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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6. Chapter 6 - Denial Of The First

The ship turning caused Ander to jolt forward, his hammock swinging to the side and almost colliding with Ruths. He looked around at the empty room, holding the framework in one hand to steady his bed, and sighed deeply.

He looked up at the curved, paneled ceiling, praying he had time before someone noted his absence.

Thoughts spun in his mind, fighting for dominance. Hours ago he'd been Ander, the only interesting quirk to his being a casual execution for a thief, that ended up being the beginning, certainly not the end.

Now, he was trying to recall the lore surrounding a creature he'd only just discovered existed, a creature he was.

He had studied the effects of vampirism known to him over the course of the hour, and it certainly didn't seem as glamorous and romantic as such folk lore portrayed it. It was difficult to find a positive.

An allergy to sunlight without magical support, the need to consume living blood, increased senses and apparently increased everything else, too. And undying, immortal. Most likely, unable to even have children. 

How on earth would he have been concieved was a lingering question, but he put it away, hardly wanting to confuse himself further.

Immortality, he thought dully, trying to relax back into the hammock with his arms behind his head, but still feeling stiff, cold all over. Why would anyone want to live forever? When life itself has little purpose?

If it had one, it was proving difficult to find.

Why would father never have told me about this? It was going to come out one day, that or Curtis himself would slip up in his act.. He had been a vampire, keeping such things flawlessly secret. I never knew him, never truly at all.

Then it struck him. Those men, the ones who had taken him, could have just as easily been the night-hunters Hunter and Ruth had mentioned as they could have been his leading theory - Angry men Curtis had gambled with out for revenge.

If so, Ander doubted he would be alive. Seeking him out had already been a lost cause without throwing that into the balance. And he was still stunned at the concept of someone as strong as Ransom or Quill or Cyro being taken down by a human like himself.

Ander groaned outwardly, then louder, until he found himself shouting out at the top of his lungs in anger. He clenched his fists, shouting like an enraged warrior on the field. Then he stopped, opening his eyes. His chest heaved, looking out at the empty room as the dulled sounds from the above deck went on. 

He could shout, scream. They wouldn't hear him. That, or they didn't care. One or the other. It was lonely, but eerily reassuring. 

He took a deep, shaky breath, looking at his reddened palms, and tried to harness his last thought.

The hunters, it would be whatever weaponry they weilded, not their own power. He had always found that cowardly, that someone could hide at the end of a bow or shotgun and call themselves skilled warriors.

Perhaps adept at fletching, but a coward all the same.

The hunters were certainly cowards even without that added fact. Fearing an otherwise peaceful race because of what they could possibly do. They didn't kill each other for the capability of murder, did they?

After all, they were just humans. Defeatable. Weak.

He looked up, the sudden thought shocking him.  "You are human.." He mumbled under his breath to himself. "For now, at least. You raging idiot.."

He swung his legs over the side, giving into discomfort, and finally dressed, throwing a white shirt and his boots on and rolling his sleeves to the elbows, concentrating on each individual button to banish the onrush of enraging thoughts. 

He picked up his waist coat, running a hand over the firm fabric, and sighed once more. Thinking of his old life seemed strange, like an alien place out of the corner of his mind. And he'd had a coat like this at the orphanage, his church clothes. But it used to have buttons, not chain fastenings.

The nuns hadn't liked the boys to look their bedraggled selves when stepping into the house of god. Their day to day clothes, the ones they weren't seen in so much, brought a new terror to poverty. But the orphanages he had attended had barely had enough money to feed them two meals a day and keep their bed sheets from being chewed to bits by moths. Clothes were bits of patchwork on sheets of old linen, sown into the shape of something remotely resembling a shirt or a pair of trousers.

He'd had to beg for enough money to support himself for a few solid months once he left, until the baker finally took him in. And he spent the rest of his teenage years carrying bags of flour back and forth and giving himself a hunchback, sleeping in a mass-house with one poverty stricken family of three and a couple of boys his own age, all in just as regretful situations as he was.

