The sun climbed higher into the sky with each day, and the nights became shorter, marked by extended twilight. The harbor boom was completed with the cheerful assistance of more than fifty Highlanders, with Bruni and many Arktos also contributing. When it was installed, it became a barrier that could be floated across the narrow mouth of Bracken-rock Harbor, secured with iron chains, and studded with steel spikes. Any ship that tried to pass would at the very least become stuck and would very likely have great holes ripped in the hull.
Kerrick concentrated on his boat, preparing for the transoceanic crossing. He caulked the hull carefully, repaired his lines where they showed signs of fraying or wear, and mended the few tears in his three sails. A week after the harbor boom was done, the day of his departure dawned clear, with fair winds. These were good omens to start a voyage, but as he went around the fortress and down to the waterfront, making his farewells, Kerrick found himself feeling strangely hesitant and melancholy.
“You have a care out there-it’s a big ocean! So I hear, anyway,” sniffed Dinekki, peering up into Kerrick’s face with her watery, yet penetrating, eyes. The stooped, elderly woman shook her head firmly. “Not that I have any intention of going out there for a look, myself. That one trip across the strait with the Highlanders on our heels and your boat underneath was all the sailin’ I’ll ever want.”
The elf looked back at the ancient shaman, knew the mighty power lurking within that deceptively frail frame, but all he saw was a tender, caring heart. He felt a lump grow in his throat.
“I have a feeling you could tame those waves if you wanted,” Kerrick said, “and I will have a care.”
She pressed something into his hand, a small circle made of interlocking bones. Fish bones, he saw, the frail slivers barely thicker than coarse hair. “This may help you in a time of danger… throw it on the water, if you want to hide your boat and yourself. Everything else, for that matter,” she said. “Chislev Wilder will watch over you, but you’ll still have to take care of yourself.”
“Thank you, Grandmother,” he replied, using the honorific the Arktos used for their most esteemed elders. He was truly moved. He gave her a hug, conscious of her skinny frame and careful not to hurt her, then was surprised when she pulled him close with a crush that almost expelled the air from his lungs.
“We’ll miss you,” she said, sniffing. “Damned pollen! Never could keep my sinuses clean this time of year.” She turned away, dabbing her eyes with a cloth, and Kerrick took a moment to catch his breath. The emotions of these humans, so obviously displayed, were affecting his normally reserved elven nature. There were so many here to see him off, and this evidence of their fondness touched him deeply.
He looked at Cutter and was instantly reassured. The teak deck shone, the sails were neatly furled but ready to snap upward and snare the ocean wind. The locker was full of smoked and salted fish fillets and his two barrels topped with pure spring water. He had fashioned a new pair of oars, sturdy paddles that might be useful in an emergency, and these were strapped, one on each side, to the gunwales. Two of his three chests of gold were already stowed below deck, secured in the hold. He knew the third strongbox would be coming along shortly.
He turned to look along the dock, noticing that more Arktos were coming down the road from the citadel or following the mountainside trails leading down to the harbor. A few Highlanders-tall, bearded, distinguished by their buckskin kilts-were also coming from the boatyard. A pretty young woman, her long hair bound into a black plume and her eyes, like Dinekki’s, swimming with tears, came forward and grasped Kerrick’s hands.
“Do you have to go?” Feathertail asked. “Will you come back?”
“Someday,” he promised, believing it to be the truth. “Meantime, keep an eye on Mouse for me, will you?”
She smiled through her tears. “Oh, you can count on that. If he gets too careless, I just remind him that it wasn’t so many years ago that we used to call him ‘Little Mouse.’ He blushes then and usually forgets what he was talking about!”
“I’m sure he does,” the elf said. “He’s lucky to have you-take good care of him.” He embraced this girl who had become a young woman seemingly overnight. He had to remind himself that it had been a process lasting the whole eight years of his time here. To an elf, that time might be a mere eyeblink, but not to humans.
“Here’s the last chest,” Bruni said, genial as ever as she rolled up the wheelbarrow with the third of his treasure boxes. The other two had required Kerrick and two strong men to cart down from the fortress. Bruni had brought this one by herself. “Do you want me to throw it onto the deck?” she asked, joking.
“I appreciate the help,” he replied hastily, “but I think it would crash through the floorboards, and I’d like to have it stowed it a little more carefully than that!”
