your friend? I like him," she said to Derry.
"That is Alaric Morgan, the Duke of Corwyn. You are swimming around in his bay." Syrene made a face.
"That's silly," she said. "You can't own the bay. And I was hoping you'd brought me a sailor. Oh, well, I like him anyway. Maybe better than you." Derry turned to Morgan.
"I told you she was difficult." Morgan smiled broadly.
"Oh, I don't know," he said. "She seems to be quite astute to me!" Derry gave him a pained look. He set the shell down on the rcoks and picked up the silvery bag. Reaching inside to pull out the still-wrapped pearl, he began to unwrap it. As he did, there was a soft splash in the water at his feet and he saw a small, furred head pop up next to Syrene. She reached a hand to tickle the seal pup under its chin.
"Did you come to say hello to my knight?" she asked the little creature. The seal bobbed its head and hoisted itself up onto the rocks at Derry's side. It rested its head against his leg and gazed up at him.
"Uh, Syrene," Derry said. "Can you ask your pet to move back a bit? I'm wet enough already." Syrene laughed.
"That's not a pet! And I can make you much wetter!" She flipped her tail out of the water, showering both Derry and Morgan with salt water. Morgan sputtered and Syrene laughed again.
"Don't you recognize him?" Derry looked down at the little seal.
"Can't say as I do," he said. "Should I?" Syrene shook her head, her golden hair floating in a slow circle around her shoulders as she did.
"Well, you spent quite a bit of time with him last night. It's Selk!" Derry looked more closely at the seal. There was something familiar about the creature's eyes- they had the same deep, liquid brown look that he had first noticed about Selk. He returned his gaze to Syrene, questioning. "He's a selkie. They can take on a human form at night. We use them as messengers because it is easier for a selkie to become human than it would be for me." Derry reached down to gingerly pat the little seal's head.
"Sorry, Selk, but you'll have to forgive us for not recognizing you," he said. "We haven't had much experience with selkies- or sea nymphs!" Syrene shook her head again.
"For people that live so close to the water, you certainly don't know much, do you?" she said, exasperation in her tone. "You probably don't even know about the pirates." Morgan snapped his head up from watching Derry and Selk at her words.
"Pirates?" he said. Syrene nodded and turned to face out into the bay.
"Out there." She pointed in the direction of the horizon. Both Morgan and Derry scanned the expanse of the bay for several moments, but saw nothing.
"I don't see anything, Derry. Do you?" Derry shook his head.
"No, Morgan, I don't. Syrene, are you sure?" Syrene looked at them as if they were particularly stupid.
"Well, you won't see them now," she said. "They don't sail this close to shore and they hide during the day. They will come out at dusk, and prowl the area for ships to plunder during the night. They are not stupid, you know." Morgan looked thoughtful.
"I had a message from the Orsal last week. He said that one of his ships disappeared after leaving his port on a trade mission. Never arrived at its destination and didn't come back home, either." Syrene nodded.
"The pirates got it," she said. "They are very bad men. They capture a ship and kill everyone on board. Then they take whatever treasure they can find and burn and sink the ship. They make sure nothing is left before they leave. I don't like them."
"This from someone who sinks ships and drowns sailors," Derry said. Syrene gave him an indignant look.
"I never said I sink ships or drown sailors!" she said, fiercely.
"You never said you didn't," Derry countered. "And why don't you just sink the pirate ship and drown them, if you don't like them?" Syrene pulled herself out of the bay and sat on the rocks. The two men watched her for a moment, as she gazed out over the blue-green expanse of water. When she spoke, her voice was soft and carried none of the teasing tone that was usual.
"Yes, it's true that sometimes, the ships crash and sink, and sometimes, some of the sailors drown. But that's not what I want. I just want to help them." She sighed. "I can't help what I do- it's not something I can stop. But I don't try to make the sailors drown. In fact, I save them if I can. I only want to help the ones who are already a part of the sea become more so." She looked up at the two men standing above her. "I can make a human into one of us, but only if he truly loves the sea and wants to be a part of it. That is what my song does- it calls to those who truly belong to the sea to come home. And that is why I can't stop the pirate ship. My song and my magic is from love, and they are so greedy and so evil that they only love themselves and their treasure. They can't even hear me sing. But I want them to leave, and if I could stop them, I would!" She said the last with a violent shake of her head, sending her long, golden hair flying against both men's legs. Morgan stared across the bay, a hard expression on his face.
"Maybe not, Syrene, but I think perhaps I can do something about these pirates." He turned to Derry. "I'm going back up to the castle to write a letter to the Hort. Perhaps, now that we know about these pirate s, we can run them down from both sides. I want you to go to the dock and nake sure Rhafallia is ready to sail as soon as I finish." He turned to Syrene. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Syrene. I promise you, those pirates will not find this bay to be a welcome place very shortly!" Syrenes face brightened into a smile at his words. She dove smoothly off the rocks into the water, hardly causing a ripple on the surface. When she re-appeared, the old mischief was in her voice and attitude again.
"Oh, that is good news, isn't it, Selk?" The little seal, still sitting on the rocks at Derry's side, rose on his tail and clapped his flippers like applauding hands. He followed Syrene into the water. "I knew I liked your friend, knight! Don't forget your shell- you may want to see me again someday!" She flipped over and dived under the water. Derry suddenly remembered the pearl he still held in his hand.
"Syrene!" he called. A moment later, she resurfaced a distance out in the water.
"Keep the pearl, friend knight! I can get all I want!" And she dived again, leaving the sound of her liquid silver laughter echoing over the bay.
~ Finis ~
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