The house wasn't so much a house as a room, with peeling walls, a dusty straw covered floor, a single communal table with 5 chairs (one extra with only 3 legs, that ended up being used for firewood) and a damp and musty smell with seemingly no actual source.

He'd never do much talking with the other renters. They'd each arrive hungry and weary, mumble some words with their own families, and pass some bread around. Then retreat to their own mattresses in separate corners of the room and sleep until the church bells that seemed to be, by the volume of it, 2 centimetres from the house, awoke them in the early hours of the morning.

By this point the church clothes he'd fled the orphanage in had been cut up to patch the elbows of his few button down shirts, and years had passed in the blink of an eye. A normal peasant boy, nothing odd to his name but a rather mysterious circumstance surrounding his fathers disappearance.

Ander threw on the waistcoat, not bothering to fasten it, and made his way to the deck.

Thinking of that one room mass-house reminded him why he wasn't homesick being on the Eclipsium so far from where he'd grown up. And why he wasn't sea sick, either, thanks to the general state of his old life shedding light on all sorts of living conditions. He envied farm animals at one point, at least they were somewhat warm. But mostly he envied the lord and lady of Zafflen in their grand manor house, overlooking the town, making everybody else feel inferior and more often than not mildly suicidal.

He had never belonged anywhere. Not in the orphanages, at the street he'd called home, at the mass-house with only a mattress stuffed with some old papers and a shiv he'd never used to his name..

Perhaps the only place he could have ever called home, if fate had been kinder, would have been this island they headed to. With his mother and father and a complete understanding of what he was, what he had to be.

The night-hunters had done a damn good job of preventing that.

He had only learned of their existence a say prior, yet all he could feel when he heard the term was a hatred stronger than he had ever felt before. Stronger than the nun at the orphanage who scolded him for laughing too loud, stronger than the executioner who had placed a noose around his neck..

He had never had such an urge to kill someone before, and he didn't even know who he had to kill..

Ander emerged through the hatch to the upper deck, and he had to squint as harsh daylight greeted him.

The day was busy. Ruth was tossing out weapons at random at one end of the deck past the spot they'd sat the night before, stood on an upturned box to reach the high shelves of a weapons rack. It appeared to have been rolled from the lower deck somehow, but with their strength he wouldn't question it further.

It would also be puzzling how they'd acquired such an array of them, if they hadn't been around so long. There were daggers, cutlasses, a type of curved short-sword Ander had never seen before, and small spiked maces, to name a few. All were metal or bronze, some encrusted with a jewel along the hilt decoratively.

Samson and Quill were stood talking by a few barrels they appeared to have given up moving. Quill seemed despondent, like conversation required a certain degree of intelligence. Samson shook his head in disappointment, threading a hand through his blonde locks and sighing heavily.

Ander couldn't help but to wonder if they had all known all along, if they had kept what he was from him despite many of them openly expressing friendship.

Was that why nobody had voiced a question about me arriving here?

He hadn't considered it at the time, he'd been too occupied taking in everything else. But no one had raised eyebrows, pointed fingers. Yet they'd clearly known he was human.

He tried to put the question aside and spoke up. "I guess the rumors about silver burning the vampire are true, then?"

Samson and Quill both turned around, and Quills face became animated."Agh, Ander! We knew yu'd come around!" He grinned ear to ear, 'patting' him so hard on the back he was almost knocked over. He mustered a grin back at him, looking up at the giant man. "I couldn't mope around forever."

Samson tossed an arm around his shoulder, laughing, and Ander smiled a little. "Where did you go this morning? You looked like you'd seen a ghost."

Ander fought the urge to tell him he'd left so they wouldn't have to resist his blood any more as he changed, and realised how soft that sounded. "No where. I just had to talk to Hunte- The captain."

"Ah.." Samson said. "We heard off' Ransom. He's over there scalin' the island.. Are yer', alright?"

