Sea People

by Ruwen Rouhs

Chapter 15

Alarmed the remaining Sun Seekers waited for Aegir, Tsemo and Waili's return to their sailing boat, the Hawhk. They had witnessed the commotion from a distance because of the hubbub sounding over from the fair, however they were not aware that the whole riot was caused by the involvement of their friends in a fight. Now learning the cause of the trouble, they got even more worried than before. But this was not the only surprise. Last night they all had witnessed the emotional turmoil of Aegir coming back from the fair, but no one could figure out the reason. Now watching Aegir holding the weedy, so extraordinary strange looking artist so affectionate it dawned everyone: Aegir was in love. Even Buri, who could have been jealous because of their long standing love, was happy finding Aegir this overjoyed. He bowed in front of the happy couple, then embraced both and just said to the stranger, "Welcome on board of the Hawhk. A hearty welcome to our new crew member, to Aegir's team member, welcome to the new Sun-Seeker!"

Buri did this with the grace of a man of royal offspring. Immediately the other Sun Seekers joined the welcome chorus, only Laong had a question. He bowed slightly asking, "Every crew member has name. Mine is Laong, the archer!" turning to Tsemo, "This is Tsemo, the novice, the man with the sacred flute!" Then he pointed to Buri, "That's Buri, the incarnation of Geb, the benefactor of the earth and all living beings." Looking to Aegir, "You know Aegir already. He is named after the God of the boiling sea. He is the son of a headman and born in the cold north. But heart is hot." Then he continued, "We are the original Sun Seekers, but we have adopted the others, Kaa and Seb the son of the king of Ta-Seti and Buri's cousins and last not least Waili, the latest addition, a boy who want to see the world!" he gasped for breath and then asked, "Now that you know our names, please tell us yours and in due time you can tell us where you came from."

The weedy artist was overcome by joy because of such a hearty welcome, especially as he was worried whether or not Aegir's friends wanted to become his friends also. He bowed putting his right hand on the heart. "My name is Ye Shijie! I was born to the distinguished family of Ye living in Xià Cháo a country on the eastern edge of the earth disc. Already as a small boy I decided to travel from the rim of the world in the east to the one in the west. Ye means father and Shijie stands for world. Therefore I my name is father of the world!" he smiled and continued proudly, "But I am not a street artist as you may think, I am a teacher of the ancient art of fighting. In my homeland this art is called Wu Shu." He looked from one Sun Seekers to the other, "In your language Wu Shu it is called the Art of Fighting, this art includes artistic and acrobatic ways of fighting. However, it includes even more skills" When the Sun Seekers looked doubtfully, Shijie explained, "Remember I danced with the sword, I floated in the air to fight the evil ghosts, I fetched the javelin its sheath to nail the sorcerer to the wall." Ye paused, then laughed, "You showered me with applause! Remember!" Then Shijie voice changed into a serious tone, "Wu Shu is not only a way to fight external threats, to fight outside enemies, it is also a way to fight threats arising in your own heart and in your mind. Wu Shu makes the earth stay alive since the universe crystallized from elements of the unknown dark." Not one of the Sun Seekers were able to follow his words, but they believed Ye Shijie' words.

The bright light of a nearly full moon arouse Shijie. He tried to turn around but a strong arms around his hips held him down. Now the memory of the previous evening flashed through his mind. After their escape to the Sun Seekers boat they had discussed the next steps. They decided to leave the harbor of Uhraa with the falling tide together with the first sailing boats, however not earlier because they didn't want to arouse the suspicion of the harbor administration. Shijie had made up his mind not to return to the city but leave Uhraa with the group and go south. This decision had two fathers, first of all he didn't want to end up in jail because of unleashing a turmoil on an evening before a holy day and secondly since two days he was infatuated with the redhead. Since the first moment he had spotted the red hairs in the audience he was confident this and only this young man was his destiny. At the first evening doubts prevailed but since yesterday's events he was sure Aegir felt the same way.

Discussing the further procedure he had asked the others to help him to recover his most valuable processions from his tent at the fairground. Aegir, Buri and Kaa had agreed immediately and had suggested to sneak to his tent behind the stage in the depth of the night.

When he looked for a place to sleep on the Hawhk he became aware that all crew members had their special sleeping place. Buri and Kaa shared a blanket close to the steering oars, Laong and Seb close to the mast, Tsemo and Waili at the bow, while Aegir had spread some furs close to the rowing bench. Recognizing Shijie searching the redhead waved him closer and batting on the furs he stated with hoarse voice, "From now on that your place, Shijie!" When Shijie hesitated, he confirmed his offer, "That's your place from now on, but only if you like. Don't be afraid I love you and I know you share that love."

