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A large ship sailed in the distance. It was the dead of night and the massive wooden barque floated silently through the deep, dark ocean. Like a sheet of black glass, the water would have seemed otherwise untouched, if not for the Scorpius, as she paved her way quietly across the eerily still Atlantic. Hidden in a small alcove below deck, a Mister illiam !oskins struggled
to slow his breathing. He found himself almost completely sober now as panic and fear surged through his body. "he underbelly of the ship was damp and almost completely void of light. !oskins shivered, covered in a cold sweat. His ruffled linen shirt and waistcoat was thoroughly soaked with warm blood. Where are you# "he voices taunted, speaking softly from deep within his mind. Had he gone mad# $nly hours ago, the vessel was filled with merriment and e%citement. &'on(t you find it a little strange#) he remembered *harlie asking him, one of the younger sailors with too many thoughts in his head. !oskins, already deep in his cups, shook his head with a slight smirk. &+trange in what sense#)
&"hat we still haven(t been told what the other ships have been carrying . . .) illiam did find it a little strange, but who cared# After all, the sailors were getting paid for their services. & hat ever secrets the men in *ongress hope to keep, they shall keep,) !oskins e%plained. *harlie took another sip of his rum, contemplating the idea, but before he could come up with any sort of rebuttal there was a loud burst in the sky, followed shortly by a few more. *learly the conversation was over for everyone(s attention, including !oskin(s, had been stolen by the colorful display of fire that now glimmered across the nighttime sky. illiam heard of these wonderful, whi,,ing
rockets, but was struck with awe upon finally having the chance to see them. &+omeones in for a lashing,) !oskins remembered -oking to himself. It was hard enough to convince the captain to allow such festivities, but lighting fireworks off the bow of the ship# *learly, after their si% day long voyage, the sailors wanted nothing more than to spend their last night at sea celebrating their success. !ut as *harlie mentioned, success with what# Come out, William. "he voices called, by name this time. "he fu,,y but vivid memories appeared hauntingly distant to illiam now,
driven back by fear of the deep and eerie slumber that had fallen upon the rest of
the crew. !oskins could feel his skin becoming colder. .oosebumps dappled his chest and arms as an unsettling shiver descended down his spine. He struggled to keep himself from falling asleep. If he was able to keep eye contact then maybe he could keep the creatures at bay. hile violent and fearsome, they wouldn(t
touch a man unless he had been completely subdued. !oskin(s eyes grew heavier with each gentle note that caressed his ears. "he song, while sounding somewhat distant, crept its way through the dark wooden halls of the ship. /very muscle in his face felt tired and strained as he fought the unnatural weight upon his eyelids. If he gave in, he would end up like all the other sailors on board the Scorpius 0 bloody, mutilated, half1eaten corpses. 'espite his struggles, he felt himself gradually drifting into a da,e. "he slender figures had already begun to approach him. $nce his eyelids closed, and the world slowly blacked out around him, it would be his last and final moment on /arth. ith this tragic thought, illiam !oskins felt a deep remorse knowing
he would never see the comforting face of his Mother again, nor the proud and encouraging smile of his 2ather. +till shivering, he struggled for one last moment in hopes of outlasting their song. !ut it was impossible. "he final haunting notes of their melody, overcame him. Like the other young sailors on that once faithful vessel, !oskins slumbered. illiam
"he oddly beautiful creatures grinned as they floated silently across the wooden floor. As they approached !oskins, the phantom1like beings became disgusting, scaly and ugly. "heir -aws quickly unhinged, e%posing their large and pointed fangs. "he creatures were sickening. "heir open mouths resembled large, bloodied steel traps. Like savage animals, they sprang forward at the sailor(s motionless body.
