The Revenge rocked gently while it cut through the clouds far over the North Sea. Rigging creaked with the complaints of age and exposure to the weather as the airship pushed towards the Scottish coast in the distance. The crew’s footsteps echoed about the deck. Down below, in the dark of the forward hold, it was quiet. Small gossamer clouds of dust drifted lazily on the air, like mythical will-o’-the-wisps skittering about in the gloom.
Shafts of dust-sprinkled light cut the darkness in wide bands across the forward hold. Peeking in from cracks in the hatch covers, it chased away the blackness that washed over the eclectic collection of crates. Some housed gleaming brass Gatling guns. Other boxes held tightly sealed glass bottles labeled ‘liver of sulfur’ that were filled with broken gray-white rocks. All sat next to rough, tan canvas bags bulging with flour and coffee.
Amid the bags of flour, Angela jerked abruptly awake as she instinctively realized she was in an unfamiliar place. Her natural werewolf impulse to watch and wait kept her motionless while her ears – as she was still in the shape of a brown-furred werewolf – twitched, alert for any movement nearby. Gradually, the rest of her mind became alert, awakening from the deep sleep.
When she heard nothing more than the creak and groan of the surrounding ship, she shifted position. She was still dressed in the torn rags of her blue dress. The previously fashionable travel outfit was ripped enough that while it barely covered her modesty, it certainly did not pass for ‘appropriate’ or ‘acceptable’ in any company she understood. It was then Angela noticed the pair of dark iron manacles latched in place on her ankles! A metal chain ran from a loop on the manacles to a loop bolted into the wall of the hold itself!
She struggled to breathe against the rising tide of raw panic, while clawing at the manacles frantically. Quickly realizing the metal restraints were stronger than her claws, Angela gripped the chain they were attached to, and pulled frantically in a desperate attempt to free the chain from the wall. However, the chain held fast. At long last, Angela stopped hectically pulling at the chain. Slowly, she wilted into a furry, rag-covered ball and sobbed uncontrollably.
“Wouldn’t go wastin’ any more strength,” a familiar voice rasped weakly.
“Mr. Tonks!” Angela replied, almost shouting, sitting bolt upright. She sniffed the air experimentally, squinting in the gloom.
“Over here,” Tonks replied from a drape of shadow, his voice rough. A few feet away from Angela, off to her right, he moved in the darkness at the edge of her vision.
The werewolf spun around in a tangled rattle of metal links. She tried to cross over to him but was stopped short of being able to touch the Brass Griffin’s pilot when the chain went taught. Snarling angrily, she jerked at the chains, then finally sat where she was with a frustrated, broken sigh.
“Where are we?” the girl asked, choking back a sob. “Why are we here? Is it the Fomorians?”
In the shadows, Tonks nodded. He shifted his weight, and Angela heard the pilot’s own chains rattle.
“Slow a bit … one question at a time, now,” Ian replied, again in that rasped voice. “Best I know, we’re aboard the Revenge. Bound for where, I couldn’t tell ya.”
“The Revenge?” Angela interrupted in shock. “How? In the infirmary, I heard that Captain Clark, the older one who came in with Captain Hunter, tell Dr. Llwellyn that the Revenge was all ‘buttoned up for the ball’ … or something like that. He said all the Fomorians had been locked up there.” She hesitated, then gestured at the hold with quick sweeping motion of her right hand, “I mean here.”
Ian shook his head. “Couldn’t tell ya how. All I know is that we’re aboard the Revenge. I’ve overheard the crew enough to learn that.”
“But why?” Angela said, the undertone of despair tugging at her voice. “I don’t have the monkey servitor! I don’t even know where it is now!” She gestured frantically around her. “They even have the formula. Why take me? So what if I am a werewolf, why me? Why you, too? What did you do to them?” Taking a deep breath after her tumble of words, she let it out slowly with a ragged sigh, “It just went all so wrong. I just wanted to get Mother back.”
Tonks shifted his weight again, rattling the heavy chains. “Hush now, none ‘o that,” the pilot said gently. “Chin up now, we’ll see it through. Honestly? I don’t entirely know why they want ya, though from the way they’ve been talkin’, yer real important to them. I’m surprised they chained ya.”
“I think it’s cause they know I would claw them!” the girl replied venomously. “All of them! Until they set everything right!”
Tonks chuckled, “Ya chance is comin’, just hold out for it. As for me, I’m pretty sure I know why they took me. At least, I do since being questioned.”
An unexpected, cold chill ran down Angela’s spine when she looked over at the shadowy figure of her friend. She hesitated, her eyes searching the darkness. In the gloom, she could see the shape of Tonks; and something seemed off, but she could not tell what. Given the dust and tears that blurred her vision, she rubbed at her eyes with the back of her furred hand. “What do you mean?”
“They started the moment they pulled me from that infirmary aboard the Intrepid. All the beatings, all the questions. Ya see, Angela, it’s not about who I am. It’s more about who I was a few years back. One of them Fomorians knows me from then when I worked for the Special Irish Branch of Scotland Yard – though I hear they’re callin’ it the Special Branch now. At that time, we chased killers, anarchists and other very bad people. We were also helping protect people, too.”
Angela’s widened with imagined horrors of what Ian had gone through. “What did they want to know?” she asked in a dry whisper. “The Fomorians, I mean.”
