I sat on a rooftop overlooking the city, the muggy heat of the Miami night pressing on my shoulders. I didn't feel the heat, or the soft undercurrents of wind as it tried to whip me off my precarious perch. I felt nothing beneath the hollowness of my aching heart. Seeing Stephan with her, hearing his heart wrenching pleas for her to stay with him, and watching as they embraced, was simply too much for my wounded heart to bear.
I ignored the pink tinged tears that refused to abate. There'd been so much pain in my life; I could no longer remember a time when hope existed. Secretly, I treasured the tears. They represented my broken heart, and wouldn't exist if I didn't have the capacity to hope, to love. That I was still capable of hope amazed me.
I sat on the rooftop of the tallest building in Miami and thought about what I'd do next. I certainly couldn't go back to Stephan's. Watching them together, night after night, expressing their love in gestures or looks, would hurt beyond measure. It was time for me to move on.
A shiver of fear slithered up my spine. I'd never been alone before. I'd never experienced the wide incalculability of life's infinite possibilities. The opportunities were an endless expanse in front of me. I could do anything, be anyone or go anywhere I wanted to go. I could see snow.
In my four hundred twenty-two years of life, all I'd ever known was the tropical paradise of my homeland, followed by the tropical paradise of Southern Florida. I secretly held a love of the cooler climates in my heart, hidden behind a well of pain no one could cross. Excitement followed fear. Should I dare go into the unknown, be an invisible person in the vast openness of the country? Should I venture out into the north, where I'd be unprotected, unknown and have to rely solely on myself for survival?
I shook, but could no longer tell if it was from excitement or fear. Perhaps it was a little bit of both. A small smile curved my lips as I thought of finally escaping the clutches of men, and living my life as I was meant to. I shed my final tears for the man who saved me, for the vampire I dearly loved, and for the life I'd so foolishly thought we'd build together once he realized how perfect we were together.
It was time I lived.
1610, in a small South American Village
It was a warm spring day, the birds were singing, the flowers blooming; all was right in the world. I smiled up at the sun, contentment filling my spirit. Twirling like a child, I laughed as my dandelion crown split apart, spraying in a circle around me. I loved spring with all its budding possibilities.
This year was even more amazing because this year I was to be married! Father betrothed me to a neighboring tribes' son when we were both still suckling babes. We were destined to wed on the eve of the next new moon. I'd just come into my maidenhood, my first bleed drying in the spring air. I was to continue the legacy of our people with Jacob at my side.
Throughout the seventeen springs of my life, Jacob, my betrothed, grew up with me. He learned the ways of our tribe and I learned the ways of his, to make the connection of our battling tribes smoother. Our tribes had a history of warring; with our joining, the fighting would end. We'd finally know peace.
We were both children of our prospective tribal leaders and it was up to us to wed and unite our tribes in peace. I couldn't wait! I've loved Jacob since before I even understood the meaning of the word. Our union would be witnessed by all and blessed by the moon goddess, Mama Quilla on the next new moon. I was ecstatic!
I'd never known a time when I wasn't happy, but now I was euphoric. From the time I was born, my people regarded me as a sacred omen from the gods. I was the first pale-skinned woman to be birthed in our tribe in centuries. The stories our Shaman told, spoke of peace, enlightenment and unity brought from the last pale skinned woman. With my lightly bronzed pale skin, blue eyes and curly sun-kissed pale hair, all the tribes cherished me and the gods continued blessing our lives.
I'd never known pain, fear or sadness in my entire seventeen springs. I'd always accepted the fact that I was special. My petite shoulders carried the weight of my people's hopes and dreams for the future, as if they were as light as the dandelion crown, now settled upon the earth. I accepted the fact that if my tribe was unable to protect me, the gods Inti, Chasca Coyllur or Viracocha certainly would. I was, after all, their cherished one. Inti blessed me personally; his red and orange colored flames streaked through my golden tresses to forever mark me as his.
Never would I suspect things to change so drastically. By the time the sun set on this peaceful spring day, everything would be different.
