Dark Harbor
by Lori

Chapter One - In Harbor

     "Ship off the starboard bow!" The frantic seaman at the railing
grabbed the attention of Styles who had been coiling recently used rope.
     Styles looked up from his task to see what the seaman was talking
about. "Oy! Oldroyd! Quick!" The burly sailor alerted his younger friend and
pushed him towards the quarterdeck. "Warn the Cap'n!"
     Oldroyd, without question, sped away for Pellew's cabin.

     Captain Pellew sat at his desk, quietly concentrating on dispatches he
had received from the admiralty. He was half way through reading one of the
documents when a pounding sounded at his door. He tossed the paper onto the
desk. Pellew flung the door open to reveal Oldroyd standing there.
     The young seaman didn't wait for the Captain to question. "There's a
ship comin' our way, Sir!" he blurted out. "And it doesn't look like she be
stoppin'!"
     "The blind fools!" Pellew exclaimed. He pushed passed Oldroyd and onto
the deck.
     Hornblower appeared on the main deck after hearing the commotion from
his cabin.
     British sail loomed over the Indefatigable; her shape growing larger
by the second.
     Kennedy appeared, still pulling his jacket on. He squinted through the
darkness to look at the deck of the approaching ship. It was then that he
found something very peculiar about it. "Captain!" He scrambled up the stairs
to the quarterdeck and moved to stand next to his commander. "Captain!
There's no one aboard her!"
     Pellew paused a moment to check his lieutenants statement. "VEER HER
OFF!" he shouted.
     Hornblower moved swiftly around the main deck, shouting orders to the
crewmen crowded there.
     The men lined up at the rail, shoulder to shoulder, holding out the
oars of the longboats in a valiant attempt to turn the ship away from them.
     "DAMN!" spat Sir Edward a few moments later. He realized his original
plan wasn't going to work. "Mr. Kennedy, take a couple of men and board that
vessel! Steer her clear of us!"
     "Aye, Aye Sir!" Kennedy saluted and hurried away. He gathered
Hornblower, Styles, Oldroyd and Fisher. Together, the five of them waited at
the rail for the ship to draw near.

                                   * * *

     Carnage. Bodies lay strewn about the deck of the Phoenix, yet not one
drop of blood seemed to have been spilt.
     Fisher descended the stairs down to the main deck after he had steered
the vessel safely into port.  He tripped, but regained his balance as he
climbed down the stairs.
     Two bodies lay in his path.
     Fisher joined the group that stood in the middle of the main deck.
     The five men gaped at the sight before them,
     The officers lie scattered amongst the crew. Each face a mirror of
fear, pain, and death.
     Hornblower stepped over a midshipman and stopped, deep in thought.
"Styles, Oldroyd. Go below and search for survivors."
     "Aye Aye, Sir," said the two seamen in unison.
     "Go with them, Fisher. Report to me if you find anything out of the
ordinary."
     "Aye Aye, Sir."
     Hornblower watched the short, heavy sailor leave.
     Kennedy stepped over two men and came to stand next to his fellow
lieutenant.
     "What do you make of it all, Archie?"
     Kennedy took a few moments as he sorted through his thoughts. "I don't
know, Horatio. Illness perhaps?"
     "Illness? What illness kills 850 men simultaneously?"
     "You do not know that they were killed at the same time."
     "Think sense, Archie! Wouldn't the crew have buried their dead if it
had happened one by one?"
     "True, very true." Kennedy paused. "Do you suppose they were too
frightened to rid the ship of the dead?"
     "Frightened? Of what? What could be out in the middle of the ocean
that would cause such fear? Besides the French or Spanish fleet?"
     Archie shrugged.
     "Mr. 'Ornblower, Sir! 'Ere! Quick!" Fisher called excitedly.
     Hornblower crossed the deck to the companion with Kennedy directly
behind.
     The upper gun deck was the same as the deck above. Packed with death.
     The two officers made their way to where they saw Oldroyd and Styles
crowded around a young sailor.
     Fisher wasn't too far behind, with a newly lit lantern in hand.
     "What is it, Styles?" Kennedy managed to ask before Hornblower had the
chance.
     "Pardon me for sayin', Sirs, but didn't ye notice the marks on their
necks?"
     "Marks? What sort of marks?" asked Hornblower.
     "'Ere, take a look-see." Styles took the lantern from Fisher and bent
down over the pale, still body at their feet. He held the concealed flame
high enough so it could illuminate the entire area with its golden glow.
     Hornblower crouched down to inspect the dead sailor's neck closely.
     The wound appeared to be a pair of small bite marks positioned over
the jugular of the victim. They were small, but definitely odd.
     "An animal perhaps, Sir?" suggested Fisher.
     Hornblower shook his head, but remained silent. At this point, an
explanation was out of the question.

