La Danse Calinda…
His breakfast of black tea and corn cakes done, Lord Jeneyeru Nightwise was sitting in the dark cabin, the Cup of Shadows cradled on his knees, trying to pierce the concealing veils around Mt. Isolla as unobtrusively as he could when the first cries of “Dragon!” snapped him out of his trance.
Scowling with the frustration of this latest interruption to hours of failed attempts, he tossed the conjured darkness out of the magical cup and shoved it into his bag. As the shouts and noise of the crew rushing into action mounted, he took a folding crossbow pistol from his travel bag, snapped the bow arms open and primed the string. Next came a belt-quiver of assorted enchanted bolts. Thimble had packed several of these, kitted up from the weapons he had bought for Jeneyeru in Sesus. With the belt secure around his hips and the crossbow in hand, he took up the Staff of Ghosts and went out on deck.
He was met by ice-laden winds and crewmen running and sliding in all directions. He felt a strange sensation and realized the ship was rising in the air, rapidly. Thimble ran up to his master, already armed with a faerie short bow, as Jeneyeru strode to the railing to look for the dragon.
“Where are my brother and Lotye?” he said, loading a bolt.
“His Highness went to the armory, milord,” Thimble reported. “I haven’t seen Lotye since breakfast.”
“And the beast?” Jeneyeru leaned over to see the black, leathery wings of the young dragon coming up from below the fleeing airship.
“Above, milord,” said Thimble.
“What?” He looked up and saw the shadow of another great lizard passing through the clouds.
“Oh dear,” said the wizard.
— — —
Peino Starhand had not wasted a moment. Upon first sight of the beast flying above the airship, he raced down to the lower decks, following his memory of Thimble’s plan of the ship to the armory. Halfway there, he was met by the First Mate, which absolved him of having to commit the high crime of breaking into the weapons store. He fell in behind the eorman, and when Beau opened the armory for the crew, Peino helped himself to a long bow and a quiver of arrows. In the right hands, this weapon would give greater force, range and accuracy than a crossbow, and a lord of the elven House of Ereon was certainly the right hands for it. Even though Peino preferred rapier and dagger, Jeneyeru used the one-handed crossbow for spell-casting flexibility, and Ruili was an expert in broad sword, lance, and hand-to-hand combat, all the Ereonis brothers were well trained in the traditional long bow.
Adjusting his winter cloak around one shoulder to free his drawing arm, he raced back up to the main deck, feeling as he went the ship rising under him with force.
“What is he doing?” he growled aloud, wondering why Captain Lafitte was going up to meet the dragon rather than down to escape it.
He ran to the bow, under the narrowest part of the Calinda’s oblong balloon, to look for a vantage from which to shoot. Instinctively, he looked around for crew to order up into the superstructure with him as he grasped a line of the newly repaired shrouds and prepared to climb out onto the sleet-coated bowsprit.