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Friday, 25 April 2014

First Chapter Friday: A Siren's Revenge by Lauren Pilla

Late 1880s
Liza had a dark secret. A secret so dangerous that if revealed it could lead to death. She agonized over and over whether or not to expose her secret earlier to her family. But now, sixteen years later, she had no choice. She had to confess to her husband and to her daughter.
Liza was not like other women outside of her small town in Massachusetts. Sure, she cleaned and cooked for her family. She attended social functions like any other lady, and even cared for a sizable garden full of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The one thing that made her different from those respectable women was that she was a siren.
Although she didn’t turn into a mermaid, she did have the power of song. A song, chant or even a hum heard from a siren could be dangerous and deadly.
Sirens are drawn to the water—compelled to make their home by the sea. Even the droplets of rainwater against their skin were a power all their own. It revitalized and strengthened them. Liza miraculously convinced her husband to make their home near a lake. Often she would take her daughter, Grace, down to the cool stream and frolic like a young child herself. But what she enjoyed the most was the pure joy on Grace’s face when she played in the water. Liza watched as her daughter’s eyes sparkled with magic, even though her powers wouldn’t manifest until her sixteenth birthday.
Her husband had been oblivious to their hydrating routine. Even now, Liza knew Grace spent most of her after school hours playing by lake. She was a wonderful child and would grow into a beautiful woman some day.
Though Liza appeared to be the age of a thirty-something-year-old, she was close to three hundred and fifty. Sirens age, yes, but extremely slowly.
Grace’s sixteenth birthday had finally come. She would soon learn Liza’s secret and learn why she prefers to play out in the rain. Soon she would come into her powers and learn all about the ways of a siren.
Grace and her friends, Annabelle and Tessa, raced through the small cottage past Liza, who stood boiling water and sugar, to add to egg whites to make frosting for the birthday cake.
“Mother, can my friends stay over for my birthday?”
“Of course, darling. He should be home in a few minutes and then we will wish you a happy birthday.”
“Thank you, Mother.”
Liza smiled as her daughter walked the few feet into her bedroom. Their cottage was simple. A room for sitting, decorated with some cushions and drapes Liza had made herself. A kitchen with a wood burning stove, washtub and in the center was a small table with four chairs. Grace had the tiniest room with a small bed, complete with handmade linens. Liza and her husband, William, shared a similar room next to the washroom.
Lost in thought, Liza jumped when her husband entered in the kitchen. He kissed her cheek gently, “Good evening my wife. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“Good evening, William. I was just thinking and drifted off.”
“You’ve been doing that a lot of late. You can talk with me, Liza.”
“Thank you, William. I would like to talk to you before we celebrate our daughter’s sixteenth year.”
“Ah, I am the father of a sixteen-year-old. She is beautiful, looking very much like her mother.”
Liza felt her cheeks flush. William was certainly not making this easy. Her husband was her soul-mate, he was supposed to be her true love. The one person her songs didn’t work on.
Once she revealed her secret there would be no going back. How would he react? William was quite religious, anything other than a pure, devoted catholic was an abomination!
How would she explain she was a siren and that in a few hours their daughter would develop powers as well?
Liza had a sudden memory of witches burning at the stake. As a small girl, barely four feet high, scared to death, she had gripped her mother’s apron and watched, horrified at the actions of supposed Christian villagers. She asked her mother why they were burning her.
Her mother had said, “They found out their secret, Liza. You must guard our secret with your life child, or you will burn like them. Some women were truly witches, others ordinary women with a mental sickness, but some were sirens, like you, my child.”
That same terrified girl, returned to face her soul-mate now. It could go one of two ways. Acceptance or rejection. She feared the rejection.
“William, I need to tell you something. Something about me—something about our daughter.”
Liza heard the sounds of feet shuffling and scrapes against the door and knew Grace and her friends were listening as well. She’d hoped to tell her daughter separately from her husband but, she was glad her friends were there to comfort her while she learned the truth. Liza knew the girls would learn of their powers soon enough as well.
“Whatever is the matter dear? Please talk to me,” William said.
Liza took a deep breath and mentally prepared the words she needed to say. She had faith in their love. They would get through it.
“William, I am different from other women outside this village.”
Her husband looked puzzled. “Outside this village? Are you ill?”
Liza stood tall, proud of her heritage and of her abilities.
“No, I assure you, I am not ill, nor is Grace.”
“Then out with it, woman. Enough with these riddles!”
Frustrated, with her husband, she gave him no more niceties. “I am a siren, William. Your daughter is a siren as well.” She took a deep breath.
He stared at her, and his face paled. Then she saw his temper rise. His nostrils flared, his face turned red, and a growl escaped his throat. “Are you saying you’re a witch? Some vile creature spawned from the devil! Why, after all this time, have you not told me until now?”
“No! William, a siren…a child of the sea. We have the gift of song.”
“It’s a gift from the devil! Witch! My wife is a damned witch! How could this have happened?” He towered over her petite five-foot frame.
“You have lied to me for years. I can’t believe this, a damn witch! I will not have the presence of evil in this house,” he yelled again, knocking off the small dishes on the counter. She heard the girls scamper around in the room when the plates crashed. It was not supposed to happen this way. It was supposed to be a happy occasion. She was thankful her daughter wasn’t alone, but she heard the cries from bedroom and desperately wanted to comfort Grace.
“Husband, please. Let me explain—”
“Do not call me husband, you devil woman!” He backhanded an oil lamp and it crashed to the floor. “Have you cast spells on me? Did you make me love you? For I would never love some vile creature like you.”