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Subject: [hhfic] Dark Harbor - 2/? - REPOST

Same Disclaimers
**********
Chapter 2 - The Captain's Cabin

Oldroyd leaned out of the gunport, physically ill from the stench and
sight of the load of dead bodies.
Hornblower straightened as much as the low ceiling would allow. "Styles," he
said.
"Sir?"
"Take Oldroyd and Fisher and finish searching the ship. If anything
else strange should arise, Mr. Kennedy and I shall be in the Captain's cabin."
"Aye, Sir."
Styles and Fisher saluted and continued their search.
Hornblower turned to leave and clasped Kennedy's shoulder, urging him
to follow.

Archie was the first to reach the Captain's door. He entered without
hesitation, but turned quickly in disgust, closing the door abruptly behind
him. "My God!" he exclaimed, his hand clamped over his mouth and nose.
Hornblower got a whiff of the small room and pressed the back of his
hand against his nose.
Archie took a few deep breaths to prepare himself for whatever that was
creating the horrid smell. He pushed the door open and marched bravely
inside, with Hornblower immediately behind.
Captain Meddows sat slumped over his desk, his pencil still hung
loosely in his fingers. His limp hand lay on top of the open log, stopped in
mid sentence.
Horatio brought his lantern high and squinted through the darkness. He
sighed, thinking that this wasn't going to work. They needed to come back in
the morning to do a proper search.
Kennedy was across the room, holding his candle up to look at one of
the pictures on the wall.
A young woman and a small boy sat positioned on two cushioned chairs,
both smiling happily. The boy, who looked no more than seven years old, had
blond hair, just long enough to tie back into a ponytail. He had large, round
brown eyes that held the innocent excitement of youth.
The mother, who appeared to be about thirty, had red, curly hair, a
bright, warm smile and small hands which she kept folded in her lap. The
twinkle in her blue eyes was captured perfectly.
Archie read the small, gold sign attached to the frame.
EMILY AND NICHOLAS MEDDOWS - 1790.  
He turned to look at the form at the desk and he could just see the
resemblance between the boy in the painting and the dead captain. "Savages,"
he whispered to himself, his breath making the candle flame flicker.
Hornblower had managed to get the log from under Meddow's head. He read
the last entry, then proceeded to flip back to the earlier ones.
"Well, what does it say, Horatio?" Archie asked, bringing his light
closer to the page.
"It doesn't say anything out of the ordinary."
"How can that be?"
"I don't know, Archie." Hornblower shut the book and set it back down
on the desk. He looked back at the commanding officer and sighed.
Meddow's neck showed through the collar of his shirt, revealing the
same marks the other crew-members had.
"Perhaps he was the first one to die. That would explain the obvious
condition of the body." Hornblower's mind drifted.  "Some sort of parasite
perhaps?"
Kennedy could only stare at the dead captain in horror. He heard that
Styles, Fisher and Oldroyd had returned from their search below decks. "We
should go," he said to his friend. "Captain Pellew will be expecting our
report."

 

 

Chapter 3 - The Beginning of the End

Following direct orders from the admiralty, Captain Pellew ordered the
Phoenix to be anchored at a safe distance and burned, with all victims
aboard. The safety of the populace held first consideration, and without
knowing the cause of such a death in so great a number, there was no other
choice but to destroy any possibility of the spread of the unknown killer.

Captain Pellew gave his officers and crew shore leave the next night.
He felt that his men should enjoy themselves and keep their minds occupied
with something other than what had happened to the crew of the Phoenix. Yet,
a nagging feeling was telling him to cancel leave. He shrugged the feeling
away. "They deserve this," he said to himself.

