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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8. Chapter 8 - Hunted Blood

"TAKE COVER!" Boomed Cyro behind them, and each of the vampires did just that, ducking low on the ground, and shielding their heads with weapons and sleeves pulled over their exposed hands.

Pellets flew through the air, shining as they caught the light, bouncing off the ground like hail. They were flying seemingly from the branches of the trees on either side of them, from just past Captain Hunter to the beginning of the trail. They were everywhere, like silver rain.

How many of those hunters are there?!

Davelynn shrieked as one hit her in the wrist, then the head, and Ransom leaped to her aid, leaning over her protectively with his arms over his head. Davelynn cried out indignantly, trying to push him away and banging on his chest, but he held her down. "RANSOM! Stop it! Don't be a hero!"

Ransom gritted his teeth, head ducked, leaving barely millimeters between them. A pellet found his neck, and his skin began to bubble into blisters, like they were forming actual bubbles of gas within his skin. He shouted in pain, face contorted. Ander felt an inexplicable rush of anger and horror at the sight.

Yet he didn't listen to her, he didn't move, he remained over her like a shadow. A shield.

The skin on Davelynns wrist was just as charred, like she had literally placed her hand in a fire and the effects were sped up. It was grotesque. Agony surrounded him.

He acted on instinct, hardly thinking, and rushed to them. Ignoring Ransoms yelling, he tossed his un-done waist coat over Ransoms head, and knelt beside them a moment. "TRY CRAWLING TO THE SIDE!" He commanded over the noise.

Ransom was panting, face uncharacteristically afraid and confused, but he nodded. Davelynn had given up hammering on his chest; He was un-moveable. Ander knew from his face, his pain, and the fact that his first priority had been her, that he dare not.

The others were ducking frantically, shielding themselves with whatever possible, but terrible screams and wails of torment filled the air. Ander spun to seek out Reynick, assuming he was unaffected, and he was correct. But the man was wide eyed with puzzlement, seemingly doing the same desperate thing as Ander. He dashed from person to person, shielding his head. But he looked up, and they both saw it.

Hunter, who had been crouched further down the trail, saw something. His gaze settled on the very tops of the trees, fleeting, then he rose abruptly and made a dash from the trail to the forest. He broke into a steady but uneasy looking jog, with his coat over his head, flailing out behind him.

Reynick looked at Ander in disbelief, then back to the Captain. Before Ander could call to him, he sprinted in the direction of him. He was shouting after him, accusations of cowardice.

Ander winced suddenly, gasping and lurching to the side as the hard pellets hit his head, then his side, then his leg. They had been falling softly enough for a metal, now they hit him hard enough to break skin if it weren't for his clothes. Eyes darting about, trying to process the situation, he reached down and scooped up a few in the palm of his hand. They glinted a metallic shade, small balls that rolled as he tilted his hand.

The idea came to him like a distant memory, or more a fact he'd discarded, resurfacing. Silver, Ander thought in horror as he examined the littered ground. It would make sense for them to exploit such a weakness when they exhibited so few others.

The hunters did this? How much money would it require?

The answer sickened him. They planned to take it all back..

He looked at Ruth, who lay on her back, her face covered by her hands. Her gloved hands were safe, but her arms were entirely blistered where they ended at her elbows, covered in the bulbous lumps. One had hit her forehead, and he could make out the wound it had left when her hand shifted. She was shuffling backwards gradually, slowly, moving her feet forward and back to edge closer to the grassy forest edge.

Samson appeared to be unconscious on his front beside her, filling him with alarm. He looked from the boy, as blisters emerged on his neck, to where Reynick disappeared after the captain, and settled for Samson.

Quickly, he tore a scrap of his own shirt, thankful the material was weak, and covered his exposed flesh with it. He still didn't stir, but Ruth called to him. Her voice was hoarse, breaking as she yelled. "Q-Quit playing hero, Ander! B-Big one hit his head, idiot! Damn it - find the captain!"

He stared at her, still frozen in horror, for another moment. Then he glanced over at a few deckhands, trying to deflect the pellets and crying out when they missed. "DAMN IT!" William yelled. "RUN!"

