calm sea during golden hour



Chapter Three of Siren Song.



7/16/20231 min read

Chapter Three

Elswyth, Elliot, and Eleanora Mistral

Vienna lands on her feet resolutely this time, swaying but upright. She’s in a room full of heavy tapestries and rugs and gorgeous paintings. Her eyes take a moment to adjust to color, as after arriving to Niflheim, she’s been seeing anything but. The walls are hung with rich, comforting tapestries in a dark, sophisticated maroon. A winter breeze blows.

The cool breeze is a welcome change to the right-before-rain-pours air in Niflheim, it sets into her skin, giving her the illusion that she’s just home from high school, sitting in the foyer and undoing the laces on her Air Jordans, hearing the tinkling of water glasses and her parents’ voices from the kitchen, the air setting into her hot skin. Only, she’s not home.

She carefully blinks and stares around the room. Decima stands in an Army General pose, her hands behind her back, gazing at a portrait, her back to Vienna. Nona fingers a tapestry, her eyebrows furrowed in awe, testing the rich fabric. Only Morta stared at her, trying to comprehend her sad half smile.

“You could, perhaps, sit down, Vienna Alcestis.” Morta says, gesturing towards a crushed velvet love seat.

Vienna nods thanks and sinks into the chair, raising her hands to her eyes as if examining her nails, as an excuse to stare at something, while she’s filled with a bittersweet nostalgia. She’d never been away from her family before; perhaps that’s why she feels so terrible. She’d always been a mommy’s girl, and tailed her family everywhere. She knew nothing else. At that moment, she misses her mother, her father and her imp brother, her friends, her house, her school, her everything. She would have given anything and everything to be back. And because she was human, she wished that the cup had never been passed her way. Why her? Why not someone else?

Homesickness had never hit her this bad before, she’d simply never been away this long. As far as she knew, perhaps 8 hours had passed. She felt like prey in the claws of a beast, horrific but powerful…

She blinks back the cold crystal tears threatening to overflow her eyes, and looks up as someone says her name.

“Vienna Alcestis. Who gave you that name?” Decima’s asking, now interpreting Vienna instead of swirls of paint.

“My mother. It’s actually Vienna Elwynne Alcestis Hawthorne, but that’s too long, so I just say Vienna Hawthorne.” Vienna’s voice cracks on the second word, and she clears her throat and goes on. “Vienna for the city she met my father in, Ellerie for, well, nothing, Alcestis because it’s a Greek story shero, and my mother teaches literature.”

“V.E.A.H, then?” Morta says.

“Veah.” She says, and smiles. She realizes it, the Sirens have cheered her up.

The Sirens grin, and then Decima clears her throat and murmurs, “Opening the door now,” then did so, performing a curtsey for the blue-cloaked, foot tapping guard outside the door.

“DECIMA!” the red-headed guard exclaimed. “We were wondering where you three were off to, you’ve gotten Vienna Alcestis Hawthorne?”

The guard’s got a British accent, Vienna thinks. Sehr interessant.

“Here she is, Rose.” Morta says. Vienna steps up and curtseys slightly, balancing on her platform stilettos. She barely manages.

“Hello.” Vienna says.

“Why, hello, Miss. We’ve been expecting you. Welcome to Niflheim.” Rose says with a beam. She’s quite lovely, Vienna thinks.

Rose then digs out a coin embossed with strange runes and shows it to Decima.

“My identification coin, Decima.”

Decima shrugs and shows one back, stamped with different runes.

“I’ve known you for years, Rosalinde. We don’t need those.” She says soberly.

Rose grins. “Well, with all the things Prince Elliot has been saying lately, there’s bound to be an invasion by the Lunae Regnum and Sol Dynastia anytime.”

Morta flashed a warning look.

“Let us move on, shall we? Since Vienna Alcestis is present,” Morta said. She didn’t continue but she didn’t need to, Rose grinned again.

“Any day, Morta.” She said. They dawdled a bit by the door, Rose asking Decima how the journey was, and complimented Vienna on her gown, Nona modestly not taking credit until Vienna made her, then Rose ushered them out of the door, into a large hallway. It was papered with the same royal burgundy color as in the spare room they landed in. There were old fashioned lamp-posts, with bulbs contained in circular fashions of twisted iron strips, shedding stripes of golden light onto the dark beige carpet underneath Vienna’s stilletoed feet. An unknown pleasant scent lingers in the air, and Vienna lightly hears voices reverberating through the sturdy walls, a female and a male, presumably arguing.

“No…remember your place…you are my…after all.”

I never asked…to be…your…brother…you’re…”

She shrugs it off and turns to the corridor they’re now moving along. One side is dotted with dark oak doors, the other the same, only sometimes there were long stretches of clear glass windows, showing spectacular views of the entirety of Niflheim. She gazes out even while walking, so drawn. However strange and unknown it was, it was gorgeous.

