1- A Bad Feeling
Grace Tempest awoke with a start, clutching the locket that hung over her racing heart, the one she never took off. The locket had been given to her by her brother nearly seven years prior. It was all she had of his now.
Not wanting to wake her six-year fiancé in such late hours of the day – for it was almost noon already – she got out of bed and went to sit at the vanity on the other end of the cabin, by her own wardrobe. Her fiancé had asked her to marry him shortly after a dear friends own wedding, when Ms. Flotsam and Mr. Jetsam had been joined in holy matrimony. Of course Grace had said yes without a moment’s hesitation; but no one could understand the hesitation to have the wedding. Grace had been putting it off for nearly seven years now. There were those who thought she may not want to marry the wonderful creature she knew she loved, but the real reason was that she was waiting for a special time.
She picked up the latest in a long line of gifts her fiancé had gotten her; a silver brush with golden flowers carved into the back of it. Though she loved the gifts, Grace secretly suspected that they were his way of asking what the real reason was for her putting off the wedding for so long. She knew he’d need an answer eventually, but she thought it would be fine for just a little while longer, after all, they would both live for eternity.
As she brushed her hair in the gold-trimmed mirror on her vanity, she thought back seven years to the first few months with her now fiancé, before they had become engaged. She and her brother Connor had decided to leave all that they had when their father took his untimely departure of this world. She thought of how pained she had been to find out that the man who had raised them was not their biological father, and that the man who was, was in fact an evil vampire-pirate rebel who had brought on the biggest war that had ever been seen on the seas. She had then found out that she and her brother were both dhampirs; half human, half vampire. They were both immortal and they both had powers the likes of which had not yet been seen on the oceans.
But, as far as anyone knew, Connor had died – killed by their biological father himself – during the last – and winning – battle of the war.
She felt numb, as she remembered what had woken her in the first place, as she let a single tear fall down her cheek, thinking of her brother.
“Grace? What’s wrong? Why aren’t you in bed?” Lorcan’s unexpected voice gave Grace a small start, but she didn’t move, in fact she continued brushing her brown hair as she answered his question.
“I couldn’t sleep.” She said simply. She offered no further explanation as she continued brushing her hair.
“Well what’s wrong?” Lorcan asked, genuinely concerned for his fiancé. He slid out of bed and stood behind her, giving her a much-needed neck massage.
“I’ve just got this, terrible feeling, in the pit of my stomach.” At last she put her brush down and allowed herself to fall into the comfort of Lorcan’s expert massage skills. She wondered idly if he’d been a massage therapist at any time during his five-hundred or so years.
“What about?” Lorcan asked, kissing the top of her head. He wasn’t being pushy, he was simply worried, and a little curious.
“Connor.” Grace answered simply.
Lorcan sighed and stopped massaging his fiancé. He turned her chaise around so that they were looking at each other. This wasn’t the first time that Grace had spoken about her brother as if he hadn’t died almost seven years ago. He rested his hands on her knees and brushed a stray strand of hair out of her beautiful face. Calmly and sympathetically he said, “Grace, honey, you know as well as I do that Connor has been dead for years; since the war with the vampirates.” He was trying to comfort his fiancé as best he could, but he worried for her. He feared that Grace may still have not accepted the fate of her twin brother.
Grace shook her head. “No,” She said, “No, he didn’t die during the war. Connor is very much alive.” Lorcan sighed and hung his head, waiting for her to continue. Fortunately he didn’t have to wait long.
“He’d had a couple of visions of his death, and it happened the same way every time. When he found out he could split himself in two, he used it to his advantage. Simply put; he saved Jacoby and let his second self die so that his other self could get away and start his journey; to rid himself of the dhampir gene.” Grace explained.
“I don’t understand,” Lorcan said, momentarily confused. He paused to make sense of it all, before he turned back to his fiancé and his confusion gave way to frustration as he said, “You mean to say, that Connor Tempest is alive and well somewhere, and you’ve known the whole time?” Grace was taken aback at how upset Lorcan seemed to be by this news. She nodded slowly, watching her fiancé intently.
Lorcan stood and walked to the other side of the cabin, pushing his shoulder-length dark locks out of his face in frustration. “You mean to tell me, that a very good friend of everyone’s – someone we all thought had died, never actually did, and you knew it the whole time?” Lorcan was starting to sound more hurt than angry.
