Chapter no 6

Daughter of the Siren Queen

“YOU WANT ME TO help you break in to your father’s study?” “Yes.”

“All right, then,” Riden says.

I wait, expecting more. When he doesn’t say anything, I ask, “That’s it? You don’t have any questions for me?” No patronizing words to throw in my face? No conditions or stipulations? No I-told-you-sos?

“I overheard your interrogation with Vordan, remember? If it were me, I’d do the same thing.”

I realize then that he’s not going to lord this over my head. He’s not smirking at me the way Vordan did. Not pleased with himself or pleased by my own pain.

He wants to help.

Riden is more confusing than ever. But I don’t have time to think on it.

What we’re doing is dangerous. Treasonous. If my father catches us, we’re all dead. Which is why I’m bringing only three with me: Athella, because she can get me through any door; Sorinda, because she can cut down anyone in our path; and Riden, because—

I just want him with me.

The four of us leave the ship and enter the keep. We slide along cave wall after cave wall, peering around every bend and turn to make certain it’s clear before proceeding. It’s getting late, and we can only hope that most pirates have already gone to bed.

When we reach the door, I put Sorinda and Riden on either end of the tunnel as lookouts. Athella gets on her knees to inspect the lock while I stand just behind her. My fingers start to fidget, so I fold my arms.

Athella lets out a low whistle.

“Shh,” I say, casting a nervous glance down toward my father’s rooms. “Sorry,” she whispers. “It’s just that the king really doesn’t want anyone

getting in here. He has one of those fancy new Wenoa locks with a cylindrical keyhole. Most lockpicks haven’t figured out how to manufacture the tools necessary to get through these.”

“So you can’t do it?”

A mischievous grin takes over her face. “Didn’t say that, Captain. I’m no average lockpick. It’ll just take me a while.”

“I don’t how much time you’ll have.” “Then I’d better get started.”

She unrolls her cloth of tools and grabs a hollow, cylindrical piece of metal and inserts it into the hole. Then she grabs a pick and starts poking it around the edges. I thank the stars that I have Athella in my crew. My lockpicking skills are nowhere near as advanced as hers.

“Powerful spring,” she mumbles to herself and adjusts her fingers slightly.

I realize I’m holding my breath while she works, so I force myself to let the air out of my lungs. “If you get this open, you can have half of my share of our next plunder.”

She laughs. “If? Captain, I’m heartbroken.”

“Someone’s coming!” Sorinda whispers through the flickering torchlight.

Athella shoves the tools and kit into her corset before standing. “What do we do?”

I haven’t had time to soak up more song. I’m practically empty after unleashing myself on Vordan, so we need to be clever in order to get out of this one. And if it’s my father approaching, singing will do us no good. As Vordan said, my abilities have never worked on him.

I wave Riden over. He joins us, and I start laughing and walking in the direction of the new footsteps.

Athella and Riden catch on quickly, relaxing their stances. Athella lets out a giggle, and Riden smiles openly. Sorinda falls into line with us, wearing an uncomfortable grimace, but she quickly masks her face with her usual apathy. Sorinda hasn’t much practice with playacting. She prefers not being seen altogether, but that is impossible at the moment.

“But the fool was so angry that he challenged me to a duel,” I say as though continuing a story.

A few men round the corner, and we continue walking toward them as though we’re heading farther into the keep.

“What happened next, Captain?” Athella asks.

“I had no choice but to accept. I embarrassed the poor man in front of his friends.”

The footsteps belong to Adderan and a couple of his men. He must have come by to make more apologies to my father, and to give him more assurances of his loyalty.

They give us inappropriate, lingering glances, likely thinking us to be whores requested by the king. That is, until Adderan bothers to look at my face. He grimaces as he recognizes me, then hurries the others along.

I almost wish he’d provoke me. I’d love an excuse to kill him.

We continue walking long after the men pass us. Then, just to be extra cautious, I say loudly, “Hold on, I’ve forgotten something on the ship.”

We turn back down the tunnel until we reach the door once more.

Everyone resumes their posts.

“They’ve moved on,” Riden says from his end.

Athella has her tools back out in an instant. This time she’s quicker with her hands.

Several minutes pass as she pokes at the lock. Two more times we have to pause at the sound of echoing footsteps, but they’re only traveling through some other adjoining tunnel. We don’t come into contact with anyone else.

And finally, a low click emits from the lock.

“Got you,” Athella announces quietly. She places her tools back in their assigned spots before standing. “It’s ready for you, Captain.”

A chill sweeps down my spine at the pronouncement. I’m really about to do this. I’m trusting a rival pirate lord over my father.

“Athella, take Riden’s place and keep watch.” Her lips round in a slight pout.

“You’ll see what’s inside soon enough. Riden, you’re with me.”

With Athella and Sorinda keeping watch on either end of the tunnel, I grab one of the torches from the wall and slip into the room with Riden right behind me.

