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Authors: Patrick Bowman

Cursed by the Sea God

BOOK: Cursed by the Sea God
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CURSED BY THE SEA GOD

Copyright © 2013 Patrick Bowman

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without prior
written permission of the publisher, or, in Canada, in the case of photocopying
or other reprographic copying, a licence from Access Copyright (the Canadian
Copyright Licensing Agency).

RONSDALE PRESS

3350 West 21st Avenue, Vancouver, B. C., Canada V6S 1G7

www.ronsdalepress.com

Typesetting: Julie Cochrane, in Minion 12 pt on 16

Cover Art & Design: Jake Collinge

Paper: Ancient Forest Friendly “Silva” (FSC)—100% post-consumer waste, totally
chlorine-free and acid-free

Ronsdale Press wishes to thank the following for their support of its
publishing program: the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Canada
through the Canada Book Fund, the British Columbia Arts Council and the Province
of British Columbia through the British Columbia Book Publishing Tax Credit
program.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Bowman, Patrick, 1962–

Cursed by the sea god / Patrick Bowman.

(Odyssey of a slave; 2)

ISBN 978-1-55380-186-3 (print)

ISBN 978-1-55380-187-0 (ebook) / ISBN 978-1-55380-188-7 (pdf)

1. Trojan War—Juvenile fiction. 2. Odysseus (Greek mythology)—Juvenile fiction.
I. Title. II. Series: Bowman, Patrick, 1962– . Odyssey of a slave; 2.

PS8603.O97667C87 2013       jC813'.6       C2012-907714-3

At Ronsdale Press we are committed to protecting the environment. To this end
we are working with Canopy (formerly Markets Initiative) and printers to phase
out our use of paper produced from ancient forests. This book is one step
towards that goal.

for my wife Barbara,

who has kept us solvent while we've

kept each other sane

and for my daughters Kathleen and Anitra,

who still listen to all my stories

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Although my name is on the cover of
Cursed by the Sea God
, there are
many people I want to thank for their help: my family and friends, who endured
long discussions of how to keep the plot fresh while remaining true to Homer’s
Odyssey
; the students of the John Wanless Public School Book Club,
who helped me identify the bits that went on too long or just made no sense; my
indefatigable editor, Ron, whose patience knows no bounds; my sister Laurel, who
provided invaluable insight into what was really motivating my characters; the
wonderful folks of the OLA
Forest of Reading
program who chose
Torn
from Troy
(to which
Cursed by the Sea God
is the sequel) as a Red
Maple selection. And, of course, Ameera, for letting me use her name.

CHAPTER ONE

The Windward Isle

SPRAWLED ON THE COBBLES, the girl was staring up, her dark eyes
widened in horror. The slave’s knot that bound her hair had shaken loose,
leaving dark strands dangling across her face. But she wasn’t looking at
us.

For some reason she was looking up at a fruit seller, a greying man with gentle
eyes. When the Greeks had emerged from the alleyway a moment ago, they must have
startled her. A group of bronze-hard Greek soldiers could do that. Coming up
behind them, I’d entered the square just in time to see her leap back in
surprise. Struggling for balance, she had staggered into a rickety cart. It had
toppled over, sending pears
rolling across the cobbles and
leaving her sprawled among them.

Now, a shocked silence had fallen across the busy square. “Please . . .” she
began, her eyes pleading. I watched, wondering what she was so afraid of.

The fruit seller shook his head, his expression sorrowful. “I can’t change the
rules, young lady, no more can you.” He reached down to help her up. “Perhaps .
. . it won’t be too bad.”

A breeze stirred his hair and he stiffened. “Best to go now, then. You don’t
want anyone else blamed, do you?”

She bit her lip. With a last despairing look around her, she turned to trudge
off toward the high castle on the far side of the square. People stared at their
sandals as she passed.

Something was terribly wrong here. I’d felt it since we’d landed on the island
that morning. Something about the way the townsfolk kept their heads and voices
down, avoiding attention. Or perhaps it was the street vendors, holding their
wares up in an eerie silence. Even the insistent breeze that had followed us up
from the harbour seemed unnatural, snuffling beneath our tunics like a
suspicious dog. And now, to my amazement, instead of running off with the
spilled pears, the street urchins nearby were neatly piling them back on the
fruit-seller’s cart.

I bent to help. “So what’s her problem?” I asked one of the boys, trying to
sound casual as I nodded in the direction the girl had gone.

He looked sideways at me, the whites of his eyes showing
like a
terrified horse. “Get away from here,” he hissed. “Before you get us polished
along with her.” He put his pears in the cart and disappeared into the
crowd.

We had sighted the island that morning, six days after our escape from the
Cyclops. With our water cisterns empty, there’d been no choice about landing,
and the sight of a sheltered harbour with proper wharves for mooring had made
the decision easy.

