• Grace A. Johnson

The Song (Reign: Part 13)


Part 13: The Song


I brushed back tendrils of warm brown hair from Ambrosia’s flushed face, unable to suppress a billow of heartache as I took in her pink cheeks, sweaty little upturned nose, and shuttered eyes. She laid on a bed of palm branches and sand with my mantle for a pillow, no doubt sweltering in the humidity of the island, reduced to sleeping on the ground instead of in the feather-soft bed I’d wrenched her from.

She deserved so much more. Than being on the run for her life. Than being in charge of an entire nation at seven years of age. Than bearing the burdens of men who were strong enough to take of themselves.

She deserved so much more than me. And she didn’t even have me, not quite. Not in the way she should have. Not in the way she could have.

Not in the way she would, if only she knew.

I turned away, removing my damp, salt-encrusted shirt and lowering to stretch out beside her, when a handful of notes pierced the air.

A melody began, so high-pitched and soft I could hardly hear it, but I felt it vibrate through the atmosphere, whistle through the trees overhead that provided us with shelter. It rushed through my thoughts, sweeping out all the melancholy residing there and filling me with a sense of serenity.

Then the harmony, in the form of the break of waves against the island’s shore and the whisper of the wind, wove around the gentle song, becoming one with the sound of… I searched my mind for any remembrance of any song quite as sweet but found nothing, save the warning I should have heeded long ago.

Harken not unto the song of the siren.

‘Twas too late now, for the lyrics arose, mesmerizing me with the familiar tale of a forbidden love and a doomed affair. A tale I’d lived out, only to have it end in much less savory terms than what the song told of.

This song inspired hope and happy endings. Truth and love and redemption.

My story was of obsession, wrongful possession, injustice, and death. It was only the villain who survived in the end, to be eaten alive by guilt and the shame which kept him from ever truly living.

He should have died along with them—should have died instead.

I should have.

I let the words carry me away to a world of happily ever afters and fairytales, where my ending was one of hope rather than desolation. Where Corinna and Galen survived. Where I didn’t make stupid mistakes. Where Ambrosia had a father who was worthy of her, who could claim her, who could love her as neither Galen nor I could.

It was a beautiful fantasy, but it was just that. A fantasy. A song. A lure meant to draw me into the Siren’s trap...and it was working.

Sometime during her song, I’d risen to my feet, and now I felt called by her spell-binding voice and hopeful lyrics to the island’s edge, where moonlight bathed the ocean in its ethereal white glow and starlight winked at me from the open twilight sky.

Despite all the good sense, caution, and forewarning I possessed, I couldn’t stop myself. To be honest, I didn’t want to. I knew this was her plan, to trap me, to render me weak and defenseless...but I needed just a glimpse. I needed to hear the strains pouring from her lips with all the clarity only nearness could give me. I needed to feel the music, see the notes spiral in the air and taste its sweet refrains.

The sand shifted and crackled beneath my bare feet before it gave way to the moist, packed sand where the waves lapped at the shore at high tide. From there my steps were silent as I followed the song to a dark alcove of large rocks.

There she was, draped across the sand and supported by a rock, her form visible in the open. Her tail was at the edge of the water, slithering in the sand restlessly until another small wave broke against it and calmed the reptilian appendage. Its length was probably my full height, with series of scales climbing up her flesh in strange, alluring patterns that made her look almost entirely like a leviathan.

Almost, but for her womanly curves and the hair that curled out in all directions, a thick, luxurious mane that was at least half the length of her tail.

I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I wouldn’t if I could, actually. There was something…something in the way the moonbeams struck her...something in the way her hair billowed around her...something in her face.

The monster was still there—of course it hadn’t left—but suddenly it wasn’t so prominent. Suddenly it wasn’t the fangs, rolling eyes, and scaly body I saw. Suddenly there was vulnerability in her eyes and gentleness in her voice and gracefulness in the way she moved.

Suddenly she was beautiful.

So this is how they do it. Take your mind off of their frightful appearance, cunning ways, and evil intentions by singing so lovely and making you see something that isn’t there. Beauty. Emotion. Humanity.

It’s effective.

It was very effective, because I honestly wanted to believe that Seira was more than just a monster. All this evening, I had watched her as she swam alongside us toward Parvi, a youthful joy alight in her face. She had sacrificed her...well, I wasn’t quite certain what she’d sacrificed, since the only way to kill a Siren was to starve them and therefore I didn’t suppose there was any way the Naiads could further jeopardize her safety.

But she’d left the City to follow us, when it could’ve very well gotten her into trouble, when she had no assurance we would repay her, when she didn’t know who she could trust. And she’d interacted so well with Ambrosia, deferring to her like a loyal subject despite the fact that she was probably centuries older.

How old was she, anyway? Sirens were an ancient breed whose origins were so mysterious that not even the oldest, most learned scholar could untangle them. They couldn’t reproduce, although I remembered Renout once mentioning something about them possessing the capabilities and merely lacking the—well, I didn’t care. It was simply that the original generations of Sirens from hundreds of years ago would have to be the same that remained today.

Meaning I was admiring the body of a possibly one-thousand-year-old sea serpent.

It was effective.

But my point was that as much I was longed to see her in a different light, and as well as my physical eyes focused on only her mystical form, my heart still knew that all of this was a means to an end. A means to my demise.

This song was just that, a song. Notes sung in rapid succession that created a melody. A melody that entranced only for the sole purpose of bringing me just close enough to be killed.

I would not fall prey. Not again. Not like I had fallen so foolishly to my own lustful desires eight years ago.

Missed Part 12? Read it here!

#theriver #reign #serial #fantasy #theguardiansofmagni

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