Salt and Blood
Something alluring, yet sinister resides here on the isle of Freyja. This speck of land amidst the vast Green Sea has been blotted out on most maps, labeled as a destination only fools seek out. I’ve seen it circled in red, scribbled out in heavy ink and stamped with the word díeriè, the Nexian term for death.
For centuries, men have voyaged across the unforgiving ocean looking for answers. With sturdy boats and weaponry, they travel in search of untold treasures, armed with high hopes of solving the mysteries of Freyja. They believe they’re safe from horrors that lie beyond the edge of their own comprehension. Countless men piss away their petty fortunes constructing wooden ships and weapons forged from steel, gearing up for a battle they’ll never win. Vessels bogged down with armory and their own filthy bodies storm across the ocean as if she’s theirs to command. They disregard the fluid nature of the sea and become angry with her. Men curse her by the name Calypso when tides shift or currents redirect on a different course. They want to tame something that can’t be contained, to govern an entity that has no beginning or end. They try to control her unpredictable nature, but I know the truth.
The ocean never truly obeys anyone, especially not the likes of humans.
As their ships slice open the sea in search of materialistic fortunes, the wind bends in my favor every so often. Strong gusts drive their sails east, beaconing them straight towards Freyja’s sandy shores. Once they’ve seen the tropical peaks of my home, they tense up at the sight of land. It doesn’t take long before their concerns are placated and they revel in the midst of true beauty, for Freyja is a sight to behold. Majestic, broad leafed Keni trees spill their shade onto the uneven, mountainous terrain I call home. Various blush and tangerine colored fruits grow in abundance, their ripened weight bending the slender branches of Manec evergreens begging to be harvested. Clear, gentle waves roll along the ivory shoreline, tossing the sand and shells in a soft, rippling pattern. A waterfall at least ten stories tall spills from the mountainside, feeding a soothing river that empties into the ocean. The salt water turns brackish and turbidity at the delta nourishes life, the complimentary compounds blending together in a swirling concoction of splendor. The interaction stirs up nutrients for smaller schools of fish that hover in the safety of the shallows; it keeps the delicate cycle of life ticking along.
“This place is an oasis,” they marvel. “Too much bliss is the only conceivable way one could die here in this paradise.”
I can’t help but smile at those words. What a beautiful lie to tell oneself.
In their defense, I suppose it’s rather difficult to imagine a sight so divine is capable of something so sinister; that this island is a one way trip, and no human ever leaves.
Today, history repeats itself as unwelcomed invaders disembark their ships and row themselves to shore. They celebrate with vigor once their feet touch dry land. A few of them drop to their knees and kiss the sandy beach, sobbing with happiness when they realize they’ve made it. Made it where, they have no idea. They’re just happy to be somewhere other than their sordid mainland or disease festering boats. Those maps branding Freyja with the curse of díeriè become a fleeting, unregistered concern.
My harem grows restless behind me as we observe from afar. They flick the water a little too loudly and whisper inquiries in my direction. I glance over my shoulder and give them a stern look, my icy blue gaze freezing them all into submission. They quietly slink down into the river and I redirect my focus back to the humans.
More often than not, I’ve got to remind them what’s at stake. Things always go more smoothly when its nightfall and all the humans are on land. It gives us more of an advantage, not that we truly need it.
I watch as the foreigners unload tents that’ll serve as temporary living accommodations. They haul them into the jungle and away from the water’s edge, gearing up for their first and only night on a tempestuous new land. They complement their flimsy tents with piles of mining tools as if they’ll find mountains of precious gemstones to unearth. Less than a handful of women wearing tattered, khaki dresses stand in congregation on the beach. They nervously glance around, clearly discontent with their unfamiliar surroundings. They’re young, probably in their early twenties, covered in soot and have skin bruised like peaches, but that’s all typical. Women in the patriarchal world of Saros are nothing more than baby factories or puppets. They were only brought along to serve as slaves in every form of the word; cleaning, food preparation, unwanted sex and existing as a silent punching bags are the brunt of their expectations. They won’t be thralls much longer, though. I’ll set them free, either by death or allegiance. It’s the one gift I offer every woman who comes to Freyja; a choice to live or die on their own terms.
