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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21. Chapter 21 - Why Night Was Made

"Ransom?" Davelynn frowned, looking up from Alec a moment to where he was emerging from the hold. He looked a lot healthier than he had that morning, though she knew that was impossible. His skin had darkened, the green in his eyes shrunk away and replaced by their usual shade of brown. Even the shadows that had been lingering beneath them had vanished.

Reynick strode in behind him, a few paces back, with a smug grin on his face that quickly faded as he noticed Alec's condition. The mages white eyebrows furrowed in concern.

She swallowed the lump in her throat as they approached, instead returning her gaze to her brother and pouring a few more drops of water between his parted lips.

Alec managed to swallow with some difficulty, and shuddered visibly. "T-Thankyou.." he croaked.

She smiled faintly in return, running her fingers back through his dark, matted hair to keep it from his eyes. "How is he?" Ransom asked quietly, seating himself on the opposite hammock. "Has.. His condition improved?"

Davelynn sighed slowly. "I will not lie to you, he's in a bad way. The poor darling is in a lot of pain.."

Ransoms brow furrowed in concern. He reached out and gently took the boys hand.

Alec turned his attention to him with squinted, alarmingly green eyes.

"Hang in there, Alec. I know it hurts, but we'll get you cured.. I promise." He assured him softly.

When he started to withdraw, Alec clung to his hand. "N-No, you're cold, don't go.. please, I'm sorry, don't leave me.."

Ransom exchanged startled glances with Reynick at the very concept of being wanted there, then looked desperately in turn to Davelynn. He was holding the childs frail hand so loosely it was almost as though he was afraid to break it.

He managed to muster a smile him, running his thumb over his hand. "Of course I won't. Davelynn.." He started, "You look exhausted, I'll take over from here."

"Oh, no, I couldn't possibly-"

" I want to stay here with Alec." He insisted. "You can, uh, sit with me a while if you like.. but we are swapping seats so that you can relax."

Davelynn pressed her lips in a thin line to keep from objecting, and moved away so that Ransom could take her place, him thanking her quietly. Rolling onto his side with a low, pained groan, Alec moved Ransoms hand to his forehead and tugged him closer as a result. At this, he flustered even more.

Reynick chuckled delightedly. "Ah, your discomfort is highly entertaining. I'll be going now. I wish him well."

"W-What discomfort?"

After the Mage had left, his attitude returned, Davelynn seated herself in the hammock where he had been, watching them both cautiously. Ransom sighed.

He reached out with his spare hand for the cloth to dab at the sweat on Alecs neck, hunched over him as the child substituted his hand for an ice pack. "Davelynn, you can trust me, I'm not entirely terrible at nursing."

"O-Oh, no, I wasn't-" Davelynn started, but from Ransoms blank stare, she knew that denial was a lost cause. She merely sighed. "Alright, I trust you."

"Thankyou."

"How do you look so healthy?" She asked abruptly. Ransom hesitated, glancing at the boy to find that he had already drifted off, still clutching Ransoms hand to his chest. Though his forehead was wrinkled, he was thankful for how peaceful he appeared in comparison to his previous state.

"He's asleep."

"For the first time since yesterday.. He feels safe in your company. You've been more than a big brother to him, Ransom."

Ransom felt a smile tug at his lips, though it vanished just as fast. Davelynn didn't miss the shimmer in his eyes.

"Now, answer my question."

"I.. Ander."

"You.. Ander?" Davelynn started, and then gasped in realisation. "No!"

"He insisted! He didn't want me to become sick. I am telling you because you are virtually a lie detector, and any other excuse for why I look human sounds ridiculous. I barely took a pint, and he was willing. I doubt I'll need to eat again for days if not weeks, it was.. Extremely good. Davelynn, you can judge my lack of restraint if you wish to, I'm all yours."

Davelynn, to his surprise, didn't take her eyes from him. "Lack, of? You stopped yourself! You drank human blood, and said human is still alive! You're.. How did you do that?"

