Monday, May 30, 2016

Reader's Review: "Untamed" by Madeline Dyer

Synopsis from Amazon:
As one of the last Untamed humans left in the world, Seven’s life has always been controlled by tight rules. Stay away from the Enhanced. Don’t question your leader. And, most importantly, never switch sides—because once you’re Enhanced there’s no going back. Even if you have become the perfect human being.

But after a disastrous raid on an Enhanced city, Seven soon finds herself in her enemy’s power. Realizing it’s only a matter of time before she too develops a taste for the chemical augmenters responsible for the erosion of humanity, Seven knows she must act quickly if she’s to escape and save her family from the same fate.

Yet, as one of the most powerful Seers that the Untamed and Enhanced have ever known, Seven quickly discovers that she alone holds the key to the survival of only one race. But things aren’t clear-cut anymore, and with Seven now questioning the very beliefs she was raised on, she knows she has an important choice to make. One that has two very different outcomes.

Seven must choose wisely whose side she joins, for the War of Humanity is underway, and Death never takes kindly to traitors.  
>>>>>>>
 
My Review:
This was a book I bought on one of those "Only Spend Gift Card Money" buying binges... I swear, it's the only way to ration myself; I could very easily just go broke with how many awesome writers there are out there.
So anyway, this British writer is not a frequent poster in the group where I most frequently pick up indie books for these featured reviews, but everybody keeps mentioning her book, and so I added it on a whim to my watchlist, waiting for a gift card to spend it on. I got the card, I bought the book, and finally, I get the chance to sit down and read it.

This book just about destroyed any semblance of productivity in me every time I picked it up. Two nights of staying up WAYYY past my bedtime and one afternoon of completely ignoring my chores, and I reached the end. I couldn't just read a few chapters here and there. I was blowing through whole chunks until I had no choice but to set it aside and move on with my life. That's how compelling it is.

It starts out sounding a bit like Scott Westerfield's "Uglies", like there's the "in" society of drug-sucking "perfect people" who become plastic, "perfect" superhumans by taking addictive drugs that suppress negative emotions and enhance the senses; then there are the outsiders, the Untamed, who want nothing to do with this life, they want to be free, to survive. 
But that's where similarity ends. "Uglies" got too wrapped up in conspiracies and sappy romances and love triangles to hide weak characters. "Untamed" was just getting started.
Seven is an Untamed who lost almost all of her family to fighting the Enhanced except her brother Three, and whose mother may or may not have betrayed her team and chosen to become Enhanced. Seven travels with Rahn and his nephew Corin, the self-appointed leaders of a band of Untamed trying to find a safe place to settle and survive. Meanwhile, there's something special about Seven, something that has to do with her mother being one of the Enhanced, giving her a natural "in" with them, but also something that makes it dangerous for her to just give up and give in. She is on the run between two worlds; if she stops running, she dies. 

Betrayal around every corner; her closest friends might be wise enough to defend her from the darkness inside herself—or trusting them could mean her undoing. 

Dyer's characters leap off the page, each with his and her unique voice and face clearly etched in my head. The plot, as I stated before, just didn't let up for a moment. It got a bit disorienting at times, particularly with the visions and dreams Seven keeps having, but I did note that these were always explained afterward in a way that made sense. The twists and turns kept me frantically turning pages to find out what happens next. And even then, I could never once predict the outcome. The dialogue flowed naturally, the conflict made me breathless, while at last, I sighed with relief at the stunning and incredibly fitting resolution. 

Untamed is a sheer thrill ride from start to finish. Readers looking for a female character with realistic struggles and not too much romance, a dystopia with an important message of hope, and an epic new world to discover will not be disappointed! 

Untamed is absolutely worth the price of admission! I give it the full *****5 STARS***** and add an Upstream Writer Certified ABSOLUTELY RECOMMENDED! I am definitely looking forward to the sequel!
Similar Reads (Dystopian/sci-fi/thrilling)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Suggestion Box, Vol. 3: "One Thousand Words" List #44


Suggested by: Suzanne Wdowik

The List:
Name: Will (I instinctively trust all Wills)
Time: sunset (as in the picture), I'm picturing some time in the past for some reason
Place: Purgatory (or something similar)
Object: a sextant, very ornate and beautiful but maybe a bit rusted
The Result: 

"Leaving The Bottle"
 
"Land ho!"