Once everyone is safely ashore and the sun begins to set, I back away through the dense, tropical underbrush. Lush ferns graze my fingertips and bare thighs as I turn and walk towards the river to join my harem. They swim up and down the current, rolling over in the water with slight impatience. They’re anxious to walk on land again and want to voice their excitement, but they elect to stay a healthy distance away from me. They’re too intelligent to disturb me prior to a reaping.
My feet crumble into the black pebbles on the riverbank as I wade into the water. Slick, amethyst scales ripple up my skin, stopping just above my hips. I effortlessly dive head first into the crisp, aqueous solution, allowing myself to slowly sink to the bottom. My legs fuse together at my inner thighs and ankles as my feet expand into an opaque, violet tailfin. A spiny, raised dorsal fin snakes its way from my calves up to my lower back. Each razor sharp spike pops up in place and two identical growths protrude from my forearms. My waist length, dirty blonde hair webs out around my body. Every strand undulates and churns around my skin, scarcely grazing my bare breasts and electric yellow tattoo spread out across the underside of my sternum.
I lie on my back at the bottom of the river for over an hour, allowing all that I am to become one with the molecules of water. Over the years, I’ve become a fluid being by nature, so I’m often more comfortable here than on land. The soft echo of river rocks gliding past one another and the trickling of bubbles climbing to the surface play like a meditative soundtrack in my mind. Tangerine pinpricks of dying sunlight peek through the canopy of palm fronds, striking my body in the coursing water. The burning glow illuminates deep accents of jade throughout my newly formed tail and corresponding fins. I keep my eyes closed as the perfect world around me falls into darkness, each aqueous breath bringing me peace and serenity. Meditation is a necessary action to absorb the unavoidable chain of events looming on the horizon.
As blackness swallows up the back of my eyelids, the smooth, rounded pebbles on the riverbank clatter towards the spaces around me. Even without vision, I know my harem is starting to exit the water. Nightfall is the only opportunity they have to do so, so naturally, they like to milk the time for all its worth. They get especially excited when we’ve got uninvited guests.
I wait until they’ve all exited the river before I open my eyes in the rising moonlight and pump my tail to climb upwards. My head pops through the tension on the water’s surface and I inhale a breath of air. I comb my hair back with my fingers, watching as a pack of women thirty strong form on the river’s edge. Most of them are already back in their human forms, quietly gossiping and stretching out. Another few sit up away from the water as their tails recede and reshape into legs. I pull myself up through the pebbles and rocks, settling on a patch of green grass. Almost immediately, my beautiful amethyst tailfin splits apart. My shimmering scales assimilate back into my skin, and my dorsal and accent fins go right along with them. I sigh longingly as I stare down at a set of drab, human legs. They’re long and toned, but certainly nothing compared to my tail.
I stand up and wring my hair out, pulling some wet, wavy pieces over the front of my shoulders. I skirt past the girls and make my way down a small path overgrown with vegetation. After side stepping some logs and brushing past a handful of boulders, I arrive at the mouth of a cave shrouded by hanging vines. I part the living drapery and enter a cozy space lit blue by dangling neon glow worms. A cobalt hue touches every inch of rocky, cavernous wall, giving the cave an oceanic feel even though it’s on dry land.
When I’m in human form, I find myself spending a decent amount of time here amongst various items I’ve collected over the years. Jewelry, sculptures, a small bed, countless weapons and trunks full of silken wraps and clothing lie scattered about along the stony floors. I grab a colorful pile of wraps out of a wooden chest and hoist them into my arms, carrying them back down to the bank of the river. I drop the items onto the grass and each girl snags one to fashion around their waist. I do the same, tying a rectangle of sky blue fabric into a knot below my bellybutton. It’s a strictly humanesquè act to cover up any part of our naked bodies, but the women find it nostalgically entertaining and so do I. Once they’ve all finished wrapping up whatever they choose, everyone goes silent. I straighten myself out and make eye contact with each and every one of them, slowly scanning their faces.
