The Boy and the Sea Dragon
Captain Esiada stood on the port bow of the Serikua. He was looking out over the ocean. The wind was strong. It was coming from port and stern. The sun was warm. The sky was mostly clear. Some cirrus clouds streaked the sky. The water was choppy. The ship was fully rigged. It was clipping along pretty well for a sailing vessel.
He was depressed over the loss of Zuangeng. He loved the boy. He considered him to be his son. He was not sure if he was.
He had known Zuangeng’s mother for many years before his birth. She was a beautiful, bewitching Cingala woman. She had dark brown skin and black hair. She was about his height. He felt that he had come under her spell. He had not trusted her, though. He had been dating her. He knew that she was dating other men. He remembered the day that Zuangeng came into his life.
The Serikua was docked at Mojienes. It was a major harbor city on Cinga. Cinga was the largest island of the archipelago.
Captain Esiada stood on the wharf. He stood next to the bow. He watched the men move crates of cargo up the gangplank. He checked each crate against a manifest he held in his hands. There was a grand piano destined for Amberstond, a table destined for Kulathra and other cargo being loaded. Iyoseching was on deck. He directed the crates to the cargo hold. They were due to set sail later that day.
Zuangeng’s mother walked up to Captain Esiada. She was well advanced in pregnancy with Zuangeng. She showed it with a bulging stomach. Her hair hung down to her waist. She wore a dress that went to her ankles. She greeted him with, “Hello, Esiada. Honey, I need a passage on the Serikua to Langasa.”
Langasa was a port city on an island south of the archipelago. It is famous for helping with difficult deliveries. The voyage would take over a month by clipper.
“You are welcome aboard, milady Mikela,” Captain Esiada said graciously with a slight bow.
“I will be back with my luggage,” she said.
“We will not be ready to sail until after midday,” Captain Esiada said.
She returned later that day. She came on a carriage with a driver. She had her trunk on the top. The ship was fully loaded. Captain Esiada and two crewmen were waiting for her. Captain Esiada walked up to the carriage. He opened the door. He held his right hand out. Mikela stood in the doorway. She took his hand in her left hand. She stepped out of the carriage. The two crewmen took the trunk off.
Captain Esiada escorted Mikela to her quarters. The crewmen carried the trunk behind them. Her quarters were next to his own. They entered the room. The walls, floor and ceiling were bare varnished oak. A chandelier of oil lamps hung from the ceiling. Some windows were on the far wall. They were covered with pink curtains. A bed was against the right wall. A rug was on the floor beside the bed. A dresser stood on the left wall. A vanity with a chair was next to the dresser. A closet was on the left of the door.
“I hope this is to your liking,” Captain Esiada said.
“It will do. Please, put my trunk over there,” Mikela said. She pointed to the foot of the bed. The men set the trunk there.
“I will inform milady when it is suppertime. You will be dining with me, tonight,” Captain Esiada said. He bowed slightly. The three men left. She busied herself with unpacking. She put everything where it belonged.
Captain Esiada and the two crewmen walked up on deck. Captain Esiada gathered the men. He gave them commands. The crew went to work. They cast off. The ship became fully rigged. They were under way. The captain set the course for Langasa.
Usually Captain Esiada had meals with the mates. Tonight, the mates ate with the rest of the crew. Captain Esiada had supper with Mikela alone. She was not much of a seafood eater. So, they had roast beef, rice and a vegetable.
“Do you have a name for the child,” Captain Esiada asked.
“I have several names for it. I’ll know which one at birth,” Mikela answered.
“Do you know who the father is,” he asked.
“No,” Mikela replied sharply. Captain Esiada had a nagging feeling that she did know. She was not about to reveal it. He knew better than to press her on the subject. The conversation continued on other subjects throughout supper.
They walked on deck after supper. They took a stroll. It was a nice evening. The sky was clear. Thousands of stars and a full moon shone in the sky. Lamps were lit around the deck. Men worked or stood vigil. The lights of the harbor city were receding behind them. They had many such meals and strolls.
About three weeks into the voyage, there was no land in sight. It was overcast all day with grey clouds. The wind was brisk. Waves lapped against the hull.
Mikela went into labor early in the morning. Captain Esiada was with her. They were in her quarters. She laid on the bed. He walked to the door. A crewman was passing by. He sent the crewman for the ship’s doctor. Together, the doctor and Captain Esiada aided her in the delivery. The labor was extremely difficult. She was left exhausted and weak. She was told that the baby was a boy. She became deathly ill. She laid in her bed fighting for her life. Captain Esiada sat in a chair beside her bed throughout the day. The doctor was in and out trying to treat her.
They were alone together that evening. Mikela signaled Captain Esiada to get closer to her. He got out of the chair. He sat on the edge of the bed on her right. He faced her. He leaned over her. He rested his right hand on the bed on her left side. He looked at her.
