6 - The Virtus
“Connor, your ship is docked in the harbor.” Connor heard Captain Platonov’s voice through the open door on the other side of the dorm.
“Thank you. Kaiya is downstairs at the mess, would you let her know please?” Connor answered, pulling on a white button-up shirt.
“Of course.” Captain Platonov smiled and left the room. Connor pulled his boots and coat on and walked out to the patio. He saw his deputy dropping the anchor, and staring in awe at the huge school he was docked at.
“Deputy Moore.” Connor called as he climbed the rigging on the side of his ship.
“Captain Tempest. Three weeks was much too long.” The older pirate smiled, grabbing his captain’s hand.
“Much. And how’s she been doing? Alright?” Connor answered, smiling and looking around at his ship, which he’d missed in the three weeks he hadn’t seen it.
“Well the ships fine, there was a storm a few days after you left; but we managed. It was sort of lonely after you left. The crew got so used to you that you left and everyone was lost.” Connor’s deputy captain – Henry Moore – answered, laughing a little. Connor laughed as well.
“She certainly looks better than ever.” Connor said, breathing in the familiar sent of the birch wood that made up his ship.
As the two men spoke they walked towards the captain’s quarters, where he found his captain’s hat and bandana resting on the table, just as he’d left them. Captain Morgan’s old sword – the inheritance he had not told Commodore Black about – was resting on the desk, the tip of the hilt resting on the secret button to open the secret room in which all of the fortunes and riches of the Virtus. The cherry wood of the captain’s cabin glowed red in the gleaming sunlight through the open porthole. The cabin was exactly the same as he’d left it three weeks ago.
“Has no one been in here since we parted?” Connor asked his deputy, pulling the bandana over his head and fitting his hat over it; he’d definitely missed the feeling of his two favorite accessories.
“No one. We had the door locked and the only time I entered was to read the map when I forgot how to get here.” Henry answered. Connor nodded and walked over to his desk and picked up the gleaming sword. It was a lot bigger than his own, but it felt wonderful in his hand. He swung it back and forth a few times and attached the sheath to his belt, and then proceeded to sheath the broadsword.
“I’m going to say goodbye to the captains and give them the crew records. Do you have them?” Connor asked his deputy.
“Yes of course.” Henry pulled a large stack of papers from his over-coat and handed them to Connor. “A few of the crew – those who joined by accident – don’t actually have files, so we just put their name, age and weapon on an extra piece of paper.” Henry explained as Connor looked through them.
“Thank you, Henry.” Connor patted his deputy on the back and left the cabin. Henry followed his captain to the where Connor would leave the ship; the rigging found near the bow of the ship, on the starboard side.
“Should I come with you, Captain?” Henry called for the deck.
“That won’t be necessary. Thank you.” Connor put the files in his mouth and jumped from halfway up the rigging to the hardwood docks below.
Connor made his way back to the academy, this time with two swords on his belt.
“I thought you only had one sword.” Captain Grammont observed when Connor entered his office.
“This was Captain Morgan’s. He left it to me as well as the ship and money.” Connor answered, placing his hand on the hilt of the sword.
“You never mentioned that he left you his sword.” Captain Grammont said, taking the crew files from Connor.
“In all honestly I forgot about it.” Connor answered.
“It’s a lot bigger than your rapier.” Captain Grammont stated.
“It’s a broadsword. Captain Morgan was a big, strong man.” Connor explained.
“I see.” Captain Grammont eyed the hilt, embroidered with a large, green emerald. “Captain Morgan was a wealthy man, I presume?”
“He was. And all of his riches belong to the captain of his ship.” Connor smiled. He had spent three weeks as a poor man when he left the ship, and knowing that he was once again one of the richest captains on the ocean was a nice feeling.
“Is this all of your crews’ files?” Captain Grammont asked.
“A few of them had no files, so my deputy wrote their names and ages on a piece of paper, along with their weapons.” Connor asked.
“Understood. Thank you Connor.” Captain Grammont sat at his desk to begin going through the files, and organizing them. Connor nodded once and turned to go.
He made it to the door and had opened it when Captain Grammont looked up and said, “Connor,”
Connor turned around slowly, “Yes?”
“I’m glad you’re back.” Captain Grammont answered.
“Me too.” Connor smiled in spite of himself and left, his coat billowing out behind him. He hitched up the collar and walked purposefully back to the dock. He did not like what he saw when he got there.