Despite his awkward way of showing it, Ander got the feeling Samson cared. He decided finally, he did like him.

He shrugged his shoulders. "Good enough I suppose.." He lied. He felt like a short walk off a long plank if pirates really had such things.

Samson smirked. "Well you look like you could use a dunk overboard." He chuckled, eyes surveying him.

Ander scratched the back of his head, reaching up one hand to feel his hair. Some strands stuck out at odd angles, others were curled and matted down.

"Hm, yeah, I call it my 'I have no real future now, so what's the point' look." He joked, running his hands back through his hair to comb it. He couldn't smile even slightly as the joke reached his lips, it was too real.

Quill laughed his thunder crack laugh, but Samson just looked concerned. "Hm, yeah.. You look exceptional with those bloodshot eyes and dark circles and messy matted hair. You cert'nly suit the serial murderer vibe very much."

Ander covered his insult with a roll of his eyes, too. He hadn't looked at himself in a mirror since he'd gotten there, he supposed he needed a bath really bad, but the effort would seem wasted.

"Come on then, bilge-rat, we're getting you a weapon." Samson finally chuckled slightly, and it sounded warm, lively, carried with his words.

Still, Paranoid curiousity took over. He had to ask. "Just.. One minute," Ander said, stopping them in their tracks. Samson looked at him attentively, cut off. "What?"

He scratched his side awkwardly. "Did you all, know? About.. Me? Before today?"

"I didn't." Quill grunted almost in annoyance before Samson could respond. Samson cast him an irritated glance then looked back to Ander, releasing his shoulder, and placing his hands behind his head like he was stretching. He clearly wasn't good with seriousness. "Look.. We were told if we let yuh' know it would be dangerous. Hypocritical of the cap'n really."

"Yuh." Quill piped in.

Ander sighed deeply. They had, all along. Would things be the same with them if they hadn't..?

"Well, I guessed as much. No wonder Gillian felt so bad, he almost killed everyones saving grace."

He meant it as a joke, but neither men quite got it. Samson shook it off, recovering his smirk. "Anyway, don't go thinking you're special. You're not vampire jesus just because you're the bloomin' firstblood."

Ander rolled his eyes, having to raise his voice over the noise of Davelynn and Ruth yelling orders at the men passing their requested weapons along. "Yeah, okay. Why are we docking again?"

"Hunting. 'Bout bloody time as well, we're all starving." Samson said, exchanging agreeing looks with Quill, who seemed to have to force a facial expression of agreement.

Samson led him forward to the small crowd around Ruth, and took his wrist, holding up his hand in his. His other arm grabbed him around the shoulders, laughing. "Come on you lazy dogs, first blood coming through!"

Ander pulled back against his grip, yelling. But he couldn't help but to grin. "Gah! Samson let me go-"

An elbow dug him in the side a little unintentionally hard. "Comee' on, first blood here!"

Mumbles and voiced complaints at Samson spread as the crowd actually parted.

Ander apologized as he passed the deckhands, struggling against Samsons grip. "Oi, come on mate.. I don't want people thinking-" He argued, embarrassed.

"Let him go, Samson" Ruth chuckled, placing a hand on her hip and fixing her eyes on them. "Come on."

Samson dropped his arm and did a false salute at the girl, still chuckling. Ander rubbed his hand, that cramped. The vampires were all so strong without even meaning to be.

He turned awkwardly, and found himself at the front of the crowd, straightening his clothes. "Uh, his idea.." He pointed a thumb at his friend, who just grinned broadly.

The silence filled as people continued their conversations quickly. They knew Samsons boisterous personality well - it was nothing new on his part.

Nobody objected or asked questions, and Ander felt foolish for being concerned that they'd think badly about him for it.

For what? He asked himself. Were you concerned somebody wouldn't know you're a firstblood and ask questions, or about Samsons joke making you seem vain?

