"What is it with old sailors and long, pointless stories?" - April
Umber Ianos is an old sailor who lives in Marcuria, who used to be the captain of the White Dragon. He spends most of his time sitting on a large chest - in which he used to keep Crow, whom he called 'Bird' - on the piers of Marcuria's harbour, smoking a pipe and mending nets. Either he mends these nets for other fishermen, or he fishes himself in the small boat sitting tethered to the jetty next to him. He has a wooden left leg (although it appears his right leg is wooden) and tells April he has a wooden "pecker". He was married for a time, and recalls that his wife was fond of the saying "Coin be the way". In fact, she left him for a wealthy merchant while he was away at sea.
According to his tall tales, 50 years he was a young mate (presumably in his teens) on a ship whose name April forces him to admit he does not remember, but not before trying to pass off "The Three-legged Whore", "The Thrifty Horse", and "The Whittle Wotsit". They were anchored in Monterba and the young Ianos, his first visit to the city, had shore-leave for the next night and day. The details of the story are somewhat unclear, as April sleeps through the main part of the story, but it seems that in the course of events he met Crow, seduced the Mahk's daughter and, as a result, was chased from the city by the Mahk's soldiers. Evidently he did not leave by his ship (which may have not been ready to make a hasty escape), as he crossed the wastelands of Ch'Angagriel by foot: and became the first person to do so. All of that desert heat and his salt-saturated clothing must have been terribly chafing, as he seems to have developed a rash of some sort.
He treated Crow rather badly, and the bird claims that by the time he was 2 weeks old he had learned that his real name was "That Damn Bird", and would call him a "No good ball of feathers!", before locking him in his chest. Ianos seems to have been fond of Crow, however, and regrets his part in Crow's fate as a prize in the cups game as he was sometimes the only person Ianos had to talk to.
Somewhere along the way he became acquainted with knowledge of the sleeping god of the 'bloodthirsty cannibal mermen' (who turn out to be the harmless Maerum) which, as April points out, talks about the mermen eating sailors and not each other, so they're not actually cannibals. He tells the story of 30 years ago, when Ianos was undertaking his second term as captain of the "Lucky Lady". They had been crossing the Sea of Songs for 2 seasons and one night they lay with their sails down awaiting a wind to carry them to Marcuria from Aeras, where they had just taken on board 100 barrels of sweet Ge'en apples. Hearing screams from the port side of the ship Ianos, who had his hand down the apple barrel, was the first to the scene. He was just in time to see Salee Barni, one of his sailors, being devoured thrashing in water reddened with blood. The last they saw of him was his body being pulled down and swallowed whole by a "large, shiny, sleek body". Ianos claims this was a Maerum, but April makes the more likely suggestion that it was a shark, or its Arcadian equivalent.
It is not specified exactly when, but he was captain of a ship on which Horatio Nebevay served. Ianos saved Nebevay's life several times, and the latter claims that he would not now be captain of "The White Dragon" were it not for the old man. This may indicate that the ship on which they served was "The White Dragon" itself, although more likely it just refers to the fact that, were Nebevay dead, he would not be captain of any ship. It might also refer to connections he made through Ianos.
Either way, Nebevay tells that while Ianos may have been a good captain once, he lost his ship, and since then "he hasn't been worth much to anyone." So either he lost his ship to Nebevay or, more likely, he lost his ship at sea and could not get work on another ship because of it. Still, Nebevay feels he owes Ianos a favour for the leg up, and the old man transfers that favour to April when she wins Crow back for him from the Cups Handler.
Crow informs April that after she returned him to Ianos the old man became drunk on a celebratory drink of Androgan Stone-liquor and gambled him off to the Cups Handler again, although Crow escaped to join April on her journey. When she transports Crow to the Guardian's Realm he tells her that, after the evacuation of Marcuria he went to visit Ianos out of loneliness, but the old man was gone. He suggests that "Either he drowned, or he got out of town with the rest of them."
There are some problems with the chronology of Ianos' life. If he did indeed meet Crow in Monterba 50 years ago, then that contradicts the fact that Crow states twice that he's been with Ianos for 20 years. While it is possible that Crow spent 30 years away from Ianos he never speaks about, it is rather unlikely that he is 50 years or more old, and that Ianos himself simply mixed up the dates.
Umber Ianos is voiced by Madison Arnold.