Archive for November, 2008
The North docks, the original docks of Briggs Reach that had been ruined by a storm fifteen years before, sat draped in the late afternoon shadows. All that remained of the dock was a jumble of weathered and broken wooden pylons that thrust up out of the brown harbor water. The few original buildings, like warehouses and the old dockmaster’s office, remained firmly intact despite the assault of weather and time. Outside the warehouses, Captain Hunter limped forward, followed by O’Fallon and Moira.
“This be the place, Cap’n?” O’Fallon asked, glancing around.
Anthony frowned while he, too, looked around. He finally replied, “yes, I believe so.”
O’Fallon nodded and gave the dilapidated building a measured look. Moira shook her head slightly. “Can we put trust in that Wilkins?”
“If we want to bring this to a close, Moira, this is as good a chance as any. O’Fallon, take the right side, Moira, the left. I’ll strike in through here. Shout if you come across anything.”
“Cap’n? Ye’ll be needin’ this.” O’Fallon pulled a spare pistol from his belt and handed to Hunter.
The captain accepted the weapon. “True enough, I have felt a bit underdressed since I lost mine overboard. I’m sure they’re stuck in a tree by now somewhere.” He looked the pistol over carefully. It was an 1875 Remington Revolver, and well cared-for. He preferred his Schofield, but right now he had little room to complain. Captain Hunter gave them each a glance. “Good hunting to you both.”
Once the pair had hurried off, Hunter tightened his grip on the pistol and walked toward the warehouse entrance. The double wooden doors were closed, but the opened lock hung loose on the door hasp just below the latch. Hunter paused to listen. He could hear muffled sounds that seemed to emerge from deep inside the warehouse.
Satisfied the door was safe enough, he eased it open and slipped inside. The interior of the warehouse was in no better shape than the exterior. Stout beams still withstood the weight of a roof now dilapidated and weathered with age. A few dusty crates remained, old shipments long forgotten by their owners. Hunter walked slowly around these and navigated the main warehouse in the dim light. Twice he heard birds stir overhead when they were startled by a noise from somewhere inside the building. Slowly, he moved farther into the building.
Once Anthony had come abreast of a cluster of rotten crates, the sound of wood sliding against weathered wood – like that of a window being opened slowly in hopes of not drawing any attention – caught his ears. The captain hesitated, crouching low against the crates, pistol at the ready. Birds stirred again in the rafters, and then he heard voices in whispered conversation. Hunter relaxed slightly; he guessed it was either O’Fallon or Moira taking advantage of a window in poor state of repair. The captain stepped beyond the crates upon hearing a faint, guttural snarl, followed by an odd scratching sound in the distance. He stopped and strained his ears. After a moment, he heard the sound again. Then a moment later, yet again. Setting his bearing on what he thought was the source, he eased deeper among the dusty shafts of light.
It was a few minutes more before the source of the sound appeared. There, in the back of the building sat the squat, winged figure of a small drake, only a foot or so taller than a large dog. It was a hatchling. Given its size it could not have been more than a few days old. The drake was intent on something above it. Every few minutes it would take a deep breath, gather its strength, and with all the clumsy grace of a youngling, leap up with a mad flutter of immature wings. At the peak of its jump, it would snap at a wiggling object that hung from a rafter. The object – a thin, pale man dressed in workman denim with a threadbare coat – swung like a worm on the end of a fishing line, his eyes wide with frustration and panic. Hunter stepped forward carefully to not startle the hatchling. He smiled thinly at the figure on the rafter.
“Bit of trouble, Broggins?” the captain asked, amused.
The thief looked up at his name, nearly losing his precarious position on the beam. “Hunter! Quick! Shoot the bloody thing. It’s trying to kill me!”
Hunter glanced at the drake. The reptile, having noticed the newcomer, stopped its eager attempts to grab the danging vampire and stared at the captain. A few light scars could be seen along the little drake’s scaled hide as if it had been whipped. The captain looked around, noticing the broken egg shells, bent locks, pieces of canvas that looked passably like banking money bags, and a horsewhip that had been bitten in two. He also noticed a bag on a hook that looked a much more recent addition than the rest of the warehouse items. He recognized the faint smell of freshly cooked salted pork from it.
“I suspect it has plenty reason to. Besides, unless it’s learned to use a wooden stake, I fear your vampiric nature will keep you quite whole, though I still suspect the pain of the bites will sting some, even for you.” Hunter nodded towards the hatchling. “Trying to train it were you?”
Broggins shifted uncomfortably. “Not in the least! That’d be against the law!”
“So far I’ve seen nothing that tells me you give a whit for the Queen’s law.” Hunter slowly eased over, opened the bag, and withdrew a wrapped section of salted pork. “And if you didn’t have a goal to train it, why would a vampire need any salted pork? Your game’s done. The bent locks and money bags tell enough in my mind that you’d hoped for a pet to use in some robbery.”
“Lot that you know, ya blowhard!” Broggins snapped while he adjusted his grip on the rafter.
Sounds of running preceded the arrival of Moira and O’Fallon. Both cast a surprised look at the drake and then Broggins. Hunter tore off small pieces of the pork and tossed it over. After an experimental sniffing, the beast worked slowly at the meat. Hunter showed the rest to Moira.
“Moira, would you be so kind as to find something to soften this for the small one over there. I doubt it has enough teeth yet to do more than gnaw at it.”
Moira gave the captain a wide grin, “Aye Cap’n, a bit o’ water and a touch o’ milk’ll do this little baby quite nice. Leave it ta me. I worked for a crew hired by the Royal Geographic Society who had ta take care of a clutch once. They had this idea of markin’ then trackin’ where they go.”
O’Fallon gestured to Broggins, who had not yet left the safety of his rafter but obviously was considering the option. “An’ him, Cap’n?”
“Fetch Townsend. Tell him we’ve found our thieving rascal and he’s in dire need of a nice pair of leg irons. That is, until the Queen’s men hold their monthly court here. Then he gets to be their problem.” Hunter smiled a bit then. “And send word to the Griffin. I think it’s past time we got this hatchling home.”