This story is by Cloé Runion and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The breeze stirred Aliza’s curls as the sun made the ebony strands glisten while she stood at the bowsprit of The Serafina. She breathed in the salty air, letting it wash over her, and studied the glistening waves. The light bounced off of them and she sighed.
As Aliza appreciated the glorious rays, she noticed a brown smudge. She narrowed her eyes. She took her spyglass out of her doublet’s pocket and glared out to sea through it. In the distance, a Dromon ship flying the Brenlin royal crest sailed straight toward them.
Under her breath, Aliza said, “Cazzo! Why does there always have to be something in my way?!”
The Serafina had been traveling for months to the Shipwreck of Sepdiono. The rumored amount of gold and jewels would be worth the long voyage – enough to buy a secret port and new weaponry, as well as extra money for bribing and giving the crew better conditions.
She ran back to the helm. “Men! Ready yourselves for we might be engaging! These skrílls might try to block us from our future!”
In addition, the shipwreck would give Aliza the power to take over more ships and finally enjoy the beautiful ocean alone while making a profit.
Expanding her operations and being able to live her dream? Perfect.
“Captain, they’ve spotted us,” Aliza’s one-eyed first mate, Garrett announced.
“Of course,” she muttered. The second they had finally arrived at the shipwreck’s location, of course there would be a problem. “In your places now, men!”
Her crew looked at her with wide eyes and mouths agape. They knew this would be one hell of a battle – royal ships were fully stocked with all of the supplies Aliza wished they had. However, her crew still answered, “Aye, Captain!” before they scurried to their positions and prepared for battle.
Since her fight with the barque and schooners two months ago, Aliza had scrounged up enough money to provide her crew with shields, arrows, and good-ole bullets to answer the enemy. The sharpshooter and archers got into high positions, loaded their bows and guns, and released several rounds before the enemy could lift a finger.
“Shields!” Aliza commanded. The archers hefted the shields over their heads as arrows rained down. One of them, Sully, didn’t bring his up in time, and he was shot through the heart. Aliza’s boots clicked as she walked to her fallen sailor. She reached down to close his eyes. Young Landon handed her a towel and she threw it over the body. They’d mourn him and give him a proper send off after the battle was over.
Another onslaught of arrows and cannonballs were on their way.
Aliza made her way to Garrett. She gripped his forearm before she leaned in. “I need you to commandeer the ship. I have some business to take care of. Get that Dromon down without taking heavy losses, my friend.”
He nodded. “I’ll do my best, Captain.” His weathered face filled with determination. “Alright, mateys! Let’s buy our Captain some time!”
They pounded on their shields and started loading in cannonballs. Aliza spared one last look at the sails and her crew. She patted the mast fondly before jumping over the side. She landed in the frigid water before beginning the descent down.
She tried holding her breath, but she couldn’t for more than a minute. Despite swearing off using her powers after stealing Brenlin’s Crown Jewels, she knew she needed to call upon them. For the first time in over a year, Aliza dredged up her shadow magic. She formed a tunnel of air leading from the surface to her mouth and nose, enabling her to breathe underwater. She began swimming down again, pausing every few meters so her eyes could adjust to the growing dark. Finally, she touched the sea floor. Aliza manipulated the shadows there to move out of her way so the treasure could be found.
She scoured the floor for several minutes before spotting a chest. And another. And another. There were nine chests in total. Aliza’s jaw dropped before she smiled.
These would get them somewhere to call their own.
And she’d finally be able to sail the seas in peace.
Aliza took the hidden knife out of her boot and jiggled it around in the chests’ locks to open them. Her eyes drank in the glittering gold and precious gems greedily. She stuffed as many riches as she could on her person before summoning her shadow magic once more. It took longer to do so, as the powers had not been exercised in a long time. In addition, she was juggling her air tunnel, the clearing, and now trying to carry the gold.
Her eyelids drooped. Her limbs felt like they were weighed down by hundreds of pounds. She struggled as she swam towards the surface.
About halfway up, a loud BOOM! alerted Aliza that something was amiss. Pieces of wood hurtled down into the ocean. She watched as shards shot past her, eyes wide, her mouth a round “O”. Slices of pain shot through Aliza as bits pierced her limbs. A large wave ripped past her and bodies started sinking.
She swam to the nearest body and saw that the sailor was not one of her own. His shirt had the Brenlin royal crest on it. She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. The Serafina’s crew had miraculously won.
Thank the gods.
The bottom of the Dromon soon followed. Aliza tried swimming out of the way, but she couldn’t move fast enough. Her body was just as sluggish and tired as her thoughts were from overusing her magic.
The mast of the Dromon hurtled toward her and pushed her back to the ocean floor. She hit her head on a rock and lost concentration. Her air tunnel disappeared. She held her breath, chest burning with the effort to live. Tiny spots dotted her vision.
She knew it was pointless. She was going to drown.
Her vision went black.
Aliza’s body hurt. Wait. She shouldn’t be able to hurt. She should be dead.
She blinked and realized she was still underwater. However, her surroundings weren’t the ocean floor. She was in a room of coral and she was on a pearl surface.
That’s when she noticed a woman with long, shiny blue hair and green-tinted skin in the corner. Aliza narrowed her eyes and looked further down as the mysterious woman floated toward her. Blue scales the same color as the woman’s hair shone brightly into Aliza’s eyes.
Mermaid or siren? Mermaids were somewhat friendly creatures while sirens killed for sport.
Please let it be a mermaid.
The woman’s smile was razor-sharp – literally. Her teeth were spikes made for ripping flesh and meat apart.
Aliza’s heart sank. Definitely siren.
“Hello, sister,” the siren said.
“Yes, sister. We felt your power and strength. We felt your will to live. You mortals are always seeking more of everything. But you . . . you seek only your dream. We have been searching for someone to replace our lost sister, Caroline, and you are a perfect fit.”
“And the price?”
The siren’s smile widened. “You are familiar with our ways?”
Aliza shrugged. “No, just a pirate and know how trades work. I was dead. What’s the price for living?”
“In exchange for this gift of immortal sisterhood, you must remain with us under the sea. You will lure men into it and drown them, then rip out their hearts and eat them.”
Aliza flinched backward, her face scrunched up and frowning. “Eat their hearts?! Why?!”
“To remain young, we must consume the strength, the life, the hope in the hearts of humans.”
Aliza’s expression did not change.
The siren’s coal eyes narrowed. “If you do not like the way of our sisterhood. We can return you to the bottom of the ocean for it to devour you instead.”
So . . . live and never be able to sail nor see her crew again without risk of killing them, or die and never be able to sail the high seas, much less see the world as she so desired. If she became a siren, she’d never be able to congratulate her crew on their success or even tell them where she was. They’d search for her, but she was as good as dead to them.
Aliza shut her eyes as tight as she could and whispered, “I accept your gift. I will remain in your sisterhood.” Tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Good choice. It is done.” The siren snapped her fingers. Aliza felt her legs tingle. She opened her left eye just enough to watch as her legs merged into a single, shining red tail ending in two black fins. Her doublet became a red coral bikini top. The siren’s eyes glittered like onyx at Aliza’s despair. “My name is Mira. What is yours?”
“Welcome to the family, Aliza. Welcome to the Singers of Death.”