Many thanks to my dear Beta, All About Eric for her patience and support while writing this.
Disclaimer: none of these characters belong to me, they belong to Charlaine Harris.
"Asukina, tell me, can you hear my thoughts?"
"No, Lady Pythia."
"Do you know why that is?"
"No, Lady Pythia."
"It is so because we are vampires, my child."
"Vampires? What does that mean?"
"You will address me properly child. You may call me Lady Pythia or Milady."
I looked at the old lady who was seated on her big chair and looked like she had been there since the beginning of time. I felt ashamed by my impoliteness; my Gran would have been so disappointed to hear me speaking so rudely to the old lady. She tried so hard to teach me to be nice and polite to everybody.
The truth is, I was not used to being around many people so there had been no need for me to learn how to behave. The only thing I had to do around people when I was at home was to keep my mouth shot. But I would try to behave the way my Gran told me to. I would do her proud.
Poor Gran, she was so sad when Niall told her that I had to go so far to be taught how to control my mindreading. She wanted to keep me there, at home with her. She even cried when we left although Grandfather told her that they could visit me every week. She was really heart-broken that she had to let me go. She held me close - so tight it almost hurt, caressing my hair, telling me to be good and that she'd come to see me every Sunday - apparently that was the day that families were allowed to come to visit the island.
When Niall told Gran that it was time to go she sobbed hard, kissed my forehead, looked deeply into my eyes and told me: "Be brave my dear, learn everything they teach you . If you don't like it there I will come and take you home, ok? I love you, my dear!"
It was so strange to hear those words… at least hearing them directed at me, and it was even stranger to see in her mind the meaning of her love. It was such a beautiful feeling - love. In that moment I promised myself that I would do everything I could to make her proud. So now I would be polite.
"Come here child" Lady Pythia patted a cushion placed at her right hand, waving to everyone else to leave.
We were alone then and I walked to the cushion and gently lowered myself on it, trying to be as graceful as I could manage, considering that the cushion was on the floor.
"Vampires, my child, are very old and very powerful creatures. They are very fast, very strong and they never age. They can only be killed by the sunlight or by driving a stake through their hearts. They are supernatural beings who exist by feeding on the life essence (that means blood) of living creatures, regardless of their species - humans, werewolves, shifters, demons… all the species."
"Excuse me Milady, but what about faeries?"
"Faeries are a rare delicacy for the vampires Asukina, they smell very good to us and they taste better than anything else."
I felt myself panicking. Was she going to drink my blood? Did that mean that she was going to kill me?
"Don't be afraid my child, you are safe here. First of all, you are my guest – and it wouldn't be nice to eat my guests, now would it? Secondly, you were entrusted to me by a very old … friend - Niall. I promised him that I would keep you safe and teach you everything you need to know, and I always keep my promises."
"Always? Even if its hard?"
"Especially then. You see, in all my long years I have learned something: one must not do things that one can't live with, especially if one has to live for a long time. I don't make many promises, but those promises I make - I always keep."
"Can I ask you something Milady?"
"My great-grand father told me that you can see the future, so did you see me coming?"
"Yes, I did. I knew a long time ago that you would come to me. You must understand that the supernatural world is a world with many secrets. You must learn how to keep your mouth shut and your face expressionless in order to survive this world. No one must know what you know, what you think or what you feel."
"I already know that Milady. I was taught that when I was little."
"When you were little, my child? Are you not little now?"
"I might be seven and look like I'm too young to know many things, but I can tell you that inside I know many things that even old people don't know."
"You have had a hard life, Asukina, I know. I've seen it. But you see, fate has a way of its own to work on people. You never know why some things happen, but believe me when I tell you - there is always a reason for everything."
"There is a reason for me to be hated by my own mother?"
"There was a reason for you to go through so many difficulties. You are meant for greatness my child; you are very talented and gifted; you don't even know yet what powers await you. So, in order to be a responsible person and not abuse your powers, you had to learn that every deed has a consequence, a result. Like when your mother was bad to you - it made you suffer. You know what suffering means so you will avoid making others suffer in the future."
"But why would I make anyone suffer Milady? I'm not bad."
"I know, child. But you will be very powerful one day and you'll have to make others suffer in order to do justice, "
"Do justice? You mean like a judge?"
"Yes, my child."
"I'm going to be a judge?"
