Clouds condensed from the thug’s breath while he grinned at his two victims. The wet knife blade glinted in the light, lurid in its coating of blood and mysterious green ichor. A cold, hard light burned in the brute’s eyes while he turned the knife casually over in his hand.
“Hear that, Benny? Says he’s gonna teach us a lesson!” The taller man laughed: an ugly, evil sound. “Well I got a lesson fer you, ‘guv,” he considered the bloody knife a moment, “mostly about what happens when ya side with ‘their’ kind.”
“I do not have lycanthropy, and there is no ‘kind’ here,” Thorias said, his eyes ice cold, voice flat and emotionless, “it’s simply a frightened young girl who is under my protection. I won’t ask you again. Now please leave.”
The thug casually sauntered forward, slowly waving the knife in front of him. To the doctor’s right, the smaller man closed in as well.
“Don’t know that licker-thopin … lacker-throper … ” the talkative thug said, stumbling over the word.
“Clyde, I think he means ‘werewolf’,” the smaller thug whispered helpfully, giving his friend a quick nod and a wink.
“Shaddap Benny!” Cylde snapped. “I know that! Bloody hell! Jus’ kill ‘im, and take the girl!”
“Poor choice,” the doctor said with a dark tone, flexing his hands. Instantly, the two brutes lunged forward.
Quickly, Thorias stepped to his right, avoiding a wicked knife-slice from Cylde and putting himself directly in Benny’s path. The shorter thug yelped in surprise at seeing the elven doctor move so abruptly.
The doctor’s hard right fist, toughened with years of work aboard the Griffin, lashed out at Benny’s face like a snake. Once, twice, knuckles crushed the man’s nose, fracturing the nasal bone in an angle it could not withstand. Screaming in pain, the thug staggered back, one hand on his shattered nose to staunch the stream of blood, the other waving wildly about in front of him to ward off any further attack from Thorias.
Clyde snorted in derision at his companions’ distress. Stepping further to the right, the taller man rushed forward again.
Immediately, the doctor grabbed Benny by the coat-front and twisted. Helpless, blinded by pain and blood, the brute spiraled around uncontrollably to land right into Clyde’s path. The taller man swore bitterly, grabbing his friend and flinging him aside.
While Benny crashed into a nearby grime-stained wall, Clyde swung his right hand in a wide arc in an attempt to slice Dr. Llwellyn across the chest or throat. The doctor, seeing it coming, stepped back, then around to the thug’s right side. Clyde stood easily a half head taller than Thorias, but that was no handicap to the doctor.
Before the man could complete his next swing, Thorias abruptly dropped to a crouch, ramming a fist into Clyde’s right knee. The doctor was rewarded with a sickening crunch. The brute screeched, his body twisting around from the force of the blow. Thorias stood up straight, ramming an uppercut as hard as iron into the thug’s stomach, immediately ripping the air out of Clyde’s lungs.
A sniveling whimper squeaked out of the brute while he collapsed in a puddle in the filthy alley, his knife clattering away.
Five feet away, Benny spat blood on the ground with a curse under his breath. “Damn yer hide.” The small man growled angrily, but hesitated to rise when he saw the doctor standing three feet away, fists balled into hard knots, staring daggers at him.
Benny looked over at Cylde. His friend lay curled in a ball on the ground, moaning with pain. The short thug wiped a new trickle of blood from his abused nose, glancing back at Dr. Llwellyn. In the hard light of the doctor’s raw anger, the fight drained out of him like water pouring from an overturned cup.
Dr. Llwellyn’s blue eyes were diamond-hard daggers, drilling holes into Benny. “Are we quite done here?”
The little man silently, urgently nodded, despite the pain it caused.
“Good,” the elven doctor replied firmly, pointing at the dirty huddle that was Clyde “Now, take that pile of sewer refuse you call a companion, and leave! I never wish to see either of you again!”
“R-right, ‘guv!” Benny stammered, scrambling unsteadily to his feet. He grabbed his friend by the arm and hauled him upright. “C’mon, Cylde … we gotta go,” Benny said, keeping a worried gaze through swollen eyes at the doctor.
Clyde, still dazed from the pain, mumbled something unintelligible about Thorias. However, Benny seemed to understand.