“What the hell is going on?!” Connor yelled when he saw three members of his crew harassing Kaiya; who he was pleased to see in the strappy, yellow pirate’s dress he’d given her.
“Captain Tempest!” The crew immediately steadied up, and saluted.
“Yes. Answer the question.” Connor said icily, holding Kaiya in his strong arms.
“We didn’t know she was with you, Captain. Honest.” The largest of the three crew-men explained.
“Did she tell you she was with me?” Connor asked, knowing full well that Kaiya would have.
“Well, yes, Captain, but we thought she was a last-year student; lying just to see the ship.” The middle crew-man answered.
“So you decided that you would harass her?” Connor asked, honestly bewildered by his crew’s unprofessionalism.
“We weren’t really harassing her. We were just tryin’ a have some fun.” The third crew-man answered, pushing one of the other crew-man’s arms.
“You’re drunk.” Connor stated. “How much did he have to drink?” He asked the other two, who looked disgusted.
“Too much.” The biggest answered. Connor held Kaiya’s hand and nodded. He looked like he was just going to tell the three men to return to their bunks and sleep it off; he almost did for a moment.
“I see. Okay. You two can go. At least you aren’t drunk. And tell Moore to come down here and see me.” Connor nodded to the two biggest crew-men, who nodded back and climbed the rigging and hopped onto the deck.
After a minute or two Henry Moore jumped off the ship to land next to the remaining crew-man.
“Captain.” Henry nodded.
“Please take my fiancé to my cabin. She that she is fed and comfortable.” Connor kissed Kaiya on the cheek and she looked at him with a look of utter confusion.
“Of course captain. Right this way, miss.” Henry started leading Kaiya back to the ship, but she turned back to Connor with a worried look on her face. He nodded reassuringly and she followed the deputy up the rigging.
“What’s your name?” Connor asked the crew-man.
“Justin Smith.” He answered stupidly. Connor took off his hat and coat and laid them on the dock. He then rolled up the sleeves of his shirt and gestured for Justin to come closer, which he did drunkenly.
“Yes, Captain?” Justin asked. Connor put his hand on Justin’s shoulder, as if to tell him something, and then turned around and punched him. Justin yelped like a kicked dog and held his cheek. Five or six crew-men on deck ran to the side of the boat to see what was going on. A few of them dog-whistled. The drunk crew-man got upset and swung back, missing terribly and falling on his face. There were a few “whoops” and “yeahs” from the quickly assembling crew on the deck. A few students were beginning to assemble as well; and were excited as many had never seen a captain fight before, let alone a captain fight one of his crew-men.
“You should not have been drinking in the middle of the day on your way to pick up your captain. Furthermore I do not care how much fun you thought you’d be having and I don’t care if you did think she was just a student, you never harass a girl, especially not while under my command. Am I understood?” Connor stated sternly.
“Yes captain.” The crew-man answered, laughing.
“What is so funny?” Connor asked.
“You’ve got an audience.” The crew-man laughed. As Connor looked around at the gathering crowd – the ever-growing crowd – Justin Smith jumped on him and pulled him to the ground.
“Connor!” Kaiya had joined the onlookers now and was shocked to see the fight begin.
Connor did not even acknowledge the onlookers, or the cry of his fiancé. He kicked out from under the drunken crew-man and flipped to a sanding position. As Justin came at him once more he stepped out of the way and threw him across the dock. He landed at the feet of a female student and smiled up at her. In disgust she kicked him back towards Connor, who wasted no time in standing him up again.
“You disgust me, Justin Smith.” Connor said before punching him once more. He put his coat on and had only picked up his hat when Justin came at him again. Upset now, Connor instinctively pulled out his sword – the rapier – and held the tip at the crew-man’s throat.
“You wouldn’t hurt me, would you, Captain?” Justin asked, gulping loudly.
“No. Not today. However, the next time I dismiss you, and you continue the issue, I may not be so understanding. Go to your cabin, and sleep it off. The next time you want to come above deck, after even one mug, make sure the time is appropriate, or else risk being thrown off my ship.” Connor pushed him away with the sword and re-sheathed it. He picked his hat back up and put it on his head. The crew-man stood his ground for a moment, but surrendered back to the ship at a look from his captain.
Connor climbed onto the rigging and the student audience broke into applause, but Connor ignored them and climbed onto the ship and into his cabin. He went into the secret treasure room and through a second hidden door – only accessible from this side – into the steering room. He began raising the anchor and – with gratitude to the crew who had already prepped the ship to leave – and put the ship into motion. As he navigated his way out of the dock and into the open harbor his deputy came into the steering room.