He stopped struggling, sprinting through the stream with legs a blur beneath him. His speed was his downfall.

William fell, a heap on the ground before he had even reached the end of the path. His face was far off, but almost inhuman in appearance. The flesh was torn and the bulbous spots took up much of the space where cuts did not. His eyes were closed, and Ander got the feeling he would not be waking up.

Dead, a life gone, just like that. He could hardly stop to mourn for him, eyes wide in terror.

He couldn't help them all. If they tried to run, they'd be covered in the agonizing blisters instantly. If they stayed how they were, soon enough whoever was causing this would get smart and gun them down.

Hunters. Of course it was them, there was no question. But questions still filled his dizzy mind.

He woke himself up. Stop thinking, you idiot! Ruth is right! Act!

He turned and bolted after Reynick, face twisted in horror, and feeling as though he was being pelted by rocks as he ran. His face stung, stumbling over the surplus pellets and almost slipping onto his face.

"Ander!" Somebody wailed, a mans torn voice. It froze him, the use of his name simply couldn't be zoned out. It was Pete, and he lay open on the ground, his back arched, writhing with pain. His skin was torn, looking almost scorched. And the wounds definitely weren't healing.

It wasn't going away. As much as he willed it, Pete kept screaming as the silver melted flesh and blood poured from the open sores covering much of his body.

Ander had never seen such a sight before. His instincts weren't kicking in, he was frozen in sheer horror. "H-HANG ON!" He ordered, surprised by how shaky his voice came out. He yanked off his shirt like an instinct, and stumbled to his aid, but slipped in his clumsiness. His feet flew out from under him as he treaded on a pellet, and he caught himself with his hands smashing against the stone behind him, pain shooting up his arms in waves.

Still, he crawled forward, ducking his head, until he was crouched beside the howling man. But as the condition he was in became apparent, it set in that nothing could be done. Even as he placed the fabric of his shirt over his torso, Pete just cried out in pain, grasping at the rocks on the ground that split his knuckles. The material stuck to his wounds, blood seeping through within seconds. "AH! NO, NO TAKE IT OFF PLEASE!"

Anders eyes widened. "Oh, god!" He yanked it back in terror. The shirt was stained with dark blood, patches of skin coming away with it. Even as he spoke pellets bounced off Petes head and arms and legs. And where silver met skin, a new bulbous sore emerged, and more tears streamed from the mans eyes.

"GAHH!" Pete gritted his teeth and threw back his head, clutching at his face with bleeding hands to shield it. "I-I can't move Ander! I-I can't crawl!"

"Please.." Ander begged, his hands hovering over the mans shoulder hesitantly, knowing to touch him would only inflict more torturous pain. "Y-You have to try! Or I'll drag you!"

"KILL ME!"

He froze. It seemed like for a moment the noise around him had subsided, all he could see was the immobilized man before him covered in horrendous bleeding sores. Asking to be killed.

I'm not a killer. No, I'm not a cold blooded killer! I won't become one!

"ARE YOU INSANE?" He screamed. He scrambled to his feet, and took hold of Petes ankles. He was heavy, like dragging a boulder twice his size, and he barely budged until he tugged a lot harder. So hard in fact it seemed he might yank his legs from their sockets. Still, with a grimace, he pulled.

"ANDER!" Pete cried. "JUST KILL ME! PLEASE! I'M IN A-AGONY!"

He carried on pulling until his shoulder was searing like someone had driven a red hot poker through his joint. Pete tried to heave himself, still howling in pain, but he appeared to be paralyzed completely.
And he begged. "ANDER, STOP!"

Ander looked at him through blurry eyes, chest heaving with wracked breaths. "I'm.. I'm not going to become a murderer!"

"PLEASE JUST KILL ME, YOU COWARD! YOU'RE A COWARD! KILL ME!" Pete was wailing incomprehensibly, gasping out between sobs. Ander felt suddenly overcome with grief, guilt, as the weight of a mans life fell onto his shoulders.

