The challenge is to write a short story of 750 words or less with the following four words: evil, crowd, harp, waterfall.
I have a craving for Greek today. Here's my entry.
SING WITH YOUR HEART
Ligeia's wrists were rubbed raw with her attempts to free herself. It was not for herself she tried so desperately to escape, but for her younger brother Anatolius who was out there laughing with the pirates.
The flap flipped up and a huge man entered. Despite the laughter on deck, he wore a grim expression.
“Your brother has a keen eye. A sailor he will be.” The archpirate's beard was ratty but his voice cultured.
“He'll never be one of yours. I won't-” He cut off her sharp reply by drawing a wicked blade from a sheath. She scooted back with a cry, trapping herself against the wall.
“Anatolius will stand watch as you entertain my men.” He snatched her by the arm and jerked her up. The knife cut through the rope, but his grip didn't loosen.
“No! Please, no.” Ligeia shook her head. The midnight waterfall of her hair hung limp, sticking to the sides of her face.
Ignoring her pleas, the archpirate yanked her forward and bent to retrieve something by the door. He thrust the harp at her.
“You will play. And you won't stop until I tell you.”
Ligeia hugged her father's harp to her chest and choked back a sob. These evil men hadn't thrown it into the sea.
Sunlight blinded her as she was led on deck. She heard a boy's joyful hoot and squinted her eyes to see Anatolius bouncing toward her.
“I'm going to be a proper sailor, Ligeia.” He was proud, overflowing with youthful excitement.
She managed a small smile. He was happy and unharmed. She hadn't seen him like this since her parents had passed on.
“Nikandros taught me how to watch for reefs and the flow of the tide.” Anatolius grinned up at the archpirate.
“You're too young for such a thing, little brother.” Ligeia chided.
“He's old enough.” Nikandros shooed the child. “Back up top, boy. Remember, your full attention on your job lest you sacrifice us all to Poseidon.”
Anatolius stuck his tongue out at his sister and hurried back up to take his position.
It was only then that Ligeia realized the entire crew was below. They were forced to crowd together. Only Nikandros remained on deck. He pushed her onto a stool.
“It'll be your death and ours if you stop playing.” His growl made her tremble. A hint of wine scented his breath. Nikandros' hold on her loosened and he moved as if he might leave her. He paused and lowered his voice. “Is it true? Have the gods blessed your voice?”
Ligeia stared at him, trying to understand. She felt the weight of the situation and held her harp tighter yet.
“I sing songs of family and lost love. My own heart knows these things intimately. If the gods have blessed me, it's only because they have taken so much away.”
“Sing with your heart then, woman.” With that, Nikandros jumped down and went to the main mast. He picked up a slave's chain and snapped it around his ankle. The clink of metal seemed loud over the waves.
Ligeia noticed then the entire crew had bound themselves to the ship. A moment of panic swept through her. What was going on?
She looked up at her brother. Her heart beat faster. They could escape now. There were nearing a set of islands.
“Play.” Nikandros commanded.
There were no other boats about. The tide carried them swiftly as the oarsmen sat idle. And afraid.
Ligeia recognized the fear in their faces. She swallowed hard and plucked a few of the strings. The sound reverberated strangely in the air.
“Play now.” Nikandros roared. His hands clenched in fists.
Her fingers began a familiar tune. Ligeia's sweet voice was soft at first, but she let the music take her to rise above the noise of the sea.
Another voice rang over the water. It carried a song without words and made the men below groan as if they might be ill.
Ligeia turned to the tiny islands as they drew near, singing about family lost and the ache of the heart.
A second voice joined the first and then a third. All females.
Ligeia's fingers faltered upon the strings. Glancing back up at her brother, she began to sing with every bit of her heart and soul.
The pirates had pitted her against the Sirens.