“Everyone’s privy to the order of operations, correct?” They all nod in unison, their faces beaming with mischief. My newest addition nods in agreement with them, but I can tell she’s nervous.
“Genesis…would you like to sit this one out?” I inquire.
She shakes her head while her mocha fingers fidget with her long, black braid. “No, I-I think I’m ready.”
I walk over and take her face in my hands, offering an encouraging smile. “Once you get started, your body will kick into autopilot and it’ll feel…indescribable,” I explain, sighing with patience. “You’ll do well, Genesis. Just follow my lead.”
A few women give her shoulders a reassuring squeeze and she meekly nods. I release her face and begin sauntering through the jungle with the girls silently in tow. We walk for about fifteen minutes or so until the sound of men’s laughter and radiance of a campfire pop up off in the distance. I grin to myself and take a deep breath, stretching my arms upwards towards the sky. Upon my exhale, the girls take my signal and begin humming a soft, airy tune that drifts through the jungle. They fan out one by one, forming a circle around the ring of orange fire as each note caresses the trees. Their voices flutter closer and closer towards the intended destination and the men dull down their chatter in response. My bare feet twirl on the damp earth as I walk through the center of our circle and towards the firelight. I adjust my voice to the same fine-tuned frequency which stuns every human man in preparation for the reaping. As we dance and sway in harmony, words life from my chest and I softly sing;
I’ve dreamt of a beauty yet unseen,
and her voice, it whispers,
“Set me free.”
Her path isn’t hammered out in stone,
she runs with the sails,
the sea’s her home.
At the sound of my voice, the men try to raise their weapons in confusion. Some shakily wield swords, others hold daggers or a bow and arrow. I pay them no mind, swaying onward while bathed in cayenne light. As long as they can hear at least one of our voices, they won’t attack. They can’t attack.
The ocean and salt cling to her hair,
and the waves, well, they call her everywhere.
The currents will push and pull a boat,
but her heart stays buoyant,
it keeps afloat.
We slowly enter the clearing of their camp from all angles. As soon as they lay eyes on the vision of pure rapture before them, every weapon clatters to the earth with a thud. They stand completely motionless and their eyes glaze over, silently raking over our bodies from head to toe. I walk up to a man with long brown hair and a shaggy beard, gently caressing his arm with my fingertips. I place a longing kiss on his lips and a sense of calm washes over him. When I pull back, he stares down at me with the same look I’m given by any man; he wants to be my end all, be all. He’d do anything to for a night with me, and what a night he shall have.
To be one with her,
you must follow her lead.
Let her bring you salvation,
death is only a dream.
By now, each of the girls has selected one or two men as theirs. They hum the enchanting tune into their ears and kissing anywhere on their skin to truly seal the deal. I take the palm of my selected male and guide him towards Genesis as she nervously glances around. I give her a reassuring nod and she exhales sharply, taking his hand in hers. She begins humming as she leads him into the jungle and out of sight. One by one, my harem makes their way through the foliage and towards the beach.
Come with me now,
let me give you the sea.
You’re a fish out of water,
but I’ll set you free.
I stop singing the words once they’re all out of sight, but I keep humming as I walk around their camp, searching for the real prize of the evening. I pull back the beige sheet of a tent and finally locate the few human women huddled in a corner. It looks like one of them is missing and they’re all beaten far more than they were before, so I’d assume she’s been killed by the men already.
I tie back the opening to the tent and beacon them out. “Come. I’m not here to hurt you and there’s much to discuss,” I smile down at them. They exchange a series of nervous glances before reluctantly climbing out of the tent. I stride past the campfire with a little trail of three humans behind me, heading in the direction of the beach. When we arrive on the sand, their eyes widen and two of them gasp in shock.
