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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9. Chapter 9 - Compromised Plans

Ander reached the border of the forest, to find the others finishing off the last of the hunters. It seemed the field of silver had ended, and now Samson, miraculously woken, stood fighting. 

The hunter swung at him from behind, wielding a silver blade, and Samson ducked into a squat. Still on the balls of his feet, he clasped his blade and brutally slashed across the mans legs, deep and clean.

He cried out, dropping to the ground, and the vampire leapt away as fast as the second lunged for him. In a moment he turned and grabbed the mans wrist, confining both of his arms in his strong so the blade pointed out wards away from him.

He smirked almost tauntingly at the man, and tightened his grip gradually, tighter, until he wailed in agony and dropped the sword. Then Samson released his arms and drew him through.
Life drained from the hunters eyes, releasing a single gasp, then he collapsed. Samson stepped away, letting him fall.

And still grinning at his triumph, he stepped past the fallen body to the retreating comrade. 
He dropped to one knee swiftly, roughly grabbed the back of his hair, and cut his throat like a pig. 
He dropped his victim, and rose, as the man released a fleeting gasp and his life faded.

He turned to the path where Ander could hear the sound of scraping metals as others fought, and laughed delightedly. "Was SOMEBODY keeping score just now?" Samson exclaimed, with half a grin. He appeared bedraggled, and clearly wounded. The swollen blisters took up much of his hairline, and the backs of his hands, where some were apparently clawed at and bleeding. He was stood surrounded by his now three fallen enemies, and dangling his sword from one hand by just two fingers, as though gripping it would hurt his blistered palms.

"Samson?" Ander gaped, amazed by his recovery and the display he'd witnessed. Samson turned around as he heard him. "Ander! I was wondering where you were."

"You.. You were out cold! I saw you! How are you here?"

"Because I'm ridiculously awesome." He boasted, but Ander just crossed his arms; the universal symbol of disbelief.

Samson sighed in defeat. "Alright. The white haired bloke stepped on me.. It bloomin' hurt, too! But he made a big shield with magic and bought a few of us enough time to retreat and help out." He explained flatly, unusually calm for the situation. He shrugged his shoulders. "It was all fairly rushed."

Ander struggled for words, battling over compassion and priority. "Your wounds! Should you even be up?"

"A head wound should stop me from swingin' a sword, now? Well that's certainly new information.." Samson rolled his eyes mockingly. Stepping forward from the carnage, he chuckled at his own wit and sheafed his weapon with a faint scrape of metal.

Ander glanced down. Tucked into Samsons belt like an adornment was the scrap of cloth he had abandoned, slightly bloodstained. Samson noticed this too, and drew it out. He tossed it to the ground casually.

"You really saved our arses back there," He started, casting him a smile almost indistinguishable from a smirk. "Thankyou..

Ander found himself pulling the bloodstained fabric of his shirt further around him bare shoulders. "I didn't do much.."

"You did enough. I suppose this makes me the helpless maiden then, you throwing your clothes over my wounds." Samson joked, laughing.

Ander was filled with embarrassment at the concept, but he chuckled. "Definitely helpless just now, of course you were."

"Davelynn, Ransom and the others are over there disposing of the rest. There's some.. Pretty nasty injuries. This seems like such an out-there attack strategy!" Samson said incredulously.

Suddenly, Hunter leaped from the tree above, landing swiftly between the two. His coat, billowing around him, settled promptly, and he placed the hat dangling from his hand back on his head.

There was not a scratch to his being, save for the single blisters on his hand and collar. His hat appeared to have shielded his face, much to his luck.

In his free hand, he held his cutlass, the hilt glinting gold in the snatches of sunlight blazing through the foliage. The blade was smeared with a coat of crimson.

Samsons eyes followed the cutlass a moment, pupils growing with hunger. Ander had almost forgotten their reason for visiting the island; They would all be starving.

Hunter raised the weapon, and before allowing himself a finger dunk into the vile, copper-smelling liquid, and promptly scraped the blade against a tree to cleanse it. Samson appeared to snap from a daydream.

"Samson, you have done well." Hunter complimented, with a curt nod. "Though I must insist you return to the ship to treat your injuries before attending to that cavernous stomach of yours."

