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Spell of Flame & Sea

The Dragon & The Siren

By E.N. GusslerPublished 2 years ago 19 min read
1

The fading embers of daylight reflected in the young ones eyes, captivating Drayce. Breath hung heavy in the air around them as the child peered at him, quizzically. Urgent rustling of leaves, angry voices growing louder, the breath slowly released from his lungs. Only then did the little being slowly blink, and a ribbon of fear laced through the angelic face. He had to act quickly if he was to save her.

Gently reaching out a sharp talon, he brushed against the pale hand, hoping that his kind intention would show through, even in this form. Seconds seemed to stretch into hours, until at last the small head tilted up, stepping forward to peer into his face, before a chubby little hand grasped his scaled finger and he clutched her closely.

His wings stretched out, groaning against the misty air closing in on them. With one great movement, he lifted them off the damp earth and up above the treetops, out of the view of the men below. A few more strong strokes against the cooling air, and they ascended beyond the clouds hanging low over the bright amber treetops. It was a risk, he knew, to take a being like her into their land, given what she would grow into. But that angelic face tugged at his heart, willing him to challenge the fates.

*******************************************************************

"Are you insane, Drayce?" Søren whisper-yelled as he slammed the door.

"Shh. You'll wake her." Drayce had shifted into human form upon returning with the child, and stepped into a fresh pair of clothes. Søren began pacing the floor, and ran his hands through his hair.

"Do you have any idea what you brought into our midst?"

"I'm aware of what she is." Annoyance rolled off Drayce’s shoulders, then straightened. "She is just a child."

"You know what it’ll grow into." Søren’s face contorted. "Get rid of it."

In two steps, he was at Søren’s throat, and pinned him against the wall. The fire ignited in his eyes, at the thoughts that crossed his mind. "She." Tendrils of smoke seethed between Drayce’s teeth. "Will not be harmed."

He rolled his eyes and brushed the clawed hand from his throat, stepping away. "She is a danger to us all, brother. Send her back to her own kind."

"I can't." Drayce’s gaze lingered on the sleeping form beside the fireplace. "They killed them." His heart sank into the pit of his stomach, a broken sound escaping. "I couldn't just leave her there to die, too."

A hand rested on his shoulder, turning him to see the sudden gentleness in Søren’s eyes.

"This could turn very ugly." He sighed heavily, shaking his head. "But I will help where I can."

Søren slipped out into the corridor, closing the door with a soft *click*.

*******************************************************************

Drayce woke with a jolt. The heavy book slid from his lap, and landed with a thud on the stone floor. Fiery eyes flew to find the girl no longer where he left her, sleeping. Panic rushed to the surface, setting his heart racing and his breath ragged. The chair slid out with so much force that it collided with the wall.

Giggling erupted from behind him. Soft sweet voices whispered secret plans beside the window.

"Tuula…" he warned. "What’re you doing?"

"Oh, Sedna and I were just discussing how loudly you snore. Weren't we?"

Deep cerulean eyes crossed his amber ones; a slow nod swaying the soft curls around her cherub cheeks.

Tuula’s gaze traveled between them, and her eyes widened. “Well, that’s interesting.”

His focus pulled from Sedna, Drayce to cast his scrutiny on Tuula. He glared at the mischievous smile he found tugging at the corner of her mouth. “What is?”

“What is…what?” The glow of Tuula’s eyes betrayed her calm exterior.

“What is so ‘interesting’, Tuula?” His attention returned to Sedna, quietly playing with the small figurines his sister had given her.

“You brought a siren into our walls.” Drayce scanned Tuula’s features , expecting to see fear and anger. Instead, her brow furrowed, eyes set ablaze. “I will have to consult Cäcilie.”

“Tuula–” The shuttering of the door echoed throughout the chamber, her heels clamoring down the corridor. Left alone with Sedna, he suddenly felt unsure. He slowly lowered himself to the floor across from her.