“Well, you’re the sailor,” she said with a grin. She looked around at the boatyard, the nascent fleet of boats bobbing in the harbor. “At least, the first sailor. It’s nice to see this legacy of yours, floating all over the place. We’re a seafaring people now, and that will forever change our lives.” She turned her moonlike gaze upon him, very serious for a moment. “It’s going to be different, though, with you not here.”
He drew a breath and it came out a sigh. Second thoughts assailed him. He hadn’t realized how much he was going to miss these people. The big woman drew him into a smothering hug, and though he couldn’t lock his arms around her massive waist he clutched her as tightly as he could.
“You’re someone very special,” Kerrick told her. “If you lived in Ansalon, I think the bards would be singing about you from Tarsis to Istar. As it is, you’ll have to be sure to keep an eye on your chiefwoman and all these people, won’t you? They rely on you more than you know.”
“Oh, I help out when I can,” she said, shrugging dismissively. “You come back sometime, and see for yourself how we’re getting along? Okay?”
He nodded wordlessly. More of the Arktos came to bid him farewell, friends he had made over the years, and the sense of uncertainty only grew stronger. The Highlander berserker called Mad Randall-always a genial and gentle fellow, except in the midst of battle-shared several sips of warqat with the elf, then cried lustily as he clutched the departing sailor to his breast. Mouse came hurrying along, and he gave Kerrick a gift: a splendid long harpoon, with a polished shaft, a coil of supple line, and a head of shining steel.
“That’s the metal Hawkworth is smelting now, thanks to you,” the young man declared proudly. “He says that you could shave with that edge-if you had a beard, that is.”
Kerrick rubbed his smooth elven face and shook his head. He was moved by the gift but even more moved by the all the people crowding around. Many times he had embarked from the Silvanesti docks, sometimes for voyages that would last more than a year, and never had he entertained this kind of farewell. His friends had been too casual to depart from their comfortable routines. On those occasions when he left a lover behind, she was inevitably petulant about his trip and likely as not would fail to see him off or send him away with angry words ringing in his ears.
He thought of Moreen for some reason and was startled to look up and see her standing all alone on the dockside. The rest of the Arktos had melted away all of a sudden, and were now busily watching the boat builders or fishers, leaving the chiefwoman and the elf with a circle of privacy. He heard the waves lapping against the stone wharf, punctuated by the keening cry of a gull. The bird, he thought, articulated his feelings far better than Kerrick himself could.
She came toward him dry-eyed, serious. He found himself drawing up straight, standing as tall as he could, feeling strangely vulnerable. Wondering what he would say, he was taken by surprise by the first words out of her mouth.
“That boom,” she said, gesturing to the long construct of chain-wrapped timbers. “Are you sure it is going to work right?”
He felt a familiar flash of irritation. “Yes, of course it will work,” he snapped. “That is, if the watchmen get it pulled across the harbor mouth in time. It won’t work if the ogre galley is already in the harbor!”
“No, I suppose not,” she commented, taking no visible offence at his harsh tone. Instead, she made a show of studying the length of the boom and the large winch attached to the Signpost rock. The boom itself lay in the water, opposite the spire, attached by a submerged cable. The winch, they had learned through testing, was strong enough to pull it across the harbor mouth, if ten or a dozen strong people could gather to crank the device. There was a rickety framework of scaffolding leading up the Signpost and a sturdier, more permanent-looking platform on top. A lanky Highlander leaned on the railing of that platform, momentarily noticing their eyes on him, so he quickly turned his gaze back to the sea.
“I will have to make sure that we put only the most alert people, whether Arktos or Highlander, on that duty.”
“Yes,” he agreed, his ill temper quickly fading. “You will.” You will have to do lots of things, he thought, feeling for an instant the leadership pressures weighing upon Moreen every day. She would have to look out for all of these people, leading them against a harsh environment, protecting them from the onslaughts of an even harsher enemy. She was strong-unbelievably strong-but he was terribly glad that he did not have her responsibilities.
“That boom… it’s a nice piece of work. One of many nice things that you leave us,” Moreen said, her voice surprisingly soft and nervous. “I cannot dispel the feeling that we have not changed you in such a… so many fundamental ways, as you have done for us.”
Kerrick blinked, surprised at the moisture that burned in his eyes. “I think, perhaps, that I have been very much changed by my time among the Arktos. Changed for the better.”
She smiled wanly, then nodded to the chest in Bruni’s wheelbarrow. “I see you’ve had the gold brought down. Do you think that will make a difference to your king?” She didn’t know the full story of his exile-none of these humans did-but she had gleaned enough of his past to know that he had departed his homeland under something of an shadow.
