Thirty yards.

Her arrow went off like a streak of lightning, trailing silver sparks and blasting through the feeble protection of the caravel's crow's nest as though it were no stronger than a sheet of old parchment. Splinters and the unfortunate lookout were thrown high into the air. The doomed gnoll gave a shriek, bounced off the crossbeam of the caravel's mainmast, and spun head over heels to splash into the sea, quickly left behind by the speeding ships.

Catti-brie fired again, angling down, concentrating on the catapult crew. She hit one man, a half-orcish brute by the looks of him, but the catapult launched its load of burning pitch.

The caravel's gunners hadn't properly compensated for the sheer speed of the Sea Sprite and the schooner crossed under the pitch and was long gone by the time it hit the water, hissing in protest.

Deudermont brought the schooner alongside the caravel, barely twenty yards of water between them. Suddenly the water in that narrow channel stopped its wind-whipped turmoil and the archers of the Sea Sprite let fly many of their arrows that sported small gobs of flaming pitch.

Catti-brie let fly for the catapult itself this time, her enchanted arrow blasting a deep crack along the machine's throwing beam. Sea Sprite's deadly ballista drove a heavy bolt right into the caravel's hull at sea level.

Deudermont spun the wheel to port, angling away, satisfied with the pass. More missiles, many flaming, soared between the ships before Robillard created a wall of blocking mist behind the Sea Sprite's stern.

The caravel's wizard put a lightning bolt right into the mist. Though the energy was dispersed somewhat, it crackled all about the edges of the Sea Sprite, knocking several men to the deck.

Drizzt, leaning far over the rail and straining to watch the caravel's deck with his hair flying wildly from the energy of the lightning bolt, spotted the wizard, amidships, near the mainmast. Before the Sea Sprite, now running perpendicular to the pirate ship, was too far away, the drow called upon his innate powers, summoned a globe of impenetrable darkness and dropped it over the man.

He clenched his fist when he saw the globe moving along the caravel's deck, for he had hit the mark and the globe's magic had caught the wizard. It would follow and blind him, until he found some way to counter the magic. Even more than that, the ten-foot ball of blackness marked the dangerous wizard clearly.

'Catti-brie!' Drizzt cried.

'I have him!' she replied, and Taulmaril sang out, once and then again, sending two streaks into that ball of blackness.

Still it continued its run. Catti-brie hadn't dropped the wizard, but surely she and Drizzt had given the man something to think about!

A second ballista bolt soared out from the Sea Sprite, cutting across the bow of the caravel, and then a fireball from Robillard exploded high in the air before the rushing ship. The caravel, not agile and no longer equipped with an able wizard, rushed right into the explosions. As the fireball disappeared, both masts of the square-rigger were tipped in flames, giant candles on the open sea.

The caravel tried to respond with its catapult, but Catti-brie's arrows had done their work and the throwing beam split apart as soon as the crew cranked too much tension on it.

Drizzt rushed back to the wheel. 'One more pass?' he asked Deudermont.

The Captain shook his head. 'Time for only one,' he explained. 'And no time to stop and board.'

'Two thousand yards! Two ships!' Catti-brie called out.

Drizzt looked at Deudermont with sincere admiration. 'More of Pinochet's allies?' he asked, already knowing the answer.

'That caravel alone could not defeat us,' the seasoned captain coolly added. 'Carrackus knows that and so would Pinochet. She was to lead us in.'

'But we were too fast for that tactic,' Drizzt reasoned.

'Are you ready for a fight?' Deudermont asked slyly.

Before the drow could even answer, Deudermont pulled hard and the Sea Sprite leaned into a starboard turn until it came about to face the slowed caravel. The square-sailed ship's topmasts were burning and half her was crew busy trying to repair the rigging, to at least keep her under half-sail. Deudermont angled his ship to intercept, to cut across the prow, in what the archers called a 'bow rake.'

And the wounded caravel couldn't maneuver out of harm's way. Her wizard, though blinded, had kept the presence of mind to put up a wall of thick mist, the standard and effective defensive seaboard tactic.

Deudermont measured his angle carefully, wanting to turn the Sea Sprite right against the edge of that mist and the whipping water, to get as close to the caravel as he could. This was their last pass, and it had to be devastating or else the caravel would be able to limp into the fight with its sister ships, which were closing fast.

There came a flash on the square-rigged ship's deck, a spark of light that countered Drizzt's darkness spell.

From her high perch above the defensive magic, Catti-brie saw it. She was already training on the darkness when the wizard emerged. The robed man went immediately into a chant, meaning to hurl a devastating spell in the path of the Sea Sprite before she could cross the caravel's bow, but only a couple of words had escaped his lips when he felt a tremendous thump against his chest and heard the planks of the ship's deck splinter behind him. He looked down at the blood beginning to pour onto the decking and realized that he was sitting, then lying, and all the world grew dark.

The wall of mist the wizard had put up fell away.

Robillard saw it, recognized it, and clapped his hands and sent twin bolts of lightning slashing across the caravel's deck, slamming the masts and killing many pirates. The Sea Sprite crossed in front of the caravel, and the archers let fly. So, too, did the ballista crew, but they did not hurl a long spear this time. They used a shortened and unbalanced bolt, trailing a chain lined with many-pronged grapnels. The contraption twirled as it flew, entangling many lines, fouling up the caravel's rigging.

Another missile, a living missile, six hundred pounds of sleek and muscled panther, soared from the Sea Sprite as she crossed by and caught the caravel's beam.

'Are you ready, drow?' Robillard called, seeming excited for the first time this fight.

Drizzt nodded and motioned to his fighting companions, the score of veterans who comprised the Sea Sprite's crack boarding crew. They scrambled toward the wizard from all sections of the ship, dropping their bows and drawing out weapons for close melee. By the time Drizzt, leading the rush, got near to Robillard, the wizard already had a shimmering field-a magical door-on the deck beside him. Drizzt didn't hesitate, charging right through, scimitars in hand. One of them, Twinkle, glowed a fierce blue.

Out the other end of Robillard's magical tunnel he came, arriving in the midst of many surprised pirates aboard the caravel. Drizzt slashed left and right, clearing a hole in their ranks, and he darted through, his feet a blur. He turned sharply, fell to the side and rolled as one archer shot harmlessly above him. He came back to his feet, darted straight for the bowman and cut him down.

More of the Sea Sprite's warriors poured through the gate and the middle of the caravel erupted in wild battle.

The confusion on the caravel's bow was no less as Guenhwyvar, all teeth and claws she seemed, slashed and tore through the mass of men who wanted nothing more than to be away from this mighty beast. Many were pulled down under those powerful claws, and several others simply turned to the side and leaped overboard, ready to take their chances with the sharks.

Again the Sea Sprite bent low in the water, Deudermont pulling her hard to port, angling away from the caravel and turning to meet the charge of the coming duo head-on. The tall captain smiled as he heard the fighting on the ship behind him, confident in his boarding party, though they were still likely outnumbered two to one.

The dark elf and his panther tended to even such odds.

From her high perch, Catti-brie picked several more shots, each one taking down a strategically-placed pirate archer, and one driving through a man to kill the pirate goblin sitting next to him!

Then the young woman turned her attention away from the caravel, looking forward in order to direct the

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