Sea People

by Ruwen Rouhs

Chapter 13

Kaa was steering the Molymawk against the short chopping waves of the incoming flow out to the open sea. They were lucky. Aegir and Buri at the oars had only to use these to get the boat out of the estuary of the Imrali river into the open sea. On the open sea the morning wind took over and filled the square sail. The small boat turned its sharp bow towards the rising sun and cut the waves like a shark's fin.

Aegir and Buri took in the rows, marveled the performance of the old boat and then inspected the crew. Kaa was operating the steering rows, keeping the boat running before the wind. Tsemo assisted him using the opportunity to ask him holes in the belly. The eleven boy, had all kinds of questions, like about sailing and steering a boat across the, about his travel down the Iteru Aa by the royal ship to the vast Wadj-ur and then to Tyruus. Kaa like the nagging, giving him the chance to get to know Tsemo better. He told him all about he knew of the riverboats. Traveling with these boats was very different from traveling with the dugout, Tsemo sand the Sun Seekers had used to go down the Broad-river. A baris, as the river boats were called, was propelled in the fast flowing river by a crate strapped to the ships bow by a tether and floating in front of it. It was held in position by a heavy stone strapped to its helm dragging behind. These boats could hold up to 50 people and tons of goods.

Unlike Kaa Seb war prone to get seasick. Now Laong was supporting the boy, whose face was covered with cold sweat and whose face has lost its black color. The Runtiya, the acolyte and Antili who had asked the Sun Seekers to take them along to Uhraa, were they wanted to attend the temple school. Both were still stowing away their belongings, because the decision to come along was made the evening before. Back then, the village priest and the elders of Imrali had politely asked the Sun Seekers to take the Runtiya, the acolyte and Antili along. Both were chosen to get educated in the high temple of Uhraa. The acolyte had to finish his studies of theology and improve his writing skills to be able to succeed the village priest. Amuna, the villager elder, wanted his son to begin with his studies to become the next acolyte. Runtiya however had more in mind. He liked to introduce boys to the service of Tarthunt, however more than boys he liked girls. Therefore he wanted to look for a girl, to get married and have children of his own. Where could he find the most beautiful girls? It was at the temple school in Uhraa, because this city was not only renown for its seminaries for boys and men but for virgins also.

Meanwhile Waili, the stowaway, was still in his hideout below the planks separating the hold for goods down at the ship's keel from the deck above. In the early morning light he had left his parent's home in secret, floated down the Imrali on a raft to the mooring place, boarded of the sailing ship and hid between the stowed away goods. Now around moon the young stowaway was thirsty and he had to take a leak urgently. Therefore he was pondering what would be the best time to show up. His appearance on deck had to be far enough away from his home village so that Sun Seekers couldn't send him back and at a moment, his big friend Aegir was in the mood to take him along on the strenuous voyage. It was clear to him the latter was a gambling.

Now, around noon the Sun Seekers had gathered beneath the sun sail and opened a basket full of food, donated by the people of Imrali as a farewell present. The happy chattering and the content smacking encoUhraaged Waili. "It's now and never!" he told himself, he wiggled from under the covers left his hideout in the hold and popped up behind the Sun Seekers.

Antili was the first to notice Waili. He nearly choked on a piece of bread. Cuffing and sputtering he pointed at Waili. All heads turned and their mouth fell open also. Aegir was the first to regain composure, "What the heck! What the heck, what are you doing on the ship?" he railed and Runtiya assisted, "By Tarhunt, by Tiwad, by Arna! Know your parents about your running away? I bet they don't do!" The Redhead shook head disapproving, "I told you Waili, we can't take you along! What shall we do, throw you into the water, bring you back or what??"

Waili had expected harsh words, but he was shocked by the threat to throw him into the sea. Immediately tears started to rolled out of his eyes, leaving wet streaks on his dust covered cheeks. "Please, please! Don't put me out! Please let me come with you! Please Aegir! Don't put me out! I can't swim back home. Please let me come with you! I do all what you expect me to do! I left behind a message. My parent know where I went. Please!" "That not the question!" Buri tried to relief Aegir. "You are just too young. Even if your parents agree, we can't guaranty your save return. Maybe we even do not return at all!" "Please!" Waili repeated for the thousands time.

Now Laong, Seb and Tsemo took Waili's side and Antili also. "Please Aegir, please Buri, please let Waili stay." Laong pleaded. "When I joined you, I haven't been much older than Waili and you never ever questioned my participation at the search of the sun!" Tsemo nodded his assent, walked to Waili, took him in his arms. "Look Aegir, he is nearly as big as I am and you never questioned my capabilities. He will be as good a member of the crew as Laong, Seb and I!" When Runtiya and Antili finally supported Waili's request, explicitly stating his behavior was more than mature for a young teen, he was allowed to stay at least till the boat did lay at anchor in Uhraa. Being relieved Waili flung his arms around Aegir's neck and promised to be the best shipboy ever.

