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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26. Chapter 26 - Friends In Low Places

"Pstt.. Oi, Ander?"

Ander grumbled under his breath, lifting his head briefly from his pillow to peer over the frame of his hammock at where Samsons overlapped with his.

The gentle glow of the candle tapered to the wall beside Ander illuminated his features, from his blonde stubble to the small braids that hung down across his neck from the back of his head. He leaned over onto the wood, chin resting on his folded arms. The gold flecks in his warm brown eyes gleamed at him.

"You not gonna sleep?" He whispered, and frowned worriedly. "You look like you need it."

"Eventually.. Maybe. I don't know, Samson."

"Well, make it sooner rather than later and put that light out. The book can't be THAT good.." He sighed.

Ander put it down briefly, laying it open on his chest. It WAS good - though he had little to compare it to. He was, however, running out of comfortable reading positions.

He'd tried his stomach, his side, and now his back. Sitting up was near enough impossible in a hammock, so he ruled that out.

"I can't sleep." He admitted. And not just because the book was at a cliffhanger, though that wasn't helping. He supposed that he was using it as a distraction, truly.

He didn't want to end up back in the between. He feared what he'd see; mostly, seeing himself again.

He wasn't sure what scared him more. The past, or the future.

Because there was still that nagging feeling in the back of his head. That almost undetectable inch of red, more something he could sense than see. It never disappeared. It never left him alone.

The blood below deck.

He didn't understand how they craved it, because to him it was vile and disgusting and being able to constantly detect it on the ship was both unnerving and frustrating.

It was a reminder of what was to come.

Samson sighed again shortly, then propped himself up, quietly hopping down from his hammock and nodding for him to follow. "We'll stand on deck a while. Geez, you're a pain.."

"You should worry about yourself, Sam. You don't have to-"

"Just get up, Ander."

Ander stiffened, but obeyed, tucking 'A Witches Curse' back under his pillow. The two moved as noiselessly as possible together up to the deck.

Immediately, the biting night air cooled him, licking at the sweat that dotted his forehead and neck. Samson tilted his head back to the sky.

"Ah.." He breathed, smiling serenely. "It's like the seventh circle of hell down there.. Nice to get some breathable air."

"Yeah.." Ander managed, before opening his mouth wide to yawn. Samson eyed him suspiciously.

"Even back in the cabin.. You've been sleeping badly. Something playing on your mind, kid?"

"Oh, noo, nothing at all. I'm not about to turn into a creature that I spent 17 years of my life not believing in or anything.." Ander muttered sarcastically, but he too didn't look away from the dark, starry night sky.

Samson smirked out of the corner of his eye. "Oi, shut it."

Ander chuckled, though quietly. His friend studied his features intently. "I know that's ruddy, but it's something else.. I can tell."

"Like I said.. Worry about yourself."

"Ander, for Staras sake, just talk to me!" Samson pleaded, throwing out his arms in frustration. Then, his eyes slowly drifted up over Anders head, until they were fixed on the upper deck.

"..Ah. Evening, Cap'n."

Ander turned his head. Hunter was sitting there in the shadows of the mast beside the wheel, one leg bent up at the knee with the other stretched out in front of him. He reclined against the wood with his battered hat at an angle, a cigarette between his lips.

Ander didn't even know he smoked.

He nodded back at them, and took it away between his index and middle finger, blowing out a billowing puff of grey smoke as he did.

"Ander, will you see me up here a moment?" He asked smoothly. Samson looked at the boy, who was frozen on the spot a moment before making his way to the rope rigging set against the wall, then back at Hunter with a raised eyebrow.

"Well, gee!" He cried, throwing his hands up. "Ditched like a common whore. I'm really feeling the love."

"Go back to bed, Samson." Hunter sighed, looking down at him stoically. "That's an order. You're gonna need the rest."

He clicked his tongue in annoyance. "G'night, then."

And with that, before Ander could say goodnight back, the blonde disappeared back into the cabin quarters in a short burst of speed. He shook his head, then clambered up to the upper deck and sat opposite the Captain.

For a few seconds, he just looked long and hard at him, like he was trying to weigh him up. It was unnerving.

"..Sir?"

"Something about you is changing, Ander." He said slowly, and blew out a puff to the side, dangling his cigarette between thumb and finger to speak. "It's your blood. Your heart is slowing down."