Rose led them down a turn briskly, and then paused in front of a spruce door large enough for an extraordinarily tall giant.

“Now, Miss Alcestis, you have an appointment. This is the Throne Room. Good luck. And Miss Alcestis, if you ever need anything, Rose Emerson it is.”

Vienna felt touched. “Vienna, please, Miss. Thank you.”

“Thanks, Rose.” Decima said.

Rose beamed again, curtseyed, and set off along the other hallway. Morta and Nona watched her leave like Vienna did, only Decima seemed distracted.

Decima ran her hand over the smooth wood, then looked at the others, her expression was morbid, macabre, solemn.

“You have to stay calm, Vienna Alcestis. Have you ever met your Queen?” she asked.

Vienna shook her head no.

“Well, we’ll be right behind you in there. And also, Morta, Nona, please try to stay calm.”

“I’m always calm.” Morta replied, rather challengingly.

“I know you fawn over the Queen.” Decima said impassively. “Whatever, are we all fine right now?”

“Fine,” Vienna replied, but Morta and Nona remained silent. Meanwhile, Vienna had all sorts of insanity running through her head.

Would a cage drop onto her as she entered the room? Would she be executed immediately and efficiently? Would she be fed to Wendigos? Delectable child prodigy, sautéed with expensive garnish? Or worse, what if the Queen made her marry the Prince or something? She was just 14, it was illegal, but the Queen was the Queen after all, and she would have the biggest say in it, the very idea repulsed Vienna, child marriage. Or maybe she would have to stay here forever, turned into a Siren…

“Let us just go in.” Morta whispered, and Nona runs over Vienna one last time, from braided hair to stilettos, before Decima nods and speaks up.

“Morta, Nona, three steps ahead of Vienna Alcestis. Vienna Alcestis, three steps ahead of me, chin up, eyes on them. Your words should be precise, no pressure, but I want them to KNOW that you’re so brilliant, so intelligent, because we know you are. You are unbelievably bright, show them what you are, what you aim to do, what you aspire to be. Look around, ask the Queen questions, I’m sure she could use an uncontroversial mortal for a change…”

“Decima.” Morta said quietly, but firmly. She seemed to be the eternal medium, always butting in and cooling things down when there seemed to be controversy boiling. It rather reminded Vienna of her mother.

“Yes, Morta.” Decima smiled. “Vienna Alcestis…”

Vienna steered herself between Morta, Nona and Decima, who knocked on the door briskly. Two cloaked guards wearing gold embossed blue badges nodded at them as the birch doors swung open gracefully, saying,

“Copiis?” one said as they bowed.

“Sic.” Decima said and they started their way into the room, Vienna attempting not to sway on her stilettos. Her eyes were dazzled by refulgent golden light- a type of light source was embezzling the entire room from strips in the Calacutta marble walls. A gorgeous, simply enormous white and sapphire crystal chandelier gleamed from the impossibly high ceiling, tapered like a circus tent and decorated tastefully with lemon green vines twisting around and around, somehow managing to look simultaneously fancy and natural. Underneath their feet, deep maroon carpet stretched wide and long towards a raised platform. Three gilded gold thrones sat on it, sufficiently spaced apart, with tall lava lamps in transparent glass casing between them. Rubies, sapphires, emeralds, gold ingots were set into the thrones. Glowberry vines twirled around the walls. She noticed something, even though the floor was smooth marble, flowers sprung up all around, it was so strange. Begonias, daffodils, columbines, celandines, petunias, carnations, primroses, cornflowers, grape hyacinth, buttercups, snow-drops, clovers, fox-gloves, impatiens, and dozens more, more than Vienna had ever seen in one place on Earth, or Terra, as she had now started thinking of it. Zinnia, bluebells, and daisies, too, Vienna’s favorites.

It was then that she finally decided to raise her eyes and take in the grandeurs sitting stiffly in the thrones. They seemed blurred, the light fell on them, but a few more steps and she would be cured of her blindness.

In front of her, the Perimeter guards started walking in. She counted to three and followed, feeling self-conscious under the spotlights. She raised her head, chin up, and strode forward confidently as instructed by Decima. She looked the Royals right in the eyes.

The Queen looked young, perhaps 20 years old. Later, Vienna learned that she was 1 year too low. She was royally fair, with an unblemished complexion, and natural white-blonde hair, so light it seemed almost white, in a French braid updo, the braids around her head and pinned at the back. She had piercing blue eyes that seemed see-through, they were so light. Vienna felt the slightest bit judged under that penetrating gaze. A slender frame, white, sylphlike hands, silver nails. She wore a pale aquaverde gown, matching her eyes perfectly, with a princess neckline and tiny sapphires glinting along the neck. The impression she got was simply one single world: svelte. But even though she seemed so delicate and princess-like, she wasn’t a foolish person, Vienna judged shrewdly, not by a cent. A willowy blonde, she sat gracefully on her throne, the very middle, the largest one.

