Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Note: All references to Greek/Roman mythology (or anything else, for that matter) have very likely been butchered beyond all recognition.
"We've found the Troll Market, Sir," Commander Adrastos stated simply, approaching Prince Nuada, "or what's left of it."
Prince Nuada Silverlance of Bethmora, commander of the Golden Army, had first waged war against the humans seven years ago. The demon Anung un Rama and the creatures of the BPRD were long slaughtered, their city of New York and all others like it laid to ruin. For the first year of this greatest war, the Elven Prince reigned supreme with his fantastic army, slaughtering all in his path without remorse or sympathy – he had hoped for a quick victory, without the bloodshed of his own people or others in the Netherworld; he had not counted on the resilience of man, or on their ruthlessness. In the 14th month of war, after New York, Paris, Berlin and London burned, the humans attacked with their nuclear warheads. For years after, the earth lay barren, covered in grey dust – the fallout parody of snow. From out this wasteland emerged a new class of human – the ruthless, dishonourable and war-hardened; the few remaining vestiges of humanity functioned as guerrilla warriors and terrorists, striking where and when they could against the creatures of the Netherworld, heedless of any ancient battle standards. The greatest war had first been fought with split atoms and 4,900 mechanical warriors; when the dust fell from the clouded sky, the war resumed, as a human had once predicted, with knives and pitchforks.
"Good, Adrastos. Tell the men to search for any survivors."
The Troll Market, under what was once the Brooklyn Bridge, lay in smouldering shambles. Corpses littered the narrow alleyways, carefully tended shop-fronts reduced to ruin. Drainage ducts that once swept water from the subterranean plaza ran red with the blood of creatures from Prince Nuada's beloved Netherworld; carefully, almost painstakingly, the Elven warriors combed over the bodies of fallen innocents, searching for any sign of life, any soul spared from the humans' proud, hollow massacre.
Silently, the Ancient Prince walked alone through the alleys of death and destruction, passing corpses of his fallen kin… The Prince stopped, feeling the air for life. He thought he had felt something – a consciousness, very faint… Nuada stepped closer to a once-shop-front, and a myriad of make-shift wooden cages housing all manner of beast and creature…
There, in a crate, at the back of the stall – a dark form lay sprawled across the floor of the prison. Swiftly and soundlessly, the Ancient Royal approached the barred cage, and struck the lock in a fell stroke of his sword; the rusted metal latch fell away clean, with little resistance. No sooner was the prison door opened than a figure, limp and unconscious, fell from out the crate. It was a woman, the Elven Royal noted with some astonishment – an unquestionable beauty. Her skin was porcelain white and flawlessly fair, her features soft and gentle. Long, thick hair the color of a crow's feathers fell gently about her face in a blanket of straight ebony. Her lips were full, and naturally a deep, dark lavender; she was as the physical embodiment of the ocean at night, or a full moon over a winter lake.
Carefully, the Ancient Royal lifted the woman's body partially into his arms, off the ground,
"Quickly," Prince Nuada ordered tersely, looking up from the lady at his feet, "bring her water."
He did not have to touch her flesh to know what she was… The trading and bartering of sentient creatures had been long outlawed in both the Netherworld and the realm of the humans – nevertheless, the anarchy and chaos brought about by the great war allowed certain individuals to dabble in slave-trading without consequence. There were humans, modern-day pirates who kidnapped "magical" creatures and sold them to mortal warlords as Netherworld "novelties"… God knows what she might have been used for…
Promptly, the Prince's men came to his side, and that of the life he had found. One warrior, a soldier, poured water from his canteen over the lady's lips – at first, she lay motionless; after a moment, her mouth opened and she swallowed slowly. Once he was certain the lady in his arms would not die there, Prince Nuada lifted his hand to the base of her cheek and touched his fingers gently to her flesh, drinking in her memories.
The first was old, by a memory's standards – a vision from a year ago. He saw the lady in his arms resting on a wicked, wind-swept rock at sea, the salt air whipping her hair about her face. She was with another, her sister, and her sister's daughter, though each appeared equal in age… They were singing, softly and beautifully, out to the sea. A battleship, or what was once a battleship lay wrecked at the base of the lady's rock, the corpses of its men washing up, one by one, on her shore. So she was a siren…
Nuada closed his golden eyes and listened through her memory to her siren song. Even diluted through her mind, the melody captured him irrevocably, and held fast his heart to its lilt; to break its spell, he was forced to draw his hand away… The Elven Prince gazed placidly at the woman's eyes, closed under heavy, long lashes that almost glittered blue. She was ancient, in truth – as ancient as he; the nature of her species dictated as much. But he did not want to know the story of her life – desired to know the story of her lament.
