I woke up groggy in a dark room. I was bound to a very cold metal chair. I was also naked with the exception of Lucy’s earring. I took a big sniff of the air. The air was heavy with the smell of smoke and steam. Listening I could hear the powerful steam engine providing propulsion. The room itself swayed slightly with the currents of open air.
My guess was that I was on a large airship hovering over Luimere.
“Lucy?” I thought.
“I’m here, Marcus.”
“Where am I?”
“On board the airship Amelia. The Silverstein’s personal airship and one of the largest in the city.”
“How long have I been out?”
“A couple of hours.”
“Safe and sound, Tanis or I should say Mrs. Dorn, summoned me once they were on their way. Your friend, Captain Brassbread is taking them straight to Haven. Crista opted to remain with them until the ship’s return.”
“Good, I’m glad to know they are safe. Is Mr. Devlin with you?”
“Yes, he is sitting on the couch enjoying some tea. He is concerned about your wellbeing.”
“Tell him to sit tight and not to worry. Okay, I hear someone coming. I assume your little beetle is here somewhere.”
“Yes, we are right there with you and he heard you.”
A door behind me creaked open and the aroma of honey and wildflowers flooded the room. High heels clopped on the wooden floorboards followed by the sound of several heavy boots. A dim light filled the room and standing before me was the Lady Arlena Silverstein.
She stood before me as regal as ever, in a bright colored gown of green and gold. The bodice was made the same material and segmented with solid gold stripes. The gown featured a small military-like jacket, cut off cleanly around the waist and clasped close tightly around her neck framing her bosom. Her fiery red hair was tied up in a tight bun and a top with a miniature top hat of a similar green. The skirts were layered and bunched like drapery over curtains and had golden floral patterns woven into them.
Trailing behind her was the swordsman I had fought briefly on the rooftop sporting a shiner and a broken nose from my head-butt. The other was human as well; he was a slim man of almond complexion wearing a dark green double-breasted suit with an auburn vest over a tan shirt with a dark brown bow tie and a brown leather top hat. In his right hand was my cane.
There were at least two others in the room who I assumed remained at the door. The swordsman pulled a chair over and placed it directly in front of me. Arlena sat and crossed her legs before me. She spoke in a soft seductive like voice.
“Mr. Moore, I do say, I definitely got more than I bargained for. Your moniker was not false advertisement. I do not have the faintest idea how you managed to survive our last encounter, I’d wager that you are not entirely human are you?”
I chuckled, “Maybe your men are just piss poor shots.”
“It is amazing that you feel you are in a position to make jokes, Mr. Moore. I get the feeling you do not understand the severity of your situation. I’m certain you have noticed that you are bound to a metal chair. What you may have not noticed is that there are two large cables connected to the chair.” She explained. “Within those cables are very fine copper wiring. Copper is such a wonderful conductive material. These cables are attracted to a miniature steam-powered generator. This lovely little box can produce enough electricity to power a modest home for several hours.”
“Are you planning a party?” I retorted.
“Harkin, be a dear and give our guest a sample of what is in store for him.”
“As you wish, my lady.” said the Magus.
He walked out of sight and a moment later blinding pain rocked my brain. Tendrils of white-hot fire surged through my body. If you hadn’t noticed pain and I are old friends. Having the ability to heal nearly any wound tends to help you build mental barriers to block out the worst of it. I decided I would not give Arlena the satisfaction of hearing me scream. I instead held it all in and when the pain lessened I opened my eyes, tears rolling down my cheeks and gave her my most charming smile.
“That was refreshing.” I said in a pain filled labored voice.
“That is quite the fortitude you have there, Mr. Moore”
“Please,” I interrupted. “Most women that get me naked and show me their pleasure implements call me, Marcus.”
“I see... well then, Marcus. Let us work some of those witty retorts out of you. Harkin, give the comedic Marcus another jolt.”
“Yes ma’am,” Harkin said from behind me.
I clinched the arms of the chair as the electricity surged through my body. I felt the metal bend under the pressure of my grip. Once more the pain waned as Harkin, the prick, switched off the power to the cables.
“So Marcus, where is the child and his father?”
“Come here, I’ll tell you.”
Arlena leaned closer.
