Read Sound of Sirens: (Tales of Skylge #1) Online

Authors: Jen Minkman

Tags: #mermaids, #dystopian, #young adult, #fantasy, #paranormal romance

Sound of Sirens: (Tales of Skylge #1)

BOOK: Sound of Sirens: (Tales of Skylge #1)
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Sound of Sirens

Tales of Skylge, Book 1

––––––––

Jen Minkman

@ 2014 by Jen Minkman

Cover design by Clarissa Yeo of yocladesign.com

––––––––

L
yrics to ‘Song of the Mermaid’ by the Waterboys were partly reproduced and adapted for this story.

Lyrics to songs by Jyoti Verhoeff all copyright www.jyotiverhoeff.nl

––––––––

T
his book is copyright. Apart from fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without the prior permission of the author.

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Sound of Sirens (Tales Of Skylge, #1)

Note From The Author

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.

16.

17.

18.

Acknowledgements

Das Lied ist aus, die Melodie verklungen

Nichts blieb von der Musik zurück

Ein Echo nur von Liebe

––––––––

T
he song is over, the melody fading

And nothing is left of the music,

Just an echo of love.

––––––––

(F
rom the Marlene Dietrich song ‘Frag Nicht Warum Ich Gehe’ – Don’t Ask Me Why I’m Leaving)

Note From The Author

T
he setting of ‘Tales of Skylge’ is loosely based on the Dutch island of Terschelling, or Schylge in the island’s dialect. The Frisian and Skylgian languages really exist, and might sound strange to foreign ears, so here is a short pronunciation guide.

Enna’s brother’s name, Sytse, is pronounced ‘see-tzuh’.

The Skylgian word for ‘father’ is
heit
, pronounced like ‘height’.

All names ending in –e (such as Omme and Alke) are pronounced with an ‘uh’ sound at the end, not a sharp ‘e’.

Although the names and places in this book will look very familiar to people living on or having visited the island, the characters and events are, of course, entirely fictitious in nature.

––––––––

H
ave fun reading ‘Sound of Sirens’!

1.

I
t’s the cry of the albatross that rouses me in the morning.

The bird has been coming to my bedroom window for a few months now, always just after sunrise. When I open my curtain, it is there, on the windowsill, cocking its head and looking at me curiously. Meaningfully, even.

The elderly people on the island of Skylge might have told me that an albatross is a pure, human soul taking flight on earthly wings after death, but I’m not so sure I believe that. Mostly, they just pick fights with the gulls on the beach at low tide, trying to grab the best food once the rocks littered with mussels rise above the brine. Doesn’t look very pure to me.

But this bird is different. It seems to want to talk to me.
Enna, how are you?
I can hear my mother’s melodic voice in my mind.
It is me.

But of course it can’t be her. She was taken by the sea. By
them
. Or rather, she walked into the water willingly, looking for an end to suffering. Even though she had Sytse, Dad and me. We weren’t enough for her to resist the call of the Nixen. The seductive sound of blissful freedom.

Freedom.

It is strange to think that anyone could feel boxed in on this little island. The land of Skylge is flat, flat, flat as far as the eye can see, running into the endless sea on all sides. The infinite sky is never out of reach, though it’s often overcast with dark-gray, rolling clouds bringing rain, thunder, and lightning to the Skylgers. It’s the only time the Currents cannot stop us from experiencing electricity – I have been told that those fire bolts in the sky are caused by the same force they use to power up their homes, their cars, and their mysterious appliances. And the Brandaris Tower jutting out of the even landscape on the west side of the island is where they keep their patron saint’s holy fire. He traveled from afar and came to the island to protect us from the Nixen, the priests say. But St. Brandan’s clerics seem to overlook the fact that the only people truly protected from the merfolk waiting for us in the treacherous waves of the Wadden Sea are the Currents.

If Brandan had come here to protect all of us, the Nixen would never have taken my mother.