His eyes flared before widening, sitting straight abruptly. "What..?"

"It's almost your birthday. And we're nearing the island as the days go by. The rebirth process has already begun, we both know it. Everybody knows it."

He tilted his head, coal black hair falling across his tired yet piercing eyes. He sighed quietly. "You're going to be experiencing some.. Difficulties. Perhaps, an alertness that you can't explain?"

Ander nodded fast. "I.. Well, around blood.. I can sense it. I know that vampires would be able to sense it in Reynick, and I can't just yet, but being in the bilge is like having my vision fringed by red.. It's-"

"Scary?" Hunter breathed. He shook his head indignantly.

"Bizarre." He lied. He folded his arms. "I'm not afraid of a little blood."

"You're allowed to be. You honestly should be, and I know that you are. Not of blood; of what you're becoming. Most of all, though, you're afraid to be alone again.. Aren't you?"

"Don't shrink me.." He grumbled.

Hunter chuckled, but without humour. "I'm not trying to. I'm merely trying to get inside your head."

"Isn't that the same damn thing?" He sighed, exasperated. "When people try to understand each other without actually acting on it they only grab at bits of their darkness, and diagnose them, inflating it without getting the full picture. They turn that person into it."

"I do love these cheerful conversations.." He murmured. Ander rolled his eyes, folding one leg over the other and leaning back on his hands, averting his eyes from the mans searching gaze. "So, I'm a little depressed. What does it matter anyway?"

"You'll be more depressed when your body starts shutting down." Hunter said purposefully. "I don't want you to feel like a prisoner, much less a child we're taking in then abandoning without word.."

That struck him below the belt. He looked at him, biting hard on his lip in frustration. "I am NOT, a child. Any shreds of innocence I had before were.. Were ruined, by you people."

But his voice broke. He sounded shaky and weak and very much like a boy, rather than a man. He knew that he couldn't blame them, after all like he said, they were the ones that had taken him in to begin with. But when the captain reached for him, he recoiled.

"Don't touch me.." He snapped, turning his head so that he couldn't see the shine to his eyes. "I'm not a child.. I'm not. Stop treating me like one."

"Fine. You're not a child." Hunter repeated slowly. He took another slow drag, and blew the smoke into the space between them. "Alright. Fine. But you were, weren't you? I knew Curtis, I heard what happened from a distant contact of mine. He went out, and didn't come back, didn't he?"

Anders chewed fingernails sunk into his palms. "My father didn't DIE. From what you told me, he was a vampire, so that's almost certain. Somebody took him."

"And you were abandoned because of that, weren't you Ander?"

Ander couldn't take it. He looked at him, at how he tried to soften his features, setting them into a patronising stare.

It wasn't just him, and he wouldn't try to pretend that it was, but Ander was done with pretending that he wasn't afraid. That he wasn't being driven insane by everything. That he wasn't consumed with frustration and anger that was boiling over.

He looked at Hunter, and even with part of his mind screaming at him not to, he exploded.

He lurched forward, fists clenched, and slammed his fist into Hunters jaw, kneeling down on his stomach when he was sent flying back. The mans head snapped to the side, pinned back to the wood. He didn't hiss, merely exhaled slowly, eyes clenched shut a moment.

Anders second clumsy punch hit his nose at an angle, but the third didn't land, because he caught his wrist, even without looking at him. He clenched his wounded jaw.

"What on Earth did I do to merit that?" He said, calmly, then turned on him.

Ander cried out in frustration, almost a growl, and yanked against his grip; but it was like iron. Before he could free himself, he was shoved onto his back.

Anders head slammed against wood, the ridges of his spine aching with the contact, and his hands were pinned by his sides in mere moments. The weight of hunters foot on his stomach was crushing, knee bent up with the other still pressed to the ground.

He managed to muster a deathly glare. "Let me go! I'm tired of this!"

"Not until you realise that it's not me who's jaw you want to break.." Hunter said softly. Blood was dripping from his nostril as he spoke, but even then, the swelling wound in his cheek and the disfigured ridge of an obviously broken nose started to heal themselves.

Ander scoffed, still breathing hard. "Let me go! I just.. I needed to hit something!"

"If you want to be an adult, you have to stop being such a whiny brat and get over all of this god damn mess in your head, Anderson! You can't just punch me because I'll heal, because I don't matter because I act tough. Learn to direct your anger at one of the bastards who earned it, then you'll be a god damn adult. It that what you wanted to hear?"

