The Curse Of The Eclipsium (The Midnight People 1)

In the fantasy world of Riarkum, where powerful yet dangerous 'midnight people' live hidden away from human civilization, the crew of the Eclipsium have been cursed with vampirism for over a century. When Ander Zavien is rescued from his execution by the ships mysterious Quarter-Master 'Ransom', he is pulled into the center of a violent conflict between those who are willing to sacrifice everything to reverse their curse, and the order of night-hunters set on destroying it entirely.
As his own blood hangs in the balance, he seeks out the truth of why these creatures of night are fighting to keep him alive, and why they call him 'Firstblood.'

12Likes
15Comments
4102Views
AA

17. Chapter 17 - Side Effects

Samson, finally relaxing into his hammock after a drink with Gillian, saw Reynick speed past him with Ander in tow. They were the sort of pale faced that doesn't refer to a colour, more to a state of mind. The man sat upright so quickly that he banged his head, cursing.

"..Ander? Reynick? What the bloody hell are you-"

"We have to hurry!" Reynick barked, tugging harder on Anders sleeve. The two skidded up the ramp and Samson blinked hard, before catching the familiar scent of blood in the opposite direction.

"They will be blood driven soon," Reynick panted, keeping his eyes trained straight ahead. Ander was reminded of when they had met, running from the exact same thing. "In the crows nest they won't be able to smell us so easily, or reach us if they can."

Ander nodded quickly. Evidently, Samson did not follow them. He knew that would have smelled the traitors blood by now too, they all would.

Antanio was becoming a much needed meal.

They reached the central masting of the deck, where rope netting wrapped around the pillars led up to the crows nest far above. A few metres up, it stopped relying on the wooden masts for support, hanging free until it reached the outer frame of the high up structure.

Reynick looked at Ander. "No complaints if I send you up first? Doesn't look particularly.. Stable."

"Charitable!" Ander cried, but he had a cold sweat and was hardly in the mood for negotiation, especially after seeing the man practically brainwash the worker at the St Mary's docks.

He grabbed some of the rope, and precariously started to climb.

Ander suspected he'd have a much easier time time without his shoes after about a half a minute or so, when the net started to lean away away from the pillar, causing him to dangle free though he held on tight. His feet were slipping dangerously ; such a fall now would do more than sting.

"H-How on Earth do they cope with this?" Reynick called up to him nervously, several feet behind. Just a metre infront of them now was the ships flag, rolled up and unwaving.

Ander didn't dare look back to the man. "They've had more than enough practise.. We're almost there!"

"I don't need-" Reynick swore loudly as he missed a rung, "-a bloody running commentary, you oaf!"
Ander paused a moment and looked up. When he registered the apparent lack of masting beneath them, and the strain on his arms he had entirely ignored, realisation dawned on him.

He realised, miserably, that they were on the wrong side of the net, hanging almost upside down.

"Oh, staras mercy!"

"Shut, up! Invisible gods made you stupid, invisible gods won't flip gravity, i-idiot! Vertigo fooled us." Reynick muttered unhappily.

Ander scowled, shuffling closer to the edge of the thin net to switch his balance. "YOU followed me! Now stay central and spread your weight, hold it straight while I climb over. Then I'll help you round."

Reynick looked suitably uneasy. If he could possibly look any less approving, he did in that moment.
He awkwardly spread his feet further in the holes, and gripped the furthest ropes of the net shakily.  "Ander, I can't keep this open forever, move now!"

Ander wrestled one leg around the netting, which was now shaped somewhat like a hammock as it tied off at the railing of the crows nest. He grabbed the rope tightly and hauled his weight, bear rolling into the netting and hooking his feet through the holes to grab Reynicks hand.

"I've got you, trust me! Steer your weight to the left, wrap a leg around and I'll pull you."

"Don't you dare drop me Ander Zavien!" Reynick barked. He grunted, doing as he said, and Ander pulled hard to haul him over, growling out between gritted teeth.

He collapsed beside him breathlessly.

"That," he hissed, and sat himself up slowly, "Was entirely your fault."

"I fixed the problem, didn't I? You can scold me for misdirection when we're standing on wood again!" Ander snapped. He turned back onto his hands and kneels and half crawled the rest of the way to the end of the netting, with the Mage at his heels.

Biting down hard at the effort, he grabbed the railing and hoisted himself over, tumbling into the man sized crate that was the crows nest.

Reynick stretched out his arms, grunting. "Help would be welcome!"

Quickly, they clasped wrists and Ander aided him over. He landed enviably on his feet.

