair is fair.”
Ty didn’t like it, but the request didn’t seem unreasonable. “Sure,” he agreed.
“Good. Be ready at midnight. I’ll come get you,” Via said.
Via left with a friendly slap to Ty’s shoulder. Ty spent the remainder of the day trying not to think about sneaking into a house during the early morning hours. It was simply to retrieve something taken from Via. Via had been good to him. The request might not feel right, but there were no soldiers or guards in Sardinia other than those personally hired. He had seen that much in his four days. This was the only way to get what was stolen back. The thoughts chased each other.
By midnight, Ty had a headache. Hoping that by getting the favor done he would be able to stop thinking about it, Ty eagerly took the rope Via offered after leading him and four other men through the quiet streets of Sardinia. They stood in a narrow alley which blocked the moonlight. The darkness between the close set buildings obscured everything below the first floor.
“What do you want me to do?” Ty asked Via in a low whisper. Even so, he cringed at the sound as he spoke. Ty had no idea why he was holding a rope.
“Can you make it up to that balcony?” Via asked, nodding to a narrow ledge adorned with a railing that was three stories up along the side of the building.
Now Ty understood why Via had asked him for help. It wasn’t just the height that was imposing, or the narrow balcony that was the goal, but that getting to it meant either shimmying up the rope for three stories or a careful walk across the top edge of a narrow wall to then clamber up a final story to the balcony.
“Yah,” Ty answered, planning the route in his mind. The mast on the Gypsy Empress had been taller, and the yard for the top sail had been narrower than the wall. And neither the wall nor the balcony were swaying in the wind on a storm tossed boat. “Then what?”
Via blinked at him and then grinned. “Won’t be locked, but I’ll start teaching you lock picking… in case we ever have this problem again. Just go in, come downstairs, and open the door for us. No one is home, but stay quiet just in case.”
“That’s it?” Ty asked.
The comment about lock picking aside, the task seemed nearly too easy, at least to match the pleased glee in Via’s expression. Whatever the man had taken must have been valuable for Via to be nearly dancing.
“Yup, we’ll find what he stole. You’ll wait outside to keep watch in case they come home. Up to it then,” Via said, waving Ty onward.
Ty slipped the coil of rope across his shoulder before walking to where the wall lining the alley met the far building. The angle wasn’t smooth as if the wall or the building had been built at different times. The uneven stones provided small finger holds. Ty kicked off his shoes before feeling his way up the rough junction. When he got to the top two stories up, he regretted having left his shoes behind.
The top of the wall was studded with broken glass mortared into the stonework. A glance down at Via’s upturned, and very pleased, face kept Ty from navigating the uneven notch back down to look for another way. Careful of his knees, hands, and feet, Ty hauled himself onto the narrow tip and began a delicate walk across the top. Each step had to be carefully planned. Losing his balance and needing to catch himself would cost a bad cut or puncture. Not something Ty wanted, especially two stories above a stone street.
The embedded glass shards next to the building Via wanted to enter was broken flat, making Ty think he wasn’t the first to make his way to the top of the wall. He wondered what had happened to the ones who’d come before. That sent his gaze up to the balcony, guessing that the door had to be locked. But closer now he could see in the moonlight that the door was ajar to let in the evening air. Ty just didn’t know if it had been opened and forgotten, or if that meant someone was home. He didn’t want to meet the owners on his own after sneaking into their house. He could imagine what’d they’d think. Which was not much different from what he was doing.
“Hurry, boy,” Via hissed from below.
Ty tossed the rope skyward before he became lost in his thoughts. One sure cast looped it over the balcony rail. The heavy sailor’s knot tied to the thrown end weighed it down enough for Ty to lower the rope and grab it. He secured it with a loop and tested his weight on the rope, before hauling himself upward.
Rope climbing was an activity he’d begun about the time he learned to stand. Growing up in a sailing family, dangling ropes had always been present. For a boy, they’d offered access to things left out of his reach. As a young teenager, he’d climbed for the challenge as much as to get away from the confusion that came on the ground. Alone on a high mast, there was only him, the birds, and the sea air. Now once again he climbed to access something forbidden. Ty’s heart was in his throat in a way it hadn’t been since a very young age.
The climb was only a story, barely the length of a small mast. It only took Ty a minute, but the weight of what he was doing, and the fear of discovery made every second feel an hour. His palms were damp as he grabbed onto the marble railing and pulled himself onto the narrow balcony. Fully in the moonlight, Ty pressed himself against the building. Below, the shadows hid Via and the men with him.
