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.'


5. Chapter 5 - Where Truth Lay

Ransom sat on the railing of the ship, feet up with his elbows on his knees on the block infront of him. One arm was wrapped around the masting, the other fiddling with his fringe as the wind blew it back into his face.

He sighed, looking out at the water lapping against the ship. The water was clear, so clear. The waves gentle, barely rocking the vessel at all.

He watched, eyes filled with wonderment.

These beautiful things are what the world is pieced with, he thought. He remembered his mothers words, what she had told him as they sat side by side in the astronomy hall. 'You can get pieces of true enlightenment in these natural wonders - Pieces of beauty beyond the living, the deceptive living. These things, my son, are so beautifully innocent.'

He banished the memory, the one of home, laced with pain and tragedy. It was tragic in itself that one of his few good memories of his old home sat amongst the others.

This is home, he reminded himself. It had been home for so long now.

Davelynn emerged from the lower deck, Alec and Ander in check, and Ransom couldn't help but to divert his attention to them.

She was speaking to Ander, who made curious faces and hand gestures in time. He seemed calm, relaxed, like he'd warmed up to being here. Davelynn chuckled slightly at something he must have asked and Anders face flashed with irritation.

Ransom watched out of the corner of his eye, thinking back. His face was so similar, he looked just like the man he had met. His memory was without fail, all that was obscured were Curtises eyes, as the shadows had darkened them. "He has the same dark hair." He thought aloud in a mutter. "At least that's somewhat reassuring."

How could someone so seemingly simple and uncomplicated possibly be a child of theirs? Who's only goal in life, only future, is to uncover a mere snatch of the past?

"Saying something Coulder?"

Ransom looked up once more. Davelynn and Alec were smiling at him now, matching, a symbol of their often discreet relation. But Ander stood back, arms crossed. Expressionless. His eyes were devoid of any warmth, but the anger seemed slightly forced. Like he was trying to intimidate Ransom.

It was difficult to spot, that flicker in the act. Perhaps hiding an inch of compassion beneath his mask; he had attempted to protect him in the under-clan, after all..

Ransom forced a smile, avoiding Anders worthlessly cruel gaze. "No, I wasn't."

Davelynn leant against the railing, her smile turning cocky. "I know you better than that."

"Oh, 'ere we go. Come on Ander, this is the time of day where these two try to initiate a romance and try even harder to make it look like the opposite." Alec grinned, teasing his older sister, and gestured for the reluctant Ander to follow to the opposite end of the ship. Pete was handing clouded bottles to Gillian, Samson and Ruth, who sat in a triangle by one of the central masting posts.

He held Ransoms gaze for just a second longer. "Ransom, can we talk once you conclude your courting session?"

Ransom cast him a look so dark the others seemed Afraid Ander might burst into flames. "Possibly. Tomorrow."

"Ander, c'mon, you stick-weed!" Alec called hurriedly, wording the alien insult like it was casual.

Ander obliged, following the boy. He sped up to join him at his side. "Stick weed?"

"The stuff that gets on the sides of the ship with the barnacles. It gets moulded onto the wood and you have to pry it out with a sharp knife." Alec explained, seemingly happy to get to state facts. Ander was getting a picture of why he wasn't a deckhand.

Ander raised an eyebrow. "Why am I one of those..?"

"You're clingy. Well, a nicer way of sayin' it would be dedicated. You don't let anythin' go."

Ander frowned a little. "Oh. Charming."

They reached the triangle and Ander raised a hand meekly to make himself seen. "Uh, hey."

"Bilge-rats, guess you're here to socialise!" Ruth teased, sitting slightly straighter and taking her feet down from the chair opposite. Ander smirked very slightly. "Yeah, yeah. Alec thinks I'm a.." He tested the word on his lips.. "Stick-weed, for asking about all of this, you know."

"Because y'are!" Samson grinned, rising from his seat and digging him hard in the ribs. Ander winced but tried to muster a smirk to cover the pain in his side.