“I know it will, at least in these modern times. Centuries ago, in the time of Silvanos and the great houses, who knows-I’d like to think the elves had loftier pursuits. Now we might as well be Istarans, dwarves even-we are as enthralled with gold as any people on Krynn.”
“You know…” Moreen hesitated, choosing her words. “I… that is, we, will miss you very much.”
He almost winced. That was how it was with her-everything was about the tribe, nothing about herself. “You should know that I will miss all of you. I’m only starting to realize how much,” he responded levelly. He would miss her the most of all, Kerrick knew, but he lacked the words, the human brashness, to articulate that sentiment.
“You are welcome to return, any time you want to come back,” Moreen continued. “In fact, I do hope we-I-will see you again.” She gazed across the harbor, out the narrow gap onto the sea beyond. “Perhaps it won’t be during my lifetime,” she mused ruefully. “You could still be a young man, and come back to find our grandchildren as the new masters of Brackenrock.”
“I… I want to be back before then,” he said awkwardly. The difference in their life spans-he had centuries of adulthood waiting before him, a trackless road ahead of him, while she would become an old woman in forty, fifty, or some other finite number of years-had always yawned like a gulf between them. Now he felt an irrational tickle of guilt.
“Know that if you don’t come back for a hundred years, the Arktos will remember you and make you welcome,” she said quietly. For the first time ever he saw a tear shimmer in her eye.
“For all those years, and longer, I will carry the memory of this place, of your people-and of you-close to my heart,” he said somberly.
Kerrick held Moreen for several heartbeats, feeling the fierce strength of her embrace, the wiry muscle of her body, and he found himself wishing it could be forever. But it was she who broke the embrace, blinked, and said, “May Zivilyn Greentree ride with you across the waters! And Chislev Wilder wait for you in the forests on the other side!”
The blessing of their two gods was like a benediction around his shoulders. Kerrick could think of nothing else to say, so he climbed aboard his boat, raised the mainsail, and started toward the beckoning sea.
Cutter burst from the Bluewater Strait like a cork exploding from a bottle. A cold south wind gusted from the direction of Winterheim and the Icewall, a reminder of winter so lately departed. Still, Kerrick welcomed the breeze, for it had strength and would bear him in the direction he wanted to go.
The sky was cloudy now, a slate color perfectly matched by the sea. The hue matched the elven sailor’s mood. Playing out the jib, riding straight before the wind, he flew northward until the bulwark of land that was Brackenrock vanished from his view. Even then he continued, reckoning by compass, imagining the miles … twenty, fifty… eighty and more… passing under his keel.
Only when the sun angled into the western sea did he haul in the jib and turn the mainsail to lessen his headlong speed. He watched the long, slow sunset, realized that it was prolonged by his northern position. Within a week the sun itself would remain visible, low on the southern horizon, throughout every night, and many weeks would pass before it again set below Bracken-rock’s horizon. He chuckled as he thought of the phenomenon that the Arktos called the midnight sun. Certainly he would describe it to the elves of Silvanesti, but he didn’t expect that they would believe him.
Setting the tiller and boom with ropes tied to hold a steady course, Kerrick went into his cabin and opened his sea chest. From there he took out a delicate tube, a container shaped by Dinekki from a whale’s tusk. Carefully he extracted the scroll of sheepskin and spread the supple cloth across his table, where he could see clearly in the daylight spilling through the porthole.
It was a crude map by the standards of cartographic mastery, but it was a work that had occupied him for much of the past eight years. Every voyage he had taken in Cutter, every trip back and forth on the White Bear Sea, had been logged here, with coastlines drawn and redrawn, islands discovered and circumnavigated, great glaciers rendered into ink strokes, a mockery of their dazzling majesty.
The shore of the mostly landlocked White Bear Sea Kerrick had completely mapped several years ago. Despite the bothersome presence of the ogre galley Gold-wing, the elf sailed those waters with impunity. Virtually constant winds swept the sea, ensuring that the sailboat could easily escape the much heavier, oar-powered ogre ship. On several occasions the elf had dared to taunt the minions of Grimwar Bane from within hailing distance, only to cast up his jib, cut a new angle across the wind, and whisk away like a swallow in flight.
