“Nicely crafted,” Sorgan said.

“It does what I want it to do,” Longbow said modestly. “It hasn’t yet missed at any range.”

Sorgan assumed that the blond man was boasting, but he sounded so sincere that Sorgan wasn’t entirely certain. “Just how far south is this Lattash place?” he asked.

“As far as a man can walk in ten days,” Longbow replied. “After you pass the fires on the beach, you’ll come to a narrow inlet that leads on into a fairly large bay. Lattash stands at the head of that bay, and Zelana awaits you at Lattash.”

Sorgan squinted at the water, making some calculations in his head. “I’m just guessing, but I’d say that the Seagull—that’s my ship over there— should make it in three days.”

“I wouldn’t take much longer, if I were you,” Longbow advised. “Zelana’s impatient, and you don’t want to irritate her. I’m supposed to ask you if the word gold has any meaning for you.”

“Oh, yes!” Sorgan replied fervently.

“I wouldn’t know myself, but Zelana told me to say ‘gold’ to you. Have you enough food and water for three days? I don’t think Zelana will let you stop again on your way south.”

“How’s she going to stop me?”

“I don’t think you really want to know, Sorgan Hook-Beak. We’ll probably meet again, but for right now you’d better move along as quickly as you can. Things will go better if you do.”

3

Did he have any weapons aside from that bow, Cap’n?” Ox asked when Sorgan returned to the Seagull.

“He had a bundle of arrows and a spear in the bottom of the canoe,” Sorgan replied. “He didn’t touch it, but it was right out in the open where I could see it. I’m pretty sure he wanted me to know it was there. The funny thing about it was that the spear point wasn’t iron. It’d been made from stone instead.”

“The people who eat other people in the Land of Shaan make their tools and weapons out of stone, too,” Ox said. “That don’t make me feel none too comfortable, Cap’n. Just the idea of getting et makes me go cold all over.”

“I don’t think these people are that kind, Ox,” Sorgan said. “The fellow in the canoe seemed to be almost friendly. He knew my name, and he wanted to be sure we had enough food and water on board. There’s a place called Lattash about three days south of here, and there’s a woman named Zelana there who wants to talk with us. Longbow told me that there might be gold involved in the discussion. That sort of suggests that the Zelana woman wants to hire people who know how to fight, and she’ll pay good gold to get them.”

“I ain’t about to start taking no orders from no woman, Cap’n,” Ham-Hand protested.

“Don’t worry about it, Ham-Hand,” Sorgan told him. “You’ll take your orders from me, just like always. I’ll be the one who deals with this Zelana woman. Hoist up the sail, and let’s go south. There’s a lady down there who wants to talk to me about gold, so let’s not dawdle.”

Once the Seagull was clear of the inlet, a good following breeze came up, and Sorgan’s ship was soon skimming lightly over the waves a league or so out from the coast of Dhrall. By evening the Seagull was a goodly distance south of Longbow’s village, and Sorgan prudently hauled in on the leeward side of a small islet and dropped anchor. Nobody in his right mind sails through strange waters after dark.

Sorgan rose at first light and went up on deck to have a look at the weather. He found Ham-Hand and Rabbit leaning over the rail on the starboard side. “What’s afoot?” he asked them.

“There’s some real strange critters in these here waters, Cap’n,” Rabbit replied. “I’ve seen dolphins and porpoises afore, but I ain’t never seen any of them as was pink.”

“You’re not serious!” Sorgan said.

“Strike me dead iff’n I ain’t,” Rabbit said. “I heared them splashin’ an’ gigglin’ out there afore it got light, an’ I couldn’t believe my eyes once it got light enough for me to take a good look.”

“He’s right, Cap’n,” Ham-Hand said. “The little rascals is as pink as a new sunrise, and they’re skipping around out there on the water like little children having a good time.”

“There’s one right now, Cap’n,” Rabbit said, pointing off to starboard.

Sorgan stared. The creature was definitely a dolphin, and it really was pink.

Then there were others swarming around the Seagull, leaping and splashing and giggling as they frolicked about. “This is the strangest place,” Sorgan muttered, half to himself. “The next thing we know, we might come across purple sharks or bright green whales. Rouse the crew, Ham-Hand. The weather looks good, so let’s get under way.”

“Aye, Cap’n,” Ham-Hand replied.

The Seagull continued south, but she was no longer alone. The pink dolphins accompanied her, racing along ahead of her bow and chattering to the crew on both the starboard and port sides. “It’s almost like we got an escort, ain’t it, Cap’n?” Ox suggested. Then he squinted speculatively at the creatures playfully leaping out of the water on all sides. “I wonder what dolphin meat tastes like,” he said.

“No!” Sorgan said sharply. “Our luck’s running good, Ox. Don’t tamper with anything. You might bring down a squall or even a waterspout, and it’s a long swim back to Maag.”

“Those things splashing around out there don’t have anything to do with the weather, Cap’n,” Ox scoffed.

“Maybe not, but I’m not about to take any chances. Don’t fool around with things, Ox. Just leave them exactly the way they are.”

And so the Seagull proceeded south at a goodly rate with dolphins leaping along in front of her bow as rosy dawn tinted the eastern sky.

“There’s a fire on the beach, Cap’n,” Tree-Top called down from the topmast.

“Keep your eyes peeled,” Hook-Beak called up to him. “There’ll be two more farther on south. After we pass the third one, we’ll need to keep a sharp eye out. There’ll be an inlet that leads into a fair-sized bay. That’s the place we’re looking for.”

“Aye, Cap’n,” Tree-Top called back.

The Seagull passed the third bonfire in the early afternoon of the third day after Sorgan’s meeting with Longbow, and Hook-Beak ordered the crew to keep a sharp eye off to port.


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