The Siren’s Rune—Chapter 2: Fateful Meeting
A boy entered, but aside from a light frown, he was completely calm. He showed no trace of falling for the guards’ tricks nor any fear for being permanently ripped from the life he once had.
He had brown hair, but from head to toe he was covered in blood, and his clothes were totally tattered. Most people looked at him with disdain for his unusual appearance. He only glanced at them, seemingly unbothered by their gazes.
His deep blue eyes, which contained a hint of curiosity and innocence, scanned across the room. Our gazes matched, and he smiled, meaning to walk over here.
His sudden approach gave me a start, and I feared that my soul rune was affecting him. Diverting my eyes, I wished that he would just turn around and head somewhere else.
Oh crap, how much of my face can he see? I never checked how good this rune was…I hope he can’t see my gorgeous face…he is supposed to only see a dark shadow…maybe a light reflection in my eyes, but that’s all.
I pretended not to notice him, but he still approached. Soon, he was next to me.
“Scram,” I growled, trying to make him go away, but he paid no attention to it. Instead, he checked me out.
This is why I hate my soul rune…it always attracts unnecessary attention. He’s not even cute.
“My name is Kaiden,” he said in Gnudeerian.
My eyes went wide, and I grabbed onto his shirt. The blood was still warm.
“Who are you?” I asked.
Was I discovered? I don’t remember seeing this servant before.
He shrugged to voice his innocence, but there was no fooling me. I did not have a translation rune of any kind. If I could understand his words, he must have been speaking Gnudeerian.
“I’m Kaiden,” he said nonchalantly.
“No, who are you?”
The boy’s act was very good. He flawlessly portrayed annoyance in his words. “I don’t understand.”
“You can’t fool me.” I pulled him closer to intimidate him, and the rusty smell of blood wafted into my nose. “Who sent you, and how did you find me?”
He frowned and his following words put a nasty taste in my mouth.
“Love sent me, and your glorious perfume, dancing in the wind, called out to me, asking for my hand in marriage.”
It felt as though someone just ground rocks into my ear and tore up my favorite dress. His deep innocent eyes grated at my very soul, causing hate to swell up in my heart. I despised nothing more than weak willed people who fell in love with me because of my soul rune.
He even had the audacity to propose!
With rage I pushed him back, but afraid of attracting attention, I only shoved him lightly.
He, however, stumbled backwards and made a big show of it.
“Little vermin,” I muttered under my breath as I turned and walked away.
I had lied. What I hated more than weak willed people were fakers.
If a person wanted to be with me, they needed to be honest, strong, handsome, smart, and meet all of my criteria like Vaughn. He even treated me the same way as he treated others—with a somewhat peeved demeanor. To me, that was worth far more than anything else.
I was forced to suffer from an annoying soul rune that makes all men and women love me. Whoever I choose to be with better be freakishly perfect.
Suddenly, someone grabbed onto the collar of my robe. It was that blasted blue-eyed boy.
“We’ll be dead by sunrise,” he said, trying to spend more time with me. He slowly released his grip as though touched by his own fleeting emotions.
I smacked his hand away, insulted by his presence.
“Why haven’t you tattled on me?” I asked, but I knew the answer. He had fallen in love with me and wanted to get on my good side.
He sighed heavily before repeating his words, “We’ll be dead by sunrise.”
“I heard you the first time,” I said with a frown. “Are you here to help me? Who sent you?”
“We need to escape; they will kill us. I’ve already been to death’s door once, and I don’t want to die.”
“Do you have a plan?” I asked. “I also want to escape.”
What could this boy be up to?
I crossed my arms and narrowed my eyes. “What magic runes can you cast?”
“Do you have any stone runes?”
“Translation,” he said.
All the chosen were given translation runes. This boy was flawless in his acting.
“Other than that?” I asked.
He shook his head, and he looked at me with yearning eyes.
His fake expression crept under my skin and instilled an urge to just smack him. It took all my strength to hold it back.
I let out a small sigh and turned around.
This boy is definitely hiding something. Either he tells me or I’m gone.
He suddenly spoke. “My soul rune.”
“Oh,” I said with a smile. “Is it combat based?”
Anything would be useful. “What does it do? I might be able to make something of it.”
He paused for a second and his eye shifted to the corner.
