11 - Children are Terrifying Creatures
Jet! I can’t do this!” Darcy screamed, tears flowing down her face.
“You can. You are so strong, whatever this is, I know that you can get through it. We’ll get through it together,” Jet answered, stroking her head with his strong left arm. This was the first time he’d ever cried in front of her, and it scared her.
The captain and Lorcan stood a generous distance away, barely within earshot of human ears. Lorcan was very purposefully looking out of the porthole, barely big enough to see the horizon. He heard the captain whisper a warning about dawn’s quick approach, but he ignored him, waiting for the tug boat that he knew would bring his fiancée home, though not for the reasons he wished.
Darcy screamed again in pain, making Lorcan cringe.
“It’s okay, Love,” Jet said, almost as many tears on his cheeks as Darcy, laying on her bed, sweating and crying and holding onto her aching stomach.
Lorcan finally turned away from the porthole as the sun began its ascent. They no longer had any form of advanced warning for Grace’s arrival, and it had already been nearly two hours since Grace had said she would come.
“Jet!” Darcy screamed again, her beautiful face contorting in an ugly pain, her body going rigid. Jet tried to comfort her, but he had no idea how, and he was so scared.
“Just a little longer, sweet heart, you’ll be okay,” He cooed, more to himself than to his wife, who could hardly hear him anymore.
Lorcan and Obsidian turn away, afraid to intrude. A crash on the upper deck made Lorcan’s muscles tense and Obsidian look up. Neither Jet nor Darcy realized.
“See what that was,” Obsidian said, turning to Lorcan, who nodded once and walked out the door. He was surprised to see Grace standing in the middle of the dark corridor, an unconscious crewman through the door to her left.
“Hi, Honey,” Grace said, biting her lip, “I didn’t recognize him, and I guess he didn’t recognize me and he attacked when he saw me. I only punched him once.” Grace looked at the unconscious man and shook her head. “I’ll check on him later. Where’s Darcy?” Grace asked. Lorcan noticed that she seemed distracted.
“In the Captain’s cabin,” Lorcan answered. Grace pushed past him quickly, a bag over her shoulder that she dropped at his feet. A sealed envelope was barely visible out of the top, and Lorcan had to fight the urge to see what it was. He picked up the bag, turned, and followed Grace downstairs, surprised to find her completely focused, and crying as well.
“Darcy, I need you to tell me something,” Grace was saying, rubbing her hair softly, tears rolling down her cheeks at the sight of her friend in such pain.
“Whatever it is I can answer for her,” Jet said harshly from Grace’s side.
“I’m sorry, Jet, I’m sure you can, but I need her to answer me this time,” Grace said softly, putting a comforting hand on Jet’s arm. She turned to Darcy and cooed a few nearly inaudible words to Darcy, who locked eyes on her and nodded slowly.
“You can just nod, if it’s too hard to speak, okay?” Grace asked, sounding much calmer now herself. Darcy nodded again. “Just tell me if and when I hurt you, okay?” Grace asked. Darcy nodded. Grace pushed Jet to the other side of the room and calmly sat next to Darcy. She put one hand on Darcy’s forehead, and the other on her stomach. Grace was the only one who had yet noticed the slight protruding of Darcy’s middle. Her face contorted with confusion, and then an odd mix of understanding and frustration.
“Darcy, you and Jet have been acting strange lately, why?” Grace asked suddenly. Darcy screamed again. “Darcy,” Grace said sternly, “Have you and Jet been sexually active in the last eight and a half months?” She had a strong sense of déjà vu, from when Mosh Zu had stood over her, asking a similar question, but giving her different news.
“Yes! Oh God, yes!” Darcy screamed, the pain evident in her voice. Grace nodded.
“Get out,” Grace said.
“Excuse me?” Jet demanded, walking over to Grace and Darcy.
“Not you,” Grace answered, not even looking up. “Get a knife, you’ll need it in about ten minutes.” Grace looked at Darcy and whispered something to her.
“But I haven’t gained any weight!” Darcy screamed.
“Lorcan get out!” Grace yelled. Lorcan and Obsidian walked out, not interested in whatever was going on.
Grace continued talking to Darcy, trying to decide what to do.
“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong with my wife?” Jet yelled, coming back with a knife.“Congratulations, Jet, in about eight minutes you’re going to be a father,” Grace answered softly. Jet stared at her, completely shocked.