“They were wantin’ ta know about the Special Branch,” Tonks explained. “How many were part of it, did they have any near Inverness, or Edinburgh… especially Edinburgh.” Tonks shook his head, and chuckled softly. His chuckle rattled heavily in his chest, then turned into a groan of pain. Slowly, Tonks recovered. “As if I’d know anything such as that after bein’ away for over a year,” he continued. “Though I’d say they were too interested in St. Giles’ Cathedral for my own likin’. From past dealings with anarchists, it means nothin’ good.”
“Where is St. Giles’ Cathedral?” Angela asked curiously.
“Edinburgh,” the pilot replied. “It’s the main cathedral for the Church of Scotland.”
“Do you think they would do something to St. Giles’ Cathedral?” Angela asked.
“I do,” Tonks replied. “It’s why I’m chained here in the state I’m in. I suspect they mean to do harm to the Cathedral and all in it. How this goes with your mother, and all that’s been going on, I can’t say yet.”
Angela squinted as her eyes cleared, and the shadows retreated before her canine enhanced vision. Before she could see Tonks very well, the pilot faced away from her, as he suspected she could now see him. The young girl sighed, “Mr. Tonks … whatever they did, I just know the doctor can help.”
The pilot chuckled dryly, “Not so sure this time, girl.” Slowly, he turned back around to face Angela.
The werewolf jumped in surprise, a gasp catching in her throat. “Oh, Mr. Tonks …”
Ian’s face was battered, marred by bruises and cuts where he had been savagely beaten. His face was sallow, with dark bags beneath his eyes. “They beat me soundly, no two ways about that, while they questioned me. An old friend – who’s now fallen in with the Fomorians – is the one who said I’d know plenty about the Special Branch and where they operated. He’s even the one that suggested usin’ the elixir on me.”
Angela shuddered, but kept her comments to herself. She remembered the effects of the elixir all too clearly.
The pilot looked off into the darkness, reliving the memories, “Quick as a wink, they forced that hellish drought down my gullet. That was when I went through hell.” He paused, staring off into space, lost in his thoughts. “I’m cravin’ that damnable poison now … I won’t take it though. I mustn’t. I know the more I drink, the harder it’ll latch onto me.”
Angela looked away, tears welling in her eyes as she remembered Dr. Llwellyn’s words: the elixir was eventually fatal. The young werewolf cleared her throat, “I don’t crave it and I took it. The doctor kept giving me a medicine before I tried it. Maybe … maybe the doctor still can help .…”
Suddenly, Tonks lifted a hand. “Wait … I heard somethin’. Hush a moment.”
Turning her head, the young werewolf rotated her ears one way, then another, searching for what Ian heard. After a few seconds she, too, heard it: a conversation above them.
“How does she sail, Herr Moore?” Peter Bauer asked in a conversational tone.
At the sound of Peter Bauer’s voice, Angela clenched her fists, barely suppressing a low growl. Tonks waved a hand for her to keep still.
“Settle down,” the pilot admonished her, “now just who’s that?”
The young werewolf glared in the direction of the voice. “His name is Peter Bauer. He … he was one of the ones who attacked the Fair Winds. He took my mother!”
“Aye, well enough. The wind’s at our back and the gas bags are tight. I’d say we’ll make Inverness in two hours. We’ll nip on over to Culloden Moor just after, then we touch down.” the voice called Moore replied. “Oh, and good on ya for the new rank … ‘Captain’,” the man’s smirk was obvious in his tone.
“Danke, Herr Moore,” Peter Bauer replied evenly, “The Revenge will sail much more smoothly without that waste of a man at her helm. Has any word come from Dr. Hardy?”
“Just to bring the girl straight on,” Moore replied. “He’s needin’ a sample of her blood and the actual formula. He’s still thinkin’ that the secret o’ werewolves not sufferin’ the cravin’ is in their blood.”
“My blood?” Angela hissed in a panic to Tonks.
“Hush,” Ian replied quietly.
“And his other project?” Bauer inquired.
“Word now is that he’s figured the mix right. He’s been makin’ a gas out of his batch of Hellgate formula like clockwork,” Moore explained. “Calls it ‘Mustard Gas’, he does, supposedly cause of the smell. He’s been testing it on some of them prisoners we caught recently.”
Bauer muttered angrily under his breath. “Dummkopf! We need them to finish the airships and the bunkers! We have to be ready by the end of November or we lose the only chance until next year!” Still muttering, Bauer stormed off across the deck, demanding an opti-telegraphic while Moore followed at the captain’s heels.
While the two men walked away, Tonks hunched forward in thought, “End of November and St. Giles’ Cathedral. That rings more’n a single bell.” Suddenly, the pilot grunted as realization struck him. “Cor, I’m bleedin’ stupid. That’s St. Andrew’s Day when the Queen selects new members to be knighted into that Order of the Thistle,” he explained.
“The Queen?” Angela asked wide-eyed. “Her Majesty?”
“Aye, the very one,” Ian said with a small nod. “St. Giles’ Cathedral is where the Order has its sanctuary. The new members of the Order are selected on the thirtieth of November, but are sworn in during the followin’ year by the Queen. It’s a big do, good bit of Parliament is there. If they put a bomb there, depending on when they set it off …” His words trailed off to an uncomfortable silence. He glanced over at Angela with a shocked expression, his pale, bruised face looking suddenly like a death mask, “I think the Fomorians are after the Crown!”