Ransom hunched his shoulders. He parted Alec's hair with his free hand and scraped it back carefully with a tie, cautious not to wake him. "I had help."

For a few moments, neither of them spoke. Davelynn was apparently attempting to decipher what he meant by that, so he cut in.

"Why does he want to help us so..?" He breathed. "He could have escaped now, if he so desired. The Imperials don't pursue thieves long, especially in Sparish lands."

Davelynn sighed deeply. "He has a grim determination." She said, without looking at him. "There's lightning behind that boys eyes. It sparks with every in-justice he sees."

"Something about him tells me his story will not end with us." Ransom agreed. "That would be a waste."

For a minute or so, they sat in silence, listening to Alec's occasional whimper and the creaking of the ship.

Eventually, she rose, but hesitated before leaving. "His blood, was it..?"

"Let me put it this way.. If I spread the answer to that question about, I would have cause to fear for his life."  

 

*   

 

That night, the crew sat about the deck, barrels gathered like chairs in a circle. Gillian, apparently the lead conversationalist, was seated with several of the others, drinking. Caskets of opened rum were passed about, sloshing as the ship turned.

At the above deck, Hunter stood overlooking the scene at the wheel, his eyes dull and exhausted as always, but somewhat content.

Yates held a battered looking violin of sorts in his hands, the worn bow gliding slowly across the strings in a melancholy tune. His eyes were shut, the song natural to his hands.

Ander had never noticed it before, but the quiet and unassuming fellow was apparently just a jack of all trades. A cook, a navigator, and now a musician. However Ander had never seen him fight - so he probably had at least that to boast about. 

Samson looked unimpressed, still. "Play something cheerful," He groaned, his feet kicked up on a barrel and his hands behind his head. "Your tunes make me want to dive overboard at times, Yates."

"Like what, ya' damn brat?" Yates muttered irritably. Gillian sat forward, smirking. "Yer' the bloody musician, you should know what."

"Play the royal rival." Ruth suggested offhandedly.

The young blonde-headed deckhand, Edward, gave her a sidelong glance as he spoke up. "You lost your virginity to that one, though.. You told me the story in horrifyingly explicit detail, aye?"

Ruth cackled, waving a hand at him. "I don't believe in that! 'Virginity..' That was just made up by men who think their family jewels are important enough to change who a lady is."

"I wouldn't throw about the word 'lady' so lightly.." Samson muttered, and earned himself a deathly glare.

"Oi, you! Shut it! I'm a real classy maiden!"

Ander could definitely confirm that she was, in fact, a female, from walking in on her changing; but even ignoring that, he wouldn't dare question Ruth.

Yates chewed his lip a moment, as though trying to recall the sound of the song. "Whether it's jus' yer' whinin' blockin' out me' memories or jus' me, I can'ee recall it."

Samson sighed exasperatedly. "You know.." He started, sitting forward. "Dum-dee dum dum dum dum deee, dee - dee dum-"

"I doubt anyone could get it from that." Said Ander, grinning. Samson formed an exaggerated look of offense and elbowed him lightly.

Suddenly, Yates tired eyes lit up in realisation. "Ah, o'course! I do remember it."

And he, after a moment of testing at the bow strings, started to play.

The song was fast, upbeat, and Ander recognised it immediately. A tavern song, from his old life. Something that couples would rise and dance to arm in arm, and old men would stumble about drunkenly in choruses of hearty laughter.

Gillian replicated that laugh in his mind, as did Ruth, and Samson below his breath. The song would once accompany the smell of ale and home cooked dumplings, a warm room packed to the brim, not salt water and the biting sea breeze. Yet, this seemed strangely welcoming to him.

Ruth stood up, and held out a hand to Ransom, who stood at the railing with raised eyebrows. Reynick, convinced that he could stop his pain for a while, had taken over his post by Alec's side. He was beginning to regret letting him.

"Dance with me, Ransom!"

"I'm not one for dancing." Ransom said mildly.

