Not Beyond Conjecture

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Author: Trismegistus Shandy

What song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions, are not beyond all conjecture.
-- Sir Thomas Browne, HYDRIOTAPHIA, chapter 5.

When the war was over and I was discharged, I thought I'd go home. But home wasn't there anymore. The houses and barns were still standing, mostly, though a lot of the roofs were leaking after going a year or two without repair; and the mill was still there, its wheel turning and turning and making the grindstone grind away at nothing. But the people -- oh, the people. At first I couldn't find any trace of them. There was no one I recognized, nobody at all but a few war orphans from some other village who were squatting in the mayor's house; they ran away when I tried to talk to them. But there were many more laurel trees than I remembered along the streets and in the front gardens. And when I walked into my parents' house, I found a laurel growing in the kitchen, its roots dug in through the floorboards into the foundation and most of its leaves yellowed for want of sunlight, except those of one branch which stuck out the window. There was another in my sister's bedroom, in a similar plight, though more of its branches had reached out the window. I found one or more laurels growing in several other houses I entered, as well. Some were dead, their roots and branches withered, unable to reach a window to get sunlight or to penetrate the floorboards to find soil. Those in smaller houses with dirt floors were generally better off than those in the rich people's houses with sturdier wooden floors. I spent a few days tearing the roofs off some houses where the trees were languishing but maybe not dead yet, and tearing up floorboards to let their roots get at the soil more easily.

The orphans gradually got used to me and came up a little closer each day to watch me work. Finally a couple of the bolder ones talked with me. They knew nothing of what had happened to my family or why; they'd found the village like this when they'd wandered into the area after their families were killed and their home village burned by soldiers. They were so scrawny and filthy I couldn't tell if they were boys or girls. I thought about staying there and sowing a crop in the fields that had lain fallow for a year or more, but I couldn't stand to stay close to those trees for too long. Sometimes I imagined I saw faces on them. And I was afraid that whatever had made them like that might affect me, too, if I stayed there.

So I set out to find somewhere less haunted. A few weeks later I was in Sikramar. It had been less damaged by the war than most cities; its walls and most of the houses were still standing, and the burned-up areas were being rebuilt faster than I would have thought possible. I swear that in the days I spent wandering around looking for work, I saw houses go from burned-out husks to completely rebuilt in five or six days. Probably there was magic involved; I knew even less about magic then than I do now, but I knew Sikramar was rich in magic.

Finally, I hired onto a merchant ship, the West Wind, as a mercenary. The end of the war meant that a lot of discharged navy men had turned pirate, and the captain of this ship wanted more men who could handle themselves in a fight. I was no sailor, but I'd been on shipboard before, four or five troop transports at one stage or another of the war, and I'd fought off boarders once; it didn't take me long to get my sea legs back.

The captain hired a wizard at the same time he hired me, some other mercenaries, and several new sailors. The wizard's name was Kasrigan, and I felt a vague kinship with him at first; he had a haunted look in his eyes, like he'd done things he wasn't proud of and seen things he couldn't forget. I knew what that was like. But he didn't mix with the sailors or mercenaries, and I never got to know him. He spent most of his time in his cabin -- he was one of only three people, the captain and the first mate being the others, who rated a cabin -- and most of the rest standing at the rail looking out to sea, never answering when anybody spoke to him, unless it was the captain. Sometimes he would toss a bucket into the sea, haul it up, make mystic gestures over it, and pour some of its contents into glass bottles before dumping the rest into the sea again. He was supposed to protect us from bad weather, and he might have done a good job of that for all I know, though the fine weather we experienced might just as easily have been pure luck. But he was supposed to warn us of pirate attacks and help fight them off, too, and at that he was a disgraceful failure.

It was after we'd stopped at Bapram and headed out to sea that we discovered he was getting drunk on the seawater he'd been turning into brandy. The captain was angry, and talked about discharging him at the next port, or at least the next time we put into Sikramar, if he couldn't find another wizard for hire in Fasrimar or Tamu.

I happened to be walking the deck late one morning near the wizard's cabin when the captain barged in and tried to wake him. He got nothing but incoherent mumbles for a while -- he left the door open, and I happened to linger there looking out to sea -- and then the wizard said:

"Go 'way. I don't need to be awake 'n sober all the time. Two or three hours a day's all I need to renew the protective spells."

"That might work for weather," the captain said, "but if we meet with pirates, I don't want to rely on your passive protective spells, I want you alert and casting offensive spells against them. Send them to the bottom of the sea, or better, kill all the pirates and leave their ship for us to take what's useful from it."

"Sure, I c'n do that. Just give me another couple of hours to sleep this off."

The captain grew angry then, and I won't repeat what he said, for I'm not a foul-mouthed man, though I was a soldier for so long. I walked further along toward the bow and looked out. The nearest land was much too far to see.

There were four other mercenaries on board, besides the sailors, some of whom could handle a sword well enough. Between the five of us we'd fought for three of the four factions in the war; I didn't hold it against them, as they probably had no more choice about it than I did. We were under the command of Sumar, who'd been a sergeant in the Datrafi army until they were defeated, and then spent the last couple of years of the war in a prison camp. He had us, and whichever of the sailors weren't busy with nautical duties nor asleep, doing sword drills a couple of times a day, morning and early evening; the rest of the day we were free to do as we pleased, though at least two of us had to be awake and on deck at any given time. Archery drills required more coordination with the officers and sailors, to be sure that no one would be on deck downrange of the men shooting, or coming in and out of the cabins in the stern. We were supposed to put our arrows in the center of a target hung between the doors of the captain's and wizard's cabins, but most of the misses hit the wall or doors; we lost only two arrows in the sea during the three archery drills in our first eight days at sea.

We had a bit of luck when the pirates found us, for it was morning, and all of us soldiers were on deck. When the lookout called out the warning, we left off sparring with practice swords and got out our real swords, then ran to the stern and looked out. Only Timusram, the sharpest-eyed of us, could see the pirate ship at first, but it soon approached close enough for even me to see it. Sumar sent Umiru, one of the sailors who had been drilling with us, to wake up the wizard and tell him about the attack, and the captain put the others to work raising additional sail to try to outrun the pirates.

The timing of the attack was all the luck we had that day. The pirate ship was faster than us, and had more and, I must confess, better fighting men on board. We killed or disabled a handful of them with arrows in the last moments before they came alongside. They tried several times to grapple us before they got their hooks to stay -- I think that may have been the result of Kasrigan's passive protective spells. If so, they didn't help for long; on the fourth or fifth try they grappled our hull and swarmed over the side, and it was hand-to-hand from then on.

