as icarus loved the sun (too close, too much) @artemiscrock
Chapter One

Yusuf leaves him in Cairo. He tracks down a merchant who understands Genoese for Nicolo to work with before he leaves, and then he vanishes into the bustling city. The merchant offers Nicolo a job on his ship for his upcoming voyage to Venice, and Nicolo accepts. What else is he to do? Everything he believes - or rather, believed - in, everything he has ever been taught has been called into question. He knows nothing. Not himself, not other people, not the world or good or evil nor even God. The only things he knows with any certainty are these; The first is that Yusuf is undoubtedly the best man he has ever known - on their journey, he had shown Nicolo far more patience and kindness than he deserved, after what he's done. Even his final act before they parted, finding someone Nicolo could speak to, could travel with safely, was a kindness. The second thing he knows is that he and Yusuf are bound together somehow. Despite this separation, they will meet again. And, finally, he knows that he does not deserve a fate entwined with Yusuf's. That is a gift that he will never be worthy of, but one he has received all the same. He has no idea what to do with any of this, with himself, with eternity stretching before him. A boat seems as good a place as any to begin. 

He finds that he enjoys life aboard the ship. It is honest work, and he realizes that he enjoys spending time with sailors more than he ever did soldiers and priests. They're friendly people - they laugh and swap stories and play games and drink and even though he doesn't contribute much, they happily accept him as a part of their community. Ironically, he feels steadier on his feet on this swaying ship than he has since he awoke from his first death. The routine is easy, and it allows him to clear his mind and to consider what to do with himself, with his - he hesitates to call it a gift. His new ability, perhaps. To rise from death. And the conclusion that he comes to is a simple one. Good. He will do good.

Unfortunately, even though the answer is simple, the execution is not. He no longer knows what good is, not really. He doesn't trust his own instincts. So he decides that before he can really do good, he has to learn. Not from books or scholars or priests. He doesn't want an education in the esoteric, he wants to know people, learn about cultures other than his own, to understand the world in practice rather than theory.

Unfortunately, even though the answer is simple, the execution is not. He no longer knows what good is, not really. He doesn't trust his own instincts. So he decides that before he can really do good, he has to learn. Not from books or scholars or priests. He doesn't want an education in the esoteric, he wants to know people, learn about cultures other than his own, to understand the world in practice rather than theory.

He spends the next few years traveling, spending more time at sea than on dry land. It's an easy place to disappear, and he's glad of the anonymity. The transient nature of crewmen means that Nicolo gets to meet people from places he's never been to, never even heard of. He learns quickly that there is very little that a sailor loves more than a good story. Tales of lost loves, of families torn apart and reunited, of gods and of monsters. It is often hard to be sure if they are fact or fiction, especially because exaggeration is another of a sailor's favorite pastimes. He himself has no stories he cares to share, so he spends his time listening. This is how he learns. Perhaps some of the stories are false, but they give him insight into the people telling them - their values, their cultures, their beliefs. He knows he is still ignorant, but he feels that he knows more now than he ever did in his first life.

He has been on this particular ship for maybe a week, on its way to Alexandria. There is another mercenary aboard the ship, Alastair. He's a short Greek man with round, ruddy cheeks, an easy smile, and a loose tongue. Stories spill from his lips constantly, mostly tales from the Greek myths. Nicolo quite likes these, intrigued by the drama and the interconnectedness of the pantheon of Greek gods. Over dinner one night, Alastair draws quite a crowd as he tells the tale of Icarus. 

A king trapped a man - Icarus - and his father in a tower. His father, a craftsman, carefully constructed wings for the pair of them to escape, using wax and feathers. He gave Icarus his wings with a warning. If he flew too low, the feathers would grow too heavy with water from the sea and he would not be able to fly. Too high, and the heat of the sun would melt the wax, and he would fall from the sky. Icarus didn't heed his father's warnings, was too drawn in by the sun's warmth and beauty. His wax wings melted, and he fell into the sea.

Nicolo feels a lump in his throat at this. He does not know why.

Another crewman chimes in, telling that in the version of the story he'd been told, the reason Icarus kept flying higher was that he had fallen in love with Apollo, the god of the sun, and he yearned to be with his love, so much so that he had forgotten his father's instructions altogether.

He feels as though he can't breathe. He still does not understand why.

Yet another man wonders aloud if perhaps Apollo had allowed the wax to melt intentionally, if he had not returned Icarus's feelings.

Nicolo rushes to the deck of the ship and loses his supper over the edge.

1. Prologue 1192 0 0 2. Chapter One 1010 0 0 3. Chapter Two 1478 0 0 4. Chapter Three 2412 0 0 5. Chapter Four 1733 0 0 6. Chapter Five 2894 0 0