4aie awakened abruptly, gasping for breath. Looking wildly around the cramped deck, she fought to calm herself. "he rocking of the boat swayed her abrasive net of a hammock. 4aie was not sure whether the motion soothed or further upset her. Had she been dreaming# 5ust in case, 4aie reached for the knife she kept under the bundle of cloth she used to rest her head on, and she could feel her two most precious possessions snuggled up against her 0 her bow and a quiver filled with a do,en arrows. &Hey, 6ottingham is in the other direction7) 4aie remembered being shouted at by one of the other sailors the first day she came aboard the ship. It wasn(t worth e%plaining that in her hometown it was customary to carry a bow. /ither way, the laughing stopped once 5ack !randy challenged her to a shooting
contest. After nailing three flying cherry tomatoes, thrown over the ship(s banister, did she prove her weapon was twenty times more accurate than a musket. &It takes a while for men to learn,) 4aie reminded herself. +he studied her surroundings carefully, fighting to see in the dark, fully alert now. Like a tigress waiting for its prey, 4aie slowed her breathing. ith trained ears she listened through the natural and ambient sounds of the ship. +he could pick up nothing. Almost no noise, besides the faint creaking of the wooden hull. "hat, and the occasional snore from "imothy *romwell not more than two hammocks away from her. Enchanting, 4aie mused to herself, regarding the surplus of unkempt men around her. ell, at least "imothy wasn(t trying to impress her with his &war
stories) any more. 4aie was a beautiful young woman and used to unwanted male attention. A little rough around the edges right now but sailing for si% days straight would do that to even the most proper of ladies. Her doe1like eyes were large and round, giving the impression of naivet8, yet capable of peering deep into any man(s soul. "hey complimented her wavy, coffee colored hair that came to -ust below her shoulders, brought out even further by her cream1colored comple%ion. +he was, by any means, absolutely gorgeous. !ut as every sailor on that ship eventually learned, it wasn(t looks that landed her aboard the 9.+.+ Orion – it was her ability to shoot and kill.
Perhaps it really had been a bad dream, 4aie tried to convince herself, allowing her eyes to close. !ut seconds later, her eyes only opened again. And even though she barely whispered, several crewmen awoke from their slumber at the terrible word. &+irens7)
4aie(s bare feet pounded on the ship(s wooden floor boards as she sprinted up the deck. +irens were no matter to be taken lightly, for they were a vicious race. !lood thirsty and ruthless, they take shape as innocent beings, resembling beautiful women, until their victims were sent into a deep and unforgiving sleep. It isn(t until then they change into a more . . . monstrous form . . . 4aie could barely stomach the tales she(d heard regarding the discovery of sailor(s disfigured corpses. :eaching the stern castle, 4aie could already see the *aptain furrowing his brow. A seafaring man almost all his life, Alfred !ishop had been chief helmsman of the Orion for over five years, now. &Miss /llinger, this has to be the first time I(ve seen you without your hair in a braid,) the *aptain said with a raise of his eyebrow. &+irens7) 4aie blurted out as she quickly ad-usted the bow strapped to her back, barely remembering to cap her sentence off with the compulsory, &+ir.) !ishop stood unflinching, even after hearing such a terrible word. His steely grey eyes studied 4aie(s e%pression momentarily before he let out a sigh. &Miss /llinger, let(s not get the crew up in a stir now.)
'espite his calm demeanor, a do,en or so crew members were already awake, standing an%iously on deck 1 some still in their long -ohns. &+ir, if you would -ust take into account what I(m saying 0) !ut !ishop had already waved his hand. &0that +irens are among us. I hear what you(re saying, Miss /llinger, but what you haven(t taken into account is the years I have put into sailing these waters. I(m not the world(s brightest man, but you can rest assured that I know these seas like a clam knows its own shell.) 4aie attempted a response, but was cut off again. & e(re not in +iren territory,) !ishop proclaimed, loud enough for any fearful onlookers to hear. &!ut I(ve heard their song, Sir!) 4aie(s voice matched the *aptain(s as she purposefully put much more emphasis on the last word. Her face was inches away from !ishop(s as she continued, &And if I am not mistaken, that(s more than enough grounds for investigation.) !ishop must have known 4aie was right, but even she knew that +irens never ventured past the "ropic of *ancer, as they generally preferred the cooler 6orthern Atlantic waters. &"o travel so far south would be mighty unpleasant for a tail of +irens 1 a trip not worth even the chance to devour the largest frigate of sailors,) !ishop e%plained, quieter and more to himself this time. True, 4aie thought, but if there was any danger present, she had to
consider what the Orion was carrying on board. And she knew !ishop did too. "he *aptain stroked his beard carefully before making his decision. &Miles7) !ishop called out. &Accompany Ms. /llinger in looking for anything . . . unusual.) "he ship(s navigator, a well1built man with dark hair, rose from the darkness of the quarter deck where he had undoubtedly been watching the entire scene. &+ee, perhaps, if she is -ust having a bad dream,) !ishop grinned. 4aie wished she could smack it off his face. 4eeping her emotions in check, she walked carefully away with Miles, allowing him to lead the way.
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