* * *

The study looks as though it was carved right out of the rock. The edges break sharply as if a pickax worked at them. The decor is opulent, much like my own tastes. A massive desk is neatly set with quills and parchment. All the drawers are locked. The chair in front of it is padded with feathers, probably goose. Another chair rests against one of the walls, equally soft with black fabric on the seat. A cabinet on the far side holds rums and wines and two glasses. A chaise and bookcase have their own wall. A tapestry depicting sirens and pirates engaged in battle hangs opposite the desk, next to the lone chair.

After placing the torch in a sconce on the wall, I kneel in front of the desk and get to work at the locks on the drawers. The locks are child’s play compared to the one on the door. I don’t need Athella for them.

“What can I do?” Riden asks as I prod with the tools in my hands.

“For starters, you could be quiet.” Harsh, I know. But I’m too on edge right now to be nice.

The top drawer slides open, and I put away my picks.

There are only two items in here: a piece of parchment and a metal rod.

I pull out the rod first. It’s hollow, no longer than a foot, and ancient-looking symbols have been pounded into the metal. The supposed siren-controlling device? It doesn’t hum or pulse or glow or do anything else mystical. In fact—

I examine a section near one of the openings more closely. I recognize the workmanship. Hakin, one of the keep’s smithies made this. It’s faint, but

there’s his signature on the end. He’s hidden it within one of the ancient symbols. Anyone unfamiliar with his work would miss it entirely.

Why would Father have this made? There isn’t a glass for spying or anything inside of the rod—nothing at all to make it useful. Though you could probably clobber someone with it if you were so inclined.

I pull the parchment out next. I read over my father’s handwriting quickly, little phrases jumping out at me.

… control sirens …

… wield with care …

… immunity to enchanting song …

Riden reads over my shoulder, but I don’t mind. More and more things are becoming clear.

I set the paper down, pick up the device.

And I laugh. “This is all fake. He didn’t find it suspicious that my father placed an advanced lock on the main door yet such a flimsy one on the drawers? My father likely planted this for a spy so they would be given false information. And this”—I raise the rod—“it’s just a piece of metal. Vordan and his spy are idiots.”

My shoulders sag, all the tension leaving me at last. I was a fool for listening to Vordan. For letting him get to me. Of course Father would have something in place for spies wandering through here. Maybe I will venture to those dungeons one last time before we leave so the world can be rid of Vordan forever.

I risked our lives for nothing.

I return the items to the drawer and lock it. I’m about to lead Riden out of here, when my eyes glance over the cabinet of rum once more.

There are two glasses. Two chairs in the room. And Father is the only one ever seen leaving or entering.

I’m at the tapestry in an instant, pulling it aside and feeling the wall for a switch of some sort.

And I find one.

The wall swings outward, and my breath stops at the sight in front of me.

Riden joins me at the opening.

A woman sits on another chaise, staring at a painting of the sea at sunset hung on the wall. She’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Her hair is a deep red, twisting around her shoulders as if it were tendrils of flame. Her skin is so fair, as if it has never seen the sun. Her lashes are long and as red as her hair. Her form hides behind a simple dress. And while she looks frail and somewhat sunken, I know she was once strong and beautiful.

She doesn’t turn as I step into the room, though I know she hears me.

Her eyes close briefly, as though she’s irritated by the disturbance.

I feel tears prick at the sides of my eyes, but I don’t let them out. Not yet. I try to speak, but it turns into a cough when the words stick.

She looks at me then, and those green eyes show such surprise, they confirm my suspicions that no one has ever seen her in this room aside from my father.

I try again. “What’s your name?” This time the words are clear, but they seem too loud somehow.

“Ava-lee,” she says in a voice as beautiful as the rest of her. She brings a hand up to cover her gaping mouth, then lowers it, fingers trembling. “Are you Alosa?”

This time the tears come. I can’t stop them, nor do I have a desire to do



She stands in one graceful movement. Before I know it, she’s holding me

so tightly I can scarcely breathe. The embrace is strange, something I’ve never quite experienced before, but it is exquisite. Such a simple thing, but it says so much without saying a thing.

A thousand questions fight their way to the front of my mind, desperately trying to be first.




Why seems the most important.

“Why are you here?” I ask when I can calm my tears.

She steps back to survey me from head to toe. “You’re beautiful. You don’t look like him at all. Blessed ocean.” Tears fall from her own eyes, and

she touches them as though she doesn’t know what to make of them before focusing on me once more. “Oh, my sweet girl. At last.” She crushes me to her again, and I marvel that something so frail can be so strong.

Someone clears his throat from behind us. I panic for a moment, until I remember it’s only Riden.

“I’m going to wait back in there,” he says, giving us some privacy. I’m sure he’ll be able to hear the whole exchange, but it’s kind of him anyway.

“Who is that?” my mother asks.