Again, the Ancient Royal pressed his fingers to her skin, and closed his eyes. The memory he saw was much more recent – of a week ago, perhaps. It was night, and the ocean tore violently, in a maelstrom, at the lady's rock. Above her a single spotlight, bright and searing white cut through the starlit sky, the incessant beating of helicopter blades padding against the storm-swept air. The night roared with noise… metal hooks tied to black cables dropped from the belly of the chopper and clattered angrily against the jagged stone outcrop, catching and holding fast in all its crevices and imperfections. Nuada saw the lady standing below the beam, defiant, her hand shielding her eyes from the glare of the searchlight. Her dress, a gown the color of the sky at dawn in winter and as this as spider's silk fluttered wildly in the tempest and the gust of the chopper blades.
Swiftly, black-clad men, dressed as soldiers or a SWAT team descended from the cables, armed with machineguns and flashlights – they wore full helmets, like motorcyclists, to shield their faces from view and their ears from the swansong of their prey. One of the soldiers clutched a siren violently, his gloved hand at her throat – it was the lady's sister. She fought; she reached for his helmet, to free his ears. The soldier shot her through the chest, with force enough to knock her into the water. Prince Nuada heard the woman in his arms scream, in her memory. Her sister was dead before her pale corpse hit the ocean, icy tendrils snaking over her and pulling her to the silent depths. A soldier's hand gripped the lady's shoulder, spinning her to face him in his costume of cruel anonymity. She struggled against him and he struck her, with force enough to send her to the ground, the sharp rock slicing her thigh. The muzzle of a machinegun touched the back of her head, still warm from slaying her sister, and a black bag descended over her.
Awake, inside, somewhere, her memory played on like a Greek Tragedy. Her mouth was covered with duct-tape, her wrists and ankles bound tightly with nylon rope – her niece lay unconscious beside her. One of the men, his face visible now, lifted her niece by her hair and threw her into a steel cargo crate. The same man stood over the siren for a moment, eyeing her as one appraises a painting, or chooses apples at the grocery-store – he smirked, with dark, dark eyes. He knelt before her and pulled a knife, a harpy, from his back pocket and sliced through the cords binding her ankles, but not to set her free.
Roughly, the trafficker pushed her knees apart, and held them open with his own. She tried to scream, to struggle and fight against the ropes that held her – her captor raised his knife to her neck, to silence her; the siren saw him smile as he lowered the blade, slicing through the thin weaving of her dress, pressing the steel down harder until the parting fabric was stained with her blood. He did not stop until the blade met her thighs – satisfied, he cast the harpy aside and tore what remained of her gown with his hands; he penetrated her hard and fast, tearing through her without mercy or concern. The man thrust into her hard enough to make her bleed, her body searing hot with pain and shame.
The details of the siren's rape burned vividly into the Elven Prince's mind, from her memory to his own. He felt her agony and dishonour resonating, almost roaring in his head. Physically, Nuada turned from her as if from her suffering, but he kept his eyes closed and did not withdraw his touch – as she could not escape from her hell, he would endure it with her – he owed her that much.
In the days that followed, the trafficker's offence was repeated, enough that the assailants became little more than faceless spectres of torment to their victim; to Prince Nuada, the countenance and visage of every violator stilled in his memory, held there in detail and vengeance. The same men slaked their lust at the expense of the other as well, if not more so – the other, the niece was weaker, and thus the rapists' dominance more complete… Through the siren's memory, Prince Nuada watched the younger woman die, on the fifth day – it was only when the mercenaries came again that they realized they had killed her…
Finally, the Elven Lord pulled his hand from the lady's face, sighing deeply in mournful pity for the creature he held. What is your name? He asked softly, through his caress – her memory answered, but it was he who spoke the woman's name,
"Siren Bacchante, you are the last of your kind." Nuada's voice was quiet and gentle, but he spoke with a startling power that could not be abandoned. At the sound of his voice, Bacchante opened her eyes, never fluttering them. They were a bright, deep, impossible blue, and they met his golden ones in an instant. In her eyes was the memory of strength, of confidence and pride – but now, in their azure ocean of silent stillness, were only pain and shame and fear. Her wordless misery almost made the Elven Prince shudder with pity and rage.
"I am Prince Nuada, of Bethmora. You have my word that you are safe now, and that you shall not suffer more." He could feel his voice weaken slightly as he spoke – it took all the strength within him not to show it. Tenderly, he lifted her lithe body into his arms, her head resting against his chest. The Elven Prince of Bethmora rose easily to his feet, his head half-lowered, as if in mourning.
"There is no more life here," he said with greater resolve to his men as he stepped past them, back through the carnage from which he came. Adrastos stirred at his Lord's exodus,
"Where are you taking her?" Nuada gazed back at his subordinate and long-time friend,