“Sedna…” He paused and waited for her sweet face to lift at the sound of her name. “My name is Drayce.” His throat felt dry, making the words come out ragged and quiet. “You are safe here.” He watched his fingers, and swallowed the lump in his throat before adding, “With me.”

A chubby alabaster hand reached out to his chin, lifting his gaze to hers. Her skin glittered. He sucked in a breath, the flame in his eyes smoldering just slightly in their depth.

Her monster spoke to his.

“Ahem.”

Drayce rose from the floor. “What is it, Søren?”

“Lorcán and Catmail have returned.”

“Wonderful! They can meet our guest.” A small smile crept into the corner of his mouth as he watched Sedna.

“Achar is with them.”

“Sire.” The formal title dripped off his tongue, the acrimony almost tangible.

Drayce turned to see Achar, genuflecting dramatically, a sardonic smile stretched tightly across his face.

“Cousin, welcome home.” The regal visage slipped easily into place. “Tsilla?”

A slight young girl stepped into the doorway, lowering her head slightly.

“Sir.”

“Please take our guest to wash up. See Tuula, and get her something clean to wear.”

“So it is true!” Visha burst into the room, the heat of anger rolling off her. “Do you wish us destruction?”

The growl rumbled deep in Drayce’s chest, his fist clenched tightly at his side. He could feel the control beginning to slip as Visha stalked closer, her hand raised as if about to strike. “Achar–” he warned through gritted teeth. “Control your wife.”

Control me?” The flames rose in her eyes, her fingers elongated as she shifted to strike at him.

“I will have you exiled before you can land a single blow, Visha.” The calm and even nature of Kenna’s voice dripped with promise.

“My queen and heart’s fire.” He nodded to her as she took her place beside him. A smirk played on his lips. “Thank you for joining us.”

“What, praytell, are you shrieking about, Visha?” The gentle smile she wore did nothing to veil the threats that swam behind Kenna’s challenging gaze.

“Drayce has –”

Sire.” Kenna cut her off, raising her voice ever so slightly.

“What?”

“You will not address your King so informally.” Kenna’s eyes darted to meet his, almost imperceptibly. “Unless he directly permits you to do so.”

Visha’s skin rippled with scales as she shook down her shift, and regained control.

Sire has brought a siren into the castle. A siren.”

“I am aware of the child, Visha.” She pinned her with a hard stare before continuing. “What is your point, exactly?”

“Do you have any idea of what they are capable of?” Visha began to pace. Fury built in her body, and beckoned the flames from the fireplace towards her. “It’s behaviors like this that undermine his ability to rule.”

Enough!” The room shook with the command and Drayce rose to full height. “Achar, you would do well to remind your wife of her position in this court, or I will do it for you.” His steps were sure and menacing towards them. “There are steep consequences to challenging me. I suggest you rethink your approach.”

“My apologies, Sire.” Achar took a step forward, not to shield his wife but to appeal to their familial bond. “We are family. Yes, you are our leader, our King, but we are not only your subjects to command. We are yours to protect, are we not? It is concerning about the child, given the nature of sirens.”

Drayce allowed the fury to subside, but did not drop the regal tilt of his head. “I understand your concern, cousin. Consider it noted.” He shot a stern glare at Visha, daring her to push further. Her mouth snapped shut. “But the child will stay with us. For now.”

“You can’t –” Achar’s hand closed swiftly over her mouth and the rest of her sentence muffled.

“Leave us.” Drayce waved them, turning back to Kenna. He longed to smell the embers of her skin and gain her insight on Sedna.

“Darling.” He sank into her embrace, the smoky scent of her skin wrapping him in calm comfort as she brushed a kiss across his temple. “Come, tell me about the child.”

******************************************************************

Over the next hour, the events of the day poured from his mouth as her fingers danced soft pathways through his hair.

“It sounds like it has been a very eventful day.” The sound of her voice has always been the one thing that tamed the beast inside his soul. “We should speak with Cäcilie.”

“Tuula is there now.”