Will nearly tumbled out of his perch at the shout. His hands gripped the nearest line just in time. He glanced over at the crow's nest, just level with the hanging net in which he now sat. Goffrey winked at him and gave a little salute. Will snorted and began swinging over to the mast. The lookout never tired of reminding the cabin boy how little attention Will actually paid to the ship anymore. His bare toes gripped the wood as he picked his way down to the deck, where all hands milled about, preparing to cast anchor and trim the sails.



"Will!" A deep voice coughed his name over the hubbub. First Mate Lance broke away from the group securing the loose rigging and beckoned to the boy.

"Cap'n wants ya."



Will nodded and headed for the captain's quarters at the stern. He stopped to brush his feet on the rug nailed to the deck before the door. The captain was a fastidious man.



Will knocked on the door.

"Come in!" A rough voice barked.

He scurried inside. "You wanted to see me, sir?"



Captain Lawrence Markham squinted at him from behind the desk. He had a map of the world spread out before him, with every island depicted and each port marked unfriendly or friendly. A compass laid out in the middle of The Sea pointed due west, toward the island of Brina, where they had done trade before. Will could guess, from what he knew of Captain Markham's methods, that this was the harbor they neared.

Will watched the man behind the desk carefully.

Markham was by no means portly, but burly, and round. The great, flowing, curly black beard was the first thing Will remembered, in his early days as a wee toddler aboard the Philomena. How it had stayed so black and thick over the last twenty years remained a closely-guarded mystery. Some of the sailors said he used tar to keep the black color.

"Will?" Keen green eyes grabbed his attention. "I wanted to ask you something, and I want your honest answer. Can I trust you?"

Will nodded. "Of course, sir."

The captain pressed his fingertips together like the steep roof of the chapel on Norburn. "What would you do if I gave you your whole cut right now and said you were a free man?"

The idea struck Will with a force that seemed to empty him. Where he was warm, he felt cold; all semblance of coherent thought vanished. "Leave the ship?" He spluttered.

The captain nodded. "Twenty years is a fair term of service; more than half my crew has changed twice in the time that you've been here."

Will felt the emptiness slowly fill with anxiety; why was the captain sending him away from the only life he had known? "But my father—"


"Was a good man, and served his time," the captain sighed, raising his glass to the memory of the late Richard Bonaparte, his first mate till the fateful raid that spared a battle in which Rick had met his maker. "But you," he pointed a finger at the fresh face standing before him. "You are your own man, Will Bonaparte. If I say you owe no fealty to the Philomena, you are a free man. What would you do with your time? Where would you go?"

Will rubbed the back of his neck in thought, and his hand slid over to his cheek. "Well, there is one thing I have always wondered..."

The green eyes lit up as the thick beard shifted over a wide grin. "Go on," Markham prompted.


"I would probably book passage to sail to Caverness," said Will. He felt the captain had a right to know; growing up without a mother, his father had died when he was very young, so Lawrence had stepped in to raise the young man as best he could. Will knew and trusted the captain as much as the captain knew and trusted him.

The anticipation dimmed somewhat. "What is in Caverness? Why there?"

Will grinned. "I saw a girl there, and she looked very nice. I didn't get to ask her name, though, and I have thought about her quite a bit since that day."

The only indication of Markham's raised eyebrow was the temporary disappearance of the narrow line of skin separating his scalp from his face. "Quite a lot, eh?"

His tone wasn't intimidating in the least, and Will knew his admission was perfectly acceptable, but he couldn't restrain the violent rush of vermillion crawling over his face. "Yes, sir; if I wasn't on this ship, I would probably like to find her again, and settle down somewhere like Finnegan, with it's good climate and secure economy—if she'll have me."

The captain stroked his beard. Finally, he let out a heavy sigh. "I have been watching you work for some time, Will," he said heavily. "And part of me was afraid you would say something like that."

Will felt the rising warmth of his body suddenly cool. "Afraid?" He nearly tripped over the word. "Why?"

The captain stood and reached toward his desk. "Will, my boy, there's something you should know; I—"



A knock interrupted him. Derwin popped his head into the cabin.

"Beg pardon, captain," he nodded. "We're moored in the harbor, and Sir Grandmire and his company have arrived."

Captain Markham nodded. "I will be out presently."

Derwin nodded and withdrew.