I felt someone watching me. I stopped dancing to search the forest for the danger emanating from its depths. I'd felt an aggressive male presence a few times growing up, each time I grew cold with the malevolence that was determined to desiccate my contented spirit. It was the only time I'd ever felt fear, but didn't understand exactly what that feeling was. I'd felt the presence before, but never as strongly as today.
"Victoria?" My oldest brother called my name and I turned, greeting him with a genuine smile. His coco skin was shining with the sweat from working in the fields. His dark brown eyes lit with joy as he spotted me with the dandelions scattered around my feet. I adored my family as much as they did me.
"There you are! Mother is asking for you. She needs help in the kitchens. You shouldn't wander so far from home unescorted." He admonished with a slight curve to his lips. We both knew I was safer than any other tribal member. After all, Inti, the quiet sun god who'd never before blessed anyone, blessed me.
I ran toward Adan. Together we walked arm-in-arm, one light intertwined with the dark, grateful for our blessed life. We knew ours was an atypical family. Since I was born, we'd worried and wanted for nothing. Kon, the wind and rain god, brought the rains as expected every year, Zaramama, our harvest goddess, made certain our harvests were plentiful, and there was a peace to the tribes that hadn't existed since before the time of remembering.
The Shaman was the oldest and wisest member of our tribes, weathered by the storms of ages and respected by all for the wisdom he held in his bones. He was my grandfather, and spoke of the tales as they were told to him, of the one who united our tribes in peace and how she was destined to return. He was the one who foretold my birth. He spoke of a girl who'd be marked as different in every way by the gods themselves, who would change the course of our lives, forever. Because of his ability to far-see, I was welcomed and protected by all and the gods showered blessings upon all the tribes. Our lives were perfect.
I spent the rest of the day in my usual fashion. Laughing with mother in the kitchens, I ate with the men and their wives and watched as they interacted. My heart swelled with joy. In one moon's time, I too, would understand the shy, knowing looks my brother's wives gave to them. I'd feel the gentle touch a couple was free to express. I'd finally belong to Jacob.
I went to bed that night, thanking the god's for their blessings.
When I woke, the crescent moon was high in the sky. My skin was flushed with the beginnings of a fever. My coverings were tossed haphazardly around my small room and I blushed at the mess. Getting up, I crossed the room and pulled my poncho over my head to drape on my shoulders overtop my nightclothes and went outside to feel the cool spring air on my skin.
I'd woken like this before, and every time I cooled under Mama Quilla's healing lunar light. Adan usually found me asleep in the morning as he went to check on the animals in the barn. I headed to the hill between our home and barn again tonight, knowing I was safe and protected. The cool spring air was a balm on my heated skin. I briefly wondered if I should consult the Shaman about my condition, and shrugged it off. If I were still feverish in the morning, I'd speak to my grandfather.
I lay in the cool grass, watching as the stars made a slow progression across the night sky. The grass hadn't been kissed with the faeries rejuvenating waters yet, and I smiled, hoping I'd be awake long enough to watch as they did their nightly work.
Kon's gentle breeze drifted across my heated skin, soothing the fire burning inside. Every night since my first bleed began, I'd felt this way. It bothered me, but I just assumed it was part of becoming a woman and my burden for being blessed so by the gods. I heard a whisper on the wind and my fears about the unnaturalness of my heated body calmed.
"A blessing, for the one marked by Inti will carry his flame."
It was strange to hear a whisper in the wind, a disembodied voice speaking to me. It was an odd blessing to be certain, but it calmed me to know that Kon knew what ailed me. Inti had never blessed anyone in our tribe. I truly was the chosen one, since Inti decided I was worthy of his blessing. I told myself to speak with grandfather about this new development in the morning. At the moment I was content to simply lie under Mama Quilla's waxing sickle orb.
I laid there for what felt like hours, simply enjoying the crisp breeze and counting the stars. Viracocha was a talented god, his ability to not only sculpt our lives from nothing, but to also sculpt the heavenly beauty above, allowing us but a glimpse of the perfection of Hanan Pacha, always took my breath away. Certainly when my time was up upon this plane, I'd join my ancestors and beloved deities in Hanan Pacha and watch over Viracocha's creations with them.
