A snowy blanket had covered the harsh terrain of the Hildskal mountains hiding many pitfalls and other dangers. Dr. Falcon and Mr. Wright moved heedlessly of such concerns, unhindered by the snow, worrying more about their companion than themselves as they raced towards Aquila IX.
Wright kept pace with the equine shaped clockwork as they followed light in the sky and mountains. Yang had always stated they would be able to follow the lights to Aquila IX, but only now were they close enough to see them.
The former soldier looked back, catching another glimpse of the Koudra that was following Avariel. It stalked them from a distance and seemingly without effort. Snarling he focused on the run, jumping over a fallen tree on the path. He would insure that creature was dead before he left Wuldram Shores, but for now the coup was more important.
He hoped it would pounce tonight. The full moon had waned last night, but it still made him yearn for blood. For the fight that was to come.
Ms. Whitesmith dragged Dr. Gammis with her to watch the attack on City Hall. She could hardly believe how foolish these Shores-men were being. Did they believe anyone important had been staying in a building designed for the gargantuan natives?
Ran Decagon and his pirates surrounded the structure with the mobile cannons, but did not open fire. The Admiral was armed with the ‘Angel’s Breath’ while his men opted for the lightning rifles and stun maces. He seemed to be in a good mood until Ms. Whitesmith arrived. “Is it Captain Dekkar?”
“Oui, it’s him,” was the short response. He added, “And the order is to take him alive, n’est pas?”
“Then you should have come bearing tranquilizers instead of flamethrowers.” She thought even pirates could surmise something that basic.
“Madam, I am convinced that tranquilizers would only make them angry. We would need enough to bring down an elephant.”
Ms. Whitebridge shrugged. It was not her concern how the nuisance was dealt with. It was Dr. Dupyre with something special in mind for the Captain. “I’ll leave you to your ‘ingenuity’, Admiral. There are other matters requiring my attention.”
She left him there and noted the trail of giant footprints came from the Church of the Builder. Smiling triumphantly, Ms. Whitesmith went back see Dr. Harteschlägel and the hunter Leisig. The doctor eagerly awaited an opportunity to send a message to the Builders. They could investigate this matter before they started hunting the Babbagers.
Behind her, three figures watched helplessly as their friends were about to be cornered.
Beryl rubbed their head gently as they read the depressing diagnosis for the injured Shores-man. He was an older gentleman, fifty-seven years, and he had been struck repeatedly in the leg with a shock mace. The bloody wound was dressed, but would leave a nasty scar. It was the muscle degeneration that left him invalid. The fellow’s body spasmed randomly, jerking out of his control unpredictably. Exposure to electricity should not have caused this reaction.
Which is why Beryl had difficulty comprehending why it was hard to convince the elder to stay out of the fight. “Sir, if you picked up a sword you could end up stabbing yourself with it.”
“Maybe that’s what my leg needs,” the giant mumbled, “A shock to the system might rid me of the curse.”
“No sir,” the nurse replied flatly, trying not to sound exasperated and failing. “That is not how medicine works. You can’t bleed out muscle damage or spasms. Leeches don’t work either.”
The older man snarled from the makeshift cot, “What if we just remove the limb? Would that end the plague!?”
Beryl stared at the giant briefly at a loss for words. Finally they asked, “You want me to cut off your leg so that you can fight?” The patient nodded, not seeing a flaw in this logic. The nurse buried their face into their paws for a moment. The saddest thing was they had heard more insane requests working as a nurse in New Babbage, but not many. “How do you propose to fight with only one leg?”
“If a pirate can do it, so could I.” The man folded his arms. Beryl attempted to explain that removing the leg would not help the damage.
The usual tactics were not working. Tepic had taken Dr. Gammis’s awkward departure as a distraction to bite the old woman’s hand. When she let out a small hiss Loki tried to run, but the Sister’s grip remained steadfast and she even caught Tepic by his tongue.
Far from giving up the urchins had started kicking her shins, shouting, breaking dishes, using slings, throwing hot food, fastening trip wires, running for open doors and windows, and they were still trapped in the room. Large pans and long poles were shoved between door handles preventing the boys quickly opening them. Armed with pots of their own they kept a table between themselves and the hag.
Pankirst stood near the exits holding her own pot for defense but looking tired and old. She moved spryly and ignored blows dealt by the urchins, but age had caught up with her. She had been teaching the boys of Shores-men for thirty-five years, and been assaulted by each charge. Her crooked nose was testament to this, but wrinkles somewhat hid how her facial structure had been rearranged over the years. Dekkar had broken every bone in their arm when the last bright young man fractured her nose.
Seeing that the boys had no intention of giving up, she attempted the logical thing and offered an alternative, “We are at an impasse. Either you can sit at the table and no further harm will befall you, or you will force me to call Progress here.” The urchins stiffened while she pressed her advantage with a calm tone despite her fatigue. “You are clearly outsiders, Moreau.” Tepic objected saying he was a proper fox, but she ignored him, “There has been a struggle here and the disruption may have caught their attention already. If you are discovered they will detain you.”
“Hah! Yer won’t do that!” Tepic shouted triumphantly. “Cause we could tell ‘em what yer were up ter and yer’d be arrested too!” Sister Pankrist let the pot drop from her hand and she went to the window. Tepic was still ready to call her bluff until she actually started to shout for them to come. “OI! Are ya mad lady!?”
“Are you aware it was the Brothers suggestion to be taken to the facility in chains?” Pankirst stared at Tepic determinedly. “The Shores-men wouldn’t even agree to that plan until we volunteered to go first, despite the alternative being suicidally impractical. If you are that eager to help in the battle I can oblige your wish.”
Tepic decided it would be best to play defeated for now, dropping the pan and sitting at the table looking sullen. Loki grumbled while they joined him, but wasn’t aware Tepic was already plotting his escape. Instead the tinker urchin took out the napkin with the cannon design detailing how he intended to ‘improve’ them.
The three sat in a silence while the sister kept an eye on the battle. She reported the capture of Captain Dekkar and his forces after several minutes. “Everything is going to plan.”
Feigning interest Tepic asked something that had been intriguing him, “Who’s the spy on the inside? It ain’t one of them daft scientists is it?”
“No, it’s the boy you met earlier tonight, Jeffrey,” Sister Pankirst answered softly, but only to assuage his doubts. “Jeffrey Cortman.”
“Cortman?!” When Tepic learned the identity his jaw dropped in shock. He had known the boys grandsire explaining the familiar scent. He had been an unusually large man, but suffered from consumption. The affliction had shrunk him terribly or he’d always been considerably shorter than other giants. Tepics shock turned to horror as he remembered the violent villains last days on this Earth. Finally in grim realization he realized that his grandson would have every cause to betray Captain Heinrichs.
If he knew it, she had killed his grandfather.
Reaching for his pistol, Tepic reached for his pack and then went for the open window. Seeing the child charge with a gun Sister Pankirst ducked for cover quickly. Loki let out a startled yell as he watched the fox scramble out of the opening. He landed in the snow and ran towards the gate as the giants were being led inside.