He managed a smile, banishing the thoughts. It was funny, Ander. You're supposed to laugh, not psycho-analyze..

"Aye aye!" Ruth called to Samsons request of a longsword. He'd missed it, lost in his own head. It was tossed at him barely a second later than the words had left her lips, and caught expertly, just as swift, with Samsons hand wrapped firmly around the hilt.

"Thankin' you!" He grinned.

Ander raised his hands in retreat, smiling nervously at the weapons expert. "Since I'm still humanly slow, can you pass me mine? I mean actually pass?"

Ruth rolled her eyes, that were devoid of compassion. "What do you want then, firs' blood?"

"Two daggers." Ander requested, looking at her with an insulted frown.

Ruth pulled two small weapons from the shelf, without even having to scan for them, and leaned in, handing them to him with her leather gloved hand around the blades. It would hurt anybody else, but he struggled to find the kindness in his heart to care for her anyway. He didn't harbour much love for the girl.

"Thanks." He said with little sincerity. earning a cold look in response.

He frowned. He couldn't understand why she seemed to hate him, all he had done was turn up - And even then it was against his will.

It was angry guards back at Zafflen, or strange pirate who appeared to have rescued him from the goodness of his heart. He had understood the logic at the time.

He stepped to the side out of the line and took a dagger in each hand, weighing them. They felt light, the edge of the blade very thin, easy to swing. A memory came to mind, of the trick his father had taught him the year he'd left.

Father..

'Careful, kid.' He'd said, 'That thing'll take your eye out.'

Ander frowned, holding his fathers knife across both hands, almost crumpling from the weight. 'I.. Wanna learn that trick I saw you doing.'

Curtis sighed, kneeling down to take the weapon from him. 'Which trick?'

Ander thought, looking up. He grinned ear to ear. 'The, spinny one!"

Curtis smiled. He took the knife, rising to his feet, and held it at an angle in his hand. Then, after stepping away from the child, jerked his thumb and span the weapon with the flat side of the blade turning cleanly in his palm until he could grasp the hilt again. He grinned at Ander, 'That one?'

'You threw it up too.' Ander added with a giddy smile.

Curtis chuckled. He repeated the trick, jerking his thumb again then releasing the weapon at an angle once more. It flew a few inches before plummeting, spinning twice until he could safely grab it once more.

Ander clapped his hands, laughing. 'How did you learn that?'

'In my old life we had use for these things.' Curtis said smoothly. The boy nodded in wonder, not truly understanding.

Curtis raised a finger, 'Wait here.'

He turned and left the room, heading into the dining room, and returned with a wooden spoon in hand. Anders interested face sank. 'Awh, father I want to train with the-'

'No.'

'But-'

'You'll do yourself an injury. Here, keep practising with this and eventually, you'll grasp the trick.' Curtis gave a warm smile and ruffled Anders hair, making him scrunch up his face and promptly flatten his tousled brown mane with his hands.

Ander smiled a little at the memory, but wished his father could see him in mastery of his trick now.

Where was he? Who were those men that dragged him away once he'd dived from the window? If Hunter and Ransom didn't know, he doubted anybody would.

The boat jolted again, and Ander grabbed the side quickly. Samson was at his side, holding on with one arm. He smirked. "The cap'n likes his rough turnings, don't he?"

"Definitely." Ander said. The sea air was blasting him, pulling his face taut. He looked out, having to squint to protect his eyes.

Over the edge he saw a stretch of golden land with a forest beyond, starting with tropical palm trees and continuing with great, towering oaks. It was a beautiful island, he had never seen something so wild yet lovely before.

"Drop anchor!" Somebody called he suspected as Hunter. He spotted Quill, Edward and Antanio step forward to the great metal anchor resting by a masting post to lift it. Samson quickly strapped his longsword to his belt and rushed to join them, walking without stumbling despite the fast tilting of the ship.

They were much more used to it than he was.

