The Dragon and the Siren
Arvia woke up, nestled in her quiet run down clay house on the outskirts of town. She stretched her limbs before walking out to great the other girls; she was part of a Wicca clan or a group of girls who performed witch craft. They were an assorted bunch but the twenty or so girls were lead by a girl named Madeline, who had long flowing brown hair and stark purple eyes that constantly glanced around at everyone who would oogle the sparrow that was perched on her shoulder. Arvia rarely talked to the others, keeping to herself except when they came together for a ritual or what not, so she never remarked on their leader's eyes to anyone.
It had been a hot day as she donned a loose white dress with thin straps and a fitted form that cut off right around her knees. She took a basket and slung it on her back before setting off through the town. It was almost night by the time she had collected her supplies, foods, animal bones, crystals, everything she needed for a ritual that would soon be coming up. Her house had a few shelves where she sorted everything and let it sit before curling up on her pallet for sleep.
As she drifted off there came a voice, singing a sweet melody that sounded familiar to her brain. Disturbed, Arvia rose cautiously and set out, letting her feet guide her where they seemed to already know. It was a rather long walk, taking her into the woods past town, deep into their heart where little light fell. And the song pulled at her until she found herself humming along. With a dainty shrug, she joined in, her voice rising and falling, dancing through the leaves like a whisper of moonlight. Slowly the other voice died down, but Arvia kept on singing her chest swelling with anticipation like electric sparks. Even as she reached the crescendo, her eyes began to pour light, a vast array of colors as if someone had broken light into its colors through her eyes. As she finished, the flight flashed white and faded.
From the forest, a pair of purple eyes glowed softly. "So you are the one I have been wondering about. I have waited a long time for you to come into your talent girl." Madeline stepped from the trees, her eyes casting a soft purple glow around them. Arvia felt strangely at ease despite the strange events something warm settled in her chest, as if her heart had just found a piece and was finally whole.
The house in the woods had appeared passed through a dozen owners in the last century, and the nearby villagers had long ago learned to give it a wide berth. A long time ago, the people had approached out of an innocent sort of curiosity, the desire of the oblivious to learn something new. He had welcomed them in willingly enough, but those brave enough to pass through a stranger's front door had soon found themselves fleeing the sanctity of his home. It was his eyes, they would tell the close friends and family who would gather around. They may look plain enough, but they seem to stare right through your soul, and grab it away for themselves. But somehow, just as they were getting around to calling him a witch, and began gathering the materials necessary to drive him far away and ensure he would never come back, the man they were looking for would vanish, and a new owner would take over the house. The new owner would be a completely different person, from a different corner of the world, with different eyes and different hair and different skin. But, somehow, those eyes always kept the same austere quality, and the people eventually learned that it was better just to leave him be. After all, he would vanish before he became a threat.
As much as they might believe in magic, the idea that one person could have many forms never seemed to occur to the villagers. And that was enough for the resident of the house. He truly had no desire to hurt the people who came calling, but he would defend himself if it came to that. Better to take a few precautions than create a graveyard around his house. Graveyards were far from appealing, especially when a rainstorm would wash up the old bones, leaving scattered white rocks around his yard. Before long, some innocent scoundrel would come waltzing by, realize what those innocent looking rocks really were, and bring back any friends he could get his hands on. Before long, there would be a mob outside his door, and the graveyard would grow again.
For now, his yard was small and neat, maintained with an abstract sort of efficiency that was only really possible when it was not truly necessary to get on hands an knees and dig fingers into the warm, dark, loose soil to ensure that the tender little sprouts would make it through the first days of life. No one would be able to say that the young man who walked through the garden right now belonged on hands and knees, loose dirt in his hair and under his fingernails. And he would have to be inclined to agree with those speculators. His white-gold hair practically shone in the morning light, and it was neatly tied back in a horsetail that reached down to mid-back. His collared shirt was a clean white, and a neat jacket of navy blue, buttoned loosely at the waist, gave an impression of simple elegance. Long legs carried him leisurely along the winding stone paths, and he paused before a bush occasionally, reaching down gentle fingers to cup a rose bud. It opened demurely, blushing into a deep shade of red, and he buried his nose gently into its center, breathing in the sweet smell.
Eirik, as he currently called himself, had never been afraid of using his power, even for the most menial of tasks. At first he had even bothered to justify the decision to himself; it was, after all, as much a part of him as any limb. Why should he make an effort to avoid using it when it was there, and so readily available? Eventually, even the justifications had faded away, and it truly became a part of him, as much as any physical part of his body. He flexed it as unconsciously as he breathed, although it took less effort to remember not to, should he have the need. For, despite his slightly overbearing attitude, Eirik was not a pretentious man, and he did his best to be courteous to those less willing to accept the other possibilities in the world. It was hardly their fault they were oblivious, and would likely remain that way for the rest of their lives.