Samson grumbled something unpleasant under his breath, but gave in. "Yes cap'n.."

Ransom came running before he could take off. His eyebrows were knitted, frowning deeply, Anders waist coat, now smeared with what he assumed was blood, hung limp over his shoulder like a discarded scarf. But it was wearable, temporarily.

Close behind him was Davelynn, who appeared more horrified than confused. Her eyes were wide, her cheeks shiny, and her hands covered in so much blood it seemed likely that she had ripped someone open. She didn't run, but walked with a drag to her feet, arms wrapped around herself. 
Ransoms eyes settled on her, and filled with concern. He moved toward her quickly. "Davelynn.." He proffered, voice soft, cautious. "Speak.."

"Pete.." She uttered, voice trembling. Before she could finish, the others emerged from the trees, many injuries and dragging their friends beside them. This seemed to hurt her further, as her voice broke. "P-Pete.. He's gone.. And, William.."

Ander felt like his heart had dropped into his stomach, like suddenly a weight had been dropped on his back. Ransoms eyes were on him, aware, knowing. Somewhere behind the mans mask of certainty he detected the same overpowering guilt.

But nobody else looked at him. In the roar of shouting and crying and desperation only one person had witnessed his actions.

Ander knew he'd have to tell her now, he'd have to tell everyone. He searched for the words as Hunter spoke.

The men muttered among themselves sullenly, respectfully quiet, many shocked or startled in their faces. Samson was wide eyed, shaking his head, as if to deny the statement.

A hush fell as the captain spoke. "We.. We will bury his remains, and allow him to return to the Earth in the natural way." He stated, voice even, though his eyes had fallen with grief a moment upon hearing the news. "Pete was.. A good man, he IS a good man. And he will be remembered as nothing less."

"He deserved better than what he got!" Samson agreed, his face reddened. Random was at Davelynns side, gently stroking her shoulder to soothe her. She shrugged him off, averting her gaze to Ander. Her eyebrows knitted at the expression of guilt he was poorly attempting to hide.
I killed him.. I drove a dagger through his chest.

Ruth stepped forward, clutching a very swollen arm lost to blisters. His chest, too, and hands, were badly wounded. "'Ee was a fine friend, Pete.. As was William."

Mumbled agreements spread. Cyro stood to the side, was expressionless, though how he shook said a lot.

They were all devastated at his loss. They weren't merely partners here - They had known each other for over a life time. There was no way to sum that up.

Samson ran a hand back through his hair and clenched a fist full tightly, shutting his eyes a second. 
Ander opened his mouth to speak, but faltered. He couldn't. There was no way to subtly place such a statement.

Ransom, flinching away from Davelynn, looked him dead in the face. His dark, bottomless eyes locked with Anders, and no words had to be said.

There was a fierceness there, solidity, behind his grief. It was between them now. The executioner, and the judge, who had taken a friends life into their own hands.

It took a moment for Ander to register that he was shaking.

"Return to the ship immediately, take the injured. Bodies and loot come later." Hunter ordered. He cast Ransom a parting nod, before setting off. Almost immediately, the others departed with a blur of speed, fading from sight in seconds. Samson disappeared back to the path slowly, dragging his feet exhaustedly, with a mournful expression. Ruth followed, her eyes roaming him a moment longer as she observed his bloodstained clothing.

Ander stood idle as the others left. Ransom had turned to face Davelynn, quite suddenly. He lifted her chin gently, looking at her. Ander couldn't make out what he whispered, reassurance in gentle tones. Then his hand ran back across her hair, and he drew her close.

Whatever he said, Davelynns hands clutched at his back, and she released a wracked sob muffled by his chest.

He averted his eyes, and began the long walk back. Ransom had a certain gift with gentleness, despite his almost religious harshness.

The only others remaining in the woods were Hunter and Reynick, stood talking in hushed voices.
"I urge you." Hunter was saying, raising his voice now he was certain the others were gone. "Come with us. This ambush may not be the only one - you're not safe."

"You doubt me.." Reynick chortled.

Hunter looked at him grimly. "I don't need to. Regardless of the skill of an individual, there is strength in numbers. We can deliver you to your coven within the month."

Reynick looked at his feet, and breathed a steady sigh. "If you can guarantee that.. And in one piece, preferably."

