by Amalyr Roe
Welcome to early Greece and give welcome to a Vampire true-born.
Greece 958 AD
Nestled almost out of sight, deep in the narrow valley of Pleistos, beneath the Phaedriades high on the lower slopes of Parnassos rests a Tholos temple. A circular colonnaded building without any walls. A ring of stones sits atop the columns leaving the temple open to the heavens above, nine figures cloaked in darkness, followed by one dressed in white move through the night their steps bathed by the light of the moon. One by one, they ascend the steps; each of the dark clothed figures move to stand before a column. Silent, unmoving, the eyes of the High Council following the progression of Calliope gowned in white. Moonlight bathing her in an ethereal glow and her Mate Andreas, a tall, dark-haired, blue-eyed Vampire whose sole attention was riveted by the woman who carried his child.
Even in her gravid state, Andreas could not help but admire her. Calliope held a grace he had yet to find in another, that she carried his child only added to her allure. Head held high, back straight, shoulders back her steps slow and sure Calliope approached the birthing stone. An altar chest-high on one end its smooth surface curving downward resting in the very center of the temple. A small basin filled with fresh, clear Castalian Springs water on either side. Hand on the small of Calliope's back, Andreas circled, his fingers trailing the fabric at her waist until he is kneeling before her.
Andreas holds his right hand out, expectantly his blue gaze holding fast to Calliope's crimson. Fingers wrap around the small ornate dagger as its weight settles into his palm. He dipped the blade in the blessed water on the right and gripping the hem with his left hand. He slits the gown from her ankle to just above her navel. Someone took the blade as he parted the robe revealing the distended stomach, smooth, flawless alabaster skin once firm now rippled with the movent of their child. Letting go of the gown, Andreas stands to guide her down onto the birthing stone.
He longed to open his mouth and say something, anything, but custom demands that he hold his tongue. Instead, he did the only thing that seemed fitting. Andreas kissed her, two feather-light, one on her belly the other on her forehead as he moved to take his position behind her. Calliope reached back for him, gripping his forearms just as he gripped hers, a move more instinct than rehearsed. A small smile flits across her features, and then it was gone replaced by a thin line as she suppresses the urge to voice her discomfort.
Phaenra, a redheaded Vampire not much older than himself, moved between his Mate's legs. A small translucent bottle, tinted red by the pomegranate oil within, held loosely in one hand. Swift, with practiced ease, unstops the bottle and pours a generous amount into her free hand, massaging the pomegranate oil into Calliope's stomach. Three of the onlookers broke from their columns. One cut a lock of Calliope's silvery-white hair, another lit the brazier and the sweet-spicy scent of Frenkensence and burning hair filled the air, and the last eyes as dark as his hair, Damianos, head of the Central Council and a direct descendant of Ambrogio and Selene, he produced a bay laurel crown woven with white and yellow flowers setting it on the top of her head. He then moved to stand behind the midwife, a silent sentinel, while the other two returned to their columns.
Barely audible whispers, "Lilith," laced with hints of awe and fear filled the temple, and as quickly as they whispers began. They were gone, replaced by the retelling of Ambrogio and Selene, the blessings and the curses laid on them by the Gods. Andreas refused to be distracted by the whispers, keeping his focus where it belonged, on his Mate, on the midwife, and the blade in her hand.
What had once felt like racing, time slowed to a crawl. The tale of the First Vampires fading into the background. Phaenra caressed Calliope's belly with one hand and with the other drew a line, taut muscle, and skin parting under the blade, the scent of blood mingling with that of the incense, pomegranate oil, and burning hair. Calliope hissed, her fingers digging painfully into his forearms, but she refused to look at him, refused to seek comfort. Instead, she watched as the midwife drew their babe from her womb and turned to place the infant into the waiting hands of Damianos.
Calliope's whimpers of pain and distress faded as the parted skin of her stomach began to knit, fading from a dark, angry slice to a thin pale pink line until finely, there was no sign she had a baby cut from her. Andreas brushed sweat-dampened hair from Calliope's face, her gaze riveted on their child. He turned his attention back to Damianos, who held the child up to the stars and moon in offering to Selene. "From the union of Andreas and Calliope, I would welcome our newest kinsman into the fold. From this day forth, he shall be called Constatine Son of Andreas." He turned to place the infant into his father's waiting arms.
Constantine was a small bundle of movement, a shocking cap of white hair just like his mother's. It was a shame his eyes would not open for a few days yet; Andreas longed to know. Aware of the next few steps he placed Constantine into Calliope's arm, the mound of one breast already bore a shallow cut for his son to feed. Andreas moved behind his Mate, wrapping one arm around her shoulders, knowing what she had to do. Calliope gripped his wrist with her free hand, turning it until the vein blue against his skin showed, a tickle of sensation, a sharp prick of pain followed by the pleasant feeling of her sucking on his flesh. He pushed the sensations away, taking the human girl Damianos held out to him. Andreas chose to forgo soothing the frightened creature. Instead, he sunk his teeth into her throat, her blood was his, her life was his, he would drink her dry, and through her, he would nourish both Mate and son.
Phaenra steps back as Damianos takes her place. Calliope willingly holds Constantine up for the head of the Council once more. Damianos accepts the child, and with the waters of Castalian, he washes the blood from Constantine, holding him out for another member of the Council to take and swaddle him and, in turn, pass him on to the next. While their son passed among the Vampire High Council, Calliope rises from the birthing stone. Unconcerned with her audience, she unlaces the ties at her shoulder and lets the white robes stained with the blood of her son's birth slide from her shoulders and pile at her feet.
Phaenra holds out a crimson peplos to replace the birthing gown. Calliope accepts the loose-peplos and, with the help of Andreas, shimmies into it. The peplos' vibrant red contrasting pleasantly with her pale skin, she takes her son back, letting Damianos guide her and Andreas over to the pit prepared for the offering to the three Gods who had a hand in the creation of the Vampires. One by one, each of the dark figures drops an offering into the pit. The human girl wrapped in a shroud for Aidoneus Lord of Hades, the contents of the brazier for Apollo the Sun God, and the once gossamer white gown blood-soaked with the birth of Constantine a gift for the Virgin Goddess Artemis, until Vampires surrounded the hole. They spoke in unison the very words spoken by the Oracle Delphi and given to Ambrogio at the beginning, "the curse, the moon, the blood will run." Then one by one, they filled in the pit, completing the night's ceremony.