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A stiff coldness enveloped the ship as the haunting melody grew profounder. “I can’t move!” one crew member shouted over what sounded to be a bitter sweet dirge, a voice none other than Jack’s! And Kaie knew neither could the other men, for paralyzing their prey was how the siren’s began their process. From behind the mizzen-mast, Kaie could see the creatures rising clearly from the fog. Even though the women seemed frail with their skinny arms laying limply at their sides, Kaie was fully aware of the danger they posed. Their clothes appeared worn and tattered, resembling old, washed-out rags, draped carelessly over their slender bodies. Torn up by the sea? Kaie wondered. Or clawed at by the frantic fingernails of victims struggling hopelessly to fend them off? Frozen in place, Kaie saw the fear building in Bishop’s eyes. She needed to act quickly against the sirens, but what could she do? There were at least twenty of them and only one of her. If she couldn’t manage to stop them then she knew the men she spent almost a week with on this voyage would surely be torn apart and eaten. Refusing to do nothing, Kaie took a steadying breath and reviewed her options. Despite her presence, the sirens failed to notice her existence entirely. Kaie could also move around somewhat freely, while her male counterparts remained motionless under their spell. “Men,” Kaie muttered to herself, for didn’t they always find themselves affected by women? With a bit of a struggle, she finally managed to draw her bow. As for Bishop, he now had his back pressed against the ship’s port-side rail. Judging by his frantic gaze, Kaie was certain that he was silently pleading her to take action – and soon, for the hungry creatures were already within a few feet of the men. “Come on . . . ” Kaie whispered as with one simple, swift motion, her arrow penetrated the heart of her first target. The other sirens were clearly spooked as their once emotionless faces expressed only a reaction of extreme terror. Before the graceful archer could sight her next target, the creatures dispersed quicker than startled rats. “I’ve never!” Bishop proclaimed as the cowardly sirens sunk back into the ocean below, before falling to his knees. Some men vomited overboard as they were disengaged from the icy cold grip of the siren’s call. Others broke into tears, crossing themselves and muttering prayers. But before Kaie could be hailed a hero, she sensed something even more sinister than a tail of sirens had managed to make its way on board the Orion. Call it instinct, or call it a sixth sense, but in her mind she knew something was not right. A shock of coldness ran though her as she felt, for a moment, that she was in the presence of pure evil. That’s when the ship violently lurched forward. “Get down!” she shouted, but a few men had already been heaved into the air by the explosion. Senses wide alert now, Kaie ran for cover as one powder keg went off, then another – the darkness filling abruptly with large orange bursts of light as shattered, smoldering wood fell down onto the deck. Out of the water, the sirens reappeared, no longer singing but hungry and in full feast mode. Ducked behind one of the ship’s crates, Kaie watched as the now reptilian creatures swooped down towards the other sailors. “Fire!” one officer shouted, gun shots penetrating the air as the men retaliated against their viscous assailants, rising from the sea now by the dozen. A handful of the creatures shrieked upon being struck by the rounds, but in return, a few men were quickly taken down by their razor-like claws – some ripped off the ship and dragged straight into the ocean. “The ship is going to sink!” Kaie shouted to Bishop, frantically searching through the smoke for whoever was setting off the bombs. “I’m fully aware, Miss Ellinger!” was all Bishop cared to shout back, fumbling with a crate of rifle ball cartridges. Then, through the blood, smoke and fire, he showed himself. Jumping off the Scorpius he wasted no time in cutting one sailor’s throat. As if a phantom, the dark figure ducked quickly to avoid musket fire before turning to break the neck of another crew member. The shadow stormed about so quickly, it was if he had been in two places at once. But how? Kaie wondered to herself. With relative ease, the figure sliced a few more of the men’s throats – all before anyone could take aim at him. “To the left!” one sailor screamed out, but it was already too late for the man he hoped to warn. Bodies dropped to the deck like slaughtered lambs while opened jugular veins spilled out blood. Like a trained assassin, the creature moved about, possessing qualities that were highly above any human’s potential. Kaie fought to steady her arrow on the figure, but he moved too quickly. No time to think any further, she lowered her bow and pursued the assailant. “Whatever happens to me, make sure he doesn’t leave this ship!” she shouted across to Bishop. Looking up, he was now in the midst of reloading his weapon – a good old Dickert rifle with a roughened maple stock. “Kaie!” he yelled back, but before he could finish protesting, she had disappeared well into the fog. Sprinting quickly across the deck, Kaie dodged the burnt corpses of men and sirens that now littered the floor. Grabbing one sailor’s musket, the dark figure used the butt to bash its owner’s head in before sliding across the main deck to where the steps were. Then, without too much more opposition, the phantom tossed the weapon into the ocean before disappeared beneath the deck. Kaie watched as a few brave men near the entrance attempted to follow him below, but with no success. As if by magic, the handful of bewildered sailors were lifted effortlessly fifteen feet into the air and thrown overboard into the dark abyss. She heard them scream as a few submerged sirens ripped the flesh from their bones. Ducking below a lashed down jolly boat, Kaie swallowed hard. Worried that she would face the same fate, she waited until she was sure the figure was at least two decks below board. No more sailors dared to follow. One mustn’t fear the unknown, Kaie closed her eyes as she coached herself. Making no more noise than a mouse, Kaie softly worked her way down the steps. Here in the gun deck it was much darker, with only the faint glow of a few swaying lanterns to illuminate the heavy weapons and their mounts. Kaie allowed her eyes to adjust as she skimmed them across the dimly lit hull. Out of habit, her left thumb traced the raised bumps of the symbol branded on her bow. It comforted her to feel the owl’s presence. Like him, she could see better in the dark than most animals. It was her association with the meaning behind this seal that truly allowed her to sail among men.Disclaimer: All material and links in the Indie Author Excerpts feature have been provided voluntarily by the author, publicist or publisher. Any materials quoted before publication date may change with final copy. No affiliate links were used in this post.
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