In the skies over Waterdeep early one morning, a cry could be heard...
"For the love of the Spider Bitch! Put me down now you... you... great, stupid corby!!"
Alastríona sighed for the third time in almost as many minutes, debating the merits of pointing out the absurdity of the insult. Given the dire nature of their situation - fleeing Fire Knives assassins and seeking refuge with ancient and powerful dragons, a plan that only Bérénice could come up with and pull off - it seemed a bit inappropriate. Alastríona, though quite the pacifist normally, could never say no to a jab at the prickly drow. She ticked the points off on her fingers, which left Cal'lantar to dangle by only the strap around his torso; a leather loop that she'd attached to her belt for occasions just such as this one.
"I'm not black skinned, I'm not even remotely related to a bird at all, and corbies don't even fly. Really, Cal'lantar, in your hundred-and-seventy years of life you couldn't come up with something less childish?"
"And I thought I'd left all my days of domineering females back in Menzoberranzan," Cal'lantar hmphed as she re-secured her arm around his torso to support the strap, the only thing keeping him from going splat on a rooftop of Waterdeep, or worse, the filthy streets.
Again Alastríona had to sigh, adding an eye roll and a smirk this time. The drow was stubborn, and foolheaded at the most inopportune moments, cynical and jaded from his time before coming to the surface, but also a brilliant wizard, and he was fun to travel with. Made things interesting. And to a half-celestial coming upon her sixth century of life, interesting was a blessing in disguise. Hence, she was still friends with Bérénice, among many other, far better reasons, and had decided to take up this quest with the werecat, not only out of friendship, but for something wonderfully exciting to do. And who else in all of Faerûn could look after Bérénice better than Alastríona and keep the cat out of the trouble that seemed to follow her wherever she went, and likewise battle by her side when trouble found them, nevertheless?
A change in the sea breeze under her wings brought Alastríona out of her reverie and back to the dangling drow in her arms. "It's faster this way and you know it. You would've had to struggle to keep up with us, magic or no. This way, here you are." The cheery note in her voice did nothing but make the drow scowl harder. "Make yourself useful while you're there and use your superior eyesight to watch Bérénice's back for stray assassins before they get too close."
The half-celestial heard muttering about the indignity of being a watch dog to a cat, but Alastríona focused on other things like the best wind currents and thermals to get them across Waterdeep as fast as possible and still keep pace with Bérénice on the ground. Coming from the Trade Ward, they had to head northwest as quickly as possible to the Sea Ward where Bérénice's dragon foster parents resided. Flying over Waterdeep was never easy anyway, with the sea air creating wind conditions that were constant and almost never predictable. Dragging a drow along did nothing for her aerodynamics either. They all needed to arrive at the dragon's mansion at the same time, or someone may get hurt.
Alastríona caught a brief glimpse of Bérénice in her hybrid form; still bipedal, but gently furred with the same lovely deep coffee color of her hair when human springing fleetly from rooftop to rooftop. It never ceased to amaze her the grace and beauty her normally brash friend held. Two sides to every coin, and all that, she supposed with a smile. Alastríona had discovered in the six or so years of their friendship that the woman was a walking disaster, finding every hidden patch of ice and bit of mud possible with catastrophic, and often extremely humorous, results. But under all the mud and bruises and cursing and clawing there was a beauty rarely seen in all of Alastriona's years.
Alastríona caught the sudden movement at the same time Cal'lantar yelled at her to come about to the left a few degrees. One of the Fire Knives assassins was trying to head Bérénice off from the street, and she hadn't seen him yet. This one couldn't be human - tiefling maybe. He was far too fast, pacing the werecat seemingly without strain from the streets below, dodging and hurtling obstacles with ease. Alastríona assessed and calculated instantly; there was no time for the drow to line up the shot and get the spell off before the assassin was too close to Bérénice to keep her out of the line of fire, not to mention the attention such a strategy would draw.
"Lift your feet when I give you the word!" the half-celestial yelled, a split second before folding her wings and heading into a hawk-like dive to shed altitude. Cal'lantar's startled yelp and long white hair suddenly whipping in her face barely registered as she concentrated on her trajectory and rate of speed. It would be close. The angle of descent would be steep, her deceleration sudden, and she had to compensate for the drow's weight in every maneuver, and recalculate for Bérénice's movement as well. The werecat was quickly closing straight in on the perfect choke point for the attack; Alastriona had mere seconds to pull this off. Close might have been an understatement.
"You! What are you-" the half-celestial cut Cal'lantar off before he could finish.
"Now! Lift your legs!" she roared over him, and to her shock he complied without hesitation.
Alastriona threw her wings out wide and forward, the sudden braking snapping the drow sharply alee, jerking the strap and in turn the belt around her waist with a jarring force that hurt her back and threw her blue braid out in front of her. The assassin, and indeed it was a tiefling, sprang up as the half-angel-drow-battering ram swooped across Bérénice's path, and Cal'lantar's feet caught the beast squarely in the chest with a crack of bone and a sharp 'WHUFF' of forced exhalation, eyes bugging out in surprise, before he simply vanished over the side of he roof. Alastríona turned her head in time to catch the werecat's startled expression and resulting grin, which she returned for the briefest second before the strain of her descent caught up with her.
They were going to crash.
In a flurry of wing beats, Alastríona struggled to get them back aloft, but the brake job had strained her muscles. Even her strength and the adrenaline pumping into her wasn't enough to counter gravity and fatigue as she shifted and flapped her considerable wingspan to try and catch some much needed lift. She could correct enough to get them to a rooftop instead of the side of a building, but they were going to crash.
"Alastriona!" Cal'lantar yelled out, and the half-angel thought she felt him fumbling for something, a medallion perhaps, something to shield them when they hit, or at least him.
The only thing that saved them was the sudden zephyr that blew in off the ocean, the wind catching under the half-celestial's wings and pushing her up, up, in a sharp ascent, back toward the prevailing winds. As they rose, she realized it was still morning, barely after dawn even, still Lathander's time, and she spared a moment of thanks to her deity. She tried not to sigh in relief, not wanting to give away to the drow just how close they'd come to disaster.
The rest of the flight was mostly easy gliding, without issue, tracking Bérénice below and following her into the Sea Ward. She stopped, and Alastríona took that as her signal to land. It was fairly gentle, considering, and Cal'lantar stumbled only a little as he disengaged himself from the strap. As soon as he got his balance, though, he rounded on the half-angel in fury.
"Dos ph'viggtu," he hissed in Drow, "where in the Abyss do you get off using me as a weapon! And worse, we nearly crashed!" It wasn't a question, but an accusation.
Alastríona shrugged halfheartedly, schooling her features to neutrality, "I had it under control."
The drow arched one slender brow and pointed down to where a clothesline, complete with someone's wet laundry, tangled around his right leg. "I beg to differ."
Bérénice stepped in with an arch look before Alastríona could summon a retort. "Amusing as this is, assassins will not wait for you two to finish your bickering. We shouldn't tally."
The drow made a frustrated gesture before kneeling, muttering, "This Spellfire better be worth all this trouble, kitten." Bérénice turned her arch look from the drow to her winged friend, who stood impassively with her arms folded across her chest. The werecat had shifted back to full human form, but Alastríona recognized the wildness remaining in her eyes. Now was not the time to argue with her. A petulant rustle of the half-angel's folded wings punctuated her next statement.
"Next time, you carry him."