Dad and King Nightskar were still discussing the booty they'd gotten from Fort Darkmist when I went to bed. Cousin Mesyra was given a book, and I had gotten a few interesting things. Like a dagger and sword that had belonged to Arctos Aponaphelma himself. I practiced with them quite a bit, no sense on relying only on hatchets. Actually, to tell the truth, I had begun my training with these, I was just getting used to the weapons. More lives have been lost because someone didn't know their weapon than I care to count.
Mom and Dad came into our quarters. Nightskar had given us a larger place. Mom couldn't move around a lot, because she was getting really pregnant. I didn't care, I preferred to sleep out on the Wind's Cry. The Wind's Cry is a pretty small vessel. It was built by goodbeasts, but Dad had stolen it from a settlement. To a nose like mine, the smell of death was still present. This ship had seen its builders killed, and dumped into the sea. If Dad had his way, that smell would be constantly present. I was inclined to agree.
I went to the cots. An otter had slept in the one I was using. I could tell by the scent. You went to all this trouble to build this ship, I thought, Only to have it used by vermin. Serves you right.
The next morning, I was up early. I went up to the castle, and found Dad and Nightskar in the tavern. "I'm not happy about doing that," Dad was saying. "Laraida's time is coming near, and I REALLY want to be there."
Nightskar nodded understandingly. "Yes, the birth of your children is a fascinating thing, but I don't like these new arrivals."
I stepped up to them, curious. Dad grinned at me. "Shtaragk! We've got a little job for you!"
"A new ship came in last night, and they're talking about an alliance with Nightskar."
King Nightskar spoke up. "I've got my suspicions about these corsairs. I want to know who they are, and what they're really up to."
"I'm on it!" I grinned. I really like Nightskar. He's one of the few beasts I know of that can look me in the eye and send shivers down my spine. Grandpa Khorzharax, Uncle Katreyvan and Aunt Mesyra are some of the others.
I made my way over to get a grog. Some would say I'm too young, but I've been drinking for years. Even Eisenzahn and Quallvol have some now and then. Adraizen and Sonsha have yet to get their first drink. I sat down at a table, and drained my mug. When I'd finished, Grandpa and Aunt Mesyra were sitting there.
Grandpa Khorzharax is a tall wolf. He's really old, but you DON'T want to mess with him. He looked like any other wolf, except for his eyes. Piercing, cruel, it was no wonder that he was the head of the Clan. Mesyra's not really my aunt, she's my cousin. But she's a lot older than I am, so I call her aunt.
Actually, I was glad to see them. I had a question for Aunt Mesyra. "What did you mean, the first drink?"
Grandpa and Aunt Mesrya looked at each other and laughed. Grandpa leaned over to me. "We are vampires, us BenDragons. There's only a few of us left. You have the BenDragon heritage in you, through your mother. One day, you will give in to that heritage for the first time, and drink a living creature's blood." He smiled darkly. "After that, it only gets better."
I nodded, understanding. I rose, bowed to my elders, and left.
I made my way down to the harbor. The newcomers ship was on the other side of the harbor from the Wind's Cry. I called out, and a villainous head popped up. I greeted him, and then the captain came out. He invited me aboard, and gave me a tour of the ship. He seemed happy that I already knew quite a bit about sailing, but I had learned from sailing the Wind's Cry. The ship was well rigged out, one of the best I'd ever seen. But there was something wrong with this whole setup. The ship was too heavily armed, I thought. Maybe these guys did have something up their sleeves.
I let the guy ramble on, then polity took my leave.
I slept through the afternoon, having made arrangements for my twin sister Rolja to wake me up around nightfall. The sun was setting when Rolja showed up. I was having bad dreams, so when I heard her, my reflexes kicked in, and I pounced on her, my knife at the ready. Rolja promptly rolled back, and I ended up getting pinned. "Somewhat jumpy, aren't we?" she asked in a slightly dangerous tone.
I shook my head to clear the cobwebs out of my brains, and mumbled, "Bad dream."
She shrugged and let me up. "You know I'm not going to let you get away with this, brother dearest."
I grinned. "I'll take you on after I'm done with my assignment," I promised. She grinned fiercely, and I made my way quietly to the newcomer's ship. I can move really quietly, if I want. I made my way to the place where they were meeting, and listened. They were all drunk, that was clear. It was even clearer they had no intention of forming an alliance with King Nightskar. They were plotting to overthrow him and take the island for their own.
Obviously, they had no idea who they were dealing with. Finally, they filed out of the meeting room, and went to their beds. I followed.
They were all drunk, and I sunk my dagger into each of them. It was too easy. They slept like babies, and didn't even know I was there.
Finally, I made my way to the captains room. He was outside, looking at the castle. Then he went back inside. Before he shut the door, I slipped in, keeping in the shadows. The captain reached over to the lamp, to turn it off, but bumped it, making the shadows shift.
And leaving me in plain view.
He saw me, all right. He got up from his chair and snarled, "Whaddayawant?"
My only answer was to pull out my dagger. If this walking grog barrel thought he was going to kill King Nightskar, he had another thought coming. He was far from drunk, that soon became clear. I had bitten off a bit more than I could chew. He was a fox, but stronger, bigger, and faster than I was. I tackled him, and stabbed him several times, but only made flesh wounds. He was having the same luck. Suddenly, he switched tactics. He wrapped his arms around me, and squeezed with all his strength, to crush my breath out. I struggled wildly, and I could feel this dark strength well up. Suddenly, I looked at his throat. Before I could stop myself, my teeth sunk into it.
By the fur, what a shock I had when I first tasted that blood. Salty, sweet, and strong, I started sucking it out of him. I couldn't stop, didn't even want to stop. The corsair crashed around the cabin, finally stumbling outside, trying to shake me off. But I had a crushing grip on him now, and I wasn't about to let go. The arms that fought me trembled, weakened, and finally went slack. The captain collapsed to the floor, I followed him. The flow ebbed, then stopped. I sucked harder, but there was nothing left. My heart was pounding, I needed some release. I felt the incredible urge to howl, and I did. I sent howl after triumphant howl to the stars. Finally, my heart slowed. I looked at the corpse at my feet. So this is what they meant by the first drink, I thought. I brought him back to the Wind's Cry, left if lying on the deck, and slept. I would skin him in the morning. It had been one great night, but I was wiped.