Before Lotye got her answer, everything went to hell. An ear-cracking bang, thunder and lightning, the smell of burnt scales and flesh, that was what Lotye perceived, kneeling over the abyss. It made her jerk back, away from the First Mate, the ropes and the dangling Peino. For a moment, she was blinded and confused. It took her another short moment to realise what had just happened.
The good news was that the dragon was gone. Judging from the loudness of the explosion, from the smell quickly dissipated by the wind, the dragon had been much too close. She hadn’t even noticed before. They would have been in great danger. Wherever this sudden lightning had come from, it had probably saved their lives.
The bad news, Lotye realised as she was moving forward a bit again, was that Lord Peino was gone. At first she just thought that he was dangling a little closer to the broken hull of the ship now and that she wasn’t able to see him from this position. She leaned a little bit over the edge. Still no Peino. Lotye was about to crack. How could we lose him? Why had he had to take that stupid risk and move that far out on the bowsprit? All because of my damn plan. Then she spotted something on the forest slope just below. Bent, broken branches. A trail of branches no longer covered by snow. She followed the trail with her eyes and found the navy-blue of Peino’s coat. She held her breath until she saw him moving. Weakly, but he still seemed to be alive. She breathed out in relief.
Happily, Lotye took the chance to help the First Mate on his rescue feat. The rope was heavier than she had expected. With some effort, she looped the thick rope around her wrists. It looked absurd, her arms weren’t the ones of a sailor. Her hands were without calluses. Her long, delicate fingers were better used to sliding in and out of pockets unnoticed than holding onto something with all of her power. No way that she would have the strength to hold a grown man. She wanted to say something, but just in that moment, Beau already jumped.
Hurriedly, Lotye tried to prepare herself, pressing her feet against the deck and leaning into the rope. But the expected tug didn’t come, at least not in full force. She noticed how the rope tautened, but she wasn’t blown off her feet. It wasn’t that bad. Slowly Lotye realised that she wasn’t the only thing preventing the mate from falling to his death. The rope was well enough knotted to the ship, she was just acting as an additional counterweight. But as always, with one less problem, new ones did arise.
After a while, she felt a yanking and tugging in the rope. A careful look downwards showed her that the shady eorman with a fondness for jumping off the ship had missed the Prince of the Grand Navigators. There was nothing she could do for Peino now, shouts and movements behind on the deck behind her indicated that a second rescue mission was already in planning. But the First Mate certainly would be more useful on deck, rather than dangling with his ankles from a rope yards below it. Lotye tentatively tried to pull him up, but it was of no use. It took only moments and she was completely exhausted, the rope cut into her hands and she had made no progress at all, instead feeling as if she was skidding closer towards the cleft in the bow.
“Someone! Help me!”, she shouted out into the coordinated chaos on deck, “The First Mate tried to rescue the Prince. I can’t pull him up, I need help!”