The Last Siren's Song

Maggie Haan
Once upon a time, there lived a powerful king with three sons he dearly loved. One day, the eldest son, who dreamed of adventure, told his father that he wished to sail across the world, and begged him for his blessing to leave.
The king’s heart was filled with sadness, for he valued his child more than all the gold and jewels in his magnificent palace, and he did not wish to lose him to the terrors of the roiling sea. Still, he gave the prince his blessing, and provided for him a fine ship and crew with which to seek his fortune. And so the eldest son set off, hopeful; his world bright and twinkling with dreams to be fulfilled.
But the king had been right to worry, for the sea that forever crashed into his country’s cliff-lined shores, ripping at the foundations of his realm, was merciless and had no sympathy for young princes with gilded dreams. It sent its favorite daughters, the sirens, whose enchanting songs had long sent sailors to watery graves. They surrounded the ship on a moonless night, and when the sun painted the waters bloody red the next morning, broken timbers lay on the ocean floor, not one man left to tell the gruesome tale.
The prince’s family began to mourn. His brother, the second-born prince, desperate for a chance to avenge his lost kin, and possessing of a brave heart, one that did not shy at the thought of death, secured his own ship—not one made for exploration, but for bloodshed—and crewed it with the mightiest warriors in all the land. The king begged the second prince not to leave, for he could not bear to lose another child to the depths, and the twisted creatures that lurked within. Still, though he was greatly saddened, he gave his blessing to his son.
But the king had again been right to worry, for the sea was harsh and wicked, and again sent its favorite daughters, the sirens with their beautiful tricks, to pursue the second prince. This time, one man survived, and he brought back the tale of the deadly sirens, whose monstrous claws and enchanting song had pulled the rest of the crew beneath the waters. 
The king grew mad with grief for his sons, and he soon died, tormented by the knowledge that his children could still be beside him, but he had let them go to their doom. 
The new king, the last, youngest son, driven by grief and hatred, called many other rulers to his side, and ordered every last siren to be slain. 
A vicious war began, and lasted for generations, leaving orphans and widows and shattered hearts. Both sides called the other monsters, and perhaps they both were, for both sides left tears and blood and far too many graves.
The fighting did not cease until there was only one young siren left—the rest slain or chased far away. She had been a princess among her people, now a queen, but she ruled over naught but corpses and memories. Now that she had been captured, humans were safe from the horrors of sirens, claimed the king, the great-great-great-great-great grandson of the man who had begun the bloody war.
The little siren, still a child, didn’t understand her fate. Why were her people monsters? They had hunted, yes, but they were predators, and they would starve if they did not eat flesh. All she knew was that the humans had taken everyone and everything she loved, and she couldn’t understand why she was left to suffer alone. 
She did not know, but the human king was fascinated by the little siren queen he had captured, for he had once heard a siren’s song—not one of trickery and death—but a gentle tune, a lullaby sung by a mother to her daughter. He wanted, more than anything else, to hear that same soothing melody again, and so he ordered the last siren to be brought to his throne room.
There, in a shining cage of iron and glass, he bound her and forced her to sing for his court. But however much he tormented her, she could not sing a song like the one he’d heard in his youth, for that had been a song of love, and the siren had nothing left in the world that she loved.
The song she sang instead was a tortured cry she knew would go unheard, a miserable plea to a world that did not care. 
The siren withered away, and no longer could she truly be called a queen, for she wore a crown that had not been hewn from jewels, but from chains, and all she had for a throne was an unbreakable cage. Her tail, which had once shone like the most precious of pearls, dulled to a dreary gray. Her hair, which had once gleamed like light dancing on the ocean floor, had lost every hint of its luster and glory. Once, she had been beautiful, graceful, ethereal, as every siren had been, but she had wasted away into a faint and fading memory of herself. Now, she was nothing but a prisoner in a land that was not her own, a land that hated her, imprisoned her, and had been the death of everything she had once held dear. Even the sea, the once-roiling, once-vicious sea, was silent, for it was mourning too. 
But the king’s only daughter, a sweet, clever little crown princess, listened to the captured siren every day, and heard her cries. The princess was a child as well, and she did not understand why her father, who loved her dearly and told her stories at night when she couldn’t sleep, could be so cruel.
One night, when the whole castle was quiet, the little princess crept from her chambers to the siren’s cage. The fettered queen did not know what the princess would do, but she begged desperately to the sea—the sea that seemed to have forsaken her people—that it would not hurt too much more, for she could not bear any more pain.
The princess had always been told that the sirens were monsters that wanted for nothing but the blood of men, and she believed that—she had seen soldiers brought back from the war with terrible, gaping wounds and minds that never truly healed, and she knew that her kingdom’s victory lay only in their greater numbers.
