Arkh clutched the ropes he’d tied around the pillar, desperately trying to give himself a small measure of confidence. He’d stood in defiance against a horde of Fu, in order to keep Fritz safe—why was this airship such a problem for him? Albin and Nameless rushed past him and climbed the ladder at his back, pumping Demon fire into the balloon. Watching them hustle to the ship’s help didn’t give him his answer.
The sudden surge of heat gave Arkh some of his courage back, and he loosened his grip on the ropes as he felt the ship begin to rise once again. Its upward pitch was significant, however, and Arkh watched as a small, wooden dowel rolled past him, towards the back of the ship. Fritz took notice at that, and shouted “the gear!” as he raced towards the stern. He struggled on his own for a moment, the others occupied with helping Quinlan keep the ship afloat. As much as he hated it, Arkh knew what he had to do.
He was still afraid, he realized, as he hustled towards the Elf, and held up his hands in a ‘throw it to me’ gesture. It wasn’t that the fear had left him, it was just that, thanks to the Frenzy, he didn’t care any more. He caught the box that Fritz chucked, and tossed it further up the deck, to the other side of a safety net near the prow. Without the Frenzy, he would have struggled to throw the box even a few feet—but to him now, it felt like a child’s toy in his hands. Fritz and he repeated this several times, until they had managed to secure everything loose on the deck.
The moment had distracted him, however, and he’d failed to notice that they were once again losing altitude. He’d barely had a moment to celebrate his contribution before Quinlan’s voice carried over the wind. “Brace for impact, guys.”
Hitting the trees was not a real impact, so to speak, but Arkh didn’t have the time to secure himself properly—he’d merely planted his feet and lowered his center of gravity. The sudden slowing had yanked him off his feet, and he clocked his chin against the wooden deck when he fell. He’d been about to drop the Frenzy, but the sudden meeting of body and ship made him realize that an increased pain tolerance might be a good thing here, pretty soon.
Despite colliding with the tree tops, the ship was still moving at impressive speeds, and hadn’t slowed by any noticable amount. As it began to pass below the tree line, branches started whipping at the interior of the ship, snagging on support lines and smacking the ship’s hapless passengers. Arkh, already flat on his back, suffered somewhat less of a beating than the others, in this particular stage of the journey groundward. At one point, a rigging line caught for good on one of the branches, causing the ship to careen sideways. The forward momentum was too strong for the ship to truly ‘turn’ at this point (as much of a turn as it would have been), causing the deck to instead list sideways, and spin rapidly as it hurtled towards the ground with all the grace and poise of a rock. At some point, one of the crates from the prow came loose and tumbled backwards, slamming into Arkh’s chest as it moved, knocking the wind out of him and cracking, he guessed, at least one of his ribs.
He was still gasping for air when the ship smashed into one of the tree trunks. Well, ‘smashed into’ probably wasn’t as accurate as ‘glanced off of,’ as the ship immediately careened off to the side. Albin and Nameless were thrown from the ship when it struck the tree, tumbling—almost harmlessly—into a large pile of dead leaves. Arkh didn’t have time to register his jealousy, however, as the ground had finally arrived to the conversation, and it had a few things to say to them.
The impact didn’t really hurt, or even startle Arkh. He’d seen it coming, if only for a second, and had the chance to mentally prepare himself for what was next. Smashing head-first into a rock, and getting partially impaled on a fallen tree trunk, however? That part hurt pretty bad. Arkh barely had time for his thoughts to find Cyleena. He didn’t have time to say goodbye. There was black, and then, there was nothing.
If luck were held in a reserve somewhere, and if it were something that multiple people might be able to draw from, Arkh used up everyone else’s, in that moment. He came to not long after the landing—as much of a landing as it was—in a rather contorted state. True, he’d cracked his skull in multiple places, and, true, his leg was probably borderline permanently useless, but he was alive. Between the Frenzy and his tremendous amound of luck, he’d somehow survived.
Arkh’s thoughts immediately went to the others. He’d seen Fritz and Goldie land in a clearing, though he couldn’t remember seeing Quinlan. Triage training kicked in, and he immediately began to prioritize the ones he could help.
If he could only walk.
His right leg, broken in several places, and partially impaled on a rotting branch (likely infected by now), was—for all intents and purposes—completely useless. He could tell that he had also broken many other bones, and was likely bleeding internally. Judging by the pained and misshapen state of his torso, he guessed that he was also close to having a punctured lung, as well. In any other situation, he’d be the one getting the doctor’s immediate attention. But, today, he was the doctor, and there were friends that needed him. He dipped his scalpel in the jar of Slive venom (praise to Ash it survived the crash), and applied it to the most damaged areas, taking care to avoid anywhere he might need to move and perform surgery.
In a matter of minutes, the pain had become substantially more controllable. Arkh’s newly-paralyzed chest wasn’t particularly interested in allowing him to get up, however, and it was an awkward-and-painful few seconds before he managed to sit. He quickly wrapped gauze tightly around his head and chest, to stop any further blood loss and prevent anything from jostling out of place. Then, being liberal with the Slive venom, he set to work extracting the shards of rotted wood from his leg.
An agony-filled five minutes later, Arkh was on his feet, hobbling awkwardly towards a collapsed Goldie, his freshly-operated-on leg still bleeding into the gauze and splint he’d hastily assembled. Looking her up and down, he judged the damage was mostly centralized around her head and neck. She was still conscious, however, and had noticed his arrival, so he tried running a few diagnostics to help him figure out what needed to be done. “Goldie, are you alright,” he asked, his concern showing through.
From the corner of his eye, Arkh saw Fritz stir. He sat up, looked around, and, upon seeing Arkh and Goldie, immediately calmed down. From Arkh’s position, Fritz didn’t look any worse off than she did. Arkh sighed in relief. He’d see to Goldie before moving to him.
“Arkh? You’re not a bear.” Goldie’s response sounded more confused, than anything else. Arkh feared a concussion, but then realized that such a response was—all things considered—probably a good sign, for her. He pressed on with the questions, checking her body for other major wounds.
“Goldie, do you know what just happened?”
“Quinlan ran out of fire, and we crashed.”
“Good, very good,” Arkh said, confident that she wasn’t too bad. She had a lot of small wounds, but she wasn’t losing blood fast enough to worry him, and her shoulder—though disloated—wasn’t going anywhere. He moved up to her head. “Goldie, I think you might have a concussion. I need to look at your eyes.”
Arkh stretched Goldie’s eyes open, which began frantically swinging around as they adjusted to the real world. After a few seconds, they calmed, and focused on his face as he studied them. They focused quickly, and neither looked any more dilated than the other. Arkh let out a small internal sigh, as Goldie spoke again.
“Arkh, why are you crying?”
Arkh hadn’t felt the tears on his face—a side effect of having practically a quarter-ounce of Slive venom in his system—but as he noticed the stains on his shirt and sleeves, he realized he’d been probably crying for a while. He wanted to lie to Goldie, and say something to calm her down, but he couldn’t thing of anything to say fast enough. So, he just told her the truth. “I was afraid.”
“That was a scary ride,” Goldie admitted.
“No,” Arkh said, unsure why he was correcting her. “I was afraid I’d lost more friends.”