Fort Eden – Chapter 14
“Farlan’s Wrath” by Chris Kluwe and Edwin McRae
Farlan Portrait by Silvester Sang
“Right, ye bloody pillock,” Farlan grunted, sweat dotting his brow. “You’re gonna tell me where Polanski’s at else yer gonna taste my boot by way of yer arse.”
With a muttered curse, he twisted the burly dockworker over his hip and slammed him into the rush-covered floor of the squalid tavern, raising a cloud of dust and petrified rat droppings. The few conscious patrons glanced over, then turned back to their cups, bloodshot eyes and tired faces making it clear that unless the building was on fire, nothing would interrupt the serious business of drinking themselves insensible.
Two hulking forms burst out of a back room, nautical tattoos sheathing their arms. They halted at the unmistakable ‘snikt’ of a shotgun hammer cocking back, barrels like the open eyes of a grave staring down their advance.
“That’s right, boyos. This here is between me and yer boss, and he’s not worth more attention than one of my hands. Why don’t you crawl back over to the bar and buy a round or two. Courtesy of me.”
Farlan spun a golden sovereign at the men and they melted back into the shadows. He grinned, and then turned his attention to the swearing figure trapped beneath his foot.
“Just you and me now, friend.” Beneath him, the muscular figure kicked his legs, trying to break free. Farlan lowered the cool metal of his shotgun onto the foreman’s cheek, and smiled at the cessation of movement.
“Now now, I’m not asking for much.”
“Fuck off, you old bastard. My men are going to break you into dust. If you leave now, we’ll pretend this never happened.”
“Oh, it’s happening all right, and you best wrap your mind around that. Now, all I need is for you to tell me where I can find Jacek Polanski. It shouldn’t be that hgnnnnhhhhhh-”
The impact sent Farlan crashing to the floor. Pain radiated up his back and into his skull as the shotgun skittered beneath the bar. Roaring, he surged back to his feet, knuckles clenched into gnarled fists. Across from him, the foreman rose from the floor, his hands in a boxing position, blood trickling down his forehead, three heavyset figures looming behind – the two from earlier flanking an even larger man with one eye. He grimaced and shook out his fingers, his baleful cyclopean gaze locked on Farlan’s face.
Farlan grinned savagely, a wild light burning behind his eyes.
“So it’s a brawl you want, eh? Fair enough, fair enough. It’s been weeks since my last dustup. Don’t complain that I didn’t offer you the easy way out, though.”
With a guttural roar, Farlan launched himself at the rightmost longshoreman, his punch descending like a judgement from on high. The man scarcely was able to get his hands up before Farlan’s fist slammed into his chin with the force of a thunderbolt. He fell to the floor, insensible, as the other three advanced towards Farlan, hands lashing out like whipping branches in a hurricane gale. But the wily old Falconer dropped beneath their blows and kicked out the knees of the second longshoreman. A swift boot to the chin rendered the man unconscious. Farlan sprang back to his feet, staring down his two remaining opponents.
“Not so confident now, are ye boyo,” he laughed, pointing at the foreman’s pinched expression. “Seems like your friends might be less conversant in the art of roughhousing than they or you thought.”
“Shut yer mouth, old man,” the foreman growled, knuckles whitening. “Ain’t none of us going to give up Polanski.”
“See, you say that now, but you might be whistling a different tune after I loosen a couple teeth. All I want is to talk to him, ask a couple questions.”
The foreman spit on the already dirty floor. “And yer ain’t getting any answers, copper.”
“Do I look like a copper to you, lad?”
Farlan didn’t wait for an answer, instead bull-rushing the one-eyed man, driving his shoulder into the other’s expansive gut. Air whooshed out of the dock worker’s lungs in a sudden gasp and he crashed against a table before sliding down to the floor, limp and wheezing for breath. Farlan turned back to the foreman and presented him with an amiable smirk.
“Now then. Polanski. Where can I find him?”
The foreman gawped at Farlan, his mouth going slack.
“Whu- whu- whu-”
“Come on, now, it was just a tavern brawl. It’s not like I-”
At that instant, Farlan realized the foreman’s eyes weren’t focused on him, but on a point over his left shoulder, and his stomach twisted into a knot. Moving on instinct alone, he dove to the floor, the briefest line of fire tracing itself across the back of his neck. Farlan rolled across the stinking rushes, pushed himself to a knee, and looked over at where he had been just standing. He swore as blood trickled down his spine.
