This short story was an experiment into the 1st person PoV, which, as it probably shows, is a bit outside my wheelhouse. The character sharing this little tale with you is Maya Sirensong, a particularly dramatic tragic bard.
It was a chance meeting.
My companions and I were hand-picked by the gods to compete in a test of strength, wills, and faith. Ironically, of the three of us, only one holds any such devotion, but the point wasn't worth making. There's no sense arguing with beings capable of pulling you across worlds.
We were the first to be selected to enter their tower and face the trials they set before us on each of its five floors. As one, we agreed to meet their dangers and puzzles and surmount them all. We danced to their tune and left a trail of blood in our wake.
Trial after trial, death after senseless death, we made it to the top of their tower, but neither reward nor portal awaited us. We were instead met with a dull, grey expanse of stonework canopied by an empty, too-still sky of gold and pink. The gods spoke to our minds, congratulating our satisfactory work, and requesting our patience. Eventually, others were likely to join, and if they did, it was our duty to fight to the last.
Yet another request for blood.
The gods are cruel.
We waited and waited, and waited some more, but no one came. It was just my friends and me. One, the picture of patience and humility, the other…well, quite the opposite, as made apparent by the way she spat upon the ground, tail whipping back and forth, and foot tapping impatiently. As for me, I didn't know how to act. What melody could soothe that particularly unique state of suspense, or make sense of the senseless violence and demands for blood? We were asked to wait for others to prove the same strength, determination, and devotion as we, and when they'd fought and bled their way to the top, their reward was to be death at our hands?
Everything about it was wrong!
I stood there, curling into myself as I leaned against the cold, stone wall feeling helpless and sorry for myself. Maya Sirensong— once a local legend, mistress of music, and weaver of words, reduced to a toy soldier in the hands of a particularly violent child. My stomach twisted into knots as I fought not to cry. I was adrift in a sea of doubt, simultaneously torn between staying strong for my friends and taking my fate from the gods' hands by throwing myself from the tower.
If you're reading this, then it's safe to assume I didn't do the latter.
Maybe I'm just a coward. Maybe, deep down, I thought death would be easier to face than whoever came up the tower or whatever awaited me when I returned home. Or maybe a rational part of me knew that the gods wouldn't allow me to seize control of my fate like that. Judge me how you will. The girl that used to care about such aspersions doesn't exist anymore. You won't hurt my feelings.
Lost for words and aching for seeing my friends in distress, I reached for my lyre and allowed the notes of an unknown song flow through me, fingers dancing across the strings as if I'd played it a hundred times. I took my pain, my sadness, my anger, everything I was feeling, and poured it into the song. And as my emotions lay bare, Her power flowed through me, giving me voice where I had none. I sang the words She provided without understanding the language from which they hailed. My inner Siren headed the call, and the power sprang forth unbidden.
It feels like ages since I made that pact with Her. I've been terrified of the power of my voice ever since, and resist using it at every turn for fear of accidentally bringing my loved ones under its sway. To keep my voice from taking hold of their minds and causing their demise.
But on that dismal day atop the tower, resistance felt pointless. Mercifully, given the way things turned out, She chose not to seduce my friends. Instead, my words were as a balm for their restless souls.
However, it had quite the opposite effect on the poor sods that appeared on our floor at long last, momentarily pulling each of them under my sway. Three men, each of them handsome in their way. One, a human, who's shining blue eyes and coppery hair gleamed even more brightly than his golden armor. Another, a dark elf, who's dangerous eyes and roguish charm tickled every carnal fantasy I'd ever had. And the third—
A half-orc, standing tall and broad, pretty and perfect, with features smoothed and chiseled by elven blood. His lithe form was wrapped in leather that accentuated every curve and dip of his features. Raven-black locks framed the soft, tanned skin of his face, accentuating his gleaming emerald eyes. They were rapt upon me, as were the eyes of the two other men.