Will, in the meantime, felt his heart hammering in his chest. Captain Markham came around the desk and clapped a rough, calloused hand on his shoulder.

"Meet me over supper," he said. "I swear I will tell you everything before the sun sets today."



Will nodded, trying to ignore the sinking feeling in his gut. What would the captain have to say? What was he hiding in his desk?



[…]



Will jumped to his feet, sending the plate of roast flying into the air.

“My mother?” he screamed.

Captain Lawrence nodded. “It was a mistake I made, stealing from that woman; I roped your father into it, too, so we both had a price to pay: the world, Will—the real world—is not all islands and sea and harbors and pirates. You could probably spend the rest of your life out there and never see the sea again.”

The words scrambled in the poor boy’s brain; first the captain he trusted so implicitly tells him that his mother, whom he had assumed died in childbirth, is in fact still alive and unaware of his continued existence—then the man tries to convince him that the whole world was in fact some kind of enchanted Purgatory, contained inside something no bigger than a bottle, a prison fashioned expressly for two men.

“Your father’s punishment was to be separated from his wife for the rest of his life; your mother’s was never knowing if her son would survive.”

Will stared at Captain Lawrence as if looking at a stranger. “And what was yours?”

The captain sighed and pulled out a device Will knew well. “My punishment was this.”

Will still stood stiffly beside the table. “Your sextant?” he asked. It lay between them, decorated with ornate scrollwork, yet slightly rusted from use.

“What makes you say it’s mine?” Markham replied.

Will shrugged. “I’ve seen it on your desk many times,” he said, “but you—“

“Have never used it,” Markham nodded. He picked it up and held it out to the young man. “You see that mark there?” he pointed to the compass.

Will took the device and examined it. “Why have you marked that heading?”

Captain Markham sighed. “It wasn’t me who marked it. I woke up inside this bottle—yes, Will, I said bottle—with nothing but the sextant and a ship coming toward the island to treat me like their marooned captain in need of rescue. When you’re ready to believe me, son, take that sextant and find that heading.”

Will regarded the captain dubiously. “What will I see?”

Markham smirked ruefully. “You will see the outside world. That was my punishment; I had the power to know that there was more, but I could never regain what had been lost.” He pointed at Will. “But you have no such regret. You’ve only done right by everyone your entire life. My punishment is just; it should not fall on you.”

So that’s why the captain was sending him away. Will could almost hear the sound of breaking glass as his whole world came crumbling down in that moment. “But, Captain Markham, I—“

Go!” the captain thundered. “Get out of here!”

Will clutched the sextant tightly as he ducked out of the cabin.


[…]


The sun hung golden on the horizon as Will shifted the knapsack on his shoulder. The sextant rested in his hands. Trembling, he adjusted the compass to the marked heading. Raising the telescope to his eye, he stared out into the sky.


A cry escaped his lips as he nearly dropped the sextant. For a moment, he gazed around the ship to remind himself where he stood. His mind fought to comprehend what his eye had seen: tall blades of grass, higher than mountains, with tree roots like massive cliffs. Through a curved, glassy lens, he had seen the monstrous form of a gargantuan blue jay. But how? Did the captain expect him to rejoin a world in which humans were so very obviously minuscule? Why couldn’t he remain where everything was his own size? Gulping down his fear, Will steeled himself and raised the sextant again. This time, he saw the treetops, far in the distance, and a small patch of the sky. In the center of the sky beyond, a single star appeared.


The ground beneath him quivered, and Will’s concentration broke—but he was no longer on the ship. He sat on the ground, sextant in his hand, in the very forest he had been looking at. A blue jay--small enough to fit into his hand--chirped as it flew over his head. A bottle rested on the ground beside him. Will crouched down to get a better look. He could see water inside it, and the tiny form of a ship sailing away to some imperceptible distance, into a sunset so much smaller than the one over Will.


He had made it out of Purgatory. He could find his mother. Will left the bottle where it lay, as he walked down the path that would lead him out of the forest.