Aroused from their deep sleep the Sun Seekers split off in two parties as decided the evening before. Buri, Kaa and Shijie left for Shijie's tent on the fairground while Aegir assumed the responsibility for the boat with the other crew members. Like shadows the three whizzed through the night. Shijie's scaffolding seemed kind of rumbled but nothing was taken away and the tent was in the same state it was left the evening before. At his command Buri and Kaa collected Shijie's weapons and costumes while the young artist packed up souvenirs he had taken with him from his homeland, Xià Cháo. When every thing was collected Shijie returned to the tent to offer some incense at the altar he had installed there in honor of his forefathers. The holly smoke soon filled the tent and a wisp of incense accompanied the three Sun Seekers to the boat.

The morning sun had still not crossed the horizon when the three arrived at the boat with Shijie's recovered belongings. Her brightness however blocked out the light of the moon's disk and the town looked peaceful in the morning light. There was not much time left, till the first boat would leave the harbor of Uhraa. Therefore Aegir took seat at the steering oars, while Buri and Kaa maned the rowing bank. Tsemo took position at the bow and the others waited to solve the mooring. As soon as the first boats left the harbor with the running tide the Hawhk joined small armada not waiting for the harbor police to give the consent.

Shijie looking back to the town and its fairground witnessed only a small plume of smoke from the site he guessed his theater and tent had been located. Laong watching beside him the slowly vanishing city detected the plume also, "Isn't there a fire starting? Do you know whats happening? Will the fire spread and eventually engulf the whole place, the fair ground, the city of Uhraa and even the temple on top of the hill?" "I think I know what's happening!" was Shijie's stern reply, "I offered incense to my forefathers asking them to destroy all the belongings I had left behind, the stage and its the scenery, as well as the tent, my home for years and years. I don't need those anymore because now I am a Sun-Seeker and on a way to greater challenges and the Hawhk will be my home for now on!." "We all are brothers now, brothers of different color, brothers born in different countries, brothers to different parents, but with one goal, the drive to reach the sun!" Tsemo added, joining the two. "We are leaving everything behind, like we left the city of Uhraa. In latter times no one will find a trace of this place!" While the son of the moon forebode the doom of Uhraa, high flames flared up in the place former known as Uhraa.

In the early morning light the Hawhk was feeling its way between small offshore island to the sun rising above the horizon in the east, skimmed like waves over rocky shoals and chased gulls in the sky and schools of fishes in the deep. Slowly the crew came back to life again, stomachs were rumbling and memories of the night before were exchanged. As soon the sun had warmed up the stiff joints Buri and Aegir gathered the crew the quarterdeck of the sailing boat. "Now because the crew of the Hawhk has grown, we have to redistribute the task." they told the others. Laong contradicted. "I do not think so. We just need task for Ye Shijie, everthing else can stay the way it is till danger requires new decisions." Nonetheless Ye as a full crew member need a task and I can think of the obvious task." fixing the others one after the other and turning to the new crew member, "Ye Shijie! We all admired your art of fighting performed at the stage and we will be in need of skills like these on the way to the sun." As everyone seemed to agree, Tsemo continued. "Would you be willing and able to teach us the art of Wu Shu?" Ye Shijie closed his eyes for the length of a heartbeat, "Under one condition! You promise never to use the art of fighting for selfish purposes!" When all indicated their consent, he continued "It will be a hard way for all of you and I can't promise everyone of you will successful. Do you understand?" First he pointed to the sky then to his heart, "Remember Wu Shu it is not only the way to fight enemies but also to fight threats arising in your own heart and in your mind." After a moment be began to walk to the bow and announced, "Lets begin with an old prayer:

Above the lakes, above the vales,
The mountains and the woods, the clouds, the seas,
Beyond the sun, beyond the ether,
Beyond the confines of the starry spheres,
My soul, you move with ease,
And like a strong swimmer in rapture in the wave
You wing your way blithely through boundless space
With vibrant joy unspeakable.