The crows nest seemed to be composed of a cluster of empty bird cages tied to the narrow post at the dead centre, a railing that only reached his stomach stretching around the outside.

He sank to the floor leaning back against it, panting.

Reynick was taken aback when, after a few moments, he started to chuckle.

"What?" He asked bitterly. Ander just smirked up at him.

"Why is this an occasion for laughter?" He asked again.

"You called me Ander back there," Ander grinned. "Like, just Ander."

Reynick, faltering, looked away in annoyance. "I believe it was Ander Zavien.."

"It's good to have you as a friend, too, Reynick." Ander smiled. "Though I refuse profusely now to call you Rey."

"Oh, ha-ha, thank the stars for that then!" He glowered. He stubbornly refused to speak for a few moments, but he quickly caved. "You seem oddly happy for someone who was just outright back-stabbed."

"It gives me peace to know that he is now probably being drained of every ounce of blood in his body."

"..Well, aren't you a bloodthirsty little sadist?"

Ander was, as soon as his words left him, a little startled by him own undertone. He would never have seen himself wishing something of the sort on a person - and he had said it without even a second thought.

But nevertheless, he had earned punishment. Ander had almost been put to death himself for far less, Antanio had threatened cold blooded murder..

But did he really have the conscience to say that anybody deserved what he imagined was happening to Antanio?

Ander sighed heavily. "No, look.. I don't, wish that on anybody, only.. Karma, I suppose."

Reynick looked unabashed either way. "You needn't explain yourself to me, I'd kill him myself for less. Justice is at hand, I simply didn't expect such a cold hearted statement from a mary sue like yourself. But what of Quill? Will Hunter spare him?"

"I don't know.." Ander sighed irritably, trying to ignore whatever 'mary sue' entailed. He glanced at the spot opposite him, then back to Reynick. "You might as well sit down, you know. Antanio's not a little fellow, we may be here a while."

"Spare me the theory.." Reynick squirmed, but seated himself uncomfortably anyway.

The two sat in terrible silence for several minutes, trying to drone out the haunting sounds from far below by concentrating instead on the sound of the waves; but the sea was so still. From the distance they were at they could barely hear splashing.

But, overlapping it, was another distinct sound. It was in the back of Anders head, like a very vivid stroke of imagination.

"Reynick.." Ander said, frowning. "Do you hear that?"

"Hear what?"

"Footsteps.." Ander said slowly. He stood up and leaned over the railing a little to look, but saw nothing. He was sure he could hear it.. The screaming had been replaced by wracked whimpers, the patter of urgent footsteps on wood obscured by the scuffle in between, like someone was dragging their feet, or being dragged.

Reynick grabbed his wrist and pulled him back down quickly, level to his face. "You are hearing things. Don't get yourself killed.."

"Don't patronise me!" He grumbled, pulling his arm back stubbornly. "And.. That smell-"

"What smell?"

"Almost, copper!"

Reynick looked at him for a long time, his pale eyebrows lowered.

"Blood." He said solemnly. "His blood, Antanios, do you think? Can you tell?"

Ander felt helpless, looking about at where the sounds and the smells could be coming from. They weren't directly beneath them, they were still below deck..

"N-No! How the hell should I know?" He cried. "It.. It's red in my mind, though, if I picture it.. Why can I picture it?!"

Something behind Reynicks eyes seemed to connect. He grabbed Anders hands abruptly. "Ander, how long is it until your birthday?" He asked urgently.

Ander looked alarmed. He glanced down at their hands, pulling back against his grip. "It's May 10th! Why in Staras name-"

"Shh," Reynick covered his mouth suddenly, and lowered his voice to a whisper. "Shut up and sit down, they're here."

Ander grabbed his wrist to push him away, but sat down as he asked. "Why? Why is my birthday relevant?"

Reynick sighed slowly. The sounds of voices on the deck now were drifting up. "The enhanced senses you're demonstrating.. They're signs of vampirism. They usually kick in in times of panic or frenzy, I studied them. They generally begin in close vicinity to the rebirth date, on a persons 18th birthday."

"I don't even know what day it is!" Ander hissed.

Reynick shot daggers at him. "Lower your tone. You have maybe two weeks, maximum.."

He then jerked his head toward the railing, as though to tell him to listen.

