It had been almost a month since they had left Metier at the docks and had set out for another shore, far away from New Babbage. There was plenty of trade to be had far from that city’s influence, which honestly didn’t hold much weight even in the city itself. In that time however, their good fortunes had transformed into tragedy and death. Nightmares plagued the entire vessel and no one was spared. Many men spoke of dragons of the deep or fiery demons haunting them, some had dreams of guilt where they died in the same poison steam as the men in that hospital, some told of being dragged into and tortured inside the Locker itself. Men fell asleep for mere minutes and then woke up screaming, and no man could get any sleep. They were tired, weak, and many were bed ridden. Half of the crew had gone completely mad to the point they had to be put in the brig, or killed while being subdued. At least two men had died in their sleep, older fellows with looks of terror on their faces that had signs of heart failure. After that had happened the captain himself sometimes dreamed about having a nightmare so horrible it killed him in his sleep, only to wake up and find out that he was actually still dreaming to have the process repeated until he no longer knew when he was awake and when he was not.
The captain had charted a course so they could find an end to this vicious curse, these nightmares that haunted them even during the day. He had once met a medicine lady who might be able to help them in New Telouse, but by the time he had turned around and realized it was not just him having these nightly terrors it had already been too late for many of his men who had already lost themselves to madness. He was without a quartermaster or a cook at the moment, and the captain himself was manning the helm this night. He was wearing the thickest coat he had, but the cold was still biting deep into his bones. He was alone on the deck except for that strange bird of Metiers, who was on his shoulder simply watching him and seemingly unaffected by the cold at all. Shivering, the captain was tempted to cook the acursed thing.
It was getting colder he realized and his lack of sleep was making him drift off unwillingly to the nightmares and what may be his death by the cold. He quickly slapped himself roughly to prevent this, and when that didn’t work he started to punch his arm. None of it was good enough though to fight what was coming. Dazed and in fear of falling asleep to never wake again, he turned about until he saw a knife. In his desperation he reached out and gripped it and stabbed himself in the leg.
He screamed out and woke in his own bed. He was still cold, just as cold as if he had been outside and only getting colder…except that his leg still felt like it had something in it. He quickly threw off the blanket and found the knife jutting out of his leg. He weakly screamed out in pain and confusion, but no one came to help him and he fell back exhausted, his breathing becoming slower and more shallow.
“You are not awake, even now,” An unfamiliar voice told him. Turning his head was all that the Captain could manage and he found no one in his room…except that bird. It was staring at him intently, as if it had spoken…but that was impossible. That was just madness…
“There is no need to tell you what has been happening to you, but I will tell you why you were dreaming about freezing to death in the cold and why you were so desperate to avoid that fate. Because in the waking world, you are freezing to death, Captain.” The voice spoke mockingly. The raven, if that was even what had been speaking, flapped it’s wings, took flight, and vanished leaving the captain there to drift into the darkness in his own mind alone.
Aessesser looked down at the ships crew, who had destroyed their own ship during a mutiny and it had burned down around them. Only one had escaped both the mutiny and then the fate of drifting off to sleep and then freezing to death after their ship had sunk beneath the waves.
Aessesser felt satisfied, unlike with Metier it had not been interested in protecting these men or helping them avoid their fates. It had intentionally served as a beacon leading Lionheart right to them whenever they would fall asleep. After the last man died in the water it felt a pull once again, as it knew it would. It had to find another doomed soul to watch now.
It took flight and was not disappointed that it had been pulled to the one man who had gotten into a life boat and had survived, for the moment. The fact that Aessesser felt pulled to the man though meant that there was almost no hope for him. It simply followed him in the air for now, letting him think he’d escaped for the moment…
In the morning the man had landed on the coast, and he had thought himself safe until Aessesser landed near him. His superstitious mind stared at the avian as if it was the devil causing all of his woe and sorrows, it tried to attack him but Aessesser was too fast for the weakened sailor. He left the small life boat and made his way inland, always turning to watch at Aessesser followed him, never letting him out of it’s sight.
Aessesser saw someone approaching on horseback long before the man heard the approach, but it wasn’t until the sound of the hoofbeats reached his ears that the last strand of his sanity broke and the man who would have rescued him instead had to restrain a the sailor who would not stop screaming about horses, ravens, and dreams.