Chapter Three: Drowned Sailors

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I pinched my eyes closed again, but in my mind, I could still see him.

He was young; maybe a year or two older than me. He had thick black hair with a soft, perfect wave, and just a couple of loose curls framing his face. His skin was pale, touched with silver, and his eyes were dark, and they twinkled in the shade of two black brows. His cheekbones were high and sharp; his jaw was square and strong; and most of all, his lips were perfect; shapely and full, and parted in an easy smile.

I had never seen anyone like him before.

The lady called to him, and he answered. Out of his mouth, their shared language was different. Rich, calm, and reassuring; like the sound of the wind outside at night when you're safe and warm and in your bed.

I kept my eyes closed, but I heard him coming towards me, his footsteps crunching on the stones. He must have climbed up onto the Harbour Arm, because a moment later I felt his presence looming over me.

His breath was on my skin; he was kneeling beside me.

The scent of vanilla filled my nostrils.

He touched my face.

A small tremble passed through me, and I hoped I hadn't given myself away. But surely it was too late. He had already noticed me. He knew that I was faking.

His fingers brushed my neck, and he drew back with a sharp hiss. He'd found my birthmark; a brown sliver of rough, rust-coloured skin that ran from my chin to my chest like a wound. An ugly, disgusting thing.

He leaned in closer.

"Do not speak."

I held my breath.

"Do not move. Do not open your eyes."

I opened my mouth just a little to whisper back, to ask who he was. He put a finger to my lips.

"If you speak, or move, or open your eyes, you will die."

I repressed a whimper.

"This will all be over soon, and no-one will be hurt."

The lady called out again, and he answered with an indifferent air. He did not respond to orders the way a soldier should.

I heard him jump down onto the beach.

Whatever was happening here, he wasn't going to give me away.

I wouldn't give myself away either. I would not speak. I would not move. I would not open my eyes. This was too strange and scary for me to play any part in.

The horn-blower on the hill blasted a fanfare of curling, swirling, heart-stopping howls. This was followed at once by a low murmur from the beach, and the sounds of the churning sea.

I would not speak. I would not move.

I would open my eyes only a little.

The lady stood at the edge of the shoreline, the tide sweeping back and forth across her feet, her arms stretched wide. She was chanting in the same strange language, her words fighting against the wind. The soldier was at her side, holding the reins of the horses, and the man was a few feet behind them, with his arms folded.

The surface of the water rippled in a way I had never seen before. A spiral was forming.

The lady's voice rose higher, punching against the sky, and as she spoke, the water squirmed, like snakes, or tentacles, writhing just beneath the surface.

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