Thorington exhaled loudly in irritation preparing to rebuke the madman. Surely, him mentioning the Spirit was a clear evidence of his psychopathy, perhaps once again caused by the poppy tears or rum. Only to confirm Mr. Thorington's suspicions McGrey pulled out his pipe from between his teeth, hastily wiped its mouthpiece on his sleeve and pushed it towards his shabby looking mate.
"Try a little old Toby. It'll help setting your nerves." Judging by the eyes of the brown character crossing and losing focus, and the greediness of his inhale, the aforementioned Toby contained quite a small amount of tobacco and quite generous portion of demon weed. "And now out..." McGrey reminded his mate, and Brown let out a thick white cloud. "Now, Davy Jones. Are you sure?"
Thorington looked at the cartographer in astonishment, wishing to ask how anyone could be sure about seeing the Captain of the Flying Dutchman. The Brown character suddenly started rummaging frantically in his coat and pulled out some sort of a parcel, wrapped in a dirty rag. He opened it, Thorington noted shaking hands and dirty, unkempt nails, and then the man pulled out a dagger. It was old, the straight blade corrupted by sea water, and some odd shiver ran down Thorington's spine from the view of it.
"That is not from the world of the living," rasped out Brown.
Thorington was just going to ask of the dagger, when they heard a far away bell toll. It was quite obviously the Last Bridge's port alarm.
"Is it a fire? Is there a fire in the docks?" Baggins' asked concerned.
"Fire?" Jimmy O'Bofurry, the crew's chemist, slowly got up from the nearest table where he was finishing yet another mug of ale. "No, that is no fire alarm."
Suddenly the doors into the inn opened, and a small group of men rushed in. Thorington had little time to evaluate situation, but he saw pistols and bared cutlasses and daggers in their hands, and the first one jumped at Dorison who was standing by the door. Acting on the instinct, Thorington pulled out his revolver and shot, aiming for the man's shoulder. The ruffian swayed and toppled on the ground, pressing his hand into the gushing wound.
"Killian!" Thorington yelled, and two percussion revolvers flashed in the hands of his nephew. Both shots rendered two pirates immobile on the floor, but still alive. From the corner of his eye, Captain saw Dwalinson grab the heads of two more ruffians and smash them together. A body of the one having jumped on Philip flew away from him after a flamboyant bolo blow, followed by a straight right punch. Phili had been the boxing champion of his garnison for three years in a row.
A few seconds later all of the attackers were splayed on the floor, groaning or unconscious, and Thorington stepped to one of them and grabbed his shoulder, pulling up by the dirty shirt and making the man meet his eyes. The face seemed familiar.
"They are from the clipper Warg. Small time mercenaries. Which means Azog's people are not far behind."
"Famous pirate Azog's people?" Baggins asked, disbelief mixed with apprehension in his tone.
"Who did you tell about your journey beyond your kin?" McGrey asked, rushing to Thorington.
"No one," the latter answered, immediately irritated by the cartographer habitual confidence that he would be reported to. The old man seemed to be forgetting his place quite a lot.
"Who did you tell?" The cartographer kept on pressing, and Thorington gave him a glare. He certainly was not intending to discuss his previous actions with McGrey. He also doubted that Elliott Thrandon, the only other person directly involved into the journey, would feel like sharing their travelling plans with Captain Azog.
"No one. Blimey, what is going on?" Thorington pushed away the man, whom he was holding, in disgust.
"You are being hunted," McGrey gave the Captain a heavy meaningful glare. He apparently was familiar with Thorington's history with Azog.
"We need to get out of here," Dwalinson snarled.
"We can't," Orison cried out from the window, through which him and O'Bifurson were scanning the street for more attackers. "Our ship is still in the docks, she is not ready for departure."
"I will draw them off," the man called Brown suddenly volunteered, and Thorington gave him a shocked look. "I will put the flag signalling the presence of the company owner on my ship, and Azog will follow me."
"Azog is probably on the Gundabad frigate. They will outrun you!" McGrey made an energetic gesture with his hand.
"I have a Rhosgobel yawl," Brown pronounced pompously. "I'd like to see them try."
Thorington threw a look at McGrey as if asking whether the Brown character could be trusted and after a few seconds of hesitation, the cartographer nodded.
