Serafin’s slender ears twitched before she looked back to see Ferasi and her drakes rushing toward them. The long pointed ears of her people always did that when danger was near. Her Elvish blood began to boil when she saw the drakes, an old wound on her heart began to scream.
When she was young, a teenager by human standards, her father and two brothers were killed in front of her by Ferasi’s flight. She lived on in Instillende Sol, the Elven Capital, with her mother and older sister for a few more years. But, the pain and the loss was too much, the void left behind by them ate away at her. So she left her family and her people and set out on her own, unbeknownst to everyone, for revenge and not to find himself.
The gunboat’s cannon fire brought Serafin back to reality as the drakes break formation, scattering as the shrapnel reached out to them. Serafin looked toward her partner who was close enough to communicate with. A waggle of their wings acknowledged that they would follow her lead. The followed above and on either side of the airship as it struggled to reach the Vindictive Hunter. From that height she watched her 3 other flyers hurry to beat the drakes to the ship, but she knew they wouldn’t reach them in time. She pulled a lever on her left side causing a small canister to rise behind her canopy. There was a muffled thump as a ball of shimmering blue and green fire shot into the air above her.
She watched the Vindictive Hunter until she saw a small white light flash twice. Satisfied they had seen her message she tipped the flyer slightly to see the drakes almost upon the gunboat. Flames erupted across the ship as several fireballs scored hits. The cannons on the gunboat suddenly went quiet as she saw several people coming up from below deck.
“Oh no! Not now,” She realized they were out of ammunition for the cannons. She closed her eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath.
“Eschua guide my actions, give me strength and courage to see this through.”
She opened her eyes, looked once at her partner and then dropped into a steep dive. The drakes were almost close enough to land on the ship as she let loose a barrage from her cannons. Drakes roared from the assault above, trying to turn their necks upward enough to fire back. Serafin launched her net at the last second toward a drake in the left corner of the formation. When it opened it didn’t catch the wings but instead slammed the rider against the saddle. Pinning him to the drake the barbs dug deep into the belly of the serpent as the wires sliced through the orc. The drake’s momentum slowed from the assault causing it to drastically fell behind the others. The 3 flyers blasted their way past the drake, finishing it off before it had a chance to recover. Serafin swung back up and the other 2 flyers rejoined the group with her leading the way. The drakes blasted away at the airship as they encircled it. Someone was on the ballista swinging it around trying to score a hit but to no avail.
Serafin saw a man in robes step out to the middle of the deck as Ferasi’s drakes scored a hit on the engines, burning out one and damaging the other. Everyone on deck was knocked off their feet as the airship lurched from the sudden loss of acceleration. The whole ship tipped forward causing a few to be tossed across the deck; accept for the priest. Somehow the robed human held his ground as he stood, hands and staff high in the air. The staff erupted with light pulsating like a rapid heartbeat as electricity ran up and down its length. Serafin made gestures toward the 2 drakes left with Ferasi as she homed in on Scarlet’s drake. Ferasi was almost upon the ship as Serafin slammed the throttle forward. The flyer shot forward as she tried to intercept the drake. Ferasi regained the lost distance from the above attack and landed on the rear of the ship.
She launched a fireball at the priest but the light flared as the projectile slammed into an invisible shield. The flames rolled and slid across a sphere that contained the priest inside, never coming within 10 feet of him. Lightning shot out of the staff soaring across the deck just as Serafin’s flyer slammed into the drake. Both drake and flyer were engulfed in flames and electricity as they slammed into the engine house at the back of the ship.
Serafin’s body, although strapped into the compartment, was smashed against the harness straps as her head whipped around. A cold metallic taste filled her mouth as she lay hunched forward. She tried opening her eyes but all she saw was a gray haze and blackness crowding the edges. A buzzing in her ears competed with a muffled roaring that sounded like rushing water.
She tried to concentrate but the darkness weighed heavily on her.
She was tired…
Sleep was calling to her but she tried to resist. Pins and needles of pain ran up and down her body as her consciousness slipped away. There were voices somewhere, but it sounded so far away.
The last thing Serafin remembers is a deep rumbling, a horn call maybe, but she knew it was powerful for it shook her to the core of her soul.
After that, there was nothing…
• • •
The explosion of fire and lightning blasted backward across the deck. Brother Thomas was lifted off his feet, slamming into the side railing several feet away and collapsed on the floor. The staff rolled across the decking, the runes going dark as it came to rest beside his body. Berwyn came running over to check on him as Kothar and Lord Orin ran for the wreckage.
Tristan and Sam’El were already by the engine block helping the dwarves get free of the wreckage. A great horn sounded across the sky, sounding like rolling thunder it moved through each of them, shaking them to their foundations. Heads turned to see the massive hull of the Vindictive Hunter slide into view, plotting out the city on their starboard side. The other flyers flew in patterns around the ships as the Hunter moved to hook up with their ship.
“Watch out for the…” Halfgrim cried out as the drake, with Ferasi’s limp body lying on its back, broke free. Its tail whipped about as it stretched and checked its wings. Everyone had their weapons at the ready but the drake just hissed at them before taking flight. It knocked the wreck flyer loose of the engine block, causing one wing to topple over the side as the cockpit slammed onto the deck. It rolled across the ship coming to a stop just in front of the others.
Hudmo, supported by Halfgrim, limped behind the others as they hurried over.
