Authors: Justin Somper
Demons of the Ocean
Vampirates Book 1
THE STORM, THE SHANTY, AND THE SHIP
As the first crack of thunder broke over Crescent Moon Bay, Grace Tempest opened her eyes. A flash of sheet lightning broke behind the curtains. Shivering, she threw back the bedclothes and walked over to the bedroom window. It had broken free and was wide open, beating in the gale like a glass wing.Grace reached out to pull it back. It required some effort and the rain drenched her in the process, but she managed it. She fastened the window but left it just slightly ajar--not wanting to entirely shut out the storm. It had a strange, rough music with too many drumrolls and clashing cymbals. It made her heart race from excitement as well as fear. The rainwater was icy cold on her face and neck and arms. It made her skin tingle.4Across the room, Connor was still asleep--his mouth wide open, one arm flopping over the edge of his bunk. How could he sleep through such a racket? Perhaps her twin brother had clean exhausted himself playing soccer all afternoon.Beyond the lighthouse window, the bay was empty of ships. This was no night to be out sailing. The lighthouse beam swept across the surface of the ocean, illuminating the troubled waves. Grace smiled, thinking of her dad up above in the lamp room, watching over the harbor, keeping everyone safe.Another sheet of lightning cracked and splintered outside the window. Stumbling back, Grace careered into Connor's bed. Her brother's face suddenly crinkled and then his eyes opened. He looked up with a combination of confusion and annoyance. She stared down at his bright green eyes. They were the exact same shade as hers--as if an emerald had been cut in two. Their dad's eyes were brown, so Grace had always thought that they must have taken after their mother. Sometimes, in her dreams, a woman appeared at the lighthouse door, smiling and looking down on Grace with the same piercing green eyes."Hey, you're all wet!"Grace realized that she was dripping rainwater onto Connor.5"There's a storm. Come and look!"She grabbed his arm and pulled him out from under the bedclothes, dragging him toward the window. He stood there, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, as another vein of lightning danced in front of them."Isn't it amazing?" Grace said.Connor nodded but was silent. Although he had lived all his days in the lighthouse at the edge of the shore, he had never gotten used to the raw power of the ocean--its ability to change from a calm millpond one moment to a raging furnace the next."Let's go and see what Dad's up to," he said."Good idea." Grace grabbed her dressing gown from the bedroom door and wrapped herself up all snug. Connor pulled on a hooded sweater over his T-shirt. Together they raced out of the bedroom and climbed the spiral staircase up to the lamp room.As they made their way up, the noise of the storm grew louder. Connor didn't like it one bit, but he wasn't about to share that with Grace. His sister was quite fearless. It was strange. Grace was as thin and bony as a rake, but as tough as an old boot. Connor was physically strong, but Grace had a steely mental strength that he had yet to gain. Perhaps he never would."Well, hello there!" said their dad as they emerged into the lamp room. "Storm woke you up, did it?"6"No, Grace woke me up," Connor said. "I was in the middle of a really good dream! I was about to score a hat trick."
"I don't understand how anyone can sleep through a storm like this," Grace said. "It's too noisy and too beautiful."
