Before arriving in the east, when he was still with his father and Grimbert, they had often discussed the history and geography of the places where they would visit. At night, around the fire, they would plan out their journey and go over important details to keep in mind. Now, trapped within the winding alleyways of Tyre, he thought back to what he knew about it. It had been an island city founded by the ancient Babylonians and had been connected to the mainland with landfill and large stone blocks during a siege undertaken by Alexander the Great. The city had been destroyed and rebuilt uncountable times, and the result was the confusing maze of mismatched architecture that Joseph now found himself lost within.
He wasn't nervous about being lost. Not yet, anyway. He kept wondering, confident that he would eventually find himself on a familiar street, and hoping for a plan to form in his mind. He also tried to stay vigilant of his surroundings; he didn't want to repeat the mistake he made at the port.
On almost every corner there was someone begging for charity: a woman covered in a shawl cradling an infant, the baby's arm, thin and dirt-streaked, clinging to its mother's chest; an old wizened man, crouching on emaciated legs, hands outstretched, his milky eyes staring vacantly at those who passed; and so many boys. They usually sat in pairs or small groups. Sometimes they were begging with pleading looks on their faces, lips pouted and eyes turned up, but just as often they seemed intent on intimidation, with jutted chins and their chests puffed up defiantly.
One boy in particular caught Joseph's eye. He was young and scrappy with bronze skin and stunning green eyes. Joseph figured that they were about the same age, although this boy was a bit taller and broader. He even seemed more well-fed than the other boys who Joseph had noticed, and he wondered what this boy did differently than the others. As he thought this, a merchant strode past where this boy was standing, hands cupped in expectation. Without slowing his pace, the merchant barked, "Get out of my way, urchin!"
"We are all God's creatures, you are no better than me!"
Joseph's eyes widened at this boy's brashness.
The merchant stopped and turned. His eyes full of ice. "Watch it, boy."
"Maybe you need to watch it, old man," and then, fast as a peregrine falcon swooping on its prey, the boy snatched the merchant's purse and darted away, laughing, "Watch your purse run away, that is!"
The merchant chased after the boy, and soon they were both out of sight. Joseph's heart raced, but as he looked around, he noticed that no one else had paid much attention to the theft that had just occurred.
Joseph shook off the uneasy feeling and continued to make his way down the street, still not sure where in the city he had wound up. As he tried to navigate himself back to familiar territory, he took note of the different people he saw and of the landmarks he passed. A diverse group of Greek and Syrian Christians and Jews lived scattered around the city. He passed old Greek and Roman temples that had been converted into Christian churches, Jewish synagogues, and even Islamic mosques. He noticed that although few Arabs remained living within the walls, many Moorish farmers and merchants did business in Tyre's markets. He zigged and zagged across the city until his feet were raw and his legs and back ached. And just when he started to become frustrated by his lack of direction, Joseph found himself back on a familiar street.
It was the bar where Joseph had first asked after Grimbert. Italian sailors still crowded its entrance way, drinking hardily and speaking with libatious enthusiasm. "Hey, Lorenzo, look! It's our young friend!" the portly man from the previous day shouted out, slapping his taller companion on the back.
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Journey to JosephHistorical Fiction
Hildegund is always getting in trouble for acting too masculine. If it was up to her she would have been born a boy, but that's not how the world works. Or, at least that's what she has always believed. Then, Hildegund gets the opportunity to dress...