A slew of men float face down in the ocean, their bodies bobbing up and down with the crimson stained waves. Apparently, some of my girls were already too annoyed with their presence to fulfil any carnal desires. Then, on the other hand, we have clumps of male and female bodies ravishing one another all along the beach. The sounds of crumbling waves, sex and humming fills the warm night air. This scene might be shocking to the likes of humans, but it certainly isn’t to me. This is typical, it’s what I’ve seen and done for almost two hundred years.
I grasp the shoulders of each human girl and line them up in an orderly fashion. I casually walk back and forth, carefully observing their temperaments. The one with brown hair looks utterly terrified, the blonde can’t seem to stop crying, but the one with bright red hair and yellow eyes looks calm and satisfied. She simply gazes out at the floating bodies and listens to the moans of primal sex, taking it all in with ease. Based on her state of repose, I can already tell she’ll be the one to take the proposition.
“I want to offer you all something that’s never been given to you before,” I begin, “and that is the gift of choice.” My eyes flit between the three of them as I calmly pace. “Here on the island of Freyja, women have a luxury not found anywhere else. We’re free from the constraints of male oppression and all of the baggage that comes with it.” I motion my palm to the steadily growing sea of bodies. More and more women from my harem lead their men into the ocean, either drowning them in a blissful, seduced state of mind, or tearing into them with vengeance and anger. “The men that arrive here don’t govern anything, nor will they ever. Freyja is this way by design. You can live here in peace and harmony amongst us, so long as you agree to my terms.”
“What are your terms?” the girl with fiery red hair asks. I smile as I lock eyes with her curious, canary gaze.
“The agreement is simple; you pledge your allegiance to me and join my harem. You vow to protect the assets of this island with your life, and in exchange, I’ll grant you immortality and the gift of relative peace. You’ll never go hungry again and your existence won’t be a painful, tedious struggle. You’ll be given the promise to walk on land every night from sunset to sunrise, if you so choose, and no man will ever touch you without your consent, for you’ll be stronger than they could ever hope to be.” I step closer, gingerly tracing my fingertips along her jawline. “Every sound that leaves your lips will stop men in their tracks. Your voice becomes their only salvation, and your kiss is toxic in the best way. They’ll follow your lead and do as you say solely because it’s your will. You’ll have an unparalleled freedom you’ve never experienced before.”
“A-and if we decline?” the woman with brown hair stutters. I glance over at her, tilting my head to the side with a frown.
“Then that’s your decision to make. I won’t rob you of choice,” I reply. The sound of giggling and laughter rises in the air upon the death of the very last man. I glance over my shoulder, smiling as a few of my girls skip up and down the shoreline stained scarlet. “If that’s what you desire, I respect your wishes and I vow to provide you a quick, peaceful death.”
She rapidly shakes her head, her face white as a sheet. “Death? B-but I want to go home! I’ve almost saved up enough money to buy my freedom in Nero!”
I reach my palm out, gently stroking her hair. “There is no going home, darling. The secrets of Freyja must remain here, so human survivors aren’t an option. Riches worth far more than gold, silver, or jewels are under our protection, and no one must know of their existence.”
The blonde doesn’t like my response, so she lashes out in fear. “You’re a succubus…you’re surrounded by díeriè, and you only want our souls,” she accuses, jabbing her finger at me. “You’re no savior…you’re evil.” I raise an eyebrow and rotate, slowly striding in her direction. The closer I get, the more she begins to shrink down into a terrified little ball. Eventually, she’s on her knees and I bend down in front of her. I take her chin in my palm, forcing her to look me in the eye.
“I’m no succubus, sweetheart,” I sigh while my thumb grazes her chin. “I am the calm, clear sandbar and the tempest that ravages the shore. I am the waterfall that feeds the river and the conduit through which oceanic energy flows. I am the Alpha, Beta, and Omega of this island, and Calypso has shared with me her power as an equal, giving me all that I am.”
I lean closer, my eyes glowing like frigid glaciers in the night. “I am Iris, the ruler of Freyja and Goddess of the Sea, and if you choose not to follow me, you will die.”