The moon was high in the clouds with thousands upon thousands of stars blinking quietly down towards the Village of Sentia. The winter night blooms fragrances filtered throughout the whole village, luring the different night creatures out to the edge of the forest.
On one side of the village was the forest but on the three sides of the village were surrounded by the Sherma sea. Part of the village either floated on the Sherma sea or was submerged into its mineral-rich waters. The village was strategically placed there for defensive purposes...but Nia wasn’t sure about that because something else permeated the air in that particular night. It was something odd that made her skin creep. As she slept on her bed, she stared at the stars from her slopped ceiling window of their two-story, three-bedroomed cottage.
It was the turning of the season with the first snow due to fall any day from then and everyone was meeting at the village pool-square which was situated in one of the lagoons of the sea for celebrations but Nia wasn’t feeling the festive spirit that night.
Something in her wanted her to run away as far as her small feet could carry her. She rolled to her belly and placed her hands under her chin then sighed as her scarlet hair fell around her face.
“We are heading off, mother!” Nia heard one of her brothers tell their mother downstairs.
She quickly jumped from her bed, rushed down the narrow staircase then looked down at them from the balustrade and shook her head. “Don’t go out tonight.” She warned them.
Both her brothers looked up at her and Bec, her older brother, frowned at her. “Did you have the dream again?”
Nia sighed. It was terrible enough that she kept on having a re-occurring dream about the entire village being set on fire and people burning alive in their homes but what made it worse was that no one believed her. “Yes, and it gets clearer every day, Bec.”
“This is what we get for having a Siren in the family.” Klas, her second brother muttered quietly.
“Stop it, Klas.” Their mother came in from the kitchen with a towel in her hands. “I wouldn’t have you insulting your sister like that.”
Klas rolled his eyes. “I was only teasing.” He sighed and turned to Nia. “Sorry, Nia. I was just playing with you.”
But Nia knew her brother and most of the time he wasn’t playing. It bothered him greatly that Nia ended up a Siren--a Sea Witch in other words. When she was younger, everyone loved her and everyone wanted to be around her but when she reached puberty and it was known that she was a Siren, no one wanted to be around her.
They all believed that Sirens were a bad omen and that she was going to bring them great grief. Most Sirens were sent to the temples where they were watched over by the High Priestesses.
The village council had given Nia’s parents until the first snow for them to send her away or they would be forced to leave the village if they didn’t abide by the rules.
“Just...be careful, okay?” Nia said sadly curling her fingers into fists so that no one saw the color change of her nails. She turned away and went back into her room.
She heard her mother reprimand her brother but Nia didn’t think it helped much. They were all raised to believe something was wrong with Sirens. Sirens held immense powers and were able to destroy masses of people. Even Nia believed something was wrong with her. She looked down at her nails and they were dark blue--sadness.
She sank back into her bed and pulled her sheet up to her chin. She would have loved to join her brothers for the celebrations down at the lagoon where every mermaid and merman would be showing off their abilities. She knew Bec would have asked her to do so. He didn’t really care what she was and he always picked a fight with anyone who so much as pointed a finger at her but Nia didn’t want to dampen the celebrations with her presence, especially with very superstitious people.
“Nia?” Her mother called quietly outside her door. Her father was one of the elders of the villages so he had to take part in the celebrations. Her mother refused to do so because it meant Nia would remain alone in the house while the whole family went out.
Nia wiped away the tears staining her cheeks and turned away from the door just as it cracked open.
“Nia, why don’t you join me downstairs for some pie and hot chocolate?”
“I’m tired. I want to sleep.” Nia croaked to her mother.
“I know you might be feeling a little bad--”
Nia looked up at her mother. “I am fine, mom. I just want to be left alone.”
Nia’s mother nodded softly and said. “I will leave you alone but you shouldn’t lie about being alright.” She pointed to Nia’s nails which were a darker blue going to black. She went out quietly and closed the door behind her.
Nia sank back to her bed and closed her eyes. Sometimes she wished she was born as someone else or she was able to go somewhere far away. She wanted to go to a place where no one really cared about what she was...
Nia was woken up by a sudden loud thud above her. Her room was right at the ceiling with the sloping window overlooking the rest of the village right above her bed. There was an eerie quietness for a moment before she saw what looked like a male shadow casting over the window. She quickly shifted away from the window to the corner of the bed as the shadow appeared to have been looking inside. Nia could tell it was a very large male--a warrior of some sort. He had a weapon in his hands.
When he didn’t see anyone, he moved away.
Nia took that moment to scramble away from her bed and rushed out into the corridor. She and her brothers shared the first floor, but her parent’s room was downstairs. More thudding could be heard around her.