I fling back my blanket and get up. Slowly, I get dressed in my simple jeans and white tank top. I brush my long brown hair and pull it back in a ponytail. The cracked mirror shows me the faint rings of exhaustion under my eyes, but I ignore them. I have to – there is no time to linger on my fatigue. I will have to fix breakfast before going to school, and the nets don’t cast themselves, unfortunately.

My stomach rumbles. I wouldn’t mind a nice, fresh piece of herring with some cut-up onion right now, on a fat slice of white, fluffy bread. No such luck, though. The fishermen out for herring won’t be back until tonight, and all I ever catch are small, hardly palatable fish.

“You want some herring?” I mutter to the bird still watching me attentively. “Is that what you want?”

Of course, I get no response. Anyway, I don’t think that’s why it’s here. As I said, this tross has been my faithful visitor for months on end, and I’ve never given it food. Maybe it just wants to be friends. I’ve heard Sytse talk about albatrosses accompanying the rickety sailing ships he travels on to get to the Frisian traders on the mainland. “They’re here to protect us,” his captain always tells him.

Well, our sailors need it. Traveling on those ships is a precarious business. And yet, I envy Sytse sometimes. My brother may run the risk of being attacked by mermaids and ending up in a watery grave every time he sails out, but at least he gets to see a bit more of the world. The traders in Harns treat him kindly, even though he is just a lowly Skylger. Money talks, I guess – without the Skylger sailors risking their lives to sail to and from our island, the traders would be dependent on the Currents’ ferry servicing the Harns harbor only once every two months. And they simply love our sheeps’ wool. The Baeles-Weards – which is what the priests of Brandan call themselves – don’t favor trade with outsiders. They say St. Brandan provides the Currents with everything they could possibly need. But the Skelta, our wise man, doesn’t mind. He wants us to keep an open mind. After all, the Frisian gods are our gods, too.

When I get outside, Dad is already up. He is sitting in his chair by the edge of the yard, his eyes squinted against the rising sun as he stares out over the road running alongside the dyke. His tanned, leathery hands are gripping his knees as though he needs to stop himself from getting up and running toward the sea.

He might be thinking of jumping in and following in my mother’s wake sometimes, but he is still with us. I think he loves me and my brother too much.

“Good morning, Enna,” he says with a slight smile. “I hope I didn’t wake you up with my banging around in the kitchen.”

“No worries, Dad. I had to get up anyway.” Quickly, I pull on my old rubber boots to do some low tide fishing. “I’m meeting Dani at eight so we can cycle to school together. And I’d like some breakfast before I go.”

His face falls. Ever since the fevers came a few years back and ravaged his body, the only thing he can still make me in the morning is hot herbal tea. He’s too weak to go fishing.

“Hey, why don’t you make the three of us some pancakes for tonight?” I rush on, giving him a sunny smile. “There’s still some flour and one egg in the cupboard. And I’m sure Eida can spare us some milk.” Our neighbor has a flock of sheep that could feed the entire village.

“Three?” my father echoes in confusion.

“Sytse is coming home today,” I clarify. “It’s the sixteenth of May, Dad. St. Brandan’s Day. The entire island is waiting with baited breath for our ships to return.”

His eyes light up with joy. “Is that so?” he mumbles. “Oh, my. I should really keep a better eye on that calendar. I had no idea.” He scrambles to his feet and hugs me briefly. “He will stay home until the festival is over, won’t he?”

“You bet,” I grin. Sytse wouldn’t miss it for the world. During the month of Oorol, we celebrate the arts in all kinds of ways. Open-air theaters are filled to the brim with spectators and our most talented actors, stages are put up on the corner of every street to host musicians, and the scent of freshly baked gingerbread fills the capital city of Brandaris.

Thinking of gingerbread makes my stomach rumble. I pull a face as my tummy loudly begs for fuel. “I’ll be back soon,” I promise, watching my father as he carefully shuffles toward the back door to go back to the kitchen.

