Renata Drusilla- daughter of Lucius Renatus Drusus and Marcella Drusilla- had been given one of the highest honors a girl in Rome could receive. She was selected by the Pontifex Maximus to become a priestess for the goddess of the hearth, Vesta. Renata, at the age of six, had been chosen to fulfill a thirty-year duty to the goddess as a Vestal Virgin.
"Where are they taking me, Papa?" Renata asked her rather, tugging on his tunic.
Her mother's eyes brimmed with unshed tears. "Oh, Lucius... I always knew her perfection would grant us this."
"My darling Renata, you are to go with Rufus Gellius. You will be well cared for and live a privileged life." He patted his daughter's head lovingly, upset to part with her but excited for the prospects.
"Why do I have to go? I don't want to live away from home. Please! Rufus, sir, I want to stay..." Renata looked frightened and Rufus understood but he had five other girls to pick up and was on tight schedule.
Grasping her hand and pulling her to his side, Rufus smiled at her. "Come, now and say goodbye to your parents, Renata. They are no longer your family."
Tears escaped her as she kissed her mama and papa, sure that someday she'd see them again. Little did she know, she had just become one of the most powerful women in Rome. She was led to a round temple, the Temple of Vesta, near the Forum Romanum and given a room. Soon, an older woman wearing an elegant dress and with hair in the style of a Roman bride came inside and sat near the young girl, wrapping her arms around her.
"Welcome, child. You've been given a most precious gift. Someone is fetching some food for you. Are you hungry?" The kind woman asked.
Renata did not reply. "I'm sure you are. My name is Flavia Gemina and I will take care of you, dear girl. What shall I call you?"
"Renata Drusilla. My papa is Lucius Renatus-"
"You needn't worry about your Papa, my dear." Flavia smiled at the young girl. "You are free from his potestas, now."
Renata's eyes widened at this piece of knowledge. "I am... free?"
Flavia nodded her head and kissed the girl's temple. "Renata, you will enjoy splendors that few women of Rome will ever know. When you grow older, of course. For now, you are still in training, where you will stay for ten years. Then, you shall have my job keeping the sacred fire lit and in ten more years, you shall train your own Vestals."
"You're going to train me?
"Yes, child." Flavia stood up to leave. "The food will be here soon. Make sure the slave treats you well. You are one of us, now, and are held to a higher caliber. Any disrespect should be reported to me. Understand?"
Renata nodded. "Thank you."
A few short hours later, five other girls were in the temple being told of their new roles in society. Renata shared her room with a girl named Vitellia Larcia. They quickly grew to be friends and helped each other to cope with being away from their families. Little Renata certainly was looking forward to her new life but she had no idea what was in store for her in the future.
The Romans cheered in victory. They had just captured a group of Greek slaves who had attempted to rebel against their master. One in particular, a blonde, lean man, Demetrios, had been sentenced to death, for not only had he rebelled, but the master's wife confessed to the Roman guards that he had seduced her and taken her in her husband's bed. This was punishable by death, as the man was a Roman senator, and it was a disgrace to treat him in such a manner.
Demetrios was put into a cell while he awaited his execution the next morning. The truth was, he couldn't be bothered by it. He had nothing else to live for, after all, but himself. When he'd been enslaved by those damn Romans, he wanted nothing more than to lash out in revenge but he found a more clever way to do that. He slept with his master's wife thus disgracing her and her husband. It wasn't as good as shedding a Roman's blood but it certainly did the trick.
He'd been quickly arrested after he and the other slaves stopped obeying the family's orders and were reported. And now, as he sat there on the cold, hard ground, he contemplated his life and how insignificant it was. He didn't matter here. He was a stranger from a faraway land, not one of their own. Beneath them. And tomorrow, the crowd would shout in praise as he was mauled by a lion, crucified, or decapitated. The Romans were a nasty lot but at least if he was to die, it would be because he had done something against them.
He had never fit in anywhere to begin with. He would die and no one would miss him. No one knew him, after all, or cared to. Just when he thought that his mistress was beginning to care for him, she ratted him out. He had now learned not to trust anybody but what was he to do? After tomorrow, no one would ever spare a thought to him again.
Renata had been awoken the next morning by Flavia who had dressed her and prepared her to go out. She was told that they were going to buy a dress for her as all Vestals had to be impeccably dressed at all times. While her father had been a wealthy man, she did not have the correct garments that would suit her new position.
