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.'

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20. Chapter 20 - The Young Lord Dantalion

Ander stared in alarm, straightening, then glanced down at his own wrist. The two now painfully torn puncture wounds seeped the exact same colour, just beginning to pool about them.

"Damn it.." Ransom cursed, moving from the wreckage and now rubbing at the back of his head. He raised a hand to wipe his mouth slowly, savouring the taste of blood on his lips for a moment longer. Ander clutched his wounded wrist as he stood, his face contorted with pain. He had barely noticed the collision to his back, the pain in his arm was too great.

"Agh! You could have warned me about how horribly that would hurt!"

"I drained blood straight from your veins," Ransom said pointedly, straightening his coat. "It's not exactly going to tickle."

Ander glared at him. He turned to look at the arrangement of barrels around them, searching for a crawl space they could exit through. The barrels were arranged with one between every two, so that pushing out one would cause an evident domino effect. The contents would spill out, and... His stomach twisted. The blood supply was so precariously balanced on the top rack, one wrong move would send it flying. 

"We're going to struggle, I think.." He mumbled. Ransom sighed, nodding lowly. He sank back against the wall, folding his arms, and Ander did the same.

For a few dragging minutes, neither of them spoke a word. Then Ander looked at him impatiently.  "Can't you just move them some how? You're the vampire in the room.." 

"Not at risk of the blood supply toppling over, you half-wit." Ransom retorted bitterly, scowling. "What kind of cretin puts the liquids on the top rack, anyway?"

"The kind who was trained in his task by a 12 year old!" Ander spat, rounding closer to him angrily. He then span around in frustration with a deep groan, folding his arms again. "You know you have no right to bark at me, you caused this."

"I beg to differ!" Ransom snapped, still avoiding his eyes. "You didn't exactly have to shove me into the barrels like a battering ram!"

"What would you have me do?" He yelled back at him. "Let you damn well kill me?" 

Ransom bit hard on his lip to prevent himself from shouting back, trembling with rage. "Alright! I apologise! I suggest we drop the petty blame game for now and call for some help, swallow our shame before this goes any further!" 

Ander scoffed incredulously. "Of course, excellent plan. What happens when they ask why we're down here?"

"I swear, Ander, I will cut out your tongue if you wave it about again! We lie, of course."

"And are you providing the scripts?" Ander scoffed, fists clenching at his condescending tone.

Ransom almost released a yell of frustration. "Shut your mouth! I doubt you have a better plan - you'll do bloody well to remember that I'm your still your senior."

"Ohh, really?" Ander asked sarcastically. "And here I was starting to think we were becoming friends, my letting you take my own blood. Infact, I'm still waiting on my thankyou!" 

When Ransom span, his hand connected hard with the side of Anders head, knocking him staggering sideways into the wall. As pain shot through his cheek, numbing his jawline, he started up at the man in shock and anger.

Ransom was glaring, grimacing furiously, consumed by his anger. His eyes settled on his reddened knuckle, which was already healing. Then, quite suddenly, his face sank. The fury was replaced by a mixture of horror and sadness; a feeling of overwhelming regret.

 "Oh, god.." He breathed, his eyes widening. "Oh, god, I'm.. I'm him! I'm.."

"Ransom..?" Ander said cautiously, eyes widening as he straightened. He rose a hand to his wounded cheek, the coppery taste of his own blood filling his mouth. He winced at the pain of touching it. "You, struck me!" 

Ransom sank back against the wall, his head in his hands. Ander frowned in puzzlement at the sudden change. "I-I'm him.." Ransom managed, his voice shaky. "I'm my father. I saw myself in him.. I-I'm him.."

"Your father?" Ander asked, finding the courage to speak. "What do you mean? Who is he?" 

Ransom peered through his spread fingers at him, then dropped them to his sides. He breathed a wracked sigh. "I have never told anyone.. But I suppose I owe you an explanation."

Ander nodded hurriedly. Ransom ran one hand back through his dark hair, then tugged on it frustratedly. Ander waited a few moments until he started to speak. 