“Then we must wait.” He felt her sigh behind him, her body remaining tense. “I do understand Achar and Visha’s worry though, dear heart. A siren can be a dangerous force, especially in our midst.” He turned in her arms and leaned into her touch as she smoothed the furrowed ridges between his eyes. “Whatever comes, we will face it together, as we always have.”

A cacophony of voices and footsteps clamored in the hall outside the door, triggering a melodious laugh from Kenna. “Brace yourself, the boys are here.”

The door blew open, their sons tearing through as it bounced against the wall, nearly colliding with Fintan, close at their heels. “Princes! You must knock before entering your parents’ chamber. Sorry, your Majesties. They are…excited today.”

Two small bodies flew onto their laps, chatter coming out at rapid fire from both of them.

“One at a time, boys. One at a time.” Drayce laughed, tussling Lorcán’s hair as Catmail settled into Kenna’s lap. “Lorcán, what are you two on about?”

“Is it true?” His amber eyes glazed with wonder. “A siren is here?”

His eyes found Kenna’s, silently asking how much to tell them.

“Yes,” he confirmed. After a breath, he cautiously continued. “I came upon a child in the woods, not far from the sea. Villagers were hunting her.” He squeezed his eyes shut, scrubbed a hand across his face and through his hair. “Her family was taken – killed – by them. She somehow got away.” Wonder snaked through the faces of his young sons.. “I brought her here.”

“Her name is Sedna.” Tsilla stepped quietly into the room, the little siren clutching her hand.

Kenna gently set Catmail down and knelt before Sedna, extending her hand. “Hello, Sedna. Welcome to our home. I am Kenna.”

“My wife.” Drayce placed a hand on Kenna’s back as Sedna’s focus settled behind them. “Ah, yes. And these are our sons. Lorcán, Catmail…come say hello to Sedna.”

“I’m Catmail.” He attempted his most regal stance, holding out a hand. Sedna blinked, but made no gesture in return. “You don’t want to shake my hand?” Confused, he looked at his ink stained fingers before shoving them in his pockets with a shrug. “That’s okay.”

“Hello…” Lorcán’s voice carried its usual strength, but was laced with something soft. “Sedna.”

Sedna’s skin began to shimmer ever so slightly.

“My name is Lorcán.” He knelt to meet her face, his eyes shined with a warm amber glow.

Sedna stepped forward, reaching out to brush her fingers over his cheek. Beneath her fingers, his skin rippled and scales shadowed over the surface before disappearing completely.

Captivated by the interaction, no one spoke for a moment until Kenna cleared her throat softly.

“Sedna, let’s get you settled in, shall me?” Kenna took her hand and set everything into motion: Tsilla to get clean bedding and open up the windows to air out the room closest to theirs, and Tuula to gather some clothing her daughter outgrew last year.

“What will you have us do?” Drayce raised an eyebrow at her in a playful challenge.

You, my dear gentlemen, can prepare yourselves for dinner. I know one of you in particular has ink on his fingers, and the other smells like the forest floor.” Kenna cast a knowing look at them, turned on her heel and guided Sedna out of the door.

It was only then that Lorcán exhaled.

********************************************************************

Dinner was relatively uneventful. By the time they all sat down to eat, with Sedna between Lorcán and Kenna, as he insisted, the rest of the court had already learned of her presence. While there were a few glances and curious whispers, no one spoke out or raised a concern. He was thankful that they heeded the warnings sent out regarding no official conversations would be permitted at the meal. Their small guest would be treated as any other, but the questions would come, he was sure of it.

Until then, he needed to meet with Cäcilie.

*********************************************************************

“Cäcilie.” He stooped to cross the threshold to the lower level of the castle. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the candlelight in the crowded space. He searched the shadows to find her staring into a bowl of water, muttering to herself.

“The child has great power.” Cäcilie’s gray eyes remained glued to the surface of the water as she spoke. A thin, arthritic finger disturbed the calmness of the liquid as she moved the runes around the bottom. Her breath caught and she lifted her gaze to his face. “The fates would like a meeting, Sire.”

“The fates?!? When?”

“Now.” A harmonic cord of three voices sang through the air. They were already in the room with them.