Ruth raised an eyebrow skeptically. "Well, you are the first human here in.. The first human here. We can't just trust you instantly."

Ander looked baffled. How could they not trust him? He wasn't the deadly one. "What? You don't trust me?"

"Yeah, you don't trust him?" Alec and Samson both piped in together.

Ruth cast Alec an annoyed look. "Shush, rat.. Look, Ander, there are humans with the capability to kill us, and they have done in the past. We're not exactly peaceful bloody pixies, we're vampires. Believe it or not we're hunted." She spoke with a sharp edge to her voice. "Why do you think theres barely anyone left from the original crew?"

"Oi, speak for yourself." Samson frowned.

Alec seemed to tense. It was the answer he hadn't wanted to give earlier. And Ander didn't feel happy for filling another gap, he felt like he's been punched in the gut.

They'd been stuck here so long, watching their numbers dwindle. At least as a human you know eventually you will leave this world, and be rejoined with your lost friends and family.

As an immortal vampire..

He shuddered at the concept. It was so horrendously tragic now he pondered it.

They suffered inescapably.

Gillian appeared to be staying out of the conversation, looking down at his hands. His deepset eyes shifted up occasionally.

That's right, Ander thought. They will have explained to him what he did. Who he tried to bite.

"Well I trust you." He said to Ruth. But he aimed the words to Gillian. "I trust all of you."
He saw the mans eyes light up slightly, like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. "Ander, lad.." He started, he rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. If I can do anything for yer' to make up for it, you jus' let me know?"

"Gillian, I was never even angry at you to begin with?" Ander said as warmly as he could, and he gave him a reassuring smile to back up the statement.

He then seated himself between Alec and Samson, and tried not to let his mind stray to what was in the clouded glasses they held.

For the first time since he'd arrived, his mind felt clear.

Ransom looked at Davelynn, away from Ander and the others. He focused on the lock of deep red hair curling inward along her chin, on the way shadows fell along her cheeks. The angle of her catlike eyes..

Stop it. He told himself. Not her, use something else to distract you, but not her.

He stepped down nimbly from the low railing and stood infront of her, leaving the respective amount of space.

The stubborn boy could always miraculously know how to lipread.

"Just.. Ander is a little different than I expected of Raven and Curtis' child." He breathed, so only she could hear.

Davelynns eyebrows furrowed, lining her forehead slightly. "How so?"

"He's stubborn as possibly imaginable, headstrong, proud.."

"Is he asking too many questions?"

"That, also."

Davelynn sighed, leaning her hand on his arm. "Listen. He is the spitting image of how you used to be, Ransom. Those things wore away, didn't they? Those factors in time gave way to an edge of charisma! Besides, he is bound to have questions." She paused, frowning. "I honestly pity him.. Have you considered him at all in this as a person rather than 'the firstblood?'"

Ransom looked away from her a moment, and stepped away, leaning back against the wood beside her. He folded his arms. "Don't lecture me. I'm not made of stone - of course I have."

She stood infront of him now, sighing. "Look, I'm not asking you to like him. But he hasn't had the best upbringing, has he? They took Curtis when he was, what, seven? I thought of all people, you'd be able to relate to him."

Ransom looked at her sharply, eyes awake with surprise. "Davelynn!"

She said nothing, her eyes were fixed on the scar peeking from beneath his fringe, its stitches drawing the skin surrounding it tight.

He bit down on the inside of his mouth irritably, self conscious. "You know, it's inpolite to stare at things like that." He mumbled, meeting her eyes once more.

She had drifted closer. "Well I don't see your scar as a bad thing."

Ransom shook his head, looking to the side at where Cyro and another deckhand were turning the sails. "It's not something I like to flash."

Davelynn brushed her hand across his cheek, along the line of the scar. His eyes snapped back to front, and shuddered to himself beyond his control at the touch of her hand, how cold her fingers were against his face. He held his breath, unable to relax his muscles.

"How did we go from Anders lifestory to this..?" He breathed, voice coming out weaker than he would have intended. It shocked him.

