The Guardian (Callista Ryan Series) (10 page)

BOOK: The Guardian (Callista Ryan Series)
3.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“Sirens? Like, in the stories?” Callie asked. “What, they lure sailors to their deaths?”

Shay smirked across the dimly lit room. “Something like that,” she murmured.

The fire cracked again, and Callie jumped. Shadows moved across the walls, tongues of fire casting their dances upon the wooden panels. The deep mahogany colors in the room made everything seem a little eerie.

“But that girl was a Guardian,” Callie protested.

“Yes,” Emeric said.

“So why did you make her leave? And what is a Siren, really? I assume they’re not creatures from mythology,” Callie said, unable to help the bitterness that seeped into her voice.

Emeric sipped his wine and stood up, restless as the night grew long. He didn’t seem to have heard her question, if the way he paced back and forth across the room, apparently lost in thought, said anything about his mindset.

“Emeric,” she said, and he stopped pacing to look at her.

“Callista, there is much for you to learn here,” he said, his tone weary.

“Educate me, then,” she challenged leaning forwards.

With a sigh, he regained his seat and looked her in the eyes. “A Siren is a heartless beast,” he said. “She will break your neck as soon as look at you, and you won’t even see her coming. They have no respect for the lives of anyone not of their own kind, and they are resolute about the destruction they cause. Sirens are selfish creatures.” With a sour smirk and a quick shake of the head, Emeric murmured, “Selfish creatures, indeed. They divide their time between adhering to their own desires and planning our demise.”

“But that girl…” Callie said.

“Yes, that girl was one of them,” Emeric replied. “She was also one of us as of this morning. Allow me to explain.” He placed his wine on the table, settling into the story. “A Siren is originally a human, just like you. She will have all of the indicators which predict her future evolution into a Guardian; and, usually between her twelfth and seventeenth birthday, she will grow wings and become one of us. She then joins us here in the canopy to live amongst us until, one day, she will accidentally emit a call. This is known as the call of the Siren; neither Guardians nor humans can hear it, but Sirens will detect it no matter how far away they are. It is an excellent form of communication across great distances, a sort of distress signal. The Guardian who has made the call hears it, and realizes her fate, before any of the rest of us do. She has, of course, little control over this new talent while she is in the canopy. At that state of being so inexperienced in Siren practices, she is unable to stop herself from emitting the signal.”

“A distress signal? Why would they suddenly be distressed if they’ve been living here all that time?” Callie asked.

“A Siren is always in distress when around a Guardian. The call is involuntarily made in such circumstances, as the body of a budding Siren is agitated and feels the need to call for help. It is not unlike a human screaming when in pain. Eventually, the Siren learns to control her call, and then to use it whenever she chooses,” Emeric explained.

Callie shook her head, her jaw slack. “I am…incredibly confused,” she said, looking to Shay and Alex again.

“It’s a matter of anatomy,” Shay said. “The only reason we’re different from them is because once we evolve into Guardians, we stop changing. Our bodies remain the same for eternity. Once
become Guardians, they remain that way for a little while, but then their bodies change again. Most notably, their capacity to hear high frequency sounds is intensified, as they can detect sounds in much higher ranges. Also, their vocal cords have the ability to oscillate much more quickly than ours can, allowing them to make sounds that are more highly pitched.”

“Okay,” Callie said. “So, what, they suddenly become your enemy just because they can…make a weird noise? You kick them out because they can hear really well?”

“We ‘kick them out,’” Shay said, “because it is in their best interest. A Siren is a very misophonic creature. For some reason, the natural frequency of a Guardian’s wings irritates their hearing to such a degree that it literally begins to induce insanity. The sound emitted by our wings slowly terrorizes the nerves in the central auditory system of a Siren, which begins to strip her of the ability to think logically. In fact, even a Siren’s own wings cause her mental distress when she is first changed. That psychological stress is, I believe, why they lose the ability to Perceive once their transformation is complete.”

“What do you mean, first changed?” Callie asked. “It doesn’t bother her later?”

“The situation is rectified when the feathers in her wings begin to produce melanin and turn grey. This changes the surface structure of her feathers just enough to lower the frequency of her wings; I assume it is an evolutionary technique designed to preserve her sanity, though there have been no studies done on the subject,” Shay noted.

“So that’s why she has to leave? Because she’ll go crazy if she stays here?” Callie asked. “But then why would she even
to stay? And why is she suddenly against you guys?”

“I assume they don’t like being evicted,” Emeric drawled.

“That is what I would call an understatement,” Shay said.

“Many millennia ago, when the Siren first came about, we didn’t know what she was. We simply thought that she was unique, and since she had been living amongst us for so long, we couldn’t understand why she was suddenly so hostile towards us, or why she had suddenly lost her ability to Perceive. Once she began to truly lose her mind, Milo was forced to kill her. It was an act of kindness, really; by that point, she was so miserable that she didn’t want to live,” Emeric said.

“Who’s Milo?” Callie asked.

“He was the first chief,” Shay said. “Before Emeric.”

“What happened to him?”

