* * *

At sunset, she revealed the fire. Fire within her, intensified threefold, mixed with blazes of my own soul. We drank and claimed, fought and surrendered until there was nothing more. Passion of fury or fury of passion? Doesn't matter, dust on the wind. Brushwood turned to ashes, ground turned cold. Pinned down, drained of emotions, I felt its icy touch clutching against my naked back, chilling my bones. Yet, I stayed there in silence, furious and unraveled, even after she left.

"We owe nothing to each other, Cyane." Damn, her good-byes were short!

Ashes to soil,

Moonlight to stone,

I owe you nothing,

Leave me alone.

Ever heard those little meaningless chants as a kid? They get stuck in your head quickly. This one used to be my favorite.

Gone was the young girl I knew . . . ashes to soil. I swallowed back the tears and said my good-byes.

* * *

Before the fire, it was springtime, my fifteenth spring on this land. My body, ungraceful and awkward, craved contact. My midnight dreams were wild horses.

Wild horses... untamed and raving. None of us dared to ride one. None but her. I still remember . . . weapons tossed aside forgotten, long raven hair flowing on the wind like a banner . . . a stubborn moody teen on top of a giant black stallion, also stubborn like its first owner. She is proudly silent, but her dark eyes stare only at me, and speak to my mind "Look, Cyane, I did it!'

* * *

As a child, daughter of our shamaness was an outcast. Her silent and lonely nature did not help the image. Every playground has its villain; just like it has the leader and the rebel. I was the leader and the rebel all at once. She would have made a good villain, except for she wanted nothing to do with others.

When I was younger, I tried to take her under my wing, but getting along with the rest of the group was too hard for her. As I grew older, I tried to court her. No luck there either. Hiding behind silence in her dark and different world, did she know that she was my first love? Was she aware of all the nights she ruled my dreams?

"Shamaness' daughter, what do you know of love spells?"

"What do you know of love, child of the Queen?"

* * *

I wooed her: brought her wild golden irises, decorated her hut's doorway with raven's feathers and crimson beads, sang to her at midnight. I never gotten the much anticipated response. On the morning after I always found wilted yellow blossoms on the ground, along with beads and feathers. Friends giggled behind my back as I stood there, turned down but determined to continue my ordeal.

It was a battle of wills. I got used to following her, she got used to pretending I wasn't there. She was a strange one, that daughter of shamaness. Her mother, Ona, a gifted healer, tried to teach her the ways, but young amazon displayed no interest. Almost every day, she ran off to the fields and her stallion was her only companion.

I watched her out on the open field standing strong against the wind, facing the sky. With her will alone she made the clouds gather and called upon the rain. Using all my skills of a hunter, I quietly creeped closer and froze in awe.

"You have an amazing gift. You will be a strong shamaness of our tribe."

"I am no shamaness, Cyane. I just call and they listen to me."

"You're wrong. I think you should learn the ways of shamaness from your mother."

"I don't want to, daughter of the Queen. Just because I am good at it, doesn't mean I want to do it."

"Still, you are amazing. Can you bring the sun back now?" I sat on the ground next to her and looked up, catching raindrops in my mouth. She smiled cautiously. It was the first real conversation we had. Her silence was broken.

Sun peeked in between the clouds and lit up the fields. We sat next to each other sharing our food like two good friends. Her black stallion grazed nearby.

"What do you want to do when you grow up?"

"I want to be a hunter, Cyane. Mother thinks otherwise, but ways of shamaness are not for me."

I smiled, "I think you will make a good one, Alti. I believe in you."

* * *

But it was not to be. I knew it when I saw her standing over the body of Ona, griefstruck. We lost our healer when I was fifteen winters old. There was no way around it, our tribe needed a new shamaness, and Ona's daughter Alti was the one.

Her mother's garb looked strange on her bony fragile form. She was too young for this, but she bore the weight of her headdress as the weight of her grief, unconquered.

The following night she left with her stallion, carrying only a dagger and some firewood. I couldn't sleep. I listened to the mad howling outside (wolves or the wind, I couldn't tell) and prayed that my loved one will find her way home. Moon was full. Earth was quiet. I always wondered why Ona called the nights like these 'time of crossing over.'

She returned at sunrise, alone without a horse. Bloody streaks covered her face and hands. Everyone bowed their heads as they saw her. Rejoice, our tribe! New shamaness is quick and strong in learning the ways.

I still wonder if she found what she was looking for that night?

* * *

She didn't have time to mourn. I mourned instead, grieving for more than just Ona's death. Every time I looked at our shamaness, I mourned the loss of her dreams and her innocence. She was a child no longer, and she was no longer free. The tribe's needs drained her life every day, giving her only one thing in return. Power. Shamaness possessed unlimited power over the tribe. Day by day she clung to it, for it was the only source to replenish her strength. Like a drunk reaching for another keg of wine, she stretched her entire being toward power.

I tried to talk to her, but she was always busy. It's understandable; tribe required a lot of her attention. Being a shamaness is not a job; it's a life sentence. Her life didn't belong to her any longer.

* * *

It was a beautiful spring day when I woke up hoping for something better. I finally convinced the council to relieve our new shamaness of her duties for one evening. Since the tragedy struck in winter, I didn't have a chance to tell her anything. I needed to, desperately needed to let her know what went through my mind countless nights when I stayed awake. I finally gathered my courage, and I couldn't hold it within anymore. Soon, I will tell her that she is not alone, that I missed her terribly, and that I love her.

I built a campfire and waited by the edge of the field. At sunset I saw her approaching. She changed. Her dark eyes looked upon this world without hope or joy, but she still remained beautiful. I wanted to tell her so much . . . yet suddenly I was silenced by her mouth against mine. In that kiss, my first one, I could taste her essence, the bitterness of control. Total control. And as the night came, I surrendered to her fire desperately trying to believe that I was doing the right thing.

* * *

"I'll give you what you want, Cyane, but you have to promise me something."

"Anything, Alti."

"One day they will make you queen. And that day, my powers will be great, so great it would scare the tribe. Promise me you wouldn't listen to what they tell you, Cyane. Promise me now."

"I promise, my shamaness."

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