++ fifth ++
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy. I do not own Twilight. If you think I do, please make your way to the nearest insane asylum and let the nice doctors give you some medicine. Oh, wait, they have their own Maggie Walsh? So sad for you.
I would like to thank my beta, Laney, for her kindness and for her help.
Timeframe: for Buffy, post-Anne
. For Twilight, pre-Twilight
. Definitely pre-Edward, anyway.
++ fifth ++
Southern Egypt, Ruins of Nekheb
He had not meant to stray so far from the village. Ahmed shivered, pulling his thin coat closer around his shoulders as he huddled against the rocky wall of the cave. It was almost dawn. In his anger he had wandered far from his home, far from the paths and landmarks that he could read even in the dark. Now he must wait for the sun before he could finally return home. When there was enough light on the horizon to see beyond the cave walls, he stood, rubbing his arms for warmth. Determined, he set out, carefully marking the land around him and turning east. An hour later found him muttering to himself as he picked his way along a rocky ravine that he did not remember crossing but felt certain was close to home. Picking a particularly non-descript boulder, he sat down to rest, idly gazing at the ruins of an ancient temple at the top of the ravine, almost crumbling over its edge.
Stomach growling with hunger, as he rested he began to dream about the broken walls of the temple, the worn edges of the entrance stairs, the fallen pillars scattered around its base. The sun seemed to reach down from the sky, as though yearning to kiss the ruined stones. The earth held open wide its arms, embracing the foundations. And then light was born all around him. As he watched the illusion of crumbling ruins melted away in the morning light, revealing white pillars and a shining dome. Ahmed stumbled, his brown eyes wide with shock. He had to rub at his face twice to be certain he wasn’t dreaming. He almost fell over when he saw that not only was there a magnificent building not two hundred feet from him that had certainly not been there before but that it was obviously populated. White-covered shapes were moving around the stairs to the entrance. When they rose from shadow into sunlight, they shone like gods.
His foot slipped upon the rocky soil and he stumbled, falling forward with a cry. It seemed he fell for hours and yet only minutes when he finally hit the bottom. Unable to move, he gazed at the sky, only slightly startled when one of the shining people popped into view. She was a vision, he decided, her glittering face looking down on him.
When she spoke, her words unintelligible but her voice gentle as wind through the reeds, Ahmed shook his head, his mouth open as he gaped. The vision seemed to sag, as if weighted with a heavy burden. She was like him, he saw through a dream-like haze; her eyes held the same shape and spacing with full black lashes, her lips the same fullness of his own, her nose a similar curve and even the thickness of her coal-black hair was like his. Only her skin was different, he saw; in the shadows it had held the luster of the finest alabaster, but in the light, she glittered as though a thousand suns and moons had been set within her flesh. A shining hand stretched forward, the cold, bright fingers curling around his chin.
He knew no more.
In the end she did not kill him. He was only a boy-child, so young in human years, impossibly young to her. Instead, she had applied careful force to the artery in his neck, rendering him unconscious. Gathering him in her arms like a child, she carried him to the closest human village; slinking within the boundaries, she had placed him in an empty hut, being careful to cover him with a blanket. As silent as mist she crept back toward the outskirts, only breaking into a run when she could no longer see the color of the rooftops.
As she nearly flew over the land, a tiny, bittersweet smile swept across her face. She had lived to see the building of the Great Pyramids, the Great Sphinx, the Statue of Ramesses II; she had seen the construction of the Library of Alexandria and had been part of its destruction. She was Neferi-taten, High Oracle to the Order of Nekhbet; over six thousand years old, she was one of the oldest vampires she had ever known. Older than the sands at her feet, she could remember where boulders eroded by time had once stood. And still she would never understand the human capacity to forget a coat when the days grew cold.
At the boundary walls of the temple, she slowed, still moving impossibly fast and yet almost at a walk. Eyes closed, she breathed in the scent of desert morning, relishing the sunlight on her skin. She reached the stone steps and ascended them without opening her eyes, the design of the temple as familiar to her as breathing. The scent of her Children, her priests, drifted across the morning wind sweeping through the open sanctuary – Immutef, the potent scent of frankincense and myrrh; Usret, the light perfume of chamomile; Tiye, the mild, smooth fragrance of almonds; Teireise, the sweet scent of anise; and Kalliste, the strong, heady scent of pepper and cloves. Opening her eyes, she smiled to them all as she ascended the central steps, her gaze shifting to the altar at its center and the glass orb resting in the bowl indentation.
