With a few quick movements, the vest fit snugly around her chest, thanks to Ruili’s help. Testing her mobility, Lotye took a few deep breaths and moved her arms in circles. Then she straightened her rain-soaked clothes underneath and gave every strap one more good tug.
“Better than a corset anyway,” she said to Ruili with half a smirk, though the tremor around the corners of her mouth told that she wasn’t really in a state of mind to make jokes.
Next, Lotye moved on to her belt, making sure it sat tightly on her hips. Can’t have myself stumbling over my own britches, that would be a stupid way to die. It was a very real possibility with all that weight hanging from her belt. Thankfully, she at least didn’t have to carry around that wooden box with those damned cards. Those had been a weight more to her soul than to her belt. She had two pouches bound to her belt, one containing most of her slim belongings, the other one her remaining healing wares, slightly stocked up in the Calinda’s apothecary while no one was looking. Between them, sitting on her back, the leather clip for the three vials. On her left side hung the sheath for the weapon she had taken from the table. It was a one-handed sword with a slender blade, a little bit longer than usual, with a shapely, leather-wrapped handle. Weighing it in her hand, it had felt good, balanced more for stabbing and quick thrusts, but its edges nonetheless sharp. The spot on her hip taken up, the old, worn scabbard of her own small dagger had to be nestled behind one of the pouches, since Lotye wasn’t content with just leaving it behind. On the other hand, she wasn’t even sure where she left the buckler she had carried in the last battle, but she also didn’t lose much thought about it, deciding that an additional weight on her arm wouldn’t really help, and therefore not taking a shield. Looking back at the table, she instead spotted a small crossbow pistol no one seemed to show any interest in. Won’t be able to hit anything with that thing. Still better than nothing. And so she took it, adding the holster and a small quiver full of bolts to the collection on her belt.
With her equipment taken care of, Lotye went on to pin up her hair once again. The wet strands made it difficult to form a reasonable bun, but in the end, she felt she had her hair well enough in control for it not to be a problem during combat. This isn’t a beauty contest, after all. Lastly, she slung her cloak back over her shoulders, making sure its length wouldn’t hinder her movement.
Her preparations finished, Lotye took up position next to the men at the airship’s railing. Good men, all of them. Most of them at least. Great men, people would say about the Ereonis brothers. Insane men, Lotye thought them in that moment. The way she saw it, their chance of success was slim. Their chance of survival not much better. Then again, only people who tried something like this could even succeed. Great men, then. Jeneyeru’s spell was now in full effect. The sky filled with airships was one part an exhilarating sight, one part surreal. On one of them, she imagined to see a bun of red hair, standing at the railing. But that ghostly armada wouldn’t be of much help, their volley not much more than a mirage. The Calinda‘s bolts were material though. Lotye felt a slight jolt going through the planks every time the arms of a ballista snapped forward. Every time, Lotye nervously fiddled with the silver ring on her right hand, but the sailors around her seemed surprisingly calm, trained for these kind of scenarios.
Lotye’s rap sheet had never contained banditry, armed assault or piracy. Her military training consisted of watching the people on the deck of this ship. In her profession, one usually tried to stay quiet and unnoticed when in dangerous territory. But judging from the activity in those towers, it was already too late for that and after all, it was their intention to get noticed. Since her experience couldn’t tell her what to do, Lotye just went with what felt natural and began shouting battle cries:
“La Danse Calinda! For House Ereon! We fight with the brothers! Down with the Arcana! For Aeldreth!”
Against the storm, her quavering voice was probably barely audible. Her choice of words was unlikely to inspire any feats of heroics in the hardened sailors around her. But at least it gave her an outlet for the adrenaline running in her veins. It was needed, as the red mark on her ring finger showed. The thoughts rushing through her head slowed down. Father … “My sea child” … Dev Gevyot and his way of fixing broken bones … The roads, the markets, the laughter of the travelling folk … Jeney and Thimble … Those damned cards! She now knew what she was fighting for. And so, Lotye continued to shout against the wind: “For Aeldreth!”
Soon they reached their final destination, a small courtyard at the back of the keep. The ropes were cast, and when it was her turn, Lotye took one and slid down. The wet hemp burned her hands so that she nearly let go, making the ground come closer at a rate she really wasn’t comfortable with. Once her feet touched the paved floor, she needed a moment to check whether all of her bones still were in the right places. But she seemed to be fine. A deep breath, then she looked around and quickly joined her assigned group.