Previously In This Series:

Continuous Stories:
 


Crossover Parts: "Rendezvous" (SM 6/SL 2) "The Viking and the Lore-Master" (SM 9/SL 4)

 

Single Posts:











#26 "The Tides of Battle"




#19 "Story Time"








#1 "Red of Morning"

Friday, May 27, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday: "Heartsong" Part 2 of 6

 
 
Adeliyah sighed with pleasure as she watched Aylssha and Nayedi swim loops around each other during evening patrol. Twenty sirens in Kyrran's pod, and they nearly ruled the entire ocean by now.
The gift of heartsong was powerful indeed. Polar bears and whales succumbed to their will, turning aside and yielding their catch to the unstoppable merfolk; whole shipping businesses had been forced to close because their trade routes crossed paths too many times with a mysterious force that disabled their ships without fail. Merchants had to choose between receiving less profit or losing their merchandise—and their men—altogether.

As for Adeliyah, she soon grew accustomed to hearing the strange, otherworldly tones and replicating them—so much so that she would no sooner hear the song than begin to sing along, so powerfully that she could empty a boat in record time—and yet so precisely that if two men stood at the rail, one would throw himself overboard and the other would not notice until she began to sing his song.
As women transformed and joined their ranks, sometimes their early struggles reminded her of her own experience with death—but the more she watched it, the more those morbid thoughts began to fade, and only the idea of her rebirth remained. Women on the surface were weak-willed things, expected to shine as the most elegant thing in the room and provide comfort for the menfolk, while procreating and rearing their lineage, and maintaining their homes and lands.
Under the sea, she was a thing of power, an inexorable force; she had all freedom, all control—there was even talk of Kyrran allowing a select few of the pod to branch off and become leaders of pods of their own, and among those few was Adeliyah. 
"As long as the men keep sending us women," Kyrran sang once, "we may as well prove that there is yet some use for them!"

One night, a siren named Jasper returned from a scouting mission in an extremely agitated state.
"There is a boat in peril not far from here," she sang for her sisters. "I hear the fear of many men—but I can also hear the heartsong of a woman!"

Kyrran took up the melody, stirring agitation in all who heard it. "One of our gender is about to become one of our species! We must sing for her!"
They departed, and now, as Adeliyah watched her fellow sirens assemble at the badly-damaged boat, she knew she would rather be a siren than any other creature that breathed.

Kyrran raised her arms and sang as faint, mixing melodies trickled down from the boat. A commotion erupted at one end, and Adeliyah saw the white splash as a small, pale body weighted down by cruel chains entered the water and descended to the ocean floor.
Kyrran's eyes had not left the towering mast and her fluttering sails—torn to shreds by last night's storm—but her song swelled in intensity, becoming hard and razor-sharp. Adeliyah opened her throat to let more of her voice out, feeling the water in her lungs compress and amplify the sound of the song. 
More bodies dropped, but not involuntarily. The spineless sailors who had dared blame the whims of Mother Nature on the innocent woman now struggling to breathe soon met the same fate—but there would be no rebirth for them. 
As soon as the last man fell, the mermaids began attacking the hull of the ship. They breached the hold, and the heavy barrels of food and wine and chests of treasure spilled out among them. Jasper and a few others tended to the newly reborn siren, and no one quite noticed the small keel of a dinghy slipping away from the wreckage.

No one, that is, except Adeliyah.
 
She followed it to some distance from her pod. At first, she wondered if it might have just drifted loose in the chaos—but then again, she distinctly saw the oars plowing through the water, pushed by human hands. She listened, and of course, she heard the heartsong. Readying herself, she sang loudly and invitingly, intending to make short work of this idiot who thought he had cleverly escaped the fate of his shipmates.

The oars stopped, and Adeliyah saw his face bend over the edge of the boat. She locked eyes with him, singing stronger. His face was nearly in the water by now, and she succeeded in breaking his will, superseding it with her own. His fate was sealed. He plunged in headfirst and began the long process of drowning.
Adeliyah had not stopped singing. Very often, the sailors that tumbled off ships into their waiting faces were killed instantly more from the fall than from drowning. This man, not being so far from the water, was not such an efficient kill. She was so absorbed in watching and waiting for the light of consciousness to leave his eyes that she didn't even notice the second splash until two arms wrapped around her intended victim and dragged him back toward the surface. 
 