"You're weird," Connor said.Grace frowned and jutted out her lip. Sometimes, though they were twins, she felt they were polar opposites.Their dad took a sip of his strange-smelling tea and beckoned to them."Grace, why don't you come over here and get a ringside seat for the show. Connor, come and sit by me."The twins did as he said, squatting down on the floor on either side of him. Instantly, Grace was fascinated, enjoying the chance to watch the raging bay from the highest vantage point. Connor had a flash of vertigo but he felt his father's reassuring hand on his shoulder, sending waves of calm through his body.Their dad took another sip of his tea. "Who'd like to hear a shanty?" he asked."Me!" Connor and Grace answered in unison. They both knew exactly the shanty he would sing. He'd sung it to them for as long as they could remember, from the time when they'd been babies--in matching cots, side by side--and couldn't even understand the words.7"This," he announced grandly--as if he hadn't done so a thousand times before--"this is a shanty sung by people long before the new flood came and made the world so wet. This is a shanty about a ship that sails through the night, through all eternity. A ship that carries a crew of damned souls--the demons of the ocean. A ship that has been sailing since time began and will voyage on until the very end of the world..."Connor trembled with delicious anticipation. Grace smiled from ear to ear. Their dad, the lighthouse keeper, began to sing.I'll tell you a tale of Vampirates, A tale as old as true.Yea, l'll sing you a song of an ancient ship,And its mighty fearsome crew.Yea, sing you a song of an ancient shipThat sails the oceans blue...That haunts the oceans blue.As her dad sang, Grace looked out through the window at the bay below. The storm was still raging but she felt perfectly safe, looking down from such a height.8The Vampirate ship has tattered sailsThat flap like wings in fight.They say that the captain, he wears a veilSo as to curtail your frightAt his death pale skinAnd his lifeless eyesAnd his teeth as sharp as nightOh, they say that the captain, he wears a veilAnd his eyes never see the light.Connor watched as his dad used his hand to mime a veil. He shivered at the thought of the captain's horrible face.You'd better be good child--good as gold,As good as good can be.Else I'll turn you in to the VampiratesAnd wave you out to sea.Yes, you'd better be good, child--good as gold,Because--look! Can you see?There's a dark ship in the harbor tonight9And there's room in the hold for thee!(Plenty of room for thee!)Both twins looked out to the harbor, half expecting to see a dark ship waiting for them there. Waiting to take them away from their dad and their home. But the bay was empty.Well, if pirates are bad,And vampires are worse,Then I pray that as long as I beThat though I sing of VampiratesI never one shall see.Yea, if pirates are danger,And vampires are death,I'll extend my prayer for thee--That thine eyes never see a Vampirate...The lighthouse keeper reached out his hands to touch both children lightly on the shoulder.
...and they never lay a kind on thee.
Connor and Grace had known what was coming but still they jumped, before bursting into giggles. Their dad enfolded them in a hug."Who's ready for bed now?" he asked."I am," Connor said.Grace could have watched the storm all night, but she couldn't prevent a long yawn from escaping."I'll come down and tuck you in," their dad said. "Shouldn't you stay here and watch the bay?" Grace asked.Her dad smiled. "It won't take a moment. The lamp is on. Besides, Gracie, the bay is as empty as the grave tonight. There isn't one single ship out there. Not even the Vampirate ship."He winked at the twins, set down his mug of tea, and followed them downstairs. He tucked them both back into their beds and kissed first Grace then Connor good night.After he turned out the bedroom light, Grace lay there, tired but too exhilarated to sleep. She looked over at Connor, who once again was sprawled right across his bed, perhaps already back in the throes of his earlier dream.Grace couldn't resist one last glance at the bay. Once more, she pushed back the covers and padded across the floor to the window. The storm had softened just a little and, as the lighthouse beam swept across the waters, she saw the waves had lost some of their turbulence.And then she saw the ship.
It hadn't been there before, but there was no mistaking it now. One solitary ship, out in the middle of the bay. It hovered there, as if quite unaffected by the storm around it. As if it was sailing on the calmest of waters. Grace's eyes traced the outline of the dark silhouette. It made her think of the ancient ship in her dad's shanty. The ship of demons. She trembled at the very thought, imagining the veiled captain staring back at her through the dark night. But truly, the way this ship just floated there--as if suspended from the moon by an invisible string--made it appear to be watching, waiting. For something... or someone.Up above, in the lamp room, the lighthouse keeper saw the same ship out in the troubled waters. As he recognized its familiar shape, he couldn't help but smile. He took another sip of his tea. Then he lifted his hand and waved.
