Chapter no 7

Daughter of the Siren Queen

SORINDA DOESN’T SAY A word when Riden and I exit my father’s study. She doesn’t even look surprised.

But Athella—

“Who’s that, Captain?”

“No time. Sorinda, take Athella and go retrieve Draxen from the dungeons. We’re leaving the keep, but tell no one. You must be discreet.”

“Have I ever been anything else?” Sorinda asks. Without waiting for an answer, she grabs Athella’s arm and leads her away.

“We need to be quick,” I tell Riden, “but not suspicious. Walk beside me.

Don’t speak if we’re stopped. Let me handle everything.”

He looks at me for a moment, surprise written across his face. “What?”

“Thank you, for my brother.” “It’s nothing.”

“It’s not nothing. It’s everything to me.”

His gratitude is overwhelming my already bursting heart. “In that case, you’re welcome. Now let’s go.”

“Lead the way.”

We walk at a brisk pace. We haven’t taken more than a couple of steps when Riden whispers my name.


“When we’re out of here, when we’re safely away from the king’s keep, I want to talk to you about something.”

“And what’s that?”

“Alosa?” A new voice comes down the tunnel, and it’s far too close. Tylon.

“Go on,” I whisper to Riden so quietly I might only be mouthing the words. “I’ll distract him. You keep going.”

“I don’t know where I’m going.” “Just go.” I wave one hand frantically.

I rush back the way we came, running right past the study door and halting just before the tunnel bends. Tylon’s face appears above mine.

“Are you alone?” he asks, peering over my shoulder. Since he doesn’t reach for his sword, I assume Riden listened and kept going.

“Yes, why?”

“It sounded like you were talking to someone. What are you doing here?” He looks curiously at the study door, and my heart plummets. He cannot think I came from there. He’d rat me out to my father in a heartbeat. I need a good lie. And I need it now.

“I was looking for you,” I say hurriedly. “And rehearsing what I’d say when I found you.”

I reach for the siren in me and pull her out effortlessly. Goose bumps surface on my arms. If Tylon notices, I hope he thinks it’s a reaction to him and not from using my abilities. The siren half of me gives me three unique abilities. I can sing to men and make them do whatever I wish so long as I have the power of the sea with me. I can read the emotions of men—they manifest as colors for me to decipher. And last, I can tell what any man wants in a woman, become it, and use it to manipulate him. Since I wasted most of my song on Vordan, it is the latter two of my abilities I pull from now.

My entire focus latches onto Tylon, on his greatest wants and desires. I can see the red of his desire for me. Though I know he’s attracted to me, what he really cares about is that I’m the pirate king’s daughter. That is what makes me useful to him. Being in my favor serves his own interests. And the only person he’s ever cared about is himself.

“Well, you’ve found me.” He folds his arms and steps back to get a better look at me. He’s scanning me for deception, trying to spot it in any

gesture. One wrong word or movement, and who knows what he’ll do.

I need to swallow my nausea and pride in this moment. Forget what it does to my dignity. This is for my mother. “I don’t like arguing with you. What happened today in front of all the captains—it can’t happen again.”

“I agree.”

For some reason, it bothers me more to have him agreeing with me. “And I think you should know, despite what I say and how I act, I don’t hate you.”

His stiff, suspicious stance relaxes. “I know that.”

Sure he does. Arrogant bastard doesn’t realize I’m saying the complete opposite of what I feel. “You do?” I ask, adding a hint of playfulness to my tone.

“I can be very likable, if you’ll just let me.” He peers deeply into my eyes, as though trying to force a connection with me.

“Let you what?”

“Let me show you how great we could be together. Can’t you just see the future we’d make? You and I ruling the sea. All in Maneria afraid to leave the safety of land. All the money of the realm pouring into our treasury. With you and your abilities, our legacy will be even greater than Kalligan’s.”

If he thinks I’d share my birthright with him—

No, not now. Forget the braggart. Focus on your mother.