Anders cold gaze remained, but his arms went slack, reluctantly ceasing his struggling. His words came out choked, "What.. What the hell do you want from me? You've made your diagnosis."

"I asked you here because you weren't sleeping, and humans with insomnia don't last long on the battle field. But it turns out that you're more hopeless up there than you are at brawling.." Hunter glowered. He released his wrists, but when he stood, he kept a booted foot on Anders stomach. "You told yourself you were an adult, because you had to survive alone. You had to survive without your father. Finding him gave you a purpose.. But shouldn't you be more fixated on finding the ones who took him? The ones who'll take you too once you're one of us?"

Ander went silent, his dark eyes narrowed dangerously, and his lip curled. "Who took my father, Captain?"

Hunter didn't hesitate. He grimaced as he said the words. "Night hunters."

Anders fists clenched even tighter. In that moment, he didn't doubt that he had the drive to tear through ten soldiers.

They had put Pete and the others through agony. They'd tried to kill him and his friends. But now, they had his family, and he wouldn't stand for it.

It was his problem more than ever. It was personal.

"Those sadistic bastards.."

"This is what they do," he breathed, calm once more. He foot twitched, but when Ander started to move, it clamped down again. "Don't make the mistake in thinking that when you change, your life will bear no meaning. You'll be one of the last first bloods born free. You have the power to take back what's yours, your family, single-handedly if you desire to."

"Aren't you supposed to be calming me down?" Ander asked through gritted teeth.

The captain smirked knowingly. "Why waste your energy?"

He bent over, retrieving the cigarette still lit on the floorboards, and lifted it to his lips without so much as a second thought. "If I let you up now, Ander, do you swear that you won't throw yourself at me?"

He breathed in and out slowly, as though proving a point, then nodded.

Hunter moved his boot. He offered him his unbloodied hand, the other having shielded his nosebleed, which appeared to have stopped already, and Ander took it.

Then, holding his cigarette between thumb and finger, he licked the blood away shamelessly.

Ander shuddered inwardly. "I'm.. Going to go to sleep now."

Peering up through his hair, Hunter frowned at him imploringly. "You never told me what was keeping you awake."

Ander hesitated. Averting his eyes from Hunter cleaning his hand, he ran his hands back through the tangles in his hair. "A lot of things."

"Anything I don't know about?"

It was frustrating, how the man thought that he deserved to know every little thing that was itching at him. Ander barely knew him..

"Ask Reynick," he said offhandedly, heading to the railing. "He'll be able to explain the between better than I can."

And with that, he made his way back down to the cabin quarters, leaving the captain in a sort of stunned silence.

*

Sure enough, Hunters prediction about his body shutting down was correct.

In the night, he wound up in only his trousers, which were rolled to his knees to fend off the heat. He was drenched in sweat, matting his hair to his face and soaking his shirt before he abandoned it completely.

Sleep didn't come easy. When it did, he'd be woken randomly due to a pang in his chest or an unprecedented twist in his stomach.

But in the morning, he was freezing cold.

Samson passed him as he buttoned the thickest button up shirt he could find over his vest, overlapped that with several wraps of red fabric around his waist, and then finally shrugged his waistcoat on. Thick woollen socks were pulled past his boots over the top of his trousers, almost reaching his knees.

He arched an eyebrow, scanning him up and down, then looked scrutinisingly at the heavy bags hanging under his eyes.

"Blimey.." He muttered, "Pep talk didn't work, I take it?"

"I feel like death." Ander deadpanned.

The blonde chuckled quietly. The thin braids at the back of his head has been unravelled for wash day, and those randomly cut strands of hair were a lot longer than the rest; they riveted past his shoulders in a way that made Ander mentally note never to let him near a knife again.

Then again, atleast his hair wasn't all that greasy. Despite cleaning it the day before, Ander's was now stuck to his forehead with sweat. He supposed it would make sense, seeming as vampires didn't perspire at all from what he could tell.

"You're definitely up bright and early, alright. Our diligent quarter master's still dozin' the day away.."

Ransom snored quietly as if on queue, making Ander smirk a little before shivering again in his skin. He hunched his shoulders as a gust of wind blew in from the suddenly opened hatch.

"Ander?" Alec whispered, bobbing his head over the entrance with a giddy smile. "Come look what the girls did!"