They had gone to the forum and purchased some lovely fabrics in all colors for the young Vestal to wear. Her hair had been done as Flavia's in the way of a Roman bride with braids, golden tassels, and a small adornment.
On their way back, however, Renata and Flavia came upon the strangest sight: a man was being dragged across the forum by two Roman guards to be publicly executed. A large crowd had already gathered and Renata halted looking at the poor man and feeling immense pity for him. He was obviously not a Roman and even if he was an innocent man, as young as she was, she knew he would not have a fair trial. His looks were that of a Greek. She recognized the typical characteristics because her tutor up until she had become a priestess had been Greek.
The man craned his neck and looked at the little girl, managing a smile. His smile nearly broke her heart and she let go Flavia's hand, running through the crowd to get to the executioner so he could see her... If only he saw her.
Flavia panicked. "Renata! Come back!" Quickly, she lifted her skirts and began chasing after the little girl. "Oh, you will be the death of me, child."
The crowd soon caught sight of little Renata. Her appearance was unmistakable: she was an important girl, a priestess to the gods. They started to murmur and soon the, executioner caught wind of this and looked at the girl. His shoulders slumped as he had been looking forward to doing his job but the rules were clear. Should a criminal run into a Vestal before his execution, he was to be pardoned. And this time would be no different.
Demetrios had been resigned to his fate, having had so long to think about it, and when the crowd began to dissipate, he grew confused. There was about to be an execution and was there anything that the Romans loved more than blood? He certainly didn't think so. But then he, too, caught sight of a little girl. A young, blooming flower that would surely grow up to be very beautiful, her looks eye-catching even at such a young age. She would be the object of desire for many men in the future, of that he was sure.
It was only then that he took notice of her clothing. She was a Vestal Virgin! He had heard about this cult, one in which the women selected were highly revered. The executioner's voice broke through his thoughts.
"Unchain him." The man turned his head to Flavia who had finally reached Renata and begun scolding her. "Keep a closer eye on her, Vestal. We do not need any more unnecessary pardons.
The guards did as they were told taking the chains off of Demetrios' wrists and ankles, which were red and swollen. Once they had left him, he slowly walked to the pair of women.
"Excuse me." Flavia placed Renata behind her.
"Listen, you were very fortunate that my charge has a good heart and decided to spare you, lest you'd be dead right now." She pushed her shoulders back and eyed him seriously. "But that does not mean that I shall allow a criminal, spared or otherwise, to speak to Renata. Her purity will only be tainted."
Renata peered out from behind Flavia's legs and gave the man a small smile. "Calm yourself, I simply wish to thank the girl."
"You're quite welcome." A small voice replied to him.
"I am Demetrios, Miss Renata. And I will never forget your act of courage and sympathy." He smiled back.
"She hardly sympathized with you, Sir." Flavia frowned. "It is just the foolishness of a child. Now, if you will excuse us, we must be getting back to the temple. Good day."
18 Years Later
Eleazar, Felicius, and Demetrios strode into the Colosseum with great confidence, Aro having secured them prime seats for the day's games. The objective? To locate potential additions to the Volturi guard. Eleazar was there to find the talent, Demetrios to follow it, and Felicius to force them to accompany them, if need be. Demetrios' mind had been quite fuzzy regarding his human life but it had not escaped his notice that it was in this city that he'd been spared by a young girl. She was likely his age by now, assuming nothing had happened to her.
"Why are there women in this row?" Felicius asked, his voice booming. "They should be in the back, should they not?"
Demetrios followed Felicius' gaze and landed upon a woman dressed in a dark violet dress, a veil covering her face. He immediately felt a tug towards her. His talent, tracking, allowed him to recall those he had met before and he had certainly come across this woman's particular tenor before. He just could not recall where.
Eleazar turned to Felicius. "Calm down, my man. They are Vestals. The only women in Rome to have any sense of power."
The name was familiar to Demetrios. He'd heard it mentioned before. Ah! The girl. The one he'd met all those years ago... she had been a Vestal. Could it be? The one he felt the pull towards?
"Do you foresee any talents in them?" He asked Eleazar, his eyes fixed on the veiled beauty. What had been her name? Rufilla... Rubellia? R... Renata. Yes, that was it.
Eleazar concentrated for a moment and nodded. "Yes. One among them exudes avoidance. She may prove to be useful, something of a shield."
