Captain Reese could see the two smoking boats turn tail and run. She could also see quite clearly that her wingman was down, his dragon dying on the deck of the remaining ship.
She ignored the leaving vessels, keeping an eye on the bird that was flying over them. She but her dragon into a dive and landed near the first,
“Hendel!” she called over the groaning of the sinking vessel,”let’s go!” She held out a hand to help the young officer climb upon her mount.
“He’s dying,” he said, stricken with grief. There was a crash as a piece from the superstructure slammed into the deck nearby.
“Hendel!” The ship groaned again, rear deck almost awash. There were only moments to abandon ship.
Something inside him obeyed. He took the hand. As soon as he was safely aboard, she commanded her dragon to lift. It screamed in rage at the dead comrade, even as the ship sank beneath the waves, it took all of Reese’s ability to control it
Reese decided to fly back to base. Her dragon was reaching its limit. The birds circled the smoking vessels. Reese was glad she wouldn’t be fighting them. She could see bodies floating in the water, and wondered if anyone was still alive. She flew back towards the mainland. She didn’t see the plane lift off from Sea Fire. It was headed back this way, with the three escorts.
Hendel slumped against her, out of breath. It was then that Reese noticed her hand was covered in blood. Shit, he’s injured. She asked for and got a little more out of her dragon, increasing their speed.
Behind her, the new plane landed at the wreck site, men in little boats went around looking at bodies and collecting things from them. One of the escorts ignored the recovery operation, and followed her back to the mainland. She knew the plane was there, but did nothing. With an injured rider and a tired dragon, she believed there was nothing to do about it. She was still two hours from the stables.
The armoured bird behind her crossed the shoreline, climbed a few thousand metres, then flew along the shore. She lost sight of it after that.
The sun had begun to set when her tired eyes spotted the lights of the stables. She pulled out the crystal and asked for a priest to be on standby when the dragon touched down. Gently, she lay the lieutenant on the ground as a priest of Dratha came over and cast a healing spell on Hendel. As the magic repaired the damage, a round, though flattened bit of metal came out of his side.
“He needs now to sleep,” the priest said quietly.”He will be up and around by morning. Do you mind if I take this metal for study?”
“If you can learn something from it, by all means,” she replied, not really caring one way or the other. Reese was casting her mind’s eye back to the dead dragon on the deck of that strange ship. Half its belly was gone. What destructive power these people must have. Where do they come from? From the west. But there’s nothing there, everyone knows that. What if everyone is wrong?