"He was once a viscount. Then, the earl of Saare Pastell. He was born into aristocracy, but with a silver mine to his name as well. I was his only child, and had another name then, but I left it behind when I left him." He hesitated a moment, seeing the shock on the boys face. "You seem surprised, Ander."

"Surprised, being an understatement! I supposed you would have had a good upbringing, but the son of lord and lady Galeswick?" Ander asked in disbelief.

Ransom huffed, looking away. "Not a title I am proud of, clearly. My fathers position stressed him, pushed him to the edge. I never understood. I'd ask things of him and be turned away, every time. But you could say that is a slight under exaggeration."

"Go on.." Ander said.

Ransom looked at him, his dark eyes filled with pain at the memories filling his mind. "He was an abusive bastard. My father would strike me, across the back when I acted up and sometimes he'd miss and catch my arms and neck.I never wanted to be a noble, and I left the mansion a lot, returning home late. But when he started belting me.. I became scared to even go outside." 

Ander stared at him in horror, trying to imagine the pain he had endured, and faltering. He could hardly comprehend the words. Ransom was so strong, so cold, unbreakable.. Trying to imagine him in such a situation was difficult, and painful to say the least.

"Ransom, that's-"

"Don't coddle me, I'm not telling you to get sympathy." Ransom sighed. "I left after.. After he made the deal. My mother, my only anchor, became ill. She was the one thing I remained in that accursed house for.. But in the Tuberculosis outbreak she fell deathly sick, and I wasn't allowed to see her. We all understood that she had very little time, even with all our money, the disease didn't discriminate. She was going to die, and I had come to terms with it. But father became worse than ever. I remember I'd just be sitting in my study once the tutor left, or reading, and he'd beat me. Just.. to get out his pain."

"It's no excuse for abusing his own son!" Ander cried, face a mask of anger and frustration. Ransom nodded, looking across at the gap between the wall of barrels.

"I agree. He was a cruel, cruel man, and I despised him. I still do to this day. One day I tried to sneak in to see mother, and he grabbed me by my collar. He threw me to the ground in view of the terrified house servants, and struck me with his belt. He lashed out, again and again, until my white shirt was soaked in blood. The wounds, however, were not deep enough to scar. But one day, after a worse hiding, he caught me with the buckle, and.." He trailed off, holding his fringe between thumb and finger.

Ander stared at the scar that lay beneath it. It all clicked. Suddenly, Ander understood his bitterness. He understood everything. Even with all his pent up resentment toward Ransom, his stomach burned away at the very concept of what his father had done to him. He had marked him for the rest of his life, he would be trapped wearing his past like a bell around his neck. He couldn't run from it. "Your scar.." Ander said, working to keep his breathing even through the fury eating at him. "How.. How dare he do such a thing?"

"If you find out what drives a man to such extremes and understand it I would appreciate an explanation myself." Ransom sighed deeply, shaking his head.

He dropped his hand back to his side, stuffing it deep in his pocket to avoid fidgeting any more.  Ander scratched at his neck as he spoke, unnerved by seeing him so differently.

"Is that the purpose of your fringe?"

"My hair, is not just to cover my damned scar!" Ransom snapped, his fists suddenly clenched tight. At the spark of shock in Anders face, he softened grudgingly. A free hand swept back over the back of his head as his turned his back to him. 

"It's.. To cover me. My past, my burdens.. To cover Dantalion Galeswick." He said, without turning back to him.

"I am not that man."

"No, you are not. You are not that man, Ransom.." Ander said quickly, attempting to sooth him. "Not if you don't want to be." 

He reached out to touch the mans shoulder, but he seemed to sense his movement, and quickly move himself.

"You.. You should keep a clear distance, for a moment." The man managed, his voice softer, but strained.  "..You must be wondering where the vampirism came into it, but the story may not be so believable. I only have half a tale myself.

My father, like I said, was a rich man with many connections. And in a place like Saare Pastell where midnight people reside in every back alley and grid space it wasn't difficult for him to find a vampire, a man who wore a dark hood and walked the path of crime. He fed on humans, and agreed without complaint to 'aid' my father. He.. He would allow desperate people to pay for immortality, like it was something fantastic, 'a miracle cure,' without alerting them of what they were really paying into.