"You doubt me?" Hunter asked, with a mocking tone to his voice. He looked at him, and adjusted his hat to its usual slant as he did.

Reynick met his eyes. "Must I address you as captain, then?"

"Preferably."

"Wonderful.." He sighed. He extended a gloved hand to Hunter, which was politely shaken.

Then Hunter tugged his glove back, and Reynicks eyes widened.

On the mans hand, concealed by the leather material, was a branding of sorts. The etching on his skin, seemingly with more dimension than a regular tattoo, was an unusual twisting mark. It led upwards, concealed by his sleeve, two interlocking curved lines locked with a series of straight strikes. Hunter scanned it a moment before the man recoiled, as though he had been stung. Tensed, eyes wide with alarm, he stepped backward.

"An apprentice.." The captain breathed. "In sorcery, no less."

"My initial apprenticeship quest was to recover Marxian. Follow his trail, and assist others along the way to gain experience. This.. Didn't go as planned." Reynick explained almost irritably, "If I was to return with nothing at all, I'd have my chosen status revoked, and I may also lose my single room and be forced to bunk again.." He seemed to shudder at the idea, making Ander and Hunter both roll their eyes.

"You are here, boy." Hunter sighed. "You may assist us, me. You already have. Though I doubt your superiors-"

"-Master sorcerers,"

"-Master sorcerers, will appreciate the recommendation of a vampire, it may act as an excuse for failure to recover Marxian alive."

"Huh, failure!" Reynick scoffed. He itched the back of his neck, shifting his weight. "I suppose that does sum it up. Thankyou kindly for the reminder." He groaned.

Hunter nodded curtly. "However.. What doesn't make sense is that your Mage friend was afflicted by the vampiric silver allergy.. Perhaps-"

Reynick cut him off abruptly, "Don't you dare suggest it!" He hissed.

"I was merely addressing a prominent issue, hold your tone." Hunter scowled. "However; a debate for a time when my comrades are not afflicted with silver welts and a close friend lies dead."

Reynick hesitated, seeming to remember the situation, and he nodded sullenly. Hunter breathed a sigh.

Ander quickly recoiled into the cover of the trees as the men turned, hoping his eavesdropping hadn't been tapped into.

"If I may enquire, how did you get here?" Hunter asked as they walked. Reynick tensed noticeably, "Same as you, I suppose, a pitiful excuse for a boat."

At the sudden annoyance in the captains eyes he quickly revoked the statement, raising his hands innocently. "Not the pitiful part! The boat part!"

"Ship." Hunter amended, hardly convinced.

Ander leaned against a tree, looking down at his knife, to appear to be casually inspecting his equipment. Neither man, as they spotted him, were convinced.

"Ah, Ander." Hunter said, pausing and crossing his arms. He arched an eyebrow. "I suspect you heard all of that."

"Not at all!" Ander lied, but the words came out far too fast and rushed.

Hunter narrowed his eyes. "I hope you realise, I can smell your sweat, Ander." He said slowly. "And hear your pulse. Your breathing pattern became uneven as you saw us, you had to remind yourself to do so.."

"Those are habitual traits of a liar!" Reynick interrupted eagerly. "And, a god awful one. He even forgot to blink."

Ander flushed with humiliation. He felt suddenly very aware of his own stupidity, his own ignorance. He had known these men would be more clever than him from very first impressions. It showed in their voices, in their choice of words. He gave in to their perceptive skills, annoyed. "Alright.. I apologise."

"I suppose I needn't sum up the situation to you, as you sought that knowledge for yourself.. I am going to go ahead to the ship, walk back with Reynick. He is trusted." Hunter explained, voice even, commanding without even a trace of harshness or a raise in tone. Ander glanced sidewardly at the white haired man, and despite an instant dislike for him, he did believe the captains words.

Hunter broke into a jog for a couple of seconds, then he was gone in a blast of superior speed. 
Reynick turned to Ander, eyebrows raised. "Well," he said briskly. "This leaves us."

 

***

 

Reynick and Ander would exchange a phrase every few minutes, something unintelligent and insignificant, then fall into silence once more.

It wasn't that Ander was intimidated by him; but nor did he regard him as an easy-going man. Quite frankly, anyone of high intellect came across as difficult to him.

