Chapter no 20

Daughter of the Siren Queen

DREAD SEIZES EVERY MUSCLE in my body for a full second.

“Where have you been hiding?” Father asks. “My men searched the ship thoroughly.”

My mind races. Did he see me in the water? Is he trying to get me to admit something? Where is my crew? What has he done to them?

“I went ashore,” I lie smoothly.

“Good, you can show us where the treasure is.”

Several of his men stand behind him, hands resting against their sword hilts. Tylon is among them.

“Don’t bother trying to sing. Their ears are covered,” Father says. I’m only mildly surprised he would risk himself by not covering his own ears. But then I attribute it to his own arrogance. As soon as he is done with me, he will cover them and move on with his plans. It’s probably too much to hope for the charm to start singing again.

“I’m giving Tylon your ship, since you ruined his.” “Ruined? I sank it. Where is my crew?”

“They’re below, waiting for you. Why don’t we go see them?” His tone replaces the blood in my veins with ice. What has he done to them?

Tylon’s men draw their swords at some unheard command. There are over ten of them crammed into my modestly sized room. Were my father not here, I might attempt to fight my way through them. But with him here, I know I don’t stand a chance.

And I need to see my crew. Horrid images flash in my mind. Images of them already bloodied and dead. It would be like him to kill them all and lock me up in the brig with nothing but corpses of all my loved ones for company.

But when we get down there, I am not met with death. My crew is safe for now, but locked in the cells, with even more of my father’s men stationed to watch them.

“Captain,” Niridia says with relief. Mandsy is in the cell with her. Sorinda, Riden, Kearan, Enwen, and the others are spread throughout all the cells in the brig.

“Quiet,” my father barks out before turning to me. “Where’s the treasure, Alosa?”

“I didn’t find it.”

My father draws his pistol and points it at me. I stare at it, unblinking. “I don’t care what you do to me.”

“I thought not,” he says, and rotates his arm slightly to the right, to one of the other cells.

Before I can scream, he pulls the trigger. Niridia’s leg buckles, forcing her to the ground, blood seeping through a hole in the leggings over her knee.

I stare at the red spreading across the floor, trying to make sense of it, pressing myself against my father’s men to reach her.

Another shot fires.

My gaze snaps back up to my father. He has out a new pistol, smoke coalescing from it. Reona, one of my riggers, jerks to the right and falls.

Father pulls out a third pistol. “Father, stop it!”

He ignores me. A change is coming over him. Maiming them isn’t enough now. He’s angrier with me than I’ve ever seen him. I know that the next shot will claim a life.

“Please!” I shout as I try throwing my father’s men off me. There are too many of them.

It’s Deros who takes the shot through the heart. Deros who sinks to the ground with lifeless eyes. Deros who I’ll never see again.

I want to run until my legs fail me. Yell until my voice runs dry. Pound at my father’s head until it flattens into a puddle on the ground.

But none of those things would change the fact that he’s gone.

“You cannot get to the treasure from the island!” I scream at him. “It’s under the water, where only sirens can reach it.”

The fourth pistol he’d drawn lowers slightly. “How do you know this?”

I can barely see through the water that’s gathered at my eyes, but I somehow manage a quick lie. “I’m unaffected by the siren’s song, but I still hear it. They sing about it. I heard them singing as they counted their coins and moved about under the water. The only way to that treasure is below the surface.”

Father is silent. I can tell he thinks over the words very carefully, deciding whether or not to believe them. I’m desperate for him to believe the lie.

“Then we’ll have to deal with the beasts first,” he says, “before we go exploring underwater with our diving bell.”


“You care what happens to the sirens now? Good. You can watch from the porthole.” He grabs me by the arm, and it takes him and three others to restrain me, but I don’t go without a fight. I get a good kick in between the legs of one of the pirates, then take a fist to my jaw. My nails rake down the face of another man.

In the end, they wrestle me into my own cushioned cell. The one with a tiny porthole, too small to shimmy through, were I to knock out the glass.

“You don’t have a say anymore,” Father says. “You’re going to stay locked up until you’ve learned your lesson and watched every member of your crew suffer and die.”

I scream at him, rattle the bars, but I know there is no escaping from these cells. They were built for me, so I could stock up my abilities. I know there is no getting out of them.

No running to my bleeding crew members who are still alive. Mandsy is already at Niridia’s side to help her. She shouts orders to Sorinda, who is in the cell with Reona, trying to staunch the bleeding wound.

I can’t even warn the sirens about what’s coming for them. They are too far away for me to sing to them. Were I under the water, I could do it, but like this, trapped above it—I’m useless.

