La Danse Calinda, one and a half days from Mt. Isolla…
Peino Starhand spun helplessly from the torn rigging of the airship’s bow. Adrenalin racing through his blood, he no longer felt the pain of his wrenched joints. Above, he saw nothing but the wooden hull of the ship. He thought he’d caught a glimpse of heads peering over the railing and assumed someone was probably trying to pull him up. Below, he saw only the forested slopes of the mountains sliding away into fog, and before him was the wall of the mountain the Calinda was heading towards. He started trying to force his injured and sleet-frozen limbs to stabilize the spin and grasp the rope so he could right himself and climb up to meet his rescuers, hopefully before he crashed into the trees tops, so close now as the ship swept above them he could make out individual twigs.
Meanwhile, the enchanted Lightning Dagger thrown by the unerringly accurate Ionas Farseer Ymuin hit its intended target with a blinding flash and ear-cracking explosion. The electrocuted dragon screamed and convulsed, flapping its leathery wings madly as it fell from the air, much like its calcified rival.
The shattering crash of the lightning burst so close to the Calinda sent a shudder through the whole ship, right down the length of the rope, where Peino had nearly gotten control of his situation. All for naught as the rope snapped under the sudden whipping and, with a sickening shock, Peino fell again.
This time, the sudden stop came even sooner, in the upper branches of a pine tree coated with sodden, icy snow. It was like being beaten by a hundred stout sticks as he tumbled through the branches and fetched up hanging from that cursed rope yet again, this time dangling from a tree limb.
A shower of dislodged snow and pine needles. Some distance away the cry and thud of the dragon hitting the ground. Then quiet but for the wind and, eventually, a half-conscious groan of pain.
Raurugia Rail Lines Train No. 47 North, three days from Mt. Isolla…
(Continued from Chapter 268)
“Her again,” growled Ashcat, “and who’s that punter with her? I don’t like seeing her everywhere.”
“You want me to keep an eye on them, boss?” Haug volunteered casually.
“No,” said Ashcat glaring after the elf and his purple faerie companion as they finished their meal and left the galley car. “I want you to get rid of them. I’ll not have them hanging over me like a doom, curse their eyes.”
Haug nodded and got up without another word to follow Y’lanna Sparti and her elf. He neither asked nor was told how to carry out Ashcat’s order, and he knew the half-hobgoblin would not question his methods later. It was one of his few redeeming qualities as a gang boss, that he did not fret and pick over his soldiers. Haug especially appreciated that now because he had no intention of obeying the order.
Not yet, anyway, not while he had unfinished business of his own.
The enormous Raurugian followed his targets through the next two cars, turning off to visit the head when the lordly elf glanced back to check their wake. Haug did not need to rush. There was nowhere for them to run between here and the next town.
— — —
Y’lanna assured Ruili that she did indeed still wear the Charm of Suitor Deflection the old navy doctor had given her after her rescue from the Sea of Lyr.
“Ah, hm,” said Ruili, thinking that he should count himself fortunate, for if she was this adorable with her pert smile and shapely figure with the Charm, then without it — well, that might be an interruption from which his writing would not recover. In more ways than one, he thought, glancing towards the giant fellow she’d pointed out to him.
Y’lanna began to yawn, so Ruili quickly finished his meal and accompanied her back to their state car to rest. On the way, he took in as much as he could of the four at the other table, noting their physiques, scars, what he could see of their weapons. He kept close to Y’lanna’s back as they walked the narrow corridors and waited to look behind until they’d put two cars between them and the galley. Sure enough, there he was — the big one. As soon as Ruili’s eyes met his, he stopped and opened the narrow door of the head, through which he could barely fit. Ruili grinned cynically as he continued on with Y’lanna.
At their car he locked the door at one end and said to her as he left by the other, “Take your rest, milady. I must see the conductor a moment. Lock this door after me and do not wander. I shall return shortly.”
He hurried off to see the conductor about sending a psychegraph either from the train or the next equipped stop. Ambassador Ceula had given him the basic story about the cards and the attempted burglary at the embassy and his brothers’ hasty flight from Sesus to Mt. Isolla. Now, he needed to know what other trouble Peino and Jeneyeru had gotten into before leaving the City of the Seas. For all Y’lanna thought her new friend and his accomplices were not interested in him and his, Ruili knew his brothers.
Thus it was that Ruili Windwolf, having quickly finished his business with the train’s conductor, and Haug Handslayer finally got a chance to speak.
Haug had been binding his time. After giving them a few minutes to get ahead of him, he had resumed the strolling chase. He arrived at the state car in time to see Y’lanna preparing for her bed. With a smile, Haug wrenched open the locked door and stepped into the car.
“We meet again, lady,” he said, looking her over with a wink.
A moment later, the door at the other end of the car opened, and Ruili walked in.
For a second, the two men stared at each other. Then Haug pulled himself up to his full height and flexed the muscles of his broad chest, his clothes straining over the great bulges.
Ruili cocked an eyebrow and smiled.
“I say, my good man,” he said, “are you lost?”