Adeliyah faltered; she hadn't realized there were two men in the boat—how could she have missed the second song? Her only hope was to try and drown the original victim before his head broke the surface, but the second man was a strong swimmer and accomplished what few had been able to do: save another man from siren-induced drowning. Adeliyah could only watch as the second man hauled the sailor back into the dinghy, and only then she stopped singing the first song.
At last, the second heartsong rang clear to her. She sang the first few notes, but the second man turned and looked at her so suddenly, she faltered a second time. He was looking at her with the same intensity with which she stared at him. As softly as it began, the heartsong faded in her throat. 
Adeliyah could not comprehend what was happening; why had she suddenly lost the will to sing? Was it because she had none of the other merfolk about her? It was too late to let him go, now; he had seen her. She looked up—he was still staring at her. She waited for the song to return—it did, softly, but her voice did not swell to match the notes anymore. She would have to resort to more conventional means of dealing with this interference. 

His near-drowned companion couldn't do anything to preserve him, and his excellent swimming skills had nothing against an angry siren wrapping her whole body around him like the chain bonds on the woman, using the weight of herself to drag him deep under the water and hold him until his struggles ceased. Even then, she felt his body, and his heart still beat within him, a steady pulse as unconsciousness was ironically the one thing keeping him alive for now.
Adeliyah knew that she should just drop him and let the water claim him, but the recent incident had unnerved her. Why had she stopped singing? What made this man's heartsong different than all the rest? She needed to know, and he just might hold the answers for her. Adeliyah made her decision as she swam away with her befuddling trophy. She needed him alive... 
 
For now.
 
TO BE CONTINUED....
 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Suggestion Box, Vol. 3: "One Thousand Words" List #43


Suggested by: Sheryl Rowdy

The List:
-Lorelei
-The Ancient Ruins of the Castle of A Thousand Turrets
-Daybreak
-A magic crystal fountain pen


The Result:


"Stained Glass Wings"
 
It was long after the common visiting hours for parishioners, but the man had run all the way there through a driving storm. He looked so bedraggled as he stood there, practically melting into the carpet, staring at Sister Caroline so pitifully that she acquiesced; who was she to prevent a wayward soul from setting himself to rights in the eyes of God? She was a servant of the church, not the personal secretary to The Almighty.
The man bowed his head and removed his hat upon entering the chapel. As soon as the nun departed to another wing of the church, the man barricaded himself in the room bathed in the warm radiance of the stained-glass windows. On one side, the Good Shepherd patiently guarded His flock; on the other, a mighty Archangel surveyed the chapel, wings and arms outstretched.

The man knelt before the Archangel and lifted his hands in prayer.
"Lorelei, the coast is clear. We have a situation."
A light brighter than the direct rays of the sun blazed through the window, so bright he had to bend his head and avert his gaze.

Thick-soled biker boots thudded to the floor in front of him. He looked up at the figure in black jeans and a hoodie standing over him, glancing around suspiciously as she shielded the two of them with the massive, multicolored wings sprouting from her shoulders.
Her mouth quirked as she glanced sidelong at him, focusing most of her attention on the door.
"You sure nobody's follow us?" She quipped.
He groaned as he hauled himself back to his feet. "If you were capable of time travel, I would send you back to the day I let you watch The Princess Bride, to warn my past self that I would never hear the end of it."
She flicked a lock of brown hair out of her face. "Are you kidding me? I loved that film! It has absolutely everything an adventure needs! Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters—"
"Lorelei!"
"Okay, I'll stop!" She sighed and drew her wings back to resting position. The feathers held the same fantastic array of colors as the cut bits of glass representing them on the window—the one that now depicted an empty celestial throne.
The angel shoved her hands in the pocket of her hoodie. "What's the situation you mentioned, Conrad?"
He cleared his throat. "We found It," he stated.
Lorelei brightened. "We did? Oh! So it's good news; here I was, expecting to hear something terrible had happened!"
Conrad shuffled from one foot to the other. "Well... What I meant was, we know where it is, but we don't have it."
Lorelei squinted. "We found it but we don't have it?" She huffed. "I'm confused!"
Conrad rubbed the bridge of his nose. "It popped up on our surveillance system because somebody decided to start using it at daybreak this morning."
Lorelei's violet eyes shot open. "You're kidding! Someone is using the evil pen of crystal death? Who is it?"
"We don't know yet; the reason I came to get you is because you know where to find it." His gaze rested on her significantly.
Lorelei shook her head and heaved a heavy sigh. "Let me guess: the ancient ruins of the Castle Of A Thousand Turrets?"
"Bingo; just like the prophecy said."
The angel rubbed her face in agitation. "Why, when you humans are perfectly capable of inventing such fantastic worlds of your own, would you still insist on pursuing everything that would destroy the only one you could actually live in?" She cried.
"I know," mumbled Conrad. "But you have to realize, a magical crystal fountain pen with the power to alter reality is a little beyond our scope of comprehension."
"Ever heard of the rule 'If you don't know what it does, don't touch it'?" She snapped. "It's a pretty good rule."
"Just calm down, would you?" He hunched his shoulders and shuffled for the door and lifted the barricade. "Here, I'll make sure the coast is clear while you—"
"While I what?" Lorelei cut in. "Sneak out the front door?" She shook her head.
Conrad gestured around them. "There is only one exit from this room, Lorelei."
She snorted. "Humph! Says you!" She spread her wings, launching her body off the ground, and swooped to grab Conrad around his middle, and the two of them sailed right through the incorporeal window, emerging outside and taking to the skies before any witnesses had time to register anything more than a large bird. Conrad landed on the sidewalk, a bit flustered, but he did his best to appear as if he had been walking there the whole time. Lorelei was on a mission, and she would see it through.