"Ooh, you have MY attention.." Samson smirked, and winked at the quaking boy still sitting back in his hammock before following Alec to the deck.

Eventually, he forced himself to rise, and face the perils of the the waking world.

Namely, Ruth and Davelynn.

The deck had been turned into an arena. Boxes had been stacked into a low border surrounding a small area about 3 metres either away, and the weapons stack was pushed up against the railing from the gun deck beside it.

Ruth leaned against the barrier with folded arms, apparently basking in the pride that came from Alec's incessant praise as he browsed the array of weaponry.

Davelynn was sitting atop the boxes happily watching him, her frizzy locks drawn back from her face into a rather unsuccessful bun atop her head. It sloped back, strands falling free and down her neck. The girl had a LOT of hair.

"Wow, Ruth! You put a lot of effort into keeping these sharp," Alec beamed, running his hand along the flat side of one of the larger great swords.

Ruth almost snorted. "Sammy handles most of that stuff," she said offhandedly, but grinned discreetly all the same.

Alec drew a small dagger maybe the length of his elbow to his wrist from the shelf, and twirled it almost expertly as though to test it. Davelynn winced as he did, then eyed Ander suspiciously.

The boy shifted awkwardly.

"Ander," Reynick frowned, stood against the railing out of the way. He tilted his head, groomed white hair falling in his face. "You look unwell."

"I'll survive.." Ander mumbled, but he was clutching at his stomach, fairly certain that something was trying to rip it's way out.

He groaned suddenly, keeling over.

Gillian looked up from where he was fiddling from the masting, and rolled his eyes. "Come on, now.. Don't be soft, you can't let the boy down."

Ander nodded fast, but raised his hand to signal that he needed a moments breather. He winced at the severity of the pain when he withdrew his hands from his gut, and bit down on his lip.

"Okay," he managed, "I.. I'm fine, it's nothing."

"Are you sure, Ander?" Alec frowned, stepping forward with the dagger in his hand by his side. "We don't have to train, really we don't!"

"Yeah. Leave 'im be, Gill.." Samson sighed. He shot Ander a sympathetic glance, hovering beside Ruth, but Ander only stared irritably back. He was hunched, holding his stomach with one arm. The rocking of the ship wasn't helping his sickness at all.

"I'm.. Fine." He insisted. "Stop causing a scene.."

"Technically you're the one causing a scene." Reynick said pointedly. He ran a hand back through his hair to push it from his face. "Eating may help. I'll fetch Yates."

"I can get him myself.."

But Reynick was already dodging past Samson toward the cabin. Ander groaned under his breath.

"Come on, Alec." Davelynn smiled, hopping down into the ring. "I'll train with you while Ander has some breakfast."

"You'll go too easy on me!" Alec whined,

Davelynn beamed at him. "Nonsense! I'll be completely fair!" She insisted, but at the withering stare she received from him, her lip quivered.

"..I swear it?" She added meekly, only to have him fold his arms, and raise his eyebrows.

Suddenly, Anders gut twisted, and he gagged on the air, doubling over. Both heads turned to him immediately.

Samson lunged for him frantically, alarmed. "Oh, crap!" He gasped, catching him around the middle just before he could fall forward and hit the floor.

Ander was gasping and choking. The stabbing pains remained, all the while bile rose into his throat, a shooting sensation working it's way up between his ribs.

His vision blurred around the edges. It was framed by a persistent crimson.

Finally, his knees bucked beneath him, and he heaved.

Samson cursed, keeping a grip on him whilst averting his eyes from the vomit that splattered across the floorboards. Lip cursed in repulsion, he managed to rub circles blindly on his back, still keeping an arm wrapped around his middle to hold him up.

"Yeah, uh, that's.. You're doing fine, ace, you're doing great."

"He's vomiting, not giving birth." Ruth said incredulously, though even she raised a hand to block it from her view.

Alec just looked incredibly concerned.

"Is he alright?!" He gasped, placing his weapon down onto the boxes quickly.

Samson glanced up from him, stupidly. "What does it look like, kid?"

He shut his mouth, pressing his lips into a thin line.

Once Ander had finished, he coughed hard a couple of times to clear his throat, then sunk in exhaustion. Samson gently drew him away from the puddle on the ground, his feet barely moving without assistance.