She grinned in amusement at him. "That's because you've never tried! Come!" She rushed forward and took him by the arm, pulling him forward with difficulty, and chuckling as she did. "Take my hands, I'll show you!"

Ransom looked away indignantly, his arms folded. "I don't think so, Ruth."

Ander seated himself slowly beside Samson, and immediately found himself tapping his foot and smiling to the tune. Ransom grudgingly allowed Ruth to drag him around in a circle for maybe 5 seconds to appease her, his cheeks uncharacteristically flustered, before pulling back. "No, I'm sorry, that's... No. Dance with Samson - his dignity is already in shambles."

Davelynn chuckled from where she sat dangling her legs from the upper deck. Samson, however, rose from his barrel grinning broadly. "Thanks for that one, mate!"

He then performed a mocking bow to Ruth. "May I have this dance, millady?"

Ruth snorted with laughter and joined his arm, and the two danced in circles about the deck as easily as though they had rehearsed it. This, however, was mostly blind luck, as he twirled her messily and she trod on his feet. The others poured drinks, Yates played faster, and laughter spread as the rum was passed about.

Ander looked to Ransom, smiling, and saw that he did not seem to be sharing in everyone's enjoyment. It was like a dark cloud had manifested around solely him, excusing the others, and he was ignorant to their high spirits. He stood up, and went to him, taking a drink with him.

"Ransom," he started, frowning at him. "I feel you need to know that you look like someone trod on your topiary garden."

"My.. Topiary garden?" He scoffed under his breath. Ransom, in face, was apparently trying to look as melancholy as possible, but he tapped his toe unknowingly. "You do say the strangest things, Ander; perhaps you have been spending too much time around Samson."

Ander rolled his eyes. "I hate to interfere, I mean, I would hit me for this if I were you, and so I'm planning to duck once I've gotten this out.. But you should really dance with Davelynn."

"Excuse me..?" Ransom frowned. Had anybody seen that frown, they would have quickly guided Ander away by the arms and provided Ransom with a cold drink, but such was not the circumstance. Ander, raising his hands in amusement, pressed blindly on. "Yes, you should. Enjoy yourself, for the first time since I have been here, please! There is nothing to gain from sulking in a corner, especially after I fed you! You.. You owe me!"

 Ransom went visibly red in the cheeks, from a mixture of frustration and denial. "Sulking..? Owe you? Why, you bratty little-!"

"Don't throw yourself overboard, but in the Sounderlands, we called that dancing, sweetheart."

 Davelynn, having hopped from the upper deck, started to approach. She smiled blandly. Ransom turned his head in annoyance. "I'm painfully aware."

Ander made his timely escape, grinning to himself childishly. 

She chuckled. "If you like the song, perhaps we should dance properly. It's good for the soul."

"I'd, uh, rather not.. And how on Earth-" Ransom winced like he had been stung as Davelynn suddenly lifted his arm, guiding him into a space by his sleeve, "-Is this good for the soul? Technically we don't have-"

"Oh, listen to yourself!" She sighed. She raised his hand, and put her palm to his. "We have a soul. It's just blackened. Honestly, far more appealing. Now! We walk in a circle like so."

Ransom looked sheepish, trying indignantly not to lower his head in shame while she took him through the basic steps.

"Do not take your eyes off mine." She instructed, and he looked at her intently without blinking. It seemed to help. They walked in a circle, a renaissance dance, their hands together like a thin curtain cutting through their faces, both without taking their emerald eyes off the other. Hers were ever brighter.

Ransom flustered in humiliation. But, eventually caught on with the steps like an old memory had been shaken free.

Meanwhile, Ander sat with the drinking men. "I'd dance with yer', if I 'ad breasts, rest assured." Gillian joked lightly, elbowing him between the ribs. "Then again, that wouldn't stop Reynick. 'Ee is, after all, not quite the manliest o' types.."

Ander decided it best not to agree with him, knowing the faint truth in the statement. Reynick was bisexual, but that didn't make him any less of a man to Ander. Honestly, he wouldn't have considered the idea until now.

