Chapter no 24

Daughter of the Siren Queen

WON’T YOU STAY with me? my mother begs for the tenth time that hour. We’ve spent days together under the water, talking, singing. My aunt, Arianna-leren, stands next to her. Now that we’re not under a time constraint, my mother made the introductions. Arianna-leren is a beauty with gold locks that pool around her in waves even thicker than mine.

The sirens no longer treat me as an outcast now that the pirates have been defeated.

You know I can’t, I say. I’ve stayed too long as it is.

But Kalligan is dead. He is no longer a threat. I’ve added his gold to the hoard.

I look down at the sand.

The sirens have so few cares.

They do not need to eat. The ocean nourishes them. They do not need clothing or shelter. There is nothing that can harm them so long as they stay underwater. Time is not something they concern themselves with. Their lives last twice as long as a human’s. While my mother has said I will likely keep my youthful appearance my whole life, my life span is likely to be as long as a human’s, since I will spend most of my life living as one.

The sirens’ way of life is a beautiful, carefree existence, spent constantly in the presence of loved ones. Had I never lived as a human, I’m sure I would think it perfect.

I try to find the right words to make her understand. I have spent all seventeen years of my life above the ocean, save the few instances I’ve been

forced into the water.

I’ve seen more than perfection.

I’ve loved and lost crew members, I continue. I’ve learned swordplay. I know the joy of climbing a mast and swinging on a rope. I’ve played the role of a teacher, a friend, a confidant.

The sirens don’t know the true value of these things, because they don’t know anything other than peace among themselves. The only conflicts to be had are when they’re luring men to their deaths.

I cannot live my life without the human experiences I cherish so much, I explain. I promise to visit often, but I need to lead a different life from yours.

Asta-reven will rule the charm when you are gone, sister, my aunt says.

You needn’t fear for our sake.

It is not for your sake that I am worried! Mother says. I’ve finally met my daughter. My only daughter. I don’t want her out of my sight again.

I’m warmed by her words, but it doesn’t change my mind. I say my good-byes before returning to my ship.

The bodies of the fallen have already been laid to rest in the sea. The Ava-lee was cleaned of blood and other refuse. We lit lanterns for the fallen, and the sirens gifted us with as much treasure as the Ava-lee can hold.

It is our gift to you, my mother said, for saving us all.

We set out on this voyage with thirty-four. Now there are twenty-two. It is plenty to sail us home and plenty to shred my heart. I will miss them terribly. Athella’s clever lockpicking fingers, Deros’s strength, Deshel’s and Lotiya’s laughter.

“Good visit?” Niridia asks at my return. Radita and Mandsy worked together to fashion a wooden crutch for her. She uses it to walk around the ship, despite Mandsy’s efforts to keep her in bed. Roslyn, too, is on the mend. She’s bedridden, but conscious now, her father never leaving her side.

“Yes. I could get used to having a mother fuss over me, but now I will miss her whenever I am away. It comes with both joy and pain.”

“Perhaps she will come visit us.”

I let out a guffaw. “You want to let the sirens roam the waters near wherever we establish our stronghold? I’d never rally more men to my cause.”

“But it would keep the land king from ever looking for us,” she points out.

“Very true. Perhaps I’ll give it more thought. How are things looking here?”

“The ship is ready. What heading should I give Kearan?”

We can go anywhere. Do anything. My father no longer controls us.

“To the keep,” I decide. “Let’s see what’s left of it after the land king swept through. We get rid of those who won’t be loyal. We sail to the port cities and clean out the pirate quarters. We build. And we make it better than it ever was before. It’s time to set up the reign of the pirate queen.”

Niridia smiles her approval. “Kearan! Stop ogling Sorinda and get this ship pointed due northeast!”

I stand at the edge of the ship, peering around the aftercastle to get another look at the Isla de Canta before we go. Part of me will always miss it, I think. This place where my family resides. But I will be back when we can spare the time. When I’ve built up what I first started to destroy for my father.

“Having second thoughts?” Riden leans on his forearms at the railing, letting his skin touch mine.

“No. I am exactly where I want to be. I only wish I could have all the years back I missed with my mother.”

“You could have them now,” he says gently. “You could live your life among the sirens and leave this all behind you.”

I smile and turn to him. “You and my mother are both missing one important thing.”

“What’s that?”

“I love being a pirate, and there’s nothing I want to be more.”

He relaxes considerably. “Thank the stars. I was trying so hard to be supportive and forget what I want most.”

“And what’s that?”

Those beautiful brown eyes glint. “You.”

“Have you decided you want to be a permanent member of the crew, then?” I tease.

“Aye, Captain.” He lifts the tricorne off my head and runs his fingers through my hair. “I’ll sail with you anywhere. I don’t care where we go or what we do as long as I’m with you.”

“Could be dangerous.” “You’ll protect me.”

He leans in and kisses me. So slowly it’s maddening.

When he pulls back, I say, “I run a tight ship, sailor. I expect the rules to be followed.”

“What rules would those be?”

“All men are required to keep a couple days’ worth of stubble on their chins. Makes them look more fearsome. Better pirates, you see.”

He grins so widely, I can feel my heart melt. “I had no idea you liked it so much.” He brings his lips to my ear. “You needn’t make a rule and trouble the other men. I’ll do it if you ask nicely.”

His lips trail down my neck and I shiver. “Anything else?” he asks. “I need to see you in my quarters for the rest.”


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