“Not worth it, mate,” Benny said in a shaky voice. “Just not worth it. Ain’t never seen anyone so fast before. Not even an elf.”
Supporting each other, the pair staggered down the alley into the shadows. Once the pair were well on their way, Thorias flexed his sore hands before reaching down and picking up Clyde’s long-bladed knife. He glanced suspiciously with a professional eye at the light greenish coating along the blade, then knelt beside Angela to check on her wound. The monkey servitor shifted its weight, watching the doctor with glowing amber eyes.
Angela, who had scooted away from the fight, had yet to change back to her human form. Fur protruded out from the cuffs of her blouse and covered her half-human, half-canine appearance. However, her all too human eyes were filled with pain, watching the doctor with a touch of awe.
The werewolf girl clutched at the blood-stained tear in her dress, approximately where the knife had laid open the ugly gash in her leg. Next to her, the monkey servitor chattered mechanically, tilting its head at the doctor.
“Did you apply the ointment?” Dr. Llwellyn asked, ignoring the servitor and concentrating on Angela.
“Doctor,” Angela said, amazed, “how did you do that? I’ve never seen anyone move so fast.”
Thorias gave her a mildly irritated look for ignoring what he considered to be a very important medical-related question. “It’s nothing. I was on the fencing team in college. It’s how I keep fit.” He sighed, “now about that ointment, did you apply it?”
“Yes, Doctor,” the young girl answered with the hint of a sniffle. “It stings a little. My leg is stiff, but the pain is less.”
“Good girl,” Thorias replied. “That’ll have to do until I can take a moment to examine what is on this knife.” The doctor said, gesturing with the unsheathed knife for emphasis.
The sounds of a living body being hit, followed by a hard grunt of pain caught Dr. Llwellyn’s attention. The doctor looked past the young lady and down the alley in concern. His concerned look changed to mild impatience, “Tonks! I say! Stop mucking about, and hurry up about it! We’ve got to find some shelter.”
Back down the alley, Tonks hammered one of the three brutes, a broad-shouldered man with a bent nose, knocking him backwards with a hard fist across the mouth. The bent-nosed thug grunted in pain, staggering sideways a step while Tonks gulped in the thin air. The pilot glanced at the two other thugs, both rolling on the cold, filthy alley with blood streaming from cut lips and broken noses.
“Oh, ‘hurry’ he says,” Tonks grumbled. He wiped the back of his hand across the stain of crimson oozing from his cut lip. Distracted, he failed to notice his most recent opponent lunge forward.
The pilot’s breath blasted out of him like a bellows as the thug’s shoulder hammered into him. Off balance, both men flew backwards against the haphazardly welded pattern of steel plates on a warehouse wall. They both bounced off and lumbered drunkenly away from each other a few steps, slightly dazed. Behind them, a forgotten wooden barrel fell over from the commotion, its heavy lid tumbling along the dirty ground of the alley.
It was Tonks who recovered first. He looked at the thug with a malicious smirk.
“Ya heard the doctor,” Tonks growled, reaching down to grab the thick oaken lid. “We got to hurry!”
At that moment, the thug swung around like a mad bull to face Tonks. However, before he could finish the motion, the Brass Griffin’s pilot swung the lid with both hands. The fire-hardened wood slammed into the side of the man’s head, spinning him around like a top. The brute crashed into the metal warehouse wall, then oozed to the ground.
Tonks spit out some blood from his cut lip, then dropped the lid next to the stunned man. He looked down the alley to where Thorias, now packed, was rummaging about in his shoulder bag. Next to him, Angela had stubbornly, slowly gotten to her feet with a hiss of pain.
“Now, I’m ready,” Tonks called out, rubbing his sore, bloodied knuckles.
“Hey!” The shout cut though the alley’s cold, thin air.
Tonks spun around immediately, ready for another threat. Further down the alley, Thorias looked up sharply, knife in his right hand, clean cloth in the other. Angela stumbled forward to lean on one of the doctor’s outstretched arms, curiously looking around for the source of the shout.
At the far end from all three, where the alley spilled out into the boardwalk to the cargo ships beyond, five figures – all tall men of various races – crowded into the opening. In the lead stood the orcish shopkeeper, Peter Fitzcarin.