Inside the chapel, Sister Caroline entered softly, to see if the man needed anything more than just a quiet place to pray—but he was no longer there. She tilted her head. There had been no one exiting the chapel, or she would have seen them from her usual place. Where did he go?
She glanced up at the window on the right side of the room, the one depicting the heavenly Mercy Seat; though other times, she seemed to recall an archangel with multicolored wings overlooking the sanctuary. But it must not be; windows did not change so frequently. She must have it confused with another window. Sister Caroline resumed her duties and thought no more of it.

High among the clouds, Lorelei flew with powerful beats of her wings until she arrived at the island containing ancient ruins of some grand, spacious castle.
At least, that's what it looked like from the outside.
 No one in the current era knew anything of the history, but this place was really bustling metropolis, shielded from sight by a magical mist; it was a place where everything was possible--the perfect setting from which to alter the reality of the "real world." 
Lorelei landed gracefully on a perch high over the red rooftops of the city, her keen violet eyes scanning every inch of the milling masses below.
“All right, you nefarious nemesis seeking to change reality,” she muttered under her breath. “Where are you?”
A ringing in her ears caused her to cringe and cover them. The noise resounded through her mind like steel claws raking over stone. It continued in a steady rhythm; someone was busy shredding what was left of reality.
The ringing stopped, but a huge weight seemed to drop suddenly onto Lorelei’s back. She glanced over her shoulder.
“Oh no,” she groaned.
Her lovely, light, feathery wings had reverted back to the stained-glass version of themselves—a sure sign that some part of this world’s history had been changed through the magic of the fountain pen. If the writer continued before she could find who it was, she would be reduced completely to stained glass.
That wasn’t the only thing she had to worry about, though. The weight of her stained-glass wings upset her center of balance, and Lorelei the angel toppled off the high perch and plummeted toward the ground.

Previously In This Series:

Continuous Stories:
 


Crossover Parts: "Rendezvous" (SM 6/SL 2) "The Viking and the Lore-Master" (SM 9/SL 4)

 

Single Posts:











#26 "The Tides of Battle"




#19 "Story Time"








#1 "Red of Morning"

Friday, May 20, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday: "Heartsong", Part 1 of 6

"And as they sink to the bottom, they change slowly
till they can breathe...they can use their tied-up legs to swim...
And they drown sailors in revenge..."-
Original Prompt


"A woman!"


The cry rang out over the noise of the storm that tossed the pirate ship back and forth. The pirate dragged the stowaway into the open and cast her down as the ship pitched on the wild sea. She couldn't look up as the air rang with the men's curses. The surface of the wood was swollen with waves and rain, but the bloodstains of its former merchant crew ran deep.


"A stinking she-devil!"
"Aye, there's the reason for this maddening storm!"
"Let's get this female blood off our ship! Ain't no luck with a woman about!"


She raised her head. "No! Please!" She begged, pushing her way out of the canvas bag so she could at least raise as high as her knees on the rolling ship. "My name is Adelaide Terrebonne, and I am on this ship because I booked passage with the merchant to the mainland! Please, just put me off at the next port, and I will see that you are compensated for the price I would have paid the merchants!" She saw the cold gleam in their eyes, how they inched forward and leaned back, eager to get her off of their ship, but loath to touch her. "Please!" She said again.


