Authors: Alivia Anders
Tags: #Young Adult, #Fantasy, #Romance
“You didn’t?” Ari tilted his head to the side, surprisingly confused at my lack of information. I shook my head, embarrassed, and he offered me a goofy little smile. “I’ll have to show you a map. Charon is only the capital of this realm.”
Questions sprang to the front of my mind the moment he said Charon was only the capital. Did that mean there were other countries, cities, worlds within their own realm? Was there a never-ending stretch of worlds interconnected by portals?
“I can hear you both, shush,” Kayden hissed back at us. “If you zipped those pretty boy lips, Ari, you’d find out what we’re for.”
Ari’s attitude shifted from warm to frigid instantly. “Which is?”
“A Siren,” I said, almost subconsciously. As if the island had heard my words, the wind turned sharp and harsh, kicking up and swaying palm trees in short, rough gusts. The small pool of water began to ripple, bubbling and waving as the color turned from a light blue to a dark navy. Like a reverse, internal waterfall, it rushed inward, creating an opening. Slowly, a figure rose from the gap, my breath tightly held in my chest as I watched.
The figure was tall, thin and willowy, stretching its limber shape to reveal dainty curves covered in small pieces of thick, violet cloth. Large, black eyes covered half of her face, coupled with a small upturned nose dwarfed by a set of large, dusty rose pink lips. Waves of multi-colored hair fanned out around her face, covering the edges of high cheekbones and elongated, pointed ears. Strands of multi-colored, hand-shaped beads crowded her neck and chest. As oddly shaped it was, beauty radiated from the Siren; in the grace of her posture, to the elongated eyelashes framing her bottomless eyes.
Eyes open wide, the Siren stared at Kayden, unmoving. Droplets of water clung to her sea-foam colored skin, a subtle shimmer radiating under the surface, revealing scales as patches of direct sunlight brushed over her. Dusty purple eyeshadow rimmed her eyes, darkening the hollow and making her eyes wider, more disproportioned. For a moment, she stayed frozen, silent as still as a marble statue. Then, she spoke.
“How did you pass our barrier, demon?” Her voice was hauntingly beautiful, every syllable stretched like a delicate music note, a voice among the choir. “The Sea Queen will not be pleased with your presence.”
I stepped closer, an unexplainable urge to touch her gnawing at my head and heart. Static noise filled my head, clouding my thoughts as I came closer, utterly captivated. The words that tumbled from my lips felt awkward, uncharacteristic, but it was as if someone controlled my tongue. “Speak again. Please.”
“Ari, keep her back,” Kayden warned him quietly.
White fire wrapped around my waist, rooting me where I stood. I pushed against the flaming band, an empty ache filling my chest. “What? Kayden, no, I want-”
The Siren turned her head slightly, eyes locking with mine. As the smile lifted her perfect lips, I found myself smiling, too. “She’s amusing. Easily hypnotized, I haven’t even said her name, and yet she moves for me like the sailors do on their breakable, weak ships.” Her eyes flickered back to Kayden, the smile on her face turning crafty. “She would make a nice pet. Is she yours?”
Behind me, I heard Ari hiss in contempt. He shook his head, a bubble of laughter escaping his mouth. Carelessly, he ran a hand through his tangled, curling black hair. “Zeevna, she is in danger. We all are in danger.”
Zeevna’s fingers lightly toyed with a strand of beads near the base of her throat. A hint of glum sadness touched her face, instantly shooting holes in my heart. Fire blazed on my hands and arms, racing along my chest until it nearly encased me like a smoldering cocoon.
“Do you remember the first time we met?” She said, pouting like a spoiled child who wasn’t given a new toy. “I was six. Arielle had met you only hours before you ruined everything.”
Kayden stepped closer, reaching a pale hand under her chin. Gently he tilted her head up, keeping her still as they locked eyes. “And when I spared you and your mother, you swore to me a favor, no matter the cost. I need that favor, Zeevna.”
I watched them, feeling the invisible draw to the Siren, Zeevna, decrease until it vanished altogether. It quickly was replaced with a greater, more driven desire to light her on fire and laugh as she burned, slice at her until her blood turned the water she stood in red as a freshly picked rose. Seeing her with Kayden bled red into my sight, a voice in my head screaming to kill her where she stood.
