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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3. Chapter 3 - Sailors By Blood

Ander reached the top of the ladder with aching arms. Two men, one smaller and mousy haired and the other built like a tank leaned over a little, their sleeves rolled to their elbows. Each gripped him roughly around the bicep, and aided him up with barely a grunt.

"Steady goes." said the larger of the two, in a slow, deep tone. He was a dark skinned man with large, almost bulging hazel brown, and a closely shaven head. He looked young, maybe in his early thirties if not his late twenties, and he was notably strong; an almost intimidating blacksmiths build. It didn't help that his muscular torso was also bare, because his baggy white shirt was un-buttoned seemingly as relief from the heat. Except his large, dark hand was ice cold on Ander's shoulder. 

It took a moment for the boy to remind himself he was certainly over 100 years old, or something around the figure. And everybody here would be.

He found his feet clumsily, his boots sounding loud on the wooden flooring, and looked up. "Uh, thanks.." He managed somewhat nervously.

Across the deck were only around 8 sailors, all tugging on ropes of the masting or adjusting the sails. The sea breeze blew their hair back gently, any loose fitting clothes clinging to them or flourishing about in the chilly air. Though they all appeared, well, human, there was something equally as fantastical about them. Was it the way the light hit their lightened skin, or the way they seemed to move as a well oiled yet unpredictable machine? Ander couldn't place it. 

The ship consisted of three layers from what he could see; The deck he stood on, the upper deck maybe a metre and a half above at the very front of the ship, and a raised platform far above their heads entwined with the masting; a small space maybe big enough for two men to sit.

The upper deck, far less crowded with boxes and barrels than the rest of the space, was home to a beautifully carved wheel, it's wood refined and it's hollow structure crisscrossed with defined rungs.

The man who had aided Ander slapped him on the back, smirking in amusement. "Y'alright, friend?"

Ander coughed, pushing his damp hair from his eyes as the droplets ran into his stinging eyes. His voice came out much higher than usual. "Quite possibly.."

Ransom climbed swiftly over the edge without aid, hand barely brushing the wood, and proceeded to wring out his coat with his hands. The other man who had helped Ander, a small, stumpy fellow of maybe his late thirties, gave a large smile upon seeing him. His teeth were yellowed and crooked.

"Coulder! Agh, the lads were worried you'd come back in two pieces. He's invincible, I says!"

"Yes, yes, Gillian." Ransom said briskly, smiling with just the corner of his mouth apparently as usual. "Quite the welcome back."

He slapped him on the back in return and the man named Gillian laughed heartily.

The other sailors surrounding them joined in, turning in from their business to call over a welcome back to the man, but Ransom was preoccupied.

He glanced at the dark skinned man, who towered at maybe 6'3 over both of them. "Cyro." Ransom said, "I need you to-"

"Agh, damn it!" Interrupted a familiar grumble. Wuillan was struggling over the edge, wriggling a tad on his large stomach. He stretched out his muscular arms, trying to tip himself over. "I'll be alright, I'll be.. Gah!"

He tipped and landed on his front on the ground. A few men snickered at that in amusement, and arms that could have helped instead crossed promptly..

Quillan rolled over and clambered to his feet, grunting promptly as he did. "Agh, it's this damned ship after me already.. It's a deathtrap," He voiced, to no one in particular, dusting off his trousers a moment.

He looked at Ander unhappily, and Cyro grinned. His sharp jaw turned away. "Hm.."

"As I was-" Ransom stepped past Quillan to Cyro again, "-as I was previously saying, it would be a hand if you'd show our new crew mates to their quarters."

"Aye, the new muscle.." Cyro smirked, eyeing us both for a second. "And what do you call the squirrelly kid, then?"

"Stara's mercy, perhaps his name?" Ransom sighed shortly. Ander could only cough irritably, at that. 

"It's Ander, actually.." He stated, and crossed his arms across his chest, the fabric of his clothes dripping wet from swimming and clinging to him.

Cyro nodded slowly, apparently uninterested, then turned his hollow gaze to Quillan. "And you?" ..

