Lotye had been under deck, in some dark corner near the hull of the ship and out of everyone’s way. Not because she especially liked dark, secluded corners, but because she wanted to be for herself. Space was rare and valuable on a ship, which was why she sat on a bale of backup ropes now, and wherever else she had gone, there had been people going about their daily duties. In and of itself that wouldn’t have been much of a problem for Lotye, but now she had to focus and didn’t want to be disrupted every few seconds by some sailor walking by. Jeneyeru Nightwise had given her a small exercise to train her magical abilities and willpower. It only required her to visualise her aura and to try to focus on feeling it as it surrounded her, but the creaking of the planks, the steps and hoarse voices of the sailors and the up and down of the ship flying with the wind made it near impossible for her. That, and her stomach, who still, every now and then, liked to remind her that he didn’t like flying. Or at least that was what Lotye told herself. The truth was, she never had been one for meditations and long hours of sitting around.
Ultimately, what little was left of her concentration was gone in a matter of seconds when the cries of “Dragon!Dragon!” sounded through the ship. Lotye wasn’t sure what exactly that meant for her, apart from the chance that the ship he currently was one would soon go up in flames and that they would all fall to their death. But what she should do now, she didn’t know. The closest thing to a real dragon she had ever seen had been people under some big cloths, with wooden masks and wings, playing a dragon for some cheap spectacle. For her, dragons were the stuff of legends and adventure stories, where armoured men or crafty archers, or better even whole armies, brought them down. Sadly, those stories contained no useful instructions on what to do during an actual dragon attack.
What Lotye did know, though, was that this situation made her little exercise completely pointless, even more so than it had been in her opinion to begin with. So she got up and made her way to the main deck, looking for someone who knew what to do or, at the very least, to catch a look at the beast that would soon try to kill them. On her way she went through her equipment, trying to figure out how she could raise her chance of survival. Hiding somewhere on this ship was not an option, so she directly took her cloak off the list. It still was in the cabin, anyway. There was the Box of Nothing in her bag, but they weren’t allowed to use the cards. They could be useful, though. Better to use these damn cards than to die. On the other hand, she didn’t know which cards she had in her boxes, if even any at all. The Wards of Turn-to-Stone. Lotye quickly decided that they were completely useless, certainly not able to protect the whole ship or even herself without any problems. The vials given to her by Lord Nightwise could certainly be of some help, but what could a bit of radiance, shadow or poison really do against a dragon? All the other things she found in her bag of holding were even worse. A lot of bit and bobs, small coins, a comb, a hairbrush, a small knife she had stolen from one of the sailors aboard. Even if the stories about dragons and their hoards were true, there was nothing valuable enough amongst her things to be any distraction for the beast.
While hurrying up the stairs, she continued to think about it and always came to the same conclusion: There was nothing she could do. The Ereonis brothers had been in worse situations, she was sure, and the crew of Captain Lafitte probably knew how to deal with dragons. She could only hope that somehow would hit a weak spot, the eyes, the wings or the belly of the dragon and that the giant lizard would drop out of the sky like a stone. Like a stone … Suddenly Lotye had an idea. An idea that was just about crazy enough to actually work. She began to run even faster, only stopping in her tracks for a moment as she got out on the deck and realised that there were two dragons. Great, and I thought it couldn’tget much worse than one dragon. Still, she had a plan and that was better than just hoping to survive, whether there were two dragons or one.
At the bow Lotye spotted Prince Peino carrying a strong longbow. Perfect. Dodging the sailors on deck readying the ship’s defences and arming themselves, she ran towards him and began to shout to get his attention:
“Captain! … Sir … Milord! … Peino!”
Completely breathless she finally reached him and grabbed him by his cloak, just as he seemed to be about to climb up into the superstructure.
“I’ve got an idea … I need your help. It may sound crazy, but please let me speak.” With some problems she pulled an arrow out of his quiver and then rummaged through her Bag of Holding until she found what looked like a little padlock. “I’ll put this Ward of Turn-to-Stone on one of your arrows and then complete the spell just as you shoot it at the dragon. The arrow will be protected by it and if everything works, and if you are a good enough archer, the dragon will turn to stone.”
There she was. standing in front of one of the most experienced fighters in Aeldreth, proposing an idea that now sounded stupid even to her.