Some of us, though good enough fighters on land, had only gotten our sea legs within the last few days. The pirates were in their element, and too many for us. I saw Timusram cut down from behind by one pirate after holding his own against two in front. Fira was wounded and disarmed, but not killed, as it turned out -- despite his injured leg he managed to trip up a couple of the pirates coming at me before he passed out from loss of blood. Sumar and I fought with our backs to the wall of the poop deck for some time before he was killed with a thrust to the eye. I fought alone for a little while that, vaguely aware of Midrun and some of the sailors fighting the pirates here and there on the deck or in the rigging -- fighting, and mostly losing -- until I took a sharp blow to my sword arm and my sword suddenly dropped from my nerveless fingers.

"Do you surrender?" one of the men surrounding me asked. I glanced at the bodies on the deck around me and nodded, gripping the wound on my right arm with my left hand to stanch the bleeding.

One of the pirates tied my wrists together with a piece torn from my shirt, in such a way that the cuff doubled as a bandage for the worst of my wounds; then he stood guard over me and a few other wounded men while the last few skirmishes came to an end, the last of the sailors and officers surrendering or being disabled or killed. Most of the fighting was already over by the time I was disarmed. I saw the captain and first mate both stretched out dead in pools of blood; they weren't far from me, and I wondered how I had failed to see them die. I realized then that I hadn't seen any sign of the wizard.

That mystery was soon resolved when two of the pirates emerged from the wizard's cabin, pulling him roughly along, his hands tied behind his back and his eyes bleary and bloodshot. I cursed him, knowing that if he hadn't been drunk last night, his magic might have tipped the balance for us against the pirates this morning.

"Listen!" cried one of the pirates -- their captain, as it turned out. He was a tall man with a grey beard covering half his face, the other half disfigured with burn scars. Though most of his hair was gone and what was left was grey, he looked strong and healthy; he still had most of his teeth, unlike most sailors of his age.

"Many of you fought well," he said to us prisoners. "And I always like to be generous to an honorable enemy. Those of you who fought hard and didn't surrender till you were too bad hurt to fight, I'll give you a choice. Those who hid or surrendered just because they were outnumbered must suffer the fate I mete out."

The other pirates gave a cheer at that, and my gut clenched. Would he consider me to have been too badly hurt to fight any longer, when I surrendered? And what kind of choice was he offering? I soon found out:

"You," he said, and he pointed out several of us, me included, "plus a few of your unconscious comrades, if they live through the next hours, are welcome to join my crew. You'll have the same rights and duties as any new sailor who signs on in port -- one share of all our loot, with a chance to earn more shares as you prove yourself. If you don't wish to join us, you may choose: die an honorable death, jumping overboard under your own power, or be sold into slavery with your dishonorable comrades who surrendered.

"You don't have to choose instantly. Think on it for an hour, while my physicker attends to my wounded men and then, if it's not too late for them, to your own."

"I c'n help," Kasrigan said. "You might want to make an exception for me."

"Oh? And why shouldn't I sell you as a slave along with the others? My men tell me you didn't put up much of a fight -- slept through the whole battle, and struggled feebly with them when they pulled you out of your bunk."

"I'm a wizard," he said. "If I'd been awake when you approached, you'd all be dead. I know I'm not much use, drunkard as I am, but I'm more use to you on shipboard than in a slave market. Untie my wrists and I can heal some of your wounded men."

"You aren't much of a wizard, if two of my men could subdue you so easily."

"I was sleepy and hung over -- by the time I woke up enough to think of casting a spell, they had my wrists tied. I'm not quite helpless, though, now that I've woken up enough to talk." And he said something in another language that made my head hurt to listen to; the tunic and trousers of one of the men who'd hauled him out of his cabin unraveled then, all in a moment, leaving him naked in his boots with a tangle of threads dangling around his ankles and wrists. He cried out and stepped away from the wizard, drawing his sword and pointing it at him -- his belt, like his boots, was still intact.

"Just a harmless trick," the wizard said, "to prove I'm what I say I am. I need my hands free to heal your wounded men, though."

"I'll do that when I can be sure you won't turn against us," the pirate captain said. "Swear by the source of your power that you will join us, sharing in the risks and rewards of our profession, and never act against your fellow pirates except in a declared and formal duel."

"I so swear," Kasrigan said, and repeated that oath pretty much word for word. The pirate captain nodded, and the other man standing by the wizard, the one who hadn't lost his clothes, untied the wizard's wrists.

"Now," the wizard said, standing up and rubbing his wrists to get blood circulating in them, "who seems to be most badly hurt?"

I and other prisoners sat there under guard, watching the pirates' physicker and the traitor wizard heal the pirates we'd wounded. After a while, the wizard turned his attention to some of his former mates, healing a few who'd lost consciousness from their injuries. Fira sat up groggily, still looking pale, but miraculously alive -- for how long, I wondered? I didn't think he would turn pirate, and didn't know if he'd be willing to live as a slave. A pirate had tied his wrists behind his back while the wizard healed him; once he was awake, they unceremoniously hauled him over and dumped him next to me and some other prisoners.

"What's going on?" he asked me.

"We lost, and the wizard joined the pirates. I thought you were dead, but the wizard healed you." I told him about the pirate captain's offer.

"I'll jump overboard," he said firmly. "I might not mind being a slave if I could be sure I'd be sold to a kind master. It would be bad, but better than death. But there are many masters worse than death -- perhaps most of them, in the slave markets we're probably bound for."

"So you won't turn pirate," I said. "I didn't think so. Me either. We'll drown together, and curse the wizard and the pirates with our last breath."

The wizard healed Midrun too; he wasn't quite as bad as Fira, who'd seemed to be dead until the wizard checked his pulse, but he'd been groggy and confused from a blow on the head. Once he was alert again, Fira and I filled him in. We were the only survivors of the mercenaries; there were several sailors tied up next to us, who'd put up a good fight against the pirates. Those who'd surrendered quickly or just hidden from the pirates were tied up at the other end of the deck, or belowdecks.

"I'll let them sell me," Midrun said. "I figure with my experience, I've got a pretty good chance of escaping sooner or later."

"But," Fira urged, "remember they have the wizard on their side now. Who knows what spells he might work on the enslaved men before they reach port and sell you? You might not want to escape, or you might want freedom but be unable to try to escape."