So he had allowed himself to be diligent and meticulous in his explorations, poking into every cove and bay, doing numerous soundings across the tidal flats, rendering the coastline in as accurate detail as he could manage. It was on these voyages that he had taught Little Mouse to sail, watching the lad grow into a sturdy young man. Later, Feathertail had accompanied them, or the Highlanders Randall and Lars Redbeard. Even Moreen had sometimes sailed along, and he cherished those moments especially, laughing with her as spray washed across the deck or both of them staring in wonder as a huge iceberg calved from the face of a lofty glacier. Even in rough waters, with foaming crests breaking across the prow, she had never displayed any fear. Instead, she had been curious about the sea and as a result had learned a great deal about sailing.
His bold sailing had continued last year, even when the ogre king had launched a second galley. Even Kerrick had to admit that Grimwar Bane had built quite an impressive, seaworthy craft. No doubt he had employed human slaves for a great deal of the work. The design had borrowed heavily from the model of the Goldwing, which had been launched as Silvanos Oak, once his father’s ship and pride of the elven fleet.
Despite the presence of those two great ogre ships, however, the elf sailor had continued to regard the White Bear Sea as his personal body of water. He sighted the galleys only rarely, and always made a nimble escape. In his mind his boat was the undisputed master of the sea, and his thorough surveying had given him a sense of certainty and confidence whenever he sailed in the area.
The same could not be said for the Icereach shore of the Southern Courrain Ocean. Here his map indicated broad strokes, a rough sketch of coasts extending eastward and westward from the mouth of the Bluewater Strait. From the point of Ice End, the northernmost outpost of this land, the eastern shore was backed by rugged mountains. The landscape was stony and inhospitable, without the gentle tundra that marked the Blood Coast or the stands of tall cedar and pine that characterized both sides of the strait. In his voyages that had extended for two or three hundred miles in that direction, Kerrick had failed to find a single attractive anchorage. Nor were there any settlements of Arktos, Highlander, or ogre along that desolate coast.
To the west, the headland of Brackenrock rose up against a lofty ridge of mountain. Beyond those summits, in a frontage of something like twenty-five miles, spread the massive face of the Fenriz Glacier, which was followed by another impressive spine of lofty summits. Beyond there, the shore devolved into a series of deep water fjords, extending an unknown distance into the interior.
Kerrick had been reluctant to explore these regions, for they were too much like traps-it was easy to imagine his little boat snagged like a helpless fish by the appearance of a great ogre warship, barring egress from the narrow channel. Still, he had sailed farther in that direction than to the east, for he had at least found several sheltered valleys of lush forest. Furthermore, there were remote villages of Arktos to the west, and he had stopped at these to trade and to learn. Eventually that shore turned south, creating the expanse of another sea, a body of cold water separated from the Courrain by a string of rocky, barren islands. The Arktos had called the place “Dragons Home Sea,” though none could recall seeing a dragon anytime within their, or their ancestors’, lifetimes. Now the elf felt a thrill of excitement as he gazed at his map and made up his mind. He would, at last, explore the far side of that sea, as it was convenient for his longer voyage to the north.
There was reputed to be a place called Summerbane Island, that lay far to the south of the continent. Traders reported carrying a variety of goods from the mainland, receiving payment in gold ingots, heavy enough to weight the hull for the return voyage. In ancient days it had been a place of dragons, and even now icebergs and frigid storms made it a dangerous place to which to sail. The tales were consistent, though, and came from many different sources. That was enough to give Kerrick a measure of confidence, a belief that Summerbane Island was a real place.
Kerrick had originally heard these stories in his younger days, when he had sailed the coast of Ansalon. During his years in the Icereach he had put the tale together with his gleaned knowledge of this new land. He had concluded that Summerbane Island was probably an outpost of the Icereach, laying far to the west of Brackenrock. It was his hope to find that place in his westward sail. Then he would turn north, follow the current to Tarsis and the coastline to Silvanesti, and come home with the first complete map of the great southern ocean.
With this plan in mind, he returned the map to his sea chest. His eye noticed the small strongbox inside, poking out from beneath a spare cloak. The ring was in the strongbox, the gift of his father that had the power to bestow great strength… but at such a cost. He suppressed a shiver-whenever he thought of it, it was with a sudden hunger to take out the golden circlet, slide it over his finger, feel the sudden rush of pleasant strength. Grimacing, he shut the lid and turned away to the cockpit.