The Greeks were led by a man they called Lopex. His real name was Odysseus, but
nobody called him that. And for me, calling him Lopex also made it easier to
forget that he was a Greek war leader. I could see him just ahead in the crowded
marketplace, leading a delegation of five men to the castle on a hill in the
centre of the city. I was pleased that he’d included me. Officially, I was just
a slave, and a boy besides, but since I’d proven myself as a healer, and again
while fighting the Cyclops, it was clear Lopex had begun to see me as something
more. My chest puffed out a bit at the thought as I trailed behind the
Greeks.

Up close, the castle was even larger than it had looked from the harbour,
topped with a bronze tower pierced by four large, perfectly round holes open to
the four winds. The girl had come this way only moments before, but there was no
sign of her now.

“So, Alexi? Are you coming?” Lopex was waiting for me to follow, a wry
expression on his face. I smiled as I realized he’d
called me by
name again and hastened to catch up. The other Greeks were already heading
through the large doorway behind a servant who had come out as we approached. As
I passed porters in the hall, I couldn’t help wondering what their life was
like. Their bare feet said they were slaves, but they still looked better fed
than I’d been as a free orphan on the streets of Troy.

I twitched at the memory. I tried hard to avoid thinking of that life, but
unguarded thoughts sometimes broke through. Troy, the city I had lived in all my
life—until a few months ago. Until the Greeks got in.

After ten years of war, they’d somehow broken through the wall, killing
everyone I knew and taking me as a slave before sailing for home. Soon
afterwards, their own healer had been killed in a raid and they’d forced me, son
of a Trojan healer, to take his place. That was probably what had kept me alive
so far. And if they’d known I was really fifteen, they would have killed me
before we’d even set sail. For once in my life, I’d been glad to be short for my
age. If only my sister Melantha . . .

Those thoughts were even more painful. I’d felt sure I had seen her die that
night, until my fellow-slave Kassander had said she was still alive. I just
wished I could believe him. I forced my thoughts elsewhere by looking around the
room we’d been brought into.

“Welcome, travellers.” The voice was husky, with a slight lisp. I peered
between the broad backs of the Greeks in front of me to see who was
speaking.

“I bid you welcome to my land, the kingdom of Aeolia. I am
Aeolus, the King.” The king! I wormed forward to see a puffy-faced, shrunken man
wrapped in a cloak much too big for him, sitting on an ornate raised chair. He
lifted a frail hand in a languid half-wave. Nearby, a knot of brightly dressed
courtiers clapped obediently. I peered at the king, puzzled. Surely he wasn’t
what everyone was afraid of.

The king gestured vaguely and the clapping trailed off. “Come over here, young
man, and tell me who you are.”

Lopex approached the foot of the throne. “My name, Your Majesty, is—”

“Majesty? Majesty?” A frown spread across the king’s face like a cloud. “We
don’t use that title here. Call me ‘Your Inclemency.’” He made that gesture
again and the courtiers clapped once more, their elaborately styled hair bobbing
like birds. “Now, go on.”

“My name, Your—Inclemency—is Odysseus. Of Ithaca. Son of Laertes. I bring you
gold and silver plate, ten fine bronze tripods, and able-bodied slaves as a
guest gift.”

The king just looked at him, the silence stretching so long I thought he’d
fallen asleep. At last he spoke. “Son of Laertes, you say. A credit to your
ancestors, you are.” He paused again, nodding to himself. “Indeed, your
ancestors.” He sat up suddenly.

“Yes! Let us dine together. The men in your ships, summon them. They may dine—”
He broke off, sniffing delicately in our direction. “They may dine in the old
barracks.”

Lopex bowed. “You are very generous, Your Inclemency. But you
may not be aware that my ships hold over two hundred men.”

The king’s bushy eyebrows went up. “Aware? I assure you, dear boy, I know
everything that passes on the ocean for five days’ wind in any direction,
including the strength of your company. It is no issue.” He beckoned to an
attractive slave girl nearby. “My dear, take our guest to the blue chamber.
Bathe him well and dress him for dinner.”

He tottered down the steps to take a seat on an ornate wooden litter nearby.
Four husky slaves hoisted it to their shoulders as he waved gently to the room.
The courtiers clapped once more as he was carried out.

That evening I ate at a small table in the corner of the kitchen with two
palace slaves. Across the table was a heavyset boy about my age with dark hair,
and on the bench beside me, a twitchy, anxious-looking boy a year or two
younger. As the guest, I was invited to give my story first. By the time I had
finished telling them about the Cyclops they were leaning toward me, round-eyed,
to catch every word.

“After we escaped it, we sailed for six days before sighting land. We spotted
your island at midmorning today.” I dipped two fingers in a pot of their garlic
houmous
paste and smeared it on a piece of bread. “Now it’s your
turn. What’s everyone so afraid of here? I saw a girl in the market square
today, she was terrified. And your king—what’s his problem?”