Reynick was walking a few paces behind him, releasing a sigh on queue as they reached another turning in the path Ander was sure they had come down already. "I'm not accustomed to walking so far."

"I'm afraid I know little of magi covens," Ander confessed, throwing him a glance over his shoulder. "I wouldn't understand."

"Or perhaps I am just lazy?" Reynick said with the smallest of smiles. It took Ander a moment to register the joke, and he chuckled nervously.

The Eclipsium came into view at the coast, anchored to the sand, and he breathed out in relief. "There it is."

"Yes.." Reynick muttered under her breath. "SHE, is quite beautiful. If you excuse the bloodstained masting."

"I don't think it's real blood.. It's to ward off attackers." Ander said. Reynick gave him a pitying look. "Ah, Anderson. You really believe these men wouldn't do that? By the way, I know you killed Pete."

He halted abruptly, eyes wide with dismay. The man had looked so casual as he said it, expressionless, almost.
"How did you.." Ander started, but he trailed off. Reynick raised his hands, wiggling his fingers, and that served as a good enough answer. "I saw the body, there was a narrow but evident entrance wound almost concealed by the sores. The mans body was mangled beyond repair by the silver.. You showed mercy, it was the right thing to do. So I cast a camouflage hex over the wound to make it blend to the rest of his chest - It will drop when he is buried."

Ander hesitated, stuck for words. "Why would you aid me like that?"

"Vampires are not known to be understanding, they have snap judgements, no trial. They would label you as killer of their long time friend, they would reprimand you for playing god." Reynick said, adjusting the strings of his gloves to secure them. The tattoos covering the backs of his hands were visible a moment, one especially prominent in the centre of his palm.

Ander looked back to his face. "Then I suppose I owe you my thanks."

"Also an apology, for running off earlier. You are human, it was reckless." He said, calmly, but with a deep frown.

Ander heaved a sigh. "I am sorry. But in fact I wounded the man, before he took a leap of faith off the cliff, however."

Reynick looked unmoved, he just folded his arms with distaste. "Typical deserters, cowards, all the same."

Ander looked up to the ship again as they regained walking, and as they grew closer, he noticed a blonde head in the distance. He could make out Alec's small frame, stood knee deep in the water, staring out.

He frowned deeply. "Uh, Reynick.. Mind going on without me? I'll be there in a moment."

"All the same." He shrugged, "But, I would replace that bloodied shirt if the fair haired child is one of them."

Then Reynick reached into the deep pockets of his robes, and drew out a folded piece of fabric so fine it could have been mistaken for a handkerchief easily. When he shook it out, it was revealed to be a beautifully tailored dark blue V neck, the sides patched into triangle shapes with a leather like material. It looked expensive, noble clothing, if it had been in fashion. 

Reynick handed it over, to Anders amazement.

"You just carry spares with you?" He asked with bewilderment as he felt its remarkable lightness in his hands. "It looks.. Expensive. Are you quite sure?"

"Magi wear. The black material is actually a lot stronger than it looks, we make many of our robes from it. So, change, I will go on ahead."

With a rare smile, the white haired man ascended the ramp to the ship.

Ander ducked behind the hull of the ship as he moved toward Alec, and ditched his old bloodied shirt, exchanging it for the new one. The fabric was unusually soft, and almost thermal. He'd never warn anything so fine before.

He smiled to himself as he tucked the screwed up ball of his old one under the sand, and pulled his waistcoat back around his shoulders.

Alec was stood holding his trousers bunched to his knees so as not to soak them, stood relaxed and unguarded with subtle waves crashing against his bony legs.

Ander approached slowly, cautious not to startle him.

"Alec?" He said softly.

Alec wasn't alarmed. He glanced over his shoulder, smiled weakly at him, then turned back around. "Hello, Ander.."

"What are you doing out here?" He frowned, taking a few steps into the damp sand so the water just lapped over his feet, stopping before it poured into his boots.

Alec shrugged his shoulders meekly. "There was.. So much blood inside. It overwhelmed me I s'pose."

"Did you hear about Pete and William?"

The boy hesitated before answering, and his voice was shaky, saddened and worn. "I-I did."

