This is for my very dear friend, BradytheJust, who gallantly insists that I look like a mermaid in my new coral dress.

The song twisted and coiled about the ship like a giant, invisible snake, ensnaring the minds and senses of all the men aboard. Several of the stronger-willed sailors fought it, but it invaded their consciousness, coaxing and luring, and soon their struggles ceased and they succumbed.

Captain Kenway - youngest pirate captain on the seas - was standing at the helm, striving to break free of the maritime monsters' spell. Gritting his teeth, he tossed his head from side to side, trying to rid himself of the bewitching sound - but to no avail. Slowly, as though his movements were not his own, he spun the tiller, sending the ship heeling over to port. The sails, which had been hanging slack, cracked open as the wind filled them, bellying out the sheets of canvas and sending the doomed vessel speeding towards the towering rocks that rose above the surface of the ocean like vengeful leviathans.

Directly ahead of them, a score of beautiful, feminine heads broke the surface of the water, their hair fanning out behind them on the waves. They watched the approaching ship with impassive faces and large, unblinking eyes; occasionally, a pale hand would rise into view and beckon, and a sailor would leap off the side of the ship - whereupon he would be snatched by one of the finned females and dragged beneath the cold, dark waters, never to be seen again.

Captain Kenway, still struggling against the song that held him almost spellbound, managed something very close to a snarl as yet another one of the buccaneers dove to his death. His hands clenched on the large wheel, and he determinedly yanked it around - but then the song rose in intensity, filled with mocking laughter and then heavy with sorrow, and he unwillingly dragged the tiller around again, drawn to the lamenting sound.

A great, juddering crash rent the air as the ship rammed into a sharp pinnacle that rose just above the waves, tearing the rudder clean off and boring a great hole in the hull, just below the waterline. The impact threw all hands to the deck, the mermaid's song never faltering as a giant swell rose up, carrying the vessel over the treacherous rock to smash into the enormous monoliths that stood waiting.

The beautiful pirate galleon, laden with treasure and spices, broke asunder on the jagged stones, tossing all the men thereon into the sea.

Immediately, the song ceased.

Scales flashing, hair streaming behind them, the mermaids went after the floundering pirates like lightning, snatching them in strong, pale hands and dragging them to their deaths. Free now of the ensnaring spell, the men cried out in terror, desperately striking out at the beautiful, tailed women that closed in on them, hissing in some horrible language, like predators on their prey.

The young captain, tossed out of the fray by the relentless swells, drifted six feet below the surface, dazed and half-conscious. His hazy mind registered the fact that soon his oxygen was going to be expended, and that he should make it to breathable air, but his limbs, numbed by the icy water, refused to obey his commands.

He managed one feeble kick, and, as if by magic, a mermaid appeared in front of him, gazing at him impassively out of large, blue eyes. Her pale gold hair wafted about her, swirling and undulating with the movement of the water, and her long, shimmering, coral-colored tail swayed slowly, keeping her mostly stationary. There was no hostility or malice in her expression, nor compassion or pity, or even curiosity. She just stared at him.

Captain Kenway stared back, half mesmerized by the unearthly creature before him. Her blond hair, adorned with pearls, almost hypnotized him as it drifted about her like an ever-changing halo. They remained like that for a long moment, suspended in the water, just staring at each other.

Then a long stream of bubbles burst from the young pirate's mouth as the last of his air escaped, and right away black spots danced before his eyes. Immediately, the mermaid reached out and pulled him to her, her long, slender fingers closing over his arms like steel bands. He knew struggling would be futile, even if he'd had enough strength left to fight, so he simply watched vaguely as she drew him up to herself - and then her arms were around his shoulders, her mouth was over his, and she was kissing him...

No, not kissing him; there was no tenderness in her embrace, no romantic passion about her. She was simply breathing into his mouth, filling his lungs with air as matter-of-factly as she would breathe herself. The dizziness ebbed away as oxygen flooded his brain, and the aching pressure that squeezed at his head eased. Then she released him and backed away slightly, and they stared at each other again.

Her voice entered his head, and he realized that she was the one who had been singing.

"There," she said, "the water will be your friend, as it is mine. Now go home, and leave the sea to us."

She turned and started to swim away, leaving Captain Kenway exceedingly bemused.

"Wait!" he called - but all that came out was another stream of bubbles, and the mermaid didn't seem to hear. He frowned, reaching out to her with his mind. Wait!

