“Maybe it’ll rain,” Ham-Hand said hopefully.

“ ‘Maybe’ don’t drink too good,” Ox said in a gloomy voice. “We’d better find some land, and we’d better find it fast; otherwise . . .” He left it up in the air, but the others got his drift.

2

The crew of the Seagull was on short rations for the next few days, but then, on a steel grey morning before the sun rose, Kaldo Tree-Top, the tallest man aboard, shouted, “Land ho!” from the topmast. A shorter man might have missed the low-lying smudge on the eastern horizon, but Tree-Top, well-nigh seven feet tall, saw it quite clearly.

“Are you sure?” Ham-Hand shouted up to the gangly lookout.

“Real sure,” Tree-Top called back. “Two points off the port bow, and three, maybe four leagues away.”

“Go wake Ox,” Ham-Hand told Rabbit, the small, wiry crewman standing nearby.

“He don’t like to get woke up this early,” Rabbit replied. “It makes him real grouchy.”

“Just kick his foot and then run,” Ham-Hand suggested. “He’ll never catch you. That’s how you got your name, isn’t it?”

“I can outrun my own shadow,” Rabbit boasted, “but if I happen to trip and fall, old Ox’ll tromp on me for the rest of the day.”

“Shinny up the mast,” Ham-Hand advised. “Ox don’t climb none too good. I need to let him know that we’re about to make a landfall.”

“I’d really druther not, Ham-Hand.”

Ham-Hand clenched his huge fist and held it in front of Rabbit’s nose. “I’d do a quick turnabout on my druthers if I was you, Rabbit,” he said ominously. “Now, quit complaining and do as you’re told.”

“Don’t get excited,” Rabbit said, backing away. “I’m going.”

Ox, however, surprised Rabbit with a sudden burst of enthusiasm. Of course, Ox required a great deal of food and drink because of his size, so an unexpected landfall brightened his entire day.

The Seagull was at least as fast as her namesake, and by the time the sun came up, the coast ahead was clearly visible. “Go tell the cap’n that we’ve made a landfall, Rabbit,” Ox commanded.

“Why me?” Rabbit whined.

“Because I said so. Don’t stand around and argue with me, Rabbit. Just go.”

“Aye,” Rabbit replied sullenly.

“He spends a lot of his time complaining, don’t he?” Ham-Hand observed.

“He runs fast, though,” Ox replied. “He’s sort of timid, that’s all. He’s got a real wide streak of cautious that runs down his back, but if you lean on him some, he’ll do like you tell him—sooner or later.”

Captain Hook-Beak came forward immediately with a relieved look on his face. “Has anybody happened to see any towns on that coast?” he asked.

“None so far, Cap’n,” Ox replied. “If we want anything to eat, we’ll probably have to chase it down without no help.”

“Better find a river or a creek first,” Hook-Beak decided. “Let’s get the water casks filled before we go hunting. Hungry’s bad, but thirsty’s worse.”

“Not by very much,” Ox said. “If my belly starts growling any louder, the people hereabouts will probably think there’s a thunderstorm coming their way.”

“Would you look at the size of them trees!” Ham-Hand exclaimed, staring at the thickly forested shoreline. “I ain’t never seen trees that big afore!” Ham-Hand was perhaps a bit overly excitable, but this time Sorgan could see his second mate’s point. The forest stretching up from the beach consisted of huge trees that were twenty to thirty feet through at the butt and rose like huge pillars to a height of at least a hundred feet before they sprouted a single limb.

“They do seem just a bit overgrown, don’t they?” Ox agreed.

“A bit?” Ham-Hand said. “You could carve two Seagulls out of one of them trees and still have enough wood left over to cook breakfast.”

“We can’t eat trees,” Sorgan told him. “Let’s get the water casks filled and then go hunt up something to eat before Ox starts chewing up the sails or the anchor.”

The Seagull sailed south along the forested coast for a league or so until Ox spotted a wide creek that emptied out into a small bay. Ham-Hand swung the tiller over hard and beached the ship on a sandy strip nearby. Then most of the crew went to work filling the water casks while Ham-Hand led a small party back into the forest in search of game animals.

The hunting party returned empty-handed along about sundown. “We seen some tracks, Cap’n,” Ham-Hand reported, “and some pretty heavy-traveled game trails, but we didn’t jump nothing worth wasting no arrows on.”

“We can get by this evening, I expect,” Sorgan told him. “The Fat-Man put out some setlines right after we beached the Seagull, and he brought in some pretty good-sized fish.”

“I ain’t all that fond of fish, Cap’n,” Ham-Hand said.

“It beats eating leaves and twigs,” Sorgan said, shrugging. “Did you happen to run across any signs of people back there in the woods?”

“Nothing I could swear to, Cap’n. Nobody’s been chopping down trees or building bridges or such. There might be folks hereabouts, but they ain’t left no sign. I don’t know as it’d be a good idea to leave the Seagull beached overnight. Might be better if we anchored a ways out, just to be safe. If there do happen to be folks living around here, maybe we should get to know a little about them afore we let down our guard. I sure don’t want to be the main course at no dinner party.”

“Good point there,” Sorgan agreed. “See to it.”

The Seagull moved carefully southward along the coast for the next few days. The crew found game animals—wild cows and a very large variety of deer—but they didn’t encounter any people.

“There’s got to be people here someplace, Cap’n,” Ox said one afternoon about a week after they’d first made landfall.

“Why?” Hook-Beak said.

“There’s always people, Cap’n—even along the coast of Shaan.”

“Let’s hope they ain’t like the Shaans—if there are people here,” Ham-Hand put in. “I could go for a long time without meeting folks who eats other folks.”

“It might just be that we made landfall too far to the north,” Sorgan said. “It’s still summer here, so we don’t really know what winters here are like. It might just be that any people hereabouts live farther south.”


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