“Right under my left testicle. Why don’t you reach down there and get them for me. They are starting to itch.”
Red-hot rage filled the heiress’s eyes; she slapped me with an open palm. I felt my lip split and almost immediate heal.
“Cane!” She screamed.
Harkin walked back into view and handed Arlena my sword cane.
“This is an impressive device, Marcus. Well out of you price range. Is this a Lucille Raven’s design?”
Arlena pressed the ruby and twisted the handle. The cane’s mechanics went work and after a few moments the cane was a sword once more.
“This must have been a gift. Are you that close with Lucille? We grew up together, you know. I won’t go to say we were close. Lucille’s blunt nature made her rather unfavorable around the other well to do children.”
She took the point of the blade a placed it on top of my barefoot. She applied all of her body weight driving my own sword through my foot. I stomached the pain which at this point was nothing compared to the electro-shock treatment she had given me. She continued talking as if she had done nothing.
“I know where she hides these days. I can send someone to pay her a visit. She may have a mouth on her, but she is rather cute for a mixed bred creature. I’m certain some of my men would take pleasure in passing her around.”
I laughed. “Fates save the fool that tries.”
She cut her emerald eyes at me and withdrew the blade from my foot. The wound closed and began to heal under the mass of blood. She slammed the blade down into my other foot. I winced at the sudden shock.
“This does not have to be this way; just tell me what I want to know.”
“I thought you were going to be electrocuting me? What is with all the stabbing?” I asked through the pain.
“Still making jokes. Very well, Marcus,” she said withdrawing the blade again.
“Harkin, if you would please.
One more fire rippled through the chair and coursed throughout my body. The smell of burning hair assaulted my nostrils as my furry demeanor began to catch fire from the jolt. Somewhere amongst the pain I could hear Lucy’s voice in my head.
“Marcus, are you okay?”
“Fine!” I said aloud, nearly a scream.
“What was that Mr. Moore?” Arlena said signaling Harkin to seize the torture.
Breathing heavy, I slowly raised my eyes to meet hers.
“I’m sorry?” I said with a pained puzzled expression.
“You are seriously trying my patience, Mr. Moore.”
“Only trying. Damn, I must be losing my edge.” I retorted sarcastically.
“Are you so anxious to die?”
“We all have to die someday, Ms. Silverstein. So few of us get to choose how. I do have a question for you though.”
“You are in no position to be asking questions, sir.”
“Seeing that it is highly unlikely I will be leaving this chair alive. I believe I am in the perfect position to ask questions. I mean, I’ll be dead, won’t I? To whom pray tell am I going to tell?”
“A valid point,” she said amused. “Very well, I will entertain this notion.”
“Why go through all this trouble to take over a company?”
“Well, well, well you really are a very good detective aren’t you? Devlin Works is the leading manufacturer of steam engines and advanced weaponry. My father wants those patents under the Silverstein name. Franklin however would not sell his pride and joy.”
“I devised a plan that would eventually put me in a position to seize the company by other means. Devlin prefers the company of men, so seduction was out of the question. I needed a means to make the board prefer me over him,” she relaxed in her sit and continued. “Discovery of the Heart Core was perfect. I intended to use the core to prove that I am looking to further the advancement of the company and prove that I am the future.” She said proudly.
“And for this you intend to sacrifice you own nephew?”
“That thing is no nephew of mine. That child, that half machine should have died instead of my beloved sister. That fool Joseph was given the choice: the child or my sister. He could not choose so he allowed my sister who was in no state of mind to make life-deciding decisions, to make the choice. She died giving birth to a child that cannot even live without the aid of a machine beating in his chest.”
She stared off into nowhere for a moment, lost in the memory of her sister.
“Where is the child, Mr. Moore?” She asked dotting her eyes with a handkerchief.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said “Were you under the impression I would tell you?”
Rage replaced the sorrow in her emerald eyes, “Harkin!” She nearly screamed.
Once more my body was washed over with blinding pain. I shook uncontrollably as the volts of electricity wreaked havoc on my body. Tears poured from eyes and froth formed in the corners of my mouth. I could feel the metal of the chair burn my hindquarters and back. The smell of cooked flesh filled the room and mingled with the smells of smoke, steam and Arlena’s honey and wildflowers perfume. The constant pulse of pain subsided and the residual remain a remainder of where my body had been and where it was headed. Arlena stood from her sat before me and paced back and forth.
