Dressed in black cowls, the figures moved quietly in the darkness. Their mission wasn’t something that needed to be witnessed, and they took great care to creep silently toward the water. Only the moon and the stars looked on...
Meanwhile the town of Blackthorn dozed peacefully as the group skulked toward Lake October.
The right hands of the dark figures were marked with a brand resembling Poseidon’s triton, and their eyes were alive with mystic fire. More than anything, they longed to hear the song of their god again, and it showed in the way their limbs trembled and their lips quivered in anticipation.
The song is what would make them whole.
The children of Ligeia had been around in one form or another for over fifty years, and time had done little to dissuade them from their purpose. Many times had they tried the resurrection ritual and failed. They hoped to change that soon. The Lady of Lake October had been sleeping for far too long, and with any luck, she would rouse from her slumber and return to her former glory. To consider any other alternative would be to accept their fate as halflings, bridging the evolutionary gap between man and the things that lived in the sea.
With gifts in hand, they stood on the shores of the lake and mumbled incomprehensible prayers. Then, gently, they placed their offerings in the water and watched as the currents carried them away. The items themselves were simple enough: a pound of tobacco, a few strands of infant hair, a handful of pearls, peacock feathers, a bushel of apples, and a bottle of homemade dandelion wine. Yet the gifts were signs of obedience, of servitude. That is what their god responded to most of all.
Something thrashed in the water, disturbed by their presence. The children of Ligeia smiled at each other and waded into the chilly water, silently praying for success. Their human parts recoiled from the cold while other, more savage, parts delighted in the midnight chill.
A length of heavy-gauge logging chain had been tied around the trunk of a balding cyprus tree, trailing out into the depths of Lake October. Several of the dark figures hauled backward on the chain like fishermen trolling for souls in one of Hell’s dismal rivers.
No doubt they were eager to see if the bait had worked. It was immediately clear that it had. All that remained of the man attached to the chain were his legs and the bottom half of his mangled torso. The rest was gone. Devoured. No doubt The Lady’s acolyte had taken what she wanted of the sacrifice and was considering whether it was payment enough for her services.
Only time would tell...
In the moonlight, the water was the color of sunburned flesh. A duck swam lazily through the gore without the first sign of hesitation. It and the other creatures that lived in the lake were used to strange things and had learned to ignore them. The duck barely even gave the strange figures a passing glance as it floated toward deeper waters.
Satisfied that their plan would work this time, Ligeia’s children turned away from Lake October and surveyed the house behind them. A light was on in one of the upper rooms. A shadow passed in front of the window. Then another, followed by the sickly sweet sound of children’s laughter. No doubt the new owners were unpacking and trying to get settled in.
This place, along with the people who inhabited it, was just as important to the raising of their deity as the blood, the offerings, and the grief. The sea-children craned their necks toward the house, listening to the care and affection that infused the conversations within those walls. From the sound of things, there was more than enough love in the house to make the eventual tragedies all the sweeter.
It wouldn’t be long now before they could harvest the heartache...
With defined purpose the group seized the gruesome remains of their offering and tossed it back into the water, hoping to lure a magnificent catch. It scarcely even looked like a man anymore. More like a hunk of bloody meat that might be used to fish for sharks.
It only took a few seconds for the chain to tighten as something in the depths of Lake October found its meal. The tree the chain was tied to had been there far too long to be uprooted by the insistent tugging, but the chain itself wasn’t that strong. It snapped neatly in half.
The children of Ligeia mumbled their satisfaction as the lake began to bubble like water in a witch’s pot.
The Lady of the Lake was waking up.
Nothing moved or made a sound in that next second. It was like listening to the end of the world - a sudden silence followed by pandemonium.
The faint, gentle song that hovered above the water like a fine, morning mist was both haunting and angelic. The sea-children quickly cast off their cowls and leapt into the lake, swimming toward the source. Some propelled themselves by kicking their legs. Others used their fins to guide them along. Scales and chitinous faces gleamed in the hazy moonlight.
For the first time in a long time, Ligeia’s children were hopeful. They had every reason to be. The singing had started again.