He struck in the night. I remember being woken by the screams of my mother from her special room in the hospital wing of the manor, and darting down the hall, calling to her. Then, I remember nothing else. Nothing but the crashing sound, and the sheer agony of the venom passing through my system. When I woke the next day my parents were both gathered around me. The servants had been massacred, and we had been cursed. My mother was cured of her disease as father had intended, but I could not bring myself to believe that I had become such a creature in the process. I was even convinced that I had fallen into a coma, and this was all a twisted nightmare.

I gathered some meagre possessions and ran to the docks the second night fell, but when dawn started to arrive and no ships came.. I took it as a sign. I thought that Stara wanted this cursed body gone from his Earth, that I was a demon. It is in my name, after all.. A demonic name, one of Staras arch enemies, given by a demonic father. I fell asleep willingly, and didn't expect to wake up. I wanted the sun to claim me and the sea to take my ashes, leaving no trace. It seemed.. Poetic. A nice way to go." 

Ander tilted his head, frowning. He nodded for him to proceed, curious at his survival. 

Ransom almost smiled, then. The corner of his lips tilted upwards. "But I did wake. Here, on the Eclipsium. With a change of clothes, a mysterious chain around my neck and a man in a captains hat towering over me. I had heard things of pirates, and at first, I feared for my life. I thought he was going to kill me or worse.. But my opinions were biased, etched into me by my father, of whom had had his mine supplies raided by the ship with the bloody sails on several occasions. But I soon discovered what they were. That I wasn't alone..." 

Ransom paused for effect. He looked up at the ceiling nostalgically, with a serene smile.

"Hunter had saved me. I had given up, but he was there. He, and the rest of the crew, have been my life for the past 85 years. I even discovered the truth behind the raids on my fathers mines suddenly in the decade before.. He had been corrupt, treating his workers like slaves, in appalling conditions. They were paid next to nothing.. Hunter had given back much of the silver ore to his workers, taking loot for the crew, of course." He sighed almost reflectively, seeming unusually at ease as he shared his story.

"While I loved my mother dearly, my true family is here."

"She could still be alive.." Ander suggested, stepping to face him. "You could seek her out."

"I tried when we were at Saare Pastell. You heard yourself, the manor is empty and they left no trace but my wanted posters." Then, Ander remembered. He pictured the name in his head, how the words had seemed so familiar as he read the aged and faded information.

"Dantalion Galeswick.." He said hesitantly. "Your true name.. To replace it, you took your mothers maiden name, and the price on your head?"

"I found it ironic that my father paid such a small price for my return.. And I liked the sound of the word. Ransom. An obnoxious, pretentious name like 'Dantalion' would scream 'run away noble boy.'"

"Does anyone else know?"

"Samson is more observant than he seems, so it wouldn't surprise me if he's figured something out, but only Hunter truly knows. He put rags over my fine clothing while I was out cold so that the men would not work out my origin. I jumped at the chance of a new name, then. I had no time to hesitate. I could not carry a name with such weight, a name that tied me to my past like the scar on my face.. I chose to become Ransom Coulder, a snap decision." 

Ander mustered a small grin at him, "A snap decision wasn't Philip or William..?"

"Must you make light of everything?" Ransom glowered, but he had softened noticeably. Infact, he then started to smile when he saw the joke. He straightened his back, cracking his knuckles as he did, and stepped away from the wall. "Come on, we should work together to move these."

"Who's there?!" Somebody barked out from the opposite side of the barrels. Ander jolted, then froze still, trying to figure out who it was.

Ransom gave him an alarmed look, frowning, then stepped past him to peer through one of the gaps in the barrels. From the groan he released upon seeing the speaker, Ander could guess who it was. 

"It had to be him, didn't it..?" He muttered almost unintelligibly. 

Reynick grunted. "Aye! What, in gods name, are you doing back there?" 