“Lorcan, it wasn’t like that. I wanted to tell you – all of you – but I couldn’t. We all knew that Connor wanted more than anything to stop being a dhampir, and when he was offered the chance he had to take it! He needed seven years of no contact with anyone he knew! I wanted to tell you all, but I couldn’t! Connor and I both knew if anyone found out that he was still alive they would search for him! He couldn’t risk it!” Grace said, taking her turn to comfort Lorcan.
“Grace, I understand, but I would have at least hoped you would have told me.” Lorcan said, turning towards her and pulling him into his strong arms.
“I wanted to Lorcan, believe me I wanted to.” She said, nuzzling herself into his warm body.
“Now,” Lorcan held her by the shoulders and looked intensely into her emerald eyes, “What was that feeling you said woke you?”
“I don’t really know,” Grace shook her head and sat on the bed, clutching the locket again, “For the past few nights I’ve been having dreams about the war, and Sidorio and Lola, and Little Connor turning back to her, and Connor dying, and staying that way.” Grace started shaking. Little Connor was their adopted son, whose birth mother was the evil vampirate bride of her own birth father – Sidorio – who had died in the same battle that she’d gotten her son and her brother had faked his own death during.
“Sidorio is dead, Lola is a non-concern, little Connor is one of the best children I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen more than my share – and your brother is fine. Besides, you said seven years, that means he should be coming back soon, right?” Lorcan told her, trying to be calming.
“He left the day of the speeches at Ma’s, eight days after our birthday.” Grace nodded and leaned into Lorcan’s side, as he’d sat down beside her.
“That reminds me,” Lorcan said, reaching to his nightstand and opening the drawer. “I was going to wait until the feast tonight, but as long as we’re awake,” He handed her a smile package that he had pulled from the drawer. The wrapping was done with brown paper, and had a small red bow around it. The package was rectangular and felt as though it had a dip in it. As Grace undid the bow the paper literally fell apart, revealing a beautiful, hand-carved picture frame holding a picture of the three of them – Lorcan, Grace, and little Connor. “Happy birthday.” Lorcan smiled as he saw her face light up.
“Oh Lorcan! It’s beautiful! When did you do this?” Grace asked, completely awed by the beautiful painting and frame.
“Last feast night, while we were up on deck waiting for the bell to ring, as we kissed I had a painter paint the outlines, he colored it while the donors ate.” Lorcan answered, “Do you like it?”
In response, Grace put the beautiful gift back on the nightstand and kissed him passionately. He hesitated only a moment before kissing her back. Taking advantage of the moment, grace turned off the already dull lamp lighting the room and decided that she could worry about her brother’s return when they awoke that night.
When the bell awoke the crew at dusk, Grace and Lorcan awoke to the sweet smell of the cooking food for the feast later that night. As Lorcan made the bed Grace went into the next room – their son’s room - to pick out his clothes for the feast. When Grace walked in she found the young boy already awake, reading a pirate history book.
“What are you reading tonight?” Grace asked, sitting on his bed and looking over his shoulder.
“Chang Ko Li’s last battle.” He answered, turning the page of the huge book.
“I meant what’s the name of the book itself?” Grace asked again, laughing a little.
“Final Battles.” Connor answered, turning another page. Grace marvelled at the speed at which the six-year-old could read.
“Is the last battle of the Immortal War in there then?” Grace asked.
“It’s an issue from ten years ago.” Connor answered, finally putting the book down as he finished the chapter on the death of the pirate legend.
“I see.” Grace said, putting his bookmark on the page and putting the bookmark on the nightstand by his pillow.
“Why do you read pirate history books?” Both Grace and Connor turned to see Lorcan standing in the doorway of the boy’s room.
“I like them, they’re interesting to me. And they tell of so many great battle strategies and techniques. Plus my uncle was a pirate, remember?” The boy answered matter-of-factly. Grace couldn’t help but laugh.
“I do remember.” Lorcan looked at Grace and she knew that he was thinking about what she’d told him about her brother.
“How long have you been up?” Grace asked the boy.
“An hour or so.” Connor shrugged.
“You got up when it was still light out?” Grace asked, with a look that clearly said that he should not have done that.
“It’s okay I kept the blackeners on the port-holes and I kept the lamp as dull as possible.” He answered.