It had taken her nearly two thousand years to develop the gift to the point where she could consciously control its use. At six thousand, using her Gift was so potent that it would overwhelm even her mind. The orb channeled her power, containing the wild onslaught of what is
that flooded her senses and allowing her to understand rather than simply see. Touching its smooth surface with both hands turned the transparent glass a turbulent molten gray, the lines of light and dark writhing beneath the shell. Looking deeply now into its swirling silver fire, the latch upon her Gift went lax; its power awakened and plunged from her mind into the orb. A sudden burst of wind swept through the temple, her hair swirling in a night-black halo around her head. Her silver eyes burned like white moons.
At her side Immutef – her oldest childe, her oldest priest, her oldest friend – finally spoke. “What is it you see, Great One?”
“The sand shifting as the earth moves beneath us.” The smooth orb beneath her hands began to burn. Her diamond-hard skin cracked without a sound, healing within seconds before splitting anew. Her voice was hollow, moving through the sanctuary like an echo from a deep well. Eyes framed by kohl blazed; the black ring stark against the glowing white irises. “It is making way for something new. Something that has been and is not yet born to the world is here.” Her voice was a murmur in the open hall.
As she withdrew her hands from the orb its glowing fire died; the splitting of her diamond-hard skin knitted into place. She turned from the pedestal, her sandaled feet quiet on the stone steps as she descended. There was more to what she had seen, as always and ever it had been – to see what is
, in all its forms: the shifting of a pebble by a peasant’s bare foot not a mile from the temple, the spark of jealousy in a queen half a world away, the shifting of the winds along the Nile, the movement of crops as they struggled to push their way through hostile soils, even the breaking of a ship so lost to time that its name has been erased from stone, its wrecked hull lying deep beneath the waves of the sea.
Not a week before she had glimpsed the fall of an angel from a violet scar in the sky: she knew no name, no reason for the girl’s fall, only what is
and that it would become what was
and thus beyond her Sight. Moving to the golden statue, she lit a rod of incense and placed it in its holder. Watching the pale smoke rise, her eyes lifted ever higher until they rested upon the vulture-head of Nekhbet, the white-crowned queen of the Land of Reeds, the most ancient goddess of Kemet. She breathed in deeply, though her need for breath had long since passed – she sought solace in The Mother of Mothers and clarity from her visions.
Her eyes closed in supplication, lips curling upward in remembrance of her son’s unfavorable impression of her piety. We are gods among them. It is their duty to worship us, and it is ours to enjoy it.
He had been so beautiful in his glory, so unafraid of the price of godhood. Do you not hear them, Great Mother? I am the shining father of the gods.
He had created others like them; so many others that soon even the humans lost count and began to combine their houses of worship. She gazed at the golden face of her goddess, feeling the venom burn behind her eyes.I am the Morning and the Evening Star!
But he had not chosen his new family as she had chosen him. Their gifts in life had called to him, intoxicating him with visions of power and control. Even after becoming like her, like all of the Nekhbet priesthood as she had changed them, there was still so much humanity within him. He had been ruled by his thirst, and had died for his arrogance. His children now lived only in ancient paintings and tombs, their names spoken with casual disregard and believed to be less than smoke. As always while remembering her beloved, arrogant son, she wished that she could remember what it was to weep.
And now another son was intoxicated by the same desire for power – her Aro, her youngest childe, so blessed with his Gift of sensing minds and cursed with the human desire for more. This angel, this girl, this human was on her way to him – she would break him or make his coven powerful beyond any Neferi-taten had seen in millennia, even those pretentious Romanians. Her chin lifted, shoulders straightening.
“Make the arrangements for travel overseas,” she said, turning to her gathered priests. “Tomorrow we must depart for Volterra.” A sudden, determined smile lit her face. It was time to visit her son. Wouldn’t Aro be pleased?
I am aware that there may be some confusion regarding the historical and geographical references. If anyone has any questions, please let me know either by review (or private review, if you’re shy) or by private-message.