Eventually, they made landfall on the coast of a very unfamiliar land covered with enormous trees. It seemed at first that the strange land was devoid of humans, but then they came across a village of crudely built huts, and a tall, bleak-faced man called Longbow told Captain Hook-Beak about an opportunity that seemed to Rabbit just too good to be true.

Rabbit observed that the Land of Dhrall was a peculiar sort of place with peculiar people and peculiar animals. When the Seagull reached the village of Lattash, he added the rulers of that land to his list of peculiarities. Lady Zelana was beautiful, there was no question about that, but she had Sorgan Hook-Beak bent over backward in almost no time at all. Rabbit had his suspicions about Sorgan’s awed report of the amount of gold she had piled up in her cave. If she was that rich, why was she living in a hole in the ground?

Rabbit decided to avoid her, just to be on the safe side, but he did enjoy the company of the sweet, pretty little girl, Eleria.

When the Seagull returned to the first village she’d visited, the tall, grim-faced native called Longbow joined them, and he almost immediately saw right through the clever game Rabbit had spent years perfecting. They got along quite well, though, and Rabbit offered to replace Longbow’s stone arrowheads with much superior ones made of iron. As the two of them worked together during the long voyage back to the Land of Dhrall, they became much better acquainted. Unlike the Maags, Longbow made no issue of Rabbit’s size, and he encouraged his new friend to assert himself a bit more.

Captain Hook-Beak had devised a clever plan involving gold bricks to recruit other Maag ship captains to assist him in the upcoming war in Zelana’s part of the Land of Dhrall, but Rabbit fully agreed with his friend Longbow that some of the captains might very well have slightly different plans.

The situation almost compelled Rabbit to drop his clever pose as a little dimwit and to take an active part in Longbow’s ridiculous plan to counter the scheme of an unscrupulous ship captain who went by the name of Kajak. He didn’t like it too much, but Longbow was the only friend that Rabbit had ever had since the death of Uncle Beer-Belly, so Rabbit wasn’t about to let him down.

2

Rabbit still had mixed feelings about the Kajak affair as Sorgan’s fleet set sail from the harbor at Kweta. His sudden celebrity as “the little fellow who helped Longbow that night” had given his ego quite a boost, there was no question about that, but celebrity was the last thing Rabbit really wanted. Inconspicuousness had been his goal since the day he first joined the crew of the Seagull. The standard Maag conviction that “bigger is better” had made the pose fairly easy, and his mock simplemindedness had convinced Sorgan and the others that a few easy tasks were about all he was good for. It had made his life less exhausting, and that was all that really mattered.

The only significant task that had ever been laid on his shoulders had involved the Seagull’s smithy, and that had worked out rather well. If he happened to be standing at his anvil tapping on a piece of iron with his hammer, Ox and Ham-Hand would find other sailors to attend to the more tedious chores.

He was required to stand watch, of course. No sailor can escape that task, and Rabbit much preferred night watch, when the captain was asleep. When things were going well, Rabbit could go for weeks on end without once seeing Sorgan.

That didn’t particularly bother him.

Rabbit had based his previous computations of the Seagull’s speed and location on the location of a specific cluster of stars in the night sky relative to the eastern horizon, and in the past he’d found that if the Seagull was moving at her normal rate of speed, those stars would be a hand’s breadth higher in the sky than they had been the previous night. It all fit together quite well, and Rabbit had been certain that his numbers were very accurate. When the current had seized the Seagull and swept her off to the Land of Dhrall however, Rabbit had almost discarded his entire set of computations, but now that he knew that Zelana could alter things to suit her purposes, he dropped the term “impossible.” When Zelana was involved, nothing was really impossible.

Sorgan’s fleet left the harbor at Kweta at first light on a blustery winter morning, and once they were at sea, the wind seemed almost to die. Then it came up again, but now it came out of the west. Most of the crew of the Seagull viewed the change of the wind as a stroke of good luck. Rabbit, however, was fairly certain that luck had very little to do with it.

Despite the fact that it was winter now, Sorgan’s fleet made good time, and they rounded the northern end of the Isle of Thurn after little more than two weeks at sea. Had the sky been clear, Rabbit might have been able to keep better track of their progress, but the clouds hid the stars from him.

He didn’t think that was very nice at all.

“Does she really need to blot the stars out like that?” he complained to Longbow one evening as the fleet made its way down the forested west coast of Dhrall.

“Go ask her,” Longbow suggested.

“Ah—no, I don’t think I’ll do that. I wouldn’t really want to irritate her.”

“Good thinking,” Longbow said without so much as a smile.

It was about midday on a chill day when the fleet turned into the narrow inlet that opened out into the bay of Lattash, where the fleet of Sorgan’s cousin Skell lay at anchor. The sky was cloudy, so there were no shadows, and it seemed to Rabbit that the village huddled in the chill air with the snowy mountains looming ominously above it.

Rabbit noticed that the village had more than doubled in size since he’d last been there, but most of the additions appeared to be temporary. The new huts were along the edges of the old village, for the most part, and there were even several of them standing atop the berm that separated the original village from the river. The smoke from the huts seemed to hang in the chill air, and what few natives were out in the open wore thickly furred capes, and they stepped right along. Rabbit knew that winter was an unpleasant time almost anywhere, but it seemed even worse here in the Land of Dhrall.

A narrow canoe came skimming out across the bay from the village. Red-Beard was in the rear of the canoe, and Sorgan’s cousin Skell, a lean, sour-faced man in a heavy fur cloak, was seated in the bow. Rabbit laid his hammer down on the anvil to watch and listen.

“You must have picked up a good following wind, Sorgan,” Skell called when the canoe came to within shouting distance.

Sorgan shrugged. “Lucky, maybe,” he called back. “How have things been going here?”

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