“Where are they”? She repeated obviously frustrated.
“Was that enough,” I said aloud looking in the direction where I had caught a glimpse of Lucy’s clockwork beetle.
“Franklin says yes, it is enough,” said Lucy’s sweet little voice in my head.
“Good, kill the connection. Mr. Devlin does not need to see what happens next.” I said in a calm cold voice.
“What on earth are you talking about?” Arlena asked, a confused look on her beautiful face.
“Your employer has been watching our little altercation. I have shown him the documents from your safe, but that was not enough. Thankfully, you were nice enough to tell him yourself.”
“Impossible, this ship is shielded from spying magic and is to high up for more conventional means.”
“Impossible for some maybe; I however I have a very talented friend who devised another way to spy. Now let me explain this plainly. Thanks to you, Ms. Silverstein I have had a very unpleasant few days. I have been beaten, thrown out of a window, beaten again, shot, cut, nearly eaten, burned, electrocuted, stabbed and electrocuted again. Needless to say, I’m rather displeased at the moment. So I’m only going to say this once. Anyone that wishes to live, leave… this… ship… now.”
Arlena laughed wholeheartedly. “You are not in any position to make such a demand. You have been stripped bare; you are bound to the chair on which you sit, which is bolted to the floor.”
“What happens next is your own doing, My Lady. Fates take you.”
“Harkin, once more. Let us see if we can charge some sense back into this near dead fool.” Arlena said.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I did not feel the electricity this time around. My body was going through something far worst at that very moment. The transformation is not quick like the more mystical change Crista had done. Becoming the wolf is a choice and not one any of my kind makes lightly.
Imagine if you would all two hundred and six bones in your body breaking simultaneously, then rapidly healing and growing. Then they do it again and again and again and again. At the same time all of your organs suffer for simultaneous organ failure, as they shrivel up under the compression of your shattered bones. Then rapidly expand to more than twice their original size.
Brown fur covered my body as my muscles ripped, tore and hardened. I screamed in an all too familiar agony as my face changed into an elongated muzzle. It was a good thing I was already naked, I had ruined plenty of suits changing into the wolf. My bindings snapped as my forearms and calves grew beyond the give of the restraints.
I have never witnessed the change myself but from what I have seen, it must be one of the most frightening experiences a person could ever see. The swordsman and Arlena stood stunned and I imagined the others in the room did as well. I stood nearly ten feet tall, my pointed ears pressed against the ceiling. My limbs were elongated, made of heavy muscle and covered in thick fur. On the tips of my large and powerful hand and paw-like feet stretched six-inch black razor sharp claws.
My large snout filled with rows of large fangs and a long tail sprout from my hindquarters. Rage in my golden eyes, I stared at Arlena and the unnamed swordsman.
Let me set the record straight on any misconceptions about werewolves. All the stories about werewolves being mindless, feral, savage creatures ruled completely by instinct are absolute bullshit. I was fully aware of my actions; the fact of the matter is, that nearly any time I have let the beast in; it was when I absolutely didn’t care anymore.
The swordsman was the first to fall. I lashed out with my clawed hand and shredded through his flesh and bone before he could withdraw his blade. The blood sprayed everywhere and covered the shocked face of Arlena. I passed her and pounced on the two guards standing by the door. I tore into them as if they were straw dolls; more blood and sinew covered the floor and walls. I purposely made a show of it all. Flinging bits every which a way. The Magus regained his composure and hurled a ball of fire at me. I lowered my snout and took the ball head on and plowed right through impaling the Magus on my clawed hand. I lifted the Magus off the ground and with all of my supernatural might, hurled him at the wall just to the right of Arlena.
The man’s broken form smashed through the reinforced wall of the ship’s hull and fell into the night sky. The smell of urine reached my nostrils as the unmoved Arlena had lost control of her bodily functions. Wind from the hull breach rushed into the compartment and I could feel the ship lurch to the left. I rushed Arlena and pinned her to the hull. I stared her in her fear filled eyes. The blood of her guards on my face and claws.
