Longbow squinted at the coast. “Not quite, I think. Give it another day or so.” He glanced at Rabbit’s forge. “Your bronze is starting to melt.”
“I know,” Rabbit said. “I want it to get a little soupier before I pour it into the molds, though. If I pour too soon, there’ll be lumps sticking out of the arrowheads. How far would you say it is to the bay of Lattash?”
“About two days, I think.”
Then the bull-shouldered first mate Ox came forward to join them. “Lady Zelana’s brother’s going to tell us some things about his part of this country,” he said, “and the cap’n wants you two to sit in. I guess things on up north are just a little different from the places we’ve seen so far.”
“It wouldn’t be much fun if it was all the same, would it?” Rabbit said.
“We’re here for gold, Rabbit,” Ox said sourly, “not for fun.”
“Gold and fun don’t always go in different directions, Ox,” Rabbit said with a grin.
“Just go on back to the cap’n’s cabin, Rabbit,” Ox said a bit wearily. “If you want to have fun, do it on your own time.”
The cabin at the stern of the Seagull was a bit crowded, but they all managed to squeeze themselves in.
Zelana’s grey-bearded big brother looked around. “I guess that’s everybody,” he said. “Captain Hook-Beak wants to know a few things about the people of my Domain, and I thought that maybe it’d save time in the long run if you were all here. I’ll give you a sort of general idea about my people and the layout of the country up there, and then I’ll answer any questions you might have.” He paused, looking around at them. “When we get to the north of Zelana’s Domain, we’ll go ashore in the Tonthakan Nation. There are three significantly different cultures in my Domain—the Tonthakans, who are very much like the people of sister Zelana’s Domain, the Matans, who dwell on the grassy plain in the center, and the Atazakans. The Tonthakans are primarily hunters, the northern Matans have vast grain fields, and the Atazakans are totally worthless.”
“Are we likely to hit bad weather?” Sorgan asked.
“Not immediately,” Dahlaine replied. “There’s a warm current that comes up the west coast in the autumn that sort of holds winter back. When winter finally does arrive, it’s fairly brutal. We get snowstorms that last for weeks. Fortunately, the whirlwind season is almost over for this year.”
“We come across those out at sea sometimes,” Torl said. “We call them ‘water-spouts.’ We use some other terms as well, but I don’t think we should repeat those words in the presence of Lady Zelana.”
“I appreciate that, Torl,” Zelana said.
“Are there mountains of any kind standing between your part of the Land of Dhrall and the Wasteland?” Sorgan asked.
Dahlaine nodded. “If the creatures of the Wasteland come north, I don’t think they’ll enjoy it very much. The mountains of Zelana’s Domain and Veltan’s are gently rolling hills by comparison, and with winter coming, things are likely to get very unpleasant in those mountains without much in the way of a warning of any kind.”
The wind held steady for the next several days, and Sorgan’s fleet moved briskly on up the west coast of the Land of Dhrall. It was about midmorning of an autumn day while Rabbit was busy forging more bronze arrowheads for the natives of the Tonthakan region of Dahlaine’s territory when Longbow joined him. “How’s your supply of bronze holding out?” he asked.
“I’ve still got enough to keep me going for another week or so,” Rabbit replied. “The smiths on board the other ships are supposed to be working, too, but I couldn’t swear to it that they are.”
“There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you,” Longbow said. “I’ve heard about what you did to that Regulator called Konag. When did you decide to take up archery? I thought your job was to make arrows, not to shoot them.”
“It just sort of popped into my head one day,” Rabbit replied. “I’d been spending days and weeks making arrows, and then one day I realized that I’d never pulled a bow even once in my whole life. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to give it a try.”
“I was busy someplace else when you killed Regulator Konag, but from what I’ve heard, you did a very good job.”
“All I really did was follow your instructions, Longbow. It seemed like every time I turned around, you were talking about ‘unification.’ After I’d trimmed and shaped my bow and got the bowstring in place, I took a few arrows and went out into the woods to make sure that my bow—or the bowstring—wouldn’t break the first time I tried to shoot an arrow. There was a patch of moss on a tree a ways away from where I was standing, and I looked at it for a while, and then I shot an arrow at it. Somehow I knew that the arrow would go exactly where I wanted it to go. I stuck quite a few arrows into that moss-patch, and they all went exactly where I wanted them to go. That’s when I decided that Konag would look much prettier with an arrow sticking out of his forehead, and, as it turned out, he did.” Rabbit frowned. “When you get right down to it, though, I wasn’t really thinking about shooting him until I actually saw him. As soon as I saw him, I suddenly just had to kill him.”
“I’m starting to catch a faint smell of dear old ‘unknown friend’ again,” Longbow said with a thoughtful expression on his face. “Konag was causing some problems, and she wanted him dead. You and your bow were right there, so she borrowed you.”
“She was doing the same thing to me for several weeks. I wasn’t in the immediate vicinity when Konag started to get in her way, so she just reached out and grabbed you.”
“Can she really do that? I mean, I don’t think that even Zelana could have done some of the things your friend was doing up in that basin above the Falls of Vash.”
“I’m getting a strong feeling that our unknown friend can do things that make Zelana and her family look like children by comparison. She grabbed that geyser and moved it several miles off to the north of the place where it had been happily bubbling up out of the ground for thousands of years, and then she unleashed it to drown thousands of bug-people and church-people all at the same time. Even Dahlaine couldn’t have done that.”