I take a step forward and slide my hands up his arms to his shoulders. “And just what is to be the nature of our relationship?”

The faraway look in his eyes leaves, and he focuses on me. Something new takes hold of him. It is no longer a lust for riches and glory.

He crushes his mouth to mine. All intensity and passion. The thought of himself becoming the new pirate king has him worked up. And he thinks himself worthy of my attention. He doesn’t hope I will kiss him back. He expects it, and I have to if I’m to keep Riden hidden from him.

I cringe as I remember Riden probably heard some of that. “What’s wrong?” Tylon asks against my lips.

“Nothing. Come here.” I need to give Riden more time to get away. I grab Tylon by the lapels of his captain’s coat and swing him around the next

bend of the tunnel, even farther away from Riden and my mother, before pinning him against the wall and kissing him like I mean it. Now that I have him right where I want him, I let the siren go.

My movements are meaningless to me. My mouth moves automatically, leaving my mind free to wander elsewhere. I hope Riden can remember where he’s going.

I imagine him carrying my mother all the way to the ship without any trouble befalling them, tucking her away safely in my rooms. Then he’ll come find me, maybe smash Tylon on the head because he somehow knows how much I loathe him, even though I told him otherwise.

And then he’ll take me in his arms and kiss me. Because he wants it and knows I do, too.

Just a light peck on the lips, but as I try to leave he’ll pull me back for more. And I’ll be secretly pleased that he wants more.

He’ll pin me against some hard surface, place his hands on either side of my waist, and lean down until all the air between us is gone.

I put my hands on his face, feeling the hard planes of his cheeks with my hands. That pleases him. I feel his lips turn into a smile as he continues to kiss me. His lips move to my throat, and I move my hands to his hair.

But instead of the silky locks I’m expecting, I touch loose curls. I open my eyes in a snap and stare at sun-colored hair.

Not Riden.

I’m kissing Tylon.

He’s still busy at the base of my neck when I spot an enormous figure rounding the corner over his shoulder.

“Tylon.” I slap his shoulder.

He pauses long enough to see that it’s my father before adjusting himself, leaning against the wall next to me, and sliding his hand behind my back to rest on my hip. He’s holding me against him as though I belong to him. I loathe it.

Tylon grins. “We took your advice and stopped arguing.”

Not a muscle in my father’s face twitches. “Go stop arguing elsewhere.

The tunnels are no place for it.”

I turn away as though I’m embarrassed, but the truth is I can’t stand to look at my father any longer. Not after knowing what he’s done. It’s as if he’s a different person, when in reality I’m only beginning to understand who he really is.

A monster.

“Then we’ll be off,” I finally say. I grab the hand at my hip and pull Tylon in the direction of our ships. It’s the direction Riden went in. The direction my father just came from. He couldn’t have spotted Riden and my mother or else I would have heard a struggle. Oh, but I hope Riden didn’t get himself lost.

And stars forbid my father have plans to visit my mother tonight. I traverse with Tylon down the tunnel, his arm tucked in mine.

He leans his head against mine and asks, “Where are we going?” “Your rooms.”

His breathing hitches, and his steps quicken. Meanwhile, my eyes are scanning every turn and bend in the tunnels for Riden, hoping to spot him before Tylon does.

When I do see him, there’s nothing I can do to stop Tylon from noticing, too. Riden leans against the wall, one foot pressed flat against it, his arms crossed casually against his chest.

I open my mouth, unsure of what I’m going to say. Hopefully not what I want to ask him: What did you do with my mother?

“Captain,” Riden says, “have you finished your business?” So composed. So normal.

“Yes. Where is your cargo?”

“Safe. Just waiting for you so we can get it to the ship.” Tylon looks at Riden closely. “I don’t recognize you.” “He’s a recent addition,” I explain.

Tylon tugs me. “I don’t really care. We were on our way somewhere important.”

I hope he can’t tell my stomach just turned. “Wait, I forgot I need to speak with my father.”

“You can speak with him tomorrow,” he says, trying to pull me along again.

