Some months ago:
A very long time ago, someone told Sarina the amazing fact that some humans didn't believe in souls. After 900 years of sinking random ships in the Aegean Sea by the sound of her own soul's pain pouring into the fog, into the night, luring sailors to the doom of the rocks she sat on, Sarina still hated the freedom that humans enjoyed. She could never doubt the burning pain that sat like a hot coal next to her heart, the rage that swept through her when she saw young men bragging about their conquests on the decks of those ships. She wanted to rip her chest open, to shove their hands into the fires of hell and tell them that this, here is what a soul felt like. A damned soul tormented by indifference and cruelty, that transformed a normal water fae into the nameless killer of men, the Siren. She would tell them just before she drew them down into the rocks to join the ruined bones of her first human lover, where the reward for his unfaithfulness was an eternity of mingling with sand and crabs.
She learned the many ways to cry, then moan, sobs of grief magically laced with the lure of her betrayed heart. The first sunken ships were accidents, when sailors could not control their curiosity over the heart-rending sounds of despair. Then she branched out into howls and shrieks, and finally songs that spoke the pain of finding love, finding home, and having all that torn away. The song of a siren was a strange and unpredictable power. It reached out into the minds of any man that might hear it and pulled out his fantasies and fears. If the sailor feared mist, the fog rose and temperature dropped. If he feared ghosts, or his past, glowing forms taunted him wherever he went. When their screams kept company with her terrible songs, Sarina felt the tiniest bit better.
Was she evil for killing all those men? They deserved it. All humans did, but haunting a jagged reef got old. When Geoffrie of the Long Tooth swam to her lonely hideaway, where no ships had passed within singing range in several years, Sarina was bored. He said he shared her hatred of all things mortal. Since he didn't have a soul that wasn't possible, and if Sarina thought that he was making light of her pain she would have skinned him alive, but the smell of burnt flesh on his clothes made her hesitate. In his own pale, shadowy way, he did at least dislike humans enough to lead them from the reef together. He showed her new places to sing, and she allowed him to feast upon her victims. It was partnership, refreshing and simple, and good to talk to another fae again. To avoid crowding her and becoming an unwelcome guest, he often hunted on land where she chose not to follow. Sarina actually found herself missing the wretch, and sent her song looking for him, or any trace of him.
Some legends made it seem that sirens were all about revenge, because they spent the rest of their lives righting the wrongs of that first false love on the bodies of human men. Sarina, if she cared to explain at all, could set them straight. The creation of a siren is fueled by complete, utter selfishness. Why did this happen to me? How could he do this to ME? I will make them all pay. Sarina didn't have a loyal hair on her head that cared one shred about what happened to her former companion, even when she smelled his blood on the sand and sensed the dim echoes of the battle he fought there. They were allies, maybe friends, members of the same dark court with the same interests and hobbies. Her eyes wandered over the bare dunes, as brown and smooth as a pile of eggs in the dim, cloudy morning. If he finally broke too many rules and paid the price, what difference did it make to her? She could return to her marked territory and sink any ships she liked. If Geoffrie did not survive or escape, it was no more than Dagon's will that he join the house of the stars in the deep.
She shrugged her black hair out of her eyes and turned away from the human settlement across the river, anxious to return to her favorite spot off the coast of Cuba, when she felt the one thing that could change her mind. Human magic. A human mage was involved in the battle. This changes everything, she thought. Sarina lay on the dune, willing the magic under the sand to tell her exactly what happened. The results shocked her. Longtooth messed up, and had only himself to blame for not running away when he had the chance. On the other hand, what fae would run from an injured girl and an inexperienced minnow? That it was the one named Sean that trapped Geoffrie with the crystal cage was unforgivable. She must not let that go unpunished.
Sarina plotted out several possible methods of revenge, but two things hampered her. The first, that Luc was closely involved with the humans and would be hiding them. She needed to locate all three of them before she could make any plans. Second, Sarina wasn't ready to die for Geoffrie, so the revenge must be enough to satisfy her natural instinct for causing pain but too petty and small to demand her life in return. Her mind was filled with half formed plots. She threw out most of the ideas as too drastic or difficult. Theft seemed ideal. Stealing something small but meaningful from the enemy was a traditional form of revenge. It was time honored and simple. Best of all, it was completely legal in a fae court of honor. If the humans allowed her to take something from them, Sarina would not be to blame. She sent her song over the sand, searching for more clues.
Sarina couldn't believe her luck when she decided to visit the palace Luc was born in. Even if her targets weren't in the area, for a price somebody might tell her where they were. She expected to be questioned and guarded, if they allowed her in at all. The days of all out war between the courts of light and dark were not far gone. The fae had long memories and bad habits of not trusting each other. Instead, the gates were thrown wide to welcome ambassadors, visitors, and the merely curious. Fae from all over the world gathered to pay their respects to the new High King of the light court undines.
The old King, known by a thousand names, the latest of which was Moreau Laurentius, had vanished. He likely swam off to wherever the voice of the Gods called a fae when existence became to tiresome. Moreau had resisted that call for longer than any fae in known memory. Over ten thousand years, eight millenia spent on the High Throne. Undines that chose to live under the veil that divided human realms from fae never died of old age. They died in battle, or waited for the heart of the ocean to claim them. A funeral was held after they left. Nobody ever saw or heard from them again. Any fae who wished might pay their respects to the departed by pouring perfumed water into a bowl at the entrance of the throne room.
