<<<<< Part 4
Adeliyah swam deep and long before she regained her usual composure. She spoke to him! Why had she spoken to a human? Adeliyah glanced back over her tail at the tiny, concealed entrance to the cavern where she kept the young man, now known as Kellan.
He had told her his name—and yet his heartsong still eluded her voice. It rang in her ears, reverberating in her head day and night, but she could not sing it. She joined the pod under another ship. Kyrran’s voice rang through the water, dulling the sound of Kellan’s heartsong, filling Adeliyah with another sort of melody, more savage and immutable.
“These ones have cause the suffering of many women, making sport of their attempts at negotiating for themselves, and turning away from their pleas for justice!” Kyrran assured her pod. “Let us give them a message they cannot ignore!” The sirens all raised their voices, and the bodies began dropping. Adeliyah lent her voice in support of the others, but her mind drifted back to Kellan as she watched the faces sinking beside her.
“I’ll call you Melody, because you’re always singing…” Ha! What a pure, innocent, sweet name that was! Didn’t he know what an awful boon this “melody” could be upon his race? Adeliyah sang because there was no other power in her body quite like her voice—
And somehow, this simpler merchant’s son had completely overridden it.
“Sister Adeliyah?” Her tympani detected the lilting song of a newer siren in the pod, one who had taken the name Leydda. She swam forward with a barrel in her arms. “Terrine mentioned that you sometimes requested unspoiled barrels from the wrecks we sank; does this please you?” She showed Adeliyah the string of barrels she had dutifully collected, seven of them; Adeliyah didn’t doubt that most of them would contain food, but a few might also be clothes for Kellan. Never mind that the siren in question had been spreading rumors lately that Adeliyah was nearly ready to depart as Aylssha did after the last boat, taking a few of the newest sirens with her to begin her own pod. Adeliyah knew of a few sirens who would give their dorsal fins to be seen as favored members of her new pod.
She accepted the rope from Leydda. “It pleases me,” she answered, leaving the star-struck guppy to bask in the awe of Adeliyah.
The songs of celebration were just fading when the row of barrels snagged on something. Adeliyah looked back into the waiting gaze of Jasper.
“Where are you going with these?” she sang inquisitively.
Adeliyah tried to hide her frustration; the tide would ebb soon; if she didn’t get these things to Kellan, he would starve before she could see him again. “Oh, I thought there might be something interesting in them; I was going to open them and see if there was anything I wanted to add to my collection.”
“Ah, so the things Terrine said were true?” Jasper sounded impressed, if a little troubled by the news.
Adeliyah would have to sing carefully, with very little way of knowing exactly what the chatty siren sang about her behind her back. “I have a collection of human things, yes,” she admitted, as if unburdening herself of a great secret.
Jasper made a lazy loop, taking her own sweet time in the conversation. “Why would anyone want to collect things from humans? I thought the whole point of siren-hood was that we were better than them. It’s not like they would make anything of use to us, in the water.”
Adeliyah didn’t want this conversation to extend any more. “We all have our quirks,” she snapped, and swam away with the barrels.
Kellan was his usual inquisitive self today.
“So what sort of a ship did you sink this time?” he asked as Adeliyah pushed the barrels into the cage for his inspection. She saw him smile, and his heartsong increased. “Well, I’ll be! I haven’t seen figs like this since my father brought some home after one of his trips in the Faraway Islands!” He munched happily on the fruit.
Adeliyah watched him as the reservation within her built; she had never known humans to be happy in such closed quarters, much less in the hands of a captor who could so easily kill her prisoner, if she wanted to. (And she would—eventually...)
He noticed her confusion. “What?” he said with a shrug. “If I’m going to be here till doomsday, I might as well make the most of it.” He peered into another barrel and nodded his approval at the contents. His jovial mood dropped, and he gazed at her with a pained expression.
“Were there a lot of sailors, Melody?”
Adeliyah flipped her fin in the negative, and sang a song to assure him that these were just pirates sailing a stolen ship.
The smile returned as Kellan listened to her song, and abruptly, in the middle of her recital, a second voice—stronger, deeper, and altogether different—joined hers, and Adeliyah stopped in surprise.
“Dee-diddle-dah-yah!” Kellan sang, mimicking the tones she had used. Adeliyah received the uncomfortable sensation of hearing a song of power billowing out of a throat that carried none of that power. It was the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard. No other creature had ever tried to copy a siren’s song.
Kellan’s grin widened, and his song slipped away into a bout of laughter. “Oh Melody!” he hooted. “You should see your face right now!”
Adeliyah watched this man tease her; she would show him! She opened her mouth and mimicked the sound of his laughter perfectly, rising with her shoulders out of the water as she did so.
She saw him cringe as the noise reverberated off the rock—but his smile never dimmed. Instead, he lifted his head and gazed at her with admiration.
“Melody,” he murmured softly. “That… That was beautiful!”
Adeliyah heard his heartsong surge within her; she could sing it, she knew it would happen! Kellan would drown—him and his silly laugh, gone forever!
Meanwhile, the young man stared at her exposed throat. “What’s that?” he pointed.
Adeliyah sank to her customary level; she had all but forgotten about the locket hanging around her neck, the one that had meant so much to her as a human, now nothing more than a bauble her new eyes could not see, with a clasp her new hands could not move.
Kellan was gazing at her with new understanding in his eyes—but what did he understand?
“Melody,” he gasped. “Are you—did you… Were you once human?”
The heartsong roared in her ears, but Adeliyah could not so much as open her mouth. Kellan usually interpreted this as a response, anyway.
“You were! Are all sirens former humans then? Are they all women, or are there some men as well?”
Adeliyah found within herself a song that she could sing, to make up for the elusive melody thundering through her mind at the moment. She sang, in a torrent of notes worthy of Kyrran herself, of the terrible injustice done to women, how this was a form of redemption for the fair sex, so flippantly pushed aside and even tossed overboard in the name of luck. She didn’t wait to see his response before she swam away with the ebbing tide.
TO BE CONTINUED....
-"The Glow" (A 3-Part Story)