The man looked hesitant. He was chewing the corner of his lip. "Quillan Fletcher," he mumbled..

Ransom frowned at that, cutting in. "You don't go by Quill?"

"That name ties me' down," Quillan replied somewhat bluntly. "It was given to me by me' old masters at the underclan..".

"A name is a name.. If you re-applied that here it would have a new meaning," Ransom reminded him. He actually said that with a surprising gentleness..

Quillan went silent, staring at him. The silence was broken by the light banging of boots on the wooden floor, as Davelynn emerged from the captains quarters.

"Ah, Coulder!" She grinned broadly. "About time you got back, you risked your arse back in Zafflen."

Ander turned his curious gaze to her.  Her large, voluminous dark hair did not hang limply around her face, but rather seemed to spring up and had only settled there by coincidence. Intimidatingly sharp eyes contrasted with her dark skin; they were a catlike green, angled slightly and framed with black, lavish lashes..

She was dressed in knee high black boots that must have been worn for a very long time, and baggy trousers tucked into them with several chunky black belts tied around her waist almost in the fashion of an imperial corset. On her arms was a dark blue coat, that hung almost to her knees.

That same chain dangled from her neck, too, with a fragment of jewel threaded to the end. A midnight heart.

Ander was taken aback a moment. She was really quite striking, seeming out of place. But such a person would seem out of place anywhere.

Ransom smirked, now. Ander was even more baffled by that - he hadn't done looked genuinely happy so far but once. "Charming as ever, Davelynn."

Her full red lips pressed into a thin smirk, then her eyes flitted across to Ander, and it quickly faded away. "I guess this is the.. thief, you put your neck on the line for?"

"That's me. Ander. But from my angle it was infact my neck on the line..."

"Yes, yes," She sighed, cutting him off. The woman tilted her head, staring at him with a skeptical, almost challenging gaze. She was weighing him up. Holding her stare was a challenge.

"Well, Davelynn," Ransom said briskly. "I trust you were able to reach the return boat uninterrupted? The imperials didn't suspect you?"

"No thanks to you," Davelynn scoffed, "Tackling a clothes line like a suicidal fool as you did! But when they questioned me I feigned harmlessness; they're far too misogynistic to suspect a lady."

Ander hesitated to ask what that entailed, and kept his mouth shut.

One man, a brown haired, square jawed deckhand who had been tying off a sail, bobbed his head around the corner, intrigued. "You did what, Ransom? You tackled a clothes line?" He asked incredulously. "A clothes line?"

"You seem surprised," Ransom responded bluntly, crossing his arms. "I needed height, and acted on instinct. It was that snap judgement that brought Ander to us."

"Ever the modest one.." Muttered a olive skinned man beside the other.

Davelynn sighed at the returning scowl from Ransom. "Ander - those three over there are William, Antanio, and Edward. Others wait below deck."

"..Right." Ander responded, still finding himself wordless at the casual nature of the display around him. It all seemed so regular to them; their vampirism wasn't affecting them at all from what he could see.

He didn't know exactly how he had expected it to affect them, but this.. It was too startlingly normal for something the exact polar opposite. At least for him.

Ander had grown up in the province of Zafflen in the Imperium, a docking city, but well known for its punishments despite the notorious criminal underworld operating there. Assassins, drug lords, thieves, prostitutes, and all other manner of shady types operated there by night.

This had made his year living on the street after he had fled his orphanage all the more dangerous. He supposed the only benefit that had risen from it was that he'd developed a certain natural affinity for fighting with daggers; the fact that Ransom had one on him at the underclan had saved his neck.

Still, even from such an unpredictable background, this all seemed an impossible idea for him.

He quickly cut in. "Look.. I don't even know why you bothered to save me. Why the hell should I stay here?"

Ransom froze then, somewhat baffled. His dark eyes narrowed dangerously. "Because I didn't just risk my neck so you could get re-captured by guards!"

"But why did you-" he started to ask, but trailed off with a deep sigh. "Let me speak to your captain, at least!"

