The Island (Reign: Part 12)
Part 12: The Island
Charis was good, I’d give her that. I had expected one of the Naiads to catch up with us long before we left the City, had expected Seira to be right behind me…and perhaps they had. Perhaps one was following undetected by both the Guardian and I. Perhaps everyone knew what I was about and expected me to get myself killed. Only my sisters would be vexed over such a thought, but there was nothing they could do. We were all slowly wasting away anyway, just waiting to die.
But Parvi gave me—gave us—a chance at life. The queen gave us a chance at life. And that was what was important. I didn’t know the hows or the whys or what would happen next—all I knew was that this was a chance worth taking, and I had best take advantage of the time Charis had granted me.
I did toss one more glance over my shoulder at the City, seemingly empty and lifeless, just in case, before diving back into the water.
The purity of the ocean was refreshing, each wave of water tasting of salt and life. Of home. This water was clear and blue and cool and alight with the sun’s rays and the reflect of it upon the scales of fish below the surface.
So many fish…I flicked my tail at a school of them, watching bubbles ripple around their little bodies. Oh, to be like the fish, without emotions or thoughts, led only by instinct. Living with total abandon in a place that no man dared go.
Oh, to be a fish instead of a Siren. To be a woman instead of a monster. To be dead instead of dying.
I sighed, letting out a gust of air and gulping in water that wasn’t stagnant or stale. It flowed within my body, through my gills, filling me with an energy I hadn’t possessed in many, many years.
Along with the realization that I was really and truly free, if only for a time.
I twirled in the water, curving around myself and turning flips, spiraling deeper and deeper until bright flashes of orange and pink and purple sparked before me. Coral. With a heave of my tail, I plunged to the reef, reaching out with scaly fingers to graze the beautiful, vibrant life that covered the ocean’s floor and ridges and surrounded its caves. Some plants were soft to the touch, others hard. Some holey, others smooth. Some spiky, others—my hand collided with something sleek and warm.
Others fish instead of coral.
A striped one in orange and black with lines of white wiggled closer to me, swimming up my arm and tangling itself in my hair. A laugh bubbled out as its fins tickled the back of my neck and I fell back.
No more bricks, no more ruins, no more dark nights. Only life. Bright, blinding, glorious life!
I explored the reef a while longer, caressing each piece of coral and each weed and waving at every creature—fish, shark, eel, ray…what looked eerily like an adolescent leviathan. (Did they even exist anymore? The flood couldn’t have wiped them out, and Queen Anactoria surely couldn’t have hunted them all down.)
I played like a human child in the rain, until a dark shadow floated just above the surface, just over my head, and began to rock.
I thrust forward and up, curving around the boat to keep it from tipping over. I only peeked the very top of my head up from the water and watching as Ambrosia leant over one side with her curious little fox, then scooted over to the other, peering into the ocean as if expecting a shark to jump out at her.
At the aft, gripping the oars in his strong, capable hands, her Guardian sat, face soft and free of lines, mouth almost—smiling?
That was unexpected.
His eyes followed the girl queen as she whipped the boat back and forth in her scouring of the sea, looking nothing like the severe child who had barked orders at me earlier and everything like a little lassie should—playful, happy, unfettered.
Then his gaze collided with mine. The smile faded. His brows tugged into a v. His eyes...well, they didn’t necessarily go hard, if what they’d looked like this morning was hard. Instead, his stare seemed to…intensify. The ring of umber around his pupil darkened to black, his lashes lowering over his cheeks.
He must not have known that such an expression only served to make him a thousand times more attractive. I felt like, had he known, he would’ve schooled his features back into the chiseled-from-granite look he’d worn earlier.
Well, since he was too busy looking gorgeous, I decided to take my turn watching Ambrosia. My eyes whirled around (no doubt Brehn found that disturbing) until my vision was a horizontal squint instead of a cat-like line. I was able to see Ambrosia whichever way she went without turning my head, compliments of a widened peripheral, while still casting an occasional glance at Brehn.
Before long, Ambrosia caught sight of my eyes and settled down, just staring at me as intently as her Guardian did. To be honest, I had no idea how they managed to look at me for so long, especially without showing any visible disgust. Maybe ‘twas because all I’d bared to them was my head. My face wasn’t too ugly, I supposed. Apart from the eyes. And the fangs. And my flared, flat nose and forked tongue and, well, you get the point.
I couldn’t help but stay. As strange as it was, it felt good to be watched. Noticed. Seen. More than that, studied as if I held all the world’s great mysteries within me.
At least, that was how Ambrosia was studying me. After a while, it began to look like Brehn wanted to eat me.
And here my appetite had begun to dissipate. He was handsome, no doubt about that, but far too broody and annoying. He’d probably be pretty tough and chewy anyway.
No, really, I shuddered at the thought. There was actually something...no. Nay, there wasn’t. There was nothing. Nothing different or out of the ordinary. Nothing human about it.
I was a Siren. I ate humans. Sooner or later, I’d eat this human, whether he liked it or not. And that’d been the end of it. Ambrosia could just…
See, Seira? This is why you aren’t supposed to interact with humans. You get attached to them, and when it comes time for dinner, you end up ruining the life of someone you’ve begun to feel sympathy for. There’s just no way around that, no other way to sustain yourself, no way to refuse.
Unless there was. But if there were, wouldn’t someone have tried it before? Wouldn’t we have heard horror stories about what happened to the one Siren who said no and starved herself?
That was a thought best left alone. Very much alone, collecting dust on a rotting shelf in an empty castle.
After a long while, I looked away and saw as the suns dipped behind the shadow of Parvi, eclipsed by the horizon and the outline of a smaller island.
“I didn’t know there was another island in these waters.”
I glanced back at Brehn, followed his eyes to the island. I didn’t really have a decent reply for him, as so much had changed after the flood...and I hadn’t be allowed in open waters like this since then. So many years...all of them reduced to memories of captivity and hollowness.
“We should stay the night there,” Ambrosia piped up, the first words I’d heard from her since we’d left the City’s borders.
“We should.” Leaning forward, Brehn seized my gaze again and held it. “Seira, lead the way.”
Missed Part 11? Read it here!