“You alright, Captain?” Henry asked.
“I’m fine,” Connor answered, “Is Kaiya in my cabin?”
“She assumed you would be there already and was shocked that you weren’t.” Henry answered.
“Please man the helm.” Connor walked away and around the deck to his cabin once again.
“Connor!” Kaiya had been sitting on the bed, but jumped up immediately and threw herself into his arms.
“Kaiya.” He whispered, hugging her tightly and burying his face in her neck and golden locks.
“Hey,” Kaiya held him and felt him shaking in her arms. “What’s wrong?”
“When I was away, when I had just left, before I even met Captain Morgan,” He paused and took a deep breath, but he sat on the bed and paused.
“I met a girl, her name was Eva, she was a gypsi. We got close – not relationship-wise – and I travelled with her for almost six months. We ended up in England at some point. I went to get some lunch, when I came back she was dead. I hired a P.I. and was told that she had been raped and murdered by the boy who drove her to follow her heritage and embrace the gypsi life.” Connor hadn’t told Kaiya about this.
“The worst part is that her hair was just like yours – a lot longer and straighter – but the color was exactly the same. When I saw them grabbing you—” Connor broke off and hid his face in his big, rough hands.
“I’m okay. They were idiots, bigoted idiots. I’m fine I don’t even have a bruise.” Kaiya said, holding his face in her delicate hands.
“I saw them grab you, and I pictured you the way I found Eva,” Connor told her, holding her hands to his face. “I have seen so much, I’ve done terrible things,” He made to continue but Kaiya saw where he was heading with this and cut him off.
“I get it. You may have done some bad things, but when people are that close to you, and you see it—” Kaiya paused, trying to think of exactly the right thing to say. “I get it, Connor. It’s traumatizing, and no one can blame you for being afraid of it happening to someone else.”
“I got so mad when I found Eva. I hunted him like a wild animal for three months, and when I found him, I made sure he didn’t have the tools to do that to anyone ever again. Then I killed him.” Connor went on as if Kaiya hadn’t said anything. “I could have killed that crew-man today. When he jumped at me after I’d dismissed him – I was so angry about what he tried with you, and so angry that he would dare – when I pulled out my sword and held it to his neck – I could have killed him. I could have slit his throat open right there, and be done with it. I think that if you and about a hundred students hadn’t been watching I likely would have.”
“But you didn’t,” Kaiya said, holding his face.
“I’m a pirate Kaiya. A break won’t change that. Are you sure you’re up for what I’m getting you into?” Connor asked.
“I love you,” Kaiya answered, “I love you enough that I don’t care what I’m getting into.” He smiled at her and hugged her tight.“I love you too.” He whispered. He laid back and she used his shoulder as a pillow. He rubbed her arm and they just laid there for a time, talking about what they were going to do, about the wedding, and about everything they planned on doing as a married couple.
It was dark now, Grace sitting on the rock with her sleeping son in her lap, waiting for the ship she knew would pass this way.
Her son stirred with the wind but did not wake as Grace finally saw the lights of the boat in the distance after almost three hours of waiting. She was stiff from so long of sitting still as a statue, her unblinking eyes on one spot on the horizon. It took another half hour for the boat to draw close enough for her to hear the crew, and another ten minutes for its mass to splash waves onto her perch. As it passed she stood up, her limbs stiff, and jumped soundlessly onto the ship. The crewman closest to where she had landed gave a quick start and made to sound the alarm.
“I’m the captain’s sister,” Grace said before he’d made it two steps.
“Oh,” The crewman sounded almost shocked, but told her where she could find him none the less. Grace thanked the crewman and walked straight into the captain’s cabin and laid her son down onto an odd assortment of materials she assumed was laundry. Though she didn’t like it, the bed was occupied by a sleeping couple.
Sitting down at the desk she pulled out a feather pen and a pad of parchment from the desk drawer and began writing to her fiancé.
My dear Lorcan,
I miss you already. Connor being back feels almost surreal now, being on his ship, I feel as though something will happen. I don’t know how to describe it, it’s like when I woke up from a dream about him my brother before he returned. It’s just a feeling that I can’t shake. We’ve always known that LLL would want Evil again… That she would miss him… Crave him as she craves her ‘wine.’