The sun is bright and hot today, making me sweat a little as I make my way across the dyke and to the beach. Unusual for this time of year, but you won’t hear me complain. We don’t get a lot of light on our island as it is, so I’ll take anything the orb of fire in the sky sends my way.

Anything to keep the melancholy at bay.

I start to whistle a tune to distract myself from thinking of Mom again. At the same time, I clap my hands and stamp my feet, turning my morning walk into an impromptu dance. I probably look like an idiot, but I don’t care. Eida’s sheep are the only ones watching me here, and I give the white, woolly animals a friendly wave before I hit the beach and my rubber boots sink into the wet sand sucking at my feet.

The small net I’m carrying around my neck chafes my skin, the ropes rough and frayed from the brine. Before I can take it off and cast it to try and get myself some much-needed breakfast, though, I pause.

There, on some rocks jutting out from a clump of seaweed, are two gigantic gull eggs. The speckled things seem to smile up at me in the morning sun. I have no idea why a seagull would deposit eggs here instead of building a proper nest, but frankly I don’t care. Maybe it was in a hurry. Well, so am I. With a broad grin, I scoop up the eggs and carefully stuff them in my fishing bag. It’s time to get out of here before that untraditional bird comes back.

2.

“E
nna!” my friend bellows as I cycle up the path leading to the Stortum Dyke. She’s waiting for me, punctual as ever, her bike resting against her hip as she’s tying up her white-blonde hair for the windy trip ahead. “We’re gonna be late!”

“Sorry,” I pant, coming to a stop in front of her. “I stumbled upon a lovely breakfast and I just couldn’t help taking my time, savoring the taste of my omelet.”

Dani always meets me here by the water’s edge at eight o’clock sharp. We both live in Kinnum, which boasts a population of one hundred souls. It’s a twenty-minute bike ride away from Brandaris, our capital city, where we go to school.

If we were allowed to ride the Current bus to school, the trip would only take six minutes. But we aren’t – and it’s not like the bus stops in Kinnum anyway. Our village is a pure-blood community inhabited by Skylgers. The Currents, who once came from across the sea and pronounced themselves the ruling class on our island, are not welcome here.

“You’ll regret that big breakfast in a minute,” Dani warns me with a giggle. “Last time you had a heavy meal you couldn’t cycle very fast, remember?”

“Well, maybe we should knock a Current on the head and steal his ID card,” I mutter sourly. “So we can hitch a ride on the Brandan Bandwagon.”

Dani sucks in a scandalized breath. “A lowly Skylger girl riding a Current bus? Feeling brave today?” Her brown eyes, just as dark as mine, sparkle with mischief.

“Come on, let’s go,” I just say. “We only have a few classes in the morning, so they’ll be extra strict with tardy passes today.”

“Long live St. Brandan,” Dani chuckles. “Thanks to him we’re off by noontime. You going to the harbor after classes?”

“Of course. Sytse is coming back. I hope he’s bringing us lots of new records.”

“Oh, yeah! That’d be awesome.”

Dani and I both love music. My friend can’t sing worth a flip, but she plays the guitar like a pro, and I accompany her with my vocals, which aren’t half bad. Also, my family owns a wind-up gramophone and I try to hoard as many shellac records as I can. New music is brought in from the mainland all the time, but those recordings are usually sold to the rich people. Which means they’re on LPs – and can only be played by the electronic devices owned by the Current class. Sytse knows there is a high demand for mainland 78-records among Skylgers, though, so he always makes sure he and his friends bring in whole crates of them whenever he comes home. And he keeps a few aside for me because he knows my favorite artists by now. Marlene Dietrich and Kathleen Ferrier never fail to tug at my heartstrings.

“Drink to me only with thine eyes,” I start to sing on our way to Brandaris. “And I will pledge with mine.” It used to be one of Mom’s favorites.

BOOK: Sound of Sirens: (Tales of Skylge #1)
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