You see, that is the power of my song. The power I bartered for to help save my world. A power I've never once regretted, but have since come to fear. As much as my heart yearned to know that half-orc's touch, we could never be because of Her. No… because of my choice to allow Her to use me as a conduit for Her power.
My friends were of clearer mind than I at the time, ignorant of the secret heartache I carried. They sprang to action, applauding me for keeping the men distracted, and I hated it. I didn't want to fight but fight we did. It was a grueling battle of paladins, swords, fists, spells, and music, and, to our great surprise, we lost. One by one, I watched my friends fall. Each death a knife in my heart, cutting free the tethers of compassion for my opponents. And then, the last thing I remember before the world turned black was the dark elf's golden eyes, wide with shock, his blade in my belly, and my ice piercing his heart. There was regret in those eyes, though not for killing me— for someone he could never see again. And then the light left them, and our songs ended as one.
But I'm still here, as you know, spinning my yarn. If you'll recall, I told you: the gods are cruel.
Life returned to me in a frigid rush—lungs expanding with life-giving air, painfully full to bursting and yet somehow starving for more. I could feel my insides knit themselves together, flesh stretching to reach its tattered brethren as the sinew beneath stitched itself together. It's a strange sensation, being brought back to life. My advice to you?
My eyes flew open, I saw them all— my two friends and our three adversaries. Each of them hale and whole, just like me. The gods' voices boomed within our minds, congratulating us for fighting valiantly in their honor. Admittedly, it rang a little hollow, considering that I'd died.
As they drawled on with their flowery words, I stopped listening. I was too distracted by him— the gorgeous half-orc with his shimmering eyes. I couldn't look away. This man was every bit the siren's call that my voice had become to so many. My gaze roved over him once more, stopping at the violin nestled neatly upon his hip. It was obviously well-loved. Used but pristine, handled with the utmost care.
A fellow musician.
And he was staring right back at me.
I could feel the connection between us— electromagnetism in every sense. And as my mind began to wander, contemplating the music we could make together, I remembered that it could never be. Not with the path I've chosen.
We were all of us granted a moment to say farewell before the gods sent us back to our worlds, and that was when the unexpected happened. This exotic creature of a man with his strong arms and soft expression approached me and told me his name.
He told me to stay safe, among other things that I, admittedly, can't remember. My mind went hazy as his hand caressed my cheek. Dizzy as his fingers coiled within my hair, cupping my head gently and drawing me to him. And when his lips graced mine, courageous and warm and full of passion, my heart sang.
I was a bold girl back before the Siren, you know. It didn't matter a person's gender; if they had a pretty face, I'd make a move. Until Koremar, no one had ever done that for me. It was intoxicating and overwhelming. I knew we should stop, but I couldn't resist! I was swept up by the moment, dreaming of long walks at sunset, longer nights full of passion, and waking to the sound of a violin playing my favorite song. A future that I desperately wanted, and knew I could never have.
I expected the worst to happen. Expected the light to shine from my eyes as a song left my lips unbidden. To my utmost surprise, however, the Siren's song within me quelled. I didn't understand— still don't understand. Every time before then, Her power was the undoing of any person who shared my breath.
Tears stung my eyes as he pulled away. It had been so long since I was unafraid to give in to passion, and I wasn't ready for it to be over. And then, in a flash of divine radiance, he was gone, whisked away by the will of the gods.
I keep telling myself, "At least I had that moment." I'd never expected to feel anything so rapturous and beautiful ever again. But no matter how hard I try, nothing soothes the hollow ache that grew in his absence.
The radiance took my friends and me as well, returning us to our dark and dreary world, besieged by creatures of the night and demons alike. Just like we left it. I tried to put him out of my mind. To focus on the task at hand and work towards saving my world. And while our mission is far from finished, I'm currently able to take a moment for myself. I intend to use it to find Koremar, whatever it takes.
I have so many questions, chief among them being how he managed to silence the Siren within. And would he be willing to do it again? Well, time will tell. If history has taught me anything, it's that no one escapes a determined Maya Sirensong.