"Oi, that's unfair." Ander frowned. Gillian raised both his eyebrows, hooting and shuffling his chair away theatrically. "Oh, the mouth on yer!' Sorry then, madam!"

"Offend yer' boyfriend?" Quill grinned.

Ander clenched his fists, and scowled at him. "Sod off, Quill! You both sound like children."

"Children?" Gillian gaped. He narrowed his eyes. "I'd watch yer' tone, lad. In the years we've lived, you're like a baby to us, and you still have the nerve to chance that one?"

"Gillian!"

The warning shout erupted from Captain Hunter, who's dark eyes were dangerously thin. "I do not want to hear that, understood?"

Gillian, for all his boasting, didn't dare to talk back to the captain. He left Ander alone, opting to speak to Quill and a few other deckhands instead.

Davelynn, the two still dancing, smiled delightedly. "See? You haven't frowned for a whole minute, that has to be a record."

"I haven't smiled, either." He said, though his lips were tilted upward in a manner she realised, suddenly, was infact a smile. She grinned. Ransom looked happy - he hadn't looked genuinely happy in a long time.

They did this for another minute, swapping hands and moving about the small space, but he looked painstakingly bored. He breathed a heavy, bracing sigh.

Quite suddenly, he caught her hand on the swap, and twirled her three times before spinning to where she had been stood himself on his heel, taking her with him. As she came in, looking suitably shocked, he locked their fingers together at their side and caught her waist with his free hand. His smile grew. "I can dance." He said, a little too smug. "I was simply stiff."

"Stiff?" She repeated breathlessly in amazement, her cheeks reddened. "You're, talented! Where did you learn to-"

"Uh- annotation kills the poem. You wanted to dance, and I am dancing."

"Oh, for pities sake get a room, you two!" Samson called over with a smirk, still dancing freely with Ruth. Ruth cackled at this, elbowing the blonde in the chest.

Ransom couldn't help it. He looked down at Davelynn and started to laugh. Davelynn beamed back at him.

Ander smiled, watching them and clapping his hands to the tune. If such could be achieved by eternity, he didn't feel it would be so terrible.

Eventually, Samson and Ruth sat down, but Ransom and Davelynn remained together. Samson slung an arm exhaustedly around Anders shoulders. "Man," he chuckled, and stole the drink from his hands. "Pull the energy from me, Ruth, why don't you? Anybody up for story telling? It requires minimal effort."

"I'm always up for story tellin', lad." Gillian grinned. "Besides, Quill and Ander here don't know about 'ow we got the weaponry."

"Oh, for Staras sake, that's just for your boastin', Gill!" A deckhand opposite Ander smirked, but this didn't stop him. They launched into a clearly dramatised 'true' story of when they had looted an imperial noble, threw half his coin through the streets of the city, and used the rest to buy 'the equivalent of the emperors armoury.' Cyro, passing upon his return from raising the main sails, snorted at this. "You're exaggerating massively."

"Well, aren't you a sport? Say, uhm, Captain, why don't you ged'down here? You're the only one not enjoying 'emself!" Samsom called with a grin to the upper deck.

Hunter, who had obviously been caught staring, bridled at this. From the distance, and the shade from his hat looming over his face, it was hard to tell; but he actually blushed. "I'm quite alright.." He said quickly, and marched back to the wheel at speed. "I thank you for your concern, Samsom."

Anders eyebrows raised. The captain, stoic and serious and as far from human as they came, actually blushed.

Samson nodded, rolling his eyes. He had already drained the dregs of Anders rum, and now tipped it as though expecting more, licking up what was left.

Ander sighed. He shifted in his seat, which was difficult when he was being used as the mans footstool. "Can I ask something a little dim?"

"More so than usual? Yes, yes, go on." Samson smiled.

Ander knitted his fingers together tightly. "Where did vampires come from? Midnight people in general, I mean.."

For a second, though only a second, Yates stopped playing. He raised an eyebrow at Ander before resuming. All eyes, it seemed, were fixed on him. Ander swallowed hard.

