Don't Write What You Know;
Write What You Care About -- Passionately!
- Ronnie Seagren
Some people are destined from birth to do great things. Gil Orlov is born in the shadow of totality of a solar eclipse, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. She is the culmination of a carefully planned genealogy begun by her great-grandmother. Gil’s purpose, the goal of her family—defeating a Vision of the world in flames, reduced to a lifeless cinder. But the power she should have is muted or lacking. Gil and her six sisters begin an arduous journey to a place of power high in the Peruvian Andes known as Killichaka – the Bridge to the Moon. They must make it to this ancient temple in time to complete a ritual during the totality of the 1937 solar eclipse. If they are successful, Gil’s powers should be restored—giving her the ability to prevent the global disaster her ancestors warned of. To succeed they must first survive the journey and locate Killichaka. Against them is the environment, the elements, their own doubts and fears as well as the ‘Other’ and a force that would gleefully see the world fall into chaos—an entity known as Supay.
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June 8, 1918
“It’s a girl!”
Amani blinked to focus on the infant raised before the open window as if in offering. Beyond, sun embraced moon amid stars come out in the midday sky, a wedding of light and dark. Cold dread seized her as she beheld the ring of pale blue fire like a halo around her new daughter. She reached for the infant, desperate to shelter her from the destiny ordained by the Vision.
“A seven daughter, Amani! You’ve done it!”
Amani released her breath slowly. The pain eased, but not the fear. This house did not welcome her. Too many shadows prowling the edges, too many whispers behind its walls. She did not belong here.
But Denver was in the path of the eclipse, and home was not. So with her sisters and oldest daughter, she had come. She had used herbs and medicines and her own strength of will to delay labor, regardless of the risk, and then held off the contractions until the eclipse had begun, so that her daughter might be born in moon shadow, possessing the power needed to fulfill the family’s mission.
“She’s beautiful, Mama,” Petra said in hushed awe. Amani’s oldest daughter stood beside her, her gaze fixed upon her newest sister.
Amani offered a weak smile while her sisters busied themselves counting fingers and toes and caressing dark, wet curls. She alone could appreciate the mystical beauty of the eclipse, now that her part was over. The gentle aura touched her like a blessing.
Vera, the youngest of her sisters, leaned over her and whispered, “You have your seventh now. Are you pleased?”
Amani heard the envy beneath her sister’s words. If not for a stillborn infant, Vera would’ve been the seventh. The honor would’ve been hers. If honor this could be called, she thought wryly. Vera wore her bitterness like a woolen cloak, heavy and scratchy, keeping herself within and alone.
Still breathless, Amani answered back in short, broken phrases. “Be glad it wasn’t you. I would not wish this ordeal on my worst enemy.” But what Amani served as reconciliation, Vera tasted as bitter offense.
“So I am now your enemy,” Vera stated, her tone as twisted as her smile.
“You’re my sister and always will be.”
Vera grimaced as if biting into bitter fruit. Once they had been close, and no one loved Amani more, save that she was seventh and Vera was not. The envy that fact had sown grew as each daughter was born—the seven that might have been Vera’s—until the weight of her bitterness had crushed the bond the two had shared.
Amani turned from Vera to face again the preternatural twilight. Moonshadow weighed heavy upon her, and she longed for the return of the sun and its clean, pure light.
Quickly, before the other comes. The thought came abruptly, so alien, she could not believe it her own. Before she could ponder it, though, the pain of labor returned with sudden and insistent ferocity. She tried to curl around it, to contain and deny it. Young Petra stroked the sweaty hair from her face.
“It’s all right now, Mama. It’s over.”
Amani shook her head. “No,” was all she could gasp as another contraction possessed her. She let loose a cry as if the mere sound of her voice could make the pain stop.
The others came to her, once more murmuring encouragement and concern. She looked past them to the window, to the dark hole of the eclipse.
As she bore down, she sought to embrace that dark promise, to tumble into the emptiness at its center and take refuge there. But her sisters held her, gently pressing her back into the bedding, and the moon was too far away.
Her muted groan burst into a scream as she felt something tear. The second baby slid free, slick with blood. In that instant, beads of brilliant crimson broke out at the moon’s rim, corrupting the delicate aura. A blaze of white fire heralded the sun as it emerged from the moon’s custody. Amani collapsed back onto the pillows, drained of energy, emptied of will, gasping for breath that would not come.
“Another girl!” someone cried out. “Twins!”
“What do we do now?” another asked.
“There’s nothing in the legends about twins.”
“This changes everything. Our mission is corrupted.”
Amani didn’t care who said what. It didn’t matter. She wanted only to sleep. She drifted off listening to the strained, whispered argument as her sisters cleaned up the room, the bed, and her own exhausted body.
~ * ~
When Amani awoke, the curtains were drawn against the natural darkness of night. She was alone except for the two infants—one in the cradle prepared for her, the other in a drawer hastily emptied and lined with blankets. She moved her hand across her abdomen, feeling its new flatness, the emptiness within.
Someone entered and slipped across the shadows to hover over the cradle and makeshift bed. Amani struggled to sit up, and the figure turned, hugging a white bundle close to her bosom.
“Vera?” Amani asked in dazed concern. “What’s wrong?” The question echoed in her mind like the pealing of funeral bells. She began to tremble.
“What is it, Vera? Is something wrong?”
“Shh. Go back to sleep.”
Amani listened to the whisper of silence beyond the door, laden with guilt and mourning.
“What’s wrong, Vera? Is it one of the babies?” Her heart lurched with fear. Please, let them live. I cannot do this again! She struggled to sit up, but her limbs felt as fluid as quicksilver.
“Your daughter is fine,” Vera insisted, but Amani would not believe her. Vera crossed the room.
“Rest, Amani,” she said with her persimmon frown. “Your work, at least, is finished.” She leaned forward to bestow a kiss on Amani’s forehead. The bundle shifted, and Amani saw the face of her new daughter. Which one?
Without another word, Vera left.
Even the distant, heavy closing of a door could not break the grim silence that settled upon the birthing room. Amani wrestled free of the bedclothes, then stood panting, clinging to the bedpost. Her skin itched as blood ran down her thighs, and she pressed a hand against the sharp, deep pain in her empty womb. She made her way to the bedroom door, then the hall, and finally leaned heavily against the parlor doorway. Her sisters, seated on sofa and chairs as if at a wake, kept their gazes nailed to their laps. Only Petra dared to look up, and her face was streaked with tears.
“What have you done?” Amani cried out to them. “Oh, dear God, what have you done?” she murmured as the walls circled around her and the floor rose up to embrace her in darkness.