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Chapter 15 – Approaching Storms


I fold my hands on the table in front of me, studying the three new arrivals and trying to pay attention as Adamar describes their journey here. We’re in Mattias’s sitting room, a place of warm colors, bright wall hangings, and plush, deep couches. The owner himself is busily scrawling away in a giant leather bound book, presumably noting down everything Adamar is saying. I suspect he’s actually doodling though, I peeked over his shoulder earlier and saw a very nice rendition of Adamar, long golden curls drifting over his shoulder and onto his chocolate brown cloak, glasses perched high up on his nose, and his nicely sharpened cheekbones featuring prominently on his face. Mattias even added the whimsical embroidery in silver thread of the Erhorn crest that dotted the edges of Adamars cloak and his shirtsleeves. All in all, despite the reported months of travel he had to endure, Adamar seems to have pulled off a trick that I only thought Faladel was capable of, looking pristine no matter what happens. 

Valkallyn and Folas both look distinctly worse after all the exploits they took to get here, and are entirely confused by the fact that it’s been only a fortnight for us instead of months since we sent the call. Silv and Fin are playing cards in the corner, and although I want to join them, I get the feeling that Adamar’s story might change our plans quite a lot. I’d feel guilty not getting the entire context and leaving the whole re-planning thing to Faladel. He and Elen certainly aren’t having the same problems I have concentrating though. He paces the room, deep in thought. Elen just sits in place on her wooden rocking chair, almost completely still as she studies Adamar over her steaming mug of some sort of cider. It smells wonderful. Like cinnamon and nutmeg. And it is entirely too distracting. My stomach rumbles, reminding me that I haven’t had lunch yet, and Adamar has been talking for quite some time. 

I turn my eyes back to him, trying to listen but getting distracted by the way the lamplight reflects off his glasses and how his blue eyes sparkle behind them with earnestness as he speaks. So earnest I almost don’t notice when he’s done. Almost. 

“So your magic barely still works, someone stole the magic, dragon corrupting scales from Anostia, and now we have this mysterious figure who we still don’t know the identity of running loose in the city, or worse, running back to Chairholder Helios-Lime III with it.” I summarize, and Faladel groans. “Hey, it could be worse.” I console him. “Someone could have died. At least our friends all arrived in one piece.” In the distance I hear the rumble of thunder. A storm?

“Well, yes, Briareth. ” Faladel stares at me, “It could always be worse, and I’m glad our friends arrived safely.” I get the distinct feeling that my consolation did little to help. Then Faladel’s gaze flips over to Adamar, and I let out a brief sigh of relief. “But this means we have someone to break down the enchantments, but we don’t have either of the strange artifacts. We need to get them, and fast. I’m glad you’re here Adamar because we’ll definitely need more people if we’re trying to comb the entire city.”

Folas raises his hand, and I grin at him from my cozy velvet chair. “This isn’t a classroom Folas, have you been in school so long it rattled your brains? Speak freely!” 

“I think we should go after the artifact affecting the magic first. It’s seriously annoying to be hampered like this.” He stands up and starts pacing. “I can’t cast any spells, I can’t even feel my magic! It makes me feel… almost useless.” A dark look crosses over his face. 

“At least you have dad’s sword training to fall back on.” Valkallyn stares at her nails glumly. “All I’ve got is brawling experience.” I snort-laugh as Folas spins on her. 

“At least you’re good at brawling! Despite lessons, I’m patently terrible with the sword!” He retorts, spouting a bickering match between the twins over which skill, punching or stabbing, is more useless when it comes to dragons bigger than most houses.

 I watch as Adamar sighs. “Back to our plans,” He cuts in, “I think it would be wise to double check any enchanted items you have. I’m pretty sure the only reason I still have magic is because my veins of magic are artificially boosted by the glasses my parents gave me, but even they are closing pretty fast. It’s possible the enchantment rune lines could also close up, since they were modeled on magic veins. I’m rather surprised that the beetles–”

“The rune lines were what?!” I exclaim, my brain delayed three seconds but eventually catching on. All three Mossblossom Central students, and even Faladel don’t seem the least bit phased by this bit of magical lore I’ve never heard before. Only the shipmates seem confused, but considering they don’t even understand magic in the first place, that’s not very comforting. 