The voices were distant, but when Ander concentrated, he could hear Quills begging quite clearly. 
"Please! Inno' I wronged you all but I can't-"

"Can't go back to the underclan? Ah, but Quillan, you won't be." Said Hunter blandly. Ander rose surreptitiously and leaned over the railing just a little, enough to make out the crew gathered about the deck, with Cyro and another deckhand holding Quill still. Their eyes, red as blood, lit up the night with splashes of violent and unsettling crimson.

They were pulling something out of the side of the ship behind the captain. It was a wooden plank. 
"Walking the plank?" Quill asked in bewilderment. He scoffed. "I'll survive that, what's the point?"

A startlingly sadistic smirk crept onto Hunters face. He turned to Samson. "Tie his arms, double wrap him if necessary.. Then take his ruby. The sun is rising."

"What..?" Quill whispered. His eyes widened in realisation. "No.. Yer' can't! Yer' might as well bloody kill me where I stand!"

Samson gathered a coil of thick rope from a barrel to the side, and watched fear grow in the mans eyes as he approached with it. His eyes were devoid of compassion, a bottomless, loveless red. "I'm sorry, Quill. A traitor dies a coward. Be it minutes after his betrayal, or decades."

"Reynick.." Ander whispered urgently, frozen where he stood. "They're going to expose him to the sun."

Reynicks eyebrows furrowed. "How can you hear that so clearly?"

"Putting it all together, vampires must have enhanced hearing.. Which genuinely concerns me. But, I must be tapping into that ability right now like you said."

"If you can hear them, maybe they can hear us! Get down, I don't want to end up like Antanio!" Reynick growled out. Ander instead lingered a moment, and the mage sighed deeply. "Whether they're going to kill him or not, you can't save Quill. I don't see why you should care to."

Ander glowered at him as he sat back down. "I don't. And we're whispering, aren't we? Besides, the captain knows we're up here. If they were so blood driven after draining Antanio, we'd already be dead."

Reynick looked away indignantly, reluctant to admit he was right.

It was maybe a minute later that they started to hear the pleas for help from Quill, trailing off into desperate whimpers.

"Please! You can't do this - I 'elped the boy! You 'ave no right!"

"We have every right." Said Ransom coldly. "You plotted to kill one of our own, almost destroyed all our chances of a cure out of idiocy!"

"And Ander is our friend." Samson growled out.

Now, even Alec was yelling. "We thought he was yours!"

"Traitorous bastard!" Davelynn spat.

Reynick looked at him. There was something in his eyes behind his indifferent exterior; he was afraid. No, he was conflicted. Perhaps both at once.

"They're making an example of him.." He said quietly.

He peered over the edge just a little. Quill had been tied so tightly his arms were pinned to his sides, his midnight stone clasped tight in Ruth's hand with the chain dangling.

Hunter drew his sword from the sheaf across his back and scowled at him, pointing the blade to his heart. Quill didn't dare glance down at it, even with the point pressed at the exact spot where Anders dagger had poked a hole in his shirt.

"You stay here like a coward, I will run you through. You walk the plank, the suns touch erases you and the ocean will claim your ashes."

The sun was rising fast, shades of orange seeping into the dark sky on the horizon. A curtain of light was making its way across the glistening waves, growing ever closer by the second.

Quill, suddenly aware of his grim options, adopted the look of a man in acceptance.

He turned, and started to walk the plank.

"He's.. He is going to die.." Ander breathed, paling visibly. "They're killing another man for me, Reynick. He stopped, maybe he doesn't deserve-"

"Guilt is meaningless now, Ander.. They have to ensure it doesn't occur again." Reynick said as softly as he could manage. He too was fixated on the large man, who was looking mournfully out as he stepped across the rustic wooden plank, one foot in front of the other.

Ander had never considered how the suns light moved before; now as he watched it, it seemed to travel so gracefully across the water, a clean line.

Quill looked with different eyes. It was his death sentence. The grim reapers arm stretching out for him, dabbling in the light but just as dark. There was no beauty in the scene.

"Stara, old timer.." Quill muttered beneath his breath desperately. "I-I've never given yer' much thought.. But I, uh, I've done somethin' bad an' I apparently don't 'ave a soul so this really is it. Just, uh.." He coughed expectantly. "One of them eclipses would be right good."

"Oh, do stop your ramblin'.." Ruth sighed. "My blade doesn't care whether you believe in old gods who've never done a thing for us. And neither does the ball of fire in the sky."

"Allow the man to say his prayers if he wishes.." Samson muttered.

The light was starting to reach him, Ander squinting to watch. Quills eyes were wide, stepping back hesitantly before feeling the cold steel of hunters blade at his back.

The captain shook his head, sighing slowly. "Will you face it after all? Your true atonement?"