I force a playful laugh at his insistence. “It can’t wait until then. It’s about the voyage. He’ll want to know right away. It’ll only take a second.”

He doesn’t let me go; instead he stares into my eyes again, as though that will somehow change my mind.

“Go to your rooms,” I say. “I’ll meet you on your ship.” He leans down to give me one more hearty kiss.

In front of Riden.

But I can’t do it again. I. Just. Can’t.

I reach for my pistol, and just as Tylon is about to press his lips to mine

—I bring it down on his head. He’s out before he hits the floor. “Where is she?” I ask.

“We couldn’t go any farther without getting lost. When I heard someone coming, I set her down so she wouldn’t be spotted. She’s just over here.”

I pull Tylon off the floor and throw him over my shoulder. Riden stares for an extra beat at my strength before leading the way. He makes a couple of turns down the tunnel and stops when we come to some stacked water barrels stored along the edges. He stoops behind them, and when he’s standing again, he has my mother in his arms once more.

Tylon takes her place.

I finally relax, but it’s fleeting. We still have a ways to go before we’re out of here.

“Are you all right?” I ask her. “Yes. Just weak.”

“Let’s go,” I say to Riden.

We hurry. Every echo, every whisper of wind is enough to make my heart stop. We can’t be found. It doesn’t matter who spots us. We look too conspicuous. Anyone would surely report us to my father. We don’t speak, too fearful of who might hear us.

But either the stars are watching out for us or everyone is well asleep, because we meet no one else during the painful march.

We race up the gangplank.

Niridia appears at my side. “Sorinda and Athella have already made it back. Mandsy is seeing to Draxen in the infirmary. I didn’t get much out of them except that we need to be ready to sail.”

The crew is roused. They await on deck for orders. Some have obviously just been woken—they rub sleep from their eyes. Enwen is still pulling a shirt over his head.

“Listen up,” I say. I dare not shout with all the other ships stationed nearby in the cave, but I hope everyone can hear. “The pirate king has deceived me.” I point over to where my mother is wrapped up in Riden’s arms. “That is my mother. Kalligan has kept her as his prisoner for the last eighteen years. I’ve only just discovered her by accident.”

Everyone swivels their heads in her direction.

“We’re leaving, and we’re going to do it quickly and quietly. Does anyone have a problem with that?”

Enwen raises his hand, shying away from us. “What, Enwen?”

“Captain, if that’s your mother, that would make her a—a—”

“Siren, yes. Does anyone else have any questions more important than our lives?”


“Trim the sails,” Niridia barks out. “Raise the gangplank, hoist anchor! Move it!” The easy-going sailor is gone, instantly replaced with the harsh first mate I need her to be. All sea hands race around us to fulfill her orders. The other docked ships are quiet, no lights lit. I try to assure myself that even if there were anyone keeping watch, they wouldn’t think anything of my ship leaving. My father gives me orders without telling anyone else all

the time. But uncertainty has my heart pounding. “Are you cold?”

I turn at the voice.

Riden still holds my mother, and she’s visibly trembling in his arms. “I’m all right,” she answers him. Her response is firm despite her

shaking limbs. “You’re strong, for a human.”

“I used to be fast, too. Until I was shot in the leg. Haven’t been able to get it back up to strength yet.”

“You were shot?” Mother asks. “How?” “Your daughter got me into trouble.”

It must be the oddest thing I’ve ever seen—witnessing Riden talking with my mother, distracting her from her discomfort.

I will go to her as soon as we’re safe. For now, I need to be captain.

Sorinda locates Kearan, who is miraculously sober—well, sober enough to steer—and gets him to the helm.

“Where are we headed to at this hour?”

Yes, where are we going? “For now, the nearest port. Just get us away from here. Like our lives depend on it, Kearan.”

He looks down his broken nose at me. “Because they do?”

“When the king discovers I’ve stolen my mother, he will hunt us down.

And if he catches us—” “Understood.”

