A half hour later, with the first hint of snow blowing in the stiff wind that buffeted the station, Tonks opened a door to a single room on the second floor of the Crow’s Wing Boarding House. Following the pilot were Thorias, then Angela and her clockwork monkey. Thorias walked into the room, face drawn with fatigue. Only once in the doorway did he misstep, however Angela was immediately by his side for support.
The Crow’s Wing Boarding House was an older establishment, dating back from the initial inception of Port Signal itself, and situated near one of the station’s steam exhaust vents. The interior was a two story wooden frame building with well-stained wooden walls insulated by thick layers of straw. Outside, the metal plates were often soot-stained, save for the front, which leaned toward a recognizable shade of green with blue trim.
The rooms the trio had rented were small and square, with just enough space for two beds, each with their own small dresser. A single water closet was all the room had to offer for washing.
“Angela, your room is next to this one,” Tonks explained. “Rosa wanted me to make sure you knew that if you needed anything, to let her know.”
The young girl, now visibly human instead of werewolf, helped guide Thorias over to a bed where he could slowly sit down. Her clockwork squirrel monkey raised its arms and walked along behind them, mimicking Angela.
“Oh? All right.” She replied with a small nod. Once the doctor was seated, she interlaced her fingers nervously, “Sirrah Wilkerson? Does she know about my,” she hesitated over the word, “condition?”
Ian smiled reassuringly, his hazel eyes twinkling, “only if ya need her to. If ya do, Rosalita can keep secrets like the best of us.”
Thorias cast a curious glance at Tonks. “That begs a crucial inquiry then. How well can we trust this ‘Rosalita’ of yours? I take it you know her quite well?”
“Si, I should say he does!” A woman’s voice interrupted, thick with a Spanish accent, as she breezed into the room. Rosalita was a short, stout woman, with thick raven-black hair tied up in a smart bun on the back of her head. She was all of five foot tall, with a tanned round face and twinkling dark eyes.
The proprietor walked over to one of the dressers, where she deposited a collection of ointments and bandages. “It was such a whirlwind when he appeared, much as he does right now, battered and bruised. Only then, it was in garden of my father’s hacienda. In the spring of 1883.” Rosalita grinned with a wink at Angela, “he scaled the wall, you see.” Angela glanced over at Tonks who was slowly turning red-faced from embarrassment.
“Thank you my dear lady,” Thorias with a grimace as his side acted up again. “However, I do have ointment with me. I am a doctor …”
“Hush,” Rosalita interrupted. “You do not have enough. I know such things.” She put her hands on her hips and fixed a dark-eyed look at Thorias. “He is battered – which he likely deserves – and you are bleeding. Which means you will change your bandages, Si? I cannot have a handsome doctor come to harm under my roof!”
“I, well, yes, I see,” Thorias sputtered nervously, words failing him.
“So what happened?” Angela asked quickly, sitting down on the foot of one of the beds, the clockwork monkey jumping up behind her. She glanced at it, then back to Rosalita. “With you and Sirrah Wilkerson, I mean?”
“Oh, him,” Rosalita said waving a dismissive hand, while Ian looked flustered. “It was such lovely evenings, dinner in the garden, chasing the anarchists across Madrid, a sword fight atop the cathedral! Then finding the bomb they planted at last. He was so dashing.”
“Rosa …” Ian said with an exasperated tone.
“All dressed in his suit, and even once his uniform, chasing those anarchists.” The proprietor said, ignoring the pilot. “Russians I think, though it was three years or so ago. It was so exciting!”
“Rosa,” the pilot repeated more earnestly.
Rosalita waved another dismissive hand. “Ignore him, he’ll say ‘it was nothing’. Though, in the end we did catch them. Ah but after that, such lovely days we had. I asked him to marry me not long after.” She explained with a grin.
Angela’s eyes went wide, “So you were married?”
“No! Heavens no,” Rosalita said with a shake of her head. “Father would not allow it, not that it mattered, as I was going to drag Ian to the alter anyway to make everything honest. Oh no,” the woman turned and wagged a finger at the broad-shouldered Tonks, “he was not ready! He had a ‘duty to Britannia’, he told me. So I sent him away until he was! As you can see, he is still not ready.” She shrugged with a smile for Angela, “So, I will wait a little while longer.”
Tonks rubbed his eyes wearily, then ran a hand through his short-cut blonde hair. “Doña Alvares,” he said in defeated tone.