She smiled wryly, dropping her hand to his arm and looking back up at him. "You sound different.. And you're all flustered. You've never been close to a girl before?"

"I don't think a conversation about my barren lovelife is one to be had in the middle of everyone.." He managed, hoping his embarrasment wasn't showing too much.

Davelynn grinned. She stepped back, hand leaving his arm. "I have to go yell at Antanio and Quill, they're making a mess of the masting."

Ransom gave her a half-smile. "I'll see you later, Davelynn."

"Remember, you said you'd speak to Ander tomorrow!" She said, before walking away, boots heavy on the wooden floor.

Ransom watched her go, and for a moment, the touch of her hand on his cheek warmed his skin, and the smell of spice that hung around her lingered in the air.


The next day, Ander was roused by a sharp toss of the ship. He opened his eyes and glanced around, alert.

Suddenly, Samson hopped down from his hammock, swinging from the railing to the spot Ander aimed to step to. He recoiled quickly. "Woah, Samson!"

Samsons blond hair was tousled, stuck out at odd angles. A red smudge stained the collar of yesterdays shirt he had slept him, and Ander barely had to question the cause.

"Yeah I know, I'm gorgeous. Hurry, Ander, we're docking!" He said, a slight tone of excitement in his voice. His hazel eyes were alive, though he tried to conceal the emotion.

Ander rubbed the sleep from the corner of his eyes. "Docking, where?" He managed sleepily. He felt dizzy, his under eyes sore and heavy. Everyone else was getting up, like getting a full nights rest was a lost cause to them. 

Not that they needed it.

Samson ran a hand back through his hair to flatten it, still with the smallest of smiles that continued to flit back to his lips as he spoke. "The island is unnamed, too small. It's hunting time. You're coming along, but Ransom said to tell you to stay on the beach."

Couldn't he tell me himself? We're supposed to speak today..

Ander sighed and swung his legs over the side of the bed, sitting straight. The ache in his muscles had greatly subsided but he still felt a strain.

He gave Samson a meek smile. "Thanks for telling me. I haven't really adjusted to waking up so early.."

Samson shrugged. "Well we can go weeks without sleep anyway, we only have it so it evens out body strength and the need to consume blood.. Its complicated, Yates knows more about it I think. Just get dressed and report to Ruth." The hoop in his ear winked as he turned, smiling. "She'll get you a crossbow. Incase you don't know, she's our master gunner and weapons expert."

"Ah, I usually just go with knives.."

"You are stationed on the beach, what good will a knife do if one of us turns on you from the trees?"

Samson tilted his head at him with a thin 'Sorry you were way off' smile.

Ander looked more surprised by the comment about being backstabbed. "Nobody here would turn on me.."

Samson smirked, like he was enjoying the knowledge he wasn't explaining. Enjoying having the upperhand in a conversation for once. "Not purposefully."

Ander asked nothing more. He thought hard, about what he had witnessed the days before. The restraint Alec had to administer to not bite that rat. About the overly controlled look in Ransoms eyes when he offered to check his wound. About the faces of Thatcher and Yukami and Locksis in under-clan, how hungry they had looked now he compared them to the men and women on the Eclipsium. About Pete, and the crazed expression on his face as he fought against them all to get at his throat..
Vampires were constantly surrounded with temptation whenever they set foot on land. They watched the life around them and would find it so difficult, so difficult to appreciate it when the only thought running through their mind was to blend in and deny their natural instincts, along with all the pain they brought.

Control. It was all around him. Between stolen glances and too-casual conversations as they passed by him. The kind of 'act natural' show where you exact act the opposite of natural.

Ander hadn't been making it any easier, asking for information constantly that forced them to spend extended periods of time around him. Changing around them, even. Exposing his living flesh, veins flowing with the stuff they craved and had to force themselves to avoid..

Perhaps that contributed to their reasons for remaining pirates at sea, even after so many of their men left and they found themselves hungering for something that would be so distant when isolated.
It would help them to control themselves. They wouldn't have to work so hard every waking moment.

