No sooner had the brothers started to ascend to the castle deck than they were shaken by the tell-tale impact of a medium-heavy ballista bolt. They pressed themselves against the rail to make way for Captain Lafitte who rushed down to the defense of his ship.
The selkies craned out over the railing to see where the bolts were coming from. In the flash of lightning, they saw the ballista that had been hastily mounted on a high tower roof and the plain-clothed ruffians frantically loading and pulling the weapon in the wind and rain.
“Cheeky,” commented Jeneyeru, and Peino laughed.
“Why, I do believe those are gang-men,” he said. “Do you think it’s that fellow Ashcat come for his revenge? Wherever did they get a bow like that?”
“No matter,” Jeneyeru shrugged. “They may not hit what they cannot see.”
Extending his hand, he began to conjure a ball of darkness in the palm of his hand, but the burgeoning spell was broken by the sudden shout of “Fire!”
The two brothers snarled with the angry reflex of shipmen and rushed to the main deck to offer help to the quickly forming fire brigade. Fire in the rigging was disastrous on a seafaring vessel. On a ship that could crash to the ground should the fire separate her from the massive balloon, it was possibly worse. Despite the rain, the tarred ropes would burn like candle wicks if the flames were not doused quickly.
However, before Peino and Jeneyeru could get the attention of either Lafitte or his dwarf crew-boss to offer their services, the first mate — the short eorman with the black hair that had so irritated Peino’s officers in Kledy — did the most daft thing either selkie had ever seen an eorman do. With a rope tied to his ankle, of all things, he dove like a swan over the side as the airship passed over her attackers.
The combination of fire and lightning illuminated the scene below as the man, clearly a trained assassin, despatched the ballista team. Watching, cold, dark thoughts began to run through both Peino’s and Jeneyeru’s mind, but even that mood was suddenly broken by the assassin’s lifeline turning into a trap.
A wince at the crack to the head the eorman took when the taut rope tripped him up turned to laughter as the Calinda dragged her hero off the roof. The poor man dangled like a plumb weight, and the brothers looked at each other as if engaging in a silent but amusing ethical debate.
“Oh, Captain Lafitte,” Jeneyeru called sweetly, “man overboard. Shall we fetch him for you?”
It was a simple matter for the two tall selkies to haul the eorman up and dump him onto the deck like a tuna. With a perfunctory pat on his shoulder, they turned to assist the firefighters and see what else they could do for their host captain.