"Lordy-lord," Samson sighed. "That's, well-"

"You're really so arrogant as to expect an answer to that?" Cyro droned. The man was seated further away, his large arms folded, and he looked up for only a moment. "Tsk.."

Ransom and Davelynn were returning, their hands separated but side by side, closer than perhaps they had ever been. Davelynn frowned at him when she tuned in to the suddenly calmer mood of the group. "What was that, Ander?"

"I, no, it doesn't-"

"He wanted to know where we nightens come from!" Gillian cackled. He thumped on his chair in raucous laughter, "Oh, gods preserve me, that's excellent!"

"Where we come from?" Ransom repeated. Even he seemed amused at this. "We're no different to humans, we've always existed. Our history simply isn't documented, because the night hunter order has existed longer than even the most seclusive and ancient vampires can remember.. They'd track us if we wrote down our movements, or study us and figure out how to wipe us out faster. "

"I like to think," Davelynn started, placing a hand tentatively on Anders shoulder. "That while the day was made for humans, the night was made for us. Those that must hide from the dominating population. The dark of night provides places to hide, places to hunt, a way to survive. That is, probably, why they call us the midnight people."    

 

*The midnight hunters Southern base, Saare Izolare.*

"Raven, Curtis, we will ask you both one more damn time."

Raven looked up at her husband, who's once handsome face was broken and bloodied, his body limp hanging by the shackles around his wrists. Blonde hair, matted and tinged with blood, hung around his head and obscured his eyes.

Though he hardly moved, she could see the agony he concealed. They were using him to break her, but he could not let her be broken.

She was yanked abruptly by her hair so that she was level with Captain Grave, his bulging eyes tired with a day of interrogation. "SPEAK, WENCH!"

"I will not!" She spat back at him, then looked briefly at the beaten man and shed one tear. "I'm so sorry, my love.."

"You.. Won't.." Curtis choked out, and peered at grave through salted eyes, "..Break, us.."

Grave growled out furiously, and landed several more kicks in Curtis' stomach. Though previously cracked ribs snapped, no expression corrupted the vampires face.

Grave was breathless when he finally stopped.

"The Magi we visited confirmed that it was the two of you that stole the cure. We threatened violence to uncover that.. But YOU. You'll heal," he panted, grabbing his neck in a chokehold. "And you don't need to breathe! Your limbs will regrow if I tear them from your body! I can bleed you dry and it will make no difference! Only silver should harm you.. Yet it does not work either! There is nothing that will make you speak!" His knee was brought ruthlessly into Curtis' groin, before crying out in frustration. "You have taken the cure! We know only that! And we will find out where you hid the rest.."

The doors to the chamber flew open, shedding light on the cracked brickwork walls and the tables of bloodstained equipment. In stepped a young Mage, his hands tied behind his back. He was almost smothered in a hooded robe, tears streaming down his pale, freckled face. "Please," he whimpered, looking at the man that wrestled him into the room. "I beg you not to hurt my love, but please, don't make me hurt these people either!"

"What have you done to this boy, Grave?" Raven breathed.

Grave laughed, almost insanely. "He too has someone he wishes to protect! And a skillset that will force you both to talk."

"No, no, please no-" the boy begged, before being thrown to the ground at Ravens feet. The hunter behind him stepped on his back abruptly, making him gasp out in pain. "Remember your beloved Ciana, Oscar!"

"You would use.. the very thing you oppose.. to get our information..?" Curtis said breathlessly. A small, cruel smile played at his lips. "We've already won.."

"Silence!" Grave barked. He grabbed the boy, Oscar, by his arms, forcing him to his feet. "I want you to make them reveal where the cure is."

"The cure? W-What cu-"

"That isn't for you to know, boy! Make them share or Ciana dies slowly, and painfully."

Oscar clenched his fists, gritting his teeth. Tears rolled down his cheeks.

"Y-Yes." He managed.