He heard the singing distantly, and raised his head from the flower to listen. His steps were unhurried as he worked his way to the edge of the garden, leaning casually against the sturdy iron fence that lent definition to the edges of his property. The song was as sweet and familiar to him as his mother's voice, and his eyes fluttered closed, hiding bright gold eyes from the watching woods. There was a new Siren in the woods tonight, waking up to a new world.
Eirik turned away from the edge of his property, and began to work his way back to the front door of his elegant little cottage in the same unhurried pace with which he had strolled through the garden. He had lived long enough to worry little about time, and this moment was no different. One of the others would bring this new one to see him soon. It was, after all, only proper. His hand lightly brushed against a trailing strand of ivy that had detached itself from its fellows. It shivered slight, and then returned to its fellows, winding back against the wall of his home, around a stained glass window and up towards the shallow roof. The solid, richly colored oak door swung open before he touched it, and an armchair by a warmly glowing fire slid back a few inches, allowing Eirik to sit down gracefully. The door swung lightly closed, and Eirik reclined against the back of the soft, leather armchair, closed his eyes, and listened to the last notes of the song, drifting in on a passing breeze.
Arvia sat down with Madeline, they had returned to the abandoned buildings and were lighting a fire, or more specifically Madeline sang the embers into a flame. Soon they had heated water and soaked the plants so they could have herbal tea. Sipping hers slowly, Arvia watched Madeline with a perked interest. "So I am a siren? I thought those were only out in the sea, you know like mermaids? They sing and lead men to their death where they eat them."
"Well those are part truths woven through stories that have been passed down. You must understand that we are a dwindling race, once upon a time our numbers stretched wide across the earth. But you must remember, girls can get along only if there is not too much to be in competition with. This is why I force girls to practice their ceremonies on their own with only a few every moon so they can practice together because then when they come together it is not one method but many different ones from which they can draw their own conclusions." Madeline sipped the tea before letting out a satisfied hurr sound, making Arvia raise a questioning eyebrow. "You will learn everything in time. I will teach you all you need to know that I can. There are so many stories that I have to tell you and in time you will begin to learn."
Arvia nodded silently, mulling everything that had happened as Madeline watched her with careful eyes. "Okay so I guess I should start here. What are the truths from the legend? What do the eye colors mean? How many of us are left?" The smile she got was a reward enough.
"Good, you didn't ask for the stories. I will get to those in enough time. As to your questions, good I am impressed. You asked better questions then I ever did. I want to start with how many of us our left, for our town or area there are three of us now that you are here. And that is about average. Now in terms of"
"Wait! That is so many sirens! How can you say we are dwindling?" Madeline just sat back and waited for the outburst to subside.
"Yes, hold your questions. Eye color," she went on as if nothing had happened " has everything to do with our powers. That lesson will come later I am sure of it. As to the legends, it is true our voices have the ability to control humans sometimes, it depends on the siren's magic. The immense hunger is another part, you will find the more you expand your powers the more you will need to feed your body. That is it." Madeline shifted her body forward and placed her hands on either side of her head before kissing Arvia on her mind's eye. "We were once a mighty race, spanning the earth farther than humans had the ability to go. Groups fought for power but we existed in peace because we lived and learned from the dragons but they died off and with them much of our knowledge." Madeline stood, walking outside in the moonlight, her purple eyes illuminating the darkness. "Come, there is someone you must meet." She strode off around the edge of the town with Arvia in careful tow until they came to the house filled with beautiful gardens that always seemed to have different ownerships or so the towns people said. Madeline knocked quietly on the door. "After this I may even take you to meet the Black Raven. She is the other one in our area."
The polite rap at his door came much sooner than Eirik had expected it to. The warm fire had settled itself into a merry little blaze after a couple logs of wood had placed themselves in the hearth, and he had settled back into his chair, fully expecting the day to wander itself away. There was little for him to do in these woods anymore. Things had long ago settled into place, and the drastic situations that would required his intervention were so rare that he could not anticipate their arrival. Even he had no way to pretend that he was entirely normal, so he could not go wandering around the neighboring lands without stirring the wrath of an overprotective villager. In short, Eirik was bored.
So, the knock at his door was not unwelcome. He stood up promptly, but hesitated before walking over to the door. It was not wise to appear to eager for visitors. It gave the impression that one needed others, and that was not an image of himself he wished to promote. He was, as far as he was aware, the only male siren in existence, and that made him unique and powerful. He had settled into a position of authority with ease, and now one of the only jobs he had was to maintain it. And that meant he had to follow the silent but pervasive rules of etiquette.
