Every man, woman and child in Eos knew the tales of the sirens. To most, the stories were simply warnings, reminders that for all its beauty the sea was a harsh and treacherous mistress. That it was filled with adventure, yet also with death.
To others, however, the tales of the sirens were all too real. Some of those who had sailed across the seven seas had returned to Insomnia speaking of songs in the night. Haunting songs, the kind that drifted across the water and caressed their ears, much like the call of a lover. Some even claimed to have seen the creatures: half human, half fish, with faces as pale as the brightest moon, and eyes that glowed like jewels in the depths. They said that fools who got too close, who leaned over the boat in hopes of hearing more of the beautiful, deadly song, were dragged down and never seen again.
No one, of course, could prove that their tales were anything more than the drunken ramblings of sailors. And so the legend of the sirens remained mere legend, cautioning those who would venture out to sea against the allure of the unknown. For even the bravest of souls could fall prey to curiosity, doomed by their own weak hearts.
It wasn’t often he came to watch the ships. He’d never had interest in such things, distant and lifeless as they tended to be. No, Prompto much preferred to stay below the surface, where it was vibrant and teeming with energy. While the others sat upon their rocks and gazed out at the great vessels moving along the horizon, he could usually be found further from shore, chasing the moonlight along the crests of the waves over head. What use had he of the world of men, with their nets and their spears, when the life of the sea was all around him?
Or so he had always believed. What exactly had changed in him he couldn’t say, but he knew it had begun with one ship in particular. Or rather, one someone on that ship.
He was there again on the night that Prompto risked swimming out from the bay. Perched on the railing of the clipper, gazing out at the moonlit expanse of sea, his elegant figure was hard to miss even from afar. He had hair the color of aged driftwood, and eyes that reminded Prompto of fish scales reflecting iridescence in the light. Everything about him, in fact, reminded Prompto of the sea - which is perhaps why he found himself so curious about the unusual human in the first place. Nothing about him was like the stories he'd heard. This man carried neither weapon nor malice for the creatures of the ocean.
This human was different.
And so Prompto watched him, his bright, blue orbs peering up at the ship before him from just above the surface of the water. It wasn't safe, he was far too close to these men and their world of metal. Yet he was loathe to pull away.
His human hadn't noticed him, of course, although his gaze was oddly fixed on the place where Prompto’s tail swished lazily behind him. Not curious, merely....entranced. By what, the siren couldn’t say, but it left the man with a dreamy expression on his face; one which Prompto felt made him even more beautiful than usual. A silent sigh escaped his lips in the water, spreading a series of bubbles to the surface that popped more loudly than he would have liked.
Bright, green eyes flashed in his direction. “Someone there?” came the man’s voice, smooth, calm, and yet somehow harsh to Prompto’s ears. He panicked. Took in one last look at his beautiful human leaning out over the railing of the ship, and then dove down into the dark depths of the sea.
Silence fell. Ignis strained his eyes in the dim light of the moon, scanning the water closely. He could have sworn he’d seen something - a fish, perhaps, although larger, paler. A dolphin? Those were rare in these parts during the autumn months, he knew, but if it had been alone….
“Everything alright, sir?” Behind him, a young man strode across the deck. He carried a lantern by his face, which was streaked with stubborn dirt and grime, yet his eyes were alight with energy. “You called out.”
Ignis let his shoulders drop as he pulled back from the railing. “I’m fine, Talcott. Just thought I saw something moving, is all.”
“Lots of things moving in the ocean, sir,” the young man retorted with a smirk. “You should know that better than any of us.”
If Ignis weren’t so tired, if they hadn’t left Insomnia so damnably late and if he didn’t still have hours of paperwork to complete before reaching Tenebrae, he might have returned the smile. As it was, he released a breath and strode away from the railing to pat the young boatswain on the head. “Right you are. Or perhaps it was simply the moon playing tricks on me.” As he turned toward the officers’ quarters, he cast one last look back at Talcott, lips curving ever so slightly at the edges. “If it isn’t too much trouble, could you fetch me some wine? I’m afraid it’s going to be a long night.”
The trade negotiations went well. More than the abrasive captain or his even less likable first mate, it was Ignis who guided the proceedings into favorable territory. Hailing from Tenebrae himself, it was easy to understand the customs, the subtleties of dealing with noblemen, and even the proper way to hold a fork at dinner (manners were very important to the Nox Fleuret family, and had Captain Drautos been left in charge they would have all been executed for their barbarisms). Yet the talks had been long, and draining, and by the time they returned to the ship significantly richer, all Ignis wanted was a bath and a drink.
That, perhaps, was his first mistake. Had he remained on deck longer, he might have heard the rumors of a storm brewing out at sea. He might have been able to reason with Drautos, who insisted that their ship could outrun even the darkest clouds. He might have saved them all before it was too late to turn back, and before the Fates doomed them to a watery grave.
Black clouds swirled as the storm raged all around them. It churned up the sea and cast the clipper into a perilous arching of wave after wave after wave. Amidst the darkness, lightning crashed, illuminated the scene in terrifyingly stark contrast, and boomed loud enough to tremor the wood below their very feet.
And over it all, the constant, haunting sound of voices singing.
“The sail! Pull ‘er down!” The order was barked across the deck, louder even than the howling of the wind or the lashing of rain against the side of the ship. Talcott, closest to the post, was the first to jump into action. The clipper lurched, waves crashed violently over the railing, but he was a sure-footed as they came. Ignis watched with his heart in his throat and through sheets of rain as the young boatswain scaled the mast, cut free the ropes holding the sail into the wind, and began to climb back down. Until...
One rope, traitorous and thick, whipped through the air and caught the young man in the back of the head.
In a horrifying instant, he fell to the deck, hit the rail with a sickening crack , and disappeared overboard to be swallowed up in dark waves.
“ Talcott!!” His own safety was secondary. Ignoring the shouts of the men around him Ignis rushed forward, slipped and scrambled across the deck until he reached the place where the young man had fallen. There were only waves - high, powerful waves that slammed into the ship and blew foam and spray into his eyes. The strange song grew louder, chilled his very bones. Still he clung to the rail, searched the water for any signs of life, of his friend.
“Scientia, get back! We can’t afford to lose you, too!”
There! A flash of white, a desperate movement amidst the waves, and a shimmer of hope. Before Ignis was even sure what he was doing he threw himself off the edge of the ship and into the sea.
Chaos. Swirling lights and roaring currents. He couldn’t tell which way was up, which way was down. He couldn’t even swim, not when the sea was so determined to spin him head over heel and drag him further into darkness. And then, out of nowhere, something brushed his hip.
Ignis couldn’t see what it was. Only a shadow, something vaguely fish-like but far larger, darted through his field of vision and disappeared again. In his panic, he believe it to be a shark, attracted by the tempting peril of the men above. He let out choked cry - was this the end? Was this how he met his death? But if the thing truly was a shark, it never attacked.
Instead, as his lungs began to burn and his vision darkened at the edges, it seemed to draw closer to him. Cautiously, carefully. Ignis thought he could see a pair of haunting blue eyes staring at him through the churning water.
And then he knew nothing more.