All I've done is think about myself, he thought. When I was never the one truly suffering.

He didn't return Samsons casual smirk, he looked stricken with realisation and grief. Samson frowned slightly as he realized this. "What's the matter? I was only-"

"Nothing." Ander said. He got up quickly, grabbing a shirt from his sack and sidestepping Samson. "Nothing. See you in a few minutes."

He marched from the great quarter, turning a few heads as he had as he first emerged from the ocean with Ransom and Quill. Though now he realized why.

It didn't scare or alarm him - He felt only guilty for his presence.

He looked about for the door to the ale room, and quickly grabbed the handle to the door on the right, the handle cold against his hand. Davelynn cast him an odd look and opened her mouth to speak before he shut the door again quickly behind him, feeling carpet under his feet..

He leaned his head against the wood with a deep, wracked sigh.

Oh jesus christ. Carpet.

"Usually people knock before entering ones quarters." Came a rythmic, male voice Ander had heard very few times. His eyes widened in realisation, and he quickly leaned away from the door, turning. 
Captain Hunter was stood with his arms crossed, eyebrows raised, and unmistakably shirtless.

Ander averted his eyes even quicker than he'd fixed them on him. The wrong room, definitely the wrong room. And he was changing.

It wouldnt be such a crime in his mind, if it weren't for the scars that had marred his entire toso. Deep gashes that often looked far from knife wounds, one cutting across the side on his stomach, another two on one sie of his chest alone. He looked like he had walked straight through hell and back again. 

"Oh, god, uh, sorry!" He gasped, humiliated and stunned all at once and cursing himself for his thoughtlessness. In his hurry to escape his thoughts he had mistaken left from right.

"I'm, so sorry.. Oh, Christ, I'll be going now.." He apolagised incessantly before reaching for the door knob once more.

Hunter spoke quickly, stopping him dead in his tracks. "Wait, it's quite alright, I've actually been meaning to speak with you. Mr.. Is it Zavien, yes?"

Ander looked up sharply, but didn't turn around, a hand curled around his temple. "How do you-"

"Don't bother. I know rather a lot about you. Just one moment while I make myself presentable.."

He spoke eloquently, polite without fault, but the opposite of Locksis. It was like the nature came naturally to him, which Ander imagined it did. That he had learned it from experience, and now it was simple regular.

Controlled without the slightest of mistakes.

Ander didn't turn, somewhat uncomfortable. "Thankyou, uh, my apolagies again for my inept sense of direction."

He thought he heard the beginnings of a chuckle. "You're funny, Ander, like your father if memory does indeed serve.."

This sparked his attention. Ander twisted slightly but not enough to see him, his eyes flashing with surprise. "You, knew Curtis Zavien?"

"Very briefly, we did meet once. You were very young, I believe. I'm decent now, Ander."

Ander turned back around obediently, and scanned the room. It was polished to an almost unusual extent - not a quill out of place. The walls were adorned with decorations, paintings higher and lower than each other in sequence, framed with bronze and gold. A broad bookshelf leaned against one wall, a polished dark coloured wood. It was almost full, packed with books of various colours and sizes. 

At the back of the room past a fringed dark red rug was his desk. Ander couldn't make out anything on the papers spread across it, just the dagger that was stabbed into the wood through the sheet that appeared to be some kind of map.

Two unlit candles in their holders hung on the wall behind it, currently without purpose. Hunter, now clothed, was oiling the one on the far left, illuminating the office. 

He then made his way to the red cushioned chair behind the desk, still fastening the gold buttons of his black coat together, and relaxed against the upholstery with a sigh of comfort.

Another chair was at the front of it, pushed slightly to the side like it had recently been sat in. Probably by Ranson, but he'd be looking over the ship in Hunters absence. Ander made his way over, silent, and looked at him for permission to sit. Hunter nodded with a slight smile, and he sat back stiffly against the wood. It felt cold against his back, digging slightly into the base of his spine.

The captain leaned forward, his arms crossed on the desk infront of him. "You meant to go into another room to dress.." He began, his bottomless black eyes flitting down to the shirt still over Anders arm then back to his face. "Why?"

