Chapter 39 - Cargo
Rowan ventured below deck and found it empty of enemies, apart from a few slaves who’d be better off dead. She unchained them out of a sense of pity and if they could find their way over to the other ship, then good for them.
She returned above deck and sensed no other presence. Alena? Rowan wondered, and as if Alena heard the thought, she landed beside Rowan from somewhere in the rigging.
“Where’s Marcus?” Rowan asked, and Alena shrugged. “I think it would be better if we took a few of these stragglers and this boat to make our own way to Cairo,” Rowan suggested. “The Sheldon Mayne was damaged, and needs repairs,” Rowan whispered as they watched the pirates cast the dead overboard and began dousing the fires.
“Who would sail the ship?” Alena asked
Rowan indicated the ten prisoners still standing at the guardrail, bunched together, unwilling or unable to climb the rope to the other vessel. She could hear them speak among themselves, and they were making desperate plans to survive.
“They’re weak,” Alena pointed out.
“Half dead would be a more accurate description,” Marcus corrected from behind them and startled both women. He was the ultimate predator with his face stark, and his eyes aglow with the power of human blood. Strength emanated off him in waves, and they were in awe of him. They rarely saw this side of him.
“Would you sleep easily?” Alena asked as she watched the other vessel and the way the pirates eyed the darkened deck.
“No,” Marcus answered, and doused the last lanterns before cutting loose the grapple lines with Alena and Rowan’s assistance. He took what he needed from the other ship, earlier, when he came to the same conclusion as Rowan.
The tide took the boat, and a commotion ensued as the pirates realized their boat was drifting away with their treasure. Some made it across and yet no answer came when called upon to report. They tried to turn their new vessel and follow, but the steering wouldn’t respond, and the pirate ship disappeared into the dark.
One slave approached Marcus with some hesitation, and Marcus watched him with implacable features. There was no way the terrified humans could have failed to understand that their guardians were not human, not when their enemies littered the deck like broken toys.
“I used to be the first mate on a ship like this, my Lord, which way should I point her?” He asked while shivering from cold and weakness.
Alena frowned when she realized he wasn’t as old as he first appeared. She spied pride in the set of his shoulders, his will to live glinted in his eyes, along with fear, and hope.
“Cairo,” Marcus answered with some amusement. He respected the courage this man displayed by approaching him.
“The course charts are in the captain’s cabin, sir,” he answered with respect and Marcus considered him with more attention. He did not shift under that dark gaze.
“We are more dangerous than your pirates,” Marcus assured him while allowing his gaze to wander over this group of misfits and women. The man glanced at the dead lying at their feet, and then his eyes moved past them to the darkness where the other vessel drifted from their sight. He shrugged as if to say that he’d rather take his chances with them.
“Aye, I know,” he answered. His eyes lowered to the dried blood on Marcus’ face and shifted to a sailor who had visible bite marks on his neck, along with a ripped our throat. He answered with no doubt in his voice. Marcus observed him with interest and just a touch of respect; Life cut this man from the same cloth as Rowan’s Ardy.
“Jack, ye think ye could get that mainsail fastened?” The man commanded, and the authority of his voice made Jack scramble up the rigging, even though he looked fit to fall off. He may come from a Dutch ship, but he wasn’t Dutch, Marcus concluded.
“Robert, secure the ropes,” the former First Mate ordered. The unkempt men and women scurried to obey with amazing resilience, while the vampires watched them with both pity and admiration. The human will to live and survive the odds was something so extraordinary that it sometimes defied reason.
“What’s your name?” Marcus inquired of this stranger who crossed their paths at just the right moment.
“Byron, master,” he answered without hesitation, and Marcus seemed to come to a decision. The starkness of the vampire vanished from his face, and the two vampire women relaxed their stance.
“You are free to use the food in the hold. I will plot your course while you trim the masts, and we’ll take it slow, but tomorrow we need to gain some distance from these waters. We will rid the decks of these bodies, but there is only one rule; the rear quarters are off limits,” Marcus commanded, Byron nodded without asking a single question.
Once the boat settled upon its course, Marcus sent the humans to their sleep. After they dumped the bodies, he took it upon himself to teach Alena and Rowan how to sail a ship. He had a knack for it and judging from his smile; Marcus liked it. He kept them busy the rest of the night, and sailing proved hard work for only three hands, but they managed. When the first light touched the horizon, Byron appeared from below.
With his hair cropped short, his beard trimmed, free of the stench of prison, and wearing clean clothes; Byron looked like a different man. His manner also betrayed a military background, maybe Navy, Rowan concluded. Marcus and Alena noted it too.