"I.." Quill looked out, stretching a hand to the sunlight cornering him. "I will."

The shadows across the plank were shrinking. The man braced himself, and shut his eyes so tight that tears trickled down the side of his nose, turning his face away.

Then, quite suddenly, Hunter grabbed his arms. He wrestled him back several metres in less than a second, and cried out. "RUTH! The stone!"

In a blur of movement, Ruth tossed it to him.

The sunlight washed over them, with the midnight ruby now returned to its place around Quills neck. The touch of warmth caused him to finally open his eyes wider than a crack.

Frenzy filled him at the realisation. He gasped, head snapping about in alarm. "B-But I-!"

"You saw truth." Hunter said cooly, now stepping back from him with folded arms. "You faced your punishment. There is no need for you to die now that I am assured you will not consider betraying us again."

"Captain..?" Quill started, but he could not speak. He instead stared down at his feet in shame for a long moment. "I'm, sorry.."

"Saying sorry is fruitless. Simply acknowledging an apology and accepting said apology are very different, and the one way to truly accept is to believe.. You were willing to atone." Hunter said smoothly. "Therefore, I believe."

"Welcome back, kid." Gillian grimaced.

Ander looked at Reynick, who stared blankly back. "I believe he just-"

"Yes." Ander said. He stood up, and leaned over to grasp the nearest rope.

"Oi!" He shouted down, turning the heads of several crew members. As he suspected, the scarlet in their eyes had dulled, informing him that their blood drive had reached it's end.

It was Hunter who waved for them to come down. "Get yourselves down nice and steady, I assure you it's safe."

"Uh.." Reynick started, still crouched against the railing. "I might take my chances up here!"

"Get your arse in gear, Mage!" Davelynn sighed impatiently. "We don't bite very hard."

Eventually, Ander and Reynick wormed their way back down the netting, flushing at the occasional chortle they would receive. From the last few rungs, Ander jumped, and miraculously landed on his feet.

Reynick was a little slower to follow, though it was Ander Quill turned to, his head hung in shame and guilt.

"I don' think sorry begins to cover it.."

"You're right, it doesn't." Ander sighed. "What you just did does, though. I know that Antanio was to blame, so you are forgiven."

"Ander?" Said Ransom, looking up. "I know you were granted permission, but while our condition isn't critical I advise you to return to sleeping in the cabin where you can be under our surveillance. Antanio was our trusted friend, and I do not wish for you to fall prey in a similar fashion again."

"Alright." Ander agreed reluctantly, and started to make his way there unaccompanied. He felt a little dizzy, not from the height of the crows nest, but from the rush of events that had occurred.

That, and the sickening undertone that his friends voices had carried while they had been blood driven.

Something about them had distinctly changed. It was like every hunting trick of their being had triggered at once, and this was the ghastly result. Their posture, their voice, their eyes; it would lure in prey, he supposed, if that had been trying. Instead, it made his head spin and his stomach twist.

He reached his hammock, tossed his shoes against his chest and crawled beneath his sheets. The sun of a new day had already risen, yet despite that, he fell into a quick though admittedly uncomfortable slumber. It was accomplished only by forcing all of his unnerving thoughts to the recesses of his mind, where they would instead disturb his dreams.

He was only woken by the snapping, and it seemed from the dull light flooding in from the hatch to be either much later in the day, or an entirely new one.

"Ander, for pities sake!"

His eyes opened with glacial speed, crusted with sleep, and a blurry edged Ransom came into view. His eyebrows were furrowed, seemingly from stress, looking down on him with hair falling across his brow like sword strokes and obscuring much of his face. Though no signs of physical tiredom could mar him, he had the air of a man who had never risen before dawn in his life, and only as he looked at him closely did he realise that he almost always had this look.

"Get up." He uttered severely.

Ander ignored him. Somehow, his strict tone hardly motivated him like it would have a few days prior. It didn't so much as startle him. "I'll get up when life stops being a cruel and pointless joke. Leave me be, it have rope burn and I'm tired.."

"Ander, this is serious.." He hissed. His face was straight, as white as ever but somehow caressed by shadow. He was radiating a more fatalistic aura than usual.

He stood back so the boy could sit straight, and he did after a moment, breathing a laboured sigh. 
Ander reached over for a fresh shirt from his sack, suddenly very aware that Ransom was deadly serious. And usually Ransom being serious brought new meaning to the metaphor 'deadly.' He hopped up and began to undress. "Alright. Perhaps I should have played the emotional distress card.. What happened? And what year is it?"