"Hey.." He sighed, wrapping his arm around his waist to shift his weight to his side, and pulling the boys arm around his neck to support him. His eyes were fluttering, legs weak beneath him.

"Ander?" He pressed, a little more concerned. "Ander, come on, are you alright?"

Then his eyes shut completely, and he grunted before going slack.

Samson staggered, struggling to catch him. He swore under his breath as he scooped up his legs to gather him into his arms.

"Oh, brilliant.." Davelynn murmured, and moved over quickly to help support him. The other deckhands that hadn't already gathered looked up in a mixture of concern and intrigue.

Samson frowned at his sleeping face, a trail of saliva still running down his chin from his parted lips. His breathing was shallow.

"Take him to his hammock," Davelynn commanded and he nodded quickly, heading down the steps to the cabin quarters. Alec tailed close behind.

At the upper deck, Hunter watched them go, biting down hard on his lower lip. His pointed canines almost drew blood in the process.

Reynick, a wooden plate in hand, almost bumped into them. His eyes widened at the sight of Ander, unconscious and limp in Samsons arms, and he almost dropped the boys lunch.

"Staras mercy!" He gasped, growing rigid as he scanned him up and down. "Is.. Is he?"

"He's alive." Samson confirmed, and placed him uneasily into his hammock. "He hydro pumped everywhere then fainted."

"Can you do something for him, Reynick?" Alec fussed, placing a hand on his forehead to gauge his temperate. Even against his icy touch, he was freezing cold. "F-Feel his forehead!"

"Bloody hell.." He cursed in alarm, doing as he asked and panicking in the process. "He's gathering ice.. That's not normal, that REALLY isn't normal.. Is this because his rebirths coming up?"

"For the ninth time, Samson, I'm not a doctor!" Reynick barked, but softened at their anxious expressions. "It's highly likely. That and he hasn't been sleeping well. Or eating well. It won't be helping his condition.. We should leave him be for now, let him recover."

"Shouldn't we try to feed him?"

"No, he won't keep it down. Come, now." The mage instructed calmly, and gestured for the two to follow him to the deck.

Reluctantly, Samson and Alec drew his sheets to his chin, and left his side. Their gaze lingered on him until he was out of sight.

But across the room, Ransom opened his eyes.

"Oh, Ander.." He sighed, getting up achingly and moving over to examine him. "Humans are so fragile.. At least you can rest now, without being afraid."

And after gathering his boots and coat, he exited to the deck without another word.

Darkness.

Nothing but black, and purple, and a swirling mist.

Ander blinked with new, tireless eyes, his face soft and unmarred by bruises and bags. Yet he felt so contained.

He couldn't move his legs. He was in the between, the realm of dreams, but he couldn't move freely.

He was back to square one.

The visions around him manifested slowly, and it took him no time at all to recognise the place in which they were based.

It was like he hadn't moved at all. It was the Eclipsium.

He saw people everywhere that he recognised, then some that he didn't. Nearby, was Ransom, dressed in a simple black turtle necked shirt and a waistcoat remarkably similar to Anders, sitting on a barrel in what appeared to be the bilge. It was far less like a patchwork quilt, for one thing. All of the wooden panels in the walls and floor were of the same colour, only some were in desperate need of renovation.

And there was a knife in his hand, gliding slowly against his opposite wrist. Blood pooled around the narrow cuts, drops trickling down his pale skin but stopping before they landed on his legs.

He was steel-faced, un-changed as he harmed himself. The expression reflected in his eyes wasn't one that he could hide, however. There was a deep, in-curable sadness there, like a darkness hovering over him.

"I've tried every way," came the cool voice by the door, and Ransom's head whirled around. Hunter was leaning against the doorframe.

"Captain.." He managed, tucking his arms behind his back quickly. "What are you doing?"

"Telling you, apparently, that hurting yourself will solve nothing."

There was a look on his face. Where Ransom expected to find a mocking smirk or a patronising stare, there was only a knowing wisdom. He understood.

Ransom's eyes glistened with the beginnings of tears, but they were blinked away quickly. It took him several attempts to get words to come. "I don't want to be like this!" He choked out. "I don't want to be a murderous monster.. You know what I wanted to do earlier? I wanted to tear that woman's throat out! That innocent lady, with children! That's not right."