“It was part of our Advanced Runes class,” Folas explains, my old friend taking pity on me. “Don’t be too upset that you didn’t know. You didn’t get to take that class with us after all. But like Adamar said, if you’re still carrying that magic bow around, you might want to test it out to make sure it still works.”

Silv finally looks up from her game. “Magic items or not, new people or whatever else, I honestly don’t see why these developments would change anything.” She tosses her dice onto the table, and, clattering, three sixes emerge. Adamar and I turn to look at her, and even Faladel looks up from his worried pacing. “We still need a group to go retrieve the scales, and another one to hunt down whatever is making everyone sick. Yesterday we had said that either Faladel or I should be on the latter team since we aren’t affected by the strange item. And we can’t go alone, we should have at least one helper in case it is guarded by something. Perhaps some sort of trap, or a creature that isn’t made sick by its presence.” 

“I should go.” Faladel turns to her, green eyes set and mouth firm. “You’re the captain. It would be unwise to separate you from your crewmates. You all have been trained to fight together, to work synchronously. Your boat is fast enough to run down our mysterious artifact thief, far faster than we’d be on our own feet anyway. You should hunt the scales, and I should go find whatever is corrupting magic.”

“In that case, I should go with you!” I brace myself against the armrests and yank my body out of the all-encompassing sinkhole of coziness that is Mattias’s chairs. Faladel opens his mouth to protest, but I’ve worked with him for so long that I can predict his argument. “We work well together, we’ve been together through thick and thin. Besides, I’m the only one who has actually seen this artifact. Even if it does make me pass out sometimes, we can use me as a detector of sorts. I’ll be the first to notice when we’re getting close. My symptoms will increase with proximity, and I’ll recognize it.” Faladel frowns, but nods, acknowledging my point. But I don’t stop. “If they have to cover the whole city, I think Adamar, Valkallyn, and Folas should stay with Silv, Fin, and Elen. They’ll need the help of a few extra sets of eyes.”

The rumbles strike again, shaking the Citadel of Travelers ever so slightly. Mattias glances up from his book, a frown creasing his lips as he stares at the ceiling above us. His strange featherless, white wings, draped neatly over the edge of his seat, flutter slightly.

“Are we all agreed?” Faladel asks, looking around our large group. Folas and Valkallyn nod, Adamar hesitates slightly.

“Bring that magic disruptor back quickly please, I want it gone as soon as possible. I don’t like having my magic weakened.” He relents. 

Silv stares at Faladel and I, still not entirely convinced that we should go off alone, but unable to figure out a way she can come with us. Eventually, she nods as well. Fin and Elen follow in her footsteps and we all stand there for a bit.

“Anyone got any spare blood?” Mattias asks into our silence. All eyes turn to him. Only now do I realize that the white Kashan has been silent the entire time we’ve been planning. 

“What?!” Fin asks, completely horrified by the request. “You-You can’t mean to–”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. It’s not what you’re thinking!” Mattias flashes his fangs in a frankly, not reassuring grin as he holds up his hands in a defensive gesture, quill from his hat clutched between two fingers. “I just ran out of red ink, and need to finish coloring this in. I don’t want to go out into the city right now, for obvious reasons, and blood would be the perfect hue.”

I glance over, he’s finished his drawing and it is way more impressive than a single doodle. He’s drawn us all in his living room, some sitting and some standing, in bright vivid detail. Suddenly the tower shakes again, wind howling as it buffets the few high up windows in the tall room. Rumbles echo all the way down through the stones and shake the floor. A high shriek splits my ears as the rumbles continue to rock the stone floor. Frowning Mattias unfolds himself from his seat. “I don’t like the sound of that.” His voice is calm, steady, despite his next words. “I’ve never heard a storm whose thunder doesn’t end.”

