At the helm, a large, burly man looked out over the waters, a small smile playing over thick lips. His hands moved loosely over the large wooden wheel that controlled their movement as he gloried in the sound of the sailors' grunting chants. He was a fair man, a just man, but by no accounts was he to be considered a kind man. Captain Jacobs gave each man what he deserved, and no more - criminals and slaves were not to be allowed any special treatment, but they were still by all accounts men, and to be treated as such at all times. He rarely raised the whip that stayed curled at his belt, but he kept it close by, a silent reminder to all who crossed his path that Captain Jacobs was one not to be toyed with - just because his whip had never shed blood did it mean that it never could.
He was brusquely shaken out of his contemplation of the sea by a voice that called down to him from the crow's nest, "Captain, there are rocks out there! And …"
"And what?" he demanded shortly. "Come on, man, speak up. I haven't got all night!"
"Things, Captain," the voice said after a brief hesitation.
"You're lucky I don't come up there and tan your hide this minute!" Jacobs bellowed. "Now what in thunder are you talking about?"
"I'm not sure, sir! Just … look! They look like women to me, but…"
The lookout let his sentence hang, and Jacobs followed a wavering finger out towards the horizon. Sure enough, large, jagged rocks stabbed through the surface of the water - his mind briefly reminded him that it would be difficult to get through them, but he pushed the thought aside - and atop the rocks, sat a dozen or so of the most beautiful creatures he'd ever seen.
Moonlight glinted off their fair hair and white skin, their lower halves still partially submerged in the water. Smiling, waving, singing creatures, with voices befitting to the gods themselves. He could feel his heart tug at his chest and his hands begin to sweat as he tightened his grip on the railing, looking out in fascination at these beautiful temptresses before him.
Temptresses, his mind exploded. To tempt you and your men into death. These rocks are perilous!
Jacobs shook his head. I don't care, he thought recklessly, biting his lip. They're so … enchanting.
Enchantresses! The whole lot of them! Pull yourself together, man!
The more sensible (and often ignored) part of his mind shouted at him to react in some way, some shape, form or fashion, but all Jacobs could do was stand there and drool like the rest of his men, his eyes dancing at the sight of these women.
Their song gradually grew louder as the men drew near. Haunting voices, and far too may for the number that perched on the rocks, filled the air around them. No words accompanied the music, if it could indeed be called that, for there was no tune. Just random, haunting, enchanting, beautiful notes, sung by the dead, living, and unborn spirits of the world.
Suddenly, the boat collided with something hard and Jacobs, along with a great deal of his men, was thrown to the deck. He shook his head as the song continued, never wavering for an instant as the boat drew perilously near to the singers. For their part, the women merely looked up at the men as the ship passed them by, occasionally whispering into the ears of the eager sailors, young and old.
The men's arms reached down to the women, who reached up, their hair billowing about their bodies, and their voices never halting. Just as the first was being hauled aboard did Jacobs realize something was amiss.
He hollered and drew his sword from its sheath, never mind the helm of the ship, and threw himself at the woman, piercing her heart with his blade. The man hauling her up, now covered in her cool blood, looked at the captain for a moment, then returned to looking into the eyes of his beloved singer, who had not ceased her song though the blood poured from her like a fountain.
She reached up, drawing the man nearer and nearer until their noses touched. Jacobs watched in horror as evil flashed in the demon's eyes and she grabbed the poor man about the neck, hauling him back into the sea. Bubbles rose for a moment where the man and woman had fallen in, and then the water was still.
And it was happening to others, as well. As more and more men fell into the sea, Jacobs squeezed his eyes shut tight, trying to remember his wife's touch, her eyes, her lips, her soft hair. He remembered every aspect and detail about her so clearly, for all that he hadn't seen her in months. Amelia's voice, her smile - oh, what a smile! - sent shivers down his spine, and he reached out to enshroud this vision of her in his mind forever.
"Mustn't give her up," he muttered, refusing to look the singing demons in the eyes. To do that would be to sign his own death warrant, a thing he was not as of yet prepared to do.
He threw himself at the men, knocking them down and shaking them hard, bellowing, "I'll tan your hides, every last one of you!" as his temper rose and rose within him like a volcano, ready to explode any minute. "Do you not see your deaths before your eyes?"
His whip lashed, his body possessed by the strength of ten thousand men as he brought the weapon down hard on the temptresses, trying vainly to deter them from their goals. Suddenly, a voice whispered behind him, "Relax, Captain, you're safe with us."
One of the bloody things had her arms around his neck, her lips pressed to his ear. The warmth of her skin against his made him swallow and close his eyes, fighting to remember his wife.
"Just a little bit further," the woman said with a smile, "and you'll hit the rocks. Your ship will sink, Captain, and you'll be lost for eternity to the women of the sea."