“You play with fire, Dragon.” The name was meant to wound. Instead, he rolled his shoulders back and stood to his full height.

“I suppose, sister, that is what his kind do…is it not?”

“It may cost him dearly, fire and water don’t usually mix.”

The fates continued to speak as if he and Cäcilie weren’t in the room.

“Will Sedna be safe?” he interrupted their argument. “Here, with us?”

“Yes….and no.”

“Meaning?” He tried to not allow the frustration to show. Typically the fates spoke in riddles, overlapping and seeming to contradict each other.

“Her future is unclear.”

“While safe with you and your kin, others seek to do her harm.”

“She wields great power, as Sirens do.”

“Sometimes for good.”

“Sometimes to do harm.”

“I can’t send her back to her family. They're dead.” He was losing control over the emotions and the fire in his vision started to blaze.

“A warning, Dragon.”

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Can I protect her?”

“No need.” The question waved off in dismissal.

“Another looks after her.”

“Their bond has already been made.”

“Their futures are intertwined.”

“Another?” He searched his thoughts for an answer.

“Together they will decide the path she takes.”

A gust of wind tore through the small room, candles extinguished and the fireplace went cold.

“A bond already made? Cäcilie, I don’t understand.”

With a grandmotherly touch, she patted his arm and smiled softly. “It is alright, my King. Time will show you the answer.” She ushered him towards the door. His mind was a sea of questions, the fates’ words on repeat.

********************************************************************

Sleeplessness haunted him throughout the night as he lay in bed. Kenna softly rested beside him. The quiet click of a door, gently opened in the hall and the patter of feet on the stone floors echoed in the silence of the early morning hours. Drayce snuck out into the corridor, and followed the sounds of whispers to the slightly cracked door of Sedna’s room.

Drayce strained to see the scene before him, and tuned his ears to hear the soothing voice of Lorcán, as he held Sedna’s hands and spoke quiet words of comfort. He could not make out the words his son spoke, but from the soft glow of her skin and the kind way he wiped away a tear that snaked down her cheek. The fates’ words struck like a lightning bolt in his heart. Another looks after her.

********************************************************************

“Father?” Lorcán’s gentle rap on the door brought him out of the thoughts which plagued him. Stopping just inside the door, the soft shuffling of feet betrayed the squaring of his shoulders.

‘Do not dither at the door, Lorcán.” He schooled his countenance. A skill he would need when he ruled, but for now his boyish cheeks warmed as stepped forward.

“What will become of her?” Lorcán’s voice wavered, despite his set jaw.

Drayce blinked, wondering where he was headed with his inquisition. “I don’t know just yet.” He kept his face carefully neutral.

Something stirred in Lorcán’s vision, a small flash of light, and then it was gone. “The villagers will take her, if they can. She has to stay.”

“Son, she is a Siren.” He cut off an interjection with a wave of his hand. “Humans have sought out her kind for centuries. She has great power and will become quite dangerous, if given the chance, or if the situation warrants. I’m not sure what she will face here or if it would be safe for her or our people.”

Lorcán twisted his hands, his brow furrowed. His skin rippled and eyes glowed ever so slightly as he straightened his back, lifted his chin, and planted his feet. “I will watch over her.”

“Okay.”

“I will watch over her and teach her our ways. She will be both siren and dragon, in her heart.”

A smile pulled at Drayce’s mouth, overcome by the warmth flowing off of Lorcán. So young, and already so noble. “As you wish.”

Lorcán nodded stiffly. “Good.” He turned on his heel to stride through the doorway, then froze with a hand on the latch, tilting his face to look back. “Father.” His voice grew softer, his hand trembled slightly. “She watched their slaughter.” He fought to swallow the lump in his throat. “She thanks you, for your mercy and kindness.”

The latch settled. A chill ran through Drayce’s bones, as a disembodied whisper brushed against his cheek.

The siren is mine.

He turned, eyes searching the void. An icy caress slithered around his neck and down his chest.

I will take what is mine. You cannot stop what is to come.