They all listened, however only Tsemo was aware of its meaning. He fell to the ground, stretched out on the hard plank and attempted meditation they he was taught in the Triuds monastery long, long time ago. He saw sun revolting around the earth. He saw her rays shining on the wet beach of an island in the morning, saw her rays penetrating the forest on top of the island at noon and saw her rays gild the meadows in the evening. The sun however did not orbit the earth in 24 hours. No! At first she seemed to need some minutes to complete the circle, then just seconds and then indefinable short time. And with every circle around the earth Tsemo's senses dwindled. Suddenly the earth stood still and his body left the place on the plank and started to floated like a leave above the sailboat. The breeze caught his body and hurled it forward till only the vast sea was beneath him. Tsemo shuddered, his stomach convulsed, he felt sick, he got afraid. Someone touched him. He looked back. It was Ye Shijie! The fighter from the far east smiled. "You made it! You started floating! Now I have to teach you to move in the air like you move in the water. At first try to use your arm like swimming!" Tsemo tried! "You did it! Now use your legs, push back the air like you do it in the water!" Tsemo tried and it worked! "Do somersaults! Dive down to the surface of the water! Don't touch the waves! Now back to the Hawhk! We have to teach the others!"

The fright had left Tsemo! He started to like swimming in the air more than swimming in water! Together Tsemo and Ye Shijie returned to the boat. Their comrades applauded, they envied him, back on the sailing boat they patted his back. Waili his new pal kissing him all over beamed then revealed, "I was so afraid you will fall and the waves will devour you! I am relieved now!" and in the same breath he demanded, "You have to teach me!" " It was great! At first I was anxious, however after Ye Shijie told me how to move in the air,it was great and I lost all fear! But, Waili my darling, can you tell me how long I was swimming in the air! For me it seemed to be an unending time." "You aren't right! You were dancing through the air just for a dozen of heartbeats. But you did great!" Buri came to embrace Tsemo. "How did you do it? You were the only one to copy Ye Shijie. Even Aegir didn't succeed!" "Yes. How dit you manage to do the same than my love! I was so eager to succeed, but I failed." The red-hair confessed. "It should have been me, because I am determined to follow his steps everywhere."

Ye Shijie look at Tsemo and then to the other sun seekers. "Tsemo tell me, who did introduced you in the art of meditation? Because meditation is the pre-condition to master the art of Wu Shu. Tell me! You seem to be too young to master this art!" "You want to know the secret only Aegir and Buri know, my oldest pals? I tell you. It was a high priest of the old order of the Druids. I hate him now, because he not only taught me taught me all I know about heaven and earth, but he only raped me merciless when I was a boy of only five! I despise him for this deeds, but I love him because of the knowledge he shared with me!" Baffled the other sun-seeker stared at him, but then they voiced in unison, "We are so sorry this happened to you, however could you nonetheless teach as the art of meditation." "Let's teach them together!" Ye Shijie added touching his heart with his right hand. "Together we will succeed!"

During the next days Ye Shije and Tsemo took over the task of teachers. First of all the other crew member had to be introduced in the art of meditation. The younger member seem to grab the way to enter the unknown faster than Aegir, Buri and Kaa. Especially Waili, Tsemo's new sidekick and eye candy was open to the new experience. Soon he graduated and was able to float and move through the air like his role models. Buri and Kaa were the most stubborn of them all. They had decided to need an explanation for every step of the introduction. Finally however they also overcame their prejudice and joined the army of Wu Shu fighter.

In the meantime the Hawhk kept its course. They always kept close to the coast at first going east and after only two and a half day they turn south and sailed straight to the sun. Out of fear of pirates and greedy fishermen they tried to stay off the coast to avoid attacks of a small boat like the Hawhk. Luckily there were hardly any island nearshore to offer a hideout for those unwanted strangers. The Hawhk was just a nutshell compared the big warships passing at high speed propelled by two or even three bank of rowers. Only few sailing boats passed in the opposite direction probably traders carrying good to Luwian cities. Luckily they were still high on supplies and as no one had the urge to have a wash more than his face the water reserve in the amphora was sufficient for some days. They decided not to stop overs in one of the small harbors of South coast of Luwia but hasted along the coast to the East. At the end of the second day the coastline suddenly turned east and they anchored for the night an eyeshot away from a small city. During the sailing trip the Hawhk was overtaken by faster boats, especially by galleys propelled not by sail but by rowers chained to the two or even three banks of the war ships.

