For the remainder of the voyage, the Revenge had sailed silently along her course; first to Inverness, then to Culloden Moor. There, she set anchor at an enclave hidden deep within the northern side of the moors, and nestled among the trees and mists like a predatory cat lying in wait.
Ian Tonks Wilkerson remembered little of the trip between the Revenge and the hidden compound carefully constructed in the highland bogs. One moment he had been in the hold, talking of escape plans and machinations with Angela, in the next moment the hold had been soundly gassed with some white fog, robbing both of them of consciousness.
It was some time later when Ian awoke, head throbbing as if a hammer were beating inside his skull. He hung suspended, face down, between two Fomorian sailors that half-carried, half-dragged him by his arms along an ancient stone hallway. Their nailed shoes echoed dully off the stone floor. The pilot blinked groggily, looking around.
The hallway stones were grayish-green, covered in a fine layer of moss formed over many long years of exposure. The air was damp, almost stagnant, as if there was little chance for wind to refresh the air, as if they were underground. Ian tilted his head, turning it slowly to look in front of him. Through the thick drape of shadows, he barely made out the hard lines of a stout, iron-bound cell door.
One of his captors, a sailor with a narrow pock-marked face, noticed Ian’s movements and laughed nasally. “‘Ere, ‘ere, look who’s awake! ‘Ave a nice sleep?”
“Get bent,” Ian replied with a dry rasp.
Both his captors laughed. The second one, with a swarthy complexion, replied first. “Yer gonna sing a new tune after some time in a cell under the doctor’s tender care. He’ll set yer thinkin’ right!”
Ian struggled a bit, which earned him a hard elbow to the side of his head that caused him to see stars. He fought desperately against the black wave of unconsciousness that threatened to swallow him whole, barely able to keep his mind about him.
“None o’ that now,” the first sailor growled. “Mind yourself, or we’ll ….”
A sudden chorus of wordless shouting punctuated the darkness. Abruptly, a man cried out, “Watch it! The chains came loose!” His words immediately devolved to a scream of pain. Then, as quickly as it began, the corridor ahead descended into an uncomfortable silence.
The two sailors holding Tonks paused, glancing at one another with suspicious concern. Hauling Ian upright, the larger of the two nodded down the corridor in the direction of the sound. “Go see what that was. He’s goin’ nowhere.”
“Why me?” the narrow-faced sailor complained.
His companion glared at him. “‘Cause I did it last time, when the prisoners stormed outta the cells.”
“Roit, roit …” the other sailor grumbled, still unhappy with the idea.
They leaned Ian up against the wall to slump lean with his back to the damp, mossy stone. The larger one pressed a hand to the pilot’s chest, pinning the man to the wall while the pilot’s eyes carefully kept track of both sailors. “Now, just keep yerself right there, and we’ll get along just fine,” the big Fomorian sailor said.
Ian said nothing in reply. Instead, he trained his gaze on the narrow-faced sailor in the faded blue shirt walking carefully down the corridor, who had just slipped his revolver from his belt. From the moment the pilot had regained consciousness, he had known he was too weak to overcome both men. One, however, was a very different situation entirely, provided he could catch the sailor off guard.
“Lose yer prisoners often?” Tonks asked in a raspy voice, his throat still slightly raw from the small dose of Hellgate elixir they had forced in him earlier.
The guard snorted derisively. “Dirty mob gets unruly sometimes when that damnable woman stirs ’em up.” Then, as the sailor realized who he was talking to, he quickly glared at Ian, “Shut it! Ya don’t need ta know that!”
“Just a question,” Tonks replied casually, glancing back towards the other guard.
At the far end of the corridor, the narrow-faced sailor cautiously approached a shadowy corner. The man’s features were tense, on edge. He peered into the darkness, then around. Suddenly giving a sharp cry, he jumped backwards, squeezing the trigger rapidly. Gunfire stabbed the darkness, punching hot bullets wildly into the shadows from which a lithe figure rushed forward.
Jerking his hand away from his captive’s chest, Ian’s guard reached quickly for the revolver at his waist. His hand never made it, as the pilot summoned all his strength and lunged, striking his captor across the mouth with the calloused knuckles of his right fist!