"The captain naps when we dock, mate," Gillian stated matter-of-factly. "It's the only time he ever gets the chance.."

"Cyro here will take you to your bunk. From now on you're going to be our ships cooper, you'll work for your share of food and whatever plunder we may collect."

Ander opened his mouth to speak, curious at what a 'cooper' was, but Ransom beat him to it.

"You're in charge of storage barrels," He informed him. "Davelynn here is our boatswain, she'll stop by the storage spot in the bilge atleast twice a day to check your work is in shape."

"Word of warning, cooper," said Gillian offhandedly, now with a bottle of rum in hand from a barrel by some netting in the central deck. "The last of yer' particular occupation forgot to chain down the barrels. The ship hit a 'specially choppy wave, and.." He grinned, flashing a blackened filling. "Squish! There went Franko.."

"Stop trying to scare the boy," Davelynn sighed impatiently. "Frank was simply unlucky.. Cyro, take Ander here while we show Quill to his own duties."

Ander raised his eyebrow at the term 'boy.' She couldn't be more than two years his senior in real time? Perhaps twenty at the very most?

Davelynn looked over her shoulder at where Quill had been standing, but he appeared to have vanished. She frowned thinly, her lineless forehead furrowing. "Quill?"

"He doesn't have a ruby fragment just yet, he'll be sheltering somewhere now the suns coming up," Ransom said with a shrug of his shoulders. He ran a hand back through his dark brown hair, brushing the long strands from his face, then dropped his hand back to his side. "Come on, Davelynn. First things first, stop the poor sod from turning to another pile of dust for your brother to swab up."

Davelynn laughed again delightedly, and the two began to walk away.

Ransom turned his head a moment. "Oh, and of course, you don't require a blood share, but there is probably enough food left for full meals in the bilge if you ration it until the next port," He explained. He doubted his idea of a 'full meal' would quite equal to theirs..

Then, he remembered. They seemed so eerily human it was easy to forgot. Vampires needed blood, even in remote places like a pirate ship they'd have it stored somewhere.

Possibly even in the barrels he'd be taking care of..

*

Through a shutter to the left of the captains quarters were the main quarters, down a ladder from a closed hatch on deck.

Ander walked a pace behind Cyro, the man striding with pride in his step, but his face remaining straight, serious.

He turned on his heel in the center of the room. There were hammocks strewn between wooden railings along each side, and in rope bags tied around each railing were small piles of clothes. Beneath each hammock was a chest, apparently for possessions, that had been bolted down solidly.

A girl of maybe 20 was sat in a hammock to the left, olive skinned but strangely pasty, like her natural colour had faded to a whiter, clearly more vampiric complexion. Her light brown hair was pulled back loosely into a poorly done side braid, and a black bandana was wrapped around her head.

She was lay back in a slouch, her brown leather gloved hands behind her head, and her midnight ruby resting on her chest like everyone elses. It matched oddly with the maroon mens shirt she'd adorned.

The girl looked up at Ander, and grinned, propping herself up on her elbow. "Ah, so this is the petty thief I've heard so much about.."

Ander swallowed the lump in his throat, which appeared to have solidified. "How do you-"

"I wouldn't question her sources," Came another voice, with a low chuckle. A hand brushed his shoulder, and Ander quickly turned around to face him. The man looked young, too, maybe not much older than himself. He had a head of thick sandy blonde hair, with several thin braids hanging over his shoulders grown longer than the rest. He was, in fact, very handsome, in a 'I-could-kill-you-in-eleven-different-ways-if-I-wanted-to' sort of fashion.

The blond had directed the remark at the girl, but there was a smirk on his face aimed entirely at Ander.

He sat up from where he had been lying on his front, and swung his legs over the side of his hammock, hopping down. "Samson Aryan," he smiled charmingly, stepping forward to level with Ander. He didn't extend a hand as men in Anders home town would do on the streets, and instead he just crossed his arms and maintained his charismatic grin. "And you?"

"Ander.." He replied, managing the smallest of polite smiles by force of habit.