Hunter sighed slowly. He moved closer, and sat opposite him on a barrel. For a few moments, he just studied his eyes, without speaking. "I'm not the best person to talk to about this, because like I implied; I once attempted to end my life as well. I didn't know the silver rule, and thank the stars for that, because I'd be at the bottom of the ocean now. I couldn't take it when.. When she died. I'm assuming you've been told about it."

Ransom nodded stiffly. He definitely didn't want to risk speaking on a subject so obviously sensitive. "Who stopped you?"

"Not so much a who than a what. I stood at the bow and I stared at the stars, and if I believed in Stara or any god, I'd call that moment a religious experience. I looked up at space, at the stars, and thought about how in the great expanse of everything, our lives are so small. Our inner demons so insignificant. You see.. Being a vampire, it isn't optimal. But doesn't it mean you get to see what nobody else can?"

"What do you mean?"

"The future." He smiled, adopting almost a story-telling tone. "People talk about it with wonder, knowing it's the one existing thing they'll never actually get to see. But you? You get to taste it yourself."

"But I can't have a normal life, Captain! That future that I wondered and dreamed of is shattered now! I didn't have a normal upbringing, and now a future that is any different is gone for me too."

"So? Normal is terribly boring, isn't it?" Hunter smiled, though still just with just the corner of his mouth. "Besides.. The most common argument against immortality is losing the ones you love, watching them waste away. But you don't have that problem, now do you?"

Ransoms fingernails dug into his palms. "You don't need to rub that in."

Hunters smile faded a little. "My apologies, I didn't mean to offend you. I merely meant that here, we all share the same predicament. We are all like you. And if you learn to care for us, we may well learn to care for you. And then you won't lose the ones you love; because we can't waste away. We can all charge, shields up, into that future together."

Ransom felt a smile tug at his lips. He glanced down at his arms, to find the cuts completely gone. It was remarkable, how they sealed, like a kind ghost sowing him back together. Hunter gently rested a hand on his shoulder as he stared. "You've done nothing to merit pain."

"Thankyou. Just, please don't touch me." He said tersely, "That's the only real boundary I have."

Hunter frowned, but he withdrew his hand immediately, without questioning the request further. "My apologies.. But the statement stands."

"You know nothing of what I've done, Hunter. My ignorance caused pain and death."

"And now you are no longer ignorant." Hunter said. He stood up suddenly. "Join me on the deck if you like. You aren't a prisoner, stowing yourself away here will make you wilt."

And with a respectful nod, he ascended the ladder and vanished from sight.

The vision faded promptly.

Ander wasn't sure that he could handle another. Even within the between, his head was hurting, and the inability to move his legs even an inch was a terrifying and unnerving one.

But then, he heard it.

"..Ander, come on, mate. Wakey wakey!"

He looked to the sky in alarm.

And suddenly, the darkness was filtered with white, and he was staring at Samson.

"Gah!" He gasped, and sat up so fast that he accidentally butted heads with him. The blonde swore loudly, and staggered back.

"Staras mercy!" He cried, rubbing at the spot on his head that had been hit. He eyed him irritably. "A good bloody morning to you too."

Ander groaned, his own head burrowed in his knees. "..Sorry." He apologised meekly. "I, ugh.. Can I get a bucket? It's that or your lap. You have like seven seconds to decide."

Samson tensed. "Gonna heave again..?" He asked, backing up a few paces and holding the bucket he produced out at arms length.

As though to answer him. Ander snatched it from his hands, and bowed over it, gagging. There was nothing to come up but liquids, which made Samson shudder.

"I forgot how buggin' irritating human illnesses can get.." He said distractedly, looking away as Ander brought up everything left in his stomach. "Blood withdrawal is nasty, but at least we don't throw up. Yates thinks you have a bad case of Norovirus, on top of a few other things. The Cap is convinced it's because yer' approaching the rebirth thingy, bodies going haywire."

Ander nodded in response, and pushed his hair back from his face with one hand, using the other to clutch the bucket to his chest. He couldn't help but think subconsciously of Ransom in the between, how the knife had carved his fresh and produced that red colour that made his stomach twist.

He heaved again, this time only hurting his chest, due to his stomach being completely emptied. It was like his ribs were pressing in on his lungs..

Samson looked down at him sympathetically. With a sigh, he sank into the opposite end of his hammock beside him, arranging his long legs so that they aligned with his side. Ander peered up in confusion.

"Samson.. What are you-"

"Relax, no funny business. I'm not leaving you alone like this, so we might as well get comfortable."