"You will be many things; a judge is only one of them. I will tell you something, my child, but you must promise me that you'll always keep it secret."
"I promise Milady"
"Will you keep this promise?"
"Yes, I will always keep my promise."
"Good. Now I'm going to tell you a story. There was once a great queen of the fairies; she was very beautiful and powerful and very much loved by her people."
"I'm sorry to interrupt you Milady, but Niall told me that there are just two princes of the fairies, no queen."
"Yes, now there's no queen, but a long time ago all the fairy peoples were united under one queen. She was a very fair queen, but a lonely woman. She longed for someone to share her life with, a mate, but she could not choose any man- she was a queen so she had to be very careful not to upset any of the fairy races. One day she was seated in a beautiful meadow in the human world to escape her responsibilities and worries for a while, thinking about her choices, when a very beautiful man with long golden hair came to her. They talked for a while avoiding telling each other their true identities. They liked each other, so they planned to meet again the following day. And they met like that for a while, until they finally gave in to their love. They continued their relationship for months until the queen realized she was with child. The man - his name was Apollo - told the queen that no-one could know that he was the father of the child for he was a the god of the light and the sun, truth and prophecy, medicine and healing from Olympus. He had many enemies that would see to the child's death, so the safest thing for both the mother and child was to stop seeing him. The queen was broken- hearted, as she loved Apollo very much, but she understood his reasons and wanted to keep the child safe. So she stopped coming to the human world, and spend her time preparing for the arrival of her beloved child. She told no one who the father of her child was and after a while people stopped asking."
"Were they not upset with her for having a child without being married?"
"A very good question my dear Asukina; you are indeed very mature for your young age. No, they were not upset. In the supernatural world it doesn't matter if a child is born to a married couple or to an unmarried one; the news of the child was well received by everyone in Faery. When the time came, the queen gave birth to two beautiful children. It was a surprise for her to see that she had twins, because that did not happened much in Faery. The children were both very beautiful- a male and a female child- and they were very quickly loved by everyone around them. The children were very close to each other, but as they grew up it was obvious that the girl was very gifted and that made many envy her and desire her even though she was just of thirteen years of age, and she received many marriage proposals from princes and kings of many races, but she would have no-one. When her mother asked her why, she said she would not choose anyone for she was not meant to marry - you see, the girl could see the future."
"Are you the girl, Milady?"
"Yes, my child. It was I. My mother knew about my gift, so she asked me then what I would do in the future if I was not to be married but I did not tell her; it would have only upset her and I knew she didn't have much longer to live. I had a vision once that my nanny went to the human world to visit a friend of hers - a witch - and she was caught by some angry humans and burned to death. So I told my nanny not to go there. She listened to me, and after talking to me she went straight to her house and she cooked some cookies so she could give them to me the next day as a gift because I had saved her from death. But the oven broke and everything caught fire. She burned, along with her house, and three other neighboring houses until someone managed to extinguish the fire. Ten faeries died that day and I learned a very big lesson that day: never tamper with fate."
"But if you can see the future, why can't you prevent the bad things happening, Milady?"
"The fates do not allow that, my child. As I told you earlier, every action has a reaction, a consequence. I could not see what would have happened if she had lived; maybe other bad things would have happened. The fabric of our destiny is very tangled and I might not understand why some things have to happen, but I was never meant to understand the fate of people, just to see it. So from that day I never tried to prevent anything from happening.
One day when I was about fourteen years of age, an envious princess of the water clan slipped something into a cup and offered it to me. I knew what she did, of course but I had to drink it anyway because that's what it was supposed to happen and it is very dangerous to try and change that. So I drank that poison and I immediately felt drained. I was crumpled on the floor when my mother's guards found me. My mother called for all the healers from our realm and other realms but there was nothing they could do, my spark was dying. That was very dangerous because without a fairy spark no one could live in Faery.
When it was obvious that I would not recover, my mother arranged for a few of her most trusted guards to take me to the human realm and build me there a temple dedicated to the god Apollo, with the hope that when my father saw me he would be able to help me. He came to me one day, and he told me he could not give me a spark; he was not that powerful, only the king of the gods, Zeus, his father, had the power to create life and magic as powerful as the fairy spark. So he went to Zeus to ask him to help me. But Zeus is a very capricious god and he decided to toy with Apollo for a while because he hadn't admitted he had a child - me - as soon as he found out. So he sent Apollo to do some impossible tasks in order to win back his father's forgiveness.