The Fomorian grunted in pain, staggering backwards, his hand still grasping for the butt of his Colt pistol. Tonks continued his unsteady, almost drunken charge, this time grabbing the Fomorian by the right shoulder while he hammered blow after blow into the surprised guard’s midsection. The sailor wheezed, his knees buckling as he crumpled to the floor. Immediately, Ian fell heavily beside him.
With a wordless snarl of rage, the sailor lunged for Tonks’ throat, but the pilot managed to block his attacker’s hands at the last moment. Quickly grabbing the Fomorian’s red cotton shirt-front, Ian head-butted his captor. The Fomorian’s eyes immediately rolled back into his head. He slumped to the stone floor like a deflated gas bag.
Ian blinked, wiping a bead of grime-filled sweat from his eyes. “Well, not so tough without yer little flask, eh?” he said with a tired smirk. No sooner had the words left his mouth, than the pilot pitched forward onto the floor, skin turning a ghastly gray-pale as if from blood loss. He barely had time to get his hands under him while he fought alternating waves of nausea and lightheadedness.
Distantly, he could hear the fight at the other end of the hallway, complete with two more gunshots! The sound to his ears was muffled by the all-too-loud pounding of Ian’s own heartbeat. Dimly he heard what could only be Angela’s sharp cry of pain. He blinked, slowly glancing at the unconscious Fomorian next to him.
“Damn me to hell,” he muttered angrily, fumbling with the Fomorian’s vest pockets. “I bloody hate this, but I have to.” Finally, his shaking fingers closed around a small vial. Lifting it free, he scowled at the container. “Thorias, I’m trustin’ yer workin’ on a cure for this devil’s drink already. Otherwise, I’ll be as good as dead.”
Ian quickly drank a quarter of the yellow elixir. Rapidly, he shoved the stopper back into place, fighting down the near-manic craving to drink the flask dry. Hands shaking, Ian pushed the small bottle into his shirt pocket. He wheezed, then erupted into a wet cough. It was as if his lungs were trying to escape his chest. The heat rapidly spread through his body to his arms, his legs. Invigorated as if he could wrestle a mad bull, he quickly ran in the direction of the gunshots.
In the gloom, he could make out two shapes, one larger than the other. His senses were sharper now, able to pierce the shadows with almost a supernatural clarity. The narrow-faced Fomorian had lost his revolver, but it had been replaced with a long-bladed knife that glinted evilly in the meager, dim twilight.
Angela – who was still in her werewolf form – dodged left, then right, trying in vain to slip around the blade to claw at the owner. However, the Fomorian had the advantage in both height and terrain. The stone floor was slick under Angela’s bare paws, giving her little purchase on the ancient stone; in contrast, the Fomorian’s nailed boots had no such trouble.
The young girl lunged once more, but a miscalculated step put her right into the sailor’s hands. He immediately slammed her against the wall once, then twice, until she clung dizzily to his arm, almost unable to stand.
“Now, there’s a girl,” the sailor said with a sneer. He tightened his grip on her throat, causing Angela to cough. “Ol’ Jasper’s thinkin’ that he owes ya some payback,” his sneer transformed into a devilish smile. “So, what say ya, eh?”
“She respectfully declines!” Tonks snarled loudly.
A long-bladed knife, not dissimilar to the one Jasper held, slammed into the man’s chest with such force, it ripped him away from Angela as if he had been slapped by a giant! The sailor fell backwards, clutching uselessly at the knife hilt that refused to budge. Several feet away, Tonks broke into a desperate run towards Angela. He skidded to a stop at her side, managing to catch her before she hit the stone floor.
The young werewolf jerked instinctively at being touched. Her claws flailed out, slicing into the pilot’s arm. Ian grimaced but said nothing, simply holding the young girl reassuringly. “Hush now, yer safe. Just hush, I’m with ya. No one can get at ya now.”
Slowly, Angela regained her senses. She blinked, then glanced up at Ian, smiling weakly. Only then did she notice the long lacerations along his arm. “Mr. Wilkerson! Your arm … did I?” The girl began to shake as the long, pent-up pain, anger, frustration and terror overwhelmed her. “No! I’m so sorry! I … I can bandage it ….”