“Si?” Rosalita said with a bright smile.
“Wouldn’t ya be interested in showin’ Angela her room?” Ian asked hopefully. “After all, she’s had a tryin’ time.”
With a grand gesture, Rosalita put her arms around Angela, guiding her up off the bed and towards the door. “Most certainly! Come señorita, let us leave the hombres to their talk. I will show you your room, and we can continue the story there.”
Angela glanced at Tonks, then to Thorias with a worried look.
Tonks smiled reassuringly, “it’s fine, Angela, yer plenty safe. I’m the only one who’s in trouble with Rosa.”
Rosalita quirked an eyebrow at the pilot then sniffed. “Ignore him, Angela. He is still upset I shot him once. It was all an accident. Come, I’ll tell you that story, too, while we see your room.”
“Once you’ve seen it, do come back here straightaway, Angela,” the doctor said, “I want to check the gash on your leg and bandage it properly.”
“Yes, doctor,” Angela replied, before turning her attention back to the proprietor.
Lost in conversation, Rosalita guided Angela from the room, shutting the door behind them. Once they were gone, Thorias sat up and slowly stripped away his coat, then his bloodstained shirt.
“Fascinating company you keep, Sirrah,” the doctor said with a wry smile. “Quite brazen, if I do say so.”
“Brazen,” Ian snorted with a small laugh, removing his dirty woolen coat and dropping it on the nearby bed. “Don Alvares has four daughters and two sons. Rosalita Elsa Santiago Alvares is the most headstrong of them all, which only means she takes after the Don himself,” Ian explained with a sigh. He then shook his head as if to dislodge the thought from his mind. Putting his hands behind his back, he slowly paced the room. “Ya realize havin’ her sleep alone puts her at risk. She needs to be where we can watch over her.”
“Having a young lady in the same room with two gentlemen is unseemly,” Thorias replied sternly. “It’s not proper.”
“Neither is letting her get drug off from her room while we’re languishin’ about over here,” Tonks retorted. “Fine, fine, she gets her own room. I’ll sleep in a chair outside it to make sure no one bothers either of ya.”
“After the beating you took?” The doctor asked dubiously.
“I’ve been through worse,” Tonks said irritably. “No one’s tried to tie a bomb to me yet. I can handle guard duty for a bit.”
“My apologies, Ian,” Thorias said taken a little aback. “I didn’t mean to imply you couldn’t. I was merely concerned for your health. A rap on the head is something I take seriously.”
After a moment, the pilot sighed, as if trying to expel his frustration, “Sorry for bein’ a bit snappish. No offense.”
“None taken, it’s been a hell of a day,” the doctor replied. “Still, when time permits, best we check to make sure nothing’s broken.”
“We’re in quite the spot of spot of trouble, eh?” Ian said with a dry laugh, changing the subject. “Who, or what was that in the warehouse? What were those blokes on about before that? Ya’d think we pinched somethin’ from Peter Fitzcarin’s store. Just all that comin’ at us at once. An here I was thinkin’ the Cap’n was the distraction.”
Across the room, the doctor winced as he carefully checked his blood-stained bandages. “All too much coming at once, I say. The gentlemen in the alley? I wish I knew. That episode in the close still baffles me. As for the beast in the warehouse … that I believe I can speak for, unfortunately.”
“How are the bandages?” Tonks asked.
“Bloody,” the doctor replied, carefully standing up so not to make the throbbing pain any worse. “However, they did their job,” the doctor added, slowly rising from the bed. Crossing over to the dresser where Rosalita had placed the fresh bandages, he picked up one of the lengths of cloth and a bottle of ointment. “Pardon me, I need to change these,” the doctor said, indicating his side, before walking over to the water closet.
“Ya really ought to be back aboard the Griffin,” Tonks said after a moment’s consideration, “not running loose about the port.”
“No arguments there,” Thorias replied from the water closet, gingerly removing the old bandages. “However, the Griffin is a good distance from us now, and we’d lose valuable time which should be spent looking for those missing people. The way I see it, either we hold the line and keep looking, or trundle me like an invalid back to the ship and risk losing them. No thank you, Sirrah, I prefer to soldier on.”
Ian stopped pacing, considering this silently, running the various ramifications of what could happen through his mind. “It’s a damn fine bind we’re in, with no good way out.”
“I’ll do my best to keep up and not slow us down,” Thorias replied, using water in the wash basin to clean the wound.