The pirate captain leered at her. "You think that for the lure of money, we would risk granting passage to a woman?" He guffawed. "No good has ever come to any ship as done that! Yer probably the cause of this here storm, and the sooner we send you to Davy, the sooner it will cease!"
All the Pirates cheered at this. The captain pointed his pistol at her. "Chain her up, lads!"


"No!" Adelaide shrieked, but the burly men descended on her, wrapping her in lengths of strong, thick, rough iron chains.
Someone stuffed a disgusting rag into her mouth, while everything from her elbows to her feet pulled together tightly. Her ankles ground against each other, and she could feel the strain pulling on her shoulders.
A pirate hooked the end of the chain to a squat, boxy anchor, and with very little ceremony, three of them tossed the anchor over the railing.


With a bone-twisting jerk, Adelaide felt her body hurtle into the air just before a wave intercepted her, and she twisted and tumbled painfully until her body had sunk low enough that she fell beyond the turbulence.


She could feel the salt water trickling in, through the gag, but it's size made it impossible for her to close her mouth against the incoming flow. She flailed against the chain, but it was no use. The anchor settled at the bottom with enough force to break a few of her toes over it's surface, and what was more, she could only watch in horror as blood seeped from her nose and into the water. Any moment now, the predators would arrive to enjoy their captive meal. Finally, the pressure in her mouth slacked as the cloth absorbed water and became soft and limp. Eagerly, she thrashed her head and used her tongue to push the offending thing out of her mouth. She grimaced as she watched the thing float away like a large, inorganic jelly fish. She stayed there, firmly held by her chains and looking like a tall stalk of seaweed.
Now the water rushed in earnest, stinging her eyes and filling her lungs. She could not close her mouth, she could not breathe... Her vision faded... Death came slow...


A strange keening broke the silence and brought her out of the black. It was somewhere between a human wail and birdsong. She sighed deeply and opened her eyes.


She was still underwater. A dozen strange creatures circled her, with scaly bodies, translucent skin, and long, straggled hair streaming behind them. They stared at her with wide, bulbous eyes, their undulating bodies swathed in some kind of material that vacillated between gauzy silk of varying colors, and a skin-like membrane covered in scales.
The horrible circumstance of her drowning returned to her memory in a rush. She did not doubt that though she could not feel the chains, they still tethered her to the bottom of the sea, at the mercy of these creatures.
The song reached into her mind, pulling out the memories of sinking in the water, of the gag floating away, of her eyes raising to the surface as she lost the ability to breathe—
She snapped her lips closed. Had she been breathing this whole time? How could this be? She raised her hands to her mouth; the blue dress she wore hung in stringy tatters from her elbows.
Sure enough, the sensation of her fingers was not skin-on-skin as she expected. Instead, her fingertips brushed some kind of rubbery substance. What was on her face?
One of the creatures broke from the others, swimming toward her with long strokes of her tail.
She flinched, flinging her body backward—and sped several yards through the water with minimal effort. A broad, filmy tail swished past her—until she noticed that the tail was attached to her own body. Her feet had fused together into a single, long appendage; the dress she had worn evaporated into webbing over her body, over her arms, and between the fingers on her hands.


She gazed over her new body.
"What is wrong with me?" She stammered—but even her voice had changed. The words came out of her mouth in a stream of resonant tones, ones that expressed her longing for what she had been before, and her fear of what she had become.


One of the creatures swam close to her again, but this time, her mouth was open in a warm, inviting song.
"Welcome," she sang, extending a webbed hand toward the frightened creature. "You are among your kind. All of us were like you, innocent women cast off ships because of unwarranted blame. We have become sirens, daughters of the sea. What is your name?"
Her name... It took several minutes for her to realize that she didn't quite remember it. Part of her reasoned that her new body needed a new name.
"Adel—" she stopped to listen to the music that came out of her mouth when she spoke the name. Memories of her life on the surface of the land, of the loved ones she would never see again.
"Adeliyah," she declared in firm, unyielding tones.
The other sirens gathered around her, raising their hands and lifting their voices in a chorus of belonging.
"Welcome, Adeliyah," said a siren with thick grey hair and a white tint to her membrane. "I am Kyrran, and the leader of our band." She bent and twisted so her tail wrapped around Adeliyah's. "You think it is a cruel twist of fate that has left you separated forever from the life you once knew," she acknowledged kindly, "but I am here to tell you that Fate looks kindly upon us, and gives us a gift far beyond human knowledge."
Adeliyah shook her head, watching her long brown tresses floating in the water around her. "What gift could there possibly be?"