Brown rushed out of the inn. Thorington noticed that the curvaceous crew member of SS Kinglet hastily followed him, probably rushing to notify her captain of the changes in the situation.
"To the docks, quickly!" Thorington barked at his men. Everyone scampered, grabbing their jackets, hastily paying for the drinks, and soon they were all running down the cobbled streets of the Last Bridge.
"Will you be able to finish her service in one night?" Thorington threw to Norison, and the engineer nodded enthusiastically.
"Give me a few hours, Captain, she'll fly like a swallow."
Orison confirmed with an 'aye' in a small voice, and Thorington shook his head. The ship and the crew needed this night, but he was not staying in the same port where Azog was potentially coming. He was unfortunately aware of what their meeting could yield.
At some point, through their mad dash through the wet streets of the Last Bridge, the heels of their boots slipping on the rain moistened stone, they caught a glimpse of the bay. Thorington indeed saw a Rhosgobel yawl, carrying Durinson & Co. flag, and then Azog's terrifying, massive ship pounced after it like a wild animal. The three masted, full-rigged ship was a painfully familiar silhouette, clearly etched in the sky like a horrific black shadow, and Thorington swore under his breath. And then Brown's yawl released the balloon, the speed of its ascend one of the best features of such ships, and Thorington saw its bowsprit rise, quicker and quicker, soon the whole forerd was above the water, and then she flew up, leaving Azog's heavy vessel behind.
Thorington nonetheless knew both the excellent engineering of Azog's frigate, as well as the pirate captain's skills, and soon he saw the balloon opening above Gundabad. She was indeed a beauty, and even knowing of the atrocities taking place in her holds and the death and destruction her entering a port would bring, Thorington could not help but admire the graceful lines of her bow and stern.
Norison was not one of the best Durinson & Co. engineers for nothing, and under his stern and loud guidance Lamiaceae was surrounded by rushing back and forth hands, the dock buzzing and men working hard as a swarm of bees. Orison, who had shed his jacket and his newsboy cap, the sleeves of his white shirt rolled up, was leaning over the schematics on the table, barking orders, having forgotten his habitual timidness. The rest of the crew was carrying provision and supplies, Dwalinson was roaring at some unfortunate stevedore, and Thorington once again checked his pocket watch. They needed to leave the port, and as soon as possible.
Just four hours later Lamiaceae has opened her balloon and gracefully slipped out of the marina, only her rudder slightly scraping the surface of the bay. She rushed up and away from the Last Bridge, Dorison at the wheel, Thorington standing near him spyglass pressed to his eye. Neither Brown's yawl, nor Gundabad could be seen, but Thorington did not deceive himself. They were still in mortal danger.
They maneuvered, with single determination to leave the port behind them as fast as possible, and then one of the smaller ships of Azog's fleet dove from around a cloud. It rushed towards them, and Thorington turned around and threw a glance on one of his nephews, standing behind him by the entrance door to the bridge.
He didn't need to explain anything. His eyes met Killian's, dark brown and so alike his mother's, and the young man nodded and rushed to the gunroom. He had one or two shots, but if they could sink this one quickly and quietly, there was a chance they would not be discovered.
With his eyes glued to the outline of the enemy ship in the clouds Thorington waited, counting seconds in his head. He knew almost exactly how long it'd take Killian to reach the guns, load them with the help of O'Bifurson, aim, and…
The first shot shook the vessel, Thorington could just imagine the noise in the gun room when the gun's recuperator cylinders were activated on the recoil mounting, and then another one followed. Thorington's mind was flooded by the memories of his own naval days, of the smell in the gun room, the low thrum of the barbette, the weight of the shell rounds.
Killian hadn't missed, and he hardly ever did. The ship in front of Thorington's eyes rocked, its balloon quickly started losing the blaugas, and the Captain realised he was holding his breath. And when he felt almost certain he would see the hull of the ship plummet down at any moment, a loud toll of the enemy's bell rang through the sky. Thorington swore dirtily.
Immediately another bell answered from behind the clouds, and then two more, and Thorington rushed to the wheel, Dorison stepping away from it readily. They now had a fight in front of them, which they could not avoid and had very little hope to win.