Ruth was eyeing him almost critically, like she was guessing his measurements with a grin on her face. "Ander?" She scoffed, "Like, Anderson? Guessing you're a Coulder type."

Ander narrowed his eyes, "By Coulder type I'm guessing you mean proper, like Ransom.. A rich boy?"

"Oh," she raised her hands in retreat, "Guessing I touched a soft spot. Apologies, Ander."

Ander frowned a little, but put aside the bitter tone to her voice. "Well, you'd be wrong, anyway. There's usually a motive behind 'petty thievery.'"

Cyro grunted for attention then, having said nothing while the two vampires introduced themselves. "Ander.. Your hammocks on the end there, there'll be some spare clothes in the chest left over from Franko and we'll pick you up a coat or something to keep warm with soon enough."

Without another wasted word, he turned and walked with stride in his step back up to the top deck.

Barely seconds after he'd left though, there was a jolt. Ander gasped quietly, grabbing the railing of Ruth's hammock to his right.

Samson cackled, still completely steady. "What? We are on a ship you know."

"Ships have this nasty tendency to move!" Ruth snickered.

Ander released the railing slowly, embarrassed, and glared again at Ruth to restore his dignity.

The Captain; Captain Hunter, would be steering right now. He had barely considered the man.. Since he'd met Ransom, before he'd even set foot on the Eclipsium, he'd been this clearly respected authority figure. It was odd to think of him as second in command to anyone.

But I am still round about twentieth in command to Ransom, Ander thought.

He stepped forward to his hammock and pulled himself up onto his new bed, sinking back into it in a sitting position as it swung a little from side to side. He didn't bother changing from his wet clothes, just allowed himself to relax his exhausted muscles for now.

Samson leaned into the aisle from his own hammock after a couple of moments. "Oi, Ander?"

Ander sighed and lifted only his head, "Yeah, Samson?"

"I'm gonna be frank with it, they've already put you on the end, but you might want to budge your hammock over a little more than that.."

 Ander paused, confused. He wasn't sure quite how to respond to that. "..Any particular reason?"

Samson tilted his head with a smirk, and said, quite casually, "We get pretty hungry at night."

*

 

The rocking of the ship causing Ander's hammock to sway from side to side made sleep prove difficult, but as more and more of the crew came to the lower deck from their duties, he decided it best to at least fake a deep slumber.

Besides; Samsons little comment still lingered in the back of his head.

Through squinted eyes he observed their curious stares, crude remarks, and judgmental smirks at his slimmer frame before retreating to the sanctity of their beds to rest. He wanted to groan and tell them all to just deal with the fact of his existence, but still, he was too tired to answer any more questions. They would all be the same as Samsons had been while he staged his first attempt to drift off.

"Why didn't Ransom have anything against this?" He'd frowned, leaning nimbly against the rope of his hammock in a slouched position.

Ander looked away, irritable, toward his rough pillow.

"A human." Samson continued, in a clearly puzzled tone. "A well spoken one at that.. On a ship of black spotted vampires?"

"I've asked myself that." Ander sighed, "Among other things, that actually seemed the least pressing."

"Like?" He said. His voice sounded eerily taunting, like whenever he uttered a word it was meant in a joking format. Full of a continuous humour.

Ander drew his lips into a line, trying to put his words delicately. "Without meaning offence.. I'm not really in the habit of confiding those kinds of things in people I just met."

Samson didn't respond for a few moments, but the reply was softer than Ander had expected. "Aye, that's a sensible enough reason."

Ander began to shut his eyes again. A moment passed.

"Ransom mentioned you were arrested?" Samson pursued.

Ander struggled to contain a groan of frustration, rolling over onto his front and shoving his face in his rough sack-pillow. "Aye?"

"Is that seclusive information as well?"
Ander chewed on the inside of his cheek a second, thinking over consequences of confiding in Samson, but remembered the nod between Quill and Ransom earlier when they'd been swimming.

It was likely that everyone on the ship had dark secrets. And Anders seemed almost dull compared to what he imagined half of these men had committed.