"I'm sorry.." He responded by reflex. Alec looked down to his feet a moment mournfully. "To you too, you knew him, if not briefly."

For a few minutes they stood in silence.

Ander looked from the waves lapping calmly over his feet to Alec, who stood a few feet deeper in. He was instead looking up at the sky, the light of the sun reflected in his glazed lenses. He appeared undeniably peaceful, but Ander could see the thoughtfulness in his gaze. The buried sadness.

He breathed out a gentle sigh. "You know, Ander.. If death is like endlessly floating on your back in the sea, weightless, letting the waves carry you along without struggle.. I don't think I'm going to mind dying."

Ander was interrupted before he could respond. "If you are referring to a sea of warm, fresh, copper-smelling blood, perhaps you are right." Said the newcomer.

He span around quickly, suddenly alert and reaching for his knife, to see Cyro stood back from the waves on the damp beach, his face devoid of compassion or regret, and his arms crossed in a military way. He was wrapped with bandages, and there was a slump to his stance. He was wounded badly - Yet he wasn't seeking healing.

Ander relaxed, but frowned deeply. The comment struck him as heartless as he watched the light fade from Alecs pale eyes. The optimism seemed to visibly shrink from his view. 
"C-Cyro.." Alec said, sounding saddened.

Ander didn't know whether to feel guilty for him, like the man had just explained the physics opposing the legend of Saint Nicholas, or to be happy that the carefree thoughts of death had been put from the child's mind.

After all, that was what he was. A child with a child's ignorant view of life, and an almost entirely falsified view of death.

But perhaps for an innocent young mind ignorance is the best state to be in.. He pondered. Though Alec couldn't quite pass as innocent. He had lived more lifetimes than Ander in a state far from comprehension.

Who knew what acts scarred his fragile conscious?

Cyro just sighed, looking at the sun then back at the two.

Alec looked down suddenly, grimacing. His small fists balled tight in frustration. "You shouldn't say that. If you go through life fearing death, you will never live. You think Pete died afraid?"

Ander remembered, he remembered how when the pain melted, Petes face had relaxed. He had been free, free from his agony and free from his difficult life. Alec was right.

But Cyro didn't flinch. He began to turn, expressing his disinterest.

"Return to the ship immediately, you're required to aid the wounded." He said formally, before beginning to walk back along the shore.

Ander looked at Alec, waiting for him to start off, but he waved one hand at him to leave. "Y-You go. Please can you give me a minute?"

Ander hesitated before agreeing. "I'll see you in the quarters, Alec.."

The boy nodded, and Ander turned and reluctantly headed to the deck.

Upon arriving Davelynn came hurriedly to his side, her wrist bandaged, and eyes slightly puffy, like a person who had been awake for far too long. "Ander," she gasped out, "Thank god, where were you?"

"We don't all cover 5 miles in 2 minutes, Davelynn.."

She scowled. "Now isn't the time for joking. We're not in the best of states.." She started to turn, then hesitated, eying him skeptically up and down. "What are you wearing?"

He frowned a moment, then came to realisation. "Oh, right. Reynick leant it to me, since mine got a lot of the hunters blood on it.."

She nodded slowly. "Ah, well he came around rather quickly, at least. He's already helping out.. No idea how."

He stopped her again quickly before she could turn, taking her shoulder. She looked at him in surprise.

"Uh, Davelynn.." He started. "I'm sorry, you know.. About Pete and William. I hope.. You know, that you're doing alright."

Davelynn ran a hand back through her curls with a distressed sigh. "I won't lie.. As much as I hate letting someone I barely know of my pain, I'm definitely not alright just yet. Nor is anybody. It's.. All very sudden." She placed her hand on his, where it rested on her shoulder. "But for now, we have to concentrate on the people who ARE here, who NEED our sympathies. Wasting time moping doesn't bring the dead back. Come with me."

She dropped her hand and moved away, motioning for him to follow.

Ander frowned as he did, some what amazed by her strength of will. "Right.."


*


The crew were all but well.

Moans and groans echoed about the cabin quarters ceaselessly, many lying on their sides in a somewhat catatonic state, others sitting up hunched over as Reynick and the others that had returned to the ship tended to them.

Even Captain Hunter was helping. He sat closest to the ladder as Davelynn and Ransom descended; Plastering the back of Ransoms neck in deep concentration.

