Beau Bergeron was no longer paying attention to the dragons. The fact that one was now a rock and the other one electrocuted, or that the cursed storm was raging around him, never registered in his mind as he put all of his strength and attention into pulling up on the rope. The Prince was dangling too low, however, the taught line having extended down to the treetops at this point as it slowly loosened itself from the assassin’s grasp.
Suddenly it was gone and, sending a spasm of pain through Beau’s arms, the rope shot out from his hands as Peino was caught among the trees and the Calinda was still moving on, unawares that one of her VIPs was dangling for his life on the slopes of the mountains. As he tried to work out what he was going to do next, a voice registered near him:
“Hey, is there anything I can do to help?”
Beau looked at the girl as he grabbed a parallel line. “Yeah,” he said, looping one end around his ankle. “Hold this.”
Without another word, Beau jumped. Air rushed past his eardrums as he worked out what he was going to do. If he could reach Peino and grab him, he might yet be brought back aboard the airship. It was a long shot, but if he didn’t do anything, any thoughts of gaining the man’s loyalty would be a moot point.
The girl he’d met on that boat in Sesus was a fail-safe. Though the rope itself was secured to the hull, someone would have to be ready to start pulling him up (or at least get someone else who could) or there was a good chance Beau himself would be in the same boat the Prince was.
But the airship was rising, and rising fast. Beau reached the point where Peino had lost control and landed in the trees, but the assassin could barely latch onto tips before he was yanked in the opposite direction of the Prince: Up and into the skies.
For a moment he just dangled there. “One day I’m gonna open up a circus I get good enough at this,” he said with a sigh before smacking his head on a taller tree top. “Putain de l’enfer!,” he cursed, and thought sourly, that is if this doesn’t kill me first. With another sigh, he wrenched himself up, which nearly caused him to lose his lunch as the blood rushed from his head into the opposite end of his body.
Shaking out the stars, he began yanking his way back up the rope, sleet, freezing rain and the occasional wind gust slowly making his limbs numb and his ears and nose pained, his head throbbing from the blow, but he fought through it.
Beau Bergeron had been through worse.
Elsewhere on board the Calinda
Captain Jean Lafitte III had been the last to let out a sigh of relief as the vanquished dragons left the skies around his beloved airship.
With a somber, but gracious, nod Lafitte directed Thimble to follow him to the castle deck, to hear what the Grand Wizard had to say. But it wasn’t long before his mood was soured as a crossbowman called out for his attention.
“Captain Lafitte! Captain!”
Lafitte turned to face him, “What is it, son?” he said, the grimace on the bowman’s face telling him it wasn’t going to be good news.
“Man overboard, sir! It’s Prince Starhand, Captain!” Lafitte was shocked, for a moment he wasn’t sure what to say exactly. “Beau tried to save him, sir, even jumped in after him, but it was just too late, there was nothing we could do,” the bowman finished.
“Thank you,” Lafitte said simply, and the bowman nodded and returned to his post.
“Merde!” Lafitte cursed when the crewman was out of earshot, nearly forgetting that Thimble was anywhere near him. That was all he needed, to tell the Wizard that his brother was lost in the battle. Lafitte sighed as he ascended the stairs to the castle deck. “Lord Magus,” he began with a curt bow, “Whatever you needed to bring to my attention will have to wait, I’ve just been given some very bad news…” and for a second he struggled with the words, “Your brother has been lost overboard.”
“But don’t worry. He’s in the trees. We’ll find him,” he finally said, and without waiting for reply Lafitte called out, “I need Beau Bergeron over here, and get me a basket ready! We’re going for a search party!”
“Believe it or not, we’ve done this before,” Lafitte added with a smile he hoped inspired confidence.