Raven slumped. She watched as he pulled the gloves from his hands, where sharp, needle like runes had been placed. The warped pattern on his forehead, curling down the bridge of his nose, was a magarc that she had scarcely seen before; Soulstis. To control others.

This boy was an enchanter, or a sorcerer. He would have been captured by the hunters when he left the coven, and now he would never be able to return.

"Your name.. I-It's Raven, right?" He asked, his voice terribly gentle but quaking as he looked up at the woman. He was no older than her own son. Raven mustered up a small smile as she nodded. "Yes. Raven Black, dear."

"W-Well, Miss Black," he said, and raised his hand to point his fingertips at her head. "I'm truly sorry for this.."

The air around her seemed to shimmer, and Ravens eyes suddenly focused, her pupils growing and fixing on the boy. Her lips parted, but no sound came out. Curtis looked alarmed, glancing between Grave and Oscar, and then yanking on his chains. "Leave her be, boy! Get out of her head!"

"May you tell me where the cure is, Raven Black?" Oscar asked, and her lips trembled a moment.

"The cure is no longer bottled." She started, in a low, monotone voice that was barely hers. "I took it when I was pregnant. It flows.. in the veins of my sons. Curtis took what was left."

Grave froze a moment, his eyes sparking. "Ask what she means by 'sons.'" He muttered, quakingly. "Sons, with an S.. With an S?!"

"You have more than one son?" Oscar relayed quickly. Ravens gaze flickered, but only momentarily. "I have two sons, twins. One is named Soren and he is a-"

"RAVEN!"

"-Mage, with dormant power, residing here at the compound. He is rooming with a man named Darius, who I assume he is interested in romantically."

Oscar hesitated briefly, apparently in surprise. "The other son?" He pressed.

Raven, though she didn't falter, seemed to hesitate as well. "Anderson Zavien. I don't know where he is precisely, but I have reason to believe he is travelling with a group of vampires on a black-sailed pirate ship named the Eclipsium."

"RAVEN!" Curtis cried, "Please, my love, you have to come back to me now-"

Grave silenced him with two punches to the jaw in succession, with cracks that seemed to resonate around the room, and then span on his heels back to Oscar. "What is Anderson, exactly?"

"W-What is Anderson, Raven?" Oscar repeated shakily. Curtis shook his head frantically, though blood dripped from his lips and down his neck. "Raven.. They'll kill him. Your son, OUR son. Please, no-"

"He is a firstblood vampire. His power will awaken on his birthday, as will Sorens abilities as a Mage. Sorens were likely held dormant by the cure in his blood, or because his abilities were beyond his knowledge. The cure in its bottled form does nothing, but combined with the blood of a midnighten, it is potent enough to remove the secondary curse placed over all midnight people centuries ago."

Graves eyes widened for a moment. Curtis was now hanging his head.

"New information, indeed.. I had assumed the 'cure' in its raw form was enough, there was no mention of the blood from the magi.. That is enough!"

Oscar dropped his hand, and Ravens head snapped up. For a second, she was dizzy, and then her eyes began darting about in terror. With the realisation of what she had said, her brown eyes glazed with tears. "Oh god, oh god, no.. You bastards! Don't hurt them, Grave, please don't hurt them!"

The captain turned to the two hunters waiting in the doorway swiftly, "Have Soren Black taken to the cells. I want it locked and bolted. Prepare a suitable execution in the night wing for Curtis Zavien."

"NO! Oh, gods, don't harm my family! I beg you, please, I'll do anything you ask!"

"You can skin me and burn me alive, Grave, but lay a finger on either of my sons, and I swear to Stara in the sky I will drain every drop of blood from your body.." Curtis growled.

Grave smiled cruelly. "Ah, Curtis," he said. He stepped forward, and trailed a thumb along his cheek, making the mans face wrinkle in disgust.

Then, he abruptly swung his elbow hard into his head. "Not in those chains, you're not."

Marching from the chamber with a grip on Oscars collar, Night Hunter Captain Grave laughed to himself, and Ravens wails of desperation followed them.

 

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