"Captain, I can do it myself." Ransom insisted, somewhat humiliated.

The captain scowled at him. "Don't be a stubborn fool and bow your head a moment; This may hurt." 
Nobody spoke except to ask where the pain was, or if more pressure needed applying, or to call Reynick over. The man dashed about from bed to bed, his face reddened. He currently stopped beside Cyro, who lay on his front, bare backed. The man was groaning in pain, taking wracked breaths that sounded terribly laboured between his teeth.

The sheer area the wounds covered was startling, bulbous blisters, many bleeding and not healing, dotting much of his visible flesh like a disease. Ander bit down on his tongue, wrapping his arms around himself. He felt like he had walked into a hospital for plague victims.

Reynick, gloves off and his sleeves rolled to his elbows, positioned his hands wavering just over the wound, leaving maybe half an inches space.

He curled his fingers only slightly, and a swirling bluish field of energy emerged below them. It was similar to what he had seen as he blocked the silver pellets - But the colour was so vivid. Transparent, but distinctly azure, like a dye in the air.

Upon touching the wounds, they didn't fade, but the man released an audible sigh of relief. It was like the pain suddenly ceased.

"Quickly, Ander." Davelynn said behind him, nudging his upper arm. She pointed to the two. "Go and help, I'll tend to Ruth."

The curly haired man, Edward, was currently attempting to bandage the girl, but she was stubbornly refusing him, instead making a failed effort at wrapping her own wounded back.
Ander quickly nodded and made his way to Reynicks side.

The Mage didn't look away from his patient when he approached, but out of the corner of his eye he noticed him, and spoke. "I.. Am afraid I cannot heal. But I am moving the pain.. It is currently captured in the blue field, but it can't stay there."

He nodded sideways to a clouded jar of yellow ointment and an almost empty pack of bandages resting against Cyros leg in the hammock. "Apply that salve then wrap him while I focus on relieving the pain."

Ander swallowed hard. "With my hands..?"

"Bloody hell, Anderson, now is not the ideal time for you to be squeamish! Take a fist full and smear it on, quickly, if you will." Reynick pressed impatiently.

Ander quickly, however reluctantly, rolled up his sleeves and did as he said, but shuddered at the feel of the spots beneath his skin. They were different to anything he had seen before, more like lumps, rather than blisters. As he spread the cold, foul smelling salve he could hardly look down, for fear he'd retch.

"Now, bandage him." Reynick ordered.

It took Ander a few minutes to sit the man up and wrap the bandages around his torso a few times over, forgetting that he couldn't hurt him with the magic at work. Cyro didn't look at him once, he was so exhausted he was almost limp as Ander and Reynick nursed him. Ander was glad. As when Reynick finally removed his hands, the pain set in, and his face contorted with agony. The man sat upright suddenly, growling out and cursing between his teeth to avoid screaming. He gripped the frame of the hammock, hunching over with difficulty.

Alarmed, Ander held him steady by his arm, looking with panicked eyes at Reynick. "Why are you stopping?! Do something!"

"If he becomes adjusted to the painkiller he won't heal, his body requires resilience." Reynick said calmly, folding his arms. "Just steady him, I must tend to the others."

Ander looked from the man struggling beside him to the Mage leaving in sheer horror. "Hey! Don't just abandon him!"

"He's not the only man in the room in pain, Anderson." He responded collectedly, before moving toward Samsons hammock, where Gillian now cluelessly tried to bandage his shoulder with a cloth intended for wound cleaning.

Face filled with anguish, Ander held Cyros shoulders steady, and after a few moments he helped him to lie on his front again as gently as he could manage. But the man squirmed and kicked about in agony, hissing between gritted teeth when he couldn't groan.

Watching the pain around him, Ander felt an overwhelming urge for revenge. Night hunters, they had caused this. And in his gut, he wanted them to feel the same torture.

Across the quarters, attempting to zone out the cries, Hunter concluded tending to Ransom. He straightened, withdrawing from where he had been taping bandages to the back of his blistered neck and moving the remains to one side. "It is the best that I can do, my friend."

"Thankyou, Captain.." Ransom managed.