And with every mistake he had ever made in mind, already sliding his decision alongside them, he reached for the dagger strapped to his belt. It was too much, too much to witness. The cold smoothness of the weapon in his palm spread through his entire shaking hand.

He looked up, teary eyed. Ransom was edging his way to the greenery, still shielding Davelynn, who faced the other way. He watched the scene with eyes only slightly widened, passive, yet behind the facade there was an undertone of grief.

Yet, solemn and brisk, his one onlooker nodded to him. His vote was cast.

Anderson Zavien had lived a life where murder was something he could never consider. To claim a life, to take that from somebody, was unthinkable. This situation had never even entered his young mind while he had pulled sacks of flour, or sat in a classroom getting e's and a's confused. It was simply an instinct to discard such ideas.

And as he raised his knife, he swear he felt his heart shed that old skin.

Petes face relaxed as he saw the weapon glint in the light. For a second, his lips mouthed words Ander couldn't make out. And he uttered the word ; "Thankyou."

He shut his eyes so tight it hurt, and plunged the dagger into Petes chest. The sound of metal meeting bone was sickening, and there was a single gasp from the mans lips before the blade buried itself in his heart, and he was dead.

The pellets continued to hit Anders numb body, but he didn't dare open his eyes. He didn't dare look at the true horror of what he had done.

Pete had died under his hands. The screaming ceased so abruptly, it seemed wrong, like it should have carried on a few seconds longer. Like it should have feathered off to a gradual close.

It was brutally realistic. Life ended in the middle of a sentence, death didn't wait. There was no poetic justice in death.

And there was no justice in how the kind and forgiving man had met such an unspectacular end.

***

His heart was still pounding so loud in his chest he could hear it in his ears when he finally made it to the trees, and it was like the field of pellets came to an abrupt stop. From the pathway, the line of fire had appeared to stretch out indefinitely. But his body was numb, sore, tensed and shaking uncontrollably.

He edged his bloodstained shirt back around his shoulders as he surveyed his surroundings. Where he had nursed Pete, the cold touch of a mans blood pressed to his arm, having seeped through the material. He resisted the urge to retch, wearing the mark of a killer.

He swallowed back the rising bile. "R-Reynick!" He called, his shaky voice echoing through the greenery. The name came out choked, and he dry swallowed hard. "Reynick Sheer!"

He ran forward again, dodging between the trunks, when a hand wrapped firmly around his ankle. He released only a gasp before he was yanked down, landing hard on his backside, and a pale hand covered his mouth forcefully.

"Ander." Hunter hissed, filling him with an unusual relief at his voice. "Shh.. Quiet.."

Ander looked up at the scenery. The forest was thick, the trees barely half a metre in space of each other. The area was scarce of life, the birds would have fled from the screaming and the sound of crossfire.

He slowly removed his hand, and Ander twisted fast to see Reynick knelt beside Hunter in the grass, crouched in the shade of a particularly impressive oak tree. Hunter had a couple of painful looking blisters on his forehead, and one on his neck sat on his collar bone. Reynick just looked red from running, a sheen to his forehead beneath his hair. He was cursing incessantly under his breath.

Hunter gave him a stern look, ordering him to be quiet in a low whisper. And he jerked a thumb upwards, to the treetops.

Ander looked up slowly. Sat mere metres directly above them was a man, dressed in an unusual black leather armor from head to toe. He sat back against the trunk on a branch, legs tucked around it. His head twisted about a moment in puzzlement, but he seemed to discard the shouting as having carried from the trail.

He held an odd machine strapped to the wood with ropes. It resembled an anvil in shape, but appeared to function as a cannon. The pellets shot from one end at odd angles, spurting out one after the other in a spray.

It was horrific to witness, how casual they looked on as his friends suffered. How emotionless Pete and Williams oppressors appeared.

It made his stomach turn.

"Hunters." The captain mouthed. He picked up a stick, flourishing it a moment, and took hold of the end close to the point like it was a quill. Using it, he carved some words into the dirt discreetly. As he did he noticed Reynick observing his bloodied clothing with a disgusted expression.

1 every tree. 12 trees.

