Chapter Seventeen

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The small wharf city was a collection of shacks and hovels separated by narrow alleys and tighter walkways. It was a mere fraction of its former glamour. I knew as much about Osprey because I had been there before, but never in its prime. The city was once the premiere port of the Isles, but the War of Betrayal changed that. I glanced around the dilapidated town. Each pile of aged wood was home to thieves and brigands alike, all looking to stuff their pockets with the earned coins of honest men. Well, at least mostly honest men. Liras told me about Osprey when I passed the first stages of the Virenti. “The Shadows have people everywhere,” he had said as he led me through drill after drill, “but there is only one oscura.”

In all honesty though, I went to Osprey to find passage to the continent, not to enter the Sieltacor. Finding a ferry had been more trouble than I thought. The trip from Ovum back to the salty shores of Panthos was meant to be quick and easy. However, I was quickly discovering that nothing was easy for a thirteen year old exiled prince who wished to stay unnoticed. I made my way to Osprey in hopes of finding a ship to ferry me to Tilry or Myssari, but after trying my luck with five different captains, I moved closer to understanding that perhaps it would take more than just faith in the Moon Gods to get me home.

I had left my mother in tears and hadn’t given Liras so much as a goodbye. Liras would not be pleased, but he never understood me. He expected me to turn the other cheek, to forget what happened to my people, to my kingdom. I was being trained in the ways of the Uthari, but I was not allowed to use my training. Damn him, my all-knowing cousin. I had beaten him. Had I desired it, he would have tasted dirt for the rest of his days. Yet, there I stood, alone and abandoned, forsaken by those that loved me most with naught but my pride to play as both friend and bitter reminder of my situation.

The sixth ship would be my salvation, I knew it. The sun shone high in the sky and bathed the docks in a blanket of heat that could have boiled the sea. I walked past galleys and carracks, knarrs and cogs, in hopes of one last ship that would sail to Tilry. Sailors moved about quickly, loading and unloading the various ships. Merchant children and servants of the sea bellowed competitive prices for their clams and cods and shrimps and eels at every passerby. It had been two days since I had eaten anything and, had I possessed any coin, I would have bought the whole stand. A prince I was, but a poor prince, a homeless prince.

“Ay, boyyo, t’ hell outa tha way,” a rusty wire of a man howled as he passed, arms full of boxes. I had thrown myself into a world that I had only read about in books. Surrounding me was a world of mayhem, full of potential, full of the unknown. I knew Osprey only slightly from the visit years before with Liras as my guide. I slithered my way through the busy quay and found the ramp leading to the Nipper, the only cog remaining that dared make anchor in Tilry. As I stepped up the wooden path I caught glances from a few sailors, but was approached by only one. He was small and smelly, dressed in stained cloth breaches and a worn vest that lay over dark, windblown skin. “Fancy a lift, lad?”

“I wish to speak with your captain, good sir,” I said in my most courteous of voices, not that the salty man was familiar with courtesies.

He had drab brown eyes and a mangy breadth of hair that pillowed over his brow. “If it is passage you require, you can do your dealings with me. Name’s Cloy.”

I nodded my approval. “I am looking to reach Tilry, Cloy. Word around the docks is this is the only ship brave enough to make anchor at the Sunken City.”

The man eyed me suspiciously. “What are you boy, ten?”

“Thirteen, and nearly a man grown. I will guarantee that I am as capable as any man aboard your ship. I will earn my passage, that I can promise you.”

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