Ander smiled weakly, before his stomach flipped again and he doubled over to relieve himself, coughing hard into the bucket.

"Ugh.." He groaned, his lips dripping with saliva and a disgusting taste left over in his mouth. "I could do with a clean shot to the head right now.."

"If dying's your way out, mate, then count me in. Maybe you'll rethink eternity if you're stuck with me."

Ander managed a pathetic chuckle.

Samson then produced a handkerchief from his trouser pocket, and smirked as he handed it over. "Cleaning yourself up'll be a decent substitute, it'll at least help yer' mind-set, right?"

Ander nodded meekly. He took it, wiping at his mouth, and Samson looked him over as he did.

"You know, you look like crap, even after yer' nap."

"And you're a vision, as always.." Ander mocked, now folding the handkerchief over to dab at his forehead instead. Samson smirked a little at that.

"Course I am," he chortled. "Atleast in comparison to some of the ugly sods on this ship.. I can be a galliant renegade, prince of the waves, the Rose amongst the thorns.."

"Thanks, for the daily dose of narcissism."

"Joking, joking.. I'm trying to cheer you up. Sense of humour failure, eh?"

"Shut up.."

There was the sound of the hatch creaking open, then loud footsteps on the ladder. The captain emerged from the deck.

He paused by William's old bunk, eyebrows knitting into a frown. "Samson.. Why-"

"-Am I in Anders bed? I'm being supportive, clearly."

Hunter shook his head, rolling his eyes as he did. "I learn not to question these things.. How are you feeling, Ander? You slept for a long while."

"Like hell," Ander admitted. He shivered back under his blanket, though he had to tug the end of it from beneath Samson, clutching the mans handkerchief to his mouth.

The Captain shifted his weight, hands knitted behind his back, "Well, at least you're honest.. I wanted to ask something, if you have a moment."

"He's had a ten second break from puking his guts up, so fire away." Samson said bitterly.

Hunter glowered at him before returning his attention to Ander. "I was curious, has your sensitivity to the presence of blood gotten any worse?"

Ander hesitated, tightening his grip on the bucket resting on his chest. Honestly, he'd adapted to it; but it was definitely still there now that he pointed it out.

He nodded.

Hunter looked tense. "Perhaps it is as I feared.. We should hope that the chambers of rebirth at the abandoned clan still function."

"There's a possibility that they won't..?!" Samson gaped, shooting up into a kneeling position in alarm. Hunter shot him a withering stare.

"There's also a possibility that Moby Dick's second cousin is directly beneath us at this very moment, imbecile, but that's why we have fortifications."

Samson shrank back. He looked at his knees.

Ander gagged again at the bile stuck in his throat. Though nothing came up, Hunter knelt down and brought up a cask of water, handing it to Samson; who in turn handed it to Ander.

He slurped it down greedily, swallowing large gulps, before Hunter held a hand out to stop him.

"That's enough," he intervened, with a warning look. "You'll make yourself sick again."

Ander narrowed his eyes. "My throat and mouth are dry, and my tongue feels like sandpaper."

"You can sip, just don't slurp," Samson sighed. "It'll give your stomach time to calm down."

Ander raised an eyebrow at him. But Hunter, with a dismissive nod, continued on to his quarters.

"You seem to be good at nursing, Sam.." Ander said suspiciously. He placed the cask between his knees, out of spitting distance of the bucket.

The man shrugged his shoulders, folding his arms across his chest. "I took care of Solios' sick children once."

"..Solios?"

"My previous master." Samson said, uncharacteristically stone faced. Ander went rigid at the word, 'master.' It was something that brought mental images he didn't want to ponder on. "He was a sick bastard, but those kids didn't know the difference between rich or poor or black or white. They didn't know to treat a house slave any different from a tutor or a nanny. But they complained non-stop, didn't want me to leave their bedsides.. I struggle to remember their faces. They'll be dead now, anyway, hopefully lived good lives."

"Solios.. He owned you, didn't he? How many others?"

"Thought, he owned us," Samson corrected. "He had around 10 house slaves and 20 land workers. There were only two house slaves that weren't class B's; a couple of black women. A mother and daughter who'd managed to stick together by some miracle. I remember them, because when the daughter became pregnant, she disappeared mysteriously a week later. It was obviously Solios' child."

"That's horrible!" Ander cried, though the words came out hoarse.