"I don't know for sure what this wizard can do besides turn brine into brandy and unravel a man's clothes," I said, "but it's sure that some wizards can do what Fira said -- fiddle with your mind so you won't be able to do what you want, or so that you'll want whatever he wants." After that, Midrun decided to jump overboard with us.

It wasn't long after the wizard healed Midrun that the pirate captain came back to where we were tied up -- he'd been inspecting the ship, giving orders to his men to take down the extra sail we'd put on when trying to outrun them, appointing some of them as a prize crew to man our ship and some to return to their own vessel. After an hour or two of that, he returned to us and said: "Well? Have you made your decision?"

We had. We mercenaries and several of the sailors decided to jump overboard. Two of the sailors joined the pirates; only one preferred to be sold as a slave. The pirates untied the turncoat sailors when they had sworn an oath like the one the wizard had sworn. The man who'd chosen slavery was dragged belowdecks. And then it was our turn.

"Who will jump first?" the pirate captain asked. "I've already given you more time than I promised to make up your minds, so you should have said your final prayers by now."

"I'll go," I said, and stood up, unsteady and off-balance with my hands tied. The pirates spread out and gave me room to get to the starboard rail; one of them touched his cap respectfully. I walked to the rail, still dripping blood slowly from the bandage that bound my wrists, and paused.

"If you untie my wrists, I can climb up and jump," I said.

"Someone give him a hand," the pirate captain suggested. Instead of untying my wrists, though, two of the pirates took me by the shoulders and legs and tossed me overboard, a surprising distance from the ship. In the moment before they tossed me, I thought I saw the wizard make some mystic gestures behind the pirate captain's back, not unlike the ones he used to turn brine into brandy. For a moment I hoped he was going to save us; and then I hit the water.

I didn't know how to swim well, and I had gotten some water in my lungs when I first plunged under. My blood was spreading out in the water from my bandaged wrist, and I knew that the sharks would soon gather; I hoped I would drown before they started tearing chunks out of me. But I struggled, knowing it was hopeless but still unable to make myself relax and sink. Thrashing there, I saw Fira climb clumsily over the rail and drop into the water right by the ship. Moments later one of the sailors, Tiram, was tossed by the pirates into the water near me. In his thrashing around, he kicked me in the stomach, and I went down for good.

I'd expelled my breath when he kicked me, and couldn't stop myself from taking in a lungful of water. I sank then, too stunned to struggle against it. I saw above me the sunlight on the water, and the shadow of our ship's hull and the smaller shadow of the pirate ship, and the chaotic ripples around Tiram and Fira where they were trying to stay afloat for a few more moments. As I sank deeper, I saw more splashes as more men jumped or were thrown overboard. Some of them sank right away, some paddled or even swam for a while before their strength was exhausted. The sunlight far above got dimmer and dimmer, and everything around me went black, as I sank deeper. But I didn't lose consciousness; not entirely. For a little while I was surprised that I hadn't drowned yet; then I decided I must have already drowned, but my soul hadn't left my body yet. I'd heard the priests say that the soul stays in or near the body for three days after death, and I figured that must be what was happening to me: I'd be a prisoner in my drowned body until it was devoured by the fish, or until three days had passed, and only then would I go wherever the gods decreed I should go... But I found that I could still move, once I had recovered from the kick in the stomach. I could move my arms and legs, I could feel myself and my clothes with my hands. I felt little ticklings as fish approached and took a nibble at me, and I swatted them away.

I wasn't sure why I wasn't dead, but after an interminable time trying and finally succeeding in untying my wrists, I decided to try to swim toward the surface. I wasn't any better at swimming than before, though, and in that lightless, weightless world I had no idea what direction the surface was in. I paddled aimlessly for a while, and then drifted aimlessly for a while. I grew hungry, and the next time a fish nibbled at me I grabbed for it with both hands. It slipped from my fingers, but after three tries I caught one, and ate a good part of it raw. Something felt strange in my mouth, as I ate, and after I'd finished off the fish and let its bones drift away, I put a finger in and felt around. My teeth were sharper than before, and there seemed to be more of them -- a second row coming in behind the first.

When I realized that, I felt myself all over, head to toe -- pulling off my useless clothes and shoes as I did so. (The cold had ceased to bother me by then.) I found two more strange things. Running along my neck there were narrow grooves, which opened and shut rhythmically. And further down, my penis and testicles seemed to be partly fused into the flesh of my thighs, which were growing together; I couldn't spread my legs, and my crotch was several inches lower than it had been.

I continued to drift in the dark, cursing the pirates and the wizard. I was sure he was responsible for what was happening to me, but I didn't know what he was doing to me -- obviously he'd made it possible for me to breathe underwater, but what were the other changes? You must realize that I had grown up far enough from the sea that I did not hear the sea-tales which children on the coast hear growing up. And the previous times I'd been at sea, on troop-ships, I'd had little to do with the sailors; even on this voyage I'd spent more time with my fellow mercenaries than with the sailors, and had heard only a few of their stories.

So I didn't know what was happening to me. I continued to drift in the dark, feeling myself change slowly into I knew not what. My thighs continued to fuse together and absorb my manly parts until they were a smooth extension of my belly, all the way to what had been my knees, and it didn't stop there. Webbing grew in between my fingers on each hand, and between my upper arms and my sides. My second row of teeth grew in fully as long and sharp as the others.

And the darkness around me grew less silent. I realized I was hearing an almost constant background of distant whistles and rumbles; nearer, I heard or felt the soft rustle of fins as fish and other sea-creatures swam about. With my new webbed hands and arms, I could swim better, and with my new senses, I could perceive fish before they got close to me; I turned hunter, and found I could easily catch enough fish to satisfy my hunger. Soon enough I no longer felt any distaste at the raw fish, and I learned to distinguish different kinds of fish by the rustle of their fins, their feel in my hands, and their taste -- though I had no idea what they looked like.

My legs fused together all the way to my ankles, where my feet remained distinct but turned outward, the toes fusing together or being reabsorbed. It seemed that my lower parts were taking on the shape of a slender dolphin, with a horizontal fluke. By the time my legs had taken on their final form, I was a much better swimmer, and it was about that time that I heard the singing. I swam toward it, and felt a gradual increase in the temperature of the water around me. Something else changed too, though I wasn't sure how to describe it, and I felt that I needed to go slower, that it would be dangerous to go too fast in this direction -- though I still wanted, needed, to reach the source of the song. As I forced myself to pause and drift in the darkness that was already a little less dark, I found that I was singing in response.

How I produced those sounds I don't know. Not by pushing air from my lungs through my mouth, as when I was a man; but how? All I know is that I could and must sing.