Suddenly though, it does. The thunder stops as suddenly as it had come, echoes dying away to a mere rumbling in the distance. Mattias stays standing though. “I don’t like it.” He murmurs. “That can’t have been a simple storm.” Striding towards the door, he announces “I’m going to check it out. I would suggest you all remain here, where it is safe.” 

Immediately, I get up to follow him. If the storm interests him this much, I want to see it too. Folas follows me, presumably also interested. Valkallyn follows him. And suddenly there’s a whole troop of us rushing down the long, crowded set of stairs down into the entryway. Students and teachers bustle and jostle in the brisk evening wind that slices through the open door, all craning their necks to get the best view. I squeeze through the crowd, wings, elbows, and ankles blocking me from all sides. But nobody takes notice of over half a dozen fugitives pressing in throughout the crowd. When I’ve finally elbowed my way to the front of the doorway, I see why. Not too far away the city is lit up brighter than day. Fires lap at the gloaming sky, trying to devour the stars that have only just started to show themselves. Shadows swoop and dive through the sunset, hunting. Their silhouettes are clear. Dragons. Dragons have attacked The Light that Guides the Lost Seas. In such numbers that their wingbeats sounded like thunderclaps as they flew overhead! They shook the whole tower! Just how many are out there? I stare gaped jawed as a large ruby-scaled dragon opens its mouth and flames one of the spires that twists into the sky, setting it ablaze. Faladel’s hand claps down on my shoulder, startling me into action. 

“We need to move.” He says firmly, and my training takes hold. Of course! If the dragons are here, they’re probably after at least one of the same items we are. The Scales. “You think they can lead us to them?” I ask Faladel, and he looks at me confusedly. 

“What are you talking about Briareth?” 

“Scales.” I summarize, “Dragons and scales.” I don’t think my explanation makes much sense, but Faladel’s green eyes widen as his brain takes a few seconds to follow the same leaps mine did. 

“It’s possible. I’ll let Adamar know, but we’re going to retrieve the magic-breaker, remember?”

“Oh. Right.” I feel my cheeks flush as I grin, slightly embarrassed. “Wrong artifact.”

“No, no, don’t feel ashamed. It’s a very good idea.” Faladel says, waving over Silv who pushes to the front with a very annoyed look on her face. Being the shortest in a crowd and not having the wings to fly above it and see what people are looking at must suck. Her face says it’s clearly not the first time she’s had to deal with this particular problem, and she looks more than ready to slap some dragons into shape as she comes to join us at the front. Then she looks up and out, back at The Light, and her fierce expression pales into fear. Her eyes widen, and she freezes midstep. I watch, curiously as her face firms back up and her hands solidify into fists. 

“Should we delay?” She asks as soon as we arrive. “It’ll be dangerous going into the city right now. There will be people panicking in the streets, mobs trying to shove their way out…” She trails off seeing Faladel’s determined stance and my incredulous stare.

“Of course not.” Faladel says bluntly. “It’ll be dangerous whenever we go into the city. Either being hunted by guards or dragons and mobs to deal with, we were going to have trouble either way. And Briareth had this idea…” He takes a few seconds to explain it to her while the rest of the crew arrives. I watch them closely, ignoring Faladel as he goes over the plan one more time. Fin fidgets, clearly ready to get going. Adamar and Silv are paying rapt attention. Elen checks her pouch for something. Folas and Valkallyn stare incredulously towards the burning city, and I don’t blame the fear in their eyes. This is the first time they’ve ever seen dragons. And there’s so many of them. 

Mattias chews on his lip, listening to Faladel but staring at his home city. The smoke makes the whole horizon an orange haze of sunset and flames. I’ve never seen a color quite like it. It’s so bright it stings my eyes. Or perhaps some of the smoke has drifted our direction. 

“Do you mind if I take a ride on your boat to the city?” Mattias asks Silv, “I know it will already be crowded but…” His lilting voice trails off. 

