He saw the pair plunge into the water just as he, too, met its cold grip. Bobbing to the surface, his head rang with pain, his ears deafened and the world seemingly silenced. He saw the banshee woman let loose another cry, though he didn’t hear it this time, the leviathan before her balking at the noise. Reaching out with feeble telepathy, he muttered mentally, Help, before succumbing to darkness.
“Is he alright?” she voiced.
A raspy-voiced woman answered, “He’ll pull through.”
“He better after that number you pulled on him, Marlew,” a final reply came, rather boyish.
As if his own response, Johm stirred, groaned, and fluttered his eyelids open. Marlew gave a gasp, Eliash released a relieved sigh, and Celinde kept her magical mouth muffled.
Incoherent muttering escaped Johm’s lips along with the murk still in his lungs, causing him a coughing fit. He rolled onto his side, convulsing, Eliah with a hand on his back.
“Johm,” he stated blankly, “are you alright?”
The bard didn’t answer, except with another stream of gibberish. However, Eliash heard in his mind what his dear friend was trying to give voice to.
Eliash. I… I’m… I’ve been deafened by that hag.
Anger in his eyes, the eunuch stood slowly to face the banshee bard, his hand reaching for the crossbow.
“What the Qurr has got into you?” Marlew was the first to break the tension.
“She’s ruined him,” the dry reply came.
Her reply came only seconds after Eliash’s words. “I saved him, fool.”
“A bard is nothing without his ears!”
“And a man nothing without his plums.”
No sooner, the crossbow was taken up with a holler and aimed at the woman, who made not a flinch in fear. The trigger was depressed, and a scream echoed.
A few meters away the body of a lake leviathan floated, dead, atop the waters of its home. The flesh was riddled with bolts, the conduits through which bolts of another variety flowed into its body. Bolts which, because they were already lodged in the thick hide of the beast, were not whistling through the air towards Celinde, bolts that were not loaded in the crossbow at the time it was scooped up in hasty hatred.
Eliash fingered the trigger a few more times in frustration, but then resorted to throwing the weapon at his nemesis instead. She sidestepped easily, pulling a machete from an otherwise invisible hiding place on her person.
The pair was wordless, Eliash breathing breaths of bitter fury and clenching his fists, Celinde almost begging him to try something while she had her bare blade before her.
Again, it was Marlew who split the silence.
“Qurr take you two!” Her voice was shrill and panicked. “Celinde, have at least a grain of sympathy. And Eliash, don’t make yourself even less a man by losing to this old grandmother!”
“Fine,” they growled in unison, eyes still locked on the opposite.
Marlew now turned her attention back to the still horizontal Johm, his condition fine albeit the fact that he was, hopefully only for the moment, deaf.
“Oh Johm,” she whispered, “I love you, still.”
And Johm, though deaf, could still read her lips, and his eyes widened. Eliash, too, with his hightened hearing, was taken aback.
It seemed only the hag was unaffected by those three fateful words.
“Getting dark,” she complained. “Any plans for shelter?”
But only the water dragons replied, their mournful cries falling upon deaf ears.