Her heart thundered in her chest and her blood gushed through her body charging her with adrenalin. Sweat broke on her skin as she skimmed along the wall down the stairs, keeping to the shadows.
What time was it? Had her brothers and father returned? Who were these males who were jumping up and down people’s roofs and what were they searching for?
Finally, Nia made it to the ground floor and rushed towards her mother’s room. She burst inside and her whole body went cold when she found one of the males holding her mother up by her throat with one hand and what looked like a blade in the other hand. Nia had never seen a more terrifying scene that she was left paralyzed in place.
Nia had never seen the uniform he was wearing before. She knew the uniform for the army and the royal army of the Realm of Water. She even knew the uniform for the guards of the Lorian Sector where the Sentia Village was and it was nothing like what that male was wearing.
Nia’s legs wanted to give way when she saw how scared her mother was. Nia was scared for her too.
“Nia...” Her mother choked. “Run!”
Just as the words came out from her mother’s mouth, the male sank the blade into her mother’s gut and a raw scream tore from Nia’s mouth, damaging the vocal cords.
She managed to get her legs to start working and scrambled out of the room. She felt an arm clasp around her leg and when she turned the male was gripping her. She kicked his face with her free leg several times until she was able to kick herself free of him then scrambled for the front door knocking several things in the way so that the male chasing her would have a hard time getting to her.
When she finally burst out into the cold night, her chest felt heavy and her body trembled, not from the cold but from the fear that was eating her alive. Her mother was dead! She was lying in her own pool of blood in her room and there was a madman chasing after her.
Hot tears ran down her cheeks as she ran barefooted down the streets not feeling the sharp stones underneath her numb feet. Screams echoed all around her as males and guards fought against the intruders while children ran for cover. Several of the intruders were carrying screaming and fighting females away. She could hear gunshots and the slurping sounds of blades going through flesh and bone. There were so many bodies in the streets of men and children.
Nia could barely see where she was going and she ended up stumbling onto one of the dead bodies before falling into his blood. Her sleeping dress and skin were soaked with blood and as she struggled to get up, she was shoved back onto the ground by someone from behind.
“This is a pretty one.” Someone snickered.
“The captain would surely want this one for himself.” Another answered the chuckled darkly.
“How many have we rounded up so far?” The first one asked as Nia struggled to sit up but a heavy foot landed on her back nearly cracking her spine and keeping her down in the blood.
“About twenty females. Most of them ran into the sea.” the other answered wiping the blood off his blade on the dead body beside Nia.
“Plea-please...” She cried as she struggled under him. “Please let me go!”
“Oh, you want to run some more before we capture you again?” Nia didn’t answer because she was caught with bouts of tears.
She had never felt that kind of fear before. It surpassed even the fear she felt when she first discovered she was a Siren and had to face the village council that rendered her fate.
The foot suddenly fell away.
“Run towards the sea and you're dead! Now, Go!” he barked.
Nia jumped to her feet and sprinted as fast and as far as her little feet could carry her. She heard the chuckles and howls behind her as they started chasing her, their heavy boots knocking hard on the stone paving of the streets but she didn’t look behind. She just dashed towards the forest. She knew that if she got that far, she could find a way to lose them in the forest.
Hope sprang in her when she saw the first line of trees. Just a little longer, she thought. Suddenly the snickers and howls behind her died out and when she quickly stole a glance behind her, she found that she had lost them...or so she thought.
Nia followed the dirt road leading into the forest. She knew the forest like the back of her hand because she and her brothers always played in there when they were younger. She just hoped her brothers and father were alright in all that.
There was a sudden thud behind her and a hiss that made all the hairs at the back of her neck rise up. She stumbled again and almost crashed into the ground but quickly caught herself and slipped into the trees. She was panting hard and sweating profusely. Her sleeping gown was soaked in blood and her feet were dirty with cuts and bruises. Cold tears were still rolling down her eyes and fatigue and the cold were weighing heavily on her shoulders. Her legs could no longer move as fast as before. They were stiff from the chill that was making its way into her joints.
A large hand grabbed her hair from behind and yanked her back. Nia yelped in pain as she stumbled down into the sharp rocks and the cold and wet soil. She knocked her head hard on one of the rocks and her sight suddenly blurred. She blinked several times as she looked up at the stars again but there were no longer there. Instead heavy gray clouds boiled across the lands, casting in a dreary state that reflected the circumstances at the moment. The first snow of the season came down slowly.
Nia let out a puff of air as her captor appeared before her with his green eyes glowing menacingly. Nia lifted her hand up and turned her palm to face up. She didn’t know what fate awaited her but one thing was for sure, she lived long enough to see the first snow.
Several snowflakes fell into her palm and melted away just as she lost consciousness and her world became cold, dark, and bleak...