Tonks shook his head, and looked away while she arranged what remained of her blue dress around her legs. “No, don’t. I’d rather you sit there while I hide these two bloody buggers. Get ya breath. We may need it.”
Angela nodded and closed her eyes. “Where are we? I remember the ship, then … nothing.”
Ian crouched next to the dying sailor who quivered once more, then finally lay motionless on the stone. The pilot looked around the junction where the two corridors met. The hallway from which he had entered was near-featureless, save for the greenish mold on the old stones that made up the walls. Here, however, there were easily over a dozen iron-bound oak doors set into the ancient stone like some nightmarish dungeon. Most doors were secured with a massive black iron lock. The closest cell – the one he was convinced had been for him – was not. Ian reached for the latch on that door and slowly pulled it open.
“I remember the same,” Tonks replied. “Though, I remember a white smoke before I couldn’t keep my eyes open. They used somethin’ to put us asleep. No windows down here, so we’ve no idea for how long. Though from the way I felt when I woke, it was for a good amount of time.”
Slowly, clutching her knees to her chest, she shuddered as if cold. “I think I remember a little room, and a woman with … something. She kept pricking me in my arms! It hurt so much! I just wanted to make it all stop.”
Ian quickly dragged the dead body of the sailor into the cell, then ran down the hallway to recover the first, whom he had knocked senseless moments before. The pilot grimaced as he hefted the larger man over his shoulders and carried him to join his dead companion.
“A woman?” Tonks asked curiously, while he roughly dumped the unconscious Fomorian into the cell. “What do ya remember about her? Was she a doctor of some kind?”
Angela opened her eyes and stared down at the stone next to her. “I … I don’t think so. There was someone else. It sounded like a man and he was telling her what to do, I think.”
Ian quickly searched the dead Fomorian, recovering a vial of Hellgate elixir, his own knife, and a gun belt complete with ammunition. Leaving the cell, he recovered the dead man’s revolver: a Colt Peacemaker 45. Quickly, he shoved the pistol into its holster and buckled the gun belt around his waist.
“Did ya hear a name?” the pilot asked quickly. “See a face, or see any of the room?”
“No, I …” Angela started to say before a pair of angry voices echoed down the hallway, cutting her off.
“I told ya those two would make a mess of it!” a woman’s voice shrieked angrily. “I’ve been tellin’ ya I want better assistants and better equipment if ya want this done! I can’t produce miracles with nothin’!”
Quickly, Ian scooped up Angela and spirited her into the cell where he had placed the two Fomorian sailors. Carefully, he set her on a nearby cot, motioning for her to be silent, then spun around to pull the cell door nearly closed as quietly as he could.
A moment after Ian had reduced the open doorway to a narrow sliver, a man and a woman appeared in the corridor, walking from the direction which Ian had originally arrived. The woman was dressed in a plain brown skirt and cream cotton blouse. Over both she wore a long tan coat covered with smears of blood and soot. Beside her, the man was dressed in a clean cotton shirt, vest, brushed peacoat and dark colored trousers. His newly polished boots rang against the stone, echoing the anger in his posture.
The pilot squinted against the gloom, straining to catch a glimpse of their faces. Finally, he could make out their features. The woman he did not recognize, however the man was all too familiar. It was Peter Bauer!
Bauer’s face was a mask of anger and frustration. The man’s eyes searched the darkness with a rage edged in mild paranoia while he walked down the corridor. He stopped abruptly when he saw the bloodstains on the stone floor. Kneeling, Bauer swore angrily under his breath. He glared at the woman, who stopped next to him.
“It was you, Frau O’Flynn, who found those two idioten in Liverpool,” he snapped harshly. “If they have killed the mädchen through their stupidity before we can finish examining her, I will skin them alive! I must have progress, Frau Doctor. Not more excuses from that feeble fool, Dr. Hardy, and certainly no more delays!”