Father exits the brig, satisfied by my temporary punishment. He leaves Tylon and several of his men to guard us, now that my ship is his. As if. Not while I draw breath. The Ava-lee is mine.

Tylon offers me several sneering, preening looks before saying, “Thank you, Alosa,” much too loudly with the wax in his ears. Only when he’s satisfied with his own gloating does he leave me and my crew belowdecks.

I kick at the bars and hiss profanities in his direction.

When he is out of sight, there’s nothing I can dwell on but the bleeding girls in the brig. On Deros’s body. Wallov closes his friend’s eyes and sits on the floor next to him.

“Push harder, Sorinda!” Mandsy says. “It will hurt her, but it’s better than her dying! Wallov, toss her your shirt!”

Mandsy has already tied a tourniquet above Niridia’s knee. She focuses now on directing Sorinda.

“She’s having a hard time breathing,” Sorinda says.

Her voice less urgent, Mandsy asks, “Is blood coming out of her mouth?”


Mandsy blinks slowly. “Let go of the wound, Sorinda. Hold her hand and talk to her.”

“What is it, Mandsy?” I ask.

“The ball must have struck a lung. It’s kinder to let her bleed out than choke on her own blood.”

Every breath I take seems to fuel my hatred for my father.

“It will be all right,” Sorinda says, her voice taking on a soft tone. I didn’t think she knew how to be soft. “The pain will stop soon, Reona. Close your eyes. Just listen to my voice.”

I cannot take this. I cannot stand being trapped in here and unable to do anything while my crew dies around me!

“Athella?” I call out.

“They searched me too well, Captain,” she answers. “I haven’t so much as a hairpin on me.”

“Sorinda, do you have any weapons hidden on you?” “No.”

Reona lets out her last breath. Sorinda releases her hand, setting it gently at her side.

For several seconds, I can do nothing but blink. “We’ll find a way out of this. Everyone think.”

I refuse to give up, even when my own mind tries to tell me it’s useless. Tylon has the keys. He will keep them close. He won’t let anything go wrong. Not now that he thinks he’s so close to getting what he’s always wanted.

Thank you, Alosa, he said. For betraying my father. For taking myself out of the running. For making him look good. He thinks my father’s legacy will go to him now. I curse Tylon’s name.

“How’s Niridia?” I dare to ask.

“I’m fine,” she says. Her grunts are audible now that Reona’s gurgling gasps have ceased.

“She’ll be okay,” Mandsy says, “so long as I can get to my kit soon. I need to dig the ball out of her knee.”

What I need is to get Tylon back down here. I can’t get us out of here unless I can reach something useful.

“Are you all right?”

Riden is in the cell next to mine. I haven’t been able to spare him a glance with everything else happening.

“I’m fine,” I say. But it’s not true. Not with the two bodies in the brig. “What happened after you left?”

It clears my head to focus on something other than the deaths around me.

I tell them about meeting my mother again and what she offered us. “We were that close to beating him?” Niridia asks.

“Stop talking,” Mandsy tells her. “It distracts me from the pain!”

“We’ve been in tough situations before,” Riden says, “and we made it out alive. We’ll do it again.”

“Are you working on another brilliant plan?” I ask.

“Not yet. But I’m sure I’ll think of something. And this time, I’m going to avoid getting shot.”

The situation is too dire for me to laugh, but I appreciate Riden’s efforts at lightening it. I stare at the porthole in my cell. It offers a torturing glimpse of freedom while being utterly useless.

Through it, I see the fleet move farther out to sea, and my ship moves with them just a ways. Just enough for me to get a view of the fight that’s about to happen, I realize. The ship is moving for my benefit.

Though my father’s men all have their ears covered, it won’t stop them from communicating. The fleet already has signals in place. My father has different flags he hoists up in the air, each one with a different meaning. They can still coordinate an attack.

My focus is no longer on me and my crew, but my mother and the sirens. They won’t come to the surface, will they? Not when they can see the hulls of all those ships. They must know they are at a disadvantage. But how could they know their voices won’t work on the men? They’ll think themselves invulnerable when pitted against them.

“Stay under the water,” I whisper. I did not come all this way just to lose my mother to death.

At first nothing happens. The ships anchor themselves and wait. Until a man is thrown overboard.

I didn’t see it happen, but I heard the splash and then spotted the man in the water. Did they draw straws? Or did Father pick some unknowing victim, lure him over to the side of his ship, and push?

All is silent for a moment. Nothing but the pirate stirs in the water.