He attempted to sound casual and off hand but the worlds came out in a stutter. "I.. broke into a Staraniun Temple and stole some important filing. And, an artifact.. I didn't know that it was priceless! I just needed money out of Zafflen to find.. somebody!"

Samson hooted almost joyously, laughing and clapping his hands together. "Brilliant - That makes even my unique way of ridding myself of debt seem dull!" He chuckled.

Ander couldn't help but to smile a little. "I'm assuming you couldn't afford your tax and rent due, but you could afford a knife?"

Samson tilted his head, smiling trickily. "You read me like a book, my buccaneering friend."

"You talk so casually about killing a man.." Ander said slowly, eyebrows knitting.

Samson rolled his eyes. "It was a century ago, my conscience cleared in the 1650's."

Ander gave a small smile and nodded like he understood, but didn't in the slightest.

*

Later in the night, Ander opened one eye slowly, surveying the dimly lit room. It seemed everyone was asleep now, every hammock full. Discarded items of clothing were strewn over the sides, several dotted across the floor. At the very end of the aisle was the woman named Davelynn, her hammock facing out towards the rest.

Ander watched her a moment. She was eerily still, her deep mahogany coloured hair obscuring much of her face. Just her chest raised and lowered peacefully as she breathed.

Her boots were on the floor, jacket folded and placed in her sack, but the ruby necklace still rested over her heart.

He forced himself to look away. Ander had never had time for women in Zafflen; working small jobs for food had been his day to day life. That, and silently loathing his father for doing whatever he'd done and inflicting that life ; The transitions from ministry orphanage to ministry orphanage to apprenticeship to apprenticeship to a spot in a back alley near the tavern, cosied on a tattered blanket he'd been forced to abandon on the day of his execution.

Quills hammock was lower down, close to the exit, across from the only empty bed he assumed belonged to Ransom, who was still in the captains quarters. It overlapped with the boys who's was higher up, still somehow keeping plenty of distance between them.

The boy looked far too young to be on a ship, 12, maybe 14 at the highest. He was pale like everybody else, but the ghost like skin made him seem weak, delicate. And he looked it. His narrow frame was curled into a ball, his scrawny arms wrapped around his raised, bony knees. Blonde curls fell in his face, cutting across high raised, hollowed cheekbones.

Ander couldn't help but to question, What kind of job would he have here?

The adjoining door to the captains quarters by Davelynns bed creaked open, splashing the corner of the room with dim light. Ander looked up, surprised, but quickly averted his gaze when he heard voices and Ransom emerged from the door way.

He shut his eyes quickly, faking sleep, and listened.

"The firstblood is essential, it may have been a risky venture but entirely necesary, captain." Said Ransom.

Captain? Captain hunter?

"Aye." He said. He sounded young, but still with a deep tones in the otherwise youthful sound. He spoke slowly, like otherwise his question won't sink in. "Ransom.. How long have you been on this ship?"

Ransom seemed caught of guard by the question. "Coming on eighty years, captain.."

"And how long have I been on this ship?" He asked.

Ransoms voice lowered, trying not to sound so puzzled. "Coming on 106 years, I gather.."

"It was 6 years after I was appointed captain of this ship that the curse was placed." He said. There was something chilling about the way he said 'the curse.' Like just speaking about it was unpleasant, putting a bad taste in his mouth.

Ander opened one eye a second, and saw that the captain was hidden from view behind the open door, just his obscure shadow cast on the wooden wall alongside Ransoms.

He shut his eye again quickly.

Captain Hunter continued speaking. He sounded oddly wisdomous, as though he were teaching a child. Still he remained emotionless, not patronising. Gifted with words. "Do you know what that entails?"

"It is the, anniversary, coming up." Ransom said, hesitant to use the term 'anniversary' for something so negative. Ander supposed it was like celebrating someones death-day.