Ty could alert the occupants in the house he was about to enter. The idea left him as soon as Ty thought it. This was Sardinia. Via’s story about theft didn’t have to be true for Ty to know his reception by the house’s owners would not be welcome or rewarded. Most likely he’d be killed before he could explain himself. Ty gently opened the doorway next to him and slipped inside.
In the dark, navigating the cluttered house was difficult. Not only was the upstairs a maze of small rooms, but they were crammed with furniture. What should have been open floor space held chests. Feeling very much as he did while walking the wall with its crest of glass shards, Ty inched through the upstairs. He found the stairs behind an ornate door. Happily, they led to the ground floor and ended only a few feet from a door leading outside.
Via waited on the other side, a cold grin on his face. “Good work, boy,” he said, nodding to the men with him to head inside. “We’ll go find what was stolen. You go down to the junction and keep watch. Ring this bell if you hear something and then run.”
Via pushed the smooth metal of a brass ship’s bell into Ty’s hand, one of the small ones used for signalling shift changes on the merchant ships. Happy to be able to put some distance between himself and what Via was about to do, Ty scurried down the dark alley to stand where a wider road crossed the narrow walkway. He ignored the faint sounds behind him.
Ty was groggy the next day. Via by contrast whistled as he walked with a skip in his step through his bright house. Despite the late hour when Ty finally crawled from his bed, he found fresh fruit and bread. Via, it turned out, had ordered them saved for Ty.
“You did good last night,” Via said again when he joined Ty on a sunlit patio.
“You got back what he stole from you?”
“Oh yes. It took some searching. You saw that house! But we found it. You’ve been running errands all week for me, boy. Today, just relax. Stay here, go to the market, do whatever you like.” Via dropped a small pouch of money on the table. “And here is the money you’ve earned for the week and your help last night.”
Ty didn’t want to stay in Via’s house for the day. Via’s exuberance turned Ty’s stomach even while he rationalized it made sense. Whatever Via had lost must have been valuable to make him steal it back. But the creeping unease kept him from relaxing. Within an hour Ty was pacing through the bazaar, keeping his money well hidden. His wandering journey led him by the same house he’d snuck into the night before, though Ty would have sworn he’d meant to avoid it.
It was quiet. There was no sign that anything had happened. Relief relaxed Ty’s muscles. He’d expected a hive of activity, men hurrying in and out. Maybe Via had really just taken back one thing. Ty had never seen the men leave or what they’d carried. Only Via had approached close enough to wave Ty away. He’d gone to his room and straight to bed, knowing only that over an hour had passed as he waited by the change in the moonlight.
Feeling far less troubled, Ty perused the market with more interest, stopping at a cafe and entering shops. At the corner where two of the widest roads met sat a shop with large arched doors and windows. The wooden shutters that protected the glass were wide open, allowing a view into a store that, thought packed, stood out from all those he had seen for the quality of the wares. Curiosity drew Ty in.
“I haven’t seen you around the market before,” a heavyset man said, brown eyes warm when so many in Sardinia held evaluation.
“Not been here a week yet,” Ty answered.
“You’ve done well to survive that long,” the man said with a laugh. “I’m Finneous. That’s my boy, Jistin. Probably about your age,” Finneous said, finally giving Ty a full glance. “Look around. I’ll be in the back if you have questions. There are dates on the counter if you’re hungry.”
Ty looked around the store and back at Finneous. “You’re going to trust me out here alone?”
“You don’t look like much of a thief,” Finneous said. Jistin laughed silently at that.
“No, I am… was a sailor,” Ty said with a stumble.
“There is a story to that, I bet. But then, most everyone in Sardinia has a story. Just can’t believe most of them. You though, you I’d believe for a sailor. Good profession. Honest one. Shame you washed up here.”
Ty looked away. “I had some trouble.”
Finneous didn’t reply. When Ty glanced at him to see if he’d left, he found Finneous’s eyes still on him, holding both warmth and sadness in his gaze. “We all have troubles. Don’t let yours keep you here too long. You got a place to stay…?”
“Ty. My name is Ty,” he said, happy that for once he wasn’t called boy. “And Via has been helping me out.”
Finneous frowned when Ty said Via’s name. “Via, huh? You’ve done really well to have survived a week then,” Finneous said.