What?! Translation…maybe it’s language?! That would explain his good disguise; he’s not acting at all! He’s just clueless. But that means…
“You’re useless!” I said. A Runist could not accomplish anything special by knowing languages. They had stone runes for that, which were relatively cheap compared to other runes.
A look of sadness flickered on his face, but he quickly pushed it down. He became haughty and dared to snort at me.
“And you?” he asked with disdain.
Something about his reaction struck my soul. I felt contempt. True contempt!
This had never occurred before; my soul rune would not allow it.
Sometimes people tried to kidnap, rape, possess, or even kill me, but they never acted with contempt.
“I am very proficient in runes for my age.” I unknowingly wanted to boast, and my cheeks became red. Something strange and unfamiliar happened to me, but I could not place it.
“I am well educated and capable of speaking three languages,” I said, although it was a partial lie. “I know proper court etiquette, and others praise me for my grace. Everyone envies my skills in poetry, dance, and song. My footwork is extraordinary.”
The words cluttered my mind, filling me with guilt, but I wished them to be true. I was only good at dance; everything else was mediocre. I could completely forget about knowing different languages. The commoner’s dialect of Gnudeerian was almost gibberish to my ears. Even Vaughn teased me for it.
The boy wore a funny expression. “What does your soul rune do?”
Although I hated my soul rune, I felt strangely proud of it. “Everyone loves me. No man can resist my charm, be it friend or foe, male or female.”
His deep blue eyes went wide.
“What?” he asked.
“Think about it. If no one sent you, why would you walk over to me?” I stood up tall and elegantly, seemingly trying to impress him. “Aren’t I your favorite person here?”
I can’t think straight! Something is definitely wrong with me.
The boy’s face turned unimaginably sour.
A strange thought slipped into my mind, and I wanted to disappear.
“You’re obnoxious,” he said with contempt, his brows knitting.
“What?!” I gaped, feeling a strange emotion from his voice. If I could name it, I would call it, “Extremely True Contempt!”
I could not believe it, yet my body still trembled as though it was true.
Is this…immunity to my soul rune?
The boy’s brows unknitted, and a smug smile formed on his lips.
“You’re obnoxious,” he repeated. It was sharp and biting, yet also completely honest.
I could not control myself. My knees buckled beneath me, and I fell onto the floor. Everything seemed so unreal, but I believed that it must be true.
There was a person who could resist my soul rune. It was a chance that I could make a true friend.
Those people who loved me for no reason were all fakes. Even if they truly loved me, deep in my heart I would still push them away. I could not doubt the power of my soul rune.
Thinking about how badly I treated the boy, mixed feelings flooded my conscience. He probably despised me, but I did not want to let him go.
The irony of it all tore at my soul. Before I knew it, I was gripping my stomach and uncontrollably laughing. I did not know whether I should be crying instead.
The sudden flood of confusion activated my soul rune. I felt its power burst from within me, amplifying its ability of attraction.
The rune dazed everyone in the room into a bewitched trance. They could not think or talk.
The boy, to my relief, looked around in confusion.
“Kaiden,” I said, collecting myself. “I like you.”
Upon hearing my words, his eye twitched, and his body slightly convulsed. He must have hated it.
I smiled from the depths of my heart, and I wondered if he could see below my hood. The thought embarrassed me, and I quickly brushed some dust off my robe.
“Time to go,” I said as I glanced at the so-called chosen. “By the looks of it, they will be dazed for twenty more seconds.
I grabbed onto the boy’s arm and, heading to the wooden door, dragged him along with me. I carved out a simple magic rune to connect the door to Vaughn’s room.
I only glanced back once. Vaughn had told me that no matter what, I was not to bring any chosen with me.
“Hey,” I said to Kaiden to attract his attention. For some reason the room fascinated him, especially the wooden door. I thought it was all rather plain.
If I was to say something was interesting, it would be Vaughn’s desk. This was the first time I had seen it so cluttered.
And, I think someone took a painting….
Ignoring it, I went to the small wooden bookcase and felt around the wall. My finger pressed into a small switch, creating a small clack. I gave a light push, and the bookcase moved to the side.
Stale air flowed into the room.
“Don’t stand their like an idiot.” I beckoned Kaiden over with my hand. “Hurry up and go in first.”