Then he pointed his index finger up, and drew a line across his throat solidly with one finger. Neither of them knew, neither of them were even aware Pete was dead. It was all Ander could focus on.
He stared a moment at the man above them, anger welling up in his chest. Petes real killer was him.

And it was in his hands to grant him vengeance.

He had never climbed a tree before, it had seemed like a useless skill. The tree before him must have stood at maybe forty feet, the hunters seemed to have strategically chosen the tallest, like a defense mechanism. He swallowed the lump forming in his throat as he stared up, suddenly very aware that the odds of falling were against him, and his anger was merely disguised fear.

But he had to. He had to face these atrocities calling themselves men, no matter how big a risk it brought.

Hunter raised a finger for him to wait a moment, and carved into the dirt again with his stick.

Reynick. Buy some time. No parlour tricks.

Reynick cast him a grim frown before standing up and quietly retreating from the trees once more, ducking like he was afraid to be seen. The crunch of leaves beneath his feet made him wince.

Ander was glad. Whatever sorcerers could do, he wasn't sure he wanted to be in the way of it.

Hunter looked away from him, fixing Ander with his dark eyes. He pointed upward to the nearest tree, and nodded solemnly. It was eerily similar to the nod Ransom had granted him, giving permission to kill Pete..

If he had a chance, Ander would have stopped the captain right there. Told him he wasn't strong enough to climb that high. But he had wasted no time. He nodded to him once more, then swiftly moved to the next tree in a blast of speed. One moment he was rising from a crouch, the next, he was a blur of colour. And he winded up at the foot of the next tree along, looking directly up, and grasping the first branch with his foot flat against the trunk.
Ander breathed out steadily and stood, but he allowed himself a moment to watch, and learn.

Hunter moved swiftly, one foot above the other. He found a branch, then pulled himself effortlessly to the next without so much as stumbling, until he reached the base of the trunk behind the unsuspecting hunter.

Knife ready in his belt beside his sword, he raised it in his hand, and drew it sharply across the mans throat.

He released a gasp, or more a yelp, but Hunter covered his mouth, easing him back against the tree trunk with one arm still wrapped around it to support himself.

Blood seeping from the open wound, the man went still, and Hunter wasted no time. He leaped from the tree, and landed from leg-breaking height without fault. No other hunters seemed alarmed, they didn't take their eyes off their targets.

Almost instantaneously the field of pellets falling on Samson and Ruth was broken, and though he couldn't see them, he filled with relief. Hunter moved on to the next tree quickly.

Ander stared up at the tree before him and swallowed hard. He couldn't do it so dexterously, but surely with so many close branches he could reach the top. He could relieve Ransom and Davelynn, if so. 
Ander precariously placed one foot on the lowest branch. It was thin, fragile. From the warning snapping sound, he knew these wouldn't hold his weight long.

He slid his foot closer to the steadier base and quickly grasped the higher branch, heaving himself up to the next.

He steadied himself, and, feeling the branch giving way beneath him, yanked himself higher again. He grimaced as his fingers sank into the harsh wood, splintering them.

He looked up and grasped two branches, once again clambering higher to the next. They were thicker now, leaving him with a feeling of relief.

He continued, cautious and systematic in his steps, until he found the leafy canopy and shifted his weight closer to the trunk. Shaded by the bushy branches, he looked up, and just above him was the large, trunk like branch where the unknowing hunter resided.

He clambered the next three branches eagerly and wrapped his arms around the trunk, positioned directly behind him.

The hunter didn't notice his presence, absorbed in his gruesome task, and he slowed his breathing so as not to be heard. The man was positioned with his legs tucked around the branch, leaning forward, his gloved hands on the handles of the machine before him. Infront of him, was a shotgun.

Ander swallowed the lump in his throat. Gently, trying not to draw attention, he slid his dagger from its sheaf. No sound.

His shoulders sank with relief.

Then, slowly, he reached out his hand, and clenched it over the hunters mouth.

The struggle was instant. He thrashed about, eyes wide with alarm and terror, and he flailed out his arms to grab at him. Ander clutched his dagger, and slashed out, still hanging nimbly onto the tree branch in one hand. He dragged the knife fast across his throat.