He continued on the northward run for some time but turned westward while he was still within a hundred miles of the Icereach. After another day he swerved back to the south until, two days later, he came into view of the gray-white face of the Fenriz Glacier. A cold front swept off of the mainland, and he endured two more days of icy winds and steady, penetrating drizzle. Remembering the many outlying rocks along this shore, he stayed well north of the glacier, cruising slowly through the hours of poor visibility. Despite spring, the spray froze overnight, and when the storm passed the pale sun revealed a boat encased in glassy frost, with icicles draped from every line, and the boom as well.
The wind was faint, but the sun brightened his spirits, and as the ice melted and the dampness evaporated he raised every shred of sail in his locker. He contented himself with gliding along a few miles north of the glacial coast. Finally Kerrick began to settle into the lonely rhythm of life at sea. He rose with the dawn, slept at least half of each night on the deck-unless there was rain-and ate only sparingly. The locker was filled with salted fish, and he had a cupboard of hardbread. With his water barrels topped off, he could survive for many months without fresh provisions. With even moderate rainfall and some luck with his fishing net, he could extend that span indefinitely.
He chuckled as he thought of fishing, for the thought inevitably made him remember Coraltop Netfisher. When the elf had first encountered the kender, the little fellow had been adrift in the ocean, cast away upon the back of a monstrous dragon turtle. Cutter had bumped into the monster, and Kerrick had found himself a passenger. Unfortunately, the dragon turtle, awakened from its slumber, had smashed across the boat, snapping the boom and all but crushing the elf with a blow to his head. He would have died on that crossing, except for his kender companion, who had kept him alive.
“You had to be real, I know it!” Kerrick said, musing aloud. “There’s no way I could have survived, if you hadn’t been there to take care of me!”
Yet no eyewitness in the Icereach had ever seen Coraltop Netfisher. He was aboard the boat only when Kerrick was alone, then seemed to vanish into thin air whenever Kerrick brought aboard Arktos passengers. The elf had last seen his passenger on the day Moreen’s tribe had won Brackenrock, and in the years since he had come to regard his memories with at least some measure of suspicion.
Now, alone on the ocean, he wondered anew. He spoke again, calling out, making conversation. Nothing, no one, replied, and the rocky coastline continued to slide past.
The sound came through the mists, like a guttural moan, a noise full of mourning or pain. Kerrick had been dozing at the tiller. Now he jerked upright and blinked into the gray dawn.
The wind remained low, almost still, he noticed, as it had been through the night. Cutter glided through placid water, moving very slightly, the gentlest of waves lapping against the hull. He guessed the hour to be just past dawn, though the fog was thick enough to obscure any direct glimpse of the sun.
For several heartbeats the elf strained to hear, replaying the noise in his brain. It had originated to the south, of that much he was certain. Had he heard the cry of some wounded whale? Such a thing was possible, according to old sailors, though never before had such a sound reached Kerrick’s ears.
“Hello!” he called out, speaking in the language of the Arktos. “Is anyone there?”
His words were swallowed by the mist, for he was too far from shore to bring an echo. After a long pause, however, he heard the groaning noise again. It was a plaintive cry, clearly indicative of pain and distress. If not quite human, it was not the noise of a beast either.
Kerrick hauled on the tiller, and Cutter, very slowly, came around toward a southward bearing. The slight breeze luffed the sail until he angled farther to the west, tacking through the placid sea, barely moving.
“Hello!” he called again, scrambling atop the cabin, straining to peer through the mist. The rising sun had some effect, brightening the fog, but he could see no feature marring the smooth surface of the sea.
A trace of rippling disturbed the placid surface, at the limit of his vision off the starboard bow. Hopping down into the cockpit, he adjusted the tiller, angling toward the place he tried to picture as the source.
The wind was so faint that the boat hardly moved. Impatient, the elf took up a paddle and propelled Cutter slowly forward. He strained to hear something, but the fog seemed full of silence. Kerrick didn’t call out again-he was making enough noise with his paddling. Raising the paddle from the water, he listened, hearing only the musical notes of the water droplets falling from the blade back to the sea.
Then there was a louder splash, like a fish jumping, and he saw a fresh series of ripples expanding from the mist. Fully alarmed now, he considered ducking into the cabin to retrieve his sword, but he didn’t want to take the time. Instead, he picked up the harpoon Mouse had given him and carried the well-balanced weapon above his shoulder as he crept forward.
Something splashed, to the right, and he turned in time to see the flash of a limb-or a flipper of some kind-just break the surface. He raised the harpoon and stared. Was it a dolphin? A seal? Or something more dangerous?