Of course, there was no guarantee that the person waiting outside his door was Madeline, with the new siren in tow. It could be a villager, a young man perhaps, pulling off a dare to impress a group of friends or a sweetheart. He was fond enough of this form that he did not wish to have to change it again, and so, after he deemed a suitable amount of time had passed from the original knock, he walked over to the door, and quietly opened it.
It was Madeline waiting, with a young woman with blindingly white eyes waiting by her shoulder. Eirik inclined his head slightly, a smile touching the corners of his lips. "Madeline," he said politely. "I wasn't expecting to see you so soon."
Madeline nodded at Eirik. "Yes well I wanted you to see her before the Black does, you know she will be here soon looking for the girl. And I promised her that I would let her see the newest one soon. She was so adamant about it so I figured you would like to see her first." Madeline stepped out of the way so Arvia could see Eirik. "Interesting eyes don't you think? I have never seen ones like them before but then again probably in the old days there were more like her." Arvia gazed at the man in front of her. Her attention was drawn to his eyes, the color different from anyone else but mostly for the vastness that seemed to be held inside of them. She felt stirred as if she should be in fear of him but it sparked more curiosity then anything else. His long blonde hair framed his face quite nicely but somewhere in the back of her mind she felt an itch, as if something were off with him.
"It is nice to meet you but I must ask that you explain to me what is the problem between you and the Black. I did not know there were male sirens, and why would she have a problem with you?" Her white eyes sought something, unable to find it in the small crease of smile. "I would prefer to not be carted around like a piece of art. If you expect to speak to me I will be asking for some food as I am absolutely famished." She finished, crossing her arms over her chest and cocking her head slightly at the man and Madeline as if she may very well walk off if they did not open up.
Madeline hushed her, glancing around even though it was still the night. "The Black is another one of us, except her eyes are the opposite of yours, completely black and she is another mystery at least to me. This is Eirik and I will let him tell you the rest of the story but really we must be secretive if we want this to work!"
Eirik's laugh was subtle but deep as he stepped aside, allowing the two ladies entrance to his house. On the other side of a wall, things were moving in a silent flurry of activity. He had no problems with accommodating the brash young woman's request. He had no problems with the actions of the young. In all likelihood, she would learn soon enough when there was a time for self-assertion, and when a little bit more of demure subtlety might pay off. Eirik could no longer honestly say that he remembered what it was like to be eighteen, but he remembered it close enough to wait for her to reach a little more maturity.
He took a seat in the same upraised armchair that he had vacated only moments before, settling comfortably into position. Moments later, a neat plate floated out, covered in a wide range of neatly arranged food. A small serving of fish, neatly piled on top o f a slice of fine white bread. A small stack of ripe, red berries sat on the plate next to the bread. Following after, a glass of clean, fresh water floated a few inches behind the plate. Both settled themselves on a table that had moved itself over between where the two women would have seated themselves.
Eirik seemed to be ignoring the floating dishes, even though it was him who was controlling their movement. His eyes were focused on the new, young siren, or, more particularly, her eyes. There was a surprising surge of emotion from within him, and he couldn't decide whether it was rage or passion. None of it showed on his face, but his hands tightened slightly upon the armrest.
The silence stretched on. Eirik, unconcerned, continued to study the face of this still nameless female. He had his own thoughts to deal with. If the silence became too uncomfortable for them to deal with, it would be up to one of them to break it.
Arvia had strode in soon as their host was seated. Her eyes flickered somewhat unsure to the floating plates but she refused to let these new things get to her; settling into one of the other chairs she made herself comfortable and began devouring the food in front of her. No need for manners at this point. She had felt the man's gaze and was unperturbed, she had long since grown used to such stares mostly for her clothes but she wondered why he would stare at her eyes. Glancing in her reflection on the tray she saw that her eyes were completely white, no pupil left. "Huh," she muttered, smiling to herself slightly, "I like it, maybe I could offset it with a nice white tattoo one day." Glancing up at Eirik and she let her eyes roam over his entire body, noticing his watchful eyes, the slightly tensed muscles but calm demeanor. She settled back into the chair and waited. Two people could play the waiting game and she had spent days not talking when she was on her own, this was going to be easy.