Hunter half smiled at him. "It is no trouble, I hope your recovery is swift. Though those night hunters took a larger blow, I struggle to sit with this.."

Ransom stood cautiously, his body stiff, and his neck now difficult to move as he reached for his coat. He winced at the pain, and reached for a black scarf hanging from his hammock frame, wrapping it gently around his shoulders to cover the plasters. "..Struggle, sir..?"

"They knew it was a hunting spot.. Their ranks must have expanded to stretch forces to such distant islands from their headquarters at Sparing, and then there's the worrying abundance of silver in their possession.. It troubles me."

Ransom arranged the scarf carefully and placed his coat over his arm, looking up at the man. "As it should do, captain, we were all shocked by their.. Unusual, tactic."

"Indeed." Hunter said, stepping back. "I'll return to my quarters to think on this, and I can only suggest you rest up. Duties are disbanded for the moment. But keep an eye on the Mage, we can never be too wary."

"Yes, Captain."

Nodding to him, Hunter swiftly left, and Ransom made his way achingly above deck, careful not to tilt his head too much.

The whole situation stunned the crew. The night hunters had always been there, like a permanent fixture. They were nothing new. But their increase in numbers, and the funding they must have received for such a venture, went against probability.

It occurred to Ransom that they'd have to have gained some upper class respect, it was the only real cause for it. Some fearful-of-the-occult noble would have discovered their purpose and invested in them.

He decided to settle with the dull excuse as he made his way to the edge of the ship and leaned against it.

In the distance, worryingly dark storm clouds were brewing. He could hardly look up at them for the pain, but managed enough, before hanging his head.

"A stroke of bad luck.." He muttered under his breath. "A century long stroke of bad luck."
"Ransom?" Davelynn said softly from the steps.

Ransom glanced at her as she neared, but didn't speak. She reached out tentatively to touch his shoulder. "Ransom.. Please, speak to me."

"Davelynn, I'm listening." He said without turning. "You know I am."

"Look at me."

He glanced over his shoulder, hair falling over the visible part of his face. And he breathed a subtle sigh. "Please, I did what anybody should have done. Though you often neglect the term, you are a lady. It was chivalry."

"I wasn't suggesting anything more.. Just, when have chivalry and piracy every mixed?"

He sighed once more, turning back to face the railing. The sun was setting over the ocean, a distant orb of gold over the sunset, almost seeming to rest on the ocean off in the distance. The light painted the water with splashes of burnt orange. "You're wondering why I lunged for you, not Ruth, or one of the men. You're wondering why I wouldn't let you take those hits yourself. And I know there's not much to excuse that." He looked down at his boots a moment. "I know you're confused, but I acted on instinct. I couldn't let you get hurt, my gut was telling me you were more important that my own safety and my common sense didn't filter through"

But Davelynn was smiling, just with the corner of her lips, and suddenly she stepped to his side and linked her arm through hims. "You're acting like I came here to scold you."

Then she stood on tip toe, and gently pressed her lips to his cheek. His eyes widened in surprise, and his porcelain cheeks flooded with colour.

"It was foolish." She said, ignoring his embarrassment. "But, thankyou."

"Davelynn.." He turned to her, resting a hand on her arm. The space was small between them, but he seemed to be breathing enough to create a greater void. "Please, don't think I was trying to jeopardise anything by doing this.."

It was her turn to blush. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, please don't kiss me like that again."

Davelynn looked visibly hurt, but she quickly disguised it, blinking hard and fast and side stepping away. "Alright, then.. It, it was a thankyou token. For a friend."

Ransom smiled narrowly, tilting his head. He then reached for his scarf, and unwound it gently until it sat across his hands. He placed it around davelynns shoulders.

"You are welcome, my friend.."

And he started to walk away across the deck, leaving her stood with a hand feeling at the soft material of the scarf, baffled. "Ransom..? Your-"

"You looked cold. Chivalry."

He gave a stupidly rare half smirk over his shoulder, before disappearing back down to the quarters to rest without another word. Davelynn stared after him, hoping her blush wasn't showing too much, and sank back onto a closed barrel with a laboured sigh.

She did wish she hadn't been so cruelly rejected, but she was also glad. Her tactical thinking screamed against it.

And when Reynick emerged from the quarters just as ransom descended, casting him an odd frown, he seemed to automatically understand.