“Hold it right there!” Peter ordered.
Thorias smiled, waving his right hand briefly in greeting. “Why, Sirrah Fitzcarin!”
Peter tensed noticeably, “Step away from the girl! Slowly! Both of ya keep yer hands where we can see ’em, eh?”
“Look out!” One of the men with Peter growled, “he’s got a knife on the girl!”
“What?” The doctor exclaimed in astonishment, then looked down at the knife in his right hand. “It’s not even mine!”
Swearing, Tonks turned and ducked as the five men drew pistols and opened fire. Fortunately, the shots were hasty and all went wide, bouncing off the steel walls to echo off into the alley. Before the smoke even cleared, Tonks launched down the alley towards a stunned Thorias and Angela, scooping up Thorias’ LeMat pistol along the way.
“Are you daft?” Thorias shouted angrily at the gunmen. “There’s a young girl here!”
“And you’ll not be taking any more of them!” Fitzcarin yelled back in a rage.
“Debate it another time, doctor! Run!” Tonks yelled, racing past then ducking around a corner.
Quickly, Thorias wraped the knife in the cloth, stuffing it into his bag. He gave Angela an apologetic smile.
“I must beg your forgiveness in advance, my dear,” he said quickly, scooping up Angela in his arms. She squeaked in alarm from being hauled off her feet, eyes wide in surprise. Folds of her skirt flew around them with the motion. The young werewolf clutched the brass monkey close as, spinning on his heel, the doctor bolted down the ally after Tonks.
“Don’t lose ’em!” Peter shouted, firing his Colt at the retreating figures.
Gunfire stabbed flame into the cold air. Bullets whined and buzzed angrily past the trio. They ran harder, faster, boots pounding the alley frantically. A few steps ahead of Dr. Llwellyn and Angela, Tonks turned another corner and nearly cheered for joy at the sight of a partially opened door to a warehouse.
The pilot shoved the door wide, holding it open for Thorias to carry Angela through the entrance. Once inside, Tonks quickly pushed the door shut, then slid a metal bolt into place.
“Should be secure enough here,” Tonks said putting an ear close to the door. “With luck, they’ll overlook us.”
Only a minute later, the pounding of footsteps sounded along the alley outside the door.
“They can’t have gone far!” Peter’s voice said from beyond the door. “Only place this alley leads is to the tanning shops. We’ll have ’em trapped!”
Tonks strained to listen as the footsteps echoed, then grew faint as their pursuers raced away. He exhaled when he realized he had been holding his breath. Suddenly, a flock of Icelandic seagulls squawked angrily and took flight in the warehouse rafters overhead. The unsettling sound was followed by a faint, soft creak of metal and wood.
“Mr. Tonks?” Angela whispered hoarsely.
Tonks glanced through the long shadows of the abandoned warehouse. Dr. Llwellyn had set Angela down ten feet away in a shadow-draped corner. The pilot quickly, and quietly, joined them.
“Hush, girl,” he replied, looking around, “somethin’ sent those gulls flying. Something tells me it wasn’t us. So we’re still not out of the woods, yet.”
“But Mr. Tonks …” Angela hissed urgently.
He glanced over at the young girl and nearly jumped in shock when he saw one of her hands covered in blood!
“Angela, were you shot? Where’s the wound?” Tonks asked, his words falling out of him in a tumble.
“It’s not me,” Angela said in a shaky voice. “My leg’s cut, but that’s it.”
“I say, old man,” Dr. Llwellyn interjected, after a shaky breath, “the lady’s right. The blood’s from me, not her.”
Tonks glanced over at the doctor who leaned shakily against the warehouse wall. The pilot had assumed the doctor was winded again, given the thin, bitterly cold air. However, he now realized his error.
The doctor clutched his right side, where something dark and wet glistened on his coat. Thorias gave Tonks a thin smile. “I hope, for all our sakes, we are alone in here … because I suspect you’ll be assisting me in a spot of surgery, Mr. Tonks. Only, I do think I’ll be taking the part of the patient.”
Thorias’ knees buckled, but Tonks reached out, catching the doctor before he fell to the floor. The doctor chuckled with a brittle voice. “Smashing start to our plan don’t you think? I wonder how the Captain is faring?”