The Tarutaru man scratching his head before me, the captain of the Kubira-Umbira, was not at all pleased to have me aboard.
He silently walked over to a corner of the deck where his sandals sat, upside down. He kicked them over and slid them on to his tanned feet.
I soon realized that it had grown deathly quiet. The only sounds I could hear were the slapping of the waves against the boat and the soft whistling of the wind. Even the young boy and the sea birds had seemingly gone mute.
"I know that you have no reason to help me, but I beg of you to take me to Norg on Elshimo Island," I ventured.
"You're crazy, even for a landlubber," he shot back.
At first glance, He looked just like any other Tarutaru, but there was something behind his orange dust goggles--a glint reminiscent of a very sharp dagger.
"What could you be wanting with a bunch of pirates like thataru? You seem smart enough to know that you'd be eaten alive there..."
His piercing glare intensified, the dagger glint in his eye boring right through me.
"I'm looking for someone. I have something very important to give him," I replied.
Before I was finished speaking, he yanked the scarf from my hands.
"Huh? I can barely read this scrawl," he muttered and raised his left eyebrow as he unfolded the cloth.
"It's a letter of introduction. From a woman you know quite well," I explained.
"So you say..." he mumbled.
The captain focused on the blurred letters, paying no notice to his little brother reading over his shoulder.
His eyes darted over the cloth-and then he exploded with an earth-shattering cry of "WHAAAT?"
The little boy took the opportunity to grab the scarf from his brother and began to read aloud merrily.
"Hmmm. 'Please do a favor for a childhood friendy-wiend who is about to be married. This is the last thing I'll ever ask of you.' This is from Kumama's big sister!" exclaimed the boy.
"So whataru?" growled the captain.
The captain looked as if all the wind had vanished from his sails. Obviously he had a history with the Tarutaru woman.
"Cheer up, Big Brother-wother! There's plenty of fish in the sea," chirped the boy.
"Dammit! Don't call me 'Big Brother!'" roared the captain.
The captain then began to explain his past with the woman, as if he were reminding himself.
The captain and his brother had been born in Windurst and lived next door to the woman and her sister until ten years ago. After they moved to Mhaura, regular vegetable runs to Windurst allowed them to stay in touch with the sisters.
But even then, she never mentioned one of the biggest events in her life. Only a month ago he had seen her and bid farewell with his acid tongue. His shoulders slumped upon this recollection.
"So, then, why send you to Norg to celebrate her wedding?" he asked.
He pulled and fussed with his hair as I told him how I met the Tarutaru woman.
"So that's how it is. She just had to get me involved," he said.
"Yeah. She was his first crush-wush, so there's no way he can say no..." said the boy, turning to me. A quick glance from the captain silenced him.
"I'm sorry. I can'taru take you to Norg. I've run into trouble trying to sneak in there before. Kazham is not an option, either. The Mithra that run the place are a royal pain. I'm sure you understand," said the captain.
He was right, of course. Since the night I dreamt of my brother, it had been as if events were pushing me towards some place where I was supposed to be. But the truth is never so simple.
I apologized to the captain and began to climb off the boat when he stopped me.
"But I can take you as far as the waters outside of Kazham. I have some friends that can take you the rest of the way. After that, you're on your own," he said.
"Thank you," I replied.
In a fit of joy, I grabbed his hand. For such a small hand, it was surprisingly bony, yet warm.
"Just to be clear, I ain't doing this for you," he said with a small laugh as he shook off my hand.
He turned in the direction of the rising sun and shouted, "All hands on deck! Three minutes to departure! Weigh anchor and hoistaru the sails!"
"Three minutes? That's crazy-wazy! And what do you mean, 'all hands?' There's only three of us on the ship!" complained the boy as he began preparing for departure.
I called out to him as he scurried around the ship. "I'll get the anchor. It's a little heavy for you, don't you think?"
"Um, okay..." he replied.
He blinked at me and ran off, jumping onto the mast and wriggling his way up to the top. The captain watched from below as the boy unfurled the sail.
"So you figured it out, huh?" said the captain.
"Figured what out?" I asked as I continued to draw up the anchor.
A gust of wind blew across the boat. I happened to glance up just as the wind carried away the boy's hat, releasing a mane of long golden hair that unfurled in the wind along with the sails.
"...that she's my darling little sister," answered the captain.
"Away!" shouted the captain authoritatively, as he took his place at the helm.
As if on cue, a tail wind rose up and filled the sail, pushing the ship away from the dock and out to sea.
The tiny Kubira-Umbira sailed proudly toward Kazham, a flock of sea birds swooping and calling in its wake.