Longbow shrugged. “A little time every day to fish, is about all. I get hungry now and then.”
“You can eat with the crew, Longbow. We can talk more later. Right now I’d better go get us under way.” Sorgan rose to his feet and went out.
“He isn’t speaking in our language, is he, Zelana?” Longbow asked.
She blinked. “How could you possibly know that?”
“His lips are not shaping the words which are coming from his mouth. Something seems to be changing the language he speaks into ours even while he talks.”
Zelana laughed with obvious delight. “This will embarrass my brother to no end,” she chuckled. “I probably should have noticed that myself. You’re very observant, Longbow.”
“Isn’t that why we have eyes?”
“You’re going to take a bit of getting used to. Do you always jump right to the point like this when you speak?”
He shrugged. “It saves time. Now, will you tell me exactly why you sought me out to come with you? What is it that I’m supposed to do to help you persuade the Maags to come to the Land of Dhrall to kill the servants of the Vlagh for us?”
“I want you to shoot arrows, Longbow.”
“Who or what do you want me to kill?”
“I don’t really need to have you kill anything just yet, Longbow,” she replied. “We’re going to the Land of Maag to fetch warriors to help us fight the creatures of the Wasteland. I want you to shoot arrows at things which are a long way away from where you’re standing, and to hit as many of them as you can. The Maags need to know that the warriors of Dhrall can be as dangerous as the warriors of Maag are. We need their help, but we also need their respect.”
Longbow considered it. “Geese, I think,” he suggested.
“I beg your pardon?”
“People always seem to be startled when they see geese falling down out of the sky with arrows sticking out of them,” Longbow explained. “They don’t seem to realize that arrows can hit things up in the air as well as down on the ground.”
“Can you actually do that, Longbow?” Eleria exclaimed. “I mean, can you really bring geese down from way up in the sky with your bow?”
“It’s not really very difficult, little one,” Longbow said. “Geese fly in straight lines, so it’s easy to know where they’ll be when your arrow reaches them. They’re good to eat, too, so I won’t be killing them for no reason. It’s not right to do that.”
“I think we should keep this one, Beloved,” Eleria said. “And if you don’t want him, can I have him?”
That startled Longbow just a bit.
Red-Beard sleeps with the Maags Sorgan calls ‘the crew,’” Zelana told Longbow later that afternoon. “He’s a jovial sort of fellow, but he’s very observant. We need to know more about the Maags, so Red-Beard’s taking care of that for us. I think you should sleep in here with Eleria and me, though. We’ll tell the Maags that you’re here to guard me so that nobody gets any improper ideas. The real reason is that I’d like to keep you just a bit separate from the Maags, if possible. In a little while, you’ll be doing some fairly spectacular things with your bow, and it might be useful if the Maags of the Seagull have a certain amount of awe in their voices when they tell other Maags about you.”
Longbow shrugged. “Whatever seems best to you,” he replied. “How long is this task likely to take?”
“Not too long,” she replied. “Sorgan’s bringing quite a bit of gold back to Maag with him. When he starts showing it to the other Maags, they’ll probably flock to him like vultures.” She frowned. “That didn’t come out exactly right, did it?” she said.
“It’s a possibility we should keep in mind, though,” Longbow suggested. “I’ll watch them. If they seem to be getting too hungry, there are ways to persuade them to go eat somebody else.”
Longbow arose at first light the following morning, and he was a bit surprised to find that Zelana was awake. “You don’t sleep very much, do you?” he asked her.
“It isn’t really necessary for me, Longbow,” she replied. “Why are you up so early?”
“I thought it might be useful for me to get to know these Maags a bit better. The more a hunter knows about the creatures he hunts, the more successful he is.”
“You aren’t here to kill them, Longbow,” she chided.
“No,” he agreed, “but capture is sometimes more difficult than kill, isn’t it?” He took up his bow and went out into the grey light of morning.
There was only the faintest hint of a breeze, but there was enough to tell Longbow that it was coming from the east, and that was very unusual for this time of year. Evidently, Zelana was tampering with things.
There was a faint ringing sound coming from the front of the Seagull, and Longbow went forward to see if he could determine the source of that sound.
A small Maag was standing near the front of the Seagull, and he was pounding on something that glowed almost as if it had fire deep inside of it.
“What is that,” Longbow asked curiously, “and why are you pounding on it?”
“It’s called iron,” the little Maag replied, “and I’m shaping it with my hammer. Ham-Hand broke his knife the other day, and he wants me to make him a new one. He’s sort of clumsy, so he breaks things all the time.”
“Where is it that you find this iron?”
“I haven’t got no idea at all where it comes from, but all I have to do is work with it. I don’t have to go out and find it. You’re the one called Longbow, aren’t you?”
“That’s what they tell me. Does this iron glow like that all the time?”
“No. I have to heat it up in my fire first. That makes it soft and easier to work with. They call me Rabbit, by the way—probably because I forgot to grow up some time way back when. Anyway, we make all our tools and weapons out of iron. One of my chores here on the Seagull is hammering fishhooks out of iron. I’m glad you came along, though. The cap’n told me that maybe I ought to hammer out some arrowheads for you.”
“Stone arrowheads are customary in the Land of Dhrall,” Longbow told him. “They’ve worked well for us in the past. I don’t see any reason to change.”
“Could I see one of your arrows?”