Legal Theft Project: Ripples in Time

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.”

Legal Theft Project: Caging Waves

She couldn’t leave the river, and she was malevolent. They’d bound the curse in iron wrapped around the bones of dead boys and staked it across the mouth of the river. To swim near the sea was to have their curses seared into her flesh. She retreated up the river, tested her palms against the land, but they’d barred her from the banks with the hair of weeping mothers and the blood of fathers. Trapped. Her rage grew. Two lives or ten, they thought they could bind her. Starve her. Her lips curled. Tame her. Chain her in a pen and keep her from their kin, watch the monster so she cannot get you. She screamed her defiance to the stars and dove beneath the white water. The people shivered and shook, but she did not emerge from the river and so they were relieved.

The moon waxed to full and no sound, scale, or claw emerged from the river. The town recovered. The story moved to boasts from the young and cautionary tales from those who had spilled blood to make the binding. She bided in the water. Waiting. Weighing.

Fog stole out of the river and over the town. No moon brightened the dark. She rose from the water onto a thin rock in the center of the river. Her gaze raked down the river to the sea and she began to sing. Wordless and quiet, the new sound wove under the fog. Slowly, people ceased their talking and turned their heads toward the windows. Her song beckoned, the soft shush of waves against the shore, the promise of cool dark relief, the play of light along waves that hinted at wealth and pleasure. Yet none felt called to the water. They heard the song and thought of danger, of treacherous rocks, of ropes and lives and caution. The song paused, an interlude of fog and water and smug satisfaction that the siren was still trapped.

The next notes rang out as clear and sharp as a war cry on a still morning. A series of notes the merging of a call to arms and the rumbling rise of thunder. This was no defiance. The song that poured out of the woman in the river was made of war and wicked weather. Her sisters answered. Voices rose from the sea and sinuous scaled women stepped from the waves. Blades of coral and bone held loose at their sides. Men who woke to the danger and sprang to defense were cut down as waves crash against a shore. Mothers gathered children and lovers close and guarded their doors. The sirens ignored those smart enough to cower before the storm and joined their voices to their sister’s in the river as they rent the bindings caging her.

When the sun rose, none could remember if there had been a true storm or if it was the only way to comprehend the voices of raised together in violence. The river ran red with the blood of those fool enough to try and fight the sea. Of the sirens there was no other sign. Except when storms roll in from the sea they carry the voices of war.


 

Yes, I still commit first line larceny. This first line was filched from Kathryn. See what else lurked in the river here.

Legal Theft Project: Siren

Waves churned under the heavy grey sky. The wind whipped the waves into white capped chargers crashing and careening around Thana’s rock. Thana grinned into the wind and hoisted herself fully out of the sea. Wrapped around the top of her rock, she gloried in the difference in the world above and the world below. The sky grumbled with thunder and Thana laughed at it. No giant storm was brewing. She and her sisters had not called it, and nature was far more fickle than fey. There was the promise of dangerous weather, but Thana doubted nature would fulfill it. There was not enough depth to its growls and the wind only whistled, it did not howl. It was not a day for wrecking.

Thana stood on her toes and spun. A dress swirled around her, simple grey shift and slate blue bodice and skirt. She stayed barefoot and left her dark hair loose and wild. The unwary would see a fisher girl. She didn’t care for them. But those who looked again, she would hold out her hand. The clever would shake their heads, offer her a trinket and be on their way. Those that dreamed, or those with more heart than sense, would take her hand, and she would take them dancing. Some would go back home with a story and a sense of pride. Some would flee in fear and tell the tale from the safety of a warm fire. And one, if she found one that suited her fancy, would not go back at all.

On the rocks in the sea, she threw back her head and sang her plans to the wind and sky, and the weather answered. Her voice carried over the waves and those tucked safely within shuttered houses ignored it. The few with open windows or out walking heard her voice. Most took it as a warning and scurried inside. A few stopped and wondered at the voice. The dare it flung into their lives.

Challenge issued, Thana danced over the rocks to the shore. Today was a day for mischief and she intended to fill it well.

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My friend Bek stole the first line of this piece to write “Beaches and Beauty.” Check it out.