calm sea during golden hour




dihaan k~

8/4/20237 min read



“How was it?” asked Lysistrata, her eyes gleaming with excitable curiosity, leaned forward as if she would miss everything in the world if she didn’t hear how Vienna’s hunting trip had been.

“Let her breathe, Lyss.” Zinnia said, looking just as apprehensive as Lyss but seeming to keep it under wraps.

Vienna sank further into her beanbag, looking at peace, with her hair in two buns and wearing a baggy cyan hoodie, feeling utterly comfortable.

“Well, he told me their backstory, like, the Mistral backstory. And then I sympathized, because I can obviously relate with the siblingship turbulence and stuff, so we became friends. Isn’t that a huge turn of events and also sort of great, because I made friends with at least one of the Royals?” Vienna spilled, smiling slightly at the obvious turn of events. She had went from the new weirdo in Niflheim to someone who was friends with the Prince.

“It is! Now we can all hang out together.” Lyss said, looking gleeful. “The only person you have left to meet is Nora. Then we can become a…quadruplet!”

“That would be fun, but leave me out of it. I’d feel strange.” Zinnia said. “And besides, I’m no one of importance or Royalty.”

“But we always think of you as our friend! When did royalty ever come into the question?” Lyss asked indignantly.

Vienna, listening in, secretly smiled. Inside, she wondered how many times Lysistrata had even looked at Zinnia or noticed her existence before they were paired together as her escorts. Lyss could really be thick sometimes.

“Thank you, Lysistrata.” Zinnia said, looking touched. “Anyways…”

Before Zinnia could continue, Vienna’s room’s doorbell rang, letting out a soft ting and a series of low strums by some instrument Vienna’s ears couldn’t place exactly.

“Who can it be?” Vienna said to the girls, then, more loudly, “Come in, please!”

The door opened slightly, and a young Siren popped their head in.

“Excuse me…I’m sorry to interrupt…” a lisping voice whispered from the other side of the huge door.

“Come in, we won’t bite you.” Zinnia called out.

A cloaked Siren with a slight build and huge eyes stepped in, her hands clasped firmly.

“Miss…Miss Vienna Alcestis was summoned by the Queen.”

Vienna sat up quickly. “I’d better change, then. Come in and sit down meanwhile, why don’t you?”

The Siren seemed positively daunted by the proposal. Shivering, she shook her head no, drawing amused glances from all three of them.

Lyss turned her head to look at Vienna.

“You should better get going if you don’t want to be late, Vy.”

Vienna nodded and went into the closet for the quickest transition she had done in Niflheim. She didn’t bother with the gowns, just threw on a midi dress and let her hair loose, brushing it and putting a pearl clip in it for the flair.

“I’m ready to go! Oh sorry, I don’t know your name.” Vienna announced as she stepped out. Lyss and Zinnia had coaxed the Siren into a chair and now all three of them looked up at her.

“Her name is Daphne, she’s very shy, and she’s helping her Syndicata out around the castle. She’s a handmaid for Eleanora.” Zinnia replied.

“Er, alright.” Vienna said, unaware of what to do with the information but not wanting to be rude. She nodded once, and Daphne sat up immediately, gathering her cloak about her.

“Please follow me, miss Vienna Alcestis.” Daphne whispers, now at the door.

Vienna waved at Lyss and Zinnia and once again followed a Siren through the labyrinthine corridors of the Palace. They stopped in front of the place where it had all began. Daphne stood by the gates as Vienna went into the Throne Room.

This time it was just Elswyth in the room, in her Throne. Elliot was missing, probably hunting or writing or reading. It wasn’t Vienna’s business, but somehow she couldn’t help thinking about it. They were friends now, weren’t they?

“You’re probably wondering why I’ve asked you here, Vienna Alcestis.” Elswyth said. One thing about her, she never beat about the bush. It was admirable.

“Two things.” Elswyth continued. “Firstly, how was the hunting trip?”

“It was wonderful, Doyenne.” Vienna said, meaning it. “I shot a few turkeys myself. And besides, it was a perfect morning distraction.”

“I trust Elliot wasn’t too rude?” Elswyth asked. “My brother…he’s quite a character.”

“That the Prince is, yes, but he was kind.” Vienna replied right away.

“Well, I’m pleased to know he was able to behave himself for once.” Elswyth said, then shook her head and seemed to collect himself.

“Secondly, I would like for you to meet Eleanora now. It’s only natural since you’ve met Elliot.”

Vienna nodded. “Of course, Doyenne.”

“The Siren, Daphne will take you. I hope you two will hit it off, you’re almost the same age, yes?”

“I turn 15 in December, yes, Doyenne.” Vienna said. She had become quite adjusted with the royal language, soppy as it was.

“Good luck.” Elswyth said.

Vienna curtseyed and met Daphne outside.

“Follow me, miss Vienna Alcestis.”

This time, they went a floor above, then another, by a spiral, carpeted stairway. This must be floor six- it’s quite isolated, as Vienna sees. On her floor, whenever she glances out the peephole, there’re always a couple of Sirens passing by, sweeping, talking in sibilant hisses, doing whatever they do. But there’s practically no one here. All the suites seem to lie empty.