Ander swallowed the lies that sprung to mind. He was here, and as far as he had gathered the intentions of these men were honorable. They had saved his life, and Hunter was the heart of that operation. Hunter could be trusted more than anyone. If his plans were, for whatever reason, to kill him, he would have let the lord of Zafflen handle it instead of risking his quarter master to prevent it.

"I realized," Anders hand balled up tight in his lap, and relaxed hot and sweaty. "That my presence was causing pain."

"Ah.. An honourable excuse. Is this related to the incident with Gillian?" He asked bluntly.

Ander shook his head quickly, remembering the deckhands incessant apolagising. "No! I.. Just lot's of things included, I reached that conclusion."

Hunter smiled properly, and it did look very warm on his otherwise somewhat unhappy face. It seemed unlikely that he could ever have been the master sea-thief he had been before the curse. "It is considerate of you. But trust me when I tell you this ; My sailors are very well conditioned. And it is your blood, in particular, that shouldn't bother them as much as other humans."

Anders eyebrows furrowed in puzzlement, leaning in a little more. "Why? What are you implying?"

"Ander I realize that you have many, many questions, and knowledge is not a bad thing. It is natural instinct to want to uncover secrets and mysteries. I'm sure by the way your eyes settled on my bookshelf you get the impression that I myself enjoy learning. I credit you for your curiousity and if you didn't have that trait, I would honestly doubt that you could be the person we think you are." He hesitated a moment. "However, can you please use that intelligence and trust me when I say this ; it is too soon to be revealing such things."

Ander sat silent a moment, looking down from Hunter to his folded hands. He spoke with such wisdom, it was hard not to just comply to his request.

"Can I ask why, or is that more than the healthy dose of curiousity?" He asked, voice soft, meeting his unwavering gaze once more.

Hunter tilted his head, and breathed a sigh. "We cannot risk you leaving, Ander."

"Why would I leave? Why am I so important all of a sudden? My life has been nothing special! There are plenty of other orphans you could be plucking from a life of crime and revealing all of this to.."

Even with the rudeness, Hunters face didn't so much as flicker with irritation. "Ander, you do realise that possessing this information may put you in a very difficult situation."

Even with the longing in his chest, a lump formed in his throat at the warning that he struggled to swallow. "I just want to know who I am. What's special about me.. Wouldn't you want to know the same?"

Hunter paused a moment, sitting back in his chair once more, before he spoke. "You, are a first blood. A vampire that was not made that way by another, a newblood like myself, but a vampire that was born the natural way despite the odds of a birth among us being extremely rare. Your parents were members of the firstblood clan that created us, Ander."

Ander sat still, frozen in shock, his hands gripping either side of the chair as the words span in his head. "Hunter.. I am not a vampire. It's very clear that there is nothing different about me!" 
His voice sounded alien, like the world around him made very little sense suddenly. All he could see clearly was the desk and the man infront of him, telling him something he didn't understand.

"This is what we feared." He said slowly. "That without evidence you wouldn't believe us. That you would leave. Please, may I continue?"

Ander said nothing, eyes wide, and Hunter continued to speak.

"18 years ago, we set out to reason with the clan and request we be cleared of the curse. We had tried many alternative options, including multiple spells from the magi that in time only proved to lower our already diminishing numbers. The firstbloods were all that remained. But we were turned away, informed that if there was a cure they would have already journeyed to hell and back to track it down.

However, Night Hunters spotted our ship. I'm sure you will have pried information on them from someone by now.. They had followed our movements intently, and noticed a pattern in our stops. After we left, they tore through the clan. It was a bloody battle. Many hunters died at the hands of the insidiously strong firstbloods, but the hunters had been planning their attack for years, while the clan were fatally unprepared.

At the time you were merely a few months old, and your mother, Raven, was either killed or taken captive that day. It is more unfortunate that you were never able to meet her properly, I understand that must frustrate you. But Curtis escaped with you, took you to the town you grew up in. I met him only once, as I have said. Around two years later when we arrived at the island seeking supplies. He shared his story with myself and Ransom over a drink."