A look passed between the two of them. The nervous boy shook his
head. “We . . . shouldn’t talk about that,” he mumbled, his eyes darting around
anxiously. A momentary breeze from the hallway stirred his hair and he gave a
violent twitch.

I frowned. “What’s with you?”

The fattish boy shook his head. “You don’t get it.” He tried to lean across the
table but couldn’t reach. “Stelos, you tell him.” The boy to my left leaned in
reluctantly and cupped his hands around my ear. “The king listens,” he
whispered. “To the winds.”

I tugged away to stare at him. “Listens to the winds? The wind from his own
gloutos
, maybe—” I broke off as the fattish boy leaned across the
table and pressed a hand hard against my mouth.

“Don’t,” he hissed. “I’m not kidding.” He stood up. “Stelos, let’s get out of
here.”

I grabbed Stelos by the wrist as he got to his feet. “Wait!” I said. “What’s
going on?”

The noise was beginning to attract attention from the kitchen servants. The boy
glanced around nervously as he tried to tug his wrist free, but I wouldn’t let
go. Finally he stopped. “Not here,” he whispered, bending toward me. “Meet me
tomorrow, after breakfast chores.” I let him go and he almost ran out of the
kitchen.

The next morning, I spotted Stelos carrying steaming plates out to the nobles’
dining room. After the dishes were washed
and the day’s grain had
been delivered to the slave girls for grinding, he nodded hesitantly in my
direction. I followed him up two flights of stairs, more than I’d ever seen in a
single building, to a storeroom filled with badly tarnished armour, and over to
a window on the far side. From up here I could see the entire castle square.
Yesterday it had been packed with people, but now it was completely empty.

Or almost so. In the dead centre of the square stood two bronze posts, each
about a man’s height, with a silver manacle on a chain hanging from the top. A
stray dog lay between them, gnawing on a polished white bone.

I turned back to Stelos. “What are you showing me? Those whipping posts?”

He shook violently. “Not . . . whipping,” he whispered, looking down.

“Then what are they?” I asked. “What does this have to do with the girl from
the market?”

There was a noise from outside, and I turned back to the window. Below us, two
thickset eunuchs were leading someone out of the castle. As she looked fearfully
at the sky, I recognized her as the girl from the marketplace.

The two eunuchs shackled her to the posts and retreated quickly into the
castle. Stelos tugged my sleeve and pointed. “It’s starting,” he
whispered.

I looked but could see only a tiny dust whirlwind scudding across the square.
“What?”

Stelos led me to the far side of the room and plucked a
long
thread from his tunic. “It’s okay,” he breathed, peering at the thread as it
hung motionless between us. “They’re distracted, for now.”

I frowned. “Who? And what’s going to happen to that girl?”

His eyes flickered to the thread, still motionless. “Listen to me, Greek.”
Irritated, I opened my mouth to point out that I was Trojan but shut it again.
“The sooner you leave, the better,” he went on. “They’re everywhere. Listening.
Even in the castle. Haven’t you noticed, there are no doors or shutters here?
Nothing to block the winds.
And they listen to him too
.”

This wasn’t making any sense. “What’s going to happen to that girl?” I asked,
losing patience.

He shook his head. “There was a time when the king was fair, they say. Back
when he was younger. But not now. The winds are worse now. No one even dares to
get angry anymore. Step out of line and get . . . polished.”

I grabbed his shoulders. “Polished? Someone else said that. What is it?”

“Those posts. That’s where it happens.” His voice faltered. “People get chained
there. Then the winds come.” He squeezed his eyes shut. “My own brother,” he
said, his voice breaking. “I saw him, after. The winds, they . . .” he broke
off, burying his face in his hands. “Don’t make me say it,” he whispered. “But
Ameera—they’re coming for her.”

“What?” I blurted. “Just for spilling those pears? That was an accident. We
startled her! Can’t we tell the king?”

He shrugged helplessly. “How? His court, they keep the
people
from him. Now he hears only the winds.” He glanced up. “Listen.” From outside
the castle came a low, whistling moan. “They’re coming.”

I shoved him aside impatiently and darted from the room to leap down the
stairs. Speeding past huddled knots of courtiers and slaves in the hallway, I
ran for the open front entrance and shot out into the square.

Ameera was standing between the two posts, her arms held above her head by the
silver shackles. Whirlwinds of dust and sand flickered across the courtyard. Her
hair was whipping back and forth in the rising wind.

“Ameera?” I called as I approached. She lifted her head in surprise. Her face
was streaked with tears and dust.

“Who are you?” she said. “You’re not from here. Get back inside!”

I stopped before her. “It wasn’t your fault!” I said urgently. “We scared you
yesterday. We need to tell the king.”

She shook her head. “The king doesn’t listen anymore. Not to people.” She
looked up and her face fell. “Sweet Demeter,” she murmured. “It’s too
late.”

BOOK: Cursed by the Sea God
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