“Thorias,” Tonks asked after a moment of quiet, “what do ya know about that thing in the warehouse? Who was that?”
The doctor hesitated on opening the ointment bottle, staring at the container a moment, “Not who, specifically. Closer to a … ‘what’ rather than a ‘who’.”
Ian frowned, “not sure I’m followin’.”
The doctor swabbed the ointment on his wound, then gingerly applied the fresh bandages around his torso, to pad it. “The ‘what’ is a Fomorian, or more properly ‘Formoiri’ to scholars. A mythological creature that normally lives in fables.”
“Punched rather hard for a myth,” Tonks replied in disbelief, taking up his slow pacing again.
“Quite,” the doctor replied. “Which is why I don’t believe this is the actual oppressive creature from myth, but rather something more tangible.” He gently secured the bandage, then surveyed his handiwork in the silvered mirror over the wash basin. “The Fomorians were a very cruel and dangerous people who lived thousands of years ago, bent on oppressing those around them: slavery, beatings, kidnappings. The stories from my boyhood are quite specific.
Thorias sighed heavily, a haunted look in his eyes. “My people were once called Tuatha Dé Danann, at least according to myth. They suffered under the Fomorians until a collection of heroes defied them, driving them into the sea.” The doctor hesitated, replaying the terrible moments from the warehouse over in his mind’s eye. “However, that all is just mythology. A children’s tale.”
The pilot stopped again, this time turning to face the doorway to the water closet. “So, if that’s the myth, then what was the real thing? An imposter?” The pilot asked with a shrug.
Thorias nodded, “yes, I think so. I’ve heard the term a few other times, many years back when I visited Galway City in Ireland. Only then it was used in reference to pirates plying their trade along the coastline, not the mythical monsters who make off with the unwary. I think our muscular adversary was more a pirate ‘borrowing’ the legend and the myth.”
Ian considered that a moment, “odd choice that, but I can see the sense of it. Ya set up as pirates, but these days piracy is hard to take seriously, what with the Royal Navy so up and active these days. So ya go borrow the reputation of these ‘Fomorians’, hoping to scare the wits out of whomever ya come across.”
Inside the water closet, the doctor checked the fresh bandages one last time, then placed the bloody ones in a nearby waste bin for later washing. He picked up his stained shirt, rejoining Tonks in the outer room. “Quite. Keeping one or two large lads on your crew also helps maintain the illusion. I suspect it was our ill-luck to encounter the biggest of the lot. Disturbing that he could shrug off gunshots, though.”
“If it was anyone’s luck to have to meet somethin’ like that, it’d be ours,” Tonks quipped. “Now, since he was wantin’ Angela and her clockwork monkey, we can say he’s one of them that scuttled the Fair Winds. I suppose we can ask after ‘Fomorians’ and see what comes up?”
Thorias nodded, “indeed. It also rings true for being a group with which John Clark would associate. One flamboyant enough, that is. So, where do we go from here? We need to learn more about them, without earning any more of their undivided attention.”
“Good question,” the pilot replied, frowning in thought. “We need an angle, a way to come at ’em that they won’t pay attention to.” He snapped his fingers, “could be askin’ after them to make a deal? Do some business? They’re sackin’ ships and pinchin’ cargo. Surely, they’ll be wantin’ to sell it?”
The doctor considered this, then slowly nodded. “But what goods? They want Angela, and I’m of no mind to trade her like some commodity.”
A series of rapid knocks on the door interrupted Tonks’ reply. While the pilot answered the door, Thorias held his blood-stained shirt out in front of him and shook his head sadly. “Here I am with no fresh shirt,” he sighed. “I suppose I’ll have to make do awhile longer.”
On the other side of the room, Tonks opened the door, barely having time to step aside while Angela rushed into the room with the monkey scurrying close behind. Remembering her manners, or sudden absence of them, she stood stock still, eyes wide.
“Oh! I’m sorry!” She blurted out quickly.
Thorias shook his head, and quickly slipped his stained shirt on. “It’s quite all right Angela. What’s the matter?”
“Outside! There are men outside the building,” the girl said in a tumble of words. “I heard them. They described you and Sirrah Wilkerson! They’ve surrounded everything! Some are even downstairs. We’re trapped! They seem quite angry!”
Ian and the doctor exchanged a glance. The pilot sighed, “seems we won’t have to go lookin’ for them, as they’ve come for us.”