Eleysius’ eyes were like dark and magical waters. Maggie doubted they missed anything—including that which Conor tried to keep hidden, the source of that hopelessness, which she suddenly became aware of: an amorphous bitterness deep, deep within him, one he had buried so expertly within his soul that its presence surprised her.
“My mother ... was a prostitute,” Conor began quietly. “I was born in Dublin, but we moved to London when I was five. I don’t remember the move. I never knew my father. He was probably one of her regulars; I don’t know. She died of Consumption when I was ten. But she had abandoned me two years earlier. She left me on the streets of London, alone, scared, starving.
“She refused to see me, to take me back, her own flesh and blood, her own boy. I stole food to survive. I slept in gutters and alleyways. One morning I woke in a field, under a grove of trees I had used many times to hide, to see men above me. They beat me. I lost consciousness. When I woke I was in chains and aboard a ship. A privateer ship. I’d been kidnapped to be a deckhand—little more than a bloody slave.
“There were others with me, other boys. I watched what happened to some of them. We were expendable in the eyes of the crew. Some were thrown overboard. Others faced far worse fates. I was beaten and kicked—I remember being whipped once—but other than that, no one set their hands on me.
“We were sailing north along the coast of New Spain when a spectacular lightning storm came out of the blue sky, out of nothing at all. The next thing I know, it was night and a hellish squall was toppling the ship. The ship was dashed against cliffs. I alone survived. I don’t know how. When the storm cleared, I found myself under an outcropping of black rock overlooking Ae Infinitus. Just behind me was the edge of the world. There was a spire in the distance in the other direction. I thought it might be a cathedral. I climbed a dune against the Pier to get on it, and from there started walking.”