The next morning the Hawhk left its anchorage ground and took south along the forested coast. Around noon Waili aroused the sleepy crew, "That's Alalakh. I know it from sketches I have seen at home. Look the wide plain in front of the city. Further south there must be the mouth of a river coming down from the mountains in the back country, passing by wide spread town at the foot of the holt (wooded hill). The holt should be crowned by the citadel of the ruler of this rather small kingdom. Its just a small kingdom, but it is guards the crossroads between the South and the North and the way into the far east. Therefore its fiercely contested by the Pr-A'a reigning the land at the Iteru-Aa in the south and the Hittite emperor in the north. But non of this rulers was able to establish the supremacy as the God-king of Mesopotamia holds his protective hand over the rulers of Alalakh." Then Waili turned to Ye Shijie. "Didn't you cross the land between the mighty rivers Euphrates and Tigris, the realm of Hammurabi, the divine uncle and almighty healer? Didn't you enjoy the soft waters of these rivers and the awesome perfume of the roses of Babylon?" The warrior from the Far East shook his head, "I have listened to the stories told about the great law-giver Hammurabi but I crossed through the countries around the Indus and never went south this far."

While Ye Shijie painted the experience on his journey from east to west in spectacular colors the Hawhk arrived at the mouth of the river Oront like Waili had predicted. Rowing up the river against a sluggish drift they soon saw that the young student's memory was right. To the left and the right of the Oront an agricultural plain stretched till the coastal mountain range. The passed farmers harvesting wheat and turnips, shepherds herding cattle, sheep and goats and fishermen setting or emptying weirs along the banks of the river. The harbor was a widening of the river in front of the lower city with a sprawling berth for dozens of ships and four shipyards building boat using the wood of cedars of the forest climbing up the coastal mountains eastern of the plain.

After nearly three days on board the whole crew was eager to put a foot a shore. They longed for a swim in the sweet water coming down from the hills, for tasty food and a lazy rest in the shade of trees. Heading with the Hawhk to the end of the quay the Sun Seeker were staggered by the number white building huddled between green trees at the foot of a steep rocky mountain, resembling a big boulder tossed by giants into the flat plain. On top of the square rock a castle-like structure loomed, surrounded by high walls. Flat-roofed buildings peeped out from behind the walls of the citadel which were over-towered by a single round tower crowned by a crenellations. The most intriguing feature of the castle rock was a gaping hole about halfway up the steep rising ascent between the town and the citadel. From the distance it resembled a wide opened eye with green shrubs as eyelashes. But it wasn't an eye with pupil, iris and sclera but an empty eye hole. For the Sun Seekers It looked like a gate to the netherworld. This impression was enforced, as this entrance to the underworld was guarded on both sides by statues resembling savage looking monsters. At first sight these monsters looked like living creatures waiting to devour everyone trying to enter the world inside hollow rock. At second sight they resembled monumental beasts made of polished gray stone.

Immediately Waili started to explain the story behind the frightening eye. Tugging Tsemo's left arm he told the Sun Seekers, "I have learned about this eye. Its the entrance to a temple like the one we have at home, remember the one I lost my virginity. However this temple is much vaster than ours back in Imrali. Every six years the whole population of Alalakh was forced to visit the image of the deity in the depth of the mountain and offer their veneration by sacrificing immature boys and girls. Dancing, singing holy hymns and swaying torches they usher the boys and girls to the very end of the sanctuary. They fetter the trembling kids to a sacrificial stone, extinguish the torches and crawl back to the entrance in complete darkness. Back at daylight they start again to recite prayers and perform chants. This holy service continues for three days. Then they return to the depth of the cavern again and look for the sacrificed youngsters. According to their religious tradition the city will prosper during the next five years if they don't find any trace the sacrificed. If however the corpses of the sacrificed children are still on top the sacrificial stone poverty and misery will strike the town and enemies will ravage the country."

Tsemo and the other Sun Seekers were disgusted by Waili's narrative! They didn't believe him. "You are just putting us on!" Laong challenged him, "That's just a tale! Nobody will do this to his offspring." "In former times the Alalakhians acted according their tradition and sacrificed the chosen children but lately they began to search for the chosen ones not only in Alalakh but also in neighboring cities. They even consider children of slaves." Buri shook his head in disappointment, "I can't believe this! Condemning innocent children to death! That's beyond human!" After a moment he added, "And they really never come back? Do they just vanish without leaving a trace?" "Seems so! But I also have been told that in very, very rare case about ten years later either a boy or a girl show up in Alalakh. They look like the people around here and one or the other mother claims I was her child. However the claimed relationship has never been confirmed." "And what happened with these strangers?" Buri urge Waili to tell more. "The king himself insisted that they were his. He made them live in the court and boys as well as girls were spoiled like princes. As soon they had passed the rites of transition, the king elevated the foundlings to high positions at the court." Waili looked up to the castle on top of the hill and sighed, "I guess this never would happen to a humble farmer's son like me!"