Madeline had seemed to shrink as Arvia stepped past her, glancing around before hurrying in and shutting the door quietly. Nodding her thanks she had taken the glass of water and sat down like a nervous bird. Arvia imagined her suddenly pecking at things around her and let out an amused chuckle. Madeline glared at her, trying to put the girl back into her place. Clearing her throat, she began. "Eirik, I think that you should explain what you can about yourself, why sirens are brought to you when they are either found or commute here and what your powers are. I know the Black wants to keep all sirens from you but I do not know wholly why. She will never say to me, just that she wishes she could let her fires consume you and burn you until you were glittering white bones." Madeline squeaked as a bird cawed outside.
For a moment Eirik continued to simply stare at the young woman. Already an opinion of her was starting to form in his head, but he kept it carefully off his face. Overall, she was doing well. There was no problem with a person having confidence.
Of course, it was Madeline who eventually became uncomfortable with the silence. That was hardly surprising either. She was older than any human could ever get, but she was still not old enough to understand exactly how much value silent contemplation could have. It would have revealed something about this young siren, seeing how long she could bear the silent, heavy, scrutiny of his eyes. One firther moment, and he broke his look of concentration. A smile flickered over his lips before his attention turned to Madeline. "Very well," he replied agreeably enough. He leaned forward in his chair, lightly resting his chin on interlocked fingers.
"You are here," he said to the white-eyed girl, "Because, whether Black Raven likes it or not, I am in charge of this particular area of the woods. It is my job to keep track of the events that happen nearby, and make sure that there is no risk to the Sirens that live in this area. Now that you are a Siren, you are under my protection." He paused, and another smile worked its way across his face and into his eyes. "How could I possibly know enough if I never met you?
"As far as the Black Raven is concerned," he hesitated, rolling potential words around his mouth. There was no doubting that that particular black-eyed crone deserved his respect, and so his words would have to be careful. Even if he was older than her. "At her age, she has difficulty accepting change. Before I arrived, she was in charge of this area. And she was not happy to allow me to take over the position. She wanted someone who would be exactly like her, and I am about as far from that as she would have expected." He paused, studying the set of her shoulders and the gleam in her eyes. Perhaps she would be able to withstand the old siren's guile.
"She is going to see a lot of promise in you," he continued. "But take everything she says with a grain of salt. There is do denying she is wise, but she will have her own goals for you." He laughed slightly, his head tipping back and a lock of white hair falling across one eye. "I am sure she will have plenty of stories about me as well. Enjoy them. I'm sure some are even true."
Arvia swallowed, pondering. She could feel the buzz fading in the back of her mind and doubt began to creep in, she had not had difficulty accepting change, she had lived in a witch clan after all. But what bothered her most was how her leader seemed to bow before this man as if he were her master. Never would Arvia bow, least not now while she had her own rituals and rights still about her. Imagining torture methods she shuddered, once she had heard of men who had tried to take 'power' from witches by cutting out their heart still beating and eating it, old wives tales but all stories originated somewhere.
Dusting off her clothes Arvia watched him as he talked about the Black. She had assumed by the way he spoke she was old, probably far older than Madeline which should mean she would know many things and Eirik seemed to be holding back things but of what she couldn't tell. With a sigh she stretched her limbs. "So basically I am going to see her no matter what and from there I will be allowed to decide my fate? I fail to see what you get from this. Just curiosity but what happens if I choose her?" she paused and hurriedly added, "I mean with you being the watcher of this area and all."
As she settled back into the chair, she tucked her legs up underneath herself and curled in upon her body as if trying to disappear inside her own skin. The dull fog of tiredness had begun to settle upon her mind and she could feel her thoughts beginning to wander now that she had some food in her belly. Crinkling her nose, Arvia blinked a couple times refocusing herself onto Eirik as she settled into the seat to wait for her reply.
Eirik blinked slightly, but smiled softly and replied. "Nothing," he said calmly, his eyes still locked on her own. "There are no sides here, as far as I'm concerned." He could practically feel the tiredness radiating from her, and he hardly minded. Her mind would hear what he said, and absorb it. THis conversation would likely come out favorably in her mind. So long as he didn't say or do anything stupid.
"For now, you would still be under my supervision, but that does not mean I have control over you. It is your choice whether or not to see me or speak to me, just as Black Raven has chosen." He paused briefly, mulling the words around in his mouth before continuing. The fire was starting to dim down, putting out more heat than light now. It filled his home with a dusky sort of gloom, but it wasn't cold or frightening. "There is no doubt she will have much to teach you. If you believe, as she does, that I am the worst thing that could happen to this area, you are welcome to challenge me for the right to lead whenever you wish. Otherwise, I will not look to hurt you in any way, and will continue to do what I have always done."
There was little left to say now. No doubt Madeline would soon wish to take her away to meet Raven, having fulfilled her obligation to him. He saw no reason not to willingly answer any more questions she had, of course, but it was doubtful that their conversation would go on for much longer.