“No, William,” she sobbed, “You are my soul-mate.” He was not her true love. She knew that now, sadly. He would have accepted her without any hesitation. Deep down she knew their marriage was just a mutual caring for one another. Though she was fated to be his by the powers that be, he wasn’t truly, madly in love with her. “My songs’ powers do not work on you. I don’t even use my gift. I do not do anything evil. Please stop all this madness.”
“Do the women you drink tea with know they are sitting with a creature from Hell?”
“They are just like me!” she blurted out. Instantly she covered her mouth. Liza had just jeopardized the rest of her colony. The only family she had left. They were her friends, her siren sisters. They all chose to live in the village and live without magic.
He shattered more dinnerware, flipped over chairs, slammed his fist into the table, destroying everything in his path while he roared loathsome obscenities.
Finally, he stormed out of the cottage. Liza steadied herself against the counter, her eyes red and burning from her tears.
Grace opened the door and ran to her mother. William despised her. Called her a witch! She didn’t understand. He was supposed to love her, no matter what. That’s what soul-mates in love did. Why didn’t he truly love her?
Grace hugged her mother tightly, but Liza felt numb inside. She was in a trance as her world began to crumble around her. How could he?
“Mother, is it true? Are we witches?” Grace sobbed.
Liza snapped out of it, looking down into her daughter’s eyes.
She grabbed her shoulders. “My darling, listen to me carefully! You are a siren, not a witch. We have the gift of song. We can use our voice for good. But listen to me carefully, Grace. We have the power to take free will away. We can be dangerous, and we can be deadly. You must use your power for good only. Do you understand me?”
Grace nodded.
Liza turned her head toward the window, hearing the chants coming from the other villagers. It was as she feared. A repeat of so long ago and it was all her fault. She saw her husband leading the way with a burning torch.
She assumed he’d gone to the local tavern, ranting and raving like a lunatic that his wife was a witch. The simple-minded men of that town, unfortunately, believed just about anything and rushed to his aid to defend their pure town. Not one of them knew they were the evil ones. Each one carried a fiery torch while chanting “Witch!”, and each ‘Christian man intended to destroy their families.
Liza gathered all the girls, instructing them to stay together. “Children, the three of you are all sirens. I fear after this night, you will be the only ones left.”
“Wait. Only ones left? You mean we are all like Grace, a siren?” Tessa asked.
“Yes and you girls would’ve found out on your sixteenth birthday as well. It should have been a celebration, but I’m so sorry children.”
“I can’t believe this,” Annabelle said.
Enough talk, you must go. Follow the lake until you reach a small cottage in the woods. The woman there will take care of you. Go!”
“No buts. Go, now!”
She hugged her daughter tightly, kissing her cheek. Liza made her way to the other two girls kissing each one on top of their heads.
Grabbing a sharp blade from one of the cabinets, Liza made her way over toward the brick wall at the back of the kitchen. With the knife she began to carve between the bricks. Once a few bricks were freed a small secret passageway was revealed.
“Mother, I can stay and help you. I’m a siren at midnight, you said. I can sing to him and make him stop. I can save you.”
“No, Grace. ‘Tis still hours before midnight. But you will be immensely powerful one day. I can feel you will be the most powerful siren of all time. You must protect yourself, my daughter. Do not fall in love—it’s a weakness. Now you must go. You, Tessa, and Annabelle must be safe. I will take care of this. Now, Go!”
“But Mother, I don’t want to leave you.”
Liza shoved the children down the passage, screaming at them to go and not come back. She breathed a sigh of relief when she could no longer see them. They had escaped. They would be safe.
Outside Liza heard the screams of women and children. She ran outside and witnessed a terrifying sight. The men threw their torches into their houses, murdering their wives and children. And for what? Purity?
“Damn you, William.”
The flames devoured their small cottages, engulfing them in fire, smoke, and despair—nothing would be left. Screams echoed through her head and she clenched her chest in pain as her heart shattered. Liza could feel each one of those souls dying. Her family—gone in an instant. She would make it right. She would avenge them here and now!
She looked at her husband, her soul-mate, with hatred. She’d been weak to love someone, to open her heart and soul, only to have it destroyed. “William how could you?”
“You are a devil woman, Liza. All of you, the devil’s work! You will not enslave me witch!”
Liza shook her head. “Such a small minded man. Did you ever truly love me?”
“I was content with you.”
Not the answer she was looking for.
“I’m not a witch, William. I’m a siren.” Then Liza sang, grabbing the men’s attention. Each one stopped and stared, awaiting her command. Her arms stretched out, her gown billowed as the wind around her stormed in and dark clouds filled the night sky. She sang louder, her voice getting stronger by each note. Oh, it felt good to sing. She hadn’t used her gift in a very long time.
William screamed for them to cover their ears, even tugged on his fellow man’s arms to try to stop them but it was too late. Liza had them. She willed them to step inside their burning houses. Commanded them to be with their families and condemned them all to death.
After the men walked into their fiery graves, she turned back to William. “It didn’t have to end like this.”
“Yes it did. I will have no evil in my village. The devil has you now.”
William tossed the torch he’d been holding at Liza’s feet. Her skirts instantly caught fire. She stood as long as she could before her skin began to burn and sizzle and then Liza collapsed. She screamed in agony as her body went up in flames. Her skin charred and her nostrils inhaled only the smell of burnt flesh while the amber flames danced around her. Thick smoke smoldered around her, suffocating her. She locked eyes with William, who stood watching her go up flames, and all she saw was pure hate. But before her life ended she managed to shout out her last words to her husband.
“You will pay, William.”

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