“That’s not the point, Connor! You are twice as susceptible to the light as anyone! You were born from two proper vampires, which means that you have double the power of a regular vampire, but also double the weaknesses!” Grace said. This wasn’t entirely true, however, as they had never put any of those weaknesses to the test.
“If I’m twice as powerful wouldn’t that mean that I’m half as vulnerable? Like you, mom?” Connor answered his mother with a hint of pleading in his voice.
Grace nodded and hugged her son. “I just don’t want to put that to the test. I don’t want to risk anything happening to you.” Grace said, holding him close.
“Nothing’s going to happen to me.” Connor said, hugging his mom.
“We just don’t want to lose you, Connor.” Lorcan now came to sit on the bed on Connor’s other side.
“You won’t.” Connor promised, hugging his parents.
The family sat on the bed for a time, hugging each other in a comfortable silence. When they broke apart Grace smiled and went to pick out Connor’s outfit for the feast.
Lorcan went back into the main room of the cabin and pulled from Grace’s nightstand another package, this one longer and thicker that the one he had given Grace. When he came back to Connor’s room Grace came to stand by him.
Lorcan handed Connor the package and Grace said, “Happy birthday Connor.”
Connor – unlike Grace – ripped open the package and beamed as he saw his birthday gift. He looked to his parents with one of the happiest looks they had ever seen on his face.
“You got me the new edition!” He said, beaming down at the cover of the newest pirate history book, titled Immortal War.
“You can thank Mr. and Mrs. Jetsam as well, they helped pay for it.” Lorcan smiled, messing Connor’s hair playfully. Grace slapped him and complained that now she would have to do it up again for the feast in a few short hours. After Connor hugged both his parents with all his strength – leaving Lorcan to fight not to show pain at his adopted son’s strength – he jumped back onto his bed to start reading his new book, which he’d been asking for since he’d heard it had come out a few months prior.
Lorcan and Grace left Connor to read while they prepared for the feast. Lorcan went up to the deck of the ship to help keep the ship running with the rest of the crew, while Grace went to her friend Darcy Flotsam-Jetsam’s to find a dress for herself.
“Grace! Darling! Come in! Come in! I’ve been waiting for you! Happy birthday Gracie! Oh you look wonderful! Okay so I’ve found a few dresses you might wear tonight. They’re a little fancier than usual but it is your birthday!” Darcy exclaimed when she opened her cabin door for Grace, giving her a hug.
“Thank you Darcy, but I really don’t want to make a big deal of my birthday. We should be more -focused on the fact that it’s Connor’s! After all, he’s the one who’s still aging! I stopped aging five years ago!” Grace answered, grinning at her overly-flamboyant friend.
“Oh. But Grace! It’s still your birthday.” Darcy said, taken aback a little by her friend’s lack of enthusiasm.
“Let’s see the dresses.” Grace said, dodging the subject of her birthday.
“Alright!” Darcy said, walking into the bulk that was her cabin.
“Darcy are you going to stay up right until the bell tonight?” Jet Jetsam – Darcy’s husband – walked into the room buttoning his shirt and froze upon seeing Grace. “I didn’t know you’d have company.” Jet looked at Grace and then back at his wife as if they had been interrupted during something very important.
“I thought you’d have gone up on deck by now.” Darcy answered, kissing her Mr. Jetsam. “And I was going to turn in before the dawn bell tonight why?” She looked at him expectantly.
He shuffled his feet and started whispering something to Darcy that made her giggle.
The giggling couple started making their way into the bedroom area of the cabin while Darcy called to Grace, “The dresses are in the wardrobe! I think the green one goes best with your eyes!”
Grace wondered idly what the two of them were so giggly about, before going over to the wardrobe and finding three stunning dresses hanging inside.
As she tried on the first one – a blue and red satin dress with a built in corset – she thought of how the two of them had been coming up to the deck later and later, and how they stayed up closer and closer to dawn. She tried on the green dress Darcy had mentioned and agreed that it did go beautifully with her eyes, though she felt like she looked like a princess. When she tried on the third dress – a simpler design with long-off-the-shoulder sleeves – she fell in love with the velvety red fabric and decided that, even though it looked more like she was wearing blood, she’d wear it.
As Grace went to leave the cabin with her dress she called back, “Thanks for the dress Darcy! And Connor wanted to thank you for his birthday present!”