The one-eyed longshoreman had regained his feet, but that wasn’t what concerned Farlan. Instead, it was the boiling mass of pitch-dark maggots that had replaced the dock worker’s eyeball, and the dull glisten of chitinous claws extending from bloody, ruined fingertips.
“Christ above, that tears it,” Farlan muttered. “A bloody Thrall?” He reached down for his shotgun, but his fingers closed only on air. “Bugger.”
The Thrall shrieked, a weirdly insectile chittering underlying the explosion of sound, like the clicking of thousands of roach feet beneath an eagle’s scream. Behind it, Farlan could see the wooden handle of his gun poking out from underneath the bar, and he swore again. The remaining bar patrons looked up from their drinks once more, then, in unison, drained their cups of their contents and staggered out the door as fast as their limbs could get them there. Across from the Thrall, a dark stain spread down the front of the foreman’s pants.
“Whu- whu- what is that th-”
A flashing claw sent the foreman tumbling to the floor. As his crumpled body wept blood in a widening circle, the Thrall hissed and turned towards Farlan, knees tensing into a springing posture. Almost casually, it leaned down and twisted the heads of the two unconscious longshoremen through a full circle, bones snapping with audible cracks. Farlan swallowed heavily.
Without seeming to move, the Thrall was in the air, leaping towards Farlan, claws extended. Farlan’s hands dipped briefly into his overcoat, then emerged clutching two small vials – one clear, one filled with a viscous silvery liquid. He ducked beneath the lunging strike, ragged talons tearing loose some grey hair with the closeness of their passing, and smashed the silvery vial into the Thrall’s chest, then scrambled away next to the bar, putting several metres of distance between them. He then raised the clear vial, as if proposing a toast, as he eyed the silvery mess coating the Thrall’s chest.
“I don’t suppose you know what happens when sodium and potassium interact with water, do you?” Farlan asked.
The Thrall shrieked and lowered into a charge, claws tearing furrows through the rush covered floor.
“Guess you’ll find out.”
Farlan threw the vial at the Thrall and then dove over the bar. Almost immediately, a thunderous explosion ripped through the air, along with a continuous popping like water droplets falling into a skillet of hot oil. Waves of heat poured over the bar as Farlan grabbed another flask from his coat and drained it, the familiar burn of whisky sliding down his throat. Hands trembling ever so slightly, he tucked the flask away and grabbed his shotgun, reholstering it. When the popping sound died out, replaced by the more familiar crackling of fire, Farlan levered himself upright and surveyed the damage.
Of the Thrall, not much remained aside from two charred stumps of legs, splintered shin bones poking through blackened flesh, licking flames now consuming even those. Of more immediate concern was the rest of the fire, eagerly feeding on the alcohol-soaked rushes covering the floor. A thin layer of greasy smoke was filling the room.
“Looks like it’s time to leave.”
He vaulted the bar and made his way towards the door, but stopped on hearing a low moan. Farlan looked around, hearing the moan again, a liquid wheeze coming from the crumpled mess of the foreman. He hurried over to the downed dockworker and tipped him over to lie on his back, nearly gagging when the ruined mess of the man’s abdomen was revealed. Blood welled out from the ragged remains of shredded intestines and lacerated internal organs, and the foreman’s face was white and stretched with pain, his chest rising and falling in shallow pants. His lips moved, and Farlan leaned in to catch his words.
“Shush lad, easy now. Save your strength for getting out of here.”
Farlan levered his arms beneath the foreman’s armpits, intending to drag him out, but stopped when the man vomited up a rush of bright red blood. More words bubbled up between the hacking coughs of failing lungs.
“…Polanski… warn… monster… French Street…”
Dead weight sagged against Farlan, and with a start, he realized the foreman’s chest wasn’t moving anymore. Eyes stinging with tears from the smoke, adrenaline and the fury of another life lost to the Cullers, Farlan lay the foreman back down, ignoring the flames rising higher around him.
Finally, he pushed himself to his feet and strode out the tavern’s door, the crackle of falling timbers crashing in his wake, the distant clanging of fire alarm bells growing closer in the distance.