Chapter 20:

Chapter 20


Early morning. The ship had made its departure from the dock. With Willie at the helm, it was going to be smooth and steady sailing to the Crystal Cove. 150 miles, about a day's worth of travel. Vera yawned and rubbed her eyes, hanging over the side of the ship. Isaac polished his armor and sharpened his new blade. Willie whistled some sailor's tune to pass the time. Elizabeth kept her focus dead ahead. The wind whipped her hair around. The cool mist from the crashing waves sprinkled across everyone's faces. They all held on tight as the ocean tossed their boat to and fro.

"I hope ye land lovers know what you're getting into!" Willie called out. "The sea is a cruel and unforgiving mistress."

"How so?" Elizabeth shouted back, trying not to be drowned out by the waves.

"I think I'm getting seasick, so that's a start." Vera whined.

"It's not just your average fish that swim in these here waters! Many grand beasts and strange creatures lurk within her depths!"

"Nothing I'm sure we can't handle." Isaac assured.

"Luckily, kraken attacks are rare in this sea, water is too shallow. Same goes for any megalodon." Elizabeth tried to follow along, but she must've looked perplexed.

"Giant squid and shark." Vera explained.

"I've heard of a couple of leviathan attacks around here, so be weary of that. An old buddy of mine spoke a lot about a white whale, Mocha or Moby or something, whatever he called it, but I'm pretty sure he was just crazy." The heroes of Ethros all looked at each other and then back at Willie, his ramblings now confusing everyone. "Oh! Speakin of crazy, don't trust anyone who believes in Cthulhu! I may have lost me mind to the sea, but those people are beyond help."

"Right..." Elizabeth said hesitantly.

"And then you got all your other beliefs and faiths talkin about sea monsters. Ye got your Jormungandrs and Calypsos and what not. I ain't never seen 'em, and I ain't never believed in 'em. But hey! Probably still safe to respect 'em right?"

"Sure?" Elizabeth looked at Vera and Isaac. She shrugged her shoulders, and they shrugged back.

"And last, but certainly not least, ye got your mermaids! What wonderful vixens those creatures be! What I wouldn't give for a night with them." Willie prattled on and on about his fantasies and desires, making his loneliness ever so apparent. Vera put her finger in her mouth and pretended to gag. Isaac grinned and shook his head. Elizabeth tried her best not to giggle. "But never get them confused with sirens!" Willie shouted. The party jolted up, startled and now at full attention. "Those wicked she-beasts will drag ye, your crew, and your ship down to the very depths of Davy Jones' locker!" Elizabeth quickly took out her scroll. "They lure ye in with an enchanting melody, bringing promise of companionship, pleasure, and satisfaction!"

"Gross." Vera whispered, making Isaac chuckle.

"They entice ye with their charms, making even the sanest and steeled will of men jump to their deaths! They let you swim out to 'em, and just when ye think ye can have it all, they drag you down and feast upon your flesh! They are not to be trifled with, land lovers! Do ye hear me?!"

"Unfortunately, we'll need to cross their path in order to complete our quest." Elizabeth explained.

"Are ye mad?! What could you possibly need from them demons?!"

"According to this scroll, their song."

"How are we gonna bottle up a song?" Vera asked.

"Don't you have a spell or something to do that? Magic can do anything right?"

"There are some limits, but yeah. I think I can figure out a way." Suddenly, a wistful tune resonated across the water. A female voice, or two, or twenty. A choir of haunting beauty called out from the distance.

"Well ye better think of something fast!" Willie hastily dug through his pocket. He pulled out a handful of little balls of wax. "Here! Plug your ears with this!" He tossed down the wax. "If that don't work, tie yourself to the mast. Do whatever is necessary!" Willie and Isaac quickly plugged their ears while Elizabeth and Vera hesitated. Elizabeth ran up to the bow, Vera ran back to the stern. They looked around, desperately trying to spot the sirens. The song came from all around them, but if they could find the closest and strongest source, they could trap the sound. But it was no use. A thick fog had rolled in, as if summoned by the sirens themselves. They scanned the area while Willie attempted to navigate them out of peril.

"There!" Elizabeth shouted! Through the dense mist, the silhouette of a woman resting on the rocks. Vera sprinted over and readied her staff. She pointed it at the siren. Elizabeth ran inside the quarters.

"Are you ready?!" She came back out with one of the alchemist bottles.

"Ready!" Vera took in a deep breath and closed her eyes. A glowing, white, magical seal appeared just beyond the staff's tip. It slowly spun around while sparking.

