The ashen clouds began to clear, letting sunlight stream into the twisted wrecks. The siren avoided the slashes of light, slipping herself between broken boards and crushed hulls. Countless ships had crashed and sunk on the surrounding rocks. Whether from sea, storm, or siren the end result was the same, wreckage, bones, and the detritus of human endeavor. Swimming through the shadows in the broken galleon she ran her webbed hand against the splintered wood, tugging more of it into disarray. There a chest buried in silt, there a rusted cannon, and here, the clean bones of a man. She grasped the skull and lifted it to her eyes, turning it this way and that.
And it looked like bone. Incredibly clean bone. She smirked, hiding her teeth. It elicited nothing in her. Not even when it had held the mind of a man and the muscles to move and a fair and pleasing shape did they ever mean more than a challenge or a diversion. A hunt, then satisfaction, of either or both kinds.
She thought of her sister, the rituals, the oaths, the promises spun fragile as still water and twice as deep, now binding her to the world of flesh and death. Of the mortals who danced and cheered as their prince wed. Of herself walking into the sea queen’s halls and telling her sisters what Liira had done. Of the bafflement and rage so counter to the fire and welcome of the mortal rite. And she wondered at the transmutation of it all.
Her liege would call it true love. He flattered the couple with gifts, with rewards for a state that he believed they’d earned. The fool would call it folly, if he thought of it at all. In all aspects it was as foreign to her as touching the surface of a star. Singular. Untenable. She leaned back against the hull of the ship and held the skull in both hands. It revealed no new mysteries.
Yet it could bind her. One day it could be a nephew, a grandniece, or… she shuddered and released the skull. She would handle that duty when it descended on her. If it did. For all she knew the mortal customs would demand her sister remain landlocked with her lover for eternity. She bared her teeth at the skull now settled on the seafloor. How dare it mock her with the folly of time. She swam through the wrecks to the dark open water and dove deep. Away from the slashing beams of light and into the unsettling depths that would crush a mortal man. Drawing her blade, she held it close to her arm to minimize drag and looked for trouble. But as she swam, she could not escape the trickling sense of mortal time passing far above, the niggling thought that a ship with one of her blood could be sailing by without her blessing, in danger from those in the deep who frown on those who cross the lines the wrong way. The deep did not give up its takings without a fight.
She soared through the water, challenging the menaces of the deep to dance with her. To take up a fight that was as much a part of her as teeth and song and scale. None answered her. She swam back up. Past the wrecks. Up to the rocks, where she sheathed her blade and pulled herself out of the water. It wasn’t a song that burst from her lips, but a scream. It did not in the least resemble something human. It pierced the air and seemed to make the sun waver as she sustained it. The water seemed to slow its swell, and gulls froze, gliding or standing. Then she let it die and waves rushed away from her. Empty of… something. And yet… she felt no better. She stood upon the rock and shed her scales, shaking back her hair, and donning her armor. It was enough.
I stole this first line from that machete wielding rogue. She wrote about “Illusions of Home.”