I smiled as my thoughts moved to the creatures blessed with Viracocha's breath of life. My heated body was finally starting to cool as my thoughts drifted from one creature to another. I was so caught up in my thoughts that I missed Kon's warning breeze until it was too late.
"Supay comes..." Kon's whisper warned in my ears, carried by a strong southern gust. I bolted upright as Supay, the Lord of the Underworld, sauntered from the tree line. He was a massive beast, surrounded by perros de la muerta and he was staring directly at me.
"What brings you here, demon king?" I trembled with fear, my body reheating with Inti's flame. I wasn't certain how one fought off the Lord of the Underworld, or even how to use my new gift, but if I were to protect my family from this fiend, I'd do almost anything.
"I've come to collect my mate. I've come for you." His deep voice rasped out of a throat unaccustomed to speaking. I stared in disbelief. The mate to the Lord of the Underworld?! He must be joking! "Either you come of your own violation, or I shall slay all that you love and take you by force. The choice is yours - I will have you regardless."
His monstrous form was still hidden in the shadows of the barn, his voice gruff and strangled. I didn't want to go with him. It didn't feel right and I knew that I couldn't trust what he said. He was the Lord of the Underworld and the King of Lies. He'd do anything to collect souls. Besides, Kon wouldn't have warned me if Supay had the other gods' blessing.
"I would see all of you first," I demanded, praying to Inti and Kon that my power would be strong enough to defeat the monster before me. I prayed that I understood Kon's earlier warning and that I was doing the right thing. I wanted Supay closer before I tried anything. After all, one didn't attempt to kill a god every day.
He walked closer to me, into Mama Quilla's light and I gasped. He was head and shoulders above me with a shoulder span twice that of my largest brother. He had the legs of a bear, tail of a scorpion, a thick-shelled chest, hands of a jaguar and head of a wolf. He was an abomination, a monster! My pulse thundered in my ears with the strength of my fear. All breath left me and I felt my gaze go hazy. The creature that was Supay, Lord of the Underworld, smiled.
"Faint my little angel and make my collection easy." The demons behind him barked with laughter.
I took a deep breath, opening myself fully to Inti's gift. Flames exploded in a halo surrounding my body. They licked across my skin; I was an inferno of fire reaching for the heavens. My fiery hair whipped around my face, dancing in joy with the flames' release. I didn't care that my clothes burned to ash as my body ignited, I was burning with Inti's flame and it consumed me.
"You will not claim me, monster! I've been blessed by Inti and his flame protects me!" I smiled as I walked toward him, reveling in his shocked expression.
"A pyrokinetic!" He whispered in awe just before he started laughing. He laughed until tears peaked at the corner of his wolfish eyes. "No, my precious one, it is I who am blessed this night. I will enjoy you."
I thrust my hands out and flames shot from the tips of my fingers. He moved faster than thought. I followed him with my flames, spraying the clearing with their purifying blaze. I didn't know what I was doing; I just knew I had to destroy this hideous creature before me. I was having trouble keeping him in sight. He moved quickly and the heat from the flames blurred my vision.
His hands clamped down on my burning shoulders and I felt his whispered breath against my cheek. The smell of burning skin barely registered in my psyche.
"Look at what you've done, my pet. Can you hear their screams? You are my angel de la muerta, my anxa da morte, the mate I've searched for thousands of years for. Come anxa, our work here is done."
It took me a minute to see what he was saying past the inferno blazing in my eyes. As my vision cleared from the fiery haze, I saw what I'd done. The barn, my family's house, everything I knew, was inflamed! My family was dying by my hand! I could hear their screams of agony calling out to me.
I killed them!
"No!" I cried out, the flames I'd so greedily enjoyed moments before, dried instantly on my skin. "What have I done? Mama? Papa? No!"
Supay pulled me away, holding me around the waist and walking backwards toward the forest so I could watch as everything I held dear, burn to ash before my eyes.