Silv shrugs, “You were willing to make your home crowded for us, I don’t see why our boat can’t handle another Kashan.” Mattias nods gratefully. 

“Let’s head out then!” Faladel announces, clapping his hands twice, spurring us to action. Fin and Elen Zip off to retrieve the boat, swiftly navigating the fliers who’ve risen above the crowd to get a better view of the attack. Faladel paces, not content to sit and wait. Silv starts talking with Mattias in a lowered voice. I quickly struggle over to Adamar, Valkallyn, and Folas. 

“Is everything alright with you guys? I know this is a lot to take in–” I begin, quite pleased with my empathetic skills. 

“What, the fact that your dragon buddy got turned evil, and is attacking a city with all his friends right over there?” Folas interrupts, an uncharacteristic squeak to his voice.

“Or the fact that we’re soon going to be going into that very same burning city to find whatever turned him evil and to steal it from a mysterious guy and hope the dragons don’t find it on us or barbeque us by accident?” Valkallyn deadpans. 

“We’re fine.” Adamar says lackadaisically, “Personally, I think this isn’t nearly as dangerous as staying at Mossblossom Central would be.” I snort, not entirely sure if he’s serious or not, but determined to treat this all like a good joke. 

Folas opens his mouth, but then shuts it. “Okay, probably safer than school.” Valkallyn concurs. “But only just.” Her twin nods his agreement. “And that’s mainly because you keep getting kidnapped, Adamar.” She continues doggedly.

“That was just the one time two years ago!” Adamar retorts, a slight flush reddening his normally pale cheeks. “And I got myself out of that situation perfectly fine, thank you very much!” 

“Yes, but it upset classes for a week and HeadMaster Haulding had to turn the whole school upside down searching for you.” 

I vaguely remember something about this in the letters they sent me, but I still have to ask. “Was that literally upside down?” 

Folas and Valkallyn turn to me in unison. “Yes.” they chime together, not looking amused in the slightest. I can’t stop a huge grin from spreading over my face as I try to figure out exactly how that would work. Was gravity backwards or just the buildings the wrong way up? Either way, it sounds hilarious. 

“Wish I was there.” I say. 

“NO, YOU DON’T!” They shout at me, Adamar only slightly behind the twins. 

I stare in disbelief until Adamar sighs and adds on, “Nevermind, you would have probably enjoyed it.”

“Thank you.” I say, grateful for the acknowledgement. I turn suddenly as I hear a chorus of annoyed shouts. Looking up I see a slim boat pull into the air above us, forcing Kashan and Tadhiel out of the way. Fin dives down towards us, pulling a rope ladder behind him. 

“All aboard!” He shouts, and when I don’t move fast enough he actually grabs me and hauls me up into the sky with him. I thrash and flail uselessly for a few seconds before he drops me onto the boat and goes back for someone else. In almost no time we’re off. 

Smoke clouds billow up into the sky as we get closer. We’re coming from downwind, so it blows right into our faces. The dragons have the city surrounded, but seem more focused on causing as much havoc as possible than on keeping people out. Diving between the massive wingbeats of a silver and a purple, Silv lands us in a deserted alleyway near the North side of the city, close to where the chairholder lives. Elen opens the water barrels and wets rags for our faces, handing them off to us before they take off into the burning sky, dodging dragons, fleeing citizens, and the occasional burst of flames. 

I grimace from behind my wet mask of rags, not sure if the smoke is causing my headache, or being back in the city. Faladel surveys the damage around us. This part of the city had been extravagant when we first arrived. Tiny metal robots sweeping the already shining cobblestones. More normal servants in drab clothes bustling around getting work done, and gossiping quietly. Kashan, Tadhiel, and Zytherling elite in stainless white and gem colored robes visiting each other’s houses and bartering for favors. Now the streets are blackened with soot and ash. Although this section of the city hasn’t been hit that hard, it has clearly already been deserted by its inhabitants. They probably fled in private carriages and airships as soon as the dragon’s attacked. Two of the metal servants continue to sweep uselessly at the stained cobblestones, it is impossible to get it back to its original shining white.

