The strength of the yellow rope dug into Ekatari’s arms like a serpent’s body. She knew what terrors would soon lay before her, despite the fact that she had not even left her realm of dreams. Shock had left her eyes long before she opened her lids; anger morphed into apprehension and dread. Where soft skin should have remained untouched, red marks bloomed. The bindings strangled her forearms, her waist, her legs. Helpless, struggling, Ekatari began to weep.
She convulsed, she squirmed. She bit at her captors as they covered her mouth and her eyes. But it didn’t matter; no one would stop them, and she knew where they were escorting her.
They were more than prepared for a fight; twelve men stood around the bed of this meek 12 year old girl. Her father and brother idled by the door, unable to stop any of the actions before them.
Ekatari’s mother stood beside her, tears bulging across the rim of her eyes. She cut a lock of the girl’s uncombed hair. Her fingers trembled, and her body moved robotically. In shock and disdain, she hurried to the sands outside of her house to sob and scream for it all to be a dream. The ocean rushed in to greet her, a comforting pulse that drenched her knees and feet.
Ekatari’s parents allowed their only daughter to be stolen without her consent. There was no forced entry. No blood was spilled to attain her, no knife was held to anyone’s throat.
There could be no open wounds for this ceremony, and the less physical evidence of a struggle; the better. The people of the island had drawn a name, and Ekatari’s family had to oblige, or suffer the consequences of a volcanic eruption.
The mouth of the volcano brimmed with lava, it’s own personal form saliva. As it bubbled up in anticipation, it released a rush of scalding breath.
It’s hot enough to roast all of the fish along our shore, Ekatari thought. What will it do to me?
Her white dress of honour was now a mark of damnation. The flowers hastily pressed into her hair were nothing short of oxymoronic. She felt like a bride, but instead of a husband, she was marrying the fires below her.
Like a piece of fruit, full and vibrant, she would soon be stripped of her bounty, her life. The thought made her wonder why this had gone on so long, why so many of her relatives, peers, and her family’s friends from childhood had been sacrificed like this. Ekatari realized she did not know a single name of any of the previous sacrifices. Would hers be forgotten, too?
It wasn’t long before they prayed for their offering to be enough to satiate the volcano spirit’s wrathful desires. Hardly hesitating, Ekatari was unbound and tossed into the Earth’s innards. She screamed and cried, trying to grasp at walls she could not reach. The heat burned her skin, blistering it, as she fell. Betrayal marred her thoughts.
I will be forgotten.
She hit the surface of the magma, but the fiery explosion did not kill her. She lost consciousness after her head slammed against its surface. She was abandoned by the people she thought loved her, abandoned to appease a mountain of fire.
Her family mourned, and the hair Ekatari left behind was buried solemnly by her mother. Her friends sighed in relief when they awoke to the sound of cheering, but cried when they realized one of their playmates had undeniably died a horrible death. They tried to forget, and most did by the time the next sacrifice came around. It was their only option.
But Ekatari’s last wisp of breath was not wasted, its energy did not dissipate into the bowels of an unforgiving volcano. It was ireful and morotic beyond human intelligence… and this emotional torture is what saved her from complete annihilation. Her complete transformation was fueled by raw anger.
Her pain was not lessened, and the death she felt did not cease in any way. She did not die when she fell unconscious, no, she was rebirthed. A portal between death and immortality ripped at its neatly stitched seam, and the cocoon of life was breached.
Magma broke through her flesh, it cascaded past the features on her youthful face. Though dense and unforgiving, the volcano did not want the years she could have lived, it did not want to simply feed on her small, untouched body.
Down, down down; Ekatari was pulled as if she was a stone thrown into a lake, and the dense molten rock swallowed her bones as if their puny form could defeat it in some way.
Far below the Earth’s inflamed surface, almost 200 women dwelled within the lake of fire.
They rushed to the side of Ekatari, unseen, but felt by her fried nerves. They touched the damaged pieces of her desolate vessel. Their kisses, caresses, and words of love built joint after joint, and the organs of her mortality were restored to a new kind of glory. Her fragile skeleton hardened and grew. The skin that had been demolished soared back into existence, now blackened and as smooth as polished granite.
Her body prickled, but did not burn like before. A new sensation budded around her eyes. Like silt settling to the bottom of a pond, the ash and smoke cleared, and Ekatari could see her saviours.
The virgins from the past sacrifices stared back at her, but they were not the children they once were; their bodies were mature, some supple, some thin, but all incredibly awe-some in their own way. Some of the women were petite, others muscular and boyish. None of them appeared to have aged past twenty. Ribbons of beauty were sampled throughout their appearances, and they made themselves blatantly known.
The women's eyes glowed with something more than human, more powerful than any emotion Ekatari had ever seen or heard about. It was love, unapologetic and real.
The experience across their faces displayed no innocence or fear from the day of their ceremonial death. Nothing of their past remained, nothing, except the strings of fate that had driven them to the depths of the volcano.
They moved through the lava fluidly; gracefully. Their hair fluttered when they moved and it glimmered as brightly as their smiles.
They backed away from Ekatari finished repairing her body. She looked around, more shocked that she had not died than the fact that none of these other women had either.
Am I dead? Is this the spirit world?
Some of the women held onto one another’s waists, others shamelessly kissed their partners under their crisp jawlines or across their necks. There was something natural- beautiful- about their expression of adoration and romance.
A figure appeared, pieced together from shadows that formed the volcano’s structure. Her movements were lithe, breathtaking, and sensual. She held onto the Ekatari’s trembling fingers as she shimmered, delicate yet bold... divine.