Most of the court present looked bored. The blandly vague emotion that she envied with every bit of her tainted soul. The handful that could cry seemed all the more pitiful and wonderful in contrast. Their red eyes and tear streaked faces stood out against the simple peace of indifference. Sean stood in that group, where Sarina recognized him from the recreation of the battle. Her song showed her the event from first to last. He no longer wore the death metal cage that held Geoffrie. Since her power could not find or touch iron, there was little chance of stealing that now.
The man had changed in many ways. He was younger, thinner, and more graceful, owing to the side effects of the long life potion, but still human enough to attract the fae to his shining soul inside. They hovered around him like moths warming themselves at covered lamp, basking in the light with no fear of being burned. He wore silk gloves here out of politeness, instead of his old stained leather. Sarina thought that the court costume designers must have been desperate to remake his wardrobe. They glanced his way every few minutes, as if surprised that the strange robe he was wearing hadn't burst into flame under the weight of their combined glares.
Sean's knee length black coat sported buckles, zippers, deep pockets, hidden pockets, and snaps in random places. Decorative studs and lengths of chain hung from his shoulders. His gloved hands were almost swallowed up in the wide sleeves. Silver studs shone in his ears. On a less confident man it might have looked ridiculous, but Sean's impressive height and wide shoulders carried it well. Sean knew the designers hated his coat. He caught them looking when they thought he wasn't paying attention. What they didn't know was Sean always paid attention. He lived in the awareness of fear for ten years, ready for an attack that never came. Even in the heart of the Palace, Sean rejected the feeling of perfect safety by honing his skills.
Months in the cavernous work rooms of the undine mages sharing spells and ideas gave rise to a new bend on protective charms. He had thought that immortality for a wizard meant that all aspects of magic in fae life would be studied; that protective charms under sea would all be the best. Now he knew that the development of protection and healing magics stalled out lifetimes ago. After all, a selkie pelt cured most ills, while minor cantrips, power, and rest healed all else. Why bother preventing all injuries, or trying to heal them when a little time did the job? They lacked Sean's fresh way of thinking. His mortal impatience combined with ancient techniques gave rise to a whole branch of healing pendants, curse counters, and shield charms now sewn into the lining of his strange costume.
That layer of power lay around him like the shell of a coconut. Sean was clearly out of her grasp. As if that wasn't enough, the man placed one arm around Princess Diamanta and pulled her face into his shoulder. The Princess allowed her tears to sink into the rough fabric while she clung to him like a starfish on a rock. Sarina doubted he would be caught alone outside protected grounds for quite some time. No way in the deep would she make a move during the coronation truce right under the new King's nose. That was petty and rude, not dark.
She drifted closer to the group of foreign ambassadors. Fae from other courts the world over gossiped over hot tea and cakes. She knew some of them by reputation. Goeffrie had a vivid way of describing all the courtiers that he'd met, and he spent hours acting out their annoying mannerisms. He mimicked their speech, their funny walks, or the way they talked with their hands, until she laughed out loud at the pretentious light court priggs. Sarina tried to listen to all of them at once, in hopes that she might pick up a vital clue and focus on it.
"They will return in a few days." She stilled and faked interest in the huge portal glass that separated the throne room from the sea. Her eyes hardly registered the fish while her ears strained toward the low voiced conversation.
"What is keeping him?" The great, fat selkie plucked another crab ball from the refreshment table. He crammed the fried treat into his mouth whole and chewed noisily. By the time he was done, it seemed like he'd forgotten his question in favor of wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his fur trimmed tunic. "Prince Luc belongs here, in honor of his family, not playing around with pixies."
"He isn't playing, Lord Teirnan. He's serving a sentence. He met his soul vessel." The younger voice spoke just above a whisper to avoid attention from the rest of the room. "We will be meeting her soon."
"Is she as interesting as goodman Sean?" His bushy white eyebrows twitched as he eyed the food again, as if they were talking about a new way to serve fish.
"She is extremely pleasant, I am certain."
"Breadan, you are new to the palace, so I can forgive you, but don't be boring. All the good stuff is gossip. Why keep it to yourself? You know more about the humans than anyone, and here you are boring me into the sand."
"The matter of his return concerns me intimately. Keenan left the Orkney Islands before I was born to become the Ambassador here. It is a position I inherited." Breadan resembled his father in every way except coloration. Where Keenan was red haired, his son was dark, but the structure of his face was a perfect mirror of the previous Irish Ambassador. Like a misplaced puzzle piece finally fell into place in his head, Lord Tiernan nodded. The resemblance had bothered him more than he liked, so it was with personal satisfaction that he checked that mystery off his list. A true gossip collector, he knew it was best to stop at one tidbit per session. Pushing for more details now could seal the boy's lips against him. Waiting would make the story come alive one bit at a time, a thrilling adventure of discovery.
Breadan grabbed something off the table and walked away before he said something he might regret. Taking the ambassador position was his mother's idea, just a chance see other places and learn things he couldn't learn at home. It wasn't what he'd expected. He did not like the formalities of the high court. The buffet dinners and deep sea fishing parties were great, but the dressing up and being polite was annoying. He stopped caring what he wore in the throne room, so his appearance took on the casual air of a beach combing teenager.