Lorcan and Obsidian could hear an odd screaming sound that neither had heard for years, made worse by the lack of warning.
“Is that, a baby?” Lorcan asked incredulously.
“I believe so,” The Captain answered, very much confused.
“Should we go see—” Lorcan started to ask, but was cut off when the door opened behind him. He stepped out of the way and turned to see Grace, holding a baby. “Grace?” Lorcan asked.
“Shh, it’s almost a month early,” Grace answered. She walked across the hall to the donor bathrooms and closed the door behind her. She washed the baby carefully, making sure to use only lukewarm water and very low pressure. She wrapped the little girl in a dark red towel—it was all she found—and smiled down at her. The baby had just fallen asleep, her round face serene. Grace longed to see her eyes, wondering whether they’d be big and brown like Darcy’s, or curious and black like Jet’s. The baby already had a spotting of dark hair on the very top of her head, that Grace was sure would grow long and luscious. She had a birthmark, too, just under her left ear, resembling, slightly, the stump of a tree.
“You’re so beautiful,” Grace whispered wistfully. She finished wrapping the baby girl and smiled down at her once more. She crossed the hall back into the Captain’s cabin.
“Grace?” Jet asked expectantly, turning to her, his eyes bright, yet guarded.
“You have a gorgeous little girl. She is strong,” Grace answered handing Jet his daughter. He smiled timidly.
“Hi there,” He whispered, bouncing the baby.
“What are you going to name her?” Grace asked.
“Agnes,” Darcy said, sitting up on the bed.
“Agnes?” Jet asked.
“It was one of my favorite names, when I was growing up, centuries ago. I remember promising my mother that I would name my daughter Agnes, if I ever had one,” Darcy trailed off, and held her arms out for her daughter.
“Agnes then,” Jet smiled, sitting next to his wife and helping her to hold Agnes.
“I should get back to Sanctuary,” Grace said, “Lorcan can help you with anything you don’t understand, and we kept Connor’s crib and things.” She turned towards the door and walked away, faster than she should have. As she closed the door behind her, a piece of her dark blue doctor’s dress got caught in the door.
“Are you okay?” Darcy asked forcefully when she re-opened the door to free herself.
“I shouldn’t keep Mosh Zu waiting,” Grace answered, smiling.
“Grace, you’ll have your own little girl one day,” Darcy told her.
“Oh, Darcy, it’s not that. It’s between me and Lorcan, Darcy. You should rest,” Grace told her. She turned and left.
“Grace,” Lorcan said when she walked past him, grabbing her bare arm.
“I’m sorry, I have to go back,” Grace said, trying to tug free. She noticed that the captain had left.
“Why? Grace, just talk to me, just for a few minutes,” Lorcan asked, nearly pleading.
Grace sighed, “Okay,” She answered, “but I will have to get back soon.”
“Okay,” Lorcan said, smiling brightly, and pulling her into a hug. They walked, hand in hand, to their cabin.
“How’s Darcy?” Lorcan asked, laying down on the bed and pulling her close.
“The newest member of the crew is named Agnes,” Grace told him in response.
“How did no one know that she was pregnant?” Lorcan asked.
“She had the type of pregnancy wherein she didn’t gain much weight and she didn’t feel any sickness or anything. Agnes was only about five-and-a-half pounds. It’s not uncommon. The baby was almost a month early, and much of the weight is gained in the last few weeks,” Grace explained.
“That’s small,” Lorcan said, the end of his sentence rising in curiosity.
“I think she was supposed to be a twin, but it was as though there was nothing but a, sort of vapor left. Not even a feeling or a memory. It was really hard to hand them Agnes, knowing that. Darcy thought it was because I wanted a daughter, and I told her that it was a conversation we’d had.” Grace’s voice broke a little, and Lorcan pulled her tighter against him.“You should stay today. Go back tomorrow, I don’t think Mosh Zu will be mad,” Lorcan whispered after a few minutes of holding his fiancée and stroking her hair. She nodded into his chest and let him pull her even closer to him. The sun was already beginning to rise, and Grace could not deny that she was exhausted.
“You ready?” Hunter asked, not looking at Connor as he watched the under-handed night crew of his mother’s ship.