“My dear Esiada. I am afraid, I will not make it,” she said softly. She hesitated for a while.
She continued, “Promise me a few things. I have known many men; but, you are the only man I can trust. Promise me that you will raise my son like you would your own.”
He said, “I will raise him like he was my son.”
She continued, “I will reveal the name I have chosen. I need you to promise me that you will reveal it to no one. Promise me that you will only reveal it to my son when he comes of age.”
“I will do as you ask of me, my dear Mikela,” Captain Esiada said. He got even closer. She told him, softer than before, the boy’s name.
“Now, tell me who is the boy’s father,” he demanded. Mikela died, taking that secret with her.
Captain Esiada walked up on deck. He found two men standing together. He told them, “I have an unpleasant task for you. Come with me.”
“Aye, sir,” the two men said. They followed him below deck. They got a blanket. They walked to Mikela’s quarters.
“Take her body and wrap it in that blanket,” Captain Esiada said. They laid the blanket on the floor. The two men picked up the body. They laid her on the edge of the blanket nearest the bed. They rolled the blanket and body to the other edge.
“Carry that up on deck,” Captain Esiada said. The men picked up the blanket with the body. They set it on their right shoulders. They held it in place. Captain Esiadaa led them to the deck. They walked to the port railing. They stopped beside the main mast. They set the body on the deck in front of a gate. The feet of the body was closest to the gate. They covered the body with a Cinga flag.
The sky was clear. Thousands of stars winkled in the sky. A half moon shone. Lamps were lit. Captain Esiada gathered all the men together. They held a memorial service in Mikela’s honor. Captain Esiada opened with, “We are gathered here to honor Mikela. She lived her life to the fullest. She has begotten a son into this world.”
He talked on about her. Then, Iyoseching said a few things about her, too. Nobody else had anything to say. Captain Esiada closed with, “We, now, commit her body to the sea from which all life came. The sea – From which we came – Which is in all Cingala blood.”
Two men picked up the flag. They reverently folded it. Iyoseching took it from them. He presented it to Captain Esiada. Captain Esiada accepted it. He put it under his left arm. One man opened the gate. Two men picked up the blanket. They set it on the edge of the deck. The end with the feet hung over the water. They picked up the end with the head. They lifted it until the body slid into the water. It went under and was gone.
“Remain here. I have someone everybody need to meet,” Captain Esiada said. He walked below. He walked to his quarters. He picked up the baby. The boy was wrapped in a towel. He had some black hair already on his head.
Captain Esiada carried the baby up to the deck. He stood in front of the men. He held the boy where everybody could see him. They looked at him with admiration. Captain Esiada said, “This is Mikela’s newborn son. We will be calling him ‘Zuangeng’. I name him so, for he was born on this ship, this morning, while we were at sea. We need to go to the nearest port for provisions for the child.”
Everybody knew that ‘Zuangeng’ meant ‘child of the ocean’ or ‘ocean child’ whatever the preference. Captain Esiada never revealed the boy’s given name. He gave the baby to Iyoseching. Everybody gathered around Iyoseching to get a closer look at the child.
Captain Esiada took readings of their position off the stars. He walked to his office. He took a chart out. He laid it on his desk. He sat in the chair behind the desk. He plotted their location. He studied the chart. He found an island with a suitable port nearby. He plotted their course on the chart. He checked the needed heading. He exited the office. He walked to the helm. He gave the helmsman the new heading. Captain Esiada found Esamoda. He said, “Have the men adjust the sails. We are on a new course.”
Esamoda relayed the message. The men grabbed sheets and hauled on them. They reset the sails.
Captain Esiada continued to reflect on the past. Something appeared on the horizon. It brought him back to the present. He walked to the stern. He walked into his office. He retrieved his spyglass. He returned to the bow. They were closer to the object. He looked at the object through the spyglass. The object was a small island. They were heading straight for it. He walked astern to the helm.
“Turn to starboard,” he commanded the helmsman. The helmsman turned the helm to the right. The ship turned to the right. The crew went to adjust the sails. Captain Esiada walked to the port railing. He looked toward the bow. He watched the bow and island.
When he was satisfied that they were going to miss the island, he said, “Straighten the rudder.”
The helmsman straightened the rudder/ The island kept getting closer. It was becoming bigger and clearer. The ship came close enough for them to see the beach, grass and trees. It was getting dark. Captain Esiada saw some black specks above the trees. They appeared to be on the other side of the island. He looked through the spyglass at the specks. They were dragons leaving.
The ship sailed past the island. The island was astern. Captain Esiada plotted their new course. The helmsman steered the ship to the new heading. The island disappeared behind them.