Ander looked alarmed, eyes frantic, his hands shaking though he tried to keep the rest of him still. He opened his mouth to speak but the words came out husky. "Where is my father?"

"We don't know. He seems to have vanished off the face of the Earth around 10 years ago." Hunter said smoothly. He reached out and rested a hand on Anders shoulder comfortingly, but Ander pulled back sharply, suddenly awake.

"I don't care if my parents were like you. I'm human and its clear!" he yelled, jumping up from his seat.

Hunter rose too, slowly, completely composed. "Currently, yes, you are as human as you always have been, Ander. However on your 18th birthday in a months time you will awaken. We call it the rebirth. And that will make you one of the last living firstbloods. We have been told by the magi that the blood of one of your dying kind must be sacrificed to invoke a cure for us."

Ander ran a hand back through his hair and gripped it in his fist, growling out between his teeth. "This is insanity! I have a month?! A month of humanity left and you weren't going to tell me?!"

"We wanted to wait until the right time." Hunter said.

Ander breathed fast, fists tight. "What exactly do you regard as the right time?!"

How? How could this be?

Then, he came to a slow, sickening realisation, and his stomach lurched. "You said the mages told you a firstblood would have to be sacrificed.. You're going to sacrifice me, Hunter?"

"No." He said, shaking his head. "Of course not. The coven did some research for us that didn't make my friends burst into flames, actually. If, in your moment of rebirth, we spill some of your blood then, the concentrated occult energy of a firstblood transformation will be enough to cure us without having to kill you. There is one more condition to this, however. We must reach the island for your rebirth date in less than a month."

Ander leaned his head against the wall, feeling a cold sweat working its way down his temple. "The island..?"

"The island of the old firstblood clan. There is a chamber used to contain vampires while they go through the transformation. If not there, you would tear through us all in a moment of hunger. You could even claim your own life by mistake.."

"I'm just Ander!" He pleaded, turning back to face him. "I couldn't kill vampires! You're lying, you must be!"

He pointed an accusing finger at Hunter and backed away to the door.

Hunter made no move to stop him, and Ander burst back out into the great quarter, stumbling into Davelynns hammock. The room was empty save for Ransom, who was rooting through his chest on his knees by his hammock. He looked up and frowned. "Ander? What happened?"

"Not now!" Ander stormed on, head spinning, straight past him. One thought ran through his mind like a broken cassette. All this time, I've never been truly human.

A split second before Ander could grab the first rung of the ladder, Ransom had caught up and grabbed his sleeve. "I said I'd talk to you, I am honouring my word. Now what was that?"

Ander hesitated, still breathing fast and hard and feeling like he might be sick. He had to remind himself that he was supposed to be angry with Ransom, but found it useless now. He'd been told the horrible truth in advance.

"Hunter told me everything." He said. Ransoms eyes flashed, momentarily shocked.

Ander looked away, at the steps to the deck. "Everything you've kept from me."

Ransom sighed, leaning against the railing of his hammock. "Ander.. I know you must be scared, that probably doesn't begin to cover it, but-"

"I don't need a heart to heart talk."

"-But, after this is over, I'd like to extend a real invitation to join us here."

Ander looked up at him, and stared hard. He wanted to scream at him, wanted to shove him against the hard wood wall and punch him so hard he gave him more scars than he could cover with a lousy fringe.

"Are you insane?! After this is over I'm stuck as some blood drinker and you're all going to be humans! What would you even be doing around here if you weren't stuck like this, huh? Raiding villages? Because I'll be stuck with bigger problems than gold!"

Ransom said nothing, looking him dead in the eye. For the smallest of moments, it seemed hurt had crossed his face, but it was gone as fast as it was there.

"Fine." He said bitterly. "I'll leave you to your thoughts."

In a blur, Ransom disappeared to the upper deck. And Ander stared in frustration at the spot where he had stood.

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