A gentle knock at the door made her relax slightly. The voice that followed even more.
“Callindra? Battle sister? Are you awake?” Tryst asked, his words muffled by the thick oak.
“Tryst. I’m glad you warned me it was you.” She said, her voice quiet and raspy, “I might have acted rashly otherwise.”
“I thought as much.” He said, a smile in his voice. “It’s almost like I know you or something.”
She lowered Brightfang and her body remembered its fatigue. By using her blade and the wall for support she managed not to fall over outright. As it was she had to stagger back to the bed and sit heavily. “Well. Are you coming in or not?”
Tryst entered, a slight frown creasing his brow. “How are you feeling?”
“Like a spring breeze playing about in the daisies.” She said, but then let herself relax and leaned back against the wall. “Actually I’m famished. What are the odds of a meal?”
“I’m sure I can find something.” He said with a smile, “It is good that you are hungry, it’s a sign that you’re on the mend. You took a nasty knock to the head. I will see what I can get for you.”
Tryst was halfway out the door when her stomach rumbled like a thunderstorm, “I don’t know that you need to cook it first.”
He chuckled as he went out and Callindra closed her eyes, trying to get her limbs under control. Her head wouldn’t stop throbbing and it was difficult to keep her thoughts focused. The ship lurched hard to one side, throwing her to the floor. Only her nearly inhuman reflexes saved her from cutting herself again, although she managed to smack her head on the floor, sending stars careening through her vision.
She got to her feet, stumbling drunkenly and wobbled to the door. As her hand touched the latch, the sounds of combat erupted from outside. Inhuman screeching accompanied battle cries and screams of pain, each one a lance into her temples.
Dragging herself to the door, she drew Brightfang and gritted her teeth against the pain throbbing in her head. Kicking the door open, she ran out into the sunlight in nothing but her smallclothes.
The scene outside was chaos. Beasts with the heads of deer and the bodies of eagles were swooping down upon the crew. Her companions were battling them, and they were losing. One of the monsters stooped toward her, wings folded in a delta shape. With a snarl of defiance, Callindra whipped Brightfang in a series of flashing arcs. A blast of air carrying the sharpened knives of frigid Nordji, the North Wind tore into the thing, shredding its wings and sending it tumbling from the sky.
A string of curses blistered the air and the ship heeled dangerously over to one side. One of the sails was partially cut to ribbons and a large swath of the rigging hung as though sliced by a huge sword. Oops. Before she could react, another voice barked out orders and a dozen crossbows fired in unison. Two more of the creatures fell from the sky, flapping weakly as their injuries kept them from maintaining altitude.
There were at least another dozen of them still in the air and a pair of them landed on the deck of the ship amidst the crossbowmen as they frantically worked the cranks on their weapons to reload. They should, she thought idly have fired in ranks, not all together. Her thoughts snapped back to the horrible reality of the situation when one of the monsters reached its head out and bit the nearest man’s face off with fanged teeth.
The spray of blood galvanized Callindra into action. Ignoring the complaints of her body and the strange lurching motion of the ship underfoot, she sprinted across the deck and swung her sword with every fiber of strength she possessed. As the creature raised its bloody muzzle from its grizzly repast, Brightfang hacked its head clean from its shoulders. Its companion lunged forward, jaws gaping and Callindra threw her arm up in defense, an automatic and futile gesture.
The instant before it tore her arm off, a hammer the size of her head slammed into the monster’s body with the sound of breaking bones. It fell sideways, twitching pitifully and the hammer was jerked back toward the one who had thrown it courtesy of a thin silver chain connected to its haft. Before the monster recovered, Callindra dispatched it with a thrust of her sword.
A heavy weight slammed into her back and fire erupted down her spine. She tried to roll with the blow, the effort sending another burst of pain through her injured back. Her shirt fell open and her breast band, having been cut clean through fell to tangle around her legs. To Callindra’s horror, Brightfang clattered from her hand and skittered toward the edge of the ship.
With a desperate cry, she flung herself recklessly across the deck. Her hands reached for her blade’s hilt, missing him by a finger’s breadth and she keened in fear as he teetered on the edge of the deck. With a desperate effort, she gripped the wood with her bare toes and lunged forward, one hand grabbing the sword by the blade just as it fell off the ship and the other gripping the rail.
The edge but deep into her right hand, but she refused to let go, even as she could feel tendons parting. Letting go of the rail, Callindra took hold of the hilt, not paying attention to the danger as her body began to slide toward the edge. Her right hand flopped uselessly when she tried to reach for the rail. The ship lurched and she began to fall, only extreme luck and agility allowing her to hook her knee around one of the railing supports.
One of the monsters dove at her as she dangled from the side of the ship and she swung her blade with precise fury, severing one of the joints that kept a wing functional and sending it into a spin that carried it away from her. Fire seemed to be burning in her knee joint and she felt dizzy from the various injuries she had sustained. She tried to reach back, but without her right hand she couldn’t get a proper grip.
A large hand with short powerful fingers grasped her forearm just as she began to fall in earnest, pulling her back to safety. “I told yeh, yer a bedamned fool girl.” Callindra looked up into the eyes of the Dwarf who had saved her life.
“Yeah. Probably.” She said, and gratefully succumbed to unconsciousness.