A gentle wave crested and broke against the shore of Crabwing’s Bay. Several sandpipers darted in and out in their endless dance of getting food and their irrational fear of drowning although they were fully capable of swimming.
The largest one looked up as a shadow was cast over him, created by something getting in the way of the late afternoon sun. He looked more closely when he realized it was one of those bulky furry things that could fly too. He had no word for the creature because sandpipers can’t talk, but he had heard the crows call it a pegasus. This one was white with gray hair coming out of his neck and his tail. The pegasus’s wings were a cloudy blue. The crows had called this cadet blue.
This all registered with the sandpiper in about four seconds. Then he was off like a shot, running under the small sand depression he had made next to that huge tower of rocks that he had established as his home.
Clawfire chuckled to himself when he saw the sandpiper running away. He knew them not much better than the fact that they always ran toward and away from the waves repeatedly, causing amusement for all steeds who watched them at the beach and came back to tell other steeds about it.
Now, however, he didn’t want to be amused with seabirds. He needed to find a good hiding place to train his junior spies in an exercise he had devised. He glanced back and forth between the Freedom Tribute, the massive tower of stones that the sandpiper had run off to, or the cave. The cave had provided a home for Star when he was a weanling and Clawfire decided to choose the cave. His trainees had no idea how far he had traveled to hide, as he had flown most of the way to avoid leaving hoofprints. When he had left footprints, he had done it for a distance of fifty wing-lengths or less, changing direction suddenly to confuse the apprentices.
Comfortable in his hiding place, Clawfire snoozed as the shadow of Freedom Tribute moved its way around the beach toward him.
In the morning Clawfire woke up. From the cave, he noticed that the Freedom Tribute actually didn’t have a shadow today, which was quite strange. The gargantuan tower of stones almost always had a shadow unless it was too cloudy, rainy, or both. Today it was both.
Clawfire trotted out onto the beach, into the gentle rain. He didn’t mind the rain, actually, other than the fact that it reduced visibility. He looked out to sea. There was a fierce storm tossing big waves around and making the sea look fierce.
Then, strangely, he heard voices. They didn’t sound like pegasus voices. Was it the wind? He looked more intensely out to sea and saw, to his shock, a large leaf-shaped wooden thing. It was far enough away that it still looked small, but Clawfire was chilled all the same. He flew up to the top of the Tribute to get a better view. The difference in viewpoints was quite significant. The view was so good that if he turned around, he could actually see the forms of his trainees looking for him from the Sun Herd lands.
But Clawfire wasn’t interested in them. His attention was totally taken up by this wooden leaf-shaped thing. As it entered the mouth of Crabwing’s Bay, he saw that it was a very precisely constructed contraption that seemed to be designed to float on the water. But it wouldn’t be floating for much longer. It quickly bore down on several hidden rocks and became waterlogged. The creatures in it jumped into the water-- a poor choice, Clawfire thought-- and started swimming desperately for shore. Clawfire reared on the sturdy rock tower in shock. He remembered the name of this thing from a story as a foal. Ship. And the creatures swimming for shore must be the fabled Landwalkers.