The scream of the Intrepid’s general alarm echoed off the walls like the wail of a starving banshee. All over the ship, sailors – either sleeping in their hammocks or loitering below decks – reacted instantly to the call for Action Stations, racing to stow their hammocks and rush to their assigned duty station.
Dr. Llwellyn raced along below decks, running as fast as his legs could carry him through the crowded corridors. His face was stern, hard, but his mind raced with worry: concern for the injured in the infirmary, anxiety over the sailors and what they would do, and fear – specifically fear for Angela’s immediate future. The doctor had used every ounce of skill and innovation to flush that vile toxin from the girl’s body … and apparently he had failed. His breath burned in his lungs, and the wound in his side ached as he pushed himself harder.
From the midshipman’s rushed description, Thorias surmised that Angela had succumbed to that hellish Fomorian elixir. Tension gripped the doctor’s chest like a vice. He had lost patients before, made the wrong assumption that resulted in a deadly diagnosis. Physicians were mortal creatures, he knew that, and all made mistakes in their careers, however that was no salve to the mental wound. It hurt every time as if he was cut to the bone. The pain was doubly worse when the victim was a child. He shoved the thought aside, and abruptly pushed past a trio of sailors in the corridor.
“Step aside!” Dr. Llwellyn said firmly, “medical emergency!”
Thorias raced down a short set of wooden stairs, knowing the infirmary was not far ahead. Already he could hear cries of pain, angry shouts, and the howl of what could only be young Angela caught in the grip of the Fomorian elixir.
The Fomorians. Just the memory of them left a bitter taste in his mouth. Despite all he had recently learned, deep in his mind, the part of him that was a young boy growing up in Cardiff recoiled from the thought.
The stories were rich, involved, and often came with a moral lesson. Above all, they had taught that young elven boy one overriding truth: if there were monsters in the dark, unspeakable horrors coming for you in the night, they were the Fomorians. Once an adult, he had thought they were just fables, nothing more. A part of him desperately wished they had remained so.
The doctor burst through the last hatch leading to the corridor in front of the infirmary. Ahead of him a quartet of sailors were gathering into a firing line, loading their rifles frantically while beyond Angela – grown twice her original size with fangs and claws bared devilishly – snarled a challenge. Just past her, a sailor lay moaning on the ground, clutching his bloody arm. Another, whom Thorias recognized by the color of his rank as the Intrepid’s doctor, was trying to slowly ease forward to reach the wounded man.
Despite Angela’s stance, the doctor saw something else in her still human eyes. He saw the emotion of a scared young lady, desperately trying to be brave, even if she knew what was about to happen. He came to a quick stop.
“Stand fast!” the doctor ordered, his voice cutting through the chaos. Despite his command, the sailors continued to load their weapons. Furious, Dr. Llwellyn stormed forward, “Bloody hell, I said … stand … fast!” he repeated firmly.
The closest sailor, a tall midshipman with a long, thin face, scowled at the irate Welsh elven doctor in the gray waistcoat and trousers. “Under whose orders, eh?” the young man demanded.
“Mine,” Captain Thomas Clark said sternly from the hatchway, just slightly out of breath from running. “Do as he says, midshipman,” the captain continued in a sharp, commanding tone, “stand fast.”
“Aye, Cap’n,” the sailor replied, lowering his rifle. Quickly, the others next to him followed suit as Captains Clark and Hunter entered the corridor.
Dr. Llwellyn stepped through the group of sailors, who watched him suspiciously. Thorias ignored them. They were the least of his concerns at the moment. He walked several paces in front of the skirmish line towards Angela.
“Angela, take slow, deep breaths,” the doctor began, smiling gently and keeping his voice soft, “we need to be calm and rational about this. Now, child, can you still speak? Did your symptoms return? Do you have a fever?”
The young girl frantically shook her lupine head. She was entirely covered in fur, and sporting a bushy wolf-like tail, much as she always did when she changed. This time, however, the fur was thicker, and a darker shade of brown. Her height and form was larger, too. Before when she would transform, she often retained her own mass, remaining roughly her own height. Her weight would slightly increase, but that was due to the increase of muscle density.
This time, the change was more marked. Her height had grown to at least a foot more than normal, and her muscle strength and mass was double that of any average, healthy adult. The doctor noted the fear, anxiety, and no small measure of relief in her eyes as she rushed toward him. Despite the concrete knowledge that she would never hurt him, a small part of the doctor involuntarily tensed as the fur-covered, iron-muscled werewolf rushed over to him.
“No, doctor,” she rumbled as best as her strained vocal chords would allow, “not sym …symptoms.” Angela clenched her fists in frustration, emitting a low grow as she struggled with her unnaturally misshapen form.
Immediately, one of the sailors brought his Martini-Henry rifle to his shoulder, taking aim at the girl. Angela snarled, glaring at the sailor, ready to leap.
“Seaman!” Captain Clark snapped, as he stormed forward.
The sailor blinked, realizing his mistake, then spun to face the captain. “Cap’n … I … I didn’t mean to … I was just …”
Clark firmly took the rifle from the stammering man. “Precisely, you didn’t mean to put that young lady in mortal peril. Since you need time to reflect, you’re relieved of duty. The bos’n will be along to have a discussion with you, later. For now, stand aside.”
The sailor turned pale “Aye, Cap’n!”
As the sailor stepped away, Captain Clark gave Dr. Llwellyn a small nod, who returned it in kind. Thorias then put a hand on Angela’s arm, giving her a gentle squeeze. She stopped growling at the sailors and looked over at the doctor.