“That’s Riden. He’s … a member of my crew.” “Your crew?”

“I’m the captain of my own ship.”

She smiles, but it looks painful on her. “Of course you are. You were always meant to rule. It’s in your blood.”

A silence fills the space, and I remember then how desperate I am for answers.

“Why are you here?” I ask again.

She brushes a hand over my hair, stroking its lengths while still clutching me to her. It’s oddly soothing. “He locked me in here after you were born. It’s been over eighteen years. Eighteen years without you or the sea.”

“But why?” I pull away from her again, needing to see her face. Suddenly words tumble out of my mouth. “He told me you left me. You didn’t want me. You’re supposed to be at the Isla de Canta. You’re a mindless beast with no humanity.” I’m crying again because of what it all means. My father has been lying to me ever since I was born.

She shrinks back at my words. Her voice turns faint. “Please don’t think such things of me. I tried to escape this room many times and come to you. I swear it upon the lives of all those I’m sworn to protect.”

My heart aches and my face turns downward in shame. “I’m truly sorry for believing him. I don’t anymore.”

It is a strange thing to be so torn apart from the inside. I’m overjoyed to have found my mother, but that joy is pressed right up against the sting of my father’s betrayal.

I dare to look up again. “Why did he put you in here?”

“He’s never said so, but I think he didn’t want me influencing you. A mother would split your loyalties.”

“Then why didn’t he kill you?”

She looks away from me for the first time. “You don’t want to know.” I’m afraid I already do. “Please, tell me. I think I need to know.”

She seems to mull it over for a moment. “You’re already a grown woman.” Her face falls at missed years. “He wanted more daughters. More sirens to control and manipulate as he’s done to you. More power.”

Despicable bastard. But I put a hold on cursing his name for a moment. “Do I have sisters?” The thought is both exciting and horrifying, now

that I know what my father is truly capable of.

“No. I have been unable to give him any more children.” She looks sad at the thought, and I find that most peculiar.

“Do you want to?”

Her perfect lips turn down in a look of disgust. “With him? I don’t want to be touched by him ever again. But I would have liked to have many daughters. I wanted to raise them and teach them. To see them grow. He took that from me.” She touches my shoulders gently. “But I’m pleased beyond words to see you now.”

Perhaps it should take longer than a few minutes to turn against the man who raised me. To switch sides so easily. But how can I do anything else when I know what he’s done to my mother? A mother who is not a mindless beast.

A wave of anger washes over me, smothering any loyalty I once had for the pirate king. “I had no idea you were in here. You must know, if I had known, I would have come for you immediately. I’m only in here tonight by accident.”

“Don’t blame yourself. There’s nothing anyone can do. I’m merely a woman when I’m away from the sea.”

When the torrent of bitter anger finally clears, resolve takes its place. “Well, I’m not. I’m getting you out of here. Now. Riden!”

He’s back in the room in an instant. “Can you carry her?” I ask.

“Of course.”

This is such a dangerous situation—it must be handled carefully, but my mind is pounding, so full it’s fit to burst.

My father lied.

My mother isn’t a monster. She’s a prisoner.

I have to get her out.

But what if we’re caught? It doesn’t matter.

I have to try.

“You will not spend one more night in this room,” I promise her.

“What can you do against him? I’ll not put you in danger. So long as he doesn’t know that you know, you’re safe. Get away from here. From him. Don’t worry about me.”

My aching heart soothes at her words. They remind me of a conversation, or rather an interrogation, between Riden and me.

There are different kinds of fathers. Those who love unconditionally, those who love on condition, and those who never love at all.

My mother doesn’t know me, but she is putting my life before hers. Is that what it should have been like between me and my father?

I scan the room quickly, looking for anything that will help us secret her away. There isn’t much. An unmade bed with a feathered mattress. A chaise. Paintings on the walls. Some books on a shelf.

She must have gone mad in here.

I grab one of the blankets from the bed and wrap her in it, taking care to brush all of her hair away from her face and tuck it out of sight under the blanket. I am known for my red hair. If anyone were to see her, it would arouse the wrong kind of curiosity.

“She needs to keep her hair covered,” I say to Riden.

He nods, and in one motion, he sweeps her off her feet and holds her easily in his arms.

We’ll need to set sail right away. It’s fortunate we just restocked all the supplies after our last voyage. Where can we go where the pirate king won’t find us? Land? I can’t give up the sea. I’d go mad.

“Alosa,” Riden says.


“Look at me.” I do.

“We’ll get her out of here. She’ll be safe. Then we can plan our next move.”

It hits me then just how remarkable Riden is being about all of this. Didn’t he tell me my father was despicable? That I was a fool for following him? That he didn’t truly love me?

But now, when it’s all proved correct, he’s not menacing or condescending.

He’s still helping me.

He’s holding my mother so carefully, and the sight gives me the strength to do what I need to do.

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