Authors: V. Briceland
The Glass Maker’s Daughter
Volume 1 in the Cassaforte Chronicles
“Readers will find much to love in
The Glass Maker’s Daughter
and its stubborn and strong-willed heroine.”
School Library Journal
“With suspenseful plotting and a marvelous cast
of characters, this is a strong addition to
“A charming young-adult fantasy.”
The Buccaneer’s Apprentice: The Cassaforte Chronicles, Volume II
© 2010 by V. Briceland
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First e-book edition © 2010
E-book ISBN: 978-0-7387-2374-7
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Cover design by Kevin R. Brown
Cover illustration by Blake Morrow/Shannon Associates
Map on page v-vi by Jared Blando
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Writing a novel may be the most isolated of pursuits, but happily I have been surrounded by many people who have lent their expertise and opinions in the shaping of this book. I owe much gratitude to my friend Patty Woodwell, for her helpful reading of an early draft. My editor Brian Farrey offered many helpful suggestions for which I’m also thankful. I also must thank Craig Scott Symons for his unflagging support.
As a young man, my father was fond of C. S. Forester’s series of seafaring novels following the career of the young, seasick midshipman Horatio Hornblower. With his appreciation for a nautical tale of derring-do in mind, it is to him that I dedicate
The Buccaneer’s Apprentice.
Old sailors tell tales of a passage in the Azure Sea where the most seasoned of captains fears to plot his course. The Dead Strait, as it is called, lies far from the warm climes of Cassaforte and Pays d’Azur, close to the tiny Azure Isles, where wild savages live. Only a captain who is a fool—or worse, a villain—would dare venture into its treacherous waters.
—Celestine du Barbaray,
Traditions & Vagaries of the
Azure Coast: A Guide for the Hardy Traveler
he little theater on the Via Buonochio known as the Larkspur was built to hold only two hundred patrons. On a good evening, though, when twin full moons hung low in the midnight sky and the streets of Cassaforte were full of people enjoying the prolonged twilight, the Larkspur’s owners packed their stalls to capacity and beyond. In the wings, seventeen-year-old Niccolo Dattore could smell the crowd’s sweat and their perfumes mingling with the peppery aromas of the clove balls the more sensitive sniffed to keep their noses clear. The collective heat from their bodies was more oppressive than that from the blazing footlights nearby. Nic sweltered from them both. Behind the tall velvet curtains, he waited with outstretched arms holding a costume change for his mistress—a robe liberally splattered with red, to simulate gore.
“Lad.” The voice whispering in his ear was his master’s. Armand Arturo himself, of Armand Arturo’s Theatre of Marvels, and author of
Infernal Mysteries of the Bloody Banquet: A Tale of Blood and Woe,
which played now before the fascinated crowd. “You’ve got to go on.”
“What?” Nic could barely turn his eyes from the gruesome sights unfolding before him. The actor known as Knave was center stage, wearing a massive false mustache and long wig of raven deeper than even Nic’s dark locks. Knave brandished a stage sword with a secret reservoir of carmine stain and roared and declaimed his lines as he chased a screaming Ingenue about the stage. Signora Arturo and Infant Prodigy, in blond headpieces as Ingenue’s older and younger sisters, cowered beneath a table. Soon Knave would turn his attention to Signora Arturo, who would dash offstage for her quick change, and then stagger back on for her exaggerated, and overacted, death. Knave took a mighty leap forward, and landed with both feet before the table with a mighty
that startled the audience into gasping. “I have to go on where?”
“You’ve got to go on,” Signor Arturo repeated in a weak voice. Nic turned, but couldn’t find his master in the darkness of the wings. “I’m taken, lad. It’s up to you.”
Another of Knave’s mighty leaps seemed to shake every one of the Larkspur’s timbers. “Taken? Taken ill?” Nic whirled around to find the actor, but his green eyes were still too dazzled by the footlights to see. “Are you sick, Signor? I can’t go on in your place, if that’s what you mean.”
