• Grace A. Johnson

The Siren (Reign: Part 4)


Part Four: The Siren

Some might have called us fools for running.

Some might have called us brave.

I was leaning toward the former at the moment.

Since the moment I had scaled the wall of the donjon, Ambrosia and Pascal latched onto my back, and hid them within a wagon and my face beneath a cloak to escape the castle walls undetected, I’d rued my hasty decision.

I had waited until the cover of dark, remaining for the three remaining hours of daylight with Ambrosia in her chamber, much as I always did—though this time, I didn’t watch her crawl into bed and slowly drift off to sleep. I didn’t hold her as she thrashed and moaned against another nightmare.

Rather, I had revealed the Regent’s plot—minus his motives and with the diluted version of just how he intended to harm us. And she held me as we vanished into the night.

We should have stayed. Either I could have confronted the Regent, sorted this mess out with the help of my fellow Guardians (the ones I knew were loyal to the late king and queen); or I could have laid in wait and caught him in his act—or at least caught whoever he sent to do his dirty work.

Anything but this would’ve been the better course of action.

Because now we were faced with running toward the most dangerous place any man of Magni had ever traversed.

The City.

Aptly named for its previous status as the citadel guarding the ancient city of Parvi, what remained of the fortress were empty buildings, some of which had been divided in half or swept into the streets by the flood, and streets filled with water.

The flood had sunken the greater half and a portion of Parvi into the sea, leaving Parvi a lonely, forbidden isle in the distance, and leaving The City—once called Fort Parvi—to the possession of the Naiads and… I swallowed past the constriction of my throat, inwardly cursing the insidious powers I would have to beseech for not just safe passage but, more importantly, for our lives.

…The Sirens.

Not since the Reign of Anactoria had a single Magnian come within leagues of The City. Perhaps one or two had gotten too close, but none would ever know, for surely they had been devoured by the serpents within the rippling waters which coursed through The City.

Something had to be fed to them, after all. Without man to eat, the lot of the nasty creatures would slowly wither away to naught but decayed scale and bone left to the water.

I winced at my own thoughts. As vile as Sirens were, especially in comparison to the gentle, beautiful Naiads, I would do good not to see them as such—as the Regent saw Myia’s husband and their offspring. As almost all of Magni saw foreigners, from the aquatic creatures of Parvi abandoned after the flood, to the aerial creatures from which I came.

Granted, my father’s people were more graceful and kind, more human, I supposed, than Sirens could ever dream of being, what with the ugly sea monsters eating innocents and all.

There I went again, but there was no denying the truth. Sirens might have seductive voices, but their forms were repulsive. Absent hearts, souls, and the ability to love, they were nothing but hungry, lusting things—and I was now at their mercy.

So I must think kindly and perhaps the same would be returned. Perhaps the presence of a child would prevent the Sirens from attacking—or, more accurately, serenading.

Ambrosia scrambled out of my arms, wiggling ‘til her bare feet hit the small dock we stood on. She darted to the very edge with Pascal by her side, her lithesome body swaying precariously over the water as she strained to take in the sights.

Not that there was much to see. The water was too murky to detect any Sirens, and Naiads were nigh invisible anyway. I’d already mentioned the rotten, dilapidated scenery.

Despite the odds against us and the very fact that we were running for our lives, she was so full of hope. Somehow, being faced with grave danger, having one’s entire life disrupted, and being carted out of their castle home to travel on foot through eerie little villages and dark forests was enjoyable.

For Ambrosia, that is. Not me. I wasn’t enjoying this one bit.

But I understood why she was so expectant and excitable. She was leaving the ghosts of her parents behind, going on an adventure that all young girls—particularly princesses—would dream of. At her age, I would have relished such an excursion as well.

At my age, however, the well-seasoned thirty and one, I was too consumed by the many threats surrounding us to appreciate the silver lining. If there even was a silver lining.

I kept my eyes trained on Ambrosia, wary that at any given moment—

Pascal disappeared.

At the thud that sounded, I knew he had tumbled into the boat tied to the dock, which was now rocking violently—odd, as he was too slight a thing to set it off like that.

Immediately Ambrosia bent over her pet, extending her arms to him and rescuing him from...from something, for I knew that he was indeed in some sort of trouble.

Only, where was it?

“Ambrosia.” My eyes jerked back to her of their own volition, prohibiting me from scouring the waters as though my nerves knew ahead of my brain what I would find. I slipped my arms ‘round her waist, held her soft, shivering body against mine.

A sigh eased out of my chest, loosening a bit of the tension gripping my heart. So long as I held her, she was safe. So long as I held her.

Curses on me if I ever let her go.

Pascal curled himself around my legs, and I was honestly thankful for his presence as well. No longer would he be startled or would he startled something—or someone—else.

I shifted forward but a step, peering into the water. Algae, minnows, mud—up close, it looked like a river. But just ahead drifted gargoyles chipped from their perches, tattered flags, and decaying wood. An entire city, laid waste by rain and left to soak in the remnants of the flood and the freshwater of the sea.

Something rippled, just a few feet ahead. Something inside, not out.

I looked, and there it was—a soft puff of air from red rosebud lips. Two slanted eyes, sizing me up in one slow, languid sweep. A thin trail of scales from the back of her ear down the side of her body, where it would meld with her tail.

So this was the murdering songstress.

“This is your only warning,” the Siren hissed, her long silver fangs bared by her sneer. “You can either leave or die.”

Missed Part 3? Read it here! Just a heads-up...I will be leaving y'all in suspense until May 6th, when Part 5 comes out!

#theriver #reign #serial #fantasy #theguardiansofmagni

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