“The Siren’s Grotto”

Story written by Franklin Rayeski – Please do not use without crediting me  

Warning: Graphic Content (Gore)

          In the mist of the cold November, the Nonincantus floated across the bitter sea aiming towards the Cape of Good Hope on the tip of Africa. The carrack’s destination, like most, was to India to trade English goods for Indian jewels. Since the exploration of Marco Polo, every European has wanted to get their hands on Asian riches. The captain, Dominique Quinn, and the crew of the Nonincantus were no exception. In the bleak daylight, they followed the route that was laid down by Vasco de Gama and made their way along the coast of Africa.
          As Captain Quinn checked is astrolabe—clarifying that it was about noon—the carrack rolled quietly into a dangerous fog. The crew members immediately began to panic and started to hastily change course to turn around. Quinn, after realizing what his crew was up to, raised his voice in a loud yell to stop all the crewmen from what they were doing.
         “Halt!” he screamed, “Halt all of you! What be the cause this hysteria!? Speak, one of you before me, speak up! We will not turn back, we will move forward into the fog, make it to the cape and turn toward India, then come back with a full ship’s cargo of riches! Understood?” The captain’s second-in-command, Herald Wrath, ran up the stairs to the ship’s helm. He came up to the captain and spoke on the crewmen’s behalf.
         “Captain, with all due respect,” he spoke shyly, “tis’ bad luck to be sailing in a fog like this.”
         “And worse luck to come all this way with tradable goods only to come back to England with the same materials we had when we left,” Quinn countered, “torch the lanterns, if you must, and I will sail farther from the shore line and out of the shallows.”
         “But sir, we might stray from the route and, without it being night and no stars to be our guide, we will all parish in the sea!”
         “I have more fear of not reaching my destination than a death by the sea. I am a captain; I rule the sea and I do not fear over what I reign; just as I have no fear of mutiny.”—Quinn then turned to the rest of the crewmen—“Now get back to your stations and make haste to the cape! Ignite the lanterns and sail away!” The crewmen, with anxiety still in their veins, went back to their work and changed their course toward the Cape of Good Hope once more. Wrath wearily obeyed his captain and ordered men to light the lanterns at the ends of the ship. The mist and the gray sea reflected the flames of the lanterns as the ship glided through the water.
         Everyone on the boat was holding back fear—everyone except the captain, of course—and because of that fear, something terrible was being planned. The crew knew the captain was an arrogant man, but they never knew he’d be sinister enough to kill every man on that ship by leading them off the course and into oblivion. The sailors all knew that they would not be able to sail through the fog; they knew they would go off course and end up who-knows-where. They knew they had to stop the captain; they had to convince him, or toss him if he doesn’t listen—they were going to revolt and rebel.
         Quinn, above, held onto the ship’s wheel and hopelessly focused on his compass and map. They had been away from England for six months and it would take about another five months to reach India then another year to come back. Moving at about 6 knots—not including the wind’s and sea’s influence—the captain went along his course with ease. The cape was close and the roughest waters were ahead, but the captain was prepared. To the captain, the fog was just a minor inconvenience compared to the hellish seas lying ahead; he was still sure that the voyage would have no further difficulties; to him, everything was going according to plan. What he did not see coming, however, was his crewmen. Herald Wrath slowly made his way to the captain to speak his concerns.
         “Captain Quinn,” he spoke whist Quinn paid little attention to him, “the crewmen—and I—are still antsy about continuing the voyage. We all think that it would just be best—and safest—to turn back around, make port somewhere here in Africa, then sail around the cape another day.” Quinn rolled his eyes and glared at his second-in-command angrily.
         “Mister Wrath,” Quinn’s words spat out of his mouth like a dull, yet blazing, fire, “I told all of you before and I will say it once, and only once, more: we will continue our course as planned because, if we do what you plead, we will get off schedule. Do you understand?”—he waited for a reply, but Wrath gave none—“I spoke no suggestion; I command you to answer your captain! I ask: do you understand, Mister Wrath?”—Wrath nodded but stayed silent—“Good, now get back to minding the crew!” Wrath stayed put and, before Quinn could put him in his place, all of the lanterns on the boat extinguished. By then it was nightfall, so the ship turned pitch black. The next thing Quinn could remember was several men grabbing at him, knocking his instruments to the floor and turning the wheel in an unexpected turn. He was being dragged down from the helm and onto the deck where he was lifted into a row-boat, given one ore and dropped off to the port of the ship into the sea.