"Ander, can I have a hand..?" Somebody said behind him. Ander turned, still holding the railing with one hand, to see Alec half up from the great quarter, just his nose and above visible. He was groaning like he was carrying something heavy.

Ander rushed over, frowning. He swayed a little but kept his balance until he could grab the masting like the others, leaning over. "You okay there?"

The small, frail boy was attempting to pull up a large barrel. It was empty, probably easy for anybody older, but Alec was red faced and struggling.

"Woah, Alec! Why didn't you come and get me?" Ander cried, jumping down the steps three at a time quickly. He landed with one hand on the wall to steady him and took the barrel from Alec, concerned.

Alec sank back, sitting on the wooden floor, chest heaving with heavy, ragged breaths. "I.. Thought I could.. Handle it.."

Ander looked at him, hesitating with the barrel under his arm. He sighed deeply. Alec had it bad, he was stuck that way. So young, for so long. It was no wonder he was stuck in the worst job on the ship.

He would never have a normal life. A family, a job..

Unless Ander changed that, he remembered. He was apparently the only person who could.

"Alec.." Ander said gently, sitting down beside him against the lowest step. "You have to know your own strengths and weaknesses."

"I don't LIKE my own strengths and weaknesses... I can't do anything the others here can!" He said, sounding frustrated. Tears gleamed in his baby blue eyes. Ander wanted to hug him badly, it was horrible to see someone so small and innocent so insecure. He searched for the words to express his sympathy. "I-I.."

"Don't.." Alec looked down at his lap. "I'm useless and pathetic, I can't even lift an empty barrel or fire a shotgun.."

"That doesn't make you pathetic, Alec!"

"Well it sure makes me useless." He choked on a sob, and a tear ran down his pale cheek.

Ander couldn't stop it, the words were out before he could moderate them. "Its not the fault of you, your brain, body or soul that for whatever reason you ended up frozen at this age. It's just that a vampire with a hunger for blood doesn't tend discriminate. Not from a lord or a peasant or a man or a boy. You're going to punish yourself for a damned curse that none of us can control?"

Alec stared at him, a smile pulling at the corner of his lips and his teary eyes gleaming in the light. "Yeah?"

"But, I can." He said. Alecs eyebrows furrowed a moment, then his face relaxed in realisation. He knew. He knew the power Ander held in his own veins.

He held his gaze. "I will make sure that when you die one day, Alec, you'll die human. You'll live a life that is worth something no matter what that means. I will cure you."

Alecs smile grew, reaching his eyes, and Ander smiled, too, with a sense of pride. "I promise you that."

And he meant it. He had a new goal, and it seemed so clear. He wasn't going to live an eternal life worth nothing. Because no matter what came after the rebirth, he would have given Alec the future he deserved. And that was worth so much in that moment.

Alec stumbled over his words, sounding so happy and grateful it almost pained him. "T-Thankyou.. I.. I won't waste it.."

Ander stood, and offered the boy a hand up before picking the barrel back up. "I know you won't.. Come on, now. You're hunting, we've docked by the sound of things."

Alec scratched the back of his head. "I.. I don't hunt. Davelynn says it's too dangerous. She brings back a supply for me."

"Oh, please, that mouse was terrified of you, Alec!" Ander joked, and Alec chuckled. He looked up at him. "But, really.."

Ander chewed the inside of his cheek. "Maybe I can talk to her. Come up."

"Eighty years of sitting on the sidelines and you expect her to-"

"Look, I can try."Ander said, grinning at him before emerging at the deck with Alec in tow.

"Ander.." The boy protested, once they reached the upper deck. "She's not goin' to take it. And she has her hooks in Ransom, who has his hooks in Hunter, who has clear ropes on the rest of us sorry lot!"

Ander spotted Davelynn stood by a few deckhands Ander couldn't recognize from the back, taking down a ramp onto the narrow stretch of beach they had docked on. Her arms were folded, and she leaned more onto one hip like she wanted to sit down, but her eyes were trained on the task at hand.

