The ship came in on time—exactly 2am in Marseilles. Crook looked at the large monolith; an empty silence lingered. He grunted under his breath, stood up and looked for Marsden who was a good for nothin’ beggar of a boy. The large ship anchored smoothly on the deck and Crook squinted to see if anyone was behind the helm. The lights of the lamps illuminated the ship in a transparent hue. He tied the bow and waited for the seaman to give further instruction. No one appeared.
“Ahoy there!” He called.
The cool brisk air numbed his throat. He cursed under his breath. By all rights he should not be here. He had been sick, running a fever for the past two days. Fear had struck his family and he saw sheer horror in their faces whenever he approached the home. For that reason he stayed at the docks for much of the day. Only to sleep would he force his presence on his family. He knew their fear for they were also his. He was tired and this damn ship not only reeked but swayed like a drunken sailor.
Turning to see if Marsden was behind him, though he knew the little bugger was asleep in the galley, he grunted, took hold of the gang plank and heaved it to the ship grunting loudly all the way up. The main deck was desolate. Oil lamps hung from the pillars near the door ways. The floorboards were wet and he took care not to walk quickly. He slipped twice but managed to regain his balance before tumbling to his arse. He grunted.
“What the hell.” He muttered.
The sound of the cackling flames was deafening in the silence. Crook went into the brightly lit sailor’s quarters and opened his mouth to call out but this time his voice wavered. A strong stench of sulfur and metal singed his nostrils and he gagged holding his palm against his nose and mouth. The small compartment held a dozen swaying hammocks saturated in what could not be mistaken as blood. A dark substance was spattered on the walls, the ceiling and the small chests that outlined the room. There were no bodies or remnants of the crew as he would have expected, but the blood was undeniable.
The winds from the north erupted bringing a cool chill up his spine. He turned, tripped on a rigging, tried to support himself with the lantern post and crashed to the wood floor smashing the incandescent lamp beside him. A web of flames shot through the main deck up the posts, consuming all in its path. Crook had never seen fire so malice, so purposeful in its destruction and it did not relent. The wave of heat burned him and he snapped out of his trance and looked at his hands. They were sodden with black oil.
“Damn” he muttered.
A furious blast sprung wood and cargo up through the ships belly as fire shot up towards the heavens. The ship rocked fiercely and his lungs burned. He felt his legs and tried to move but realized to his utter dismay that he had been entangled in rope and was unable to move. He thought he heard a wail of laughter in the wind just before another explosion rocked the ship bringing down the mainmast atop him. He clawed at the wood to no avail, took a deep inhalation of smoke and felt his chest tighten, gasping for breath that did not come. He tried to scream but couldn’t. His eyes budged in their sockets; his flesh burned and then he saw it. A flicker of a shadow in the fire and a pale hand reach out for him. Crook’s pain lessoned. He felt stark terror, not at the certainty of death, but from the figure that stood cloaked in front of him. The dark amber orbs looked out to him under his hood with a grin that revealed menacing rows of sharp teeth.
“My slave.” It said.
Crook welcomed the darkness.