"Do stop joking. You slept almost an entire day. You would think we'd kept you awake for a week with sticks or something.." Ransom sighed, and folded his arms, leaning back against the frame of Ruth's hammock. He averted his eyes from Ander changing.

Ander continued looking at him, until he answered his first question. "Ah, and, slavers."

Ander paused a moment, pulling his shirt over his head. He had said it in the tone of voice that might he used for a comment about the weather.

Honestly, the boy was more perplexed than shocked. After slavery was voted to be 'in-humane' by the imperium, the slave trade had been cut off entirely. Ships had used to export goods to the outer provinces close to Wildlands from Zafflen fairly often, in exchange for slaves captured near there. Then the port became mainly disused, and they expanded the infamous gallows to replace the old 'cargo' drop off point.

He had only had the trade explained to him once, after it had been outlawed. It hadn't ever entered his head previously, being a child.

There were two classes of slaves; the wilder-people from the Vialta were delivered mainly to the Eastern approach of the Sounderlands, or Tordans Western border for taxing plantation work. They'd be beaten and whipped, working in the raging sun until late hours. These were class A, though there was scarcely a difference between the treatment of both.

Then, the vagabonds, the poverty struck and the orphans from Tordan and Sparing. Though all over, really. They'd be made house slaves. Most would be killed by their masters - though the women and children had life considerably worse, as they were regarded as expendable. These were class B, and both would be branded with the mark of their master.

Though the imperium attempted to cover their involvement, the buying of slave-grown goods and 'unpaid servants' was no cloak and dagger operation. The empire benefited from it, and the fragile alliance between Carver and Sida could not be risked by cutting off the trade.

Ander supposed he was better off in his knowledge than previous generations. At least he NOW recognised it as an anomaly, they would never have considered it. And those who did, would likely still have looked the other way.

What if it hadn't been made illegal? Would he have ever questioned the morality of it deeper? About those whole damned ships of beaten and starved innocents?

The idea sickened him almost as much as slavers themselves. He blinked hard, filled with turmoil at the very concept. "W-What are you talking about..?"

Ransom frowned deeply, like his reaction was surprising. "A slaver ship, headed to the Sounderlands, most likely for plantation work. Yates just spotted it. There will be over a hundred class A slaves aboard from the Wildlands."

"The Western Wildlands? I thought that was unclaimed land?"

"The territory war there with the natives is still raging, even if there's no public news about it. They don't like to admit their cannons are being beaten by wooden bows.. Sounderland slave catchers have been slipping past the front lines into their tribes to take slaves. Ridding the wilder-people of young men who will grow to be warriors benefits them in two ways at once."

Ander gritted his teeth, recalling the description of the conditions he had read in the bakers newspaper at Zafflen. Though his reading skills were lacking, he was smart enough to understand the outline of it all. How they'd been lay side by side on their backs, crushed together with ankles chained, in the spaces where cargo would be held for days at a time with next to no sustenance. That was all the slavers thought of them, goods. Cargo to be bought and sold. They weren't humans to them.

Ander tightened the draw string of his shirt sharply, and sat to lace his boots. "I thought slavery was abolished a decade ago..?" He asked through his teeth.

Ransom looked back at him with a solemn expression. "It was, publicly. However certain Sounder companies have continued the trade in secret, such as the ship named 'witacer.'"

"I'm guessing Witacers the slaver ship Yates spotted, then.." He muttered.

Those horrible conditions had seemed so distant a problem, he wouldn't have considered them being so close by. It filled him with rage, and once he had tied his boot, he leaped to his feet. "How is this not noticed by the imperium?!" He yelled.

Ransom arched an eyebrow at his sudden anger. "It's all under the radar.. The auctions in the the outer provinces are completely covered up, and privately owned slaves in the inner provinces are kept secret or unspoken of.. The slaves are all orphans unregistered by the state, bastard children like Samson was, or kidnapped in the Wildlands and Vialta with no pattern to note. You should know all of this. It's a calculated flaw."

He looked down with a harsh expression. "Be careful not to give them credit Ransom, those are human lives.."

"Why do you think we're going to risk our necks saving them? You're hanging back, but-"

"What? You're.. Saving them? Pirates do that now?" He asked in shock.

Ransom groaned inwardly. "Haven't you gathered by now that we're not just thieves? How many villages do YOU think have we pillaged on this journey? We're not all after Davy Jones bloody trust fund, you imbecile!"

"It just.. Came as a surprise. And.. what do you mean I can't come?"