. Onstage, the women screamed, and many in the audience screamed with them. “Signor, I’m no actor. I’m a servant. I don’t know the lines.” The heat was oppressive. Nic dabbed his wet forehead onto his shoulder.
“You will know what to do.” Signor Arturo’s voice was now but a whisper that grew fainter with every syllable. “Go on. The lines will come.” Kind as ever, that advice.
Another thud, the mightiest of all, seemed to splinter the Larkspur apart. It was then that the theater faded away, and Nic Dattore woke from his deep dream. Though the heat and humidity were still oppressive, he was no longer in the comforting familiarity of the theater, or even in Cassaforte. He was far from home in the middle of the Azure Sea, on the stern deck of the
Pride of Muro
where he had crawled earlier that night, hoping for a breath of air. He bolted upright.
His ears rang and his head buzzed from the shrieks and cries, and the mighty thumping noises. When Nic blinked the gritty crust from his eyes, he first focused upon the stars overhead. The moon Muro, large and bright, hovered over the western horizon. His sister, Lena, reigned with him to the north. Their glow illuminated the sea around him, catching ripples upon the inky void. Yet Nic paid no mind to the arms of light extended in his direction. All his attention was upon the all-too-real sword at his throat, and the man brandishing it.
It was said only a fool or a villain navigated into the treacherous waters of the Dead Strait, and yet Captain Vittorio Delguardino of the
Pride of Muro
had done just that, earlier in the afternoon. Even a short-sighted man should have noticed the expanse of seaweed floating upon the Dead Strait’s waters. Sea Dog’s Deceit was its name. It blanketed what appeared to be the calmest part of the sea, where all winds ceased. Yet beneath the seemingly placid surface ran a deadly undercurrent south. A man fallen overboard might become entangled in its heavy tendrils and find himself unable to fight the current to save his own life. Even a ship as seasoned as the
Pride of Muro
could not resist the inexorable pull of the undertow. It had taken only an afternoon for the captain to completely lose his bearings.
An gellion beau ze bond!
” At the base of the ladder leading up to the tiny stern deck stood a man. His dirty hair was restrained by a kerchief stiff with grime and dried blood. His snarl revealed stretches of brown gum where his teeth should have been. “
Beau ze bond!
” he repeated, brandishing a torch in his left hand. The right clutched a blade, the likes of which Nic had never before seen. Longer than a knife, yet shorter than any sword, its tip sported vicious teeth. The hilt, under the man’s thick fist, had been carved from bone. From it hung wisps of something like straw. “
Beau ze bond!
” he bellowed.
“I am! I am!” One of Nic’s former masters had been accustomed to rousing him in the stables some mornings by throwing pitchers of ice water over his head. That awakening now seemed infinitely kinder than this. “I’m coming!” he added. Though his arms shook, he held them above his head. His heart seemed to hammer a dozen times for every step he took. “See? I’m coming. It’s all right. It’s all right.”
The last words might have been more for himself than for the stranger. Nic willed himself to put a foot onto the first of the ladder’s six rungs. He kept one hand in the air to indicate his surrender but used the other to keep himself from falling as he descended from the quarterdeck. All the time, his eyes darted across the tiny merchant ship’s deck, searching for clues. How this situation had come to pass while he slept, he couldn’t imagine. “
” yelled the man, gesturing with the sword.
“I am. Just … stay calm,” he replied. Talking to the man felt like trying to soothe an angry hound. It might not understand the exact words, but it might pick up on the tone. Once both Nic’s feet were firmly on the deck, he turned and held up both hands. “Calm yourself.” He was astonished to hear the words come out more as a command.