Kaa had kept the boat running before the wind, with its narrow, pebble covered beach and the forest covered hills. Up and on he had to circumnavigate a green island or to pass through a shallow channel between the mainland and an offshore island. When the boat rounded a point thrusting far into the open water and sailed into a wide bay, Buri took over the helm.

Today it was Buri first time to steer the Hawhk. He wanted to get acquainted steering their new means of locomotion as long as the weather was fine and the wind was blowing steadily. "That's sure quite different than steering our dugout even if this boat is not much bigger!" he shouted to the rest of the crew, struggling against wind in the sail pushing the boat landwards.

All the rest was relaxing in the shade of the sun sail, only Waili was missing. He had dropped out and Aegir had bedded the happily snoring boy in some blankets. The stowaway was happy because he was confident to become a Sun-Seeker. Out of concern Aegir brought up the question about the routing and the dUhraation of the voyage by sea to Egypt. "How many days we will need to set foot on the banks of the big river, the Iteru-Aa?" he asked Kaa, "You and Seb Are the only one of the crew, who had traveled this route before." Kaa shrug his shoulders, "I don't know. I dare not even to guess. We needed about four day to reach Tyruus coming from the capital of Egypt. But our ship went much faster, because it was propelled not only by the wind. It's speed was pretty interdependent of the strength and the direction of the wind because about forty galley slaves were serving at the oars day and night. From Tyruus to harbor of Lady Kamrushepa place the slave ship we needed much more time, because the rickety sailing boat couldn't take a straight line from the Tyruus to that place. All I know is, we sailed along the coast first in northern direction, then turn to the west."

Runtiya listening to this exchange offered help. "In our school I have been not only educated in religions matters but also had to learn what a merchant had to know. We were educated about the sailing routes across the wide Wadj-ur as well as the caravan routes across Luwian kingdom and Hittite empire. I will show you." With that he began to search his luggage, extracted a wooden tablet coated with a shining cover of beeswax and a stylus. With the stylus Runtiya began to draw lines into the wax film, watched by the other poking their nose into his slate. When he presented his drawing to Aegir, Kaa and Tsemo they recognized a curved line running from the top end to the middle of the slate and then crossing to the other side. Around the line he had scratched small pictures into the coat of wax.

Runtiya pointed to the open space between the leg of the l-shaped line. He had drawn some images into the open space. Some looked like fishes with fins, others like birds and still others like boats with a sail. All this effigies looked like images drawn by children with sticks into wet sand or mud, however more skilled. When Kaa examined the signs closely, his eyes lighted up. "You have drawn sign similar to these at the walls of out temples or on the papyrus scrolls our tax collectors are using. You can tell whole stories with these signs. Some of them are holy signs. We call them hieroglyphs." Tsemo furrowed his brow, "Up in the north we have signs too to tell the stories of our mighty beings and of heroes died in wars. They are called runes. But runes are no pictographs. Every rune depict a letter, either a vowel or a consonant. If you want to write the name of our Supreme God Wold, you just have to use one vowel and three consonants. Immediately Tsemo began to recite a prayer.

"Wold, Wold, Wold!

Hävenshüne wei wat schüt,

jümm hei dal van Häven süt.

Vulle Kruken un Sangen hät hei,

upen Holte wässt manigerlei:

hei is nig barn un wert nig old.

Wold, Wold, Wold!"

The poem recited in an unknown language attracted the curiosity the curiosity of the youngest Sun-Seeker, of Waili. Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes he leaned over the tablet and his eyes started sparkling. Pointing at the signs on the tablet be began to explain. "This over here are the signs for hills and rivers, this depicts a towns and that ones stand for kingdom. Look this is the sign for the king and that for the Tarhunt." Now everyone marveled Waili's knowledge and Antili assisted him. "We have learned the signs from our village priest and he always praised Waili for his excellent memory."

Now is was Runtiya turn to explain the picture he had drawn on the waxen slide. "That is our boat running sailing along the coast of Luwia. In two or three days we will hit the harbor of the city called Uhraa. There Antili and I will go ashore and attend school. Uhraa is a big and important city. Therefore I did draw a lot of houses, but also the temple and the king's palace. The next big places you will hit are the famous towns Ungarit, Byblos and Tyruus. These town are part of the Hittite empire, the area of settlement of different tribes. Then I depicted Askalon, a harbor in Kanaan belonging to the Empire of the Pr-A'a and finally this pictographs show the capital of Pr-A'a's empire at the mouth of the Iteru-Aa. Its name is Pi-Ramesse. I do not know exactly how long the voyage will last. If you make it safely to Pi-Ramesse without being caught by pirates or by border guards of some local king you probably will need about two weeks.

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