Warm clouds of mist rolled up from the floor, drifting past the front door of the pub and in between Captain Anthony Hunter and Peter Bauer, the mutinous first mate of the Revenge. The captain’s eyes were locked with Bauer’s; Hunter’s look was like ice, Peter’s triumphant and mocking. The first mate held the knife low, out of sight of most anyone walking by, but well within the edge of the captain’s vision.
“We are wasting time, Kapitän,” Peter Bauer said, his voice dripping with a smug sneer, “we have a very tight schedule to keep, and you are interfering with it.”
“It’s a talent I have,” the captain replied with an even, almost casual smile. Inwardly, Hunter’s mind raced, looking for the smallest opportunity for escape as one of the Fomorians took his revolver.
Bauer nodded in a direction away from the pub, towards a dark side passage from the booths and bright activity. “That way, mein Kapitän. We would not want to make a mess of the floor plates, ja? Someone would have to clean it.”
The captain stepped aside, gesturing ahead of him, “after you, Sirrah.”
The former first mate quickly palmed his knife to hide it before anyone outside the small group noticed. Peter glared at Hunter. “Oh no, after you … I insist,” Bauer said, putting a cold emphasis on the final two words.
Anthony shrugged slightly then walked ahead. Behind him, one of Bauer’s accomplices yanked the satchel from Captain John Clark’s hands.
“Oi!” the captain exclaimed while he lunged desperately for the satchel and its valuable contents. Immediately, he was rewarded for his efforts with a punch to the stomach that ripped his breath away.
“Enough o’ that,” one of the thugs growled, quickly glancing around to see if anyone in the crowd noticed before pressing the hard steel knife against Clark’s stomach, “or I’ll gut ya here and now.”
“Piss off!” Clark spat back hoarsely between coughing fits.
The thug took Clark’s revolver then shoved John hard in Hunter’s direction. The scarred captain stumbled forward, but caught himself before he ran headlong into Anthony. Captain Hunter caught Clark by the arm, helping him upright.
“Making friends, I see?” Hunter quipped. “I’d be more choosy if I were you.”
“I’m thinkin’ he likes me,” John replied with a wheeze of air. “We might try havin’ high tea.”
“Remember to check for poison,” Hunter said with a smirk.
“Both of ya, shut it and move!” The Fomorian sailor snarled.
After a hard shove of encouragement, Clark and Hunter walked ahead of the Fomorians. The group slowly navigated the crowds quietly until John managed to close the small gap between himself and Hunter.
“Might could take Bauer, maybe one of his dogs, but the third would have me,” Clark whispered.
“Understood,” Hunter replied. Suddenly, he recognized a figure in the crowd: the man he had seen carrying the bolts of cloth earlier.
He was a large man, just a few inches over six feet, with a tumble of tawny-colored hair atop his round head. Thick shoulders stretched the blue cotton shirt worn under his stained shopkeeper’s apron. The man carefully navigated the crowd in their general direction while struggling to keep his bolts of cloth from falling.
Captain Hunter smirked, “I need a proper distraction.”
“Now that’s a task right up me river,” Captain Clark replied with a determined look.
Without any warning, Clark paused to allow a lady carrying an overloaded basket of fresh bread to pass, giving her a gracious smile. Behind him, Bauer rolled his eyes. Catching the look, John turned to face his former first mate, while Captain Hunter quietly stepped to one side.
“Doesn’t surprise me a mutineer like yourself can’t suss out the need for some manners,” John said sourly. “You got a snake’s chance in Ireland o’ gettin’ off Port Signal.”
“Be quiet,” Bauer replied, gesturing for Captain Clark to keep walking.
John, however, had no such inclination to cooperate. Instead, he remained where he was in the middle of the walkway. Folding his arms over his chest, his sour look now mixed with a scornful one. “Wilhelm’s sure to catch you at the Revenge before you cast off. He’ll get the Whirling Strumpet out an’ run you to ground. Which is more’n you bloody wankers deserve, eh?”
Peter Bauer glared back at his former captain, even the slightest pretense of civility gone from his demeanor. “I told Herr doctor you were a mistake! I warned him to let you to rot on that penal colony. Did he listen? Nein! You are an addled waste of a man. Once we kill you, it will be a pleasure to kill your wife and son. Three less mules to manage.”
Clark’s eyes turned murderously hard, “this mule’s got a kick!” In a flash, Black Jack’s right fist lashed out, hammering into Bauer’s face.
The German tried to block, but did not get his hands up in time. His head rocked back as Clark’s fist left a welt across the Fomorian’s right eye. Before Clark could swing again, however, Bauer grabbed the man by the collar and jerked him close.
