Storms May Come – Chapter 9

Storms May Come – Chapter 9

The sand was soft between my toes as I strolled down the beach towards the festivities. Decorations of pink and orange coral and sea glass in shades from green to purple hung from palm trees and adorned tables. I sat on a driftwood bench next to Ailsa.

“You did an incredible job with these decorations,” I said as I smiled. 

She beamed back at me. “Thank you. The Sirens brought me beautiful things from the sea to use. Did you know they like to collect these items?” She gestured around at the decor. “I just had to arrange them.”

“I may have to trade them for some of this glass,” I reached out to touch the sea-worn pieces. “It’s beautiful.”

Julien walked up to the table with a plate piled high with food. “This all looks so good,” he said to me, as he popped a battered and fried shrimp into his mouth. “Mmmmm…great job on preparing the feast.” 

Firth came up behind his son and placed one hand on his shoulder, the other holding his own plate of food. “Make sure to eat your fill so you have fuel for the competition.” He smiled at his son proudly and joined us at the table. He speared a piece of grilled citrus-glazed fish and began eating too. 

Other villagers meandered by our table to praise Ailsa for her organization of the festival and wish Julien good luck in the competition. One villager stopped mid-sentence when the water along the beach began bubbling like a pot over a fire. Beautiful faces framed by seaweed hair floated out of the water. Ailsa ran forward when she spotted the shell-tipped crown of Queen Aetherina emerging from the depths. 

“Welcome, Queen Aetherina, to the Siren Festival!” Ailsa exclaimed with a bow. 

The cold, fearsome face of the Queen softened when she beheld Ailsa. A smile broke forth, and she nodded regally at Ailsa. “Thank you for the kind welcome, Ambassador.” The Siren Queen turned slowly to take in the celebration and the villagers. “We Sirens are pleased to have human friends on our shores once again. Let the Siren Festival begin!”

Ailsa had placed seating in the shallows along the beach for the Sirens to rest with their tails in the water. Some bold humans, including Ailsa and Fina, sat with their feet in the water chatting with the Sirens. The friendly competition was about to begin, where humans and Sirens alike would show off their skills that had led to the defeat of the Kingdom of Zorin. 

The Sirens had placed targets at varying degrees of depth in the water to use for the competition. Those participating, Sirens and humans alike, lined up where the sea met sand to prepare. Julien had his bow gifted to him by his father Firth, strung and ready. Fina was using throwing daggers and had a seemingly endless supply wrapped around her thighs and more in unknown locations, with a few Shadows next to her wielding the same. A few other soldiers had bows and some muskets at the ready, laughing and exchanging friendly competition banter with the rest of the participants. The Sirens had no physical weapons, but we all knew the sea was theirs to command. Everyone was in good spirits as they waited for Queen Aetherina to announce the rules and initiate the countdown. 

“You will have sixty seconds to knock down as many targets as you can. The closest targets are worth ten points, the middle twenty points, and the furthest thirty points! Whoever scores the highest points will be crowned the victor of this festival!” her musical voice boomed, and when she was finished everyone erupted in cheers and applause.

Once the cheers died down, she continued, “Prepare yourselves, participants, on my count we will begin!” 

Fina nudged Julien to her left, and he beamed at her as he strung his bow and ensured his quiver was at the appropriate angle on his back. Fina readied her daggers, her Shadows following suit, and the rest of the soldiers double-checked their muskets and strung their bows. The Sirens began singing and moving their hands to call forth the sea to transform to their will. Ailsa watched in awe as the water morphed into spears like on the battlefield not long ago. 

“Three… Two… One… Begin!” The Siren Queen sang and sent forth a spray of mist onto all the onlookers, who hooped and hollered with excitement as the competition began.

Arrows, bullets, knives, and sea spears met their marks over and over again. It was nearly impossible to tell who was in the lead, but the Queen’s eyes were focused and clearly keeping track. Firth cheered on his son loudly. Ailsa’s gaze was glued to the Sirens, and she let out a small cheer every time a spear struck and exploded the target. Everyone was cheering on their friends and family as the sixty seconds ticked by. 

“Cease!” the Queen’s voice carried throughout the crowd over all the excitement. The participants immediately stopped and then began to cheer and high-five each other all around. One Siren ruffled Ailsa’s hair as she was signing praises to them, and another scooped her up and spun her around in the water for a brief moment as they giggled together. It was an incredible sight to behold; Sirens and humans existing together in harmony. 

“The winner of the very first Siren Festival in Calder is… Fina!” The crowd went wild as the Siren Queen placed a delicately woven crown of driftwood, seaweed, and sea glass on Fina’s head. Her face was a mix of bewilderment and pride, and I chuckled to myself seeing it. Fina deserves this, I thought to myself as suddenly she was raised into the air by the crowd and the Sirens were drenching her in seawater.

“The Sirens must have been holding back,” Fina said matter-of-factly as we were eating. I let out a laugh and almost choked on the shrimp I had just plopped into my mouth. “Fina, you’re an excellent marksman; you won fair and square,” I replied beaming at her. 

She let out a huff “Well, we’ve all seen what they can do!” Then she chuckled and relaxed a bit more after seeing my face of amusement. “This really is something though,” she said after a moment.  

I nodded in agreement. “We did this together, all of us, you included Fina.” I smiled at her gently and squeezed her shoulder. 

“My son, Julien!” Firth boomed across the table as he lifted Julien’s arm, “An excellent display my boy. You’ve done us all proud!” He beamed at his son as everyone erupted into laughter and cheers. Julien’s face grew hot, but he was grinning ear-to-ear. 

It was a successful first Siren Festival, and many more would follow. We had all achieved something incredible together – peace. 

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