"Well, Mr. Hornblower," began Archie Kennedy. "What to do or what not
to do? That is the question."
Hornblower looked nervously around him. "I thought I was sharing my
evening with Lieutenant Archie Kennedy, not a poor imitation of William
Shakespeare."
Archie smiled. "What do you say to a game of cards?"
"Cards?"
"Yes! Cards, Horatio."
Horatio stared at Archie. He clearly didn't understand how his friend
could be so happy at a time like this. With the atrocities aboard the Phoenix
behind them, Archie didn't seem to have a hard time concentrating on carefree
activities.
"Which game of cards then?" asked Horatio, trying to keep step with his
energetic companion.
"Whist of course!" Archie replied, smiling.
"Oh, good! For a moment there I thought you were going to suggest
vingt-et-un!"
Kennedy stopped and put himself in Hornblower's path. "Mr. Hornblower,"
he said, placing a hand on his friend's shoulder. "I am hurt!" he said
jokingly. "Why would I even think of bringing you to play vingt-et-un? A game
for the half-witted?"
"Because you are half-witted?" Hornblower replied, smirking.
The two laughed and continued on to the Lamb.
The two men entered the inn with a cool breeze blowing in from behind
them. After closing the door, they removed their scarlet lined capes from
their shoulders and hung them on the peg on the wall.
"Pot-man! A deck of cards, if you please!" Kennedy ordered.
The two Lieutenants slipped into chairs that seated them across from
each other.
The pot-man hurried over with the cards, then scurried away to help
another patron.
"So, who is going to deal?" Archie asked.
"I will," said Horatio, snatching the deck from his opponent's hand.
"Oh, so you seem to have a problem with the way I deal?"
"Archie, I'd never let you deal in a game of whist. Or any other game
for that matter."
"May I ask why?"
"You cheat!"
"Oh, ho, ho!"

A quiet woman in the back corner of the room was startled from her
thoughts by this friendly exchange. She looked over at the two uniformed men,
her dark hair falling from her shoulders and down her back. Her deep ebony
eyes searched the blond one first. She liked his smile; how it seemed bright
and cheerful, but he didn't suit her taste. The brown-haired one, on the
other hand, was to her liking. She preferred the darker ones. She became
fascinated with his movements; how he tossed the cards across the table
gracefully, a confident grin showing his obvious enjoyment of the game. She
was completely taken with him!
A few hands later, Archie was leaning forward on the table, his chin
resting on his hands. His blue eyes moved back and forth as Hornblower
re-dealt the cards. "Let me see if I have this right. I am accused of
cheating, yet I haven't won a single round. Something is amiss here."
Horatio smiled. "Just one more hand then?" he asked, finishing the hand.
"What difference does it make? You are going to win anyway."
They finished the game and stood from the table.
"Well played game, Archie." Hornblower complimented his friend and
extended his hand.
Archie stood and took Horatio's hand. "My pleasure."
They both tossed a few coins onto the table to pay for the few drinks
they had. They took their capes from the peg and exited out onto the chilly,
dark street.
The woman who had been watching from the corner placed a few coins on
her table and followed at a discreet distance.
"Well, Mr. Hornblower," Archie began. "I'll be taking my leave of you
with what money I have left. If I do not, no doubt you'll find some way to
win it from me."
Horatio licked his lips, trying to hold back his laughter.
"Good evening, Horatio." Kennedy walked back to the longboat that would
take him back to the Indefatigable.
"Good evening, Archie." Hornblower sighed. His spirits had turned
around and he wasn't ready to end his evening. Perhaps he'd take a walk; it
was a lovely night after all. He began his stroll down the cobblestone street.
A figure emerged from the shadows of the side alley of the Lamb. She
made sure that the dark-haired Lieutenant was far enough down the street
before she began to follow him.