“Where do we go now?” Faladel asks, turning to me, and gesturing to the street in front of us. “Uphill? Or down?” 

I try to concentrate, but my guess is just that, a guess. “Down?” Faladel blinks at me. 

“You don’t sound very certain.” He hazards. I can read his expression, he’s already doubting this, doubting our plan, doubting me. 

“Well, once we get moving, I’ll be able to tell more exactly.” I hurry to explain. “Afterall, if my headache clears up, I’ll know we’re going in the wrong direction, right?” 

Faladel’s frown deepens. “You already have a headache? Briareth are you sure–”

“I’m perfectly fine!” I promise. “I’m not going to collapse at any minute Faladel! You don’t need to mother-hen me.”

“I don’t mother-hen anyone!” Faladel protests, looking quite affronted. Delighted, I start bickering with him. He could use the distraction from his worries, and it will keep him off my back. I lead the way down the street, and I can’t tell if we’re heading west, or if there are just more fires in this direction. The sky looks so orange. 

Faladel is still protesting his innocence in the matter of mother-henning me, when I hold up a hand to stop us. Instantly he silences. He doesn’t have the training I do in the King’s Archers’ signals, but everyone knows a ‘stop’ hand when they see it. Carefully I peek around the edge of a mansion that has lost a lot of its austereness by having its roof cave in. I’d swear I’d heard voices– well voices other than Faladel’s– but I don’t see anyone out there. Carefully, I move out of our alley and into the open thoroughfare, uncomfortably aware of the tracks Faladel and I are leaving behind us in the ash that litters the street. Suddenly a hot wind flashes down the street, strong and scorching, carrying heavy smoke with it. It leaves both Faladel and I coughing and wheezing for breath behind our masks. Good news, our tracks are definitely gone now. I think to myself as I struggle to catch my breath. Bad news, we’re not the only ones coughing. 

I grab Faladel who’s still gasping for fresh air, and drag him over to the far end of the street, across from the alleyway we had entered from. Slowly we make our way up the street. My headache is definitely worse now. I’m convinced this is the right way. But it is also the way those voices were coming from. Hopefully, I scan buildings on both sides of the street, looking for alleys leading to parallel roads. But they’re almost all boarded up with wooden boards too tall and sheer to climb. Apparently our alleyway was an exception to the boarded up rule. I frown glaring at one right next to a bakery. Half of the sign on the outside is burnt away leaving only half of the smiling cupcake under the illegible name of its owner. From inside, the chattering voices come again. I flinch, I didn’t realize they were so close. 

“We have to get out, we can’t stay here, Auxen!” Exclaims a distinctly feminine voice. “Either the dragons will get us, or the returning house owners!” 

“Not to mention, some of these metal servants have been programmed as guards. Like who even does that? You said it would be easy pickings. And yet we haven’t managed to get into one house yet.” A young, male chimes in. His voice hasn’t even deepened yet.  

“Lethbal, Tina, I know you and the rest of our friends don’t quite trust me yet.” A cheeky male voice says, clearly attempting to sooth them, but ending up sounding far too pleased with himself. “But I’ve got a plan to get us around all the danger in this place.”

“And why didn’t we use this method before?” Lethbal asks, I peek through the window and see a Zytherling who is even shorter than normal, probably just a child, staring with hands on his hips down at a taller Zytherling who is messing around with the stones on the floor of the corner of the bakery. Nearby, a scruffy looking female Kashan fidgets nervously with one of her black wings. Other scruffy looking people sit on chairs and benches around the shop. Some have the white feathery wings of Tadhiel, some have the dark wings of Kashan, and quite a few have no wings at all. 

“Well, there is always a chance that it will collapse on us.” The Zytherling on the floor looks up at his shorter counterpart, a sly grin on his face. Then his eyes meet mine through the glass and his grin flips into a scowl. “Lethbal, we have intruders outside.” He snaps, and heads all over the room twist to look at us. “Didn’t I tell you to place guards?!” 

