The ice storm plagued the Hildskal Mountains forcing the denizens of the peaks to seek shelter from the tempest. The mobile cannons took refuge in the large cavern under the mountain where most of the army waited patiently. Few living creatures could stalk the land in this hurricane, and one was studying the Cathedral intently sensing its mark within the walls.
The structure bore no stained glass murals like other houses of worship, hail would have crushed them in the first winter. In their place were stone carvings representing the saints of old and sparse wooden windows. The heavy doors were buried by the frozen debris coming from the sky. The only hint of life came from two chimneys producing ebony smoke.
Sister Pankirst had cooked the evening meal, refusing to allow Mr. Wright or Yang to even prepare vegetables. “We shall want to eat food not fur.”
Tepic had glowered behind the unpleasant woman’s back for three hours as he checked his pockets for the sling and trip wire. A look at Ms. Bookworm made him sigh and twiddle his legs grumpily. If he ruined her chances at an alliance he would never hear the end of it.
It was a quarter-past eight o’clock when a single pair of heavy boots marched up the hall. The companions turned to greet the figure when the door opened revealing a large boy, almost seven-and-a-half feet tall and with a thick muscular girth. The only thing that made him appear boyish was his baby face, the clean chin of a youth who had never shaved. Tepic was impressed and wondered aloud if someone put fertilizer in his shoes.
The lad spoke from the door with half-hearted indifference to Sister Pankirst, “They want to speak with Captain Earworm and her brood.”
“Captain Bookworm,” the Victorian woman stressed as she rose to her feet indignantly.
“As you say,” the heavy boy shrugged as he nodded. “I’m not a city messenger. It’s not my job to memorize messages or names.”
Mr. Wright looked crossed his arms disdainfully and turned to the leader, “Don’t worry Book, I can’t imagine Frankenstein’s monster over there can recall over one task at a time anyway.”
Sister Pankirst and Yang straightened as they hissed softly. There was a short pause as the boy heard the insult, his neck muscles tensing in anger before he charged Wright. The wolf turned to his attacker snarling and ready to stop the incoming blow when the lad leapt forward and put all his weight into the assault, punching Mr. Wright in the face as he tackled him.
The two knocked over a table sending a bench and trays flying as blows rained down on both sides. Wright was stunned for a moment, but his cursed blood filled him with unnatural strength. Snarling he grabbed the oversized boy by the throat and got to his feet lifting his heavy foe. He growled menacingly as the boy still struggled to assault the wolf determinedly.
“Put him down monster,” Sister Pankirst warned, crossbow in hand. Behind her a pot was broken open revealing the hidden weapon. “Or I shall put you down permanently.”
Wright measured the danger the arrow posed to him, and then noticed the others staring. Those who knew his secret looked concerned, but the rest were shocked, afraid, or suspicious. He turned back to his opponent and felt a hard knee to his ribs mid-turn. He grunted furiously, feeling the impulse to squeeze the life from his victim, but he fought that nature as he tried to speak calmly, “The sister says we call a truce. Deal?”
The boy stopped struggling keeping his grip on Wright’s arm, he was clearly suffocating but took a moment to consider the offer. After one last half hearted knee to the ribs the fellow mouthed, “Deal.”
Wright put him down and the two broke away angrily. Neither one of them was happy with Sister Pankirst’s interference especially when she went to examine the native. She kept her weapon ready, wanting to throw the wolf out into the blizzard. Logically she was aware how difficult that task would be without backup from the Brothers, so she turned to her charge, “Are you bleeding, Jeffrey? He didn’t scratch or bite you did he?”
“I’ll live,” Jeffrey replied stiffly while he determined to ignore his throbbing neck. He reached into an upper pocket for a cigar. “You shouldn’t interfere in a fight between men.”
“That creature is no man, and you will not be of age for another season,” she breathed as she held out for his smoke. “Until then you are still my pupil.” He looked at her flatly, but turned the tobacco over to her. “It seems I must also teach you how to identify beasts.”