   "Through the water dark and teeming,
   Teeming with the fish so tasty,
   I have heard your lovely singing,
   And I come to hear you better."

After a short rest, during which an uncomfortable feeling in my lungs and belly had gradually gone away, I resumed swimming toward the song and singer I had heard before. I sang as I went, and I heard other singers far off, gradually drawing nearer.

The light came back -- I had almost forgotten what light and color were. I could begin to put colors to the shapes and sounds of the fish around me. And besides the many small fish, I saw larger shapes as well, swimming toward me or toward the source of the song -- creatures with dolphin's hindquarters and more or less human arms and heads.

Finally I reached the surface and burst through. After a moment of panic, I realized I could breathe the air as well as the water. And other heads and shoulders and arms were bursting from the water all around me. We swam toward one another and circled the first singer, who continued to sing:

   "I have called you all together,
   Here upon the trackless ocean.
   For how long I cannot reckon
   I have swum beneath the ocean,
   Felt my body slowly changing,
   From a man into a siren.
   When my lungs first filled with water,
   And I thought my life was over,
   Then I cursed the sea-marauders,
   And the drunken traitor wizard.
   Then I found I still was breathing,
   Breathing in the deepest water,
   Living still, no longer human."

It was a womanly voice, high and clear; it reminded me of my sister, and I thought of the trees I had seen growing in my parents' house. I looked more closely at myself and the others, now that we were above the surface of the sea, bathed in sunlight. I scarcely recognized any of the faces at first, but then I thought I detected in one a sisterly resemblance to Fira, and then, in the singer, the altered but still recognizable features of Tiram. All of us, it seemed, had taken on a feminine appearance; all of us had breasts, too, though mine were among the smallest and it was thus perhaps that I had not noticed them among the other, more radical changes to my body when I was still immersed in darkness. I could not call us women, I did not think we were still human, but we certainly appeared to be female. The singer continued:

   "Now I seek my siren vengeance
   On the men who would have drowned me,
   Who enslaved my friends and brothers,
   Who have slain my dearest brother.
   Nowhere can they sail to hide them,
   Nowhere on the seas escape me,
   Nowhere in the lakes and rivers.
   Only if they leave the water,
   Trek into the driest desert,
   Climb into the highest mountains,
   Change their trade to mountain-bandit."

The one I had recognized as Fira sang:

   "I am eager too for vengeance,
   And I seek the death of pirates,
   Pirates who have killed our captain,
   Pirates who enslaved our shipmates.
   Yet I do not understand you:
   How do you propose to find them?
   How do you propose to slay them?
   Now indeed we breathe the water,
   Swim more swiftly than the dolphins,
   Yet we cannot board their vessel,
   Walk the deck or climb the rigging."

Tiram sang in reply:

   "I forget you were a landsman,
   Soldier from the wars far inland.
   Now you are my siren-sister.
   Sirens call their prey by singing;
   Call them from the shore of islands,
   Call them from the decks of vessels,
   Bring them leaping to the water,
   Diving into deepest water,
   Seeking the embrace of sirens,
   There to perish, still ecstatic,
   Still rejoicing in the singing,
   As the siren rends and tears them,
   Spills their blood into the water,
   Fills their gasping lungs with water."

Another siren, one who had been a sailor I didn't know well, sang:

   "Let us wait and watch the heavens,
   See the sun go on his journey,
   See the stars that come to follow.
   Then we'll know the way to travel,
   Where to swim to find the pirates.
   When the pirates swarmed our vessel,
   And we lifted swords to meet them,
   Then I killed my two marauders,
   But another struck me senseless,
   And I sprawled upon the foredeck,
   Seeming dead to all who saw me.
   When I had regained my senses,
   I lay and heard the pirates talking,
   Where they'd sail and sell their captives,
   In the port of Dakrimandu,
   Slave-mart of the eastern islands."

The other sirens who had been sailors thought the plan a good one -- they were confident that by watching the sun and the stars, they could figure out which direction Dakrimandu was in, and that we could swim thither fast enough to overtake the pirate vessel and their prize-ship which had been our home. Fira, Midrun and I didn't understand, but we trusted them to know their way around the ocean; and after we'd swum in circles for a while, watching the sun long enough to see that it was going down the sky and thus it was in the west, we all swam away from the sun, not directly but at a bit of an angle. We swam along just below the surface -- we made better speed underwater, but we needed to be near enough to the surface to see the sun. After the sun set and the stars appeared, we surfaced and the sailors studied the stars. We adjusted our course and increased our pace.

And as we went, we sang. I sang my puzzlement at our new forms, and the sailors sang the stories of the sirens, which I, child of the inland plains, had never heard. All the sirens they had ever heard of were female, though one of them said, perhaps as a joke, that in the antipodes, where the ships are crewed by women and the men stay in port to take care of the babies, the sirens who lure them to jump overboard are male. We sang of the things we had felt and heard in the deep water, of the fish and stranger creatures we had caught and eaten, and then, as the surface above us grew light again, of what we would do after we had our revenge on the pirates.

Several times we spotted the shadows of ships in the water above us; Tiram sang softly for the rest of us to remain silent, then surfaced briefly, and descended to tell us that they were not the ships we sought. It was a little while past dawn when we finally overtook the pirate ship that had attacked us.

Once Tiram had surfaced to identify it, and returned to tell us we had found our first target, we fanned out around the vessel, still underwater, and all surfaced at once, singing, forming a circle around the ship. We sang:

   "Come and look upon the waters,
   See the sun on waving ripples,
   Lovely light on waving water,
   And are we not still more lovely?
   The deck is hard, your work is harder;
   Come and rest on something softer.
   Come and swim with us this morning,
   It's a lovely day for swimming."

And one by one, and then three or four at a time, the pirates came to the rails to listen to us, and then dove into the sea. Some had the presence of mind to remove their shoes and tunics first. Some swam toward the nearest of us after they had dived in; some seemed to remember only after they had hit the cold water (it must have been cold to them, though I did not feel it so) that they could not swim, and they floundered for a few moments before going under, or until one of us swam to catch them.

Two of the pirates were swimming toward me, one with stronger strokes than the other. I swam to meet him, still singing.

   "Come to me, brave sea-marauder.
   You have slain a thousand sailors,
   You have ravished countless women,
   You have gathered piles of treasure,
   But have you e'er swum with sirens?"