The captain made an affirmative sound. "Ransom.. You may not have lived with it as long as myself, but I know you understand the stifling weight it puts on a mans freedom." He said, and paused for breath. "I am not a pirate for plunder. Women, government uprising, treasure... No, while treasure once obscured my vision of the future that is not it. I sail for freedom, exploration. I have a case of wanderlust unshaken even after a century. I long to see far away places, to see the new world.." He let out a shallow sigh. "This curse has helped me to see the value of that freedom I once misused. While that is fact, I'm sure you understand, that we do not deserve to live with it anymore."

Ransom sounded encouraged by this speech, uplifted. "Yes, we have paid our debt to the midnight clan by now, surely.."

"Ransom." Said Hunter. He lowered his voice so Ander had to strain to hear.
"As you say... It must, be, lifted. At all costs. By the rebirth day 6 cycles from now."

"Yes, Captain." Said Ransom. "Where do we sail?"

"We head to the coven of the north. We will stop at St Marys island along the way for supplies and there, we talk further.." Hunter said. "For we are most likely being listened in on here."

Anders whole body stiffened.

Ransom spoke with sudden hesitance, he sounded like he'd been caught off guard. "St Marys, island? The nearest safe spot is Tortuga.."

"Precisely. Our supplies will definitely hold out past Tortuga, it isn't worth wasting the energy." Said Hunter. Then, he breathed out a deep sigh, almost sympathetically. "Ransom, I understand your caution.. You may wait on the ship, if you'd prefer that. For you I will make an exception. Besides, you aren't necessary on a supply run, at least not there. We draw enough attention as it is.."

"Thankyou, Captain." Ransom breathed, with an odd edge of relief to his tone. But he hesitated. “I may, though I may not.”

Ander frowned, confused by what Hunter had been implying. Seconds later, he heard the door shut, and a waft of air as Ransom passed him.

Ander breathed out steadily, trying not to give away that he was awake and had been fully functioning through that entire conversation, but clearly Ransom was too distracted to notice.

What is Ransom so afraid of?

And what is this something they are hiding? It has something to do with the firstblood, and this 'rebirth' date. And the firstblood is me.

***

Anders child eyes opened slowly, crusted closed along his eyelashes. He squinted at the small, dimly lit room, and lifted a hand to rub his eyes.

He was startled to see the sudden change in scenery, before collecting himself. This was a dream. And while his body was his own, that of years ago, he was like a stranger looking on. Voices warping, the scene shifting; yes, this was a dream. A memory. 

Curtis stood by the door. He had his hands pressed to the wood, which was being shook violently from the outside. A cabinet had been pushed against it, but whoever was trying to get in was strong and unrelenting.

"Out of the way!" Yelled a harsh male voice from the other side. Curtis growled out between his teeth, forcing his whole body weight against the door.

Anders eyes widened. He sat up quickly, suddenly alert. "Father..? W-Who's outside..? What's going on?!"

Curtis looked up at him, and his face lit up with alarm. "Son! Oh, by the gods.."

"F-Father?" Ander said again, in barely a whisper.

Curtis breathed out unsteadily. "Son.. I need you to.."

The door bumped forward heavily, almost knocking Curtis over. He cursed loudly and flattened himself against it again, breathless now. "Son! To the window.. Climb out, quickly!"

"Hand yourself in, firstblood!" Came a second voice outside of the door. "We know you have it! We'll take it back!"

Ander looked up, horrified. His tiny fists balled. "I'm.. I'm not going without you, father!"

"Please, son.." Curtis begged, his eyes pleading. He gritted his teeth as the pressure on the door built and spoke through them. "I need.. You to.. Be a strong man for me now.."

Tears welled in Anders eyes suddenly, but he blinked them away, reminding himself quickly of what he had to be. A man, a strong man. Like Curtis.

"I'll see you again, w-won't I?" He breathed, his voice coming out wracked.

Curtis gave the smallest of smiles. "I'll make it my reason to survive this. One day, Ander, you will understand."

Ander couldn't help it, he released a sob. His whole body trembled, filled with dread. What did that mean? He was going, leaving? So suddenly?

