Song of the Island

Along the coast of the mainland sits a line of sleepy islands, home to generations of sailors and their wives. Every year before the sailors leave for the season, the Islanders row out onto the water and light candles in little bowls, one for each sailor. These are good luck charms, wishes from their families for the men to return home safely. There is a feast, a fire, and dances, and in the morning the men board their ships and bid farewell to stoic wives and sniffling children.
The women do not speak of the risks born of the sea. The do not dare whisper the names of the things that could cut through the boats like fins through the waves.

There is one, though, a wife alone in a cottage near the shore, who spends her time bent over bowls of water and murmuring to her garden. She does not merely pray for her husband’s return. She searches the waves beneath his ship and watches for the smallest threat.

She is only worrying herself sick, the old mothers whisper. There is nothing to be done for the men on the water, magic or no.

Some of the kinder women make gentle offers to distract her, but they only succeed for an hour or so and she is back to her work, staring unblinking into a mirror as she works her mending.

There are always casualties, the others tell her softly. We can do nothing for it.

Then the sirens came, news of their arrival on the rocky path home rippling through the town. The stoic masks falter, and whispers ride on the wind.

Her search now narrowed to a razor sharp focus, she abandons her chores and spends each day secluded in her home. The others do not know what to make of this, and eventually leave her to her oddities.

On a cloudy night that threatened rainfall, she emerges, running barefoot through the town, screaming words that the wind renders indecipherable. She gathers the women of the island, and tells them that they must follow her, they must listen, they must come. It takes several moments for the old mothers to make sense of her rambling, but when they do they follow her with determined steps.

She leads the march down to the docks and waist-deep in the water, and she sings. She sings a child’s skipping song, and then a wedding reel. She sings of home and family and as the women of the island join her, their voices rise on the once-uncaring wind. The many voices of the human women rise over the waves and out along the sea.

The song covers the ocean for days, and when the men sail past the sirens, the only spell that pulls them is towards home.

So it is that every year the women of the island make their way wordlessly to the water, opening their mouths only to sing, to drown out the sirens and bring their sailors home.

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