He looked at him in annoyance. "You sound like a whining child.. With the plan already so fragile, we can't risk you getting injured or killed. We need you. Besides - you're far too reckless to be trusted, you'll claim lives with that temper."

"Ransom, I am coming! You can't keep me from doing what is right!"

Ransom now released a frustrated growl, throwing up his hands. "For pities sake! Sometimes, I wish I had a wooden sign that says 'no' on it so I could hit you around the bloody head with it! Calm yourself, and listen to reason! Stubbornness.. It gets nobody anywhere!"

"Ransom?" said Gillian from the stairs. He did his usual waddle down the ladder, landing heavily, and headed toward them. Ransom folded his arms, composing himself.

"..Gillian?"

"The lads were just wondering, y'know why we're botherin'.. Uh," his eyes flitted across to Ander, "We, have a bit of a time limit 'ere."

"I'm not exactly going to rot here and now!" Ander exclaimed incredulously. The corner of Ransoms lips lifted into a smirk at him, before shaking it off and turning back to the man. "You doubt the captain, Gillian?" He asked innocently.

Gillian sighed deeply. "On a scale of 1 to ten?"

"We know what we are doing, I assure you. Now return to your station immediately."

"Yuh, 'immediately,' I get it." Gillian grumbled, rolling his eyes. He started to turn, then twisted back around to point a finger at Ander. "'Ee best not be coming! 'Ees been attracting trouble as of late!"

Ander crossed his arms in annoyance. "He has a name and he can take care of himself."

"He's not." Ransom said briskly.

Anders head snapped around, staring at him incredulously. He stuttered for a second. "Ransom, you can't be serious?"

"I'll leave you ladies to your domestic."

"Watch your tongue.." Ransom scolded him.

Waving a hand in disinterest, Gillian headed back to the deck, muttering something about how they ought to get proper stairs after a hundred years as he clambered up the ladder.

Ander now turned to Ransom with a sour expression. Being left on the ship like a damsel in distress all the time was not part of his divine plan; he somehow liked the idea of fighting again like he had on the island. He would have once been opposed to the idea, but hunters, and slavers, and serial killers, and possibly annoying albino mages were his exception. It excited him, in fact. The thought of holding justice in his hands, seemed like a cause to rise to.

"If you think I'll wait here like a sad fool, you're mistaken!"

"You won't be here, you'll be in the upper mast.. Well, the crows nest, you know it as. You were up there last night.. And Stara forbid we be allowed to name anything else.."

Ander looked suitably unimpressed, despite it being an upgrade from the cabin quarters.

"I feel like you should be grinning and saying 'ah, but you have the most important job!'" He mocked, forehead creased. "I'm going to sit there watching you all, is that it?"

"Ander, we need a lookout, it is important. Yates usually would, but he is required to fight with us being three men down, and Alec can't fire a bow for the life of him. You have no choice in the matter."

Ander sighed, leaning against the wood of the wall, and Ransom looked at him desperately. His dark eyes were as lifeless as ever, but his face was twisted with impatience. "Ander," He started, but he hesitated briefly. "Please."

The very idea of Ransom dropping his superiority concept for even a moment was enough to make him think twice. Ander looked at him hard, blinking. Past the cascade of dark hair covering his right eye, the edge of his unusual scar was visible, his one mark of weakness. The stitches seemed to crease further when he frowned, to relax when he smiled. He didn't help himself by being unhappy all the time.

He sighed deeply. "Ransom, since actual manners seem to pain you, alright. I'll not argue further."

Ransom clenched his fists. "You know, you are.. Immensely, irritating." The man scowled. He softened a moment. "But.. Thankyou, for agreeing. I'd prefer that than us hauling you up with ropes and chaining you to the rigging."

"I would too. Immensely, prefer it."

Ransom started to turn, but he hesitated. His eyes fell to the bandage around Anders leg, now stained red and tattered at the edges. Ander hadn't dared change it, for fear he would do sonething horribly wrong to his stitches or attract one of the vampires attention.

"Your leg still looks like the starry night under that, doesn't it?" He asked as softly as he could manage. "I'm not so adept at nursing as most, but I could-"

"No." Said Ander urgently. "I'm.. Fine."

"It will become infected if you don't cleanse it."

"I can deal with my own wounds, I don't need another man salting them.. I'm not a child who needs to be protected."

"But you are not quite a man yet, and you do need to be protected, for our own sakes." Ransom said impatiently. "Sit down, let me-"

Ander recoiled sharply, brandishing his fists. "Don't, touch me!" He barked.

