“So, tell me what the heck actually just happened back there,” I said. Rumour and Xavier made eye contact.
“As I said before, I’m a demon,” Rumour said. I raised my eyebrows at him. “We are not what legends say. Not all of us are evil forces, and we were not created by the devil. There are two groups of demons; the aligned and the chaotic. Ironically, the aligned are actually the ones doing evil. The chaotic are disobeying the leader and helping the Arrow Branded. As a chaotic, I am actually quite helpful to these two. We’ve always been allies.”
“There are many different types of demons,” said Soleil. “As you know, Rumour is a Night Demon.”
I shrugged. I supposed that I would just have to get used to it.
I knew I should have felt uneasy in those woods, but I just couldn’t. I looked around at the lush greenery. The abundance of plant species was breathtaking. There were a few shrubs that I had never seen.
I picked a leaf from a tree as I passed. I examined the way the veins separated the leaf into pieces, like a kaleidoscope.
“Shouldn’t I go back to the orphanage?” I asked nonchalantly. Soleil suddenly looked at me like I was crazy.
“Heck no! You’re part of this now. You can’t go back, they’ve seen you with us!” Rumour said.
“Right, right, right. But who has seen me with you?” I asked. He sighed, looking out at the forest. He didn’t reply. I didn’t press him, I understood what it felt like to not want to talk about something.
Xavier continuously glanced back at his friend. He was obviously worried about his injury.
“Hey, mind if I look at that map?” I asked. Soleil silently handed me the piece of paper.
Xavier fell back to walk with Rumour. He said something to his friend that was too quiet to understand. I studied the highlighted route. I was surprised at what I saw.
“Are you guys crazy? This is was too long to walk,” I exclaimed.
“I’ve walked farther,” is all Soleil said.
“Yeah, but I haven’t!” I gave her an anxious look.
“It won’t be that bad,” she reassured. “We’ll stop frequently. Xavier managed to grab our bows and quivers before he left, so we can hunt.”
I looked away from her. I was had a feeling that my life wouldn’t be as long as I had expected. This wasn’t what I wanted when I had escaped Lil’ Angel’s. I just wanted to break out of the grasp of the owner of the orphanage. He was only just short of a tyrant. You can’t leave Lil’ Angel’s grounds. If you’re out past dark you’ll stay out until light. He didn’t encourage individuality or being different in any way. I had gotten into several fights with several people, including him, and almost caused the children to revolt. I smiled at the memory of my friend flipping over an armchair then apologizing right away. He always was a mild person, he didn’t like conflict.
“Whatever,” I said finally, handing the map back to Soleil.
The walk was tiring, but I was distracted by the beautiful scenery. Around midday, we stopped to rest.
Xavier helped Rumour sit on a large rock on the riverbank. Soleil and I sat on the ground beside him. I heard Xavier humming quietly as he put his quiver of arrows on his back. He tossed Soleil’s bow and arrows to her and she caught them with ease. I touched the water of the wide river. The cool current caressed my skin. Then I felt something actually caressing my hand. A person dragged themself onto the shore.
“Hi,” the person said to me. I stared, wide-eyed, at the human in front of me. I couldn’t tell whether they were male or female, not that it was my top priority. Their hair was short and fell over their eyes slightly. The human in front of me had skin so light it was almost translucent. The white hair on their head looked like the seafoam after a wave passed and their eyes were deep greenish-blue. I looked around and noticed that three other people had emerged from the water. One sat on a rock next to Rumour and two sat with Soleil, on on either side of her.
“Who are you?” I asked. The person giggled. I had planned to be more eloquent with my words, but that didn’t seem to be possible.
“I am Thaviane,” they said with a smile. The name also gave me no hints as to their gender. I eyed Thaviane and noticed that their feet seemed to disappear into the river where they met the water. As if they became clear in the water. Thaviane’s curly, frizzy hair didn’t even look wet, despise having just pulled themself out of the water. Their lips and hands had a slight blue tinge
“Hello, Thaviane,” I said. Thaviane giggled again and leaned closer to me. I smiled and looked down. I was sometimes shy around people, especially when their laugh sounded musical and their eyes sparkled.
I glanced past Thaviane and saw Soleil talking to two boys. One was half submerged in the river and seemed to be inching farther in, drawing Soleil closer to the edge, and the other sat beside her. When the one beside her took her hand, her face became red. He planted a light kiss on her palm and she giggled. When Soleil’s foot touched the edge of the river, the boy laying in the water smiled, encouraging her to enter the water. I noticed that his teeth looked slightly sharper than regular humans.