And then a song can be heard, faint at first. Then overpowering. I assume the poor sod in the water can’t hear it, because he doesn’t dive down toward it. Instead I watch as graceful arms grasp onto him before pulling him below.

The water stills once again, but not for long. Several more songs rise to the surface—the most beautiful, glorious songs I have ever heard. They’re all different, coming from many sirens at once, but somehow the melodies do not clash. They rise and fall together in cadences that pierce my heart.

My men are unaffected. Their ears are uncovered, the wax probably stolen by my father during the attack, but it is of no matter. True to my mother’s promise, the sirens are not pulling the four men left in my crew under their spell.

They sing to all the other pirates, inviting them to join them in the invigorating water, promising them love and warmth and acceptance. Heads full of luscious hair breach the water’s surface, mouths open in song. They move tantalizingly, trying to entice the men into the water.

It’s odd how clear the sound is amidst the exploding of gunpowder. Battle cries carry to us on the wind. Sirens shriek and hiss.

Many men hold harpoons, waiting until the right moment to fling them into the sea at targets I can’t see clearly. Others point cannons or muskets directly into the water, firing and reloading as quickly as possible.

The water turns rapidly in multiple currents—the currents of swimming sirens. Luminescent bodies float on the surface of the water in a tangle of rich hair and blood-stained skin. And some of the sirens turn to songs of grief instead of those of seduction.

While the men on the ships remain unharmed, some do not get to fight from safe heights. Many are forced into rowboats to fling harpoons from a shorter distance. Others on the boats point their guns at the water, but they cannot reload them quickly enough. As soon as they’ve deposited one round into the water, arms in glistening hues, from ivory to golden-brown to midnight black, break the surface and drag men under. One siren flings herself out of the water, leaping over the boat as a dolphin might, and plummets into an unsuspecting pirate, knocking him into the sea below with her.

She had a beauty that was almost painful to look at with hair the color of white starlight, strung with pearls and shells. It clung to her body as she thrust herself out of the water, reaching clear down to her knees.

The sirens look so very similar to human women. If it weren’t for their sharpened nails and teeth, and exquisite beauty, one wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Even without the lull of the sirens’ songs, the pirates stare, mesmerized, at the water. It costs many of them their lives.

It’s a strange thing for me to see firsthand the brutality and beauty of my own kind. So much of what I am makes sense. The ruthless killer in me might be part of my nature, rather than my upbringing.

A head of red hair appears above the ocean’s surface.

“No! Get down!” I scream the words as loud as I can, but they cannot be heard over the distance that separates us, over the cannon fire and gunshots.

There’s pointing and shuffling in the ship nearest my mother. Guns are immediately replaced with nets.

It takes some time; the siren queen is a formidable creature. At least a dozen men lose their lives.

But they catch her. I watch as she’s transported to the Dragon’s Skull. Watch as the rest of the sirens left alive retreat to below the surface. Now that their queen is gone, there is nothing they can do without her direction.

He will question her. Torture her, until he has all the information he wants.

And I can do nothing while stuck in yet another cell.

The ocean returns to calmness, as though a fight never happened. Night hits the water, and the pirates go to sleep.

* * *

I try shouting for Tylon. Maybe now that the sirens lost the battle, the men won’t have their ears covered.

But as the night goes on, I’m forced to accept that none of them can hear a damned thing. They don’t respond to my yelling. They don’t venture down to the brig. They’re probably sleeping in our bunks over on the other side of the ship.

I slump to the floor, arms resting atop my bent knees. What can I try next?

Riden moves around in the cell next to mine. He presses against the bars, where he can get a good look at me.

“Come here,” he says.

I edge as close to the bars as I can get. Several quiet conversations have broken out over the crew. Ours probably won’t be overheard.

“I want to tell you something.”

“What’s that?” I whisper.

“Sailing with you and your crew was the first time I ever enjoyed being a pirate.”

I laugh, the sound loud and awkward. “Don’t try to make me feel better.

I lost two friends today, and Niridia is injured. I don’t want to laugh.”

“You need to keep your spirits up. We’ll find a way out of this. He hasn’t won yet.”

But the longer we sit here quietly in the dark, the more I start to think that he has won. We’re trapped. He has my mother. It’s only a matter of time before he has the treasure, too. We’re locked in this brig with two corpses. My heart is breaking from how much I’ve lost on this journey. More death and torture are all that await us once we get back to the keep.

I don’t see how anything will change with time.

“Captain?” A whisper floats through the brig—and not from one of the cells.

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