Ransom looked a little alarmed by his reaction. He looked down at him icily, then caught the boys fist in his hand and threw it back to his side.

"Ander." He said innocently, though with a severe undertone. "You would let Reynick.. Why not I? Do you not trust me, after everything?"

"I-I trust you.. I don't trust your current state."

Ransom, if possible, scowled even more. "If I were not strong enough to resist your blood, you'd have been killed while you slept. Now sit down!"

Ander reluctantly sat, irritated at his own submittance, and glared at him as he knelt and unbound the bandage.

The wound was mostly healed, but the grotesque scar remained, a canvas of blue and black bruises spreading from his ankle to his calf where it lined his skin. Ransom sighed.

"It's disgusting." He said, and reached under Reynicks old hammock for the supply box and one of the buckets of water there. From it he produced a compress, dunked it into the liquid and pressed it to his leg.

"Gah! Have some mercy!" Ander hissed, unaware of how tender it was beneath the bandages.

Ransom sighed again. He silently went about the task of cleaning around the wound, Ander keeping a hand on his dagger, then recovered a new pristine white bandage and bound it again. It wasn't as tight as he'd have liked, but he didn't dare complain.

Ransom stood and dusted himself off, kicking the supply box away again. "You shouldn't have it so tight. A lot of that swelling was caused by cutting off the blood flow to your foot, and the wound needs airing out or the scarring will be considerably worse."

"You know that how?" Ander asked doubtfully.

Ransom cast him a dark look. "It's simply been of use to me, that is all I wish to say on the matter. Follow up when you are ready and have Ruth provide your weapon.. And, try not to be so irritatingly unapproachable."

He then turned and returned to the deck without another word, leaving Ander glaring at his back. 
Ander leant against the wall even after he'd left, brushing his matted hair back from his eyes with his fingers and muttering Ransoms words back to himself in mocking tones.

"You're one to talk about unapproachable.." He muttered.

Using one of the pieces of string wrapped around Samsoms hammock frame, he tied the locks of hair that would fall into his eyes back into a small and rather pathetic dread, that he tucked amongst the rest of his untameable waves.

He'd been called things like that before, by his father and the baker. But the memories were happy ones. When Ransom said it, as much as he hated to admit that the man was having an effect of any kind on him, he felt like he'd shrivel into a speck of dust.

Who his parents really were, he doubted he'd ever know. But the lives they lived would never have to affect him like that of Ransoms. He reminded himself of that when he felt like hating the man.

Eventually, he made his way to the deck, and was very quickly intercepted. An entire face of fluffy black hair obscured his vision, hands clutching at his back, hugging him tightly. "Ander!"

He staggered back a moment, surprised. "A-Alec?"

"I feel so bad for ye!' You've been betrayed more than once now, a-and-"

"Alec," Ander chuckled, gently hugging him back before easing him away. "I'm alright, really. Antanio is gone and I'm willing to forgive Quill. Besides, I had Reynick and the captain there to save my skin! You needn't worry about me at a time like this."

Alec sniffed and nodded, looking up at him with large, azure eyes. "Ruth's over there with weapons. The Witacer is still just off the horizon, but it's getting closer.."

Ander looked across at the railing, but he had no idea how the boy could see so far without a looking glass. It was barely a dot to him.

"Cheers, Alec." He smiled, still a little taken aback by being tackled. It was Samson who approached once Alec had returned to below deck.

"Oi, shark bait!" He called. Ander looked over with a raised eyebrow.

"Excuse me?"

"It's like you attract trouble, y'know." Samson sighed, though he was smirking as he said it. "Maybe Ruth will like you now."

"I rather hope not.." Ander sighed. "And that's both your problem and fault!"

"Problem?" Samson chuckled. "It's your heart on the hook!"

"But I don't have much to gain from staying, do I?" Ander retorted bitterly.

As soon as the words left his lips, he felt slightly guilty. More so when Samson sunk a little.

"Ah," said the blonde. He ran a hand back through his hair uneasily, before mustering back a small smile. "That's a flesh wound.. But hey, you're right. And I won't blame you for being cold in these circumstances.. Go get kitted up, those carrier ships move faster than you'd expect when they feel threatened; infact, I'm bloody surprised the cowards haven't turned tail and fled yet."

"Uh.. Thankyou. And sorry for snapping."

When Samson started to turn, Ander couldn't help it. He found himself grabbing his sleeve to stop him.

"I mean it." He said.