By her, Cyro and Quill stood opposite each other, and it was unusual to observe. They matched each other in height and build, each looking as indefeatable as the other. And it showed in their eyes. Their confidence faltered as they measured each other up. Cyros eyebrow arched.

Ander stepped between them, something he would be a lot less willing to do in a dark alley, and onward to Davelynn. She looked at him as he approached, and Ander was suddenly very aware that Alec had retreated in the opposite direction.

"Eh, g'morning, Davelynn.. I, was wondering if you would be willing to consider something.." He started, with a smile full of forced politeness he silently prayed came across as authentic.

Davelynn raised an eyebrow, and sighed. "What did you do?"

"No, no.. Just a favour for your little brother."

He barely had to complete his final word for Davelynns eyes to spark with realisation. "No," she said, shaking her head. "Spare yourself the precious seconds."

"Well apparently I have forever, seconds are nothing! Just, think about it!" He pleaded. Alec must have asked her before with all kinds of childs tactics, he must have. It had been far too long for him to not have tried. However Davelynn was tough and solid in her opinions.

"Don't you think you're babying him?" He pressed once she went silent. "He can pull his own weight.. I'll, I'll mind him."

Davelynn glared straight through him. "Babying him? Maybe we should be babying YOU! You're weaker than he is!"

"Davelynn." He said, standing firm. "What's the point of him surviving if he never gets to live?"

She fell silent, and he saw her anger falter, giving way to guilt. She looked at the floor, her lips curling. "You.. You just wouldn't understand. He's my brother. He's all I have left.."

"You're right. I wouldn't understand."

She looked up again, as Ransom was approaching, a spyglass in his hand. Ander turned, feeling suddenly heavy with a pressing grief at the weight of what they'd each said. He didn't have a family member to protect like she did. He was at a loss as he tried to comprehend her concern.

"We're ready." Ransom said to her, seemingly ignorant to their conversation. He spared Ander a passing glance before returning his attention to her. "Come when you're finished socialising."

Davelynn attempted the slightest of grins at the rare teasing undertone of a ransoms voice, and it was enough to incorrectly inform Ransom that she was alright.

He seemed perceptive enough with the exception of basic human emotions. Intelligent and occasionally very caring, but with a data log backing it all up, not experience.

Then they both nodded, and Ander started to follow, accepting defeat from Davelynn.

But she stopped him quickly before he could leave a hand on his arm. "Wait, Ander.."

And then, she hugged him. She actually hugged him. Her chin pressed into his shoulder, her arms wrapped around his neck. He faltered a little in discomfort, but still, the gesture surprised him.

She felt very cold, cold enough to bring chills to any ordinary person. Yet Ander felt suddenly undeniably warm inside. "Uh, Davelynn..?"

"I'm sorry. I was thoughtless." She said, words muffled by his shirt. "I shouldn't have said that. You were just looking out for Alec."

Ander couldn't speak. He slowly hugged her back, but felt unusually tense, the show of compassion from a girl foreign to him.

Davelynn breathed out a steady sigh, heavy with thought. "You know.. You and Ransom are more similar than you care to admit."

He woke himself up fast. "How so?"

"You both lose all sense of recklessness when a woman gets close to you." She chuckled, and Ander couldn't help but to grin, still wordless. "Huh?"

Davelynn drew back, her smile indistinguishable from a grin. She kept a hand on his arm. "You've both suffered in the past. I suggest you.. Talk to each other, at least."

He moved his head from where it rested atop hers. "Thankyou." He managed, regaining his ability to form whole words. "Uh.. I actually feel a lot better now. That was rather odd.."

"It's this magic thing, called 'relaxing.'" She teased, chuckling, and with a single smile she left after Ransom. Ander stared after her as she walked down the ramp and disappeared from sight.

Alec promptly emerged from behind some barrels. He just shrugged at him in defeat, head cocked, and Ander shrugged back, having to remind himself what he had asked for in the first place.

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