“Pleasedon’tkillmePleasedon’tkillmePleasedon’tkillmePleasedon’tkillme.” She pleaded shivering uncontrollably.
I licked my snout in a hungry gesture, tasting some of the blood. Don’t let the myths and tall tales fool you. People, no matter what race, human, elf, gnome, dwarf, orc or any variant there in, taste horrible. I moved my face closer to hers and whispered in a low deep rumbling voice.
“I’m not going to kill you, though it would be as easy as closing my hand.” I squeezed a little allowing the wood of the hull to splinter under the pressure of my claws. Arlena flinched and more tears poured from her frighten face. “You will never go after the kid again, Arlena. For if you do, I will hunt you down like the delicious little prey you are and I will TEAR YOU LIMB FROM LIMB!” I growled deeply as I said the last words.
All color left her face; I could tell she was on the verge a passing out. Just then the door behind us opened, more of Arlena’s goons entered the room.
“What in the world is that thing?” One of them shouted.
“I don’t know, but it’s got Ms. Silverstein,” the other shouted back.
“Time to go!” I said.
I released my grip on Arlena and turned around to face the two guards. The fear that immediately hit their faces was amusing. I honestly, did feel bad for them. Not bad enough to allow them the opportunity to tell the tale of how they faced a werewolf and lived. I rushed them in a gust of fang, claws and fur. They fell quickly unable to fire off any shots.
I tore through the door into a tight hallway. I sniffed the air to get my bearings, and then I headed aft toward the smell of burning coals. More armed men appeared and attempted to put me down. Bullets rained through the air striking my body indiscriminately and were ejected immediately. In full wolf form my ability to heal goes from rapid to nearly instantaneous. I charged the men and tore into their flesh as easy as if it were ground beef. Blood and gore plastered the walls, I made it a point to gouge large claw marks in the walls and floorboards.
I had decided not only was I going to strike fear into the heart and mind of Arlena Silverstein, but also I needed to strike a blow at her father. I entered the engine room, emulating a crazy rabid beast and dismembered the poor engineers without preamble. I proceeded to destroy the engine compartment. Valves, tubes, levers, pulleys, coolants, I even released the fire elemental from the furnace.
The Elemental, made of pure flame, burst out of its prison in a rush of blue white fire and set the hallway ablaze in its wake. The ship lurched and began to drop from the sky; I rushed back to the room where I left Arlena. She stood unmoved shaking where I had left her, the wind whipping her dress violently about her. Her eyes were wide with fear and black streaks covered her cheeks from the tears and her makeup. The high rises of Luimere flashed passed the hole I had knocked in the ship’s hull.
I rushed to Arlena grabbing and grabbed her waist with a single hand. With my free hand I tore a bigger hole in the hull. Through heighten eyes I surveyed the beauty of Luimere’s night skyline before me and the call of the night, singing it’s lovely song. I timed my jump and leaped from the sinking airship with Arlena in hand. I landed firmly on a rooftop with a loud thud, the roof itself splintered and cracked under the impact. Leaving two giant sized paw prints in my wake.
I dropped Arlena and turned to watch my work play out. The big ship was wrapped in flame as that little elemental reaped it revenge on its former prison. It did not take long for the flames to reach the hydrogen filled balloon keeping the ship afloat. The explosion was massive shattering every window as far as I could see. The heat rushed over me and several hundred shards of glass, metal and stone hurtled violently through the air. The cries of frantic people could be heard from people down on the streets below. The nearest buildings were decimated, large portions destroyed by the blast.
In my rage filled feral form, I hoped no innocents suffered from my actions. I knew however there was no way that such a fantasy would be possible. This single act of terrorism would ruin Silverstein and crush any bid to power he may have wrought. I looked over at the broken Arlena. She had not gotten up since I had dropped her. She stared off into nowhere, her mind was overcome by the fear and she mumbled incoherently. “Had I gone too far?” I thought to myself.
Lucy’s voice chimed in, “No, you did not Wolf Boy. Now get you big furry butt back to my place.”
I looked over my handy work once more, shook my wolf like head and leaped off the building to the nearest rooftop. The sky filled with ships both fire brigade and the police. I bounded quick with grace and faded into the background noise of Luimere.