254 The Moon Voyager*
The clashing and ringing of metal around the ship was so rapid that it often sounded like one long and drawn out note. The Madame sat on the quarter deck, a fan in her hand as she lazed, occasionally rubbing her temples at the incessant noise.
She'd protested quite ardently at first, but when it became apparent that neither of the culprits were interested in listening to her, she'd had to sit back and sulk her displeasure quietly. She was already positive that even if she didn't remember it, one or both of them had taken a sip of her blood the night before. She'd felt woozy and looked pale that morning, only feeling slightly better a few hours after eating.
The clanging note ended and echoed off across the sea as two figures seemed to appear on the fore deck, the smaller breathing heavily.
"Good," said the other, looking his sword, only half of which remained as it had been sliced through cleanly, "Though we're running out of weapons to train with".
The Madame had been intimidated by Rassa Moonshadow the moment she'd seen him. She knew power when she saw it, she could feel it, and she knew without a doubt that he was one of the most powerful men she had ever met. She believed it the instant she was told that the business meeting Ebony had offered her was for his business. Though she hadn't quite wrapped her head around the fact that Ebony knew the man.
"Does that mean we're done for the day?" asked Ebony as she stood, her hood up to shield her newly sensitive eyes from the sun. The Madame understood better than others what had happened. That Rassa had made Ebony like him. It was not quite the same as what had happened to her, but it was similar enough for her to know Chaos when she saw it.
Rassa had recognised the Chaos in her just as easily.
"You've broken your deal," Rassa had said, "You exchanged memories, dreams and freedom for what you had on that Island, now that you have stepped away from your self-imposed isolation they will return to you, but your prolonged life will shorten as they return".
"I thought so," the Madame had said, "I think I have lived frozen for long enough anyway".
"Eternity is not so bad when you have the world to wonder," Rassa had replied, "Though I imagine that Island would not be so accommodating".
The Madame had shaken her head cautiously, "It was not...I'm not sure if it was her place, but Ebony told me that I would have a place in Moonshadow Trading if I desired it".
"We'll see if your trustworthy first," Rassa had replied.
The other slaves from Herguard that had come to the Villa had been invited as well. Or, if they did no desire to make the journey across Whaler's Strait, that Rassa would be happy to give them enough gold for their journey home. The female slaves had been quite receptive to the offer. They all respected Ebony, and most of them had been on Herguard for long enough that they were not even sure if their families were still waiting for them, or if indeed they would be welcomed again. The Reapers, as Rassa came to know them, were more hesitant.
They had come because of Aegin, but now Aegin had left and they were not entirely sure of where he had gone. Eon decided to return his brother's body to his homeland and find his own way, though admitted that he would take Rassa up on his offer of work if he found that his home was no more. Will accepted passage back to Eldovia with Rassa, and since being on board had decided to remain with Moonshadow Trading. Alistair had decided to go with Eon, which the young man seemed grateful for.
Sel, the silent eunuch, surprised everyone by agreeing immediately to Rassa's offer. That left Layton and Talo.
Talo in particular was hesitant because of how close he had been with Aegin. He had remained nearby for the month that Rassa had been on the Southern Continent taking care of 'business' and had made his decision as soon as he'd seen the ship that Rassa had had made. The Moon Voyager. Talo had agreed to come on the condition that he could Captain the ship. Rassa had been quite amused, but had agreed nonetheless. He hadn't hired a Captain for the ship he'd built.
Layton in the end, agreed to come along so long as he could be amused. As soon as he learned how proficient Rassa was at pretty much every martial arts and weapon he picked up, Layton became all too eager to learn. They were in all, a strange group, but the pace at which they seemed to fall into routine and a sense of companionship with one another seemed to work.
Rassa smiled beneath his hood as he collected Ebony's sword from her, "When I get a proficient enough forger, hopefully we won't have this problem anymore".
Ebony frowned, "What do you mean?"
"Well, our strength is too much for these iron weapons. As efficient as they are for humans, they are almost useless to us as we need to control our strength every time we use them or we break them like they're just wood," Rassa said, "If I can carve runes into it to strengthen it however, it'll be much better".
"You can do that?" asked Ebony.
"You can do a great many things with runes. The Mist makes up everything, it influences everything, runes simply give access to that power," said Rassa.
"Could it bring back the dead?" asked Ebony.
"Dead is dead," said Rassa, "The Mists exists in this world, the dead do not".
Ebony nodded, glancing towards the skyline, "The sun will set soon".
"How long?" asked Rassa.
Ebony thought for a moment, "Thirty...four minutes?"
Rassa smiled, "Thirty-two. You're getting good at that too".
"It's strange," Ebony admitted, "There is so much to learn but I never feel like I'm overloaded with information. Is that part of Gluttony as well? That we're hungry for knowledge?"
Rassa chuckled, "Perhaps. I suppose I've always taken it for granted".
The two settled into a companionable silence as they waited for the sun to set.
"Do you think he'll come back?" asked Ebony.
Rassa smiled, "Someday".
He turned to face Ebony then, "You know I won't be offended if you leave as well, right? I do understand the need to be alone with this".
"No," said Ebony, "I don't feel that need. I...as much as I want to go after him, to see him and make sure he's okay, my instinct tells me to stay. That I will be better here...with you".
"Ah, so you do feel it, I had to wonder after Aegin left," said Rassa.
"Feel what?" asked Ebony.
"It's called a Covenant bond, it exists between Vampire and those they have sired as well as the generations following. It's like...well I suppose family is the closest word I could use but humans don't really have an equivalent. Perhaps...it is like a hive of bees. They follow their queen instinctively and have an innate bond with each other," Rassa explained.
"So you're the Queen?" asked Ebony with a smile, "And every Vampire ever made will always bow to you?"
Rassa flipped his hood back to reveal his long chocolate hair and maroon eyes, "Well, I'm certainly pretty enough".
Ebony giggled, "Is it strange I'm not offended by it? That I'm okay with you leading and me following?"
Rassa shook his head, "The rules are different in the Chaos. We are no longer bound by Order".
"But there are leaders and followers with the humans, and in Order as well".
Rassa nodded, "Yes, and the human leaders can be overthrown by the followers. And Order will be stuck in their rigid and absolute systems until the end of time. Chaos is never so confining. There is no definition of a leader or a follower, it simply is, and it changes when it needs to".
"So I could become Queen?"
"Maybe one day," said Rassa, "When I'm sick of you nagging me I'll just say, 'fine you do it, I'm going for a long nap'".
Ebony rolled her eyes, "The sub-death doesn't exactly sound like a nap".
"It doesn't feel like one either, but I imagine after a few hundred years the prospect of it will be better than listening to you nagging," said Rassa.
He stood then, turning to walk away.
Ebony huffed in response, "I'll probably want a nap dealing with you".
"Probably, but that's half the fun".
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His fangs flashed with his red eyes and Ebony smiled back just as savagely.