Connor took a deep breath and nodded behind him, facing the other direction, and said, “Ready as I’ll ever be.”
“On three,” Hunter said, tensing his legs to leap from behind the netting that was his hiding place. Connor nodded again, but said nothing, watching from his own side of the net hideaway.
“One,” Hunter breathed. Connor tensed his own legs, ready to jump and run to the side of the ship.
“Two,” Hunter lifted himself off the ground and gripped the netting, ready to push himself off. Connor let out a deep breath and set himself for a sprint.
“Three!” Hunter pushed off the netting and landed on the closest crewman, breaking his neck on impact. Connor, at the same time, sprinted to the side of the boat, per Hunter’s direction, and grabbed hold of the rigging that led to the only row-boat on the ship.
The rest of the night crew—three men—went into a slight panic. The biggest of the three, a vampirate called Dyson, looked at Hunter and glared, before stopping and saying, “Hold it, men, it’s Hunter!” He stepped toward Hunter, who was now standing protectively over the unconscious crewman he had jumped on.
“Hunter? What happened?” Dyson asked. He threw his left hand up as the man to his left tried to step past him.
“Is he dead?” Hunter whispered. He sounded convincingly innocent, though Dyson looked skeptical.
“I’ll check,” Dyson said, taking half a step forward and adding, “Shouldn’t you be in bed? Sunrise is in less than an hour. Won’t your Mother be upset?” Connor looked surprised.
“I didn’t know what time it was! I woke up and I thought I had slept in,” Hunter said, silently willing Dyson to get within range.
“Oh,” Dyson seemed to relax and walked the rest of the way to Hunter, kneeling down over the other man. “Someone broke his—” Dyson slumped over the body as Hunter knocked him out too.
“What the—?” The other two crewmen both jumped into fighting positions, and one of them turned to run for the alarm.
Connor had rowed the boat around the ship, and now jumped onto the deck in front of one of the crewmen. He jumped and kicked him in the face, not caring about the horrible crack from the man’s nose, and breaking his neck, knocking him out as well.
“Together?” Hunter asked Connor around the final standing crewman.
“Together.” Connor nodded.
“Hunter, you get back to your room right now you little runt!” The crewman yelled. Connor looked at Hunter and shook his head. At the same moment the two boys jumped at the man and as Hunter held his arms, Connor broke his neck.
“Boat ready?” Hunter asked softly.
“Tarp and all,” Connor answered, leading Hunter to the stern of the ship and leaping off the railing onto the boat, now floating twenty feet behind the vessel.
“Good job,” Hunter complemented, landing next to Connor on the small boat, now rigged with a black tarp so that the boys weren’t fried when the sun came up.
“Do we have a bearing?” Connor asked in response.
“Not really, just get us away from her,” Hunter answered, shuddering. They each took an oar and, once they had fixed the tarp to blacken the small boat, began rowing with the might of a thousand men.
After an hour they ceased rowing and decided to get some sleep and find a destination come nightfall, by which time they would be far enough away from Lola to not have to worry.
Once they woke up they peeked outside and removed the tarp.
“So we don’t know where to go, because the Nocturne is moving, and that’s where your parents are,” Hunter said, mostly thinking out loud.
“I can get us to Pirate Academy, and we can ask for help from there?” Connor suggested, turning slightly North-West, towards the academy, from their current position.
“How long do you think it will take?” Hunter asked, eyeing the horizon as though he hoped to see the academy.
“Probably all night,” Connor answered, watching only the water.
“Connor,” Hunter whispered softly. Connor made a grunting noise in response and Hunter added, “what if they don’t help us? At Pirate Academy, I mean?”
“We go to Sanctuary,” Connor shrugged.
“What’s that?” Hunter asked warily.
“Are you scared?” Connor asked, somewhat amused.
“No!” Hunter yelled.
“Whatever you say,” Connor smirked, and he told Hunter all he knew about Sanctuary, including Grace’s “work”.
By the time Connor had finished explaining and Hunter had calmed down they could see both the outline of the academy, and the beginning of a red sunrise behind them. They fixed the tarp and stopped rowing, floating towards the academy on only the strength of the soft waves.
When their small row-boat hit the academy dock it was still much too light out for them to leave the boat, so they slept the day away, deciding to go in come nightfall.