She paused, turning slightly and staring at him calmly. The young man frowned, realizing he had no idea what to say. Who are you?

His rescuer didn't even blink. "I am me."

Have you no name? he thought, puzzled.

The beautiful sea creature flicked her orangey-pink tail, the scales shimmering in the light that slanted through the green water. "Why must everything always have a name with you humans?" she inquired. "Can you not take them and enjoy them as they are, without changing them into something else?"

Yes... No... I don't... Kenway shook his head, by now thoroughly confused, and lapsed into a mystified silence. A feminine sigh echoed through his consciousness as the mermaid turned back to face him fully and stared into his deep black eyes.

Without warning, a flood of random words raced through his mind: Wind. Blue. Nails. Conifer. Mother. Grass. Hibernate. Spar. Keel. Purple. Run. Storm. Respiratory. Flagrant. Harpsichord. Muse.

The girl's eyes lit up, and the flow of vocabulary faded. "I like that," she thought. "You can call me Muse, if you want."

She turned and started to swim away again, and the young pirate blinked. Where are you going?

"Home," she answered, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "And so should you."

Captain Kenway hesitated, his heart picking up speed as he looked at her. Come with me, he thought. Muse tilted her head curiously.


He paused, momentarily stuck for an answer. Well... you saved my life.

A light laugh, with a hint of mockery running through it, danced through his consciousness. "That does not mean I wish to go with you."

The pirate bridled slightly; he never took being laughed at very well. Why did you save me, anyway?

Muse paused, her tail swaying as she hovered in the water. "I don't know," she answered carelessly. "I just wanted to." Kenway's eyes narrowed.

You were the one that sang, he said, an accusatory note ringing in the telepathic statement. You wrecked my ship and drowned my men. A surge of righteous anger flared up in him, and his hands twitched at his sides, as if he wanted to reach out and strangle the mermaid before him.

The mermaid, for her part, looked singularly unrepentant. "I sang," she agreed tranquilly, "but you wrecked your own ship, and the others drowned your human friends." She tossed her head, her blond locks swirling, as though in slow motion, to drift behind her. "Don't blame me for your own incompetence."

Fury stabbed in his heart again, and he stroked towards her, but her powerful tail flicked once, sending her out of his reach, and he halted, treading water. You deliberately lured us to the rocks!

"Perhaps," she returned, undaunted. "But why would that matter to you? Ships can be replaced, and your men had mutiny in their minds anyway."

The news took him aback, but he elected to ignore it for the time being, focusing on his problems at hand. Ships can be replaced, aye, but how do I get back to land to procure a replacement? We are thousands of leagues from civilization!

"You swim," Muse replied. "You can breathe now, you know, and the sea will not tire you as it would before." She paused again, apparently thinking. "I'm sorry about your ship," she added abruptly. "It was quite a lovely vessel."

Grief gripped Captain Kenway's heart as he thought of his destroyed galleon. Neptune's Belle had been his ship almost from the beginning of his career in piracy. His crews had come and gone, one way or another, and the treasure he plundered fluctuated in the same manner - but his beloved ship had always remained the same. And now she was gone, dashed to pieces on the gargantuan monoliths in the space of one short moment.

Strangely, the mermaid's condolences did not rankle; there was a wistful sincerity in her tone that cooled his temper slightly. Yes, he thought quietly. She was.

Telepathic silence reigned between then for a while; then Muse raised her head and looked at him sternly. "Go home now," she ordered silently, "and remember this. You can breathe as we breathe, and swim as we swim, and see as we see, as long as you are in the water; but the moment your foot touches dry land, my gift will be of none effect."

The young man nodded. Thank you, he thought, for saving my life. The mermaid inclined her pearl-adorned head in acknowledgement of his gratitude.

"Think twice before you return to the ocean," she responded, "for I may not be so inclined to a second time."

The vein of untruth that rang in her statement did not go undetected, and Kenway couldn't help the roguish smile that tugged at his mouth. You would, though, he returned brashly. You know you would.

He felt, rather than heard, her heartbeat increase, and for one frightening moment, a storm seemed to be brewing in her blue eyes; but then it faded, and the faintest hint of a smile flitted around her face.

"I might, at that."

Then she flicked her coral-colored tail and was gone.

Thanks for reading, and go check out Brady's stories, they're fabulous! :D My personal favorites are You're Not Supposed to Save Me and Christmas Memories. Drop a review or two while you're at it - he deserves them. :)