It's incredibly rough - and I think I'm deliriously high on caffeine right now - but still, I hope you enjoy!
It was Ryenne who spotted her first. It was hardly anything – a flash of pearly fin, a shadow disappearing beneath the lapping waves – but it was enough. “Captain! She's there!”
Rhys was at her shoulder in a heartbeat. “Where? I see nothing.”
Had the waters been calmer, Ryenne might have pointed out the ripples of the sea maid's passage. As it was, the waves had erased all traces of her presence. She frowned, squinting at the dark water. “I saw her, Captain, I swear! She was just there, beyond those rocks.”
“Are you so certain? One should not trust what one sees in the Siren's sea.” The voice, silken and soft, echoed across the water and yet, felt as though it whispered in Ryenne's ear for her and her alone. She turned toward the sound, toward the caravel's splintered bow. And there she was – the sea maid – sitting beside the figurehead, her terrifying visage belying the carved beauty at her side.
Ryenne had heard tales of sea maids before, but not one breath of them had been truth. The creature before them, while bearing the faintest similarities to a woman, was not the beauteous being of the stories. Her hair was a rich gold, yes, and the silver sheen of scales gave her skin a glow, but her face was sharp and thin, her lips pulled back into a grimace. The ropes of pearls and jewels about her neck could not disguise the jutting ridges of her ribcage. Her webbed hands too closely resembled claws, and her eyes...
Her eyes were those of a shark, black and without pupil.
Ryenne could not contain a gasp as the creature grinned, baring needle-sharp teeth. “I expected you would find me long before this night. I admit, I am disappointed.”
“You knew of our coming, then?” Rhys's tone was light, playful. Ryenne did not know how he could manage it, looking into those fathomless black eyes.
“I know many things,” the creature flicked her tail impatiently. “Your hunting me is among the least of them.”
“Then you must know why I sought you out.”
“Of course. You seek the Queen's Stone.”
Despite her fear, Ryenne snorted. “But that's a myth!”
The sea maid's black gaze turned to fall on her, and she immediately regretted her outburst. “It is no myth, child. You are a fool indeed to dismiss it as such.”
“Yes, Caelar,” Rhys's hand was like a manacle about her wrist; it was shaking. There was a warning in his eyes. “You would be wiser to hold your tongue, as ordered.”
From the corner of her eye, Ryenne could see the sea maid watching her, a smile playing about her thin lips. Something about the way her eyes glowed, even in the dim torchlight, set a chill deep in Ryenne's bones. She bowed her head, shaking her wrist free of Rhys's grip. “As you say, Captain.”
“You have come a long way for what you seek, Captain Maralan. How are you so certain that it is here?” The creature addressed Rhys, but still Ryenne could feel its eyes on her. She did her best not to flinch.
The playful lightness had returned to Rhys's voice. “This is the Queen's ship. It's fit to reason that the Queen's Stone would be here. And that you would be its possessor.”
“But you are mistaken. I do not possess the stone.”
“But you know who does?”