     "Excuse me, Sir!" She stopped Hornblower just as he turned a corner.
     Hornblower turned to greet the voice. "Yes?"
     The young woman began to look around her nervously. "II'm sorry to
bother you, Sir, but I was wondering if you knew of a place to stay? A place
where a lady would be safe?"
     Hornblower swallowed hard as he searched his mind for a hotel. "There
is the Beautiful Season not far from here. That is safe enough I think."
     The woman smiled. "Thank you, Sir."
     "My pleasure madam. Will you need an escort?"
     "Yes, if it's convenient!"
     Horatio smiled nervously and offered his arm.
     The couple walked along quietly until the silence became unbearable.
     "May I ask your name?" Hornblower inquired.
     "Madeleine. What is yours?"
     "Horatio. Horatio Hornblower."
     "You are a sailor are you not?"
     "I am a Lieutenant in his Majesty's Navy, yes."
     "You must be very brave. Choosing the sea as your career."
     "I've never considered myself brave, Ma'am. Perhaps, I am, in a way.
Thank you." He paused. "What do you do?"
     "Um.well" she hesitated. "I came here looking for work. An
apprenticeship with a seamstress, something of that sort. You have to start
somewhere I suppose."
     Hornblower brought Madeleine and himself to stand in front of the
hotel door. "This is the Beautiful Season. Would you be requiring any more
assistance, Ma'am?"
     "If it's not too much trouble, would you mind taking me up to my room?"
     "I do have to get back to my ship, Madam." He clenched his hands into
fists to keep them from shaking.
     "Oh, please! It will only take a moment!"
     Hornblower sighed. He scanned the street briefly for anyone who might
recognize him and said, "All right. But I must get back to my ship once I see
you to your room."
     Madeleine smiled and stepped into the dimly lit hotel.
     Hornblower waited outside the room until Madeleine successfully
unlocked the door. For some peculiar reason, he didn't feel safe standing
here. He swallowed hard, trying to calm himself. "Good evening then,
Madeleine." He gave a small bow and turned to leave.
     "No" Madeleine pulled the young Lieutenant inside her room and
slammed the door.
     Horatio was shocked by her sudden change in attitude. He stared at her
in disbelief as he struggled against her grasp, insisting that he needed to
get back to the Indefatigable.
     "Let me ask you this, Mr. Hornblower. Do you like this life?"
     "Pardon?"
     "Do you like this life?"
     "II suppose. Yes."
     "You like living on the ocean? Risking your life for your country?"
     "Well" he wasn't sure of what to say. He feared he'd say the wrong
thing. "IumI could do without the risk."
     Madeleine smiled evilly.
     Before Hornblower realized what had happened, two candles on the wall
had been lit and Madeleine was standing before him like she hadn't moved a
muscle. He looked at the candles, then at her, and back at the candles. "How"
     "How did I do it?" she asked innocently.
     Hornblower nodded.
     "I did it in a series of simple gestures, like you, only I moved too
fast for you to see."
     "What are you?"
     "If I tell you, you must promise not to tell anyone."
     Horatio nodded once more. Again, before he realized it, his cape, hat,
coat and neckerchief were gone and draped over the chair on the far wall. His
breath caught in his throat. He hadn't been this afraid since, well, he
didn't want to think of the name. Strange thing was, he was afraid of a woman!
     Madeleine took a couple steps forward, forcing her prey against the
wall.
     "What are you going to do?" he asked.
     "You wanted to find out what I am" She didn't finish her sentence
before she bared her teeth and sank them into Hornblower's exposed neck.
     Hornblower cried out, but went quiet as Madeleine fed on the rich
fluid which gave him life.
     His strong heartbeat rang through her ears and began to slow the more
blood she took from him.
     He became dizzy as his strength and spirit were drained from his body.
He let his head fall back against the wall.
     Madeleine released her death grip after a few moments, letting her
victim fall to the floor.
     Horatio's eyes fluttered when he blinked as he stared up at Madeleine.
His lips parted slightly and he swallowed hard, trying to get the dizziness
to pass.
     As she looked down at his huddled form, she moved her tongue over her
top front teeth and the tips of her fangs. She licked her lips, finishing the
blood she had left behind. "Sweet to the taste. The sign of a pure heart,"
she said. Her face was flushed as Hornblower's warm blood coursed through her
veins.
     Madeleine liked this boy. There was something about him that intrigued
her. Of course, it would be a shame to let him die here. She crouched down to
look at him more closely. "What am I to do with you? Eh, Mr. Hornblower? What
should I do?" She paused. "Should I let you die?"
     Horatio tried to move to get away from her, but it was almost
impossible.
     "No. You're too handsome." She trailed a finger down his jaw. "Too
beautiful a specimen."
     There was a shadow that hung over him, cloaked in darkness. He knew
that it was Death. He could feel its icy breath against his skin. He looked
away from it, knowing what would happen if he were to even glance in its
direction. Then, he managed to get away from his little corner and he let
himself stretch out, back to the floor, in the middle of the room. He let his
eyes close, no longer able to hold them open.
     Madeleine moved to Horatio and sat on her knees. She leaned over him,
studying his pale features. Her lips brushed his ear. "I can give you another
life," she whispered. "Or, I can leave you here and let you meet your end.
Which will it be, Horatio? Life or death?"
     "Life," he choked out.
     She smiled and moved away from the Lieutenant.

To be continued...