“Princess Eleanora’s suite is suite 13, miss.” Daphne whispers again.

They stop in front of a door. It’s just like Vienna’s, except it has Eleanora Sabrina Mistral on it in gold, with an addition: a gold emblazoned crown as well on the door.

“That’s amusing.” Vienna says out loud.

“Doyenne wanted to distinguish…between the guests and the Royals.” Daphne replies, as if reading her mind.

“But I thought I was the first ever guest in Niflheim?” Vienna wonders aloud.

Daphne doesn’t reply, instead, she shoots Vienna a trepiditive look and knocks on the door. It swings open, and Vienna tentatively steps in. Daphne stays behind.

It’s dark inside. No, not dark, dim. The large, Tuscan windows are drawn with silk curtains. It’s a huge room, but the main attraction is a enormous four-poster. The only light is from a gentle glowing chandelier hanging from the tapered ceiling. The walls are covered with bookshelves, classics and modern books combined with several written in a language Vienna’s never seen before.

“Good morning, Princess Eleanora.” Vienna says, speaking into the gloom. Her eyes become adjusted, and she becomes aware of a shape rising from the dark.

“I’m sorry for all the dark.” A pleasant female voice says. A hand reaches for a button, and an amiable rose gold light floods the room.

Princess Eleanora is prettier than Vienna expected. She had thought there could be only one pretty sibling, but the Mistral siblings proved her wrong. Eleanora has light coffee hair, waist length, loose and wavy. Her skin is very pale, the type of pale skin gets if someone doesn’t go out into the sun for months, the blue veins visible at the slender wrists. She looked quite different to Elliot- perhaps dizygotic twins? Her eyes were particularly fascinating- a gorgeous case of heretochromia- blue and grey mixed. She was long limbed and fairly tall, like her siblings, probably 5’6. She’s in a silk sandstone-color nightsuit.

“Aren’t you Vienna Alcestis? Or are you a professional owl? Anyway, sit down.”

Eleanora laughs at her own joke as Vienna pulls herself up an armchair, sitting down as she thought what to say next.

“Sorry, I was just trying to…gauge. Gauge your appearance. I’m a writer.” Vienna says, as if that explains her staring. Eleanora makes her feel comfortable and jealous at the same time. It’s as if Vienna’s battling the comforting aura that she radiates, because she looks like everything Vienna would be. Royalty. Pale skin. Pretty hair. Beautiful eyes. Everything Vienna doesn’t have.

But Eleanora doesn’t seem to be aware of that. Instead, she takes a different approach. It’s like she’s trying to make Vienna feel at home.

“That’s fascinating. What do you write?”

“Mostly fiction.” Vienna laughs. “Well, until the Parcae brought me to Niflheim. Now my life’s fiction itself.”

Eleanora smiles.

“It’s admirable how you’re dealing with all this.” She says.

“I was hoping you could tell me about this, whatever it is.” Vienna replies, intensely. At last! At last the conversation is taking the route she’s wanted it to for the last two days in Niflheim, in this strange land she’s stranded in.

A slight shadow passes over Eleanora’s face as she sits up and parts the semi-transparent netting to look at Vienna better.

“That I don’t know much about.” She says quietly.

“Please?” Vienna asked. She felt desperate to know-even if things were looking up right now, she had to know. All she felt like was a drowning child who’s gasping for air, going under into the water, splashing, reaching for a lifebuoy ring that’s always out of reach, receding with each frothing wave that sweeps it farther from her hand.

“Well, I could get into trouble for this. But… when we first came here, there was an old myth-book in the Throne Room. It told of certain destruction…destruction that would ruin Niflheim altogether. Don’t ask me how I know…I was a curious child. It was due to happen a decade or less after humans entered Niflheim. Which was us, of course. But it also told of someone who would heal it. The catastrophe was inevitable, probably, but this person would help Niflheim in its time of need, fix everything that was wrong in it.”

Eleanora stared into Vienna’s eyes. Her eyes were so pale. Faded blue and grey against deep brown.

“If you tell anyone, I could get into trouble.” She said again.

“I promise, I won’t.” Vienna said, leaning forward, not wanting to miss anything.

“It described a dark haired, British-Asian 14-year old humanling, someone who was enveloped in literature and books, who was a Capricorn and born on Christmas, someone who valued life, whose first name started with V, had two middle names, one being Alcestis.

In the last 5 years, we’ve found maybe 15 people? They all proved unsuitable. They were different in some way…”

“What happened to them?” Vienna couldn’t help asking.

“They were turned into Sirens.” Eleanora said, looking paler and more tired.

Vienna sighed.

“I think it’s you. You’ll save us all. You’re our savior.” Eleanora said, and coming from her, it sounded like a plead. Not a command.

Vienna should have been happy. That the Royals had faith in her. That they trusted her. That she was not going to die alone in Niflheim, that she would not be turned into a Siren.

But all she felt was burned out.