“Oh snap.” I whisper, stepping away from the window. 


I lean over the edge of the boat, mask pressing wetly against my nose and mouth. I can feel the cool droplets of water sliding down my neck and chest. We just passed through a cloud of smoke and ash from a burning house. Folas is still coughing in the back of the boat. Silv doesn’t want us any closer to the ground, because of all the people on the streets. But we can’t go higher up either because of the dragons. They’re everywhere. There must be hundreds of them. From Briareth and Faladel’s stories, I’d thought most of them were dead. But perhaps those were just the young ones. Perhaps these ones were hiding somewhere else. Or perhaps they had more floating islands somewhere, and the Dragons’ Nest Isle was just a meeting place and nesting ground. 

I only half notice when the streets below become more crowded and chaotic.  Zytherlings on the ground are being shoved from side to side by taller, bulkier Kashan and Tadhiel. When the Kashan and Tadhiel take to the skies, they often crash in their panic, falling in tangles of wounded limbs. 

“What are you doing?! You’ll bound to crash you idiot! Or burnt to death!” Silv shouts, and my eyes follow hers, leaving the skyline and finding Mattias as he climbs onto the railing  

“What’s a storyteller without an audience?” He calls back. “I’m helping get my people out of this hellhole of a city! You figure out how to make these dragons leave, I’ll make sure people survive!” And then the white winged Kashan dives into the smoke. Fin hesitates, still manning the sails as Elen runs around beneath him carrying water. I’m not quite sure what she’s doing, or if she’s even noticed Mattias is gone. 

“Should I go after him?” He calls down to Silv. I can barely hear him over the noise from the wingbeats as three dragons dive towards us. Silv curses and swerves sharply, barely avoiding them. But the draft recoiling from their wings sends us spinning downwards, straight towards the crowded streets below us. I clutch at my section of boat-edge, desperate to simultaneously stay on the boat and not throw up. 

“It’s useless!” Silv hollers, struggling to right the boat out of our death spiral. “He’s long gone, and I need you on those sails! Nobody else here has the strength to deal with them!” 

With a desperate lurch, the back of the boat swings out, nearly into the building next to us before we hurdle towards the other side of the street. “Yes!” Silv screams exuberantly, arching us back towards the center and taking us back up to the rooftops, out of the flight zone of the fleeing mobs of people. 

“Wait!” Valkallyn shouts, “Take us back down!” 

“What, why?” Fin calls back. 

“Listen to her!” I shout, seeing what she is seeing. “Those dragons weren’t diving randomly, they’re chasing someone!” 

The dragons in question, an ugly green, a shiny black, and an absolutely gigantic copper and bronze, have turned off the main thoroughfare to follow someone down an alleyway, and are keeping straight to the path, not veering and getting distracted like the others. They are hunting. The one with the copper upper scales was actually going so fast he had to backpedal to follow above the alley, the beat of his wings and slash of his tail against the ground bowling over the smaller creatures fleeing his wrath and actually knocking the roof off of one of the houses. 

Silv glares at the dragons, and spins the ship’s wheel. Fin tightens the sails and we zip closer, zig zagging on our parallel route and staying just far enough away to avoid another spinning incident. 

“How will we know if it’s the thief who stole the scales?” She shouts above the wind. 

“Easy!” I shout back. “Get us close enough to check if the person has wings or not, and if they look to be carrying something!” Suddenly a pillar of fire lances out of the sky in front of us, spearing into a house just two roofs down and instantly covering it in flames. 

“Up UP UPPP!” Silv shrieks hauling on the wheel. Flames lick around the bottom of the boat, and I jerk away from the sides as Fin hauls on the sails. We were only in there for a few seconds, but the very air feels scorched. Elen hurries over and douses the few flames still clinging to the railing with her bucket. 

“So that’s what you were doing.” I say, and then cough, a hoarse, desperate sound. She immediately whips out a small cup, plunges it in her bucket and gives it to me. 