“Oh, you’ll pay for that, grub,” the former first mate snarled.
While Captain Clark and Bauer argued, Captain Hunter edged a step closer into the path of the man with the cumbersome bolts of cloth. The shopkeeper adjusted the stack of cloth on his shoulders, then made to carefully sidestep the knot of men, which was a complicated goal considering he could not quite see where he was walking.
At the moment he took a step, Hunter turned abruptly into the shopkeeper’s path. With a cry of surprise, the man lost his grip on his burden, and bolts of Highland wool spilled out of his hands and into the midst of the group. Anthony tried to help, however the captain’s ‘help’ only succeeded in showering heavy bolts of cloth down upon their kidnappers.
“‘Ere now, what’s all this?” the shopkeeper’s booming voice echoed around the group as he saw one of the drawn knives. “thievery? In broad day?”
Several other patrons of the square stopped, and three well-meaning sailors stepped closer. The largest of these, a hard-eyed, dark-skinned Moor, dressed in a long wine-tinted coat and dark trousers, grabbed one of the Fomorians by an arm. His black eyes bored holes into the Fomorian sailor, “explain yourselves! And quickly!”
The Fomorians exchanged a glance, and Peter Bauer made to speak, but Captain Hunter cut him off.
“My apologies, Sirrah, there just is too much. Allow me to be brief,” Hunter replied, then spun sharply on his heel, hammering his clockwork left fist against Peter Bauer’s face!
The former first mate’s nose gave a sickening crunch as it flattened against his face at an odd angle. Bauer stumbled back as the newcomers around the group jumped, startled. In the center of the chaos, John also turned, slamming a fist into the face of another Fomorian, instantly splitting his lip. The last of their captors lunged with his knife, narrowly missing Captain Clark as he danced aside.
Even though the knife missed the intended target, it cut a neat hole in the sleeve of the Moor’s wine-colored long coat. The sailor spun around immediately, producing a savage looking knife that curved gently from the hilt to a needle-sharp tip. The mahogany grip practically gleamed the lurid color of dried blood in the light.
“I believe I understand all I need to!” the Moorish sailor growled before lunging at the closest Fomorian.
Quickly, Hunter stepped out of he fray, “Clark! Step lively!” Anthony called out before ducking into the crowd.
John slammed an uppercut into the midsection of the nearest Fomorian, doubling the thug over. The man gasped in pain, falling to his knees, his knife clattering to his feet followed by Captain Clark’s canvas satchel.
“Right behind you!” Clark replied, scooping up the satchel and racing after Hunter.
The two men dodged through the crowd, running towards a cluster of booths stacked with wooden crates which gently held small pyramids of fruit. At the first crate, the two captains paused. Clark pulled open the satchel to check its contents while Hunter glanced back the way they had come.
Behind them, Hunter watched as the Fomorians were making quick work of the newcomers that had tried to help Clark and Hunter. Peter Bauer was already glancing around in search of any clue as to the two captain’s whereabouts. Around the fight, the crowd was starting to thin as the bravest of their number were laying in a groaning heap on the floor.
“We can’t keep running,” Clark said slightly out of breath and looking around at the fruit seller’s shop, “the Square’s not all that large and the station’s only so large. They’ll eventually catch us in a corner.”
Captain Hunter watched as Bauer withdrew a small flask from a pocket, taking a short drink from it. Momentarily, Anthony was sure he saw Bauer’s face flush a deep red before the former first mate shuddered as if suddenly cold. Slowly, the bruising faded a shade from Bauer’s broken nose.
“That elixir also compounds the problem,” Anthony commented to his companion. “It’s the source of their abilities. Yet, they can’t fully use it here,” Captain Hunter glanced around at the nearby shops. “We can use that, provided we select the battleground. We need our surroundings working to our advantage, not theirs.”
John Clark frowned, “I see where you’re steerin’, but there’s not a place down here with enough stout bars to cage them monsters, especially when their drink’s on ’em.”
Anthony smiled as through the crowd he saw a booth selling ‘rare antiquities’, among which was a collection of wine of some unknown vintage. Bottle upon fragile bottle was stacked neatly at the entrance. He glanced over at Clark, indicating the wine booth. “Then my good man, we use a gilded net to slow them down.”
Captain Clark’s eyes widened as understanding dawned upon him, “They call me balmy! Trap them in there? You’re as mad as a bag of ferrets if you think a bunch of old wine bottles will keep ’em on their best behavior!”
Suddenly, a knife slammed into the wooden crate between the two captains. Both men jumped back from the weapon as it sat there, quivering from the force of the throw.