But the flow of time is very different for the gods, so what seemed to him a few weeks, for me it was many years, because I became mortal, human. Because I kept my gift for prophecy I became very sought after by many humans that needed guidance. During this time my mother and my brother went to find the fairy water princess that poisoned me, and doing so they started a war with the water fairies. They fought for many years but the water fairies were very devious and they managed to send an assassin that killed my mother. My brother's grief was endless. Not only had he lost me, and I was his closest friend, sister and adviser, but he had also lost our mother at a very young age. The other clans of fairies were very doubtful that such a young prince would be able to lead them, so they chose their own leaders. After ten years of war, my brother managed to defeat the water fairies and kill the princess that poisoned me, but she had a young child and he spared the child because of his young age and innocence. It was a very big mistake, for when the child reached maturity he assumed the leadership of the water fairies and became a most dangerous enemy for my brother. My brother remains the leader of our clan - the sky fairies, and he still is."
"My great-grandfather? He is your brother? But that makes you…"
"Yes child, I'm your great-great aunt, but you must never tell anyone about that."
"Yes, Milady. But what happened to you? How did you become a vampire?"
"After many years of being the Oracle of Delphi - that was the name of the temple that my mother's people built for me - a very beautiful man came to me one night. I knew who he was, I was waiting for him. He was a very old vampire by the name of Godric and he had heard of my gift and came to offer me immortality. I told him I was ready and so I became what I am now."
"But didn't Apollo succeed in winning his father's forgiveness? "
"He tried to do that for a long time after I had already become a vampire, and when he finally completed all the tasks, his father informed him that now I was a vampire and it was impossible for me to receive a fairy spark for our races were not compatible. "
"He tricked him."
"Yes, my child. The gods are very powerful and very vengeful. Don't ever make a god your enemy, for they will never rest until they have their revenge."
"Enough for tonight my child, the dawn is approaching and I have to go and rest."
"All vampires rest during the day?"
"Yes, as soon as the sun comes up all the vampires die for the day - that means they are asleep. Because I am so old I can resist the pull of the sun and I can wake during the day, but it takes a lot of effort to do that."
"Milady, are there other children here?"
"Yes, my child, there are many gifted children here; this island of mine is both sanctuary and school for very special children, gifted children."
"Do you think I'll be able to befriend someone?"
"You will have two great friends my child, but you must know that you are not allowed to tell them anything that I told you tonight. No matter how much you trust them, they must not know of our connection."
"Yes, Milady" I was so happy I could have jumped on one leg around her.
"Asukina, you will have many teachers and you must learn everything they teach you, but there are some things that I will teach you myself, so we will see each other every day at sunset."
She rose from her chair and went though a big door on my right. Immediately a woman dressed in long white robe came to me and bowed deeply.
"Your highness, please follow me."
I rose from my cushion and went after her. I noticed that someone had taken my backpack and my luggage but I decided not to ask anything about it.
We walked through many long corridors until we finally entered a big room decorated in white and gold. My backpack was on a big wooden chair upholstered with white and gold velvet.
"This is your room, your highness. Your luggage is already unpacked and all your belongings were placed in the closet to your right. Your bathroom is through this door to your left. If you need anything, pull the bell rope and someone will be here to help you. Have a good sleep, my princess."
And with that she bowed deeply and went out of my room closing the doors behind her. I was so stunned I couldn't move a muscle. This was my room? It was so….. I don't know… royal? And I had my own bathroom? And that woman bowed to me. And I had a bell to ring for help… Everything started to seem like too much, so I decided to think about everything after I'd had a good sleep. So I went to the bathroom and my mouth hung open. It was almost as big as my bedroom and it was tiled with white marble and in the middle of it was a big… pool? … filled with water. On the right side I noticed a sink and a toilet - both heavily inlaid in gold and in a corner were some armchairs and something that looked like a couch with a small table in the middle. On my right was a big glass door with white silk drapes that led to a terrace.
I undressed and got into the pool and felt like I was reborn. The water was so good; not too hot, not too cold, and just great. After I washed myself head to toe I brushed my hair, brushed my teeth and took a silk nightgown that was laid on the bed for me.
I got into bed, closed my eyes and I was asleep almost instantly.
That was the first time I dreamed of him.