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...
TO BE CONTINUED....
-"The Glow" (A 3-Part Story)