“Now, what do you mean, no symptoms?” Dr. Llwellyn asked, reaching down to check the girl’s pulse via her wrist. “The only thing I knew of was the poison lacing the knife wound in your leg.”
“No, sym’toms,” she rumbled. “Not like that. You have to come and help,” she grabbed the doctor by the arm and tugged, nearly pulling him off his feet. When he winced from the dull stab of pain in his ribs, she quickly let go. “a‘m sorry Doctor,” she rasped, embarrassed.
Captain Hunter pushed his way through the skirmish line with a concerned frown. “Angela, start from the beginning, what’s going on here?”
“Cap’n!” she exclaimed, grabbing Anthony in a hug that threatened to knock the wind out of him. Then, realizing her emotions had overcome her manners, she quickly jumped back a step. Captain Hunter was convinced she was blushing beneath all that fur.
He raised an eyebrow at the girl, but then gave her a small smile. “Quite alright. Now, just what happened, young miss?”
She grabbed the captain’s hand and tugged. “Hard to say. Words are hard. Come see, please!” the werewolf girl begged.
Hunter managed to keep his footing despite the werewolf’s instant tugging. “Pray show us, then,” Hunter replied following the doctor and the werewolf to the open infirmary door. “At least can you tell us how you got this way? If it wasn’t the poison, did someone do this to you?”
At the door, Angela hesitated, then shook her head. “No. I did it. I drank it,” she replied, slowly enunciating each word carefully. “I drank … one of … Doctor’s samples,” she explained, stepping out of the doorway, “I had to … men came and took Mr. Wilkerson … dressed like sailors but … they smelled wrong … just wrong! They took some others. They beat Captain Clark.”
Thorias was horrified, gently holding the furry girl by her shoulders, “Angela, that elixir … it is a poison of the most deadliest lineage, no matter what else it can do. But the ‘whys’ around this are not important, what is important is getting you better.”
“I’ll inspect the infirmary for more wounded, and see who else has been taken,” Hunter told the doctor. Thorias glanced briefly in the captain’s direction before turning his attention back to the girl.
Angela looked downcast, tears welling in her eyes. “They came in and started hurting people … I got mad … wanted to make them stop.” Overcome by emotion, stress, and the drug induced haze from the Hellgate elixir, Angela collapsed into a ball, huddled against the doorframe. Immediately, she began shivering as if terribly cold, then quietly she started sobbing as her inner resolve crumbled.
Quickly, Thorias grabbed a blanket within reach off the floor and draped it around the young girl and the tatters of her dress as, slowly, the elixir’s effects began to fade. Ever watchful, the doctor checked her eyes, clinically observing the dilation of the young girl’s pupils, then monitored her pulse and breathing. He shook his head in disbelief. “Angela? Listen to me. The elixir is wearing off, but it will be all right. You’ll feel cold and uncomfortable. That is normal. Just stay awake. Listen to my voice and stay awake.”
Angela closed her eyes as she shivered with teeth-chattering shakes as the doctor sat beside her. She nodded, then forced her eyelids open and replied, “yes … Doctor.” Dr. Llwellyn glanced past Angela to the Intrepid’s own ship’s doctor.
“Nothing fatal here, just some smart bruises and right ugly scratches,” the older man replied to Thorias’ unanswered question. “Looks like she’s coming off whatever she imbibed. See to the young lady and I’ll get some lads to help me patch this lot up.”
Thorias nodded in agreement, “very well. If you need an assist, let me know.”
“Naturally,” the Intrepid’s chief medical officer replied curtly.
While the two doctors spoke, Captain Hunter had stepped into the infirmary. Once he inside, the shock of the sight caused him to hesitate a step. The ship’s infirmary was normally a long room with enough space for a trio of bunks that folded up against the wall. A small desk, usually for the medical staff on duty, was towards the back of the room, set so that it would take as little space as possible. Along the walls, out of the way of the bunks, a series of cabinets meant to hold a well-ordered array of medicines were bolted into the wall.
The scene that greeted the captain was noticeably different. Of the three bunks, two were down, and only one still had an occupant: a bloody, battered sailor who, as best as Hunter could determine, was quite unconscious. The glass cabinet doors were shattered, with one door held by only one battered hinge. At the back, the small desk had been knocked about until broken in two from the abuse.
Anthony glanced around, and just as Angela had said, Tonks was nowhere to be seen. Neither were Peter Bauer or his associates – a thought that left Hunter rather uncomfortable, given what it had taken to capture them in the first place. Hunter filed that information away in the back of his mind, along with a list of questions as to why the attackers would abduct the Brass Griffin’s pilot. Even though Hunter did have some assumptions, he was not ready to entertain them just yet.
The captain stopped at the figure laying prone on one bunk. An ugly bruise decorated his forehead, along with a recently cut lip where he had been punched. Hunter’s medical knowledge was narrow at best, but he did check the man’s pulse, which was strong and steady despite the battering he had taken.
“One down in here Thorias,” Hunter called out, “looks to be one of the Intrepid’s surgeons, judging by uniform. I don’t see any of our people, or the Fomorians.”
“Right,” Dr. Llwellyn called back from the doorway, “be there soon. Making things stable out here at the moment. I’ll ask about Moira and the others. Quite likely they are elsewhere given the Fomorians were being held here. This area can accommodate only so many under lock and key.”
“Understood,” the captain replied. Then Anthony heard a grunt of pain, which led him to spot something at the far end of the room: a familiar pair of boots belonging to John Clark.