The sun was brighter now, and when Kerrick glanced upward he saw the gray sky shading toward blue. Again he saw something splash at the surface, unmistakably an arm. The stroke was followed, however, by the kick of a broad, webbed foot. A moment later he saw a rounded, whiskered face, turned upward toward the sky. The eyes were closed.
At last he understood. This was a thanoi. He saw the blunt tusks breaking the surface of the water above the creature’s chest. Again it kicked one foot listlessly.
Kerrick braced his foot on the railing and stared. The thanoi’s eyes-a deep brown, rimmed with blood-red-
flashed momentarily, and the walrus-man was gone, vanished into the depths. The elf’s fingers tightened around the shaft of the harpoon, and his body tensed, ready to cast the weapon at the next sight of the brute. A moment later he saw another splash, this time to the left, but by the time he shifted the creature had disappeared again. Obviously it could move under the water with surprising speed.
He wasted no time wondering what it was doing here, so far from shore. The walrus-men were aquatic creatures, secretive and deadly. He couldn’t allow it to hover nearby, a threat to the boat in this placid, windless water.
The next splash of sound surprised him. It came from the other side of the boat, very near the hull. He crossed the deck, his harpoon still raised, when once more he heard the plaintive groan. Another step took him to the gunwale, and he glimpsed that broad, tusked face looking up at him from the water. The creature raised one arm from the water, palm upraised as if to ward off a blow, and grunted again.
“Wait!” the thanoi cried, the word guttural and thick, but recognizable. “No kill!”
The thanoi floated sideways, waving that one arm, and Kerrick saw a ghastly wound scarring the creature’s flank. One of its legs drifted loosely in the water, and the elf could see that the other arm had been chopped off, a ragged wound that left raw strips of flesh draped from the walrus-man’s elbow. The elf was startled to see a thick ring of braided gold encircling the creature’s neck, a collar of intricate workmanship and great worth.
“Help,” groaned the thanoi, finally dropping the arm and floating on its back. The belly, leathery-skinned but unprotected, offered an easy target for the harpoon.
But Kerrick had lost the impulse to harm. Instead, he stepped to the stern and rolled the rope ladder off of the rain to trail into the water.
“Why you here on Dracoheim Sea?” asked the thanoi, seated in the cockpit, leaning against the transom. Despite the grievous wounds, the creature showed no sign of suffering pain. Perhaps the salt water had cauterized the flesh, Kerrick guessed. The raw cuts were not, at this point, bleeding.
“I’m sailing home, to Silvanesti,” Kerrick replied. “I heard you make a noise. What happened to you, anyway?”
“Shark,” spat the beast, the voice a guttural growl full of scorn. “I killed fish-it swallowed my knife hand, and I kill it.”
The elf grimaced. “Why were you here, so far from land? Are these waters claimed by your tribe?”
“Who can claim water?” asked the walrus-man. “No, I was on my way across the sea, to the dark island.”
“Dark island? What’s that?” Kerrick asked.
“Dracoheim. I work for the Alchemist.” These words meant little to Kerrick. The grotesque creature looked at the terrible wounds on its flank, the missing arm. “I will not return, this time, but I thank you for sparing my life, even for just a few hours longer.”
The elf nodded, solemnly. “Can I give you something to comfort you, food… water?”
The walrus-man blinked eyes that looked very old, very tired. “Yes, water.”
Kerrick fetched a ladleful as the thanoi pushed himself upright on the bench.
“I am called Long-Swim Greatfin. I thank you for mercy, strange as it be. No ogre nor human would show such care.”
For the first time Kerrick noticed the manlike features of the thanoi. True, the nostrils were broad, the upper lip split into two overhanging lobes. A pair of tusks, sharp and upturned, grew from the upper jaw. But there was also real intelligence in the brown eyes, and the chin was square and possessed a certain dignity. The musculature of the walrus-man’s chest rippled in an approximation of a man’s, and the thanoi had arms and legs-sort of-with webbed feet and fingers broad and flat. Kerrick noticed a tusk suspended by a leather strap from around the creature’s neck.
“How far away is this Dracoheim?” Kerrick asked.
Long-Swim shrugged. “A swim for many risings of the sun. In the direction of the sunset.”
“Why made you come so far?”
The thanoi closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the gunwale. Kerrick wasn’t sure the creature had understood the question and was about to repeat himself when the walrus-man opened his eyes and shrugged. “Took a message to the ogre king,” he said tonelessly. “Got a taste of warqat, and now I swim back.”
With that, he slumped backward again, and his chest rose and fell in a rhythmic pattern of slumber.