We met, and he wrapped one arm around me, while with the other he struggled to untie the string holding his trousers in place. I looked down in distaste at the bulge they imperfectly concealed, and for a moment I almost pushed him away, but I restrained myself; I didn't want to discourage the other one -- no, two now -- who were still swimming toward me. But when he groped my breasts (which were larger than they had been when I first saw myself in sunlight, but still smaller than most of my sisters'), I lost all patience with him. I paused in my singing only long enough to tear his throat out with my teeth. Then I smiled a bloody smile at the other two pirates who were swimming toward me, and sang again.

   "Joyous end to reckless living!
   Pirates live each day with danger,
   Risk their lives for loot and pleasure,
   Never count the cost to others.
   To die in bed with failing kidneys
   Ill befits a sea-marauder."

To my surprise, the men swimming toward me did not slacken their pace, though their faces showed panic and horror at the fate of their friend. One I knew well; he was one of the sailors who had fought the pirates with us, but had then chosen to join their crew rather than drown or be sold as a slave. He swam slowly and clumsily, encumbered by shoes and tunic which he had not taken the time to remove, but as he reached me he said:

"Please, can we at least kiss before you kill me?"

I felt scarcely less distaste at that than at what the other pirate had clearly intended to do to me. But I sang:

   "Do you know me, turncoat Siru?
   When we heard the captain's offer
   I chose drowning, you turned pirate."

He gasped, and not only because he was getting water in his mouth. "Kadrim? You were a man -- how did you...?"

Now the tables were turned; my singing still enthralled him, but another part of him rebelled at the idea of embracing a woman -- or a female creature -- that had once been a man and a shipmate. For a moment that disgust seemed to override his fear of death and his desire for me. And, paradoxically, that disgust offended me more than the other pirate's crude, clumsy expressions of desire. But I didn't kill him right away; I pulled him to me and kissed him. He struggled for only a moment before he kissed me back. When he started to put his tongue into my mouth, I bit off the tip of it, but he didn't pull away; he continued embracing me until I grew tired of him and tore his throat out as well.

The third pirate had taken time to remove his clothes and shoes before he jumped, and while I was embracing my former shipmate, he had overtaken me. I had scarcely a moment to chew and swallow a mouthful of Siru's neck muscles before he came at me from the side, planting kisses on my shoulder and neck and wrapping his arms around me. I pushed Siru's corpse away and grasped the other pirate firmly by his arms, then pulled him under and swam downward with him. As the light faded I saw a few bubbles trickle from his bulging mouth, then a great burst of air, and then, after a pause as he took in a lungful of water, a few tiny bubbles. Before he could lose consciousness, I bit into him and tore off several mouthfuls -- not from his throat, where he would bleed to death quickly, but from the flesh of his arms and belly. He stopped struggling only after four or five bites. I ate until I was satisfied -- he tasted better than any of the fish I had eaten in the last few days -- then let him sink, and swam to the surface.

I saw, a few fathoms away from me, Midrun embracing a pirate with no more clothes on him than the one I had dined upon. He was bleeding from a few small bites his shoulders, but seemed to still be alive, and embracing her enthusiastically... I realized in shock what they were doing, and quickly turned away.

There were spreading pools of blood around each of my sisters. Some were still feeding on the pirates they had slain; others had already disengaged themselves from the corpses and were singing again, luring out a last few stragglers who had probably been asleep in their bunks when we first surfaced. I joined the song, but as a handful of additional pirates staggered sleepily on deck and off the side, I wasn't quick enough to finish them; they jumped in nearer to Fira and some others than to me, and my sisters tore their throats out without preliminary.

By now sharks were gathering, and devouring the drifting corpses of the pirates. I was terrified when I first saw them. But they did not attack us, nor dispute with us for the bodies some of us were still eating. Tiram sang:

   "Do not fear the white devourers;
   They know well that you're their mistress.
   They know better than to harm us.
   When we learn our fullest power,
   They will even do our bidding."

Then there were no more pirates visible on deck, nor in the rigging. I swam around the ship, and saw Midrun again, nibbling fastidiously on the choicest morsels of her late companion.

I sang with my sisters, and found that they had identified many of the pirates we had fought, including the captain, and the other sailor from our ship who had joined them; but the traitor wizard was not among them. Tiram had learned, having questioned one of her victims before she killed him, that the wizard and the other pirates were all aboard the West Wind as a prize crew, and that it was on the same course to Dakrimandu. Since it was a slower vessel than the pirate ship, we must have passed it, probably during the night, at a large enough distance that we did not see it. So after a little discussion, we spread out in a long line, each of us in easy earshot but not in view of our neighbors to right and left, and swam back westward, staying near the surface so we could see the shadows of ships. I would swim along just under the surface for a while, then give a powerful kick with my fluke and jump a fathom or more out of the water, momentarily letting me see much farther in all directions as I flipped in midair and tumbled into the sea again. Sometimes I would see one of my sisters surfacing or jumping at a distance. As agreed, we remained silent while our heads were above the water, singing to each other only underwater; we did not wish to lure innocent sailors or passengers from trading vessels overboard -- at least (I thought, fearful of my own surprising new appetites) not while we were fully sated with pirate blood and flesh.

Once, in one of these leaps, I saw a ship at a great distance, and swam toward it underwater until I was fairly near; then for just a moment I poked my eyes above the water, and got a better view of it. Even without reading the sigils on its side, I could tell from the shape of its hull that it was not the one we sought; I descended and sang to tell my sisters. Twice I heard their distant songs, saying they had seen a ship but it was not ours. And then, after a few hours, Midrun called us, saying:

   "Here I've found the stolen vessel,
   Noble West Wind, once our safety,
   Now the prey and prize of pirates."

I swam toward her voice, and soon saw my sister sirens gathering in the light zone near the surface. The shadow of the West Wind's hull moved steadily eastward. We waited until all of us had gathered, then spread out and all surfaced singing, as before.

Again, the pirates on deck eagerly swarmed overboard as soon as they heard us singing; a few took time to remove their shoes or some of their clothes first, but most dived in fully dressed. Stragglers who'd been asleep or resting belowdecks followed them soon after. Those who didn't drown right away, we soon killed; I didn't stand for any groping or kissing from these men, but tore their throats out as soon as they came within my reach. I wasn't as hungry as I'd been when we found the pirate ship, so after tearing off a few strips of muscle from the upper arms of my last kill, I let the sharks have the rest of him, and sang again, asking my sisters if any of them had slain the wizard.

None had. We supposed that he was dead drunk again, and determined to circle the ship, singing, until he finally woke and heard us. And so we did, as the ship drifted before the wind under full sail with no one at the helm, and the sharks cleaned the flesh from the bones of our abandoned kills, and the sun sank low in the sky.