“We’re traveling through fire, and you didn’t think Silv had someone constantly wetting everything?” She says bluntly. “How stupid are you? No, don’t answer that. Come help me instead. This boat might be small, but there’s only so much I can do alone.”

“But I’m on lookout!” I protest, she grabs my arm. 

“We have two other people in that position. And Silv has her own set of eyes. Three pairs or four pairs of eyes doesn’t really make a difference, but two pairs of hands is always better than one.”

I can’t really argue with that, and she’s already dragging me off my perch on the railing. So I start dousing things. Ropes, floor, even the sails. Elen leads me to the small space below decks that has three bunks and all the food and water. I mostly stay down there, prepping buckets for her and making sure no flames slip through the hull and attack from below. When I emerge above decks again, it hasn’t been that long, but we’re zipping through the abandoned streets of what feels like a completely different section of the city. Most of the fires are behind us now and there are no signs of the crowds. Elen rushes over right next to Silv, slipping slightly on the wet deck, while shouting at her to “Turn left! Now! NOW!” 

“Where are we?” I call out to Fin, spreading my legs in a desperate attempt to keep my balance as we swing hard to the right. 

“I don’t know, Elen’s taking us on a route that will meet up with the–”

“I SEE THEM!” Folas screams, pointing ahead from his position on the bow. “The guy and the dragons!”

“READY YOUR WEAPONS!!” Silv bellows in an insanely loud voice. Fin loosens his grip on the ropes controlling the sails to grab his revolver. The sails slacken slightly, and I can feel us slowing. “Heave on those sails, Fin! We’re not slowing down!” Silv shouts, and Fin obligingly tightens them again. 

I ready the limited magic I have, not quite sure what I’m going to do with it, but knowing I’ll use it if I have to. 

In front of us, the young man scrambles away from the dragons, desperately swerving, pausing, and then doubling back and forth, checking both sides for an alternate route before continuing his headlong dash. The alley ends in a large square in less than fifty feet, and we’re coming straight at him towards its exit. He definitely looks to be carrying something. He has no wings, although with the speed the dragons have demonstrated in the sky, they wouldn’t be useful anyway. All that has kept him alive so far is the narrowness of the alley and his nimble feet. And one of those is about to end. Behind him, the alley is torn to shreds by dragon claws and fire. When he sees us coming straight towards him, his wild blue eyes cloud with fear. Desperate, he looks towards us, and then back at the dragons, before looking down at the object in his arms. Then, he speeds up even more, something I didn’t even know was possible. 

He screams at us, bearded face twisting with hate, his words unintelligible, but the rage and pain behind them clear as he throws his object high into the center of the square and dives to the side. 

Silv jerks us out of the way, throwing us off course, and out of the way of the oncoming dragons. They overshoot, the black one accidentally loosing control and crashing headlong into a row of houses. Silv snarls, twisting her boat into a tight curve, cutting off our momentum and whipping us around to face the three creatures. The black one shakes its head, dislodging the remains of the house from its neck. 

Beyond it though, I see a small form get up from his crumpled position and start limping off from the scene. Silv has seen it as well. “Adamar, you go after him! Make sure he didn’t throw us a decoy! Take,” She hesitates. “Take Valkallyn and Folas with you! I need Fin and Elen to run this ship properly, and as you guys said, fists and swords aren’t that good against dragons.” 

“Will you be needing this?” Elen offers her a rope. 

Silv’s eyes light up. “That’s not a bad idea.” 

“You sure you don’t need–” I begin, pretty convinced that the strange man’s anger wasn’t fake when he threw away the object he’d been clutching to his chest. 

“Unless you can fly, you don’t want to be here for what happens next.” She cuts me off, quickly and effectively tying herself to the steering wheel.

Eyes widening, I grab Folas and Valkallyn, and we quickly descend the ships ladder to the ground. I jump the last few rungs as I hear Silv call. “Tighten those sails, Fin! we’re going to run spheres around these beasties!” And suddenly, they’re zipping away into the darkening sky, leaving us stranded on the ground. 

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