It truly hits me then. What I’ve done. We are all going to be hunted by the most feared man in the world. I brought this on all of us by taking her. I just took her and didn’t think of my crew.

No, even if I had paused to think, I would have done the same thing. We can’t serve him any longer. He’s dangerous and vile. He kept her in that room for almost two decades, and I can’t even think of the way he used her without my dinner threatening to come back up.

How have I been so blind?

Roslyn wanders up from belowdecks, rubbing her tired eyes. All the noise must have woken her. “What’s happening, Captain?”

“Roslyn, you’re to go to the crow’s nest. I need to know if anyone follows us. And if anyone starts firing on us, you’re to go to your post.”

Her eyes harden, any signs of exhaustion leaving them. They’re the same bright blue as her father’s, but Wallov never looks at me like this. “It’s not a post. It’s a hidey-hole beneath the flooring of the crow’s nest.”

“Be that as it may, it was designed specifically for you, and if any fighting should break out, you’re to go there.”

Her hands go to her hips.

“Now is not the time, Roslyn. Can I count on you or not?”

The fight leaves her at those words. “Of course, Captain.” She runs to the netting and starts climbing better than any monkey.

The ship finally starts moving, angling toward the cave’s exit.

“It’s so beautiful,” Mother says once the open ocean is in view. Riden still holds on to her. He follows her line of sight to the ocean. I notice now that she takes turns glancing between it and me.

I can’t imagine being separated from the ocean for eighteen years. “Captain!” Roslyn shouts from above. “There’s movement on the dock.” I spin and instantly find the beast of a man standing on the dock.

The pirate king.

He must have tried to visit Mother tonight after all.

A shout goes up. More pirates appear. A warning bell sounds: the keep’s alarm for if we’re ever under attack.

He’s waking everyone.

The entire fleet, it seems, will be following after us.

I have a head start, and my ship is faster. We are out of firing range already. There is nothing he can do except follow us by this point. And I know all of his ships aren’t stocked for sailing. It may buy us another hour

—or even a day.

We need a plan, but nothing is forthcoming, and we’re safe for now. So I hurry to my mother, who is still supported by Riden’s arms over by the port side.

“Could you set me down?” my mother asks Riden. “Are you sure? Why don’t I take you—”

“No, right here, please. Thank you.”

She has both feet on the ground, but she’s clutching the railing as though her life depends on it, trembling from head to foot. Only when I take his place by her side, does Riden leave for the infirmary to see his brother.

“You named your ship after me,” she manages to say through chattering teeth.

“Let me take you to my rooms.” “No.”

“What do you need?” I ask. “Food? Sleep? What can I do to help?” “Water,” she says.

“Of course. I’ll get some.”

“No, Alosa.” She looks sad for a moment. “He let me name you, you know. It was the one thing he did let me do for you. Alosa-lina. We give our

children joint names. The first is a unique name—no two sirens have the same first name. The second name is a sung name. It has power. Lina means protector, and I can see you have already lived up to it.”

A shiver shakes her whole body, and she grips the railing more tightly. “My precious daughter. I want to stay here with you. I tried to be strong for you, to give you what your human nature needs, but I can’t fight it anymore. The pull is too strong. I need the water. And my sisters need me. They’ve been too long without a queen. Follow me. I’ll lead you home.”

Though she’s frail and aching, she leans over the railing and lets herself fall. I hear the splash before I fully register what is happening.

“Man overboard!” Roslyn shouts, but I barely hear it.

“No!” I rush over to the edge, peering into the water. She’s impossible to miss. Her body seems to glow under the water, taking on a shimmer like fish scales, but she’s not covered in scales. Her skin is pearly white. She looks bigger, no longer fragile, but strong and healthy. She circles in place, as though she’s … stretching, breathing in fresh air for the first time.

From under the water, her face turns upward. I can see her now piercing-blue eyes—no longer green—even from this distance. She smiles at me. Her hand opens and closes, beckoning me to follow. Then she takes off like a shot, swimming at an impossible speed through the water, away from the keep.

Away from me.

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