But she also saw the siren before her, shattered and bereft, and she saw her infected cuts, her tearstained face, and the way her bones seemed to poke from beneath her skin. She knew the blame lay on the king. The last little flicker of guilt in her heart, the one that told her it was better to simply obey her father’s wishes, guttered out, the flame of a candle lost in a whirling wind.
And so, despite her father’s orders to never go near the creature imprisoned by his throne, the little princess snuck to the siren queen’s side every night to bring her food and clean her wounds.
In small steps, the siren began to trust the little princess as well. When she had first seen the girl kneeling by her cage with food in her hand, she had assumed it was only a trick, some new way of torment the king had discovered. She did not know that humans could be kind—they had only ever taken from her, and had never before given anything but cruelty and stinging whips.
The little princess was young and good-natured, though, and for the first time in a very long while, the siren queen began to trust once more. The two girls began to grow close, despite not speaking the same tongue, and some of the queen’s cracks began to heal. Nothing could ever mend the blow she’d been dealt, but the princess’s friendship let it fade into something that was more a fresh scar than a jagged, festering wound.
But there were many eyes in the palace, and soon, suspicious gazes began to notice how the siren seemed to begin to repossess the unearthly grace of her kind. Her sallow, bloodied skin, matted hair, and tear-reddened eyes had become healthier, seeming to glow with the regal power that should have always been hers. 
The king grew angry—how could any member of his court dare to disobey him? How could any of them give aid to a beast whose kind had slaughtered their soldiers and turned their finest ships into driftwood? He would not stand for it. He ordered every guardsman and soldier in the palace to his throne and demanded that the traitor be executed, no matter who they might be, but he did not know that the one he was searching for was his own beloved daughter. The siren, though, who loved the young princess just as much, knew all too well, and a desperate fury gripped her, but she could do nothing to save her only friend. She could only watch as the guards combed the castle, discovered the princess’s betrayal, and brought her to die.
Tears pricked at the king’s eyes as he stared down at his treasured daughter, who cowered before him with a terrified gaze, and he remembered the words that he had said. The traitor had to be executed, no matter who they were. Yet, the king had only one child, and he loved her with all his heart. His hands shook as he saw his court watching him, and he knew that he could not give mercy to his precious daughter. As he ordered her execution, he remembered the stories he had told her every night when she couldn’t sleep. With his promise to always protect her ringing in his ears, he commanded his men to kill his only child.
The order had barely sounded when the siren queen began to sing. She poured all her torment and helplessness into strains of music that enthralled everyone who heard them. Before, her song had been beautiful, but it was no more than that. Now, though, there was siren magic in her voice, the same power that all her kind had wielded before her, and her song was one of the hunt. She again looked like a queen, though her crown was still hewn from chains.
All the people in the room stopped in place, excepting the king, who looked away, to the cerulean waves of the sea beckoning him from outside the window. With song clouding his senses, he jumped for it—and the final note rang out as he plummeted to his demise. 
The princess woke from the spell that had frozen her in place, and she rushed to the window, but the king lay dead below. A sob caught in her throat at the loss of her beloved father, and the thought that his final words were an order for her death.
She turned back around to the room, shock steadying her voice and sharpening her mind. The princess—now the queen, she supposed—commanded the guards to call the rest of the castle to the throne room and announce their ruler’s death. 
Finally, she looked at the young siren, who had collapsed, her song having taken a terrible toll. She might have been strong enough to withstand it had she not been imprisoned, but it was to be the last stand of the sirens. Although she was only a girl, she was not afraid, and a faint smile transfixed her face as her friend knelt beside her and clasped her hand. She sang one final time with all the strength left in her body. This time, her song was one of love, though the music soon died with the light in her eyes. 
The princess clutched her lost friend in her arms and carried her to the beach, ignoring the stares of the inhabitants of the castle. She laid the siren queen in the gently lapping waves of the realm she should have ruled. As she watched, the water rose and held the last of its most cherished daughters. A light shone from within the body, and the young queen turned to mist, and spun away in the faint wind. The princess could hear a thousand voices laughing—the voices of the sirens and the humans who had died fighting each other, her father and her friend among them. Their spirits were at peace. The war was over.
Maggie Haan is a thirteen-year-old living in Reading, Pennsylvania. She enjoys creative writing and reading. She plays the harp and is the pitcher of her school softball team, as well as being in her school’s drama club. She enjoys participating in spelling bees and math competitions. Her writing inspiration mostly comes from various mythologies and the fantasy novels that she loves to read. She is currently working on several short story projects and a novel.

"pirate ship,ocean waves,intense,cloudy,dark,unreal engine,black,foggy,night,rain,rain drops,bokeh,dark clouds,frothy ocean,windy,stormy" by chris-hayes is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0.

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