“You’re alright, it’s ok.”
Feral tightened the bandage around Nala’s waist. She winced. “Will it be enough?”
The acting captain looked at the long shard of wood on the deck beside them, six inches of it laced with a thick red liquid. He turned back to the fresh bandage, already darkening, then looked her in the face, mustering a smile. “Yeah, you’ll be right as rain in no time.”
Nala grimaced and tried to return the smile. “Sorry about the coat, captain.”
“Not a problem. Lets me show off the physique more.” Feral made an exaggerated flexing motion with his right arm, his long coat of the Estran admiralty now bare to the elements there. He got a chuckle. “We’ll take it out the next paycheck.” He winked, and she smiled.
“If I make it that far.”
“We’ve been through worse, and we’ll have worse yet to come. You don’t get out that easily.” Feral cast an eye over his shoulder, observing the carnage on deck.
Nala leant her head back against the door to the captain’s quarters. “I remember…Gar and I…we saw the Drake Riders up close once. The…parade in Karan Taul. He was so impressed by them. ‘Look, mother,’ he said, ‘one day that’ll be me’… I wish he’d been able to see that one with me.”
Feral tried to find a reply. He could see a glistening upon the white scales around her eyes. “I’m sure he’d have loved it.”
“Perhaps…I’ll be able to tell him about her…soon.”
“One day,” Feral said, as he pulled an arm over his shoulder and lifted her from the ground, “but not today. You need to get some rest.”
The scalar was shaky on his feet as he carried her below deck, placing her gently in a hammock. Her eyes were closed, and she didn’t say anything, but he could see the gentle rise and fall of her chest. Satisfied for now, he made his way back to the main deck.
The man stood to attention, flustered. “Yes, cap’— I mean, sir!”
“Little shaken, sir, but still here.”
“I need you to check the stores, see what we’ve got in the way of bandages. Nala’s not in the best way, I need you to make sure she stays with us. If anything changes, you find me.”
The man gave a salute and dashed off towards the stores, and Feral turned towards the black scalar nearby.
“What’s the situation?”
Petarix frowned. “I’d like to say we’ve had worse,” he said, gesturing towards the shattered central mast, “but I’m not convinced. Is she alright?”
“Wood splinter got her. Straight through. I think it might have hit something, there’s a lot of blood.”
“She’s a fighter.”
“She is.” Feral turned his head, catching the aetherforged soldier disembarking from the ship a split second before the splash as the giant landed in the river below. He dashed to the banister. “Hey!”
Striding up and out of the river, Ward turned to regard Feral with a single, monocular eye.
“Where’re you going?”
“I’m gonna find Muir and the rest of them.” The purple and gold of the construct’s steel body shimmered in the afternoon sun, smattered with droplets of river water.
“They said to stay here. We need you!”
“They did say that, but before I came here, I was the guard captain of Kilmoor and that dragon killed everyone I was sworn to protect. Now, I’m the guard captain of Muir, and it might get her too. So, I’ve elected to ignore what they said, and go after them,” Ward said. He looked at the sailor staring him down, both his hands splayed across the banister of the ship. “Your sleeve’s off, by the way.”
Feral looked at him, expressionless. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” The aetherforged looked around awkwardly for a few moments, before breaking into a run towards the forest beyond. Feral turned to the rest of the crew and made an exasperated gesture, both hands upturned.