"Ah," he said once the man was out of earshot. "I think I can fill in the blanks of this situation."

"Reynick?" Davelynn asked in surprise. "You're supposed to be helping the injured!"

"They were foolishly refusing my aid.. That little spitfire Ruth took quite the swing at me." He said with amusement, before stepping forward, to where Ransom had been stood at the edge of the ship. He leant his elbows on the wooden railing.

Davelynn sighed. "What do you want, then?"

"I wish to offer you one piece of advice. Going after a man like that can only lead to his troubled nature wearing off on you; Its rather basic understanding of psychology."

"I wasn't educated in that, regretfully." Davelynn said, the corner of her lips forming a smirk upon her final word. "Besides, you've been here for barely a couple of hours. What do you know of his 'nature?'

Reynick turned to her, casting her a pleading look. His face was serious, no humour to be found. "Mages possess intuitive ability, we can detect auras."

"And such a magic trick is 'psychology?' I believe I mentioned I don't quite had the willpower to study the concept."

"Then at least allow me to shed some light on it.. Psychology is the understanding of how mans mind functions and reacts."

Davelynn rolled her eyes. "Does it work the same with women then?"

"That is a figure of speech used when 'human' becomes innapropriate.. But to answer your question, women do tend to be a lot less simpleminded. They are difficult to understand indeed, especially for someone as spiritually damaged as Ransom."

Davelynn spoke coldly, meeting his gaze. "No, especially for someone who uses words like psychology in casual conversation. Leave Ransoms past out of this, you have no cause to even be talking to me right now."

"Look," he leant back against the wood and crossed his arms. A small smile crossed his face like he was trying to disasm her. "I mean no real insult by it.. But I'm a natural observer, and sometimes I choose to interlude. Davelynn, there are two kinds of people. Pessimists, and optimists. Pessimists are often regarded as cold and dark souls, but they are generally the most logical of the two. Optimists are regarded as more happy and carefree souls, however popularly referred to as ignorant and simpleminded." He paused. "You have heard the phrase, 'ignorance is bliss?' "

"Where is this going?"

"Pessimists are intelligent, too intelligent to let unwanted emotions that distract from their desired pursuits breach their control.. Such as love, for example. Ransom is undoubtably a pessimist, and a troubled one at that. A man who is not just depressive by nature, but from experience. And someone who has a certain view of the world because of it. Perhaps narrow, but startlingly accurate.."

"Can you get to the point?" Davelynn asked sharply, sounding stressed.

Reynick breathed a heavy sigh and turned, looking back at the horizon. "As a Mage, I unconsciously detect snatches of the pasts of those around me when I close my eyes. Do you want to enter his mind? Do you want to share in his dark world? The world that he sees not only when he closes his eyes, but with every waking glance at the space around him?"

Davelynn stared, trapped in his words, unaware of how her hands had tightened on the wood. "I've seen him smile. I've seen him.. Happy. It's the truth in his eyes, it's real. He isn't just some depressive soul!"

Reynick didn't interupt. But he cast her a look so pitiful it was almost like he regretted speaking, over his shoulder, before turning back to face the ocean. "Devoid of dramatic effect I can tell you now; the saddest souls often smile brightest. You must have heard that before, and I will vouch for it."

Davelynn swallowed her sadness, trying to push aside the obvious intellect of the sorcerers advice. "This.. Is going to sound dreadfully poetic; But, you know.. Even if I can't pull him completely toward happiness, perhaps the glimpses I do see pass through him will keep him treading water. It's worked long enough. He deserves some hope, if not optimistic happiness."

A moment of silence fell once more, until Reynick sighed. "Then I cannot stop you." He said, without turning. "Good evening then, miss. Remember to be careful."

"Davelynn!" Alec came running, looking messy and rushed, with half his shirt soaked in water and still dripping. "Come quickly!"

Reynick had halted, looking up with interest. "Need my help?" He inquired dully.

Alec eyed the man up and down nervously. "Uh.. Reynick, isn't it? A Mage? Can you magic up a really big plug?"

"..Excuse me?"

"Take us, Alec. And get Ander on the way." Davelynn instructed, before following her brother back to the quarters with Reynick trailing behind.

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