The ward’s effect was immediate.
Peino’s shot flew straight and fast into the widest part of the dragon, striking somewhere in its chest or shoulder, past the head stretched down on its long neck. It didn’t really matter where it struck. What Lotye’s trick had done was to protect the arrow with the power of the Ward of Turn-to-Stone, and when the arrow touched the dragon, the spell was cast upon the beast.
While the long bow still vibrated in his hand, Peino watched the flame suddenly vanish and the dragon freeze in mid-air. At which point, gravity took over and several things happened in conjunction with each other.
First, Peino realized that, while the threat of burning to a cinder far above the ground had been dealt with, the danger of being dashed to pieces far above the ground remained as the now inert dragon plummeted helplessly towards the Calinda. With the long bow still in his hand, not taking the time to sling it over his shoulder, the selkie turned to scramble back down the bowsprit, both to get as much out of the falling dragon’s way as he could and to lend all possible help to turn the fragile, floating ship.
At the same time, Thimble was answering Lafitte’s question.
“Is it vitally important?” the Captain said. “The Lord Magus has to know I’m a bit busy what with the attack and all.”
“Well, if you please, milord,” said the Lord Magus’s valet, slipping into a conversational tone and posture, “Master Nightwise didn’t say specifically whether it was vitally important or no, but if I may make so bold as to hazard a guess regarding the thoughts of those above me, I’d say ’tis likely to bear some relevance to the events at hand, yes, sir, I suspect so. Something to do with looking up and tacking in some manner, I believe he said, though I must confess I never gained much fluency in all that talk of ships and sea and whatnot. Not to the deeps born was I, you know. Find him for me, Thimble, was all else he said to me about it, but I daresay, Master Nightwise is not one to dilly-dally, sir, unless it is an occasion for frivolity, which the present is not, to be sure. And so I would advise milord Captain to visit the Master to learn what of import he has to say.”
As with the striking point of the warded arrow, it did not really matter how much of the faerie’s speech Lafitte stopped to listen to. The starboard diagonal ascension tacking maneuver was complete enough that the sails rigged by Larman Ogges caught the cursed wind of Manawydden, already being directed by Taylianna Winddancer’s magic. The airship was pulled suddenly upwards and to the right with a force that, while relatively gentle by some measures, was strong enough to make Thimble stumble on his last sentence.
It made Peino stumble, too, as the rapid swing of the bowsprit unbalanced him and he fell onto the netted shrouds that anchored the timbers extending out from the secure body of the ship. This was no great problem in itself. Sailors’ slang called these parts of a ship the “cradles,” and Peino himself was known to enjoy many a nap in the rocking comfort and cooling sea spray of these hammock-like grids of rope on board his own ship. However, at the moment, taking a nap was not what he wanted to do. Feeling the knotted lines beneath him, he now slung the bow over his shoulder to free both hands for the scramble-climb back to the deck.
Meanwhile, Lord Jeneyeru cast his spell of darkness. The Infamous Lady’s Abjuration of Light was a delicate trick of draining light from the air, a specialty of the Luminous Shadow Way, but one which typically required calm and quiet concentration. It was a gamble to try it under conditions such as these, but dragons were day fliers only, needing the sun both to warm their bodies and give them the updrafts that helped lift them into the air. They might be undeterred by bad weather, but a dragon in the dark was a dragon that would, hopefully, seek the ground.
The spell burned a lot of aura, so Jeneyeru attempted to tap into the power of the god-cursed winds. He closed his eyes and opened his inner channels to the storm’s power, which was the power of the weather god himself.
The connection worked. The shudder of his body spoke of the force racing through him like a bolt of lightning. He grounded the power through the Staff of Ghosts, the bone-and-crystal head of which, and the deck around it, glowed with a black luminescence, as he spoke the spell in the magic language. The wan dawn began to fade, and darkness rose upon the Calinda as if the shadows of the mountains were reaching up against the rising sun. For a few moments, all around the ship and her crew became as black as midnight. Then the ship’s rapid change of direction snapped a line that cracked across Jeneyeru’s back and head like a whip, knocking the wizard against the rail and down to the planks with a cry of agony.
The artificial night did not last long enough to fool the remaining flying dragon, but it did last long enough to blind it as it also veered in its flight to avoid the fall of its enchanted rival.
Which put it on a collision course with the Calinda, which was still gliding up, away, and towards the mountain peaks.
Which was good, since instead of a crash of dragon on airship, it resulted in the wings of the dragon merely swiping over the bow.
Which was bad, as it broke the bowsprit and ripped apart the rigging on which Peino was trying to right himself.
The frightening whoosh of huge membranous wings. The even more frightening crack of the snapped spar. And the absolutely terrifying sense of everything vanishing as the ropes fell from under him, and Peino dropped into the frigid, sleet-filled air above the mountains of Raurugia.
The fall stopped suddenly when he hit the full length of a rope tangled around his limbs. The jarring pain blinded him for a moment, and when his vision cleared, he found himself hanging by a leg and an arm, spinning wildly some distance beneath the airship, the world whirling around him like a drunkard’s nightmare.
His eyes desperately sought to focus on one thing to give him orientation. When they succeeded, that one thing was the swiftly approaching slope of a mountainside.
In the sleet and rain and howls of wind and cries of dragons, the voice of an elf the sea might have been heard to shout:
“Shit, piss and corruption!”