It seemed to both of them that mere seconds had gone by when they woke well after dark that night.
“Ready?” Connor asked, already tying the small boat to the leg of the dock.
“As I’ll ever be,” Hunter answered quietly. Connor jumped onto the dock and waited for Hunter to join him.
“Come on,” Connor said. He walked through the black night towards the academy doors. The last time he’d been there he’d been in his mother’s arms, and there were lights on and others around. Now it was eerily quiet, and oddly dark. The lights of the academy were all turned off, and the stars seemed oddly dim. The big oak tree with the bench around its trunk swayed noiselessly in the night wind, its leaves seeming to have turned a musty gray, its brown trunk a black to blend with the night. Connor found himself quickening his step to the doors of the academy.
Once inside, the boys looked around for any sign of where to go next, and saw only the blue-gray of the rotunda drenched in the darkness of night. The swords on the ceiling reflected the moonlight off of all the gems and metals, but neither of the boys were overly impressed by them.
“Where do we go?” Hunter whispered.
“I don’t know,” Connor admitted, “I hadn’t realized how big it was.”
“So do we just pick a passage?” Hunter asked.
“Let’s start on the left,” Connor answered, and walked to the corridor furthest to their left. Hunter followed quickly, not wanting to be left alone in an unfamiliar place.
The corridor turned out to be one of the first-year corridors; filled with cubby-holes and classrooms for knot-tying and steering.
A single door was open, and one light on.
The third door on the boys’ left was ajar, and from inside the boys could see the soft orange glow of a desk lamp, and hear the soft scratching of a pencil on paper, and the occasional turning of sheets.
Likewise, Captain Lizabeth Quivers could hear the soft padding of footsteps outside her classroom, and stood to investigate, sword in hand and at the ready.
The boys stopped, and Captain Quivers pushed open her door enough to see them. In the nighttime, they looked so normal and human, that she mistook them for students, as was evident when she said, “Boys! You gave me quite a start. Students are not supposed to be out of bed, you know this. What is it?” She sheathed her sword and Connor let out the breath he had been holding.
“We need to see Captain Grammont, right away,” Connor told her.
“It’s important,” Hunter added.
“You can see him in the morning,” Captain Quivers answered, shaking her head at them, “Let’s get you two bed, come on now.” She moved to herd them towards what they could only assume were the dorms, but Connor and Hunter both ducked out of her way and stood behind her.
“You don’t understand,” Connor told her forcefully, “We aren’t students, and it is imperative that we speak to the headmaster immediately.”
“Students or not, the headmaster is asleep. You can see him in the morning,” Captain Quivers said, equally as forceful. “Now, who are you?” She placed a hand on the hilt of her sword, but did not un-sheath it.
“My name is Connor Dexter Furey,” Connor told the Captain.
“I’m Hunter,” Hunter added softly, not wanting to give her any reason to fear him, knowing full well that Captain Lizabeth Quivers knew all about his family.
“Connor Furey…” Captain Quivers mused, “As in, Grace Tempest and Lorcan Furey’s son?”
“The very same,” Connor answered.
“Which makes you Hunter Lockwood-Sidorio,” Captain Quivers deduced, turning now to Hunter.
“Yes,” Hunter said in a small voice.
“What business have you with the headmaster?” The Captain demanded.
“I need to find my parents,” Connor told her, “Or my uncle.”
“And you?” She turned an icy stare on Hunter, who took in a sharp breath.
“He’s my brother,” Connor said defensively. Captain Quivers and Connor stared each other down for what seemed like quite a while, before she finally nodded and relaxed her previously tensed muscles.
“The headmaster is asleep, but if it is urgent—and I presume it is—then I don’t see why we can’t wake him up,” Captain Quivers told the boys, “Follow me.” She turned and, without waiting for them, walked further down the corridor and up a flight of stairs to the headmaster’s quarters.
“Wait here,” She told the boys, before disappearing behind the door to alert the headmaster to their presence.
“Do you think we should have waited until morning?” Hunter asked.
“And have all those students milling around?” Connor asked rhetorically.
“No,” Hunter said, “But what if he’s angry that we woke him?”
“Then we leave and figure something else out,” Connor shrugged. The door opened again, and Captain Quivers emerged, followed by a very disgruntled Captain Grammont.