A squeal outside the window sucked the air from the room. Sedna. With no other thought, he burst through the doors to the verandah.

The glittering sun blinded him for a moment as he searched the courtyard three floors below. Finally he spotted them near the fountain.

Drayce watched as the water danced out of the fountain. Sedna’s hands were outstretched, fingers delicately conducting the glittery ribbons through the air. Lorcán perched on the edge of the fountain, formed small fireballs in his palm and blew them like bubbles to meet with Sedna’s water formation. When the fire met with the cool water, small puffs of steam floated into the air above them in little shapes.

“Lion.” Lorcán named a shape as it floated like a tiny cotton fluff.

“Raven.” Sedna named the next shape, joy infecting her face.

“Rose.” Lorcán smirked as a smoldering bud opened into a velvety bloom.

Sedna’s eyes lit up, her skin awash with a shimmery dew that swirled and danced across her limbs.

Lorcán’s face broke out in a boyish grin at Sedna’s laughter filling the courtyard. He took her hand in his and led her around the garden. He taught her the names of the plants, birds and insects. Every few steps he paused to bend his ear to her questions. Then he would with a softness to his voice and a smile which transformed his usually serious face.

Drayce watched them fade out of view as they continued down the labyrinth of flowers and hedges.

“Sire.” Cäcilie blew through the door with Søren and Vìdarr at her heels. “She is coming.”

His stomach filled with dread, but recovered quickly and trained his face into its regal façade. “I will receive her in the Hall.”

Søren nodded a small bow and backed out of the room, his cloak floating behind him.

Drayce turned to Vìdarr. “Captain, what do you report?”

Vìdarr clicked his heels to attention, with a slight bow of his head. “Sire, the Sentinels reported Esmeray’s forces have collected at our borders.” He swallowed and shook off worried look. “They have released ice arrows over the barriers.”

Drayce froze. “Was anyone harmed?”

“No, sire. They were warning shots. An attempt to show that they can hit us. If they want to.”

“Double the defenses at the borders. Call up anyone who can help and get some boards up to cover the area within reach of the arrows. And send around a few guards to notify residents to stay indoors until the evening meal.”

Vìdarr bowed, “Yes, Sire.” Then turned, and strode out into the corridor.

*********************************************************************

Acrasia blew through the doors to the Great Hall, her emerald eyes ablaze and fixed on Drayce. The subjects who gathered in the hall cowarded in the shadows, fearful of what she may do. A raven cloud billowed behind her, blurring the lines between clothes and hair.

“Such a turn out. Just to see little old me?” She feigned surprise.

“Don’t flatter yourself, Acrasia. What do you want?” Drayce made no attempt to disguise his disdain. “You violate the treaty coming here without notice of request.” He warned.

“Yes,” she glowered ruefully. “Of course I would have sent a request. Had someone not stolen from me.”

“What do you want?” His patience was wearing thin with her intrusion.

“What is mine.” She lifted a bony shoulder in a half shrug. “Return it, and I will leave.”

“What exactly do you think was taken?”

Her emerald eyes bore into his, her jaw set in a small snarl. “The child.”

“I see.” His leveled stare remained on her. “What right do you have to this child?”

“I agreed to take her in.” A fiendish sneer settled on her face. “When her parents died.”

Rage boiled up in Drayce, an inferno ignited in his eyes as he rose from his throne. “When they were murdered.”

“It is of no consequence how they died.” Acrasia waved a skeletal hand. “A promise is a promise.”

“What makes you think this child is here?”

A smirk stretched across her dark face, as her attention settled on two figures in the shadows. “I have my ways.”

Drayce followed her gaze to Achar and Visha, attempting to slowly retreat from the room. Søren and the guards immediately moved in, and took them into custody.

“She is mine.” Smoke billowed up around her, snuffing out the light that streamed into the hall.“Give her to me!”

“No.” His face remained stern. The muscle in his jaw twitched and his fingers flexed, extending his talons.

Acrasia’s smoke filled the hall and blocked out the light. “Grave mistake, dragon.”