Samson sighed, nodding. "It wasn't a rarity. We Class B's weren't actually as common altogether, maybe 1 to 4. We were usually given to the slavers by somebody who had temporary, or permanent, guardian status over our sorry selves. The class A's on the other hand were scammed or kidnapped out of Vialta..

We had it a little better. Because whites at least have basic rights, even if most of them were void without a state or parental record to prove our origin. Cyro, as a class A land worker, got beaten worse than I did. Only.. They found other uses for me."

"You don't have to talk about it, Sammy.." Ander said as gently as he could, partly because he didn't want to hear it himself, but the mans face didn't change.

"Calling her a bitch would be offensive to dogs.." He sighed. "Saying stop meant nothing, because she had papers to say we were her property. Solios' wife.. Not that he was much better. Just he had a reason to keep us in actual working condition. She didn't care."

"Bloody hell.." Ander breathed. The way he said it sounded so nonchalant, that if he couldn't see the pain and humiliation in his eyes he might have been alarmed. "That's.. foul!"

"Completely and utterly.. I killed 'em both, though. Because karma is a bitch, right?"

Ander swallowed hard. He nodded, just a little.

"Aye. They had it coming."

"In short, I grew up catering for others. I'm no good at stitching wounds and injuries and such, but I know my ailments." He said modestly, shrugging his shoulders. He tilted his head back so that it rocked over the side of the hammock, and stared at the ceiling, blonde hair falling away from his face. "When I was a little boy I wanted to be a doctor."

"Really?"

He chuckled quietly, nodding. "Truly! Imagine me? A quack?"

"That's almost impossible to picture," Ander agreed, laughing weakly.

Samson sat up straight again to look at him, smiling once more. "What about you, huh? While we're taking a trip down the boulevard of broken dreams?"

Ander scoffed quietly. He leaned his arms across the bucket in his lap, which reeked terribly; but his stomach was far too temperamental to do without. "I wanted to join the Imperial guard regiment to fight crime.. I see the irony in that now. The older I got the more I started to despise them. I ultimately ended up being hunted BY them, in fact.."

"Always the way," Samson smiled blandly. "Your very first dream is built from innocence, after all. But when innocence dies, that means the dream dies with it.. Damn, this conversation took a dark turn right-quick!"

Ander nodded, but the statement had hit him hard. He wondered when it was that that innocence outlook he'd once had started to crumble away..

No, he decided. It rusted first. It rusted when father left, and fell apart when he was forced to live alone, without him.

Samson tilted his head. "Put that thing down, the smell will knock you sick again if it doesn't get me first.. And sip some more water."

Ander obliged. That was when Reynick emerged from the deck.

"Ander," he said slowly, standing with a popped hip and folded arms blocking the light from the hatch. "I've been told to tell you to get better fast.. Because we're an estimated four days from the vampire clan."

"P-Pardon?" Ander stuttered, and all but leapt from his hammock. He was dizzy, and stumbled as he toppled to his feet, so that the Mage had to lunge forward to steady him.

"Yes," he said tersely, "So don't knock yourself out in the meantime.."

Reynicks words were muffled, as he'd wrapped a black bandana around his mouth and nose, tousling his crisp white hair at the sides.

Ander apologised under his breath as he found his footing.

Samson arched an eyebrow as he too got to his feet, putting an arm around Anders middle and allowing him to grip his shoulders to support him. "Doing some grave digging, sunshine?"

"I'm not putting my health at risk." The Mage glowered. His pale pink eyes were all the more piercing with the rest of his face obscured. "Of course YOU don't have to worry about it, but if whatever he's developed is contagious, I could easily come down with it too. And I have to fight - I'm earning my keep."

Samson snorted, but Ander understood. He did wish, distantly, that he'd be a little more sympathetic.

"So why are you dragging me up?" He asked bitterly, "I won't get any better in the sea air!"

"The first mates need you trained up, apparently."

"Tell them to stick it!" Samson barked abruptly. "The lad can barely stand!"

Ander sighed, and moved his arm away from Samsons shoulders, making a show of his ability to step away. "It's alright, Sam. I should manage half an hour.. I can't throw up again with an empty stomach."

"But you're so weak!"

"And he'll be so dead if he doesn't learn how to fend off hunters.." Reynick retorted. He rolled his eyes, returning to the deck. "You'll be fighting Yates."

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