A siren with red fins darted in a series of complicated maneuvers. "We are faster than most creatures," she said, "and possess much of our human intellect, which gives us an advantage over them," she gestured to a school of fish swimming by.
Her voice was nearly overwhelmed by a chorus of songs coming from the school.
"What is that noise?" Adeliyah asked, reaching up to cover her ears—until she discovered she didn't have ears anymore.
Kyrran smiled and nodded. "That is our gift; we use song to communicate, and every creature has a heartsong, the tones meant for them... But we are the only ones who can hear the heartsong of another creature."
Adeliyah made her body an inquisitive spiral. "What sort of gift is that?"
A violet-skinned siren with thick, black hair swam forward. "I will show you."
She looked above them at the noisy school of fish. She began singing, and Adeliyah realized that she had picked one melody out of dozens. Suddenly, a clutch of fish with the same heartsong abruptly broke away from the group and began swimming toward the siren. She kept on singing, until the small detachment of fish hovered in front of her. Adeliyah watched as a few others brought out an empty net, holding it between them. The siren’s song changed slightly, and the fish responded by turning to the side and swimming straight into the net. The sirens closed the mouth of the net, and carried it away.
The violet siren smiled at her. “My name is Aylssha, and that is what the heartsong can do: it drives the creature’s desires, so if we sing along, it creates the connection; then we can change the heartsong to form our own desires, thus influencing the creature to do what we want. Those fish,” she flicked her tail in the direction of the net, “are now perfectly willing to be our dinner.”
Adeliyah swam with the group, pleased with how easy swimming had become now. “So… motivating fish? That is what you use the heartsong for?”
Aylssha sang in a happy, vicious tone. “Fish aren’t the only things with heartsongs,” she said. Her eyes tilted upward, and Adeliyah followed her gaze.


The wide keel of a ship spread above them. Kyrran began to sing, and the sirens obediently fell into formation, surrounding the ship as they joined with her. Adeliyah let her voice rise with the others, and as she watched, she could sense faint notes of a different song coming from above the water. She saw moving shapes all over the massive frame, and knew them to be the sailors. She noticed one in particular, as his progress up the rigging put him in full view of her and revealed his heartsong clearly to her senses. Adeliyah followed the demonstration of Aylssha, adjusting her song to fit the heartsong she heard. She saw the sailor stop and turn, and even at that distance, she believed she could see his eyes as he looked straight at her. She faltered at this, even as she heard the songs of her fellow sirens change to fit the heartsongs of the sailors they saw.
A splash broke her concentration. She stopped and looked away from the sailor as a body entered the water between Kyrran and another siren. The two of them were singing together, and they quickly swarmed over the man as more bodies dropped into the water. They didn’t stop looking at the ship, even as they used the heartsongs to convince the men to cease struggling to the surface, to remain in the water… to drown. More bodies fell, and Adeliyah looked in horror at the growing crowd at the bottom of the sea.
Aylssha’s song reached her. “Don’t look back! Keep singing until there are no songs left!”
Adeliyah returned her gaze to the ship above. The sailor she had been singing to still stood above her, though upon the deck, scanning the water as if looking for her. Their gazes met, and Adeliyah began singing again, coaxing him, inviting him--until at last he pitched forward head-first into the water.
He dropped so close to her that Adeliyah instinctively drew back, even as two sirens wrapped their tails around him and held him under the water. He thrashed and kicked and pulled, but Adeliyah kept singing, making him calm down, relax, and accept his fate. He died with a dull smile on his face.
Adeliyah returned her gaze to the survivors still on the ship, singing along with each heartsong until every last sailor had abandoned ship. The other sirens set about scuttling the boat, eagerly singing about the treasures they would find on board, while Adeliyah surveyed the cost of their spoils: a mound of dead bodies littering the floor.
Kyrran swam over to her.
“Well done,” she congratulated Adeliyah. “It is a rare siren who can empty a boat that fast. Join us, as we take revenge on the sailors who thought that getting rid of us would save them from certain doom!” She led the sirens into the scuppered hull of the sunken vessel.
Adeliyah followed, embracing her new life as a siren of the sea.

TO BE CONTINUED....

Further Reading:
-"The Glow" (A 3-Part Story)