Finally the wizard came on deck and looked out at us, but he did not leap in. He didn't even seem to be taking off his clothes to more easily swim and attempt amorous congress with us. He just stood there looking at us; I met his eye and swam nearer, just under the port rail where he stood. My sisters, circling the ship, saw him and gathered there, and we sang:

   "Kasrigan, most useless wizard,
   Always drunk, unless he's sleeping,
   Could not save his one-time shipmates,
   When they were attacked by pirates.
   Now the pirates too have perished,
   Pirates whom you swore your allies;
   They too died despite your magic,
   Magic you're too drunk to wrangle."

But he stood there and ignored us. As useless as he was at protecting others, he seemed to be good enough at protecting himself; he had obviously made himself immune to our song. After blinking blearily at us for a while, he pulled a bottle from his pocket, took a long swig from it, made a ghastly face and coughed, then said, in a feeble voice:

"My dear sirens, you may save your breath, for I cannot hear you."

We fell silent, one by one. After another drink, he said: "I can't say the same for the slaves in chains below decks. They've been hearing you all this time, struggling to escape and jump overboard along with the pirates, and I'm afraid many of them have injured themselves in the process. But if you will undertake to remain silent for a few hours, I will go heal them, and unchain one of the helmsmen, and then chain him to the helm in case you start singing again. If you have any feeling for your enslaved shipmates..." He looked at us, and we remained silent, nodding our assent.

"Very well. I will have more to say to you in a little while. I hope we can work this out amicably." He turned and walked away from the rail, where we couldn't see him.

Work what out? We had been frustrated of our vengeance on the man we hated most except for the pirate captain. And if he was about to unchain the slaves, we could not make another attempt on him later without endangering those innocent (if not very brave) men. But we were curious. We dived below the surface, where we could sing to one another without endangering our sometime shipmates, and after some discussion, decided to stay with the ship until we knew more. We needed to know if the pirate ship too had had slaves belowdecks, who were now trapped in a drifting rudderless ship; perhaps the wizard or some of our shipmates who had been enslaved knew -- though how we could ask them such a simple question without drawing them into the sea, or whether we could control our bloodlust enough to refrain from slaying them once they jumped in, we did not know.

We took up positions all around the ship and watched. A little later, we saw the wizard and one other man appear at the helm, talking with their heads close together; the wizard pointed us out and the helmsman nodded, looking badly frightened. He did not object when the wizard chained him to the wheel. Then the wizard came to the port rail again and spoke to us.

"By the terms of my oath I couldn't attack the pirates. But I could save your lives, and I did; and if I did so in such a way that you were able, by your cleverness and persistence, to get your revenge on the pirates, I don't think I violated my oath. And since I'm still alive, the source of my power clearly agrees with me. Now that the pirates are all dead, I am released from my oath.

"If you give me time and cooperate, I will undo the enchantment that turned you into sirens, at least as far as I am able. I am afraid it will be a slow process, as it was before, and that you will be very uncomfortable while it proceeds, but that can't be helped. You'll lose the ability to breathe water long before you have legs again, so you'll lie helpless in a bunk or hammock until the reverse enchantment finishes.

"And I must warn you that the reversal may not be complete. You will probably each retain some sirenic traits -- I cannot predict which, in each case. Most of you won't look exactly like your former selves when it's done.

"If you wish to remain sirens, swim away and leave us. If you wish to become human again -- more or less -- tell the helmsman so, and he will relay your message to me when you fall silent and he comes to his senses. You will have to swear to remain silent while I unchain a few more men to help haul you up, while we stow you in your bunks, and while I work the reverse enchantments.

"You have until sunset to think about it."

We ducked our heads below the water and sang to one another. Midrun suggested that we all swim away, and let the wizard relax his guard and restore his hearing. Then we could surprise him tomorrow evening and lure him overboard. But the rest of us objected strongly: how many innocent men might jump overboard along with the wizard? Even if our bloodthirsty instincts didn't take over and we managed to help them rather than kill them, some might drown in spite of our efforts. And after hearing the wizard's account of his actions, some of us were willing to forgive him, or at least to postpone vengeance until he had changed us back into men.

Others did not wish to become men again, at least not on the wizard's terms. Tiram sang:

   "Will you be a freakish wonder,
   Hybrid fish for men to stare at?
   I would rather be a siren
   Than a man with webby fingers,
   Or a woman's voice and features."

Midrun and several others agreed, but Fira and I, and two of the sailors, Gidra and Umiru, decided to take our chances with the reverse enchantment and life on shipboard. After a sorrowful farewell, Tiram and her followers swam away into the lightless depths, and we who remained surfaced again. We sang to the helmsman:

   "We would change again to sailors.
   Tell the wizard we'll stay silent
   While you haul us up and change us."

For a few moments he struggled frantically to free himself from the chain that bound him to the helm, even after we fell silent; but then he came to his senses, and spoke to the wizard. The wizard shook his head and walked up to the helm, then leaned over to let the helmsman shout in his ear; only then did he nod to us, say "Wait a bit," and go belowdecks.

Soon he came on deck again with several of the men who had surrendered or hid when the pirates attacked, talking to them as he approached the port rail. The men looked nervously at us, and we smiled reassuringly -- or perhaps, given the sharpness of our teeth, not so reassuringly. They tossed ropes to us, and one by one we held them tightly as the men hauled us up out of the water and lifted us onto the deck. One of the men touched my left breast as he lifted me, and I restrained myself with difficulty from taking a bite out of his arm.

"Steady, Kadrim," the wizard said. "I don't think he meant to do that. -- Come along, men; let's stow her in the captain's bunk and come back to haul up the others."

They carried me, one man gripping me just above my fluke and another under my arms, into the cabin and laid me gently in the bed, which was filthy from the sweat and probably other body fluids of the pirate who had recently occupied it. For a moment I felt a qualm about becoming human again; but before I could say that I'd changed my mind, the wizard clapped a hand over my mouth.

"You swore to remain silent," he bellowed. "Keep your mouth shut until the enchantment is reversed, or I can't be responsible for what happens."

I lay there alone, in the cabin dimly lit by the sunset light through the narrow porthole, for what seemed like hours. It was after dark when the wizard returned bearing a lamp.

"We hauled the last of the sirens aboard after we left you," he said, "and I've started the reverse enchantment on the others. This won't take long -- starting the process, I mean. You'll probably be bedridden for two or three days before your legs reform enough for you to walk on them, and you might be weak and unsteady for a day after that."