“Sirens,” I heard Xavier say. I turned to him, but Thaviane put a hand under my chin and turned my face back to them. My eyes darted to Soleil, who was immersed in the water up to her mid thigh. Xavier put a hand on her shoulder. She looked at him, but it seemed like she didn’t actually see him. Thaviane brought my attention back to them. They backed into the water slightly, attempting to draw me into it’s depths. I placed a hand in the water. Then my feet. Eventually, I was moving into the water. Slowly but surely. I didn’t think much of the fact that I couldn’t see the part of Thaviane that was in the water. I thought I heard someone say something. Was Xavier calling out to me?
“Lake!” I heard Xavier’s voice far away. The only reason I actually heard it is because he actually used my name. For the first time. I glanced over to see him attempting, unsuccessfully, to pull Soleil out of the river. She had waded in up to her waist.
“Yes?” I said, distracted by Thaviane pulling me into the cool and calm water.
“Lake, Thaviane is a siren,” Xavier said. I looked at Thaviane in dreamy surprise. Thaviane smiled sweetly, pulling on my hand. I ignored what Xavier had said.
An arrow flew past my face. At first, it seemed to go right through Thaviane, but then I realized that second it touched their skin they dissolved into water. I looked around, blinked several times, then crawled the few feet back to the shore. Xavier returned to the riverbank as well. I stared into the water and saw Thaviane emerge again, keeping only their eyes above the water. The boy on the shore and the boy in the water immediately looked up at Xavier.
“Hello, there. You are an Arrow Branded I see,” said the siren next to Rumour. I could tell the gender of that person, they looked like a girl. She seemed to be talking to Xavier rather than Rumour.
“Siren,” Xavier said coldly.
“Please, do not hurt us,” she said. That siren seemed to be the leader of the group. Xavier notched another arrow into his bow.
“Why not?” he raised an eyebrow at the siren, aiming his bow at her. All four sirens put their hands up in surrender and stepped away from their victims.
“Please, we only try to lure you in an attempt to find the Forebearer’s Blade,” one of Soleil’s said.
“And why do you need it?” Xavier questioned.
“We heard people are looking for it. We only mean to protect it,” the leader said. Xavier looked at her skeptically.
“I am Thelea,” the male siren in the water said. “The siren on the shore is Oceris and the one by your friend Rumour is Aurabel.”
Oceris stood from the riverbank. He had white hair like Thaviane. All the sirens did. His hair reached just past his shoulders. He walked over to Xavier. Oceris had tried to appeal to Soleil, but she had payed more attention to Thelea. He held his hands up to signal that he meant no harm when Xavier shifted his weapon to aim at his chest. Once Oceris was right in front of Xavier, he pushed the bow down to point at the forest floor. He put a hand on the curly-haired boy’s shoulder. Xavier glared at him skeptically, his eye contact unwavering.
“Do not be alarmed, Xavier. I do not mean to harm you. I want to ask something,” Oceris paused, smiling lightly. “Do you know where the blade is?”
“So what if I do?” Xavier snapped. The siren touched Xavier’s face with his blue fingertips.
“Do not be that way,” he said in a gentle tone. Xavier pushed his hand away roughly.
“Hey,” I interrupted their exchange. “Um, why can I tell the genders of you guys but not Thaviane?” I had been wondering this. Thaviane suppressed a snicker from their spot in the river.
“That is simple,” Aurabel said. She was definitely the alpha in their group. “We can become our victim’s ideal partner, but technically all sirens are genderless. Sometimes a siren will choose a gender specific form; other times, they will not.”
I nodded, glancing back at Thaviane.
“I don’t care about your siren fun facts, we’re leaving,” Xavier said, glancing as Oceris as if he made Xavier nervous. He pushed past the siren and helped Rumour to his feet.
“But Xavier-” Soleil protested.
“No, Soleil. We have to go. We need to find that Dash Hawthorne… then go to the castle.” Xavier took his sister’s hand, helping her out of the water. She picker up her bow from the ground. I stood and stretched.
“Goodbye, Lake,” Thaviane said. I smiled and waved, knowing my cheeks had become very pink. Xavier grabbed my hand and pulled me along, not checking to see if I was paying attention.
I knew where we were going. I didn’t know what would happen, but I stopped wanting to know. What I was sure of was that I would not enjoy our journey much. It was dangerous, unlikely that I would survive. But I went forward, I kept walking. I assumed getting to the castle would be the safest plan.