Samson heaved a laboured sigh. After a few moments, he twisted to look at him. "For what now?"

"Standing up for me all the time, like last night. You deserve less, uh.."

"Look," Samson interrupted, and took Ander by the shoulders. "I don't like cushy stuff, you know that. I did that because we're friends, aren't we?"

In the midst of everything, Samsoms following smile seemed so pure and genuine that he had no doubt about it. Samson was his friend; his irritating, over-confident, vain, and irresponsible friend. 
He wished he wasn't so helpless to stop him leaping recklessly into action and getting killed.

Ander smiled back, and regaining his dignity, promptly slapping him on the arm. "Right!"

"Good! Now go get kitted up, mate! And try not to get eaten. Or drowned.. Or betrayed. You have a say in about two of those things."

"I could act more likeable, that'd certainly raise my chances."

Samson laughed. Ander very much liked the sound compared with Ransom, who only let the corners of his mouth turn up at the joke as he passed them on his way to the upper deck. Samson laughed like someone who had done a lot of thinking about life, and realised there's a lot to laugh about.

He imagined someone thrust into a vampires situation, so reluctantly, had very little to be happy about. With a thirst for blood that made social situations rather difficult if not impossible, and an allergy to sunlight that could only be rid of by wearing ladies jewellery, it was a miracle he could act so optimistic.

"You are likeable, idiot." His friend smiled, "But you rarely meet a pirate who is aggressively likeable, if you understand what is meant by that . People who try too hard to be accepted end up becoming a substitute doormat, and that doesn't do much for the complexion. How about instead you focus on being interesting? You have a head start."

Samson then started heading toward a group of others, who were raising the mainsails. The great white flags steadied, where they had been flapping lightly in the sea breeze, and the colossal black mainsail with its eery red stain was hoisted high.

"Interesting, eh?" Ander muttered, and chuckled lightly to himself. He looked over at Ruth, stood with her excessive rack of weapons and loading several smaller barrels with what appeared to be gun powder.

One hatch was open beside her feet that Ander had never questioned before; he only knew that it led to the gun deck, and that Ruth did not appreciate unwelcome trespassers. Her incessant need for order and control there over-ruled such things.

"Ruth?" He asked, and her resting 'I will choke you if you enter my space' face was suddenly concentrated on him.

"What?" She sighed, looking down at him despite her inferior height in a way that suggested that she was standing on a raised podium, rather than the rotting floorboards of an only-slightly-less-rotting pirate ship. "How be the fabled fish bite?"

"Improving." He scowled, and gestured to the rack behind her. "Ransom mentioned that I'll be up in the crows nest, so I'll need something suitable.. Uh, please. And quickly."

"Look who remembered how to speak to a lady! Crossbow or long bow?"

"What's the difference?"

For perhaps ten seconds, the gun-master stared at him, and it was his indifference as to why that made him want to instinctively duck from the line of fire.

The sheer fury hidden behind her eyes, tucked in the shadow of a look you might give a disabled bear attempting flight, was more than humiliating.

Tight lipped, she turned to the bows and roughly handed him a rather worn looking weapon, probably the least attractive and closest to its due-by date that she could chosen.

The accompanying quiver of arrows was strapped to his belt beside his daggers without her even asking him.

"You are, quite frankly, absolutely hopeless," she said softly, whilst tightening the quiver to the point where his weapons belt was likely damaging his internal organs. "But if I am attacked and you miss your target, I hope you enjoy the eternal haunting that ensues." 

"Ruth.." He sighed, and positioned the bow under his arm. He eased the belt back a little once she stepped away. "We might not like each other, but while I'm making friendship ties I might as well reassure you that I have no intention of letting you die.."

"Whoop-ee-do! The blind archer has my back!"

"I was trying to be nice." He said between gritted teeth. Ruth infuriated him, but he understood the bonds between these people. Samson cared for her, from their stolen conversations on the gun deck and how she allowed him there in the first place. Davelynn cared for her, from how they'd exchange uncharacteristically sweet smiles and sit beside each other closely to talk in private. Even Gillian cared for her, from how he'd stop her with a 'y'alright, lass?' from time to time and offer her a drink if he suspected a lie in the following yes. He was sure the others cared just as much.

Because of this, he would protect even her. He would try to protect all of them. 

He breathed a laboured sigh. "Watch yourself, alright?"

Ruth merely rolled her eyes, as though to say 'you don't have to tell me that, kid!'

 

Join MovellasFind out what all the buzz is about. Join now to start sharing your creativity and passion
Loading ...