121 A Midnight Meal*
The hammock, surprisingly, was far more comfortable than expected. The feeling of being suspended seemed to make up for the lack of any padding. In fact, it seemed as if the position one was in when sitting in the hammock actually helped most of those on the crew fall asleep faster. Though it could have also been due to the work they did on board.
After their meal in the galley, some crew members stayed behind for games of cards or the like. The most common currency to bet with on board were bronze coins, sometimes silver depending on those playing. Though for those who weren't playing as seriously, sometimes the currency consisted of minutes spent on watch, or rations. These however, were strictly controlled as it would do no good for someone to loose an entire night of rest or a few days worth of food. Jorl invited Aegin, Ebony and Rassa to join, but the only one amongst the three that was even vaguely familiar with the rules was Aegin, and he wasn't confident enough. So instead they promised that they'd practice and would play after they were more confident in their abilities. The crew jeered at them, but were understanding enough to the new members to let them go. Rassa was cautious however, despite how well-disciplined and welcoming the crew was, he could tell from the way they worked that they would not tolerate any free loaders or shady characters. Despite the secrets the three held, they would have to interact with the crew if they wanted to stay on board for any length of time.
"So where are we heading, we were only told south," Rassa asked Jorl as they surveyed the current game from the sidelines.
"The Island of Rouke," Jorl replied, "The Trader's Festival there begins in a couple of weeks and goes for a fortnight. Quite the event. It's held biannually, and just seems to get bigger every year".
"The Southern Isles aren't far though," Rassa said, "It can't take two weeks to get there".
Jorl nodded, "No, it doesn't. But word is the President of the Token Trade Association has ordered the Captain's presence. Despite the Captain's dislike of staying on land for too long, he can't refuse the President. But with so much happening on Rouke during this time, it's unlikely any of us will be bored. After all, the ship only need five guards a night, so they'll rotate through the crew whilst we're there and it'll give the rest of us plenty of time to do what we like".
Rassa nodded, "What's the Festival like?"
Jorl grinned, "Like a rainbow of a thousand colours. The Rouke Island Trader's Festival is considered the biggest Trader's Festival in the known world. This one event every two years brings enough revenue to the entire Southern Isles to have them last until the next Festival! Trade Associations, Countires, Cultures, nearly every representation of the known world you can think of is present there. The days are filled with markets all over the Island. There are twelve markets, in the seven ports on the island, but the fortnight gives everyone enough time to travel and visit every single one. In fact, there are specially constructed ferries to take patrons from one port to the next. In addition, every night has a different event, all culminating in the final two nights. The second last night is the Rouke Festival Auction, said to cater to the richest individuals in the known world and sell items appropriate to their status. And the final night, the Trader's Crown Awards".
"Trader's Crown Awards?" asked Rassa.
Jorl nodded, "The Bronze, Silver and Gold crowns. At the end of the fortnight, every representative association, country and culture are all tallied against one another for earnings and reputation during the festival. The top three are awarded the crowns, and it is guarnateed that they will be prosperous until the next Festival".
"I've never heard of it," Rassa admitted.
"Someone mentioned you were from up North of Eldovia. It's feasible that word of such a competition would not have reached there. It is, afterall, far more well-known on the seas," Jorl replied, "Still, you should feel proud to be a part of the Token Trade Association, for the past fifty years, Token has never placed outside of the top three. They've always had a crown. The competition itself has only been running for sixty, ever since the war between the Southern and Western Continents came to an end and they sought a way towards peace".
Rassa nodded. Jorl was quite the source of information. He sensed that however long they were on board The Miranda, he would learn quite a lot of the world's happenings from Jorl.
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Now however, as Rassa listened to the breathing and heartbeats of his sleeping shipmates slow to a steady rhythmn, he could only think of what awaited him just beneath their unsuspecting skin. His fangs elongated in anticipation, his eyes cutting through the darkness with ease as he picked his target.
He decided on one several hammocks down from him, he figured it was best to select his meals at random for fear of them discovering a pattern should his deed actually be uncovered. But as Rassa confirmed that the crew was indeed asleep, he pulled the shadows around him so he could leave the hammock silently, emerging to the side of one of the hammocks. As Rassa looked down at his meal, he vaguely remembered the man's name was something like Tym, but with no connection to the man, it was all too easy to see him as food rather than human. Some vague part of Rassa's mind acknowledged that that had been happening a lot in recent times, acknowledging strangers as prey rather than equals. But that part was quickly silenced by the hunger. Who cared? It certainly wouldn't be the prey seeing as they would have no memory of the event. Rassa was quick, placing a hand over the man's mouth. The move roused the man, and he stared at Rassa's wide eyed before the Vampire's Allure calmed him in an instant.
"Quiet. Forget this and Sleep".
The commands may have been whispered so as not to arouse anyone else, but the man felt their overwhelming presence in his mind, and had no will to disobey. His eyes rolled back and his slept soundly once more. Rassa's hand slipped away from the man's mouth and picked up his arm, baring his wrist aloft before Rassa's waiting fangs. They sunk into the veins beneath easily, and Rassa drunk, his own eyes nearly rolling back into his head with how grateful he was that the foul, dirt-like food taste was finally a forgotten memory.