The gleaming, thin blade quivered in the wood like an angry snake, mere inches from Captain Hunter’s thigh. Two oranges tumbled off the pyramid of citrus in a race to the floor. Immediately beyond the fruit, the shopkeeper, a portly man with a normally jovial face, turned a sickly shade of white, staring in dread at the lethal weapon shivering ominously in his produce crate.
“Now isn’t the time to discuss this, Clark! Move!” Captain Hunter exclaimed as he raced out of the booth with Clark close on his heels. A few seconds later, Peter Bauer and his two Fomorian companions tore through the booth after them.
Hunter and Clark dove into the crowd, quickly putting as many people between them and the Fomorians as possible. By the time the two captains had reached the antiquities merchant and surrounding booths, Bauer and the Fomorians had quickly lost sight of their quarry. Anthony shoved Clark, who was still complaining, into the merchant’s booth and hauled him behind a large cask, supposedly containing a well-aged bourbon.
“This’ll never work!” Clark exclaimed.
“It has to, if we’ve ever a chance to get clear.” Hunter snapped back. “John, you wanted me to trust you before you hurled us both into the teeth of that propeller, and I did. This time, I need you to trust me. If this is to work, you must.”
Clark frowned, staring at the floor, wrestling with his imagined horrors. After a moment, he met Hunter’s gaze and nodded. “Fair enough. So, how do we cast this net of yours, eh?”
“We lure them in, then once caught inside the booth, one of us catches them from behind.” Hunter explained quickly. “You have the satchel, so I’ll get their attention. That will leave you a chance to work.”
Black Jack considered that a moment, “as long as you keep ’em busy, I can catch ’em unawares.”
Anthony eased out beside the cask, keeping to the shadows of the tent as best he could. Out in the crowd, the three Fomorians were clustered in a knot. None looked at all pleased. Bauer seemed the most incensed. After a brief discussion, the trio split up, with Peter Bauer stalking off through the crowd while the other two meandered in the direction of the tents concealing Clark and Hunter.
“They’ve divided up the search,” Hunter told Clark, “Bauer is off in the other direction, which just leaves the other two.”
Suddenly the shopkeeper, an older Charybdian dressed more as a gentleman of means in his Prince Albert suit than a simple shopkeeper hidden away in the underbelly of a relay station, walked around the side of the cask. His greenish, reptilian-scaled hair-tendrils were smoothed back, giving his face a more angular appearance. Reminds me of a shark, Hunter thought, stepping back in surprise.
“Might I be of assistance … Gentlemen?” the antiquities merchant asked, his Portuguese accent held a note of suspicion.
Captain Hunter smiled pleasantly, “No need. Just browsing while waiting for someone, actually. Quite good of you to ask, though.”
“Yer not the help they’ll be needin’,” said a rough voice behind the shopkeeper. “Now go find somethin’ to peddle!”
Behind the Charybdian, the two Fomorian thugs slowly navigated the stacks of wine bottles and other exotic items, making their way towards Hunter and Clark. Quickly, Hunter stepped in their path, buying time for the shopkeeper to dart out of the way. Quietly, John ducked down and slipped around the far side of an enormous liquor cask.
“Had enough o’ you two,” the closer of the two Fomorian’s snarled, drawing a knife. “Should’a killed you when we had the chance.”
Captain Hunter braced himself for a fight, but held his ground, “in here? Really? As I understand it, your crew sells to the merchants here. How would they react to you devastating one of the booths?”
“We were told ta watch what we did here, Jessup,” the second Fomorian said.
Jessup, the Fomorian with the drawn knife, shrugged. “So we lose a few merchants. More spring up every day. The ‘Square is crawlin’ with ’em.” An ugly smile crept over his flat face, “besides, what’s a little blood, eh? Give the junk here … ‘character’.”
A hiss of metal against leather cut the air just before Clark popped up behind Jessup with a drawn Bowie knife. He pressed the sharpened blade against the side of the Fomorian’s neck. “Just what I was thinking!” John said with an impish smile. “Now, drop the toothpick.”