I shook my head, but the wizard didn't seem to notice; he made mystic gestures and spoke quietly in words I didn't know, and then left me.

I lay there alone for most of the next few days. I heard commotion outside the cabin as the wizard freed the remaining slaves and they took charge of the ship. Not a single officer had survived, if I recalled correctly; I hoped some of the remaining men knew enough to navigate. The best navigator among us sirens had remained in the sea with Tiram.

Every few hours the cabin boy would bring me food and water, and make some attempt at cleaning up my messes; but he wasn't strong enough to lift me and change the sheets. My gills closed up before I felt any other changes; then my fluke started to divide and reform human feet and legs. It hurt no more than the transformation into a siren, but it left me tired, sometimes too tired to sit up and feel my legs. The webbing under my arms and between my fingers receded, and my back row of teeth was reabsorbed, but my front teeth remained sharper than I remembered human teeth being. And my breasts, modest though they were, did not grow smaller.

The wizard came to see me once during my re-transformation, in the afternoon of the second day. He was drinking, but hadn't drunk himself into a stupor yet.

"You'll do," he said. "Looks like it's working well enough."

"Why do I still have breasts?" I asked, and realized that the compulsion to sing everything I wanted to say was gone.

"Give it time, they'll prob'ly go away," he said. "Or not. I warned you there might be some siren charactis -- characatris -- some bits of you that still look like a siren when you're done."

I would be a freak, I thought bitterly; Tiram was right. It would have been better to be a whole siren than a half man.

I grew more worried still when the remaking of my legs reached the upper thighs. At this point in the original process, I'd still had a penis and testicles, though they were partly merged into my thighs and didn't swing freely. Now, there was no sign of them re-forming. And my legs were not the legs I'd had before, either; they were smoother and less hairy than I remembered them. I began to hope, oddly enough, that I would look like a normal woman when I was finished; it was too late to hope for being a normal man, and I supposed it would be better to be a woman than an androgyne.

The cabin boy lingered longer and longer with me each time he brought me food and drink. On the third day, he asked me if I wanted him to bathe me. I mistrusted his motives, but I felt so filthy, in that bed so unlike the clean sea, that I let him. He ran a wet cloth over my face and neck, then, more gently than I would have expected, over my breasts; I suppressed a shiver. But when he scrubbed my lower belly and approached my still partly fused thighs, I said: "Stop." I didn't want him touching me there. I did roll over and let him scrub my bottom, which was the filthiest part of me.

"Thank you," I whispered when he was done. I didn't want to speak aloud yet; I wasn't sure I wanted to hear my voice, or see the effect it might still have on him.

When I woke the next morning, I found that my thighs had fully separated. And, as I had first feared and then hoped, I seemed to have a woman's normal complement of parts. I wasn't sure how those parts had worked when I was a siren -- obviously we must have had them, for Midrun at least had gotten some use out of them with one of the pirates before she killed him; but they seemed to be normally covered with a thick layer of protecting flesh. Not so now.

I sat up and swung my legs off the bunk, and tried to stand. I immediately collapsed, fortunately falling into the bunk instead of onto the deck. I tried again, keeping a steady grip on the rails, and managed to reach the chest at the foot of the bed, wherein I found some clothes that didn't perfectly fit me, but at least covered my nakedness. After a few minutes' practice, I found I could stand, and even walk, though not steadily. I took a deep breath and pushed open the door.

The sailors on deck turned to look at me as I stepped out, gripping the door for support. One of them came running toward me. "You're up!" he said unnecessarily.

"Yes," I said, and heard my voice -- much the same as it had been when I was a siren, though not so unnaturally alluring. "What about the others?"

"Gidra finished transforming a few hours ago -- he walked the deck for a while but got tired and went to his bunk below. Umiru hasn't been out of his bunk yet. I'm not sure about Fira; he's still in his cabin, just there next to yours." He pointed to the cabin which had been the first officer's. I could tell he was trying not to stare at my breasts, and failing; his eyes kept darting back and forth from my face to my breasts, making eye contact more briefly each time.

"I'll go in and see him," I said, and stepped over to knock on the door. A voice I recognized but hadn't heard in many days said: "Come in."

I opened and entered. Fira was lying in the bunk, covered by a sheet from the neck down. From the shapes bulging under it, it seemed that he had not entirely lost his breasts, though they might have been smaller than before, and he had something further down that I didn't have. His face was more masculine than it had been when he was a siren, but not quite what it had originally been -- there was no stubble on his cheeks, and his chin was rounder than before, I thought.

"Hello, Kadrim," he said, and his voice was masculine enough too, though less deep than it had been. "I'm not sure if you're better off or worse off than me. Have you stopped changing?"

"I think so," I said. "What about you?"

"It feels like some stuff's still moving around down there," he said. "But not as much as before. My legs still haven't quite separated completely, but I've got my manhood back, even if I've still got these too," gesturing at his breasts and glancing away from me for a moment. "You look -- from the waist up you've hardly changed, except for your hands."

That told me something I hadn't been sure of yet, that my face was feminine enough to match my body. "Yes -- I lost the extra row of teeth, but my other teeth feel like they're are still siren-sharp. And before you ask, the lower half matches the top half."

"Damn... I'm sorry, Kadrim."

"I'll get used to it, I suppose. Have your breasts been shrinking? Maybe they'll go away before you finish changing..."

"I don't think so," he said. "They did shrink a little, but they stopped before I had separate knees. My voice might be still getting deeper, but I'm not sure."

I sat and talked with him for a few minutes, and then said I wanted to go see the others. I found them in neighboring bunks belowdecks; the cabin boy was bringing Umiru his breakfast when I arrived. He had almost completely reverted to his original manly self, and already had a noticeable beard on his chin; but his feet -- from the ankle down, they looked like a siren's fluke, split in half. He couldn't walk, of course. Eventually, we got him fitted up with customized boots that fasten to his legs at the knee, and let him walk without putting weight on his half-flukes, but he gets tired easily, and can't walk far at a time. Gidra had regained a more masculine appearance than Fira -- her face was what it originally was, except that she still had siren teeth like mine, and her breasts were gone and some hair was growing back on her chest. But -- I found out later; she wasn't ready to talk about it when I visited her just then, with other sailors within earshot -- she was still a woman where it mattered most. And she still had a high, feminine voice.

I was tired by the time I had sat talking with Umiru and Gidra for half an hour, and I went back to bed after that. I inspected myself again when I woke up later in the day, but I hadn't changed any more. It was another day before I saw the wizard again, and two days after that before I regained my usual energy; Fira and Gidra were up and about by then. I asked Kasrigan why we were so long recovering our strength, and whether he could do anything about our imperfect return to our original forms.