“This had better be good, Lizabeth,” Captain Grammont said hazily. Then his eyes focused on the boys and his whole body became alert, and his jaw dropped a little. “Get in here!” He hissed at the boys, pulling them inside the room. “Thank you, Lizabeth, you are dismissed.” He closed the door and turned to the boys.
“What the devil are a couple of Vampirate boys doing at my school? Eh?” Captain Grammont demanded, turning the lights on and drawing all the curtains.
“I’m not a Vampirate!” Connor retorted, obviously offended, “I am a Nocturnal! There is a difference!” He couldn’t help snarling at Captain Grammont.
“Yes, yes,” The Captain said with a wave of his hand, “I know all about the difference between Vampirates and Nocturnals.”
“We’ve come for help,” Hunter said unexpectedly.
“That so?” Grammont asked, raising a curious eyebrow, “And just how might I help you?”
“We need to find the Nocturne,” Connor said, “We need to get there so that I can tell my father what happened. And we need to find my uncle, to tell him that his fiancé is safe and off of Lola’s ship.”
Captain Grammont could not seem to process this information.
“So, what is it that you need from me?” Captain Grammont asked.
“We have no way of finding either ship,” Connor explained. Captain Grammont’s face relaxed. This was something he understood.
“You know as well as I that the Nocturne goes where she pleases, but the Virtus, that we can find,” Captain Grammont told the boys, moving to a round table off to the side and pulling out three different maps from a box underneath it.
“Now, Pirate Academy is here,” Captain Grammont pointed to a small island that truly was only big enough for the academy, and continued, “And we know that the Virtus was looking for Lady Lola Lockwood-Sidorio, whose last known whereabouts was here,” He pointed to one of the Cook Islands, “So it should take about two days’ journey to catch up to him, assuming she’s still in those waters.”
“Can you help us?” Hunter asked flatly. His voice made it quite evident that he was getting annoyed.
“The Tiger is docked for repairs. Captain Peacock told me that they would be ready to leave by nightfall tomorrow.” Captain Grammont pointed out the window to the dock, where, sure enough, the huge, mahogany ship was waiting, with a mast still being put in place.
“Will she help us?” Connor asked quickly.
“You’re free to go ask,” Captain Grammont answered, and then seemed to think better of it and added, “or I’ll find out where the Captain is and arrange for you to speak with her, out of the light.”
“If you wouldn’t mind,” Connor said, smiling slightly.
“The two of you shouldn’t be left to wander alone during the night,” Captain Grammont told them, sounding slightly nervous, “Do you sleep?”
“Not when the sun’s down,” Hunter said simply, obviously annoyed now, and without the care to hide it. Captain Grammont’s face tensed, but Connor stepped in before either of them could say anything regretful.
“I think what Hunter means, Captain, is that we do sleep, but generally only during the daytime. We noticed that Captain Quivers was still up, so would there be a chance of Captain Peacock still being awake? Or even her first mate, Jacoby, isn’t it? He’s a Vampirate, is he not? Surely he can be trusted to watch over us tonight.” Connor gave Hunter a pointed look of don’t talk anymore, before smiling politely at Captain Grammont, who seemed slightly taken aback.
“Yes,” The Captain stuttered, “yes I believe Jacoby could. Give me a moment to put on some clothing and we’ll head down to the Tiger.”
And so, not ten minutes later, Jacoby had met the boys and authorized them to stay with him, at least until they could speak with his Captain.
“She’ll say yes, don’t you worry. Anything to see Connor Tempest again, I wager,” Jacoby said kindly, showing them to his cabin.
“How can you be sure of that?” Hunter asked, wandering the cabin with an observing eye. It was a large room, filled with tiny treasures and trinkets from countless raids, and made with the finest cherry wood, just as the rest of the ship was.
“I’ve known her pretty much my whole life,” Jacoby answered, “It’s not hard to guess.”And indeed, when Captain Jasmine Peacock awoke mere hours later, she said she would gladly take the twins to Connor Tempest’s ship, though they would follow the same rules as Jacoby, and would not be allowed at meals. The boys agreed and asked if there was place for them to sleep during the day. Jasmine and Jacoby exchanged looks, and it was decided that the twins would sleep in Jacoby’s cabin, and he would spend the day below decks or in the captain’s cabin, performing his duties as normal.
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