I don’t know what I’m to do. I feel torn, as if by leaving our son with my brother, I am not leaving him well protected enough. I feel as though our son will be ripped out from under us, as if Connor is a Band-Aid and LLL is planning to rip it off, one quick sting, and never to be seen again…
And I’m worried about going to Sanctuary, especially without Darius. He doesn’t even know I left… Do make sure he knows I didn’t leave him to be rude, simply because while at Sanctuary I am training myself not to feed. Of course it’s difficult, and Mosh Zu often has an extra donor standing by in case I don need some blood. Make sure that he understands, Lorcan, will you?
Of course I have other worries. I don’t know how to describe it, or why I feel it, but I think we should try to convince Jacoby to join us on the Nocturne, at least for a time. I don’t know why I feel that way, but I think it would be best. I feel as though, through everything that we’ve been through, my instincts have never led me wrong, and I should not stop trusting them.
That said I must express the joy I feel at having The Book of the Dhampir back in my possession. I know that my brother needed it these last seven years, but I cannot deny that I missed it. I feel much safer knowing that I can turn a page and be given an answer. I enjoy the feeling of control it gives me, and I must confess that I am more than a little excited to continue unlocking the hidden powers that the book has already suggested I have.
Know that I love you and am thinking of you always,
Your loving fiancé
The writing brought Grace well into the morning, so that by the time she was finished and had sealed the letter in an envelope the sun had already begun its ascent.
Looking on at her son she noticed that the pile she had settled him on was in direct line of the sun. She didn’t want to risk him getting hurt, but she was curious to see whether or not the sun would affect him.
Addressing the envelope casually in her beautiful scrawl, waiting for the sun. As it rose higher into the sky she gave a final flourish with her pen before watching her son. The sun hit a part of the pile of laundry that her son’s flesh did not reach. As the hand of the son slowly stretched across the room and snaked onto her son’s flesh Grace held her breath. There was a momentary sizzle, and the smell of something burning.
“What the hell?!” Connor sat bolt up-right, awoken by the terrible smell.
Grace could not move, she stared at her son as the son turned his toes red and slithered onto his legs. The child woke up but found he was in such pain as he had never before experienced and could not move out of the reach of the sun’s torturous hand. Tears sprang to the child’s eyes and he began sobbing, calling to his mother to save him as his knees began to burn along with his lower-legs.
“Grace!” Connor yelled at his sister. Seeing she too had tears streaming down her face, which held an expression too terrified to move, he jumped half naked out of bed and picked up the child, shielding him from the sun in the window-less bathroom.
“It’s okay, it’s just some blisters you’ll be alright. Your mother’s a great healer.” Connor soothed his nephew as he sobbed into his hands. Connor told the boy to wait for someone to come back and gave him a glass of water before returning to his sister, to find her sitting with her legs tucked up against her chest in the pile of clothes on which her son had nearly lost his legs mere minutes before. She could even smell the burnt flesh.
“You should have been the one to grab him.” Connor said to his sister. She looked up at him and nodded. His resolve not to feel pity for his sister was instantly destroyed and he knelt beside her.
“What happened?” He asked her quietly, touching her arm. Her tears fell silently but steadily.
“Lorcan wanted to test it for so long, to be sure,” Grace whispered, “I was too afraid. When the sun started rising I thought, just for a few seconds, just to see.”
“Then you froze.” Connor finished for her. He raised his eyebrows in mock surprise. His sister wasn’t usually the time of person who would freeze, he’d always considered her a Zen-Master in times of stress.
Grace made a strangled sound that sounded almost like laugh before correcting her brother, “Actually, first I had a flash-back to my first kill, and then I froze.”
“A flash-back to— what?!” Connor asked, completely taken aback. He couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of Grace killing anybody. Grace almost wanted to laugh again. Within twenty-four hours she had let that terrible – hidden – fact about her slip to the two closest men in her life.
“It doesn’t matter,” Grace said quickly. She hadn’t meant to let that slip, and she had no desire to tell the story.
“When did you— you know,” Connor trailed off and Grace knew that she wouldn’t be able to keep it from him.
“At Sanctuary three years ago,” Grace answered, offering no further explanation. Her brother, however, was just as stubborn as she was and was determined to know the whole story.
“And…? What happened?” Connor pressed.“One of his,” she spat the word and Connor guessed she meant Sidorio, “old crew-men was injured because he hadn’t finished his duties on Lola’s ship and stayed out too long. His hands were seared to the point where he thought they would fall off.”