Zeevna stepped back with a snap, rattling the beads on her chest as she moved. A hand on her head, she shook it slowly. “She’ll try to kill you.”
“I wouldn’t be here if I had another choice,” Kayden said with a swear, smoke rolling off his shoulders as if the sun were burning him where he stood. “If she can’t help us, we’ll recover and leave. If you turn us away, more lives will be at stake than you could ever dream.”
She glanced from Kayden, back to Ari and I with a quick shift of her eyes. “Never in all my years did I think I’d see you conspiring with Nephilim again. A poor assumption on my mistake. Fine, I’ll take you to her, but we do this my way. It’s obvious you haven’t fed,” she rolled her shoulders, hues of orange and yellow shimmering in her subtle scales. Closing the distance between them, she pressed her body into Kayden’s, resting her head on his chest. “drain my to near unconsciousness, and keep me close to you so she will not capture you on sight.”
“The hell? Drain to what?” My eyes flashed, blue and black fire flaring higher, brighter on my hands. Ari’s white fire tightened around my waist, spare bands wrapping around my wrists and snaking up my arms. “He’s not a vampire, you stupid fish. He eats flesh, you’re asking him to kill you.”
Zeevna raised her head an inch off his chest, smiling devilishly. “Alas, she speaks out of trance. Kayden will be fine,” she purred, running one of her hands over his bicep, long violet fingernails pressing into his skin. “There is more than one way a demon can feed, one being a soul drain. It’s temporary for him, and sheds off a few decades on my near-eternal life, but what’s a hundred years to one who’s lived for over five hundred?”
My eyes threatened to bug out of their sockets. I twisted to stare at Kayden in utter disbelief. “It’s too risky, you’ll kill her in your current state.”
“He’s not stable, his entire essence is falling apart. The most he could do right now is give me a nosebleed,” she said. Her head tilted towards the wispy, graying black smoke spreading from his shoulders. “Whatever bloodlust he has been pushed into, it’s nearly killing him. The sooner he can filter it out, the stronger he’ll become again.”
I continued to keep my eyes glued to Kayden. “Ari, tell her it’s too risky,” I practically begged. My breath sputtered erratically, matching the fluttering of my heart. “Tell her it can’t happen.”
“You know my stance,” said Ari lightly. Against my thoughts, I broke contact with Kayden, turning around to see Ari holding his hands up. “Once a murderous monster, always a murderous monster.”
It seemed good enough for Zeevna. I whipped around just in time to see her lean higher, brushing her nose along the edge of his jaw teasingly. “Do it,” she whispered. “Before your little half-angel continues her melodrama. I trust you.”
At that, Kayden finally spoke. Dark pity colored his eyes black, matching hers. “And that, my little sea creature, is where you go wrong.”
Rows of tiny, jagged black horns sprouted from his face, as metallic-colored scales rose from his paled skin. Blood ran from his ears, nose, and mouth, beading in the corners of his eyes before they ran twisted rivulets down and over his cheeks. His jaw unhinged, hanging nearly a foot from his upper lip, several sets of razor-sharp, needle thin yellowed teeth filling his mouth. In second he had transformed, peeling away the layers of his human shell as instinct took over.
Kayden let out a wild growl, bloody bubbles spewing from his mouth. He leaned down, hanging his lips on the side of Zeevna’s neck. She stood there, unflinching, the only sign of her panic in the rapid rise and fall of her chest. Kayden took a deep, shuddering breath, the sound of his gasp like nails on a chalkboard.
The air around us grew heavy, thick and misted. Behind me, I felt Ari place his hands on my shoulders, white and blue fire intermingling on our skin. My blood thrummed in my veins, whispers for blood, death, and carnage bouncing in my skull. We were both equally entranced and disgusted, witnessing the very thing we were created to stop, yet forced to watch.
Kayden took another gut-wrenching breath, latching tighter to the Siren. She made no move to flee, if anything she inched closer. Waves of light green and white smoke pulled from her skin, as if the soul were being drawn from her very flesh. The more Kayden inhaled, the louder the voices grew in my head, rising in swells until the noise threatened to burst my eardrums.