On the left hand side, her brother, presumably, sat. In contrast to his fair sister’s icy glamour, he had tawny brown hair, cut in the latest trend with slight curtain bangs, arranged in perfection. His eyes, a charcoal grey, seemed slightly warmer and surveyed the room disinterestedly time and again. But like his sister, he was long-limbed, with an obstinate nose and a lightly tanned complexion. He donned a white button down, with a navy suit over, and a Prussian blue tie, his arms on the armrests, looking like he felt utter ennui. He seemed to be about Vienna’s age, perhaps one year older? This time she was spot on.

Both siblings had much of a way in enchanting looks, in their own ways, but based on Decima’s dark mutters before, Elliot seemed to be the odd one out, with controversial opinions on Niflheim and their surrounding dimensions. Whatever, it wasn’t her place to judge, she thought, stopping as the spirits before her did too, and surrounded her in a triangular formation. Even though their movements were slight, delicate, she understood the concept, they were caging her in, so she wouldn’t make a dash for it. She had been on red alert the moment she stepped foot in the lilac scented grandeur of the Throne Room, perhaps even before then. Originally Asian, and the eldest daughter, she had been taught three policies well:

1. Never talk to strangers.

2. Never borrow or lend money.

3. Never go anywhere alone without a guardian or a friend.

It was with these things in mind that she sensed the spirits behind and in front of her sink into full-hearted bows, their cloak hoods touching the carpet, and in front, Vienna, lowered her knees and dived into a cordial curtsey.

“Your Majesties.” Decima said from behind, “We present Vienna Elswyth Alcestis Hawthorne, the semi-mortal summoned from Terra on your command.”

At these words, Vienna took the cue, and gathered the words. “Greetings, Your Majesties. Thank you for inviting me to Niflheim.”

The Queen rose, her hands on the embedded armrests. Her erect posture combated her younger brother, sitting carelessly in his throne.

“Greetings, Vienna Alcestis Hawthorne,” she said, in a composed voice (Vienna noted with a mental grin, how everyone just kept leaving out the Ellerie, her prettiest nickname), “We have been awaiting your presence, and I hope you had an appropriate journey.”

“Yes, thank you, Doyenne, the Parcae have been wonderful.” She replied, feeling that after all the Parcae had done, a little advertisement was needed.

“Splendid.” The queen said, her voice was confident, no cracks or trebles. Elliot’s charcoal eyes flicked lazily from his sister to Vienna, but he seemed to be listening carefully. “Now, have you been briefed?”

“Regretfully, not yet, Doyenne.” Vienna raised her eyebrows. “The only information I have received that I was needed by Your Grandeur.”

Perfect time for another curtsey! She went down, rose again. “And it must be salient, it seems so.”

“It is, Vienna.” The Queen seemed pleased with her answer. Her eyes scanned Vienna for any self-consciousness. She found none.

“Now, Vienna, brief me of your age, name, dwellings, family, I thrive for details.”

I bet you are, Vienna thought complacently, and smiled.

“Vienna Ellerie Alcestis Hawthorne. Age: 14 years and 5 months. Dwellings are a three story Cape Cod, Palisade Avenue, Seven Dials, Brighton, England. Family: my mother, Sandra Alessia Hawthorne, 39, father: Elijah Hawthorne, 40, brother: Asher William Hawthorne, 9. Designator: High School Student, also part time Freelancer.”

Here, the Prince actually stopped her.

“Miss, Vienna Alcestis, elaborate on that, please.” He sat up, properly sitting in his throne, his eyes glinting at some Earthly profession.

“Well, it’s basically, I receive writing jobs or jobs on anything really from people, a short term job, I finish it, and submit it, I get paid. All that without actual contact.”

The Prince looked awed, he looked at Elswyth, looking for some similar emotion, but the Queen didn’t even look at him. “Yes, please go on, Vienna.” She only said. Elliot rolled his eyes heavenward and shook his head imperceptibly.

“I want to study in college, preferably a top ranking. I’m applying for scholarships already. My teachers are sure I’ll get in on the best colleges. I’m told I’m very bright.” She said with a grin.

Elliot might have grinned. She heard Nona, Morta and Decima laughing quietly behind her.

“I have multifarious hobbies. I’m writing a book I’ll publish, I adore reading, music, and I play the guitar. I’m planning to start a band. That’s all, Doyenne.”

“Thank you for your input, Vienna. You may rest now. A room has been prepared for your comfort.” Said the Queen. “Lysistrata, Parcae, escort Vienna to her room.”

A blue badged guard swept forward to Vienna, very much walking instead of floating like a Siren would. Vienna noticed black boots. It was a first.

Could she be…human?