He turned, bottom lip quivering, and quickly grabbed a chair, pushing it feebly to the wall. Once he'd clambered up onto it, he could grip the windowsill, and he pulled himself through the shutter onto the rooftop with one last look at Curtis.

Moments later, as the small, shivering boy jumped down into a hay-filled horse cart on the street below, he heard the door burst open.

***

Ander woke with a start. There was a sudden clatter followed by a thud and a yell, and a sharp pain along his collarbone.

On the floor in the aisle between Ander and another hammock lay Gillian, restrained at the legs and arms by Ruth, with Davelynn, Samson and Ransom fast approaching.

Both looked instantly alarmed, though they concealed it well. 

Ander scrambled back, horrified, staring at the scene before him. "What.. What happened?"

"Shut up and help me!" Ruth snapped coldly, her knee pressed over the struggling mans shins, pinning his wrists to the wooden paneling with her free hands.

Gillian looked almost possessed, completely different to how Ransom had previously seen him. His body shook, flailing about against Ruths restraint. His face was contorted in a sort of fury, baring his teeth like a starving animal being forced to watch it's prey escape.

His eyes, bulging, were a glowing scarlet red, contrasting against his sheet white flesh and standing out through the darkened room. And they were fixed hungrily on Ander.

Ander glanced at the spot where his collarbone stung, and found the smallest of cuts, just a narrow graze, and came to realization.

He'd tried to bite me in my sleep.. Ruth had saved me from becoming one of them.

Ander leapt up, a little stunned, and took hold of Gillians shoulder quickly as Ruth had asked. Ransom, who seemed oddly calm, just frowning like he was morbidly disappointed, took the other. Samson had him pinned by his chest, wide eyed. "Brother, come on, relax.."

As more people were roused by the commotion, a crowd formed.

"Are y'alright lad?" Said a bearded man hurriedly to Anders left he had heard labelled as 'Pete' earlier. He looked up, and gave the slightest of nods, leaning more of his weight onto Gillians shoulder and grunting.

After a couple of minutes, the harsh colour in Gillians eyes faded, and they were a mahogany brown again. His face and body relaxed. Ander heard Ruth breathe a sigh of relief, and the three moved cautiously away from him, except for Samson, who took hold of his arm quickly.

Gillian blinked hard, like he had suddenly woken up from a coma. "What.. What did I.."

"Take him to the cargo hold, get the man some sustenance." Said somebody at the back of the crowd. Ander looked up, and as the few men gathered around the scene parted respectfully, Hunter stood before them.

He looked rather young, maybe in his late twenties, and stood at easily over 6 foot. He matched his unblemished porcelain coloured skin with outgrown, messy black hair, falling in his handsome face. His cheeks were almost concave and shadowed, his eyes a very light and icy shade of blue.

He nodded to Pete and Samson, and the two quickly aided Gillian to his feet. "Yes, Captain." They each responded, nodding back at him respectfully.

Each with a hand on Gillians upper arms, he was led out of another door on the opposite side of Davelynns hammock to the captains quarters, muttering something in a confused tone unintelligibly.

It was like he had risen from a trance, with no memory of attempting to kill Ander.

That was what vampirism had reduced him to ; An empty shell with a thirst for blood.

Ander stood slowly, Ransom, Davelynn and Ruth beside him. Then, with the smallest of smiles to his quarter-master and Bootswain, Hunter turned, and marched back to his quarters.

Ruth breathed a sigh, and wiped sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand. She then headed back to her hammock. Davelynn did the same, without uttering a single word. The crowd dispersed.

But it was only those three who didn't stare as it did, every pair of eyes was on him as Ander clambered back into his hammock, stiff with shock.

"That human shouldn't be here.." He heard one man mutter, and scoffed quietly. He rolled over and tried to un-tense, blocking out the hushed voices around him.

He glanced down a moment. The blood on his collarbone was drying, and he was grateful. He didn't fancy getting near devoured for his humanity once more.

He hadn't cheated death once to face it twice in the course of a few hours ; And it was for that reason he lay awake for the remainder of night.

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