Chapter 40 - Cairo
“I took inventory, sir. The supplies are a little low. There are enough weapons to seize an army, and we will need to boil the water. She needs a few repairs, but there’d be money enough to hold her afloat for a good long while,” Byron sounded so comically respectful and yet he was a man with a strong sense of pride. Marcus detected no greed in his voice and found he liked Byron.
“Keep her steady; we’ll take the night shift,” Marcus commanded, and Byron watched them leave with a weathered eye.
“Come, come, the sun is a-rising, and the winds are a-changing, up and at them,” Byron called out to his crew, and below deck, the vampires smiled at his words.
Byron kept them going through the long hours of the day, and left them undisturbed. Their sleep proved dreamless due to their exertions during the night and their full bellies.
When they made their way to the deck after sunset, the crew had scrubbed the blood from the decks, coiled the ropes, and repaired the holes in the mainsail. They were clean, neatly dressed, and even the women worked like cogs in a well-oiled machine. Their resilience impressed the vampires.
You could never tell from his facial expression, but Byron’s eyes betrayed his delight with the efforts of his crew. They came to attention when they spotted their new masters, and Byron dismissed them with quiet authority. They lowered their eyes as a sign of respect as they passed the three vampires, but each of them murmured a greeting before they disappeared below deck.
They gave the three just the tiniest of berths as keen grey eyes watched them, but it was more than Byron’s stare that kept them in line. They were not the same class of men and women who populated the decks of the merchant’s vessel or pirate ship. They clearly came from a whole different world.
“I kept her steady Master,” Byron reported, and Marcus almost smiled.
“And so you did, now see to your sleep,” Marcus ordered, and with a nod, Byron followed the rest of the crew. When he disappeared from their sight, Alena chuckled, less amused than incredulous.
“I thought they’d be dead on their feet,” Alena marveled, and she meant it literally.
“They were just hungry,” Rowan defended them out of habit. She’d seen it before, the human will to endure and survive.
“We were lucky to find them,” Marcus admitted, and he took his place at the helm. The girls tackled their work with steady determination. The need to get where they were going, outweighed all other concerns, but they found the work soothing along with the motion of the ship, the smell of the sea, and the sense that their problems lay upon some distant shore.
They landed in Cairo at night, by design and not by chance. They prepared to disembark and took only from the storge decks what they would need.
The night before Alena and Rowan expressed curiosity at the contents of the hold, and Marcus allowed them to explore. They found gold, silk, spices, weapons and odd things of value, even jewelry.
They played with valuable objects like children with toys, and Rowan had never seen or touched such things, but neither took anything from below. It belonged to Marcus to do with as he saw fit.
“What about the ship?” Alena asked, and Marcus turned on the gangplank, his mind already elsewhere.
“It will be here when you return,” Byron spoke from the darkness, and they were so busy with their own concerns that they hadn’t noticed him on deck. There was no hesitation in his voice, and no deceit, his pulse beat with a steady rhythm, his breathing unaffected.
“Pay those who want to leave, and replenish your supplies, Captain Byron,” Marcus decided, and Byron looked stunned at receiving the rank of Captain, although all three of them suspected that he was a Captain on his previous ship and not a First Mate. It was the only lie he ever told them, and he had to have a reason for that untruth. Marcus walked down two more steps and turned back.
“If we’re not back by the next full moon; the ship is yours,” Marcus spoke the word with such casual ease as if he commented on the weather. Byron struggled to reply, almost forgot himself, and gaped.
“You will return,” he recovered his composure, and the certainty in his voice seemed set in stone. They humored him, by not telling him that they doubted their fate would allow them to return.
“Master?” He called from the top of the gangplank, and they turned once more. Marcus displayed a small amount of impatience, but he felt he owed Byron the courtesy.
“There is a man near the bazaar; his name is Talmud. His house has no windows, and he has a scar on his face like a crescent moon. He wears black, and he speaks your language. Tell him Byron sent you and tell him it is time. He will fulfill any request and never speak of it,” Byron launched a bag at Marcus that he caught as if it contained feathers and not gold.
“You better take this master. Things are expensive in these parts,” Byron mocked, and Marcus laughed.
“Silence is expensive,” Marcus agreed with amusement.
“Indeed master,” Byron answered dryly, and without another backward glance, they walked on. They didn’t see the men and women on deck emerging from the shadows to stare at their retreating forms until the darkness swallowed them.They’re trusting.