While they were discussing in private Wright had to endure the inquisitive looks of his friends. There was no judgement from Beryl who shrugged knowingly, but Loki was whispering to Tepic quietly at the table. Wright overheard something about silver in their words. Avariel was studying him intrigued and looked like she would prod him with her horn. Mariah was not watching him, her disapproving gaze was turned to Bookworm. The Captain herself appeared distraught, and Wright realized he may have put the entire alliance in jeopardy.
He needed to correct this unfortunate encounter, but unsure how to address the situation. While he was brooding Yang approached Wright and whispered his apology, “I should have warned you to never belittle a Shores-man. Even a perceived insult leads to…what you endured.”
Wright shrugged slightly as he felt the fleeting pain ebb softly away. No matter the strength of his opponent Wright healed quickly, and this was no different. He was about to tell Yang not to worry when he stopped. Grinning in sudden inspiration he commented just loud enough to be overheard, “It’s fine Mr. Moreau. Still, gotta wonder how this ‘army’ ever took over. If the people of this town have half his gumption those pirates will get a rude awakening soon.” The slight turn of Jeffery’s head told Wright that he had caught his attention, but the former Pinkerton kept his gaze on Mr. Moreau.
“I had much the same thoughts Mr. Wright,” Yang chuckled as he imagined the Shores-men standing up to the mobile forces. “I suspect it has something to do with being unable to punch cannonballs.”
Wright laughed and Bookworm relaxed visibly though Mariah was still discontent. Their merriment was cut short as Jeffrey reminded them the captain was waiting. They gathered their packs and followed the heavy teen through the passages. Tepic and Beryl frowned as they caught his scent which was uncomfortably familiar.
They were guided down a series of hidden stairs and descended into an area filled with barred cells. Tepic’s hackles rose at his own dark memories of these dungeons. Rusty chains were abandoned in corners and several blood stained restraining devices required little imagination for the purpose of this prison.
At the end of the cages there was a half-open dimly lit room. Dr. Gammis was waiting for them alone just outside, but on their approach he closed with them nervously. The companions greeted him with cold distrust making him stutter awkwardly, “T-they’ve agreed to let you help. Th-they were going to deny you as sp-spies, but two of them joined me in v-vow-vouching for you.”
Bookworm was surprised that anyone would know them in this desolate place. Avariel wondered, “Other scientists that weren’t traitors perhaps? I may have met them at any number of scientific gatherings.”
Gammis winced as if slapped. “N-no. Come in and you can see for you-yourself. B-be extremely polite. Th-they’re simple abrupt folk, not usually in-intending offense or rudeness.”
They passed through the doorway with ease, even Jeffrey and Wright did not have to duck, but the four men inside towered far above either of them. Tepic and Loki gasped at they stared at the men forced to stoop in the room. Bookworm understood now what Yang had meant when he had compared them to giants, bringing the oversized homes and doors into perspective. She didn’t think she would come up to the mens belts. “Cor! How did yer get through the door!?”
“We crawl through,” a familiar voice said. Bookworm, Mariah, Tepic, and Beryl reached for their weapons as they recognized the imposing figure of Theodore. The giant that had assisted in destroying Bookworms first home.
“Hold yae fire!” A small man with a wooden right hand came out from behind Theodore imploringly pulling down a thick red scarf to show his face, “None here are yae enemy.”
Beryl and Tepic released their weapons recognizing the friendly features that smiled at them and winked in greeting. “Ya two are a surprisin’ sight. Convinced thae Captain here ter give ya a shot.”
The group turned towards Beryl questioningly, they shrugged and gestured to the man, “Everyone this is Jim Doohan, an engineer and ‘hero’. Jim Doohan, this is everyone.”
“Pleasure ta meetcha, but the past isnae the reason we gathered. Better focus on what thae Captain has ter say.” Doohan indicated the largest man in the room, a gruff man with a full beard and shaggy thick hair. He did not seem to be happy with the presence of the outsiders.