Jessup hesitated a moment, then let the knife fall from his grip. It clattered to the metal floor with a sharp rattle. The instant the weapon struck the floor, Hunter rushed forward, taking weapons from both Fomorians and tossing them aside.
The captain then recovered his own pistol from the thug’s belt. “I’ll take that back, Sirrah,” he said.
Clark chuckled, “Well! It actually worked to catch ’em in here!”
Anthony smiled in reply to Black Jack’s comment, instinctively checking the ammunition in his Schofield. The captain hesitated as from the corner of his eye he saw something on a nearby table.
Laying on the table, draped in Highland wool, was a dirt-stained bag quite literally falling apart. Next to the bag was a pair of ancient leather-bound books and two leather tubes capped in a tarnished brass. The tubes were sealed with a small tarnished eagle, its wings spread above a series of Latin characters.
Captain Hunter frowned as a memory stirred. “The Roman legion’s eagle standard. Angela’s message mentioned a ‘sealed Aquila’. I wonder if she meant: ‘a seal styled as an Aquila’. Like one the Roman legion might have used?”
The sharp click of the cocking of a revolver’s hammer rang in the captain’s ears as loud as any cannon. Hunter spun around, raising his Schofield only to find himself staring down the barrel of the gleaming single-action pistol in Peter Bauer’s hand. People outside the tent screamed and shouted in alarm, running frantically away from the German. Inside the tent, the second Formorian quickly recovered his own sidearm from the floor and aimed it at Captain Clark.
Clark’s eyes darted between Peter Bauer and the Fomorian with the drawn pistol. He checked the grip on the knife held against Jessup’s neck. “It had worked,” he groused under his breath.
“Ah, mein Kapitän, I am not stupid. I know Market Square like the back of my hand,” Bauer said coldly with an evil smile. His eyes, still blackened from where Hunter had broken his nose, glittered like an excited snake. “I suspected you might be in one of these tents …with the other relics. Now, your weapon. Place it on the floor.”
“It seems we’re at an impasse,” Hunter replied coldly as he relaxed his grip and set his revolver at his feet.
The former first mate smiled, “Oh, nein. I see no impasse. Just more distractions, which are about to be quickly resolved. Come, mein Kapitän, you’re delaying the inevitable. There is nowhere to turn. Already more of mein crew … mein real crew … are hurrying to join us here. Now.”
Suddenly, a bullet ripped the revolver from Bauer’s hand! Swearing, the German stepped back in shock, grabbing his sore wrist as the revolver clattered against the metal floor.
“Cap’n!” Moira shouted from between two tents, ten yards away, “Ya whole?”. In her hands she held her twin pair of revolvers. A trail of smoke drifted lazily from the barrel of the right one. Partially hidden behind some barrels, and no more than a few feet from Moira stood Conrad O’Fallon, holding a rifle aimed at four badly bruised and bloodied Fomorians lying face down with their hands behind their head. Krumer knelt by each one, methodically lashing their wrists with lengths of rope.
“These boys be yours then?” O’Fallon called out with a bright grin below a newly bruised eye, “Ah think they need a sawbones. I might’a broke one or two of ’em.”
Anthony smiled and gave a small wave. “Quite fine, Moira. Glad you could join us!”
“Wouldn’t miss it, Cap’n!” the Brass Griffin’s lady blacksmith replied cheerily.
The former first mate turned with a nasty glare at Hunter. Bauer started to take a step, but instead glanced back at Moira. The young lady gave the Fomorian a sweet, innocent grin as if to say she would not miss the next time. Disgruntled, the man remained where he was, glaring daggers at Anthony.
“Sirrah Bauer,” Hunter replied with a smirk, quickly recovering the revolver at his feet. “I believe your real crew sadly wishes to convey their regrets. It seems they might be a tad delayed.”