The death wasn't slow. Within seconds, the hunter sank. Silent, unmoving, dead. Gone.

Blood seeped thickly from the cut down the mans front, filling Ander with a moments disgust, before remembering his cause.

He had managed it, he'd killed the hunter.

And below, he saw the stream had stopped abruptly.

Reynick had been stood over a few others cautiously, his hands raised above him. Connected between his extended, glove-less palms, was an invisible shield.

The shield, if that was what it was, couldn't be seen. But it was there - It reflected all that hit it, the pellets rebounding and hitting the ground around it, but entirely missing the unconscious Samson whom Reynick defended.

Ruth was crouching over the man, shaking him violently, and he stirred but didn't completely wake. Reynick gritted his teeth, jaw tense, and leaning back slightly in his stance like he was holding a weight. His feet didn't lift from the littered, mud ground.

Then the stream stopped as the mans hands moved from the machine, and Reynicks bright eyes widened in relief. He dropped his hands, and the transparent shield just glistening in midair was abruptly gone.

Ander looked at Samsons twisted face a moment, startled by the facade of death that fell over him when he slept, but shook off the thought. It was Samson - He knew he'd be alright. Now, anyway.

Ander quickly shifted the hunter to lean against the silver cannon, knowing that if he vanished the others would be alerted. He was dressed in a cloak of sorts that he rearranged to cover his limp hands, a red symbol imprinted against the dark shade. It was a circle, with a line resembling an arrow cutting clean through and splitting the shape in two.

The night hunters emblem?

He glanced back down to see Reynick and Ruth dragging Samson between them to the safety of the foliage, and he began to descend the tree, awkwardly minding his footing.

A couple of times he stepped on a fragile branch, and it caved, but there was thankfully a second beneath, if not slightly off centre. Still, he felt short of breath in panic at the risky process.

Once he ventured low enough, he shifted his weight to turn with his back against the trunk, and jumped down into the leaves below.

Pain shot up his legs, rattling his knees, but he quickly composed himself, and stand straight surveying his surroundings cautiously.

Ruth was running from the trees with Reynick in tow. She was badly wounded, her hands, chest, and forehead dotted with the bulbous sores. And expectantly, she was cursing under her breath, gritting her teeth. It looked like she was finding standing difficult, but when Ander reached out to help her, she stepped back abruptly. "Don't.. You dare.. Touch me." She spat venomously. "I can stand.. Just fine."

"I think 'thankyou for killing the hunter, Ander' would suffice.." He muttered, making her scowl in annoyance. "And you don't look fine, Ruth."

"Neither do you, you're more purple than white and your clothes and hands are covered in blood that smells nothing like yours. You dont see me coddling you." She retorted.

Ander glanced at his hands, surprised. They were indeed bloody, scraped and grazed from grappling at the tree, and what was left of his shirt was still bloodstained; even more so now that he had dealt with the hunter.

Reynick stepped forward, arms crossed. He was slightly slumped, blatantly exhausted, and very short of breath. He looked up at the tree Ander had descended from, then to the next few.

Hunter had been very busy.

The five hunters across from Anders target had been slaughtered, somewhat neatly. Their throats were cut, many tied to appear to be using their machinery. And now he had vanished from sight; moving on. 
Ander turned fast to his accomplices, reminding himself of the situation. "There are hunters in the tallest trees, firing these metal machines that spurt silver. Sneak up on them, they have shotguns and will fire on sight. Reynick, help whoevers left."

Ruth groaned unhappily, but obliged, and was gone in a blur of colour. Reynick turned to him. "And what are you going to do?" He asked skeptically, eyebrows raised.

Ander hesitated, trying to plot the map of the hunters in his mind. But then, quite suddenly, he saw him, just out of Reynicks field of vision. He froze, and stared at the dark figure travelling through the trees.

The man was swathed in a black cloak matching the one he'd noticed on the hunter, but his hood concealed his face, and he was running seemingly from deeper into the forest toward the route they'd came from.

Ander recognised the emblem on his back as he turned; The red crossed circle on the back of the hunter he had killed. It added up. Maybe, a deserter..