         Quinn, taken by complete surprise, felt the mixed emotions of hate and sorrow and fear—hatred of the crew, sorrow for himself and fear of death. He was no longer the captain of the Nonincantus; he was now simply a poor lost soul of the sea. He clutched onto his ore with his life and, with his first instinct, paddled in the direction of land. The crew on the ship, however, lit the lanterns again and searched for the captain’s instruments to turn around.
         Quinn paddled and paddled but the seas were vicious and merciless. Waves crashed into the side of his boat and rocked it violently; he barely could keep himself on the boat. Water poured in and soon almost all of the boat was underwater. Quinn tried to concentrate but his mind was swimming with the feeling of betrayal. All he could think about is: how could his crew do such a thing to their captain who, if they had just done what was planned, would’ve made them rich.
         Within the sound of the waters crashing and the wind whipping, Quinn suddenly thought he heard a soft melody; a song far off into the distance being sung sweetly by a woman. He thought the idea was just preposterous and tried to focus on staying alive until he saw a light. He looked behind him in the direction the ship was going and that’s when he saw it: fire—a blazing and ravenous inferno breathing from the sea and spitting to the sky. He saw the Nonincantus with stone shards and spikes cutting through its hull and mast and roaring flames consuming the carrack and whatever was left of its crew. They must’ve taken a wrong turn, Quinn thought, I guess we were closer to the shore than we thought. Once they crashed, the lanterns must’ve shattered and caught the ship ablaze. As he thought this, he turned forward and saw the sharp edges of the rocks before him. He dug his ore into the water and tried to maneuver around them, but it was hopeless. Quinn then jumped off of the boat just before it shattered like fragile glass against the rocks.
         Underwater, the world was black and cold. The chilling sea bit and tore at his skin and Quinn was put where he couldn’t feel the bottom of the ocean or the surface. He stayed still silently underwater for as long as he could. Above him water gently pushed against the rocks and everything was soft and delicate. It wasn’t until the lack of oxygen rushed through his mind and he thrust his body upward. He burst through the ocean surface and gasped in a large breath of air. Over the water was the opposite of under. It was a hurricane of water and wind and fog and fire everywhere. The sea’s waves pushed him toward the rocks, but then the wind pulled him away. The fog and salty water penetrated his lungs when he breathed quickly and fear was his only thought. He scrambled through the water to push to some shore, some land; he pushed to get to some safe haven to survive the hellish sea. An envying wave soon burst against the nearby cliff and threw Quinn straight into the sea of rocks.
         Quinn went back underwater and gently swam forward with the little strength he had left. He swam smoothly with his feet stretching out into the endless void underneath him until they touched land. Quinn shifted his head upward to look over water. It was no longer like a hurricane and there were no longer any hungry waves or starving winds or blazing infernos. The world was quiet and soft and black. He slowly swam forward in a neck-deep pool guarded by sharp rocks. He continued to swim and slowly the land beneath him lifted as he reached an invisible shore. Soon, he was in waist-deep water. He looked around and saw nothing suspicious or strange, in fact, he was elated to have found a safe sanctuary away from the open sea.
         Suddenly, a noise broke the silence. A low soft noise of strings vibrating against each other hummed around him, but he couldn’t pick out the source. He listened for a few moments until he recognized the instrument: a lyre. Quinn was utterly confused on why a lyre would be playing in a secluded spot like this near the Cape of Good Hope. At first, he feared that it would’ve been a cannibalistic or unfriendly native, but he then knew that it couldn’t have been for the lyre was invented in Athens; nowhere near Africa—unless, of course, if it had been stolen by a native from a marooned European or a shipwreck. He feared the unknown around him for several minutes until a soft woman’s voice began to sing:

Help me sailor that I see
Help this poor girl lost at sea
Help, oh please, oh help me
Come, brave sailor, set me free

         Reassured that the song was in English, Quinn gave a sigh of relief. The woman’s voice had a much higher pitch than the tune of her lyre, but the song was soft and sweet and gentle and alluring. Quinn, in a gentle frenzy, searched around to find who was singing the song.
         “Who’s there?” he called out in longing, “Oh, gentle madam, sing once more! Your voice is so sweet and calming; please sing again!” After a few moments of disappointing silence, the mysterious voice sang again just as sweetly as before:

Avoid the rocks with a spiked peak
Come to me, so we can meet
Oh dear sailor, you look weak
Lay beside me and I’ll sing a song so sweet

         With that, a light penetrated the darkness. Quinn looked up at the blinding small light. After a few moments of seeing nothing around the glare, his eyes adjusted to see an unclothed woman standing on top of a smooth patch of rocks holding a lantern in one hand and a lyre in the other. Bewitched by her beauty, he trudged through the water as fast as he could to get to her. Once close enough, he could note every detail about this mysterious feral woman.
         Her hair was raven—black with a green reflection that kindly fell to her shoulders and down to her breasts—and her eyes were a sparkling sky blue. Her lips were soft and gentle and her face was that of a perfectly soft sculpture that had been smoothed as much as it could with dense sandpaper. Her skin was as pale as the moon and her body was a slim hourglass figure. She stood up straight with an inhuman posture and she herself had an aura that was gentle and compelling; virtuous and pure. It was then that he saw white feathered wings stemming from her shoulders. He knew it then: she was an angel!
         Compelled by her heavenly presence, he lifted up his arms for her to bring him to heaven so he could spend an eternity with her. She placed her lantern and lyre on the ground and obeyed: she lifted him with her holy might out of the water and into her grasp. They then stood on the long dense rock holding hands. The woman then let go, picked up her tools and began to walk away, but beckoned him to follow. As she walked along the rocky shore, she, without strumming her lyre, sang again:

Oh dear boy, captain almighty
Who has swept me off my feet
Come, my savior of piety
I shall reward you for your defeat

         She then found a spot where the shore met the cliff. Here, at the bottom of the cliff, a rock was placed there naturally and the woman then sat down on top of it as a seat. With Quinn following her, she patted the seat next to her and beckoned him closer. She placed the lantern on the ground and placed the lyre beside her. Once Quinn sat beside her, she opened out her palm, and he grasped it. She wrapped her other arm around his shoulder and gently pulled his head onto her lap. She cradled him there like a child and he let her. He looked past her and looked to the stars overhead, expecting that soon she will fly him up to meet those stars and be at peace.
         “Oh angel,” he spoke softly to her, she looked down at him and their eyes met, “is it my time?”—the woman nodded—“Then please, sweet angel of death, sing me a lullaby as we ascend to heaven.” The woman nodded her head once more and began to sing without her lyre:

All good men get their reward
For all the blood at the tip of their sword

         Her voice was different. She sang in a lower note and her sweet voice only made her melody grow dark. The woman tightened her grasp on the man and her gentle smile turned to a maniacal one.

Not just victory after a war
Not just praise from their lord

          Quinn became uneasy and slowly began to try to struggle out her grasp but it was no use: she had a powerful gasp on him; he wasn’t going anywhere.

Not just gifts for the poor
Nor for acting out of allure


          “Please stop!” he screamed at her, “Please! Let me go!” He started to panic and wanted to leave, but she kept him down. She didn’t let go and only continued to sing.

Not just surviving a horrid downpour
And not just finding a perfect cure

         He knew then that she was no angel. He knew what she was: a seductive woman who lures men into her grasp and then kills then and eats them: half-woman-half-bird: a siren! He knew then that he was going to die.


Some rewards are not just for knights
Some are served best in gore
Some rewards are worth the flights
Rewards, like you good men, are scarce in store


Sleep now, softly, close both eyes

Fall asleep soundly to my sweet song

Dream of candy, not of demons or lies

Fear not, sailor, you won’t suffer long

         Her nails dug into his skin and he began bleeding. Her eyes glistened as she opened her mouth wide open to reveal her razor sharp teeth. She thrust her head at him and bit into his torso. Quinn began screaming in pain and struggled to free himself but he was as good as dead. Blood splattered on the rocks, on the lyre and on the lantern. The black water that reflected the stars dyed red and Quinn’s screams echoed past the rocks, past the shipwreck, past the fog and to the rest of the sea.
         The siren tore the man limb from limb with her mouth like a wolf would a rabbit—a lion would a zebra—a cat would a bird—a bird would a snake—like a snake would a mouse. She ate what she could of the man just
as her sisters had done to the other sailors. Once she was finished, she dropped the limp corpse and let him tumble off of the rock and into the water for the fish to finish. Blood rolled down her face and body, so she got into the water to wash it all off. She stood back up and retrieved her lyre and lantern and flew off into the moonlit tides. She flew miles above the clouds and far from the Cape of Good Hope. She then flew in circles with her sisters, like vultures, and sought out their next prey.


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