He furrowed his brows. “If you could connect the door to any room or area, why did you ever come to where they gathered the chosen? Are you truly trying to escape? Wouldn’t it be easier if they killed us the moment they summoned us? Why wait for sunrise? What is the purpose of summoning us in the first place?” He lifted up a stone rune. “Why did they give us these?”
Some of his questions, I had never thought about before. No one had. We all listened to Gnudeer’s greatest oracle, Vaughn, like blind sheep.
Why did I hide with the chosen?
Why am I using this hidden passage?
Why did they not kill the chosen earlier?
I felt like all my beliefs in Vaughn vanished, but I still tried to hold on. He always had a purpose for everything.
“I don’t know. It’s what the prophecy said.”
The words sounded so fake, but I had to believe them.
I held out my hand to receive Kaiden’s stone rune. “Let me see it.”
He tossed it to me, and despite it being the worst throw, I caught it in my hand.
I turned the stone over and observed all of its markings. My actions were only for show. Unless a stone or enchantment rune was bound by blood, very few people would be able to identify it.
I wanted Kaiden to stay with me, so I pretended that I was useful.
“Nothing seems to be wrong with it, but just in case…” I moved my right index finger around the stone. While doing so, I released spiritual energy to form a self-destructive enchantment rune.
It caused little white chains to appear that hovered around the stone. After a single breath, they suddenly contracted, shattering the rune.
The pieces crumbled into my hand.
Why am I here? What did Vaughn want?
I thought back to the past when my mother was still alive. She would hold me up and say that she loved me. What I remembered most clearly was when she was with Mikey…
“Oh Emelyn,” she said with a smile, holding up a brush. “Let me see your long hair.”
“Okay!” I giggled and crawled up into her lap.
She was the prettiest person I had ever seen in my life. She looked just like me.
Her soft, graceful arms made me squirm.
She tapped me on the head with the brush. “Stop that.”
A familiar knocking pattern rang out against the door.
The sound made my mother’s smile grow warmer and her eyes softer.
“Mikey!” I yelled, rushing up to the door.
A young guard stepped in wearing an ambient smile on his face. “How’s my little pumpkin?”
I pulled at his hand. “Brush my hair. Mommy is tickling me.”
“You two,” my mother said sternly. “Be more inconspicuous.”
“When have I ever been caught?” Mikey replied with a wink. I never knew what it meant.
My mom blushed. “Plenty of times.”
Mikey’s expression dropped and he became serious. He ignored my pesters.
“Have you heard of the new oracle?”
My mother’s eyes narrowed. “What about him?”
“He knows everything.”
I suddenly felt some strange ripples in the air. Kaiden was trying to cast a rune for the door. Each time he wagged his finger, he unknowingly released spiritual energy.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
Other than a sly smile, he ignored me and continued to fruitlessly wag his finger, filling the air with more energy.
“Give it up,” I said and shook my head. “It’s not some random lines put together. It’s a complex system of movements based on the callings of the soul and the breath of the earth.”
Kaiden looked my way to scowl at me.
I told him, “A person with average talent needs at least ten years to learn how to use magic runes. I myself took three. I noticed that you have a white core—you are incapable of efficiently using runes. At best you can activate common stone runes. Anything else is out of your reach.”
The boy closed his eyes.
A person with a white soul rune, one of the three “crappy” cores, could cast any rune. However, the spiritual energy needed was significantly greater than any other core color. At the same time, the resulting effect produced minuscule results.
Kaiden’s eyes shot open. They were no longer blue, but a crystalline white. Spiritual energy rippled within the room, and I felt my heart tighten.
“Impossible,” I gasped; my mind trembled in disbelief.
The trail left behind by his finger was not faint white, but crimson! It defied the common sense about runes.
Kaiden continued to slowly complete it as though tranced.
The ripples grew more powerful, and I feared that he might overdraw his spiritual energy. If he did, his soul would start to disperse, killing him in the process.
The crimson rune came to completion, sending out a final burst of energy. It struck at my soul, and I coughed up a mouthful of blood.
The door creaked open….
Kaiden’s face turned completely pale. He bent over, retching blood onto the floor as he gripped his stomach. Life seemed to fade from his eyes, and he finally collapsed.
“Kaiden!” I yelled.
His body convulsed and blood gurgled from his mouth.
I could feel it; his soul was beginning to collapse.