“Don’t you hear that?” I said, squinting as I pressed my fingertips against my temples to dull the ache. “It keeps getting louder.”
Kayden and Zeevna made no move to respond, but Ari leaned in close. His breath was hot on my neck and cheek. “Essallie, no one hears anything.”
But I barely made out his words. Sweat covered my skin in a thin, sticky film. A chant had started in my mind, echoing and growing louder with every word. My vision clouded red and black as the words repeated, harsh and commanding in my ears.
“Kill her. Kill her. Kill her!”
Who am I supposed to kill? My head felt like it was about to explode. Dropping to my knees, I pressed my palms into my eyes, fingers digging into my forehead. I groaned, nausea gripping at my stomach and twisting hard.
Like the break in a storm, the voices stopped, white noise pressing into the silence. I could hear Ari, leaning down alongside me, repeatedly asking if I was okay. Slowly my hands dropped from my face, resting in my lap as I took in my surroundings. Kayden had stopped soul draining Zeevna, her semi-conscious body pressed into his slowly-tanning body. It all seemed normal, as normal as it could be, if it didn’t include the petite copy of me standing in between myself and Kayden.
Ebony had materialized, dressed in a black corset laced with grey trimmed lace, black tutu skirt, stocking, and ballet flats. The single strip of black hair she had shown me in the castle was now covering half of her head. Her pale, perfect features would have put Zeevna’s amazonian beauty to shame, had her face not been contorted in a wild mask of fury.
She rose a hand, pointing at Zeevna. “Get your hands off my demon, you vile seaweed sludge.”
Rocking back on my legs, I sat there, stunned. Was my hallucination projecting some twisted inner desire I craved, to want to lay claim to Kayden? Or was it more? I waited for her to vanish, making sure not to acknowledge her, as the last thing I wanted as to have both of the boys thing I had gone off some mental deep end.
It seemed like Ebony was about to disperse, leaving me to pretend nothing had happened, when Zeevna’s eyes fluttered open. Cradled in Kayden’s arms, her body trembled, the effects of the soul drain starting to set in. But that didn’t stop her from looking directly at Ebony, to me, and back at Ebony. Her eyes widened in horror, a scream pouring from her throat.
“Sweet sacrifice, it is happening.
, you are
” she half-screamed, her eyes rolling into the back of her head before she went limp in Kayden’s arms. Both he and Ari stared wildly at the spot where Ebony lingered, unseeing.
Ebony turned around, facing me. Gracefully she knelt down into the swaying sea-grass, her playful smile out of place with her bloodlust gaze.
“Hope you liked the swim earlier, pretty vessel,” she crooned, sickeningly sweet. Her fingers gently brushed over my cheek, stinging where she touched. No sooner had her fingers left my cheek, she vanished, spreading into the misty air, leaving only words to linger. “We’ll have to do it again sometime soon.”
Raising a quivering hand to my face, I pressed my hand where Ebony’s fingers had touched my face. Warm liquid coated my fingers, and I knew it was blood before I had even seen it. I turned my head to find Ari, locking my shell-shocked gaze with his disturbed, frightened blue eyed stare. Neither one of us knew what had just happened.
Against my better judgement, I managed to ask the only question burning on my tongue. “What... what does
Ari shook his head, clueless as I felt. It was Kayden who said told me, the answer resonating with the feeling in my gut.
means taint. It means, you are corrupted.”
NEVER CLOSE OUR EYES
If the world could break in a single pause of breath, we would have shattered to nothing.
Flashes of the last couple hours, from capture to freedom, passed before my eyes as I fought to stay awake. Yet the last thing I wanted to do was keep my eyes open. Part of me felt like if I did, this out-of-control nightmare would continue. The other half of me wondered if the real nightmare would begin if I closed my eyes.
I could feel everything slipping out of my hands. Jayson, my grandparents, Leo, Ursula, it all started to sink in. They were tied to me, both big and small, and out of that short list only one remained alive, assuming Abigail had been keeping him safe. Assuming he needed protection.