Ransom was glaring into space. "Irrelevant! Just get us out, quietly, if you will."

"I see no reason why I should answer to that tone!" Reynick snapped back at him.

Ander moved his eye toward the gap, positioning himself so that the man could see him. "Be reasonable?" He pleaded. "It absolutely reeks of fish and I'm in a tight space with a hungry vampire.. I'm sorry that we argued, just get us the hell out of here?"

"Ah, the priorities are indeed in order, aren't they?" Ransom sighed sparingly at him.

Reynick cast him a pitying glance, apparently amused. "That is most unfortunate, Anderson."

Ransoms fists tightened impatiently. "I swear, I will wring your neck when I get out of this, Mage!"

"Alright, alright, no need for rash actions." Reynick grinned in delight. The Mage stepped back, positioning himself between the table and the cleaning supplies. After placing his gloves on a discarded stool, he raised his palms extended just level with his shoulders, and chuckled softly. "I was rather enjoying having the upper hand."

"Get on with it!" Ander and Ransom cried in unison. He rolled his eyes, then closed them a moment. As he did, his arms tensed considerably, and the top four hard-wood barrels filled with the blood supply began to levitate.

Suspended in mid air, they moved, defying gravity. Slowly but steadily, they drifted from the racks and to Reynicks side. They were steady in the air, hardly tilting. Reynick stared at them in intense concentration as they travelled

Finally, they landed with a very low thump, and Reynick keeled over like he had just ran a marathon. He panted, short of breath.

Ander frowned at Ransom, who looked on with folded arms, clearly unimpressed. The two began to push the remaining barrels from their way, on either side of the narrow gap, until they could each slide through. 

Reynick, despite his breathlessness, chuckled at them both. "Yes, yes, laugh all you like." Ander scowled at him.   Reynick snickered, clapping his hands together happily. "Oh, trust me, I do not require permission. But, I'm honestly more curious. How did you manage that? Were you doing something scandalous?" 

"Of course not!" The two cried, exchanging disgusted glances before looking back to him. The scandalous activity they had engaged in was nothing like what Reynick was probably envisioning..

"I was taking Alec's cleaning shift while he was sick.." Ander started. He pointed to the small puddle of animal blood left uncleaned in the corner. "I noticed a leaking barrel. I called Ransom for help?" 

Reynick arched an eyebrow skeptically at Ransom. "You?"

"I needed to micro manage. But Ander slipped in the stuff, and tipped a barrel over. It had, what's the word.. Domino effect, and blocked us in." 

It seemed to appease Reynick. Ander knew it wasn't all that far from the truth, but still, his wrist throbbed beneath his sleeve. The pain of it had been beyond his capability to explain; though he supposed that a changing would hurt far more than a draining. Alec had helpfully explained the difference, along with some vampiric anatomical stuff, a few days prior.

After hearing Ransoms story, he felt no regret. 

Ransom nodded curtly to Ander, stepping toward the hold. "Get it cleaned up.. Please."

Ander nodded back to him, surprised by the use of manners, before he disappeared upstairs with boots light on the steps.

Reynick turned to pick up Alec's spare mop and bucket, handing them to Ander. He flashed him an amused half smile, then winked theatrically. "I MUCH preferred my theory!" 

Leaving Ander flustered and barking out quick excuses, the Mage followed suit, taking the rungs two at a time to catch up to a clearly displeased Ransom. The boy turned with a bracing sigh to face the task before him.

Several barrels lay on their sides beside the ones that had caved to form smaller walls - their contents spilled out around them grotesquely mixing. Puddles of what appeared to be rum, then piles of half prepared fish and stale bread in meager stacks.

He sank back into Alec's chair at the table, putting down his mop a moment, and recovered a flimsy bandage from the boys supply sack. Pressing his lips into a tight line as the pressure stung the sore flesh, he began to wrap around the spot Ransom had bitten, concealing it from the eye.

Over the cloth, he unrolled his sleeves to his knuckles. It could not be seen, he knew that. For his sake and Ransoms. And now, he had two new secrets.

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