The woman, barely as tall as the irate man’s neck, angrily brushed a loose strand of fire-red hair from her face. Her hands were bandaged in places, as were her arms. “As if ya own people are any better!” she retorted harshly. “Yer lot couldn’t even hold down a little girl while I took some o’ her blood … ‘Cap’n’!” A smug look crawled across her face while Bauer’s glare turned dangerously hard. “Oh, but we’re still smartin’ over what happened on the station, eh? All cause that Captain Hunter figured out ya bungled everythin’ by overlookin’ the original formula and sellin’ it off! Got the better of ya, did he? Just like dear ol’ da RiBeld … “
In a blur of motion, Bauer jumped to his feet, grabbing the woman by the throat. Slamming her struggling form against the wall, he leaned in close, breath hot, features shaking with rage.
“Mein father has nothing to do with this!” Bauer hissed at her. “It is not Archibald RiBeld that will bring the Order of Fomorian to its rightful glory … it will be by mein hand! Mein Fomorians!”
She met his gaze evenly, her own anger tinged with a hint of fear. “So dead certain on provin’ yer worth somethin’ to yer da?” she sneered. “If ya would take a moment and just pay attention …”
Bauer scowled deeper, then smiled coldly as he interrupted her. “Frau Selina Hereford O’Flynn, you forget yourself, ja?” he replied, his voice dripping with acid. “The Order saw fit to preserve you when your sister Mary let her murderous surgical ‘experiments’ run away with her in Edinburgh so few months ago. She will be hanged for her stupidity at being so careless. There will be room on her gallows for one more, if they learn of you. I will even hold the rope, ja? After all, I still have that feeble worm, Dr. Hardy.” Bauer tilted his head slightly, as if he was observing a bug trapped under a jar. “What are your thoughts … Doctor?”
Dr. O’Flynn swallowed slowly, hampered by Bauer’s hand around her throat. She stared into his dull, emotionless, chilling eyes, then blinked. “I’ll have somethin’ for ya later,” she replied, her voice reserved and colored with a touch of nerves. “I’ve enough of the girl’s wolf-blood to know somethin’.”
Slowly, reluctantly, Bauer released his grip, freeing the red-haired woman. She rubbed her throat, stepping away warily while glaring daggers at him.
“Wunderbar,” Bauer replied coolly. “In the meantime, I will track down those two idioten, kill them, then drag the mädchen back so that you and Dr. Hardy may finish with her.”
“I’m still needin’ assistants,” Dr. O’Flynn replied with a clipped tone.
“And you will have them,” Bauer replied, glancing down at the pool of blood. “Only I will select them. Expect them within the next two hours. Now, go. I have work to do.”
With a last look of hatred, O’Flynn turned the corner and stalked off down the hallway, deeper into the complex. Through the small gap in the cell door, Ian watched Bauer carefully examine the bloodstains, then the stone floor itself. Slowly, the man’s eyes wandered to the cell door with a suspicious look. The Fomorian stood slowly. Behind the door, Ian quietly drew the revolver; it was empty. He slid it back into its holster and reached for his knife.
“Cap’n!” A voice shouted from the far end of the hallway.
Bauer tensed, barely suppressing a scream of rage. He turned, “Ja! What is it that is so important, that you interrupt mein thoughts?”
“Ya said come get ya when the canisters are set to be filled before they’re shipped off to St. Giles,” the voice replied.
Captain Bauer rubbed his eyes wearily, then turned sharply on his heel. Quickly, he stormed back the way he had come. “Fine!” he snapped angrily. “Get five men and locate Herr Jasper Milligan and Herr William Muskgrave. Kill them and take whatever they have to Doctors Hardy and O’Flynn.”
“Aye, Cap’n!” was the reply.
While Bauer stalked away, Ian slowly let out a breath, then glanced over his shoulder at a visibly frightened Angela. The pilot slipped the knife back into his belt.
“We’re in a kettle of fish, if I’ve ever seen one,” he whispered. “We need to get a message out to Cap’n Hunter and the others. They need to know all this.”
Angela gave Ian a distraught look. “How?”
“By bein’ a little more clever than our hosts,” Ian replied. “We need to kidnap one of our kidnappers. Maybe two!”