It was a dark, clear night on the Ravila docks. Pinpricks of starlight shone down, reflected by the calm water. The dock was mostly empty, the night fishing boats having already left and the frequency of arriving ships slowing to a dribble.
Captain Firecrest and his Fiancé Rowan sat on the deck of the Albatross, waiting for the planned exchange to take place. They had opened the hold and prepared their cargo to be extracted, the open doors allowing the foul smelling wiggyfish to permeate the entire area. Rowan wrinkled her nose at the stench, but Russ didn’t seem bothered, his sense of smell being somewhat lacking.
Hearing footsteps approaching, Rowan pointed towards the dock entrance. Russ smiled as he saw Winston and two large, rough looking men in light, dock workers attire approaching. The men pulled a cart behind them, loaded with unmarked crates. Winston strode towards the harbourmaster’s office, leaving his two henchmen to make the exchange.
The lead man let go of his cart handle, stepped close to the gang plank and grunted “You ready?”
“Certainly!” Russ replied, standing and starting to winch the fish crates from the hold. “Here’s your goods.”
Rowan stood to assist, pushing the crates onto the deck as Russ winched them up. The lead man came up the plank and lifted the crates down to the dock, easily hefting the heavy objects it had taken both Russ and Rowan to load. Noting his gaunt features and pale skin, the Captain concluded he was also a “farrier”, a status shared by the one unloading the wine crates below.
“Yipes!” Rowan exclaimed as a nail protruding from the penultimate crate slashed across her finger. A trickle of blood dripped to the deck and she quickly wrapped the appendage in a handkerchief.
“You ok?” Russ asked with a worried expression.
Rowan didn’t answer. Her eyes were locked on the two vampires. Their stances had completely changed, looking less like bored dock workers, more like predators on the hunt. They slowly spread out, the one already atop the gang plank moving to his left while the other approached and began to head right, as if to cut off any escape. Rowan backed away, finding she had nowhere to go as she neared the other edge of the ships deck.
Russ locked the winch in place and moved to intercept the closest vampire, grabbing his cane from where it leant against the cabin. “That’s…” He began, but was cut off as the other vampire leapt at Rowan.
Her agile legs propelled her into the air and over the attacker, landing on the engine. The second vampire began to lunge, but was struck in the face by Russ’ cane, sending him reeling back towards the gang plank. Rowan kicked at the one who had moved first, striking the side of his head, then dodged his counter by leaping back to the deck.
Russ drew the sword concealed in his cane, grimacing as the vampire facing him drew a long machete from his belt. Settling back into a defensive stance, Russ glanced at Rowan, who was skilfully evading the other. In the half second he looked away, his opponent closed the distance between them and lunged, leaving the Captain barely time to deflect the blade. Russ countered, swinging downwards, but his sword was bashed aside with a flick of the vampires wrist.
Taking a step back, Russ raised his sword, diverting a wild swing over his shoulder, then stepping back out of range of another. The Captain stepped back into a defensive stance and aimed his blade at the vampires face.
Closer to the bow, Rowan ducked under her attackers arm, twisting at the waist and shoving him towards the edge of the deck. The vampire turned and lunged again, again failing to get a grip on the nimble elf. She kicked off the engine with one leg and vaulted the large creature, using his head as a pivot and sending him tumbling to the deck.
The Captain was not fairing so well. Struggling to keep up with the vampires strength and speed, Russ deflected blows and continued to back away. He slapped the beasts machete aside with the flat of his blade and gave the vampire a slight nick on the cheek with a twist of his wrist. His opponent countered with a wild swing, forcing him back still further. Evading a diagonal swipe, Russ settled into a stance, knees bent, sword held in both hands, from right to left across his chest pointing at the vampire. His opponent stepped closer and Russ jabbed forward, switching the sword to his left hand and stabbing at the lead leg. It almost worked, but the vampire was too fast. Stepping to one side, Russ’ opponent slashed, severing Russ’ hand at the wrist and sending him crashing to the deck.
Grinning evilly, the vampire raised his machete to finish the job, then stopped. His head bent back and there was a sickening crack of bone. The vampire fell to his knees, revealing Winston standing behind, face burning with rage. Twisting and pulling, the older vampire tore the unfortunate henchman’s head from his neck.