"Ensnare frequency!" She shouted. The seal burst with light, and ethereal tethers spiraled towards the siren. They tangled up with unseen energy. Eventually, they straightened out into a cylindrical musical measure. Apparitions of the notes to the siren's song danced along the lines and spaces. They moved towards the staff with the progression of the music. Vera swung her staff back to Elizabeth. She guided the music into the bottle. The lines spilled in and piled up inside the glass, tangling up like a bowl of pasta. The notes followed suit. Once the bottle was full, Elizabeth capped it. She held it up like a trophy, with such glee and triumph in her eyes and smile. Another ingredient down. The siren dipped into the water. Vera smiled and laughed with her, then looked over at Isaac. He had the biggest, happiest grin on his face. He gave her a big thumbs up. Vera's smile grew even bigger. Her face felt a little warm. Her eyes dilated. And she dropped her staff. Vera began mindlessly walking towards the edge of the ship. She leaned over. She leaned further and further. Her feet kicked off the floor.

"Vera!" Elizabeth screamed. She dashed over and grabbed her, just before Vera fell overboard. Vera tried to fight with her. She struggled against Elizabeth's grip. Suddenly, the siren reemerged from the water. While from afar it looked like a beautiful woman, and its song would definitely support that, it's true form was much more hideous. More fish than human. Sharp teeth. Large, bulging eyes. Large claws with webbed fingers. Fins that ran down the arms and torso. Scaley skin. Its bottom half was obscured by the water, but the waist was definitely not human. It hissed as it tried to reach for Vera.

"Let go of me!" She demanded.

"Ah hell!" Isaac ran over to assist. The siren pawed at Vera's hair, eventually grabbing ahold of it. The creature pulled with all its might. The skin on Vera's head split.

"OW!" She screamed. Her trance was seemingly broken. Her eyes readjusted. She focused on the creature in front of her. She shrieked with horror. "LET GO OF ME!!!" Blood dripped down from Vera's hair. It dripped down the siren's arm. The beast licked up the blood with its long, slender, worm like tongue. It hissed again and tugged once more on Vera. She continued to scream, plead, beg, and cry. She kicked her legs, causing Elizabeth to lose her grip for a second. Vera slipped down further towards death. Isaac took out his blade and began jabbing at the siren. It hissed and shrieked. It dug its claws into the side of the ship to keep its grip. It refused to lose its prey. The boat began to rock as something swept underneath its hull. Large, dark green tentacles sprung up from the water on the other side of the ship.

"What the hell is that?!" Elizabeth screamed.

"The other half of the beast!" Willie shouted back. The tentacles wrapped around the railings. They began to pull. The boat tilted. Elizabeth and Isaac started to lose their footing. The siren pulled harder, both on Vera and the ship. The old wood splintered. Vera slipped further.

"I can't hold on much longer!"

"Please do!!" Vera begged.

"I have an idea! Can you hold her without me for just a moment?!" Isaac asked.

"What?! I can barely hold her now! Did you not hear me?!"

"You don't have to pull her up! Just hold her!"

"Take the wax out, Isaac!"

"Can you do it!? Just for a second!" Elizabeth hesitated. "Elizabeth!"

"Y-Yeah! Just hurry!" Isaac nodded. He let go of Vera and slid down the sloped ship to the other side. Vera jolted downwards, her tears streaming down into the siren's maw. Elizbeth struggled to keep her up. Isaac raised his blade and hacked at the tentacles. He severed their grip. The siren roared as it let go of the boat and as its bottom half sunk back into the sea. The ship tilted back and crashed into the ocean. Everyone stumbled, including the siren. It loosened up on Vera and the ship. Isaac quickly ran over and leaned over the side of the boat. He thrusted his blade into the siren's jaw. It pierced through the flesh and bone, stabbing into the creature's chest. The beast finally relaxed its grip completely. It struggled to find the strength to lift its arms to remove the blade. Isaac shouted as he flicked the siren off. It made a great splash as it fell back into the sea, and everyone watched as it lethargically swam away. Elizabeth and Isaac finally pulled Vera up back onto the boat. They all caught their breath as Willie navigated out of the treacherous territory of the sirens.

Approximately half an hour had passed after the attack. Vera sat on the deck while Elizabeth patched up her scalp. The siren had done considerable damage to her head, almost pulling her hair and skin clean off. Isaac and Willie took the wax out of their ears.

"What the hell happened? I thought sirens only attacked male sailors or something. And why did Vera get affected but not Elizabeth?" Isaac questioned.

"They prey upon those with lust in their hearts." Willie explained. "Usually, that be any sailor. The loneliness of the sea drives any crew to an extreme desire for affection. Although, crews with any female companions tend to be immune to the siren's call."

"Again, gross." Vera sulked.

"Well, Elizabeth doesn't seem to be the lustful type. So that explains that."

"Oh, what?! And you're saying that I am!?" Vera defended herself. Her face grew red again, but now it was unclear if it was blush or blood.

"Ye did get entranced after looking at the paladin." Willie pointed out.

"Wha?!" Now it was clear why her face was red.

"Jeez, Vera. Didn't know you thought of me like that!" Isaac smirked.

"Don't flatter yourself."

"All done!" Elizabeth announced, barely paying attention to the conversation. Vera immediately stood up and walked away.

"I'm taking a nap." She said, angerly entering the quarters. And just like that, the conversation had ended, and the adventure continued.