The whole of Crescent Moon Bay turned out for the lighthouse keeper's funeral. That day, not a single black garment was left to buy at the Crescent Moon Clothing Emporium. Not one flower remained at the Happy Stem Florist. Each and every bloom had been fashioned into wreaths and floral tributes. The largest of these was a tower of white and red gardenias in the shape of a lighthouse, surrounded by a swirling sea of eucalyptus.Dexter Tempest had been a good man. As lighthouse keeper, he had played an important part in the safekeeping of the bay. Many of those now standing around his grave, their bowed necks burning in the late afternoon sun, owed their life to Dexter's keen eyes and even sharper sense of duty. Others had Dexter to thank for the safe passage of one or more family members or close friends, rescued from the dangerous waters beyond the harbor--waters teeming with sharks and pirates... and worse.Crescent Moon Bay was the smallest of towns and each of its inhabitants seemed bound to the others as tightly as stitches in a piece of knitting.
Such a tight weave didn't necessarily make for comfortable living. Gossip flowed faster through the bay than the rapids up at Crescent Moon Creek. Right now, for example, there was just one topic of gossip--what was to become of the Tempest twins? There they stood, in front of their father's grave. Fourteen years old. Not quite kids, not yet adults--the girl tall and lanky with a rare intelligence, the boy already blessed with the body of an athlete. But truly, they had few blessings to count, now they were orphans and--but for each other--all alone in the world.No one in the bay had ever glimpsed the twins' mother--Dexter's wife. Some doubted even that a marriage had taken place. All they knew was that one day, Dexter Tempest left Crescent Moon Bay with a madcap notion to see something of the world. And, one day--a year or so later--he returned with a heavy heart and two swaddled parcels containing his twin children, Grace and Connor.Polly Pagett, matron at the Crescent Moon Bay Orphanage, squinted in the bright light to better observe the boy and girl. She appeared to be measuring them, much like an artist making a sketch. Polly was preoccupied by the dilemma of which bunks to allocate to her new arrivals. True, no arrangements had yet been discussed, but surely there was no option other than the orphanage for these two children. The boy looked exceedingly strong. He could be set to work in the harbor. And the girl, though slighter in frame, was as sharp as a tack. No doubt she'd excel at helping to stretch the orphanage's ever-dwindling budget. In spite of herself, a smile crept across Polly Pagett's tight, papery lips.Lachlan Busby, the bank manager, turned his head from the fine floral tribute commissioned by his wife (and surely unsurpassed in the churchyard) to better observe Grace and Connor. How poorly their father had provided for them. If only he had glanced across his bank accounts once in a while instead of devoting so much attention to the ships in the harbor. There was such a thing as giving too much. This was not a mistake Lachlan Busby ever intended to make.Busby had his own plans for the twins. Tomorrow, he would break the news to Grace and Connor--calmly and gently, of course--that they had nothing in this world. That Dexter's possessions--his boat, even the lighthouse itself--no longer belonged to them. Their father had left them nothing.He glanced for a moment at his wife, who stood by his side. Dear, sweet Loretta! He could see she found it impossible to take her eyes off the twins. It had been a cruel blow to them that they had never been able to have children. But now it seemed that things might have a way of working out. He squeezed her hand.Grace and Connor knew they were being looked at. It was nothing new. All their lives, they'd been the subject of gossip. They had never escaped the drama of their arrival in Crescent Moon Bay. And, as they'd grown, the emerald-eyed twins had continued to be the subject of rumor and speculation. There is envy in a small town like Crescent Moon Bay, and people were envious of the curious twins who seemed talented in ways their kids were not.People found it hard to figure out why the lighthouse keeper's son was so much better at sports than the rest. Whether it was soccer, basketball, or cricket, he seemed to run faster and strike harder, even when he neglected to show at team practice for weeks at a time. And the girl provoked equal suspicion--among her teachers as well as her classmates--with her unusual wide-ranging knowledge and strange notions about things far beyond her age and station in life.Dexter Tempest, so the rumors went, had been a strange father to the pair, filling their heads with curious tales. Others went further still, suggesting that he had returned home to Crescent Moon Bay with a broken mind, as well as a broken heart.