He grabbed the sorcerers shoulders, and roughly turned him around to see his findings. Reynick looked as alarmed as he did. "Ander, don't you dare.."

Then he released him, and ran before Reynick could grab for him. "Ander!" He yelled, frustratedly. "Leave the coward! ANDER!"

Ander ignored him, feet pounding on the ground as he sprinted eagerly through the trees after his target.

This one, he definitely couldn't ignore. He had been somewhere, not with his group. He could have done anything, and Ander had to know.

He glanced up as he passed the nearest tree, where Ruth was tactically rearranging the hunter she had murdered. She saw him, and her eyes widened, but she made no sound, reminding herself that she couldn't raise attention. From the look on her face, Ander would feel the full blow later.

He carried on, and after a minute or so of discreet pursuit, he realised they had been running uphill. 
The man looked behind him, and he realised the chase. Glancing hastily behind him every couple of seconds, he sped up to a dash, and Ander did the same, increasing pace. He ambled between the trees, his hands barely grazing the trunks as he dodged nimbly between them. The thick roots that decorated the forest floor between patches of thick, blanketing grass and shrubbery threatened to trip him, and he lurched many times.

Finally he saw an opening from the forest, his lungs burning as he gasped for air, hot on the hunters tail. The man had slowed considerably from exhaustion, but so had he.

He emerged from the under canopy at a cliff edge.

The hunter didn't slow.

Ander reached for a dagger in his belt, raising it with shaky arms as he came to an abrupt halt. "Why the hell are you hunting these people?" He managed through desperate panting.

The hunter didn't turn, he didn't look at him, he stayed facing the overhanging cliff edge, approaching it gradually. "It is what we do, to protect humanity."

Anders eyes widened at the pretentious statement. "I highly doubt these peaceful men could bring about an apocalypse!"

Now, he turned. But the boy looked to be barely three years older than he was. Locks of blonde hair blew into his grotesquely scarred face as the wind beat at him. An old wound, seemingly from a blade, had cut cleanly across his left cheek, to the bridge of his nose, and then straight through his right eye. It was almost fixed shut, but what remained was glazed over, eerily white with no pupil.

Ander stepped backward in shock, repulsed, and the man smirked, or more sneered at him. He seemed to enjoy his discomfort. "It does not take the end of the world to destroy it."

He turned, beginning to make his way toward the cliff, and Ander reacted fast. He raised his knife, holding the blade like a dart just past his shoulder, and took aim.
The dagger whirred through the air fast, made an arc, then lodged itself in the hunters shoulder, straight through his robes.

The man cried out in pain, arching his back a second and stumbling a few paces backward. He looked at him furiously, his good eye wide in a mixture of shock and wild hatred.

"Y-You..!" He growled out, his voice trembling with rage. "Little brat!"

"I would like that back." He uttered bitterly. Ander felt no remorse, he had missed by an inch his far larger target.

The man spat at the space between them in defiance, as he drew the blood covered weapon from where it was embedded in his flesh, and threw it aside. He cursed in pain and held a hand to the bleeding wound, whilst Anders dagger clattered off some rocks at the cliff edge, then tumbled to the depths below.

Still clutching his shoulder, the hunter himself sprinted toward the edge.

Anders eyes widened in sudden realisation, and he started to object in alarm, but he was far too late. He leapt, his legs stretched out behind him and extending his arms as he disappeared from sight.

In shock, Ander scrambled to the edge to observe.

He remained airborne for a few seconds, falling to the ocean below. But before he hit the water he moved his arms into a diving formation, and entered the crashing waves with a dull splash, head first and body completely streamline.

Ander cursed loudly as he turned from the edge, mainly from confusion at the mans actions. Surely such an rash resort would kill him! He couldnt make sense of it.

But it was there, a small rescue boat, drifting so far out he had to squint to tell it apart from a seagull. It would be barely a quarter of the eclipsiums size, and it was moving away already.

If the hunters were there, they would never catch them. And they clearly didn't expect the man to be returning.

