Chapter 38 - Pirates
They reached the coast at midnight on the second evening after they left the forest behind. They spent their daylight hours in the root cellar of an abandoned farmhouse that had the feel of a tomb to it, and Rowan had the distinct impression that something terrible happened to the former occupants of the home. Tragedy had a way of lingering in the atmosphere of such places.
Alena noticed that Rowan seemed familiar with the small coastal town and its residents. She wasted no time in finding a large and somewhat crusty looking man called Cutter, while Marcus gained passage for them. When they boarded the ship, Cutter delivered four small barrels of ale to their room, and the crew seemed to know the delivery man. The barrels didn’t contain ale.
The crew mistook Marcus for a cautious merchant traveling with his daughters. His manner and air of authority commanded respect from them, but also warned them that he might be dangerous and that it wouldn’t be wise to trifle with him.
The women feigned seasickness, and confined themselves to their quarters, while their loving father cared for them. With all that time on their hands and nothing to do, trapped in one tiny cabin, they had the opportunity to think and talk. Marcus often stalked the belly of the ship during the day and the decks at night. It wasn’t safe for the women outside during the night, or those that would try their luck.
Everything went well until one sailor found his way into their cabin, while they pretended to be helpless, and afraid of the leering lout. Marcus appeared as if from thin air. He beat the sailor into a bloody pulp and deposited him on the deck for his Captain to deal with. That ended their alone time abruptly as Marcus rarely left them alone after that evening.
Marcus’s continued presence in their cabin made the sailors reevaluate the situation. He looked too young to be their father, and that brought the crew under the wrong impression as to their relationship with him. When they ventured to the deck on a few early evenings, lewd whispers and leering eyes followed them everywhere. It didn’t bother Marcus, and only slightly disturbed Alena, who didn’t value the opinions of mere humans, especially not men such as these sailors.
It brought Rowan’s past too close, and the attitude of the crew incensed her, even though she could well understand their misconceptions. She felt sullied by their dirty minds and their constant yearning for female companionship of the lowest kind. Few of them had wives, and their fantasies confined to the limited imagination of their station.
They disgusted her, but she experienced embarrassed by being associated in such a way with Marcus. He wasn’t a man who would give a second glance at one such as she. Alena was more his type, and yet the thought stirred disquiet in her that she pushed from her mind.
Four days from Cairo a pirate ship emerged from the inky dark of night like a phantom from the underworld. In the middle of the chaos of men running around, gathering weapons and trying to loosen the cannons, they boarded the ship almost without ceremony. Marcus watched it all with remarkable calm and the eyes of a master tactician.
“Fight only if you are in danger,” Marcus ordered, just within their range of hearing. Beneath their capes, they wore their fighting gear. High boots on their feet and weapons strapped to their bodies, along with small items of value that could come in useful as leverage if all this went wrong.
“Prevent them from burning the ship,” Marcus ordered.
“We need what we brought with us, and we need this ship,” Alena countered.
“Then be careful about it,” he amended, and they all understood. They were not to be marked as strange or as vampires. They would be the shadows that haunt the night.
They each went their separate ways. If they remained together, they would stand out. Rowan pulled the rough sailor garb from a dead body, and the smell of that fresh kill was almost overpowering, but she ignored it.
She moved with ease among the flickering shadows, weaving in and out of them while dispatching their enemies with quiet efficiency, her knife awash with blood. She noted the exact moment their enemy realized they encountered unaccustomed resistance.
Rowan realized they were going about this the wrong way. She allowed her gaze to travel to the darkened deck of the pirate ship lying lower in the water than them, which indicated a large cargo. The pirates found an unexpected bonus in this merchant’s ship, and like a glutton couldn’t resist.
She moved into the darkness, and with a single jump, she landed on the lower rigging mast, where she hesitated before dropping to the deck.
The deck swarmed with enemy pirates going back and forth, and a nasty smirk pulled at her lips. They did not differ from Rogue vampires, feeding of the bounty of the sea, with no feeling for the innocent, the defenseless and the brave.
Three came to violent ends before they ever realized the threat to their lives. She broke their necks and let them fall quietly to the deck, taking care that they were in shadow. A wave of familiar anger burned inside of her, and it took all of her willpower to suppress it.
She was a quiet, cunning, and deadly adversary. One pirate bumped into her when he lost his grip on a rope. He opened his mouth wide to warn the others, and the heel of her hand smashed his jaw with enough force to break his neck. The small noise silenced by an explosion on the other ship as she prevented him from falling onto the deck with a thud.
Rowan stalked the darkness like a wolf hunting sheep, and none of the pirates was a challenge to her. She just picked out a victim and took him out. Her soul revolted against her actions, but she could not let them live. Whatever they did after tonight would be her fault. They were not innocents, but deadly, greedy, and ruthless men.
Two rushed at her from the darkness, and with one clean, swift movement she stabbed her knife into the heart of one, while her hand served as a vice that crushed the larynx of the other, choking the life from him. The first fell into a coil of rope and the second followed soundlessly as she pulled her dagger free.
She noticed another hunter, and she couldn’t tell if it was Marcus or Alena. They circled and flanked each other, and each time they changed position an enemy died with swift precision. Rowan succumbed and fed, she saw Alena briefly, and it disturbed her to have Alena witness her giving in to her base instincts, but she needed the strength afforded by the luxury of human blood. Alena had blood on her face from a fresh kill, and her eyes glinted vampire blue in the dark.