A bubble erupted from Ekatari’s shoulders as she released the dust that remained from her former body. A sound like thunder roared about the women, and they celebrated with laughs, tears, and clapping; Ekatari had officially been accepted as a cherished sacrifice, ensuring her village yet another year of safety...
“I am Venama. I am the one who begged for you, and the others, to be made into sacrifices. I pleaded for beautiful virgins to hold in my arms, to nurture, and to transform... I knew your fate, and I knew your heart before you ever knew who I was. Your pain was temporary; worth every death you may have suffered on Earth; you have taken the pains of your future descendants: the pain of murder, abuse, and crimes committed with hate and malice.
"Welcome to the fires of Venama. Welcome to the legion of sapphic fire goddesses.”
The realm around Ekatari burgeoned with energy, and her livid state was replaced with ecstacy. Her form was now complete, and marks appeared around her body; cracks and swirls that revealed a convecting light beneath her flesh.
Her hair sat over one shoulder, long, and burning in fervent curls. A sheer, buttery yellow stream of fabric was weaved between her elbows. She recognized it immediately; it was the metamorphosed remains of the rope that once bound her…
Twelve years passed, and Ekatari found herself thriving in the company of the other women. The pain she had felt on that fateful morning had long since disappeared, but she held onto the memory of it as a treasured relic. “You have taken the pains of your future descendants”; it became a common maxim for her to repeat to herself. Descendants… She contemplated what her future may bring in the coming years.
She found joy in the company of the other goddesses. She deciphered many of their names, and who each one had been in her community. Ekatari felt familial love swell inside of her for each of her companions, but knew there was something evident and important missing. The longing for romance ran through her heart, a craving she could not fill with anything else… Ekatari wanted a female lover, but no one struck her with the intense passion that each of the couples expressed.
Where is my magmatic lover?
Each year, the spirit of Venama would pull herself from the walls of their enclosement, and welcome the new member. Ekatari lived for these moments when she could see the deity before her. She felt guilty for not focusing on their relief, or the marriage many were met with.
Venama was simple, yet entirely breathtaking. If Ekatari could have trapped the feeling she was consumed by in these brief monents- if she could have kept it inside her hands and held it forever- she would have.
The new arrivals almost always had a partner waiting, or would have one within the next two or three years. No one waited longer than that.
Ekatari grew lonesome after five years had come and gone, so she ended her search for a person to call her beloved. She was told it would be obvious, evident. You would feel it in the flaming marrow of your bones.
On the thirteenth year after her day of sacrifice, the Venama was not appeased. A virgin was not sacrificed, a lover would not be thrown in. At this point, Ekatari was the only empty-hearted member of the legion. She knew this was the end of the sacrificial period of her original community’s timeline. A new era was budding, and yet she grasped for it to hold off a little longer…
Her friends all comforted her, shared their whispers of encouragement and hope. Ekatari felt brokenhearted nonetheless. She shook her head, gently waving the angelic yellow sash between her fingers.
All of the women rose as the spirit of Venama’s silhouette swirled into existence. Ekatari wondered why; no one had been sacrificed, at least not yet. It was nearly noon, and the sound of cheering had not consumed their ears.
In Venama’s hand was a piece of stone, melting in her palm. It’s bright pink colour was a new sight for Ekatari, as well as everyone else; their eyes were so unused to anything but orange, yellow, red, black, and brown. Ekatari stood in the center of the volcano; she became suddenly aware of being the center of everyone's attention. Venama looked at her with soothing charcoal eyes.
The powerful goddess approached her, with the pink rock puddling in her hand. She pressed it between Ekatari’s palm and her own as liquid poured down their wrists.
Ekatari understood; Venama was her beloved. She always was, and always would be.
The sudden rush of sadness and fear collapsing pushed her to embrace Venama. Their lips touched, and fire swirled around them. A spiral of white flame sang through the magma, reaching far above them.
The volcano’s walls began to shudder. The sound of rock tumbling to the ground filled the women’s ears.
Smiling, Venama said, “It's time to share our blessing with the world. Today, we release our breath across the Earth, and fill it’s people with the Fire of Venama. Over many years, every country- every island- will be flooded with our presence. The courage to love and be loved as we have will cross every ocean, and crush fear. Rise, and find the ones who burn for love like ours.”
The volcano’s walls crashed all around them, but the miles of magma that once swam above them drained into the ground before it could overtake the island. When all that was left was a crater, the place where the Venamian goddesses thrived, they stepped out, finally leaving their unsuspected chrysalis.
The entire village had gathered to make their sacrifice (who had escaped, but was found a few hours later). They stood near the base of where the volcano had fallen away, with their mouths stretched down to their neck, wider than the pit before them. Their eyes were full of fear, fear that had never been felt before, nor has since.
The awe they felt in the presence of the goddesses- the confusion of how they had gotten there- brought them to their knees. They can’t have ever been human, they thought, they are not anything we have ever known…
Their gazes did not fall upon the divinities for long; the women dispersed in the wind, flooding the sky with the sweet smell of ash and perfume. Laughter, and the sound of euphoric contentment, crushed any pathetic shriek made by the onlookers as they went on their way. Truth and acceptance carried them far away, holding the hands of their partners.
Women who loved one another suddenly revelled in their sexuality; the Fires of Venama sprouted across the globe. They appeared in every era, stealing headlines and prompting discussion: good and bad.
Their descendants felt pain, they suffered under the knife of unfounded hate and oppression. But the Fires of Venama felt the physical suffering of their anguished souls, and brought havoc onto their tormentors.
Ekatari and Venama still sit upon the mouths of volcanoes, and the lips of their daughters. They cherish their bond and romantic adoration. Their blessing do not lack in variety and quantity.
Beware, all cold-hearted and cruel menaces of the Fires of Venama; they will warm your heart,