*

He had never failed to dodge before, he had never failed to evade an attack, nevermind an attack from one man. His missing eye had never been a problem. Many saw it, and hesitated long enough in a mixture of disgust and pity, for him to take his hasty leave. 

His one eye was, for once, a blind spot he could not ignore, as he cradled his wounded elbow, blood flowing over his fingers. 

Soren turned to his mother with a grim, falsified smile, his face illuminated by the flicker of a candle. It's flame moved, caught in the momentum of the turning boat, as they departed the island. Moving his dark, drenched hair with his free hand and exposing his disfigured face, he wiped his sweat-coated brow.

"The task is done. I will have dealt enough damage to the ships hull from below to delay them long enough to reach the ambush point." He uttered. "The map has been delivered to Viktor, they will hardly notice it's absense."

He breathed an empty, pained sigh, looking down at her. "Ever since they pitched those damned cannons to the imperials it's been a lost cause. Maybe they worked over in the Frimarian Wildlands, but there it is so much emptier. No sneaky hiding spots for stray nightens. Such a ridiculous idea.."

"You were rather supporting of it before." She commented.

He huffed bitterly. "Before my entire team were slaughtered without so much as a glance at the canopy below them."

The woman knelt before him was nursing him intently, but now she looked up. 

"And what of the boy I asked of?"

Soren frowned, perplexed by her eagerness. "He resides within the walls of the Eclipsium.. He is undoubtably not one of them. Why did you-" Suddenly he gasped with pain, cut off, and grimaced as his bandage was tightened. The woman apolagised softly.

He paused a moment, breathing out steadily to regain composure. "Why did you.. Ask of him?"

"He is someone from my past." The woman breathed, voice lowered. She tightened the ragged bandage once more and Soren growled out between his teeth, gripping the cabinet beside him. "D-Damn it! He has good aim, we have gathered that much.. H-He got me right in the space in my elbow, see?"

"Yes, I see." 

"Be more bloody careful with it then.." He grumbled. 

The woman concluded tending to him him and stood slowly, without stepping from the shadowed corner. "I shall."

Soren nodded to her, grumbling under his breath.

She then raised a bloodied hand unconsciously to her lips to lick her finger, watching him cautiously as she did.

Her son straightened, and flexed his arm to test the bandage, hardly noticing her. A sharp pain exploded from the wound to his shoulder blade and he gasped again, fighting to conceal his shaking. "I-It hurts.." He managed between gritted teeth. "But, I will recover swiftly with healing.. If only I were like you, this wound would have healed already."

"Don't wish that on yourself.. And, as to the healing, you know I cannot provide such things anymore, more of my power fades each day." She reminded him calmly.

He scowled at her, frustrated at the fact. "Yes, I know, I am not a cretin.. I was implying to the healers at the imperial head quarters."

"Son." She sighed, reaching out to touch his arm. "Relax. I will reveal everything to you in time, you will see." 

He slapped her hand away brutally. "Don't test me!" He snapped, glowering at her. "My patience is at its end."

She stood, face a mask of shock, and started to speak. "Soren-"

"I don't even know what I am! Am I human? Am I vampiric? Am I a mage, or a hybrid, or something else?" He had lowered his voice to avoid attracting the attention of the crew above deck, but spoke harshly. "Right now I wish only to learn of this, and you stand in my way."

"I am your mother, Soren, I care for you.." She said softly, in an attempt to soothe him.

He merely stared icily down at her. "How do I know that for sure..? I remember nothing, nothing!"

"Soren.."

"Do you even love me?" He barked. "Are you even my mother?"

The womans face drained of colour, and she looked down at her feet, hesitating.

"Yes.." She managed.

Abruptly, his hand connected hard with the side of her head,  slamming her face against the wooden wall with a dull thump. The woman collapsed in a heap against the wall, and whimpered with pain, eyes wide in shock and shaken. "S-Son!"

"Do not give me that act. You are a vile, detestable woman, and you do not love me." He hissed. His eye was glazed, his body shaking with rage. "You never have!"

Then he turned and left sharply, retreating to the deck clutching his injured arm, and leaving his mother half lit by a dying flame encased with singed black glass.

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