Dispelling these cloudy thoughts they tied up the Hawhk to the pier. From this point of the harbor they had a great sight of the town as well of the multitude of ships swaying in the river rushing down from the hills in the back country. The sweet smelling water enticed the Sun Seeker for a swim to get rid the grime clinging to their skins after cruising the salty sea for several days. They shed their dirty cloth, jumped naked onto the quay to race for a flight of wide stairs further upstream descending into the water.

The steps were crowded with young people enjoying the breeze coming down from the green wooded hills. At first the Sun Seekers didn't attract the attention of the loafers despite they were bare assed. But as soon they started to horse around in the shallow water, the interracial bunch got their full attention of the onlooker. Soon everybody was cheering, the girls especially for the heavy muscled redhead and his weedy, black-haired friend rough housing their two curly-haired black skinned companions. The greater part of the young ladies sided up with red-haired and his friend, but nearly the same number actually clapped their hands for the two black giants. Many of the younger boys of Alalakh and even some of the older once were attracted by the other four. They whooped for the elfin-like, flaxen-haired man-child and his sun-tanned sidekick who tried to submerge the maroon-haired, stringy guy and his reed-slim black-colored counterpart. As the onlookers were well aware that this was just horse-playing going they shed their loincloth also and joint the strangers in the warm water without asking for permission.

In the end nobody, neither Aegir with the help of his Ye Shijie subdued Buri and his new brother Kaa neither Tsemo nor Waili were able or even willing to defeat Laong and Seb. Clean but exhausted the Sun Seeker joint the locals on the steps and soon a question and answer battle arose between the two groups. The locals wanted to know every detail of the origin of the strange looking guest as well as where they were heading to. On the other hand the Sun Seekers wanted know everything about the town people, their ruler and especially about the sanctuary deep in the mountain. In no time the travelers and young locals became friends and invitations were exchanged for the evening and the night.

Back at the boat the Sun Seekers were welcomed by the harbor police. With stern voice a grim faced officer to ask all the usual questions, like from where and where to, who was in charge for the boat, if they had contraband stashed under the tarpaulin or in the hold. The policemen were leery, as not one of the Sun Seeker looked old enough to be the captain or even the owner. They all looked just to young and the policemen suspected that the boat had been stolen from the rightful owner.

When Aegir and Buri took responsibility for the boat and its crew, the conceited police officer didn't accept the oral information and wanted a written proof of tenure. "You are both just not old enough to own a good sea-going boat like this! Furthermore you are not from around here!" he implied, "Both of you as well as your whole crew looks strange, if not to say queer. For me it looks as if you had collected your crew in the most infamous harbors all around the world?" Pointing at Waili, "Only this boy looks like one of us. Did you steal the poor kid from his parents?" Scrutinizing the rest of crew the police officer affirmed, "You all are looking strange! There are no guys around here sporting blazing red hair or flaxen hair or maroon hair or even blue-black hair. Don't dare to tell me otherwise, the people of the eastern coast of the Wadj-ur don't sports hair like these!" He got more and more agitated, "And! Just look at the shades of your skin, pale skin, black skin, yellowish skin! People like you are suspects from the start!" and he turned to his men giving the order to arrest the Sun Seekers.

The officer however couldn't finish his accusations neither his men could arrest the Sun Seekers, because the crowd of young locals started to chant out loud, "Cops! Cops! DRC! DRC! DRC!" they shouted. Some even repeated, "DRC, Dirty Rotten Cops, Dirty Rotten Cops ! Don't harass our friends!" One youth of the group, an unusually good looking youngster with curly black hair, seemed to be their natural leader. Immediately be started to ridicule the officer, "Hey Officer! Master of the universe! Master of 'I know it all!'! These are visitors from far away!" pointing towards Sun Seekers, "Don't you realize this fellows are from far away? Doesn't you mouse brain grasp these young men have seen more of this world than you will till the end of your pitiful days! Don't harass our friends anymore!" Then he turned to Aegir, did a graceful bow, apologized for the behavior of the police with a sweeping motion and put out an invitation, "Please be my guest this night, stranger from far away. It will be me a great honor if you come to my humble home!" Looking to the other youngsters from Alalakh, her ordered, "Bid a warm welcome to these strangers, such an extraordinary group of young people hasn't visited our town for a long time! I will stage a party to night and you all are welcome to celebrate!" Just a moment later the kids from Alalakh began to shout "Celebrate! Celebrate! We love to celebrate our new friends!"

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