The pale-skinned man seemed equally surprised. His eyes opened wide; his nostrils flared with rage. From his nearly toothless mouth came that word again. “
Nic shook his head. There was one terrifying moment when the man raised his short sword into the air, making Nic shake on unsteady legs. “
,” the man said once again in an almost smug voice. He gently lowered the blade until its lethal point rested on Nic’s left shoulder. The weight of the blade pierced through his woolen shirt and into his skin. Tears sprung to Nic’s eyes. He’d been a servant all his life. If there had been anything he’d learned from a long string of bad-tempered masters, it was the importance of masking suffering. Letting it show only invited worse. The pain of the blade, though, was too intense to ignore. The sword’s sharp barb seemed to dig into the bone.
Nic obeyed the command, lowering himself until he was kneeling on the deck planks. In the distance, he heard the sound of raised voices, muffled and indistinct. The hold’s hatch was open, but the voices could have come from anywhere. Had they been the shouts and thuds of his dream? “I’m nobody,” he said, trying to buy time. “I’m just a servant. I was sleeping up there.” The man’s blade forbade him from turning to point. “You have no quarrel with me.”
The voices were louder now, filling the night with unfamiliar words in a foreign tongue. From the hatch below emerged a man—a gentleman by any standard, but especially compared to the ruffian keeping Nic cornered. His coat was cut of fine blue fabric and had been richly embroidered with braid over the shoulders and around the wrists. A tricornered hat trimmed with gold sat atop a white periwig set with a perfect curl in his forehead’s center. “Please, sir,” Nic called out, trying to make himself heard above the panicked drumbeat of his heart. “Help me!”
The gentleman turned. “Cassaforte?” he asked. All four of the syllables sounded foreign, the way he pronounced them. He raised a pencil-thin eyebrow. Two other men, dressed similarly though less richly, climbed the ladder from the hold to join him.
“Yes!” Surely the fine nobleman would be able to explain the confusion. Nic noticed that the rogue holding him at sword point bowed his head to the fellow in the tricorne. “I am from Cassaforte. Tell this man …”
Nic had scarcely begun to speak than the gentleman strode over, grabbed him by the hair, and looked into his face. The toothless villain dug the sword’s tip deeper into Nic’s flesh, bringing even more tears to his eyes. “Have you anyone hidden on this vessel?”
“You’re from Pays d’Azur,” Nic said, placing the nasal accent at last. “Please, help me. There’s no one hidden on here. But we’re—”
One of the attendants cut him off with a word. “Comte Dumond,” he said, in an Azurite accent as well. “These are not the dogs from Cassaforte. You are wasting your time.”
The comte smelled of cologne and of spicy breath-paste. Now that he was bathed in torchlight, Nic noticed that he sported an enormous mole at the crest of his cheekbone. His eyes were cold and hard as he studied Nic’s face. “
. They are not. You are of no consequence to me, boy,” he leered. It almost seemed as if he enjoyed the pain written plain on Nic’s face. When he let go of Nic’s hair, Nic reeled backward in shock. To his underlings, the comte commanded, “Tell them they may do what they will with the boat and its survivors. If the dogs have left any, that is.”
“What kind of man are you?” Nic spat, hating him.
The comte turned and sneered. “The kind you wish you were.” With a whirl, the comte strode away on heavy heels, where his men waited to help him into a small craft bobbing in the water at the boat’s edge.
He had never intended to help. Comte Dumond was the devil himself. Nic would remember his name, he vowed. Gods help the man if he were ever within Nic’s reach. At his back, he yelled, “Scum! I’ll track you to Côte Nazze if I must, to make you pay!”
,” growled the toothless man, reminding Nic who was in charge.
He would have to forget the comte now. Once again, Nic only had himself. “Listen,” he pleaded, ignoring the fact that tears were running down his face and stinging his cracked lips. “We can work this out. You don’t have to hurt anyone. I’m sure if you talked to Captain Delguardino …”
The mangy swordsman seemed to recognize one of Nic’s words. “
” he repeated, laughing. “
” A flood of unrecognizable syllables followed, but when he was done, the man moved the torch with a swoop. Its flame nearly roasted Nic’s face as it passed a few mere inches away. “
Vomo sor vu Kap-i-tan
,” said the man, inviting Nic to look at the spot illuminated by his torch.