Winston threw the head to the ground, his expensive suit drenched in vampiric blood. The body teetered and fell in a heap at his feet. His fangs were visible and his body was tense, but there was no sign of breathing, any façade of humanity discarded in his rage. His eyes narrowed on the captain laying on the ground. He growled at him angrily, “You should have told me about her!” and pointed back to Rowan.
The Captain raised himself slowly to a sitting position, grimacing in pain. Blood dripped to the deck from his left arm. “Told you what?” he spat.
Rowan glanced briefly at Winston, struggling to keep the her attacker subdued even with his arm twisted almost to breaking point.
Winston growled and spun around, stalking toward Rowan, calling back to the captain, “That she’s fae!”
Russ growled “Maybe if you hadn’t tried to stiff me on the agreed price, I’d have been more open. Trust doesn’t come free.”
The henchman jerked in Rowan’s grip, nearly throwing her off. She twisted his arm further, bringing a grunt and a snapping of bone. “Can you help me sir, to immobilize this vampire, even if I am an elf?” she spoke calmly, but a little breathlessly.
Winston approached and spoke in low measured tones that just barely concealed the animal anger underneath, “Leave him with me, Miss. And see to your captain… and for the gods’ sake, wrap you own wound first!”
Rowan let the arm go, allowing Winston to take over and walked towards Russ. She looked at her fiancé and realized his hand was severed. Her face went pale and her eyes widened with horror. “Russ!” She ran over and threw her arms around him. After kissing his cheek, she carefully took off his belt and wrapped it tightly around the injured arm, cutting off the flow of blood.
At the bow of the ship, Winston gripped the back of the other vampire’s neck. The henchman calmed under Winston’s hold, until he leaned over and whispered into his ear. The hapless vampire struggled under his iron grasp and Winston drew his free hand back, striking just below the ribcage. His hand sunk deep and when it emerged, it gripped a shrivelled vampiric heart. The vampire twitched spasmodically, then moved no more.
Captain Firecrest peered over the engine, his remaining hand gripping the handle of a pistol under his coat. Rowan continued to tend to his wound, her long, slender fingers wiping away blood and tightening the belt as much as she could.
Winston rose, his blood-soaked hand still clutching the heart. He turned his glare back to the Captain, then to Rowan, then back again, “I assume one of you knows first aid?” His voice was calming and he tossed the heart aside carelessly, fishing into his jacket and producing a handkerchief.
The Captain watched Winston warily, blinking several times to clear his head and trying to ignore the pain. He kept a firm grip on his pistol and asked “What now?”
Winston quirked a brow, “Now? I take it you’re unequipped to deal with this, and it’s a long flight back to Babbage. I will send a doctor to your ship. I have a few on retainer that happen to be human also…” He shot a look to Rowan, wiping his hand with the handkerchief. His voice found that smooth, sure tone he’d adopted before, “Going forward, presuming your wish to continue our arrangement, I shall send some of the mutts to make the exchange.” He peered around the deck, “I seem to have misplaced my monocle.”
Rowan held her hand out to him, the small circle of glass glinting between her fingers. “Here, this must be yours, I almost crushed it under my foot.”
Winston didn’t smile, returning to the cold shell he’d adopted since meeting, though he lofted his brows, “Ah, yes, that’s it, thank you.” He plucked the monocle delicately from her hand and proceeded to wipe it down, merely smearing the blood around it. Finally he gave up and tucked it into his breast pocket, “Alright then, for your trouble, captain…” He reached into another jacket pocket and produced a small pouch of coins, tossing it to the Captain. The pouch hit him in the chest as he raised his left arm to catch it. “I trust we can keep this quiet? And that you can dispose of the bodies somewhere overboard?” Winston asked.
Russ smiled at him, the pain in his arm making it more of a grimace. “We’ll drop them off about half way back. Would you mind assisting Rowan in loading the wine? I seem to be a little indisposed.”
Winston shook his head and walked toward the gangplank, “You’re not thinking straight. Blood loss, I presume. You need a doctor immediately. I shall fetch him and send some were’s to finish the task. I also need to make a few bribes to sweep this under the rug. Have a good evening, Captain. And try not to die before the good doctor arrives, hmm?”