WHO IS MY COUSIN?
Zorava supervised the loading of his ship from the docks. As it was a windy day the “White Marlin” bobbed up and down under the gangplank, making loading of the craft even more difficult for his crew.
He sniggered at the comical gestures of one of the men as he rolled a barrel up the plank, where more of his men wrestled it to where it was meant to go below decks.
Although he was the only Pendaran among a Nusallean crew, he never felt a stranger in their midst. They were a jovial breed, all of them and hard workers; it was little wonder he developed a fondness for each one.
He nicked a phrase in his own tongue on one of the wooden kegs with the point of his cutlass; not a hand held weapon but a sword blade permanently fixed to his stump where his right hand should have been.
The same worker who had rolled away the barrel returned in the middle of his etching.
‘If you would, Captain,’ He said, nodding at the kegs.
Zorava nodded and after getting off, he hefted a sack of flour to his shoulder and followed. It was never expected for him to help with the work, in fact he was told by his employer not to but he found the men respected him all the more for doing so.
After stepping down on the deck of his ship, he shouldered the burden abruptly into the arms of a crewman who staggered back a step and answered his Captain’s smile with one of his own. Zorva’s smile soon faded at the only member of the crew to bring the mood down.
‘Take it below,’ he said dismissively to the crewman holding the sack.
Zorava saw him fume but said nothing as he knew better than to argue.
‘He is a good man and knows his duty, Porith.’ He said calmly.
‘You forget that whenever you are in the port of Garan, our employer insists that I oversee the loading of his goods.’
Zorava sighed gently, making the conscious effort to remain calm.
‘They are my crew; they take their orders from me.’
‘And you,’ Porith said, holding his gaze, ‘are under me.’
‘You are an unnecessary burden on us.’ Zorava erupted. ‘You have never been to sea. In fact you are no more than a glorified scribe, employed to make sure that every grain and every drop of strong drink is accounted for. It is no more than the paranoia of one who believes us to be likely thieves. Apart from that, your only duty is to remind us endlessly of the terms of our employment.’
Porith pointed a stern finger in his direction.
‘Have a care how you speak to me, Pendaran! I could have you replaced within the hour, if I so choose.’
Zorava took a deep breath and remained silent as a smug grin etched itself on the face of the other man.
‘Excuse me Captain!’ called his helmsman, accompanied by a gaunt Pendaran youth in his late teens. ‘This boy says he knows you.’
Zorava peered hard at the youth unable to recognise him.
‘State your name.’ he said gruffly.
The youth began to speak in Pendaran to which he gave a nod and replied in turn.
‘Set the boy to work.’ He said to his helmsman.
‘Wait, you cannot employ him, merely because he is your kinsman!’ Porith cried.
‘He is more than my kinsman, Porith.’ Zorava said wearily. ‘My uncle and aunty were his parents and he has informed me that they have died three months ago. He only asks for the means to keep himself.’
‘Well I sympathise with the plight of your cousin but the rules state that you only have the right to employ a member of your direct family and only to replace an existing crewman.’
‘Then I must honour these rules.’ Zorava said pointing his cutlass at the chest of his pompous superior.
The quivering man backed away from the blade until he backed over the rail into the gently undulating tide.
A tumult of cheering and laughter split the air at the sight of the indignant employee as Zorava leaned over the rail.
‘In the Pendaran tongue, there is no word for cousin; there is only brother or sister! Untie her!’ her shouted to his crewmen.
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