• Grace A. Johnson

The City (Reign: Part 7)


Part 7: The City


Strangely enough, there was a beauty within the destruction. For all its ruin and disrepair, shattered windows and broken stones and overabundance of algae, the City was…quite like the Siren, I supposed. Dangerous and unsightly, worthless to some, yet captivating. Magnetizing. Intoxicating.

It was probably the prospect of freedom on the other end or the rush of adrenaline that tantalized me so, no doubt because it had been so long since I’d left the High Castle, let alone left Magni.

Still, as tainted as the City was, it gleamed brightly in my eyes.

Judging by Ambrosia’s wide-eyed stare, parted lips, and flushed cheeks, she felt much the same.

“We’ve left it here to rot. Yet it teems with potential, opportunity, life,” she murmured beneath her breath, sounding wise beyond her years. Sounding like the queen she was. Sounding like Galen had when he was a young, idealistic ruler.

“Spoken like a true queen,” the Siren piped up from beside our boat, where only the top of her head and her oddly slanted eyes had been visible until now. She turned those eerie eyes, reptilian and yet...not, onto Ambrosia, something akin to admiration in her crooked half smile. The half smile that did nothing to conceal her fangs, which caused each word she spoke to shudder.

How could Ambrosia just look at her, completely unabashed and unmoved? As if…she didn’t even see the creature’s nakedness and scaly form and seductive eyes? As if she didn’t hear the melody in her voice?

Perks of being a female, I supposed. Which left me averting my eyes and closing my ears to the lilt of the Siren’s hiss.

I’d lied earlier, because even without serenading me from afar, she had me enraptured. Something about those eyes…

Stop it, Brehn! You know better than to fall prey to another woman, let alone a Siren! Quiet your thoughts and put your focus on what matters—getting Ambrosia to safety.

And making it out with her alive.

I hadn’t thought it a concern—being eaten whilst Ambrosia was safely tucked away—when we’d first escaped. In fact, I’d been hoping to hide ourselves in the Northern mountains with the remnant of my father’s people, but I knew that would be the first place the Regent looked. As for the City, Parvi, no one would assume we’d dared to go this far. Or make it out, for that matter.

“I would apologize for how our people have mistreated you and your home, my lady, but I know it would do little good to hear,” Ambrosia said, lips twisted into a sympathetic frown.

My lady, she said. As if the filthy, man-eating serpent deserved such a title. As if the Sirens deserved the queen’s good grace.

Off you go again, Brehnan, sputtering just as the Regent and Guardians and all the high-and-mighty commanders do about these less-than creatures. About you. Hasn’t the Siren proved herself already? She’s willing to sacrifice her life—and her hunger, at least for a moment—to get you and Ambrosia to safety. She may be the exception, but so was your father.

Ah, Father had been many a thing. The exception. A pawn. Like all of his people and the other nonhuman creatures, he had never been valued as a person with thoughts or emotions. I’d wondered when I was younger if even Mother had held him in regard. She’d never spoken of him, never told me and my brothers stories of the father we had barely known. Then she’d died...and Queen Myia’s foreign husband had become a distant memory to all.

I didn’t know what to think, to be honest, so instead of pondering it further, I settled farther into the small boat and kept my attention on each of the crumpled building we drifted past. One looked like a cobbler’s shop...another like a…

“And I would apologize for my…eating habits, Your Majesty, but I doubt that’d make either of you feel any better.”

Eating habits? Bah! As if ‘tis venison and greens she speaks of. This is human flesh and blood. Life and all that comes with living, severed by her fangs. And she would apologize for it. It is not a matter of what she is or isn’t—it is a matter of what she does. The Gryphons harm no one. My father harmed no one and I would harm no one. But a Siren? This Siren?

“You’re right,” I spat, finally turning to lock eyes with the evil serpent. “It helps none.”

I’d expected a retort. After our banter a few minutes ago, I would have bet on her making some caustic or flirtatious remark.

Instead, she froze. Stared at me with eyes unseeing. Then, with the flick of her long, forked tongue, whispered, “They come.”

Missed Part 6? Read it here!

#theriver #reign #serial #fantasy #theguardiansofmagni

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