"It's the effect of doing two major transformations on you in less than half a month," he said. "The first time was easy -- easy on you, I mean; doing such a complex working on so many men when I was as hung over as I was that day was one of the hardest things I've ever done. The second one wore you out more partly because your bodies had gotten to depend on the water for support, and partly because the second transformation had to fight, so to speak, with the magic from the first one lingering in your flesh and bones. Ideally I'd have waited six or eight months before transforming you again -- in that case you probably would have returned to your original selves, and you'd have regained your strength as soon as the change was complete. But in six months, of course, I would have lost track of you, and your siren nature would have taken over completely; none of you would have wanted to change back."

"Can you fix us, then, six months from now? Change me and Gidra back into men, and get rid of Fira's breasts and fix Umiru's feet?"

"Not so soon -- two transformations in a short time makes you bad candidates for a third, at least for a couple of years. If I tried to transform you again too soon I'd have even more unpredictable side effects than last time."

There was no telling if I could find Kasrigan again in two years, or if I could afford any other wizard's services at that time. And even if I could, I'd still have to be a woman for at least two years; I should start getting used to it.

We spent days searching for the derelict pirate ship. By the time we found it, several of the enslaved sailors from the West Wind who'd been chained in its hold had died of thirst. We rescued the others, and debated putting a prize crew in charge of the pirate ship to bring it into port; but we had lost too many men in the pirate attack, plus the sirens who chose not to become human again, and the surviving men from the other ship would take days to recover before they could work again. We couldn't man both ships, and besides we had only one halfway decent navigator left. So we set the pirate ship adrift, and set a course for what we thought was the nearest port. The chief navigator had died in the pirates' attack, and his apprentice had chosen to remain with the sirens; our navigator now had little training and wasn't very good, but we did eventually get back to the mainland before our provisions ran out. After buying some provisions in the first fishing village we came to with money we'd found in the pirate ship, we sailed along the coast to Bapram.

There we former sirens left the ship. Many of our shipmates were more or less sympathetic for our misfortunes, but most regarded us as freaks. In a large city like Bapram, we would not stand out quite so much, as there were many other people who had suffered from enemy magic in the war and no longer looked quite human. And I, at least, had lost too much strength to continue in my former profession, and Umiru could no longer walk; we needed to look for less strenuous work on land, and Fira and Gidra chose to stay with us. We felt like family, after the ordeal we had been through, and didn't wish to part.

We have lived here for a year and a half now, in common lodgings in the quarter marked as "Lighthouse Hill" on the maps, but now called Freaktown. Many of our neighbors are people who were transformed or cursed by enemy magic in the war, so Fira's breasts or Gidra's voice scarcely merit comment, still less my shark-like teeth. Umiru rarely leaves our rooms, and at least one of us stays in at all times to keep him company -- usually me, as my work of clothes-mending can be done largely at home, or Gidra, who became Umiru's lover within a month after we settled here. I resisted the idea of loving a man for a long while after my transformation; it didn't help that the first two or three men to take an interest in me were crude and clearly interested only in casual sex. I had, I admit, been not entirely unlike them during my time as a soldier; there was no time for long courtships or subtlety in flirting when one might only see a woman once before being ordered to march away and never return. One had to make one's interest clear and unmistakable in the first few minutes of conversation, and one couldn't promise to stay with her forever, or even for a month. But it seemed that many of us had carried that bad habit, a necessary evil in war, into peacetime.

I rejected their offers, and then those of several men perhaps more worthy of my notice, during the better part of a year. Then I met Taprikar, a widower a few years older than myself, when I was knocking on doors in the neighboring Rowan Hill district and asking if the residents had clothes to be mended. Taprikar gave me a pair of trousers with holes in the knees, and I returned with them patched and mended a couple of days later; he gave me more clothes to mend, and we saw each other fairly often for a while. He was unfailingly courteous; it was the fourth time we saw each other before he asked me any personal questions about my history. I told him briefly that I lived nearby with my sister and brothers. He told me his own history; he had been lame in one leg since childhood, and so had not been conscripted until near the end of the war, when Bapram was under siege and blockade, and every man not absolutely immobile was mobilized. His wife had died of cholera during that siege, and he had lived alone since then.

The sixth time we met, he asked me to stay for dinner. I refused, saying I was expected at home, but said -- surprising myself -- that he might treat me to dinner at a public establishment the next time I called, one that served fish. He did, then and on several subsequent occasions. He told me more of his history, and I let my guard down a little more, giving him a true but very incomplete account of how I got my shark-teeth, and admitting that my brothers and sister had more obvious deformities, and that we lived in Freaktown.

Soon after that, I discovered that he had been borrowing torn and worn clothes from his poorer neighbors and hiring me to mend them, so as to have more frequent pretexts to see me. I was amused and flattered, and didn't let on that I had figured it out. The fourteenth time we met, I spent the night with him.

He has just asked me to marry him, and I think I may accept. I asked for a couple of days to consider his offer. His home is not so far from our lodgings in Freaktown that I could not go to see Umiru, Fira and Gidra almost every day. But I think I must tell him my full history before I accept; it is only fair to him, and to marry him with such a secret between us would be to endanger our relationship if he were someday to find out from someone else.

I sometimes go up to the cliff by the lighthouse and look out to sea. I think about Midrun and Tiram and my other siren-sisters. Where in the vast ocean are they? Have they confined their predations to pirates, or do they sometimes attack innocent merchant sailors? Or have they retreated to the lightless depths, preying on fish and stranger creatures of the deep places, rarely surfacing at least in the shipping lanes? We hear no definite news of them. But Gidra, who works on the docks as a stevedore, hears sailors saying that piracy has declined noticeably in the last year or so. The captains and shipping companies take credit for staffing their ships with mercenaries and wizards, and indeed a few pirates have gone to the bottom after a wizard blasted a hole in their keel. And some pirate captains have apparently been killing their rivals. But I like to think that my sisters deserve at least some of the credit.

My secondary-world fantasy novels "Wine Can't be Pressed Into Grapes" and its sequel "When Wasps Make Honey" are available from Amazon in Kindle format and from Smashwords in EPUB format. Both involve multiple human/animal and TG transformations.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Feel free to repost or mirror it on any noncommercial site or list. You can also create derivative works, including adaptations to other media, or new stories using the same setting, characters and so forth, as long as you mention and point to the original story and release your own stories or adaptations under the same license.