Three faces froze into masks of unease, sadness. No one looked at her for a moment, and all that could be heard was the snapping of the fire. “He is gone,” Emeric said finally.

“Oh,” Callie said, feeling awful. “I’m sorry.”

“To finish the tale,” Emeric continued, “the next time a Siren appeared, Milo knew instantly what those silver wings meant. He immediately sought a place for her. He designed an island far from our canopy which would be a sanctuary of sorts, somewhere comfortable that she might live. Of course, she was upset that she was being taken from her home. I believe that is where the myths came about; her loneliness caused her to seek any company that crossed her path, and since she wasn’t allowed to leave the island due to Milo’s fear of both exposure and her ability to be driven insane, she must have sought out the warm bodies of travellers.

“To Milo’s dismay, the Sirens continued to appear amongst the people. Not right away. Usually, we don’t see one emerge for a hundred years or so. Today was an exception; she was the second to prove a Siren in the past eighty years. At some point, the hatred which they bore for Guardians became known to us. They hated being contained on that island, hated us for banishing them due to circumstances beyond their control. And they made that hatred apparent.”

“They began killing humans,” Shay said. “Simply to spite the Guardians. They knew that we would fear the exposure this caused, and that we would detest the barbarity of the acts themselves.”

“At first it was…subtle,” Emeric said, a haunted look taking root in his face. “But then the murders became more gruesome. People began to see them; they called the Sirens gods, taking vengeance upon mortals who had disrespected them.”

“We had to silence them somehow,” Shay said.

“How did you do it?” Callie asked.

“We threatened war,” Emeric said icily. “We attacked them once, slaughtering a third of their people. Back then, their numbers were so small that this entailed only about a dozen deaths. This caused them to fear us; it also caused them to begin biding their time. They haven’t made an appearance in the human societies for a while now. They have been planning an attack, instead. At this point, their numbers have grown to massive proportions; there are at least three hundred. We, on the other hand, can claim about seven hundred members of our village, though many of our strongest warriors are out on missions. If they attacked us now, they would have an easy target, and they know it. Battle has been in the air for the past few decades, and we believe that they will strike soon. Which is why you are here.”

Callie nodded, overwhelmed by all this information. She pressed her fingertips to her forehead, feeling the beginnings of a headache anchor in her brain. Too much information had been thrown at her today. Too much pressure was now being laid upon her shoulders. Knowing that she was the key to a battle which had been brewing for thousands of years was the final ingredient in brewing a good migraine.

A whisper of footprints drifted towards her. She opened her eyes, and saw Alex crossing the room. He sat down beside her without warning or emotion. She looked at him, surprised, though he didn’t meet her eyes. He continued to listen to Emeric, and, after a moment, so did she.

“We are not monsters, you see,” Emeric said. “We simply need your help desperately.”

“She just seemed so worried,” Callie said.

“They always are,” Emeric replied coldly.

Callie nodded. “So is that why you don’t attack them? Because they were once like you? I mean, even though they’re gearing up to kill you, and all.”

“It is one reason,” Emeric replied.

Something was bothering Callie. “You keep referring to a Siren as ‘she.’ Are they all women?”

“Yes,” Emeric replied. “For some reason, the trait afflicts only women.”

“We are not sure why this is,” Shay said, and Callie could hear the frustration in her voice.

“Okay, so does it happen to
the women here?” Callie asked.

“No, it doesn’t,” Emeric said. “We have women in our village who are nearly as old as I am, and they are perfectly sane.”

Shay sighed, and stood up. She began to walk towards the door.

“Where are you going?” Callie asked.

“Home,” Shay replied. Callie stood up.

“I’ll go with you,” she said, feeling exhaustion settle over her.

“Callista,” Emeric said, standing as well. Callie turned to face him. He glanced at Shay. “I would like to have a few moments alone with Callista. I will bring her to your house when we have finished.”

Wordlessly, Shay nodded, and then was gone. Alex stood uncertainly, seeming unwilling to leave as he looked towards Emeric. Emeric sighed.

“Don’t worry, Alexander,” he said. “I will not harm our guest. We made a deal with her, if you recall, which guarantees her safety.”

Alex hesitated, his eyes swiftly meeting Callie’s. She recalled in that instant the night before, the vision of Emeric killing that girl mercilessly, and suddenly she didn’t want Alex to leave. But before she could say anything, he had walked towards the door, and was gone.

The sound of glass clanking drew Callie’s attention to the kitchen. She saw that Emeric was pouring himself a second glass of wine. He held up the bottle when he saw her looking over at him.

“Would you like some?” he asked.

“No, thanks,” Callie said. “I don’t drink.”

Emeric nodded, and put the cork back into the bottle. “Tell me,” he said, circling the counter now. “Does that have anything to do with your sister’s…condition?”

Callie narrowed her eyes, but didn’t respond. Emeric leaned back against the counter, watching her for a long moment as he took a drink. Finally, he broke the silence. “From what I hear, your parents’ deaths were what lead her to the drink.”

BOOK: The Guardian (Callista Ryan Series)
3.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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