“That’s Serafin’s flyer!” The dwarf gasped as he fell to one knee, Halfgrim holding tight trying to steady him.
Tristan jerked around, “Serafin? Serafin Linwe?”
Hudmo confused, nodded, “Yeeesss…you know her?”
Tristan ran up to the cockpit and grabbed the latch. He cried in pain as he pulled his blistered hands back from the burnt metal. Scorch marks and battle damage covered the metallic surface as Tristan tried against the pain to get the open again. The pain became too great as he cried out once more in agony. A stomping sound heralded Sam’El as the machine held Tristan back and then grabbed hold of the latch. With the screeching sound of metal, Sam’El ripped back the cockpit, revealing the occupant inside.
Tristan pushed forward once more as Sam’El sliced the straps holding the pilot secure. Lord Orin came up on the opposite side peering in to see if he could help. Inside was a young Elven girl, her long braided auburn hair was burnt in places as well as her beautiful facial features were marred by grime and burn marks. She wore a black leather vest with a snow white blouse grayed by ash underneath. Her black leather pants had various pockets sewn in filled with what, he didn’t know. Sam’El reached down inside and gently lifted her body out of the wreckage.
Tristan moved around the golem and gently took Serafin’s limp body from it. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he quickly but carefully brought her toward the center of the deck. Kneeling down he cradled her in his arms as he checked her over. Her breathing was shallow and sporadic as he brushed her hair away from her eyes. A bruise on her forehead and a few cuts and scrapes seemed to be the only injuries he could see.
“Serafin…” he half whispered, still confused as to why she was not home in the Elven capital. She should be with her family at home amongst the botanical sanctuary of Instillende Sol.
“Serafin, open your eyes,” his pulse quickened when she didn’t answer, “Serafin…oh my sweet Serafin. Open your eyes.”
He remembered growing up among the elves and how her family had been the most welcoming, and accepting of her people. Growing up side by side with her and her brothers, Edras and Meethrin. They were his brothers and sister, albeit adopted, but they had been so close. The brothers had even travelled with him as far as Southford when Tristan set out on his own in the rest of the world.
They were the closest thing to family after his were taken away all those years ago. “Serafin,” he whispered, his voice shaking, his heart aching as he stroked her hair looking for some sign of improvement.
Lord Orin and Kothar came over to Tristan with Orin taking a knee beside him as he placed a hand on his shoulder. “You know her Tristan?”
Something tugged at Orin’s heart as she looked about Merwenna’s age. Even though they hadn’t been gone long from Helmcross it had felt like a life time. He prayed to Eschua that Merwenna and Alicia were safe. He prayed that Helmcross was still free of any conflict. He knew it was an unrealistic thought, but as a leader and a father, he couldn’t help it.
Tristan turned toward him, eyes searching for answers. He sort of looked past Orin, thinking of other times, but Lord Orin finally got through, “She is my adopted sister…”
Orin looked at him with a scrunched up face, confusion running rampant across his features. “What do you mean?”
The others moved around them as The Vindictive Hunter moved around to get a better position to link with their airship.
“When my family was killed in front of me, the elves, her people found me and took me in.” She looked down once more upon her, “Her family looked after me and helped to raise me until I left Instillende Sol decades later.”
Berwyn helped a now somewhat conscious Brother Thomas over to the group. Blood soaked robes and barely hanging on to Berwyn, the priest looked around him seemingly barely aware of where he was at. He finally focused on Tristan and Serafin and moved forward with the help of Berwyn.
“What has happened to this young woman? I remember little.” Brother Thomas put his hand to his head as a massive pain shot through from temple to the back of his neck.
“She crashed into Ferasi’s drake, driving both right into the engine house.” Lord Orin looked at him and then to the devastation behind them.
“A young woman full of courage Tristan, and Eschua will reward her for her help. She will be fine lad.” Thomas smiled assuredly as great hooks behind them were thrown across the way between the two ships, snatching tight to the railings and pulling the ships close together.
“Thank you priest, I pray you are right.” Tristan looked back down at her once more as crew members rushed aboard and began fanning out and securing the ship. Everything became a blur after that for him, a bland sound that dulled to the background as he continued to look upon Serafin. He prayed to Eschua as people scrambled around him, putting out fires, rushing members of the group back to the Hunter, and keeping watch over the skies for the drakes returning.
Ferasi’s drakes retreated to the safety of the Kraxus who just now emerged on the edge of the upper city where they had laid waste to the city around them. Tristan thought they would continue to fight but he guessed since Scarlet was out of action they wouldn’t push it any more.
Tristan reached under Serafin’s body and carefully lifted her up into his arms. He made his way toward the railing where a ramp had been lowered onto the deck. He walked with determination, and hope for Serafin as he caught up to the others. He turned around half way up the ramp as he looked upon the scene around him. The airship was being stripped of any resources as the remaining flyers flew escort around the ships. Kraxus stayed out of range of the Hunter’s guns but in no way did she fall away. She concentrated instead on the city around her as the noble houses roused their security forces who then joined up with the city’s defenses. She remained busy whittling away at them but she held her ground well.
“Malak, what have you done?” Tristan looked south to where the mountain range rose in the distance. “Do you care about any innocent lives? Or is it all in honor of your grand master?” He shook his head and turned back toward the awaiting doorway of the Vindictive Hunter.