“You waste your breath.” His scales shimmied down his skin as he took a menacing step forward. “Leave.”

Give her to me!

You. Will. Leave.” Drayce punctuated each word with increasing malice. The dragon inside him inched closer to the surface. His golden eyes set ablaze, he grew another foot onto his already imposing height. “Now.

Acrasia suppressed a shiver, but the hesitation showed. Her arm raised and she readied to send an attack.

Enough!” Cäcilie’s voice sang through the tension which permeated the great hall. Her hand reached toward Acrasia, ready to counter.

The air became still.

An echo of tiny footsteps sounded from the side corridor as Sedna came to stand between Drayce and Cäcilie. Lorcán slid to a stop beside her. Silently, he grasped her hand in his, and set her skin alight.

“Sedna, dear child.” Acrasia’s voice reverberated in the vacuity. “Come to me.”

Lorcán’s scales rippled as he stepped in front of Sedna. “Stay away from her!”

“Step away, boy.” Acrasia flicked a hand in Lorcán’s direction to throw towards the wall, but he dug in his heels and righted himself.

The darkness thickened as Acrasia’s power built with her anger. The shadow grew like serpents from her cloak and reached for Sedna’s wrist.

Protectiveness boiled over in Lorcán. His dragon forced to the surface, his wings stretched to shield Sedna. His taloned feet dug into the stone floor, as the smoke poured from his nostrils and between his teeth.

The Great Hall erupted in a cascade of fire and swirling shadows. Bodies smashed against walls and through windows.

Lorcán descended upon Acrasia and sent her flying up into the rafters. Her body stopped just short of the large beams as her magic gently lowered her to the floor.

Acrasia’s arms stretched up above her as she called the shadows back. A thunderous cloud swirled overhead and electricity crackled as the storm grew. Lighting struck Lorcán, knocking him to the ground. Wounded, his dragon dissipated.

Sedna stepped out into the center of the floor, her skin shimmered with the light of a thousand stars. She looked up into the storm Acrasia had built, the rotation halted, frozen in place.

Acrasia’s eyes lit with delight as she turned one tendril of smoke into a hand that reached to take Sedna’s. “Yes, come with me.”

Lorcán ran towards her, halted by Drayce’s tight grasp. “Sedna, no!” Lorcán cried out.

As Sedna turned to face them, her eyes shone through the darkness.

Drayce watched a scalding tear sear down Lorcán’s face. “You’ve done all you can, son.”

Sedna’s glowing form took slow strides towards the beckoning serpents. The storm above her shook and rumbled, ready to unleash the torrent.

“Come, child. Together we will topple kingdoms.” Acrasia’s face contorted with gruesome lines as she laughed.

Sedna stilled and her skin went to blinding gold. “No.”

Acrasia’s voice choked and went silent. Her arms locked to her sides as Sedna took control over the shadows. Sedna approached her, stopping at the edge of swirling murkiness, leveling her with an emotionless face. “No.” She repeated with a razor edge to her voice.

A furious and terrified sound was strangled out of Acrasia as her bindings tightened.

A clap of thunder rattled through the great hall as the darkness closed in on itself and Acrasia, collapsing into a sparkling black cloud of ash that fell around Sedna.

Sunlight streamed into the Great Hall as Drayce and Lorcán rushed to crouch beside her.

“The child has chosen.” The harmony of fates called from the emptiness.

“The path has been set.”

“What path?” Lorcán looked at Drayce, confusion etched on his face.

“This is her home now, Son."

“If she wants.” Kenna added with a smile as she turned to Sedna. “Is that what you want?”

Sedna smiled as she took Kenna’s hand and nodded. “Home.”

And so Sedna remained in the land of the dragons, walking that line between the flames and the sea. A piece of both worlds, but belonged to neither.

And saved them all.

Fantasy
1

About the Creator

E.N. Gussler

Writer. Photographer. World-traveler. Adventurer. Ohio State Alum.

A California native living in Ohio, I pull inspiration from my travels & life around me.

Co-creator: VoyagersPen.com

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