"A shield." He repeated. "Shall I track her then?"
"By all means." Eleazar replied. "Follow her but be wary so that you are not seen. Also, the Vestals are not permitted to associate with men in the manner you so enjoy. Do tryand control yourself, for once."
Demetrios said nothing but glanced sideways at the one person who was responsible for him being alive right now. He owed her his entire life, his entire existence. Later, perhaps tonight, he would show her his eternal gratitude.
For now, however, he turned his attentions to the games which were about to begin.
No matter what she did, Renata could not shake the feeling that she was being watched. She hardly had any acquaintances, usually preferring to keep to herself and stay out of social situations. But, on this particular day, Vitellia had convinced her to attend the games. It appeared that Caesar, Rome's beloved dictator, was going to put on a show that was unforgettable.
Her eyes danced around the crowd, searching for the culprit that had been watching her but she found none. How very strange, she thought to herself.
Vitellia leaned over to her close friend. "Why, if we weren't bound to this role, there's many a gladiator I'd like to pay a visit to."
She looked at her friend shocked. "Vitellia, watch your mouth! You're absolutely horrid." She laughed. "You know what I think every time we come to a game? That we're all morally impoverished people who revel in the suffering of others."
"Well, others revel in our suffering, Renata. Other women are free to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh while we are not." She frowned. "It isn't fair."
"Yes, well, in two decades' time, you shall be able to, as well." Renata replied.
"But how awful to have to wait to lose our virginity for so long. Other girls are married with children already, younger than us, and here we are, withering away. Our beauty fading, along with our stamina. Oh, you're right, we'll make fabulous wives someday." The sarcasm in her voice was obvious.
"Vitellia, can we please just watch?" There I go again, avoiding the situation. "I'm sure our husbands will love and cherish us and if they do not, they will at the very least show us off. It will be fine."
Demetrios smiled to himself. So it was Renata. He would go to her tonight, at the Temple of Vesta, and he would stake his claim on what rightfully belonged to the Volturi.
Upon sundown, Demetrios quickly made his way over to the Temple of Vesta. He hadn't needed to ask for directions- not only did everyone know where the revered temple was, but he only had to follow the tenor of Renata's mind. With a purpose to fulfill, he walked up the stone steps to the temple and knocked lightly on the wooden door, holding back his strength so as not to knock down the door. He was far past the stage of being a newborn but he still had to be careful when using his strength.
A woman with light, pinned-back hair opened the door slowly.
"Can I help you?" Her eyes flitted upwards. Flavia stopped in her tracks and nearly fell backwards in shock. "Di immortales... you haven't aged a day. What are you doing here?
Demetrios had not really thought of what he would say but gave her a heart-stopping smile. He now looked like a god- why not cater to the human's misconceptions? "I have come for one of you. Renata."
The woman before him gasped. "What are you?
"Impatient, right now, if I'm being honest." He leaned against one of the pillars and glanced at his hands. "Where is she?"
"Guarding the flame, as is her duty." Her eyes slowly reached him. "Forgive me, I do not understand how... you were just a... and now you're here, looking like a statue of Adonis himself."
"Thus were the gifts granted to me. Gifts I wish to bestow upon your charge, should she allow me." His red eyes had grown slightly darker and he fought for control of his bloodlust. He was still a young vampire, only a child in the eyes of his masters. A scoff almost escaped him at the thought of going from having one master to three but at least he was highly prized by these. No one dared to cross him, for they knew he was lethal.
"I shall fetch her for you. Wait here. And please be aware that she is an active Vestal, now. Meaning that if she is caught abandoning her post and to speak to a man, no less, whether you're human or not, she will be severely punished."
A few moments later, he overheard the conversation between the two, once again thanking Aro for making him what he was and giving him so many useful talents and skills.
"But who do you mean, Flavia?" A woman, he presumed to be Renata, asked.
"You might not remember him. A prisoner you saved when you were a child by being in is presence. His execution was nearing and you got him pardoned. You do not recall?" Flavia inquired.
A small gasp echoed through the halls of the temple. "He is outside?" Flavia nodded. "Will you guard the flame? I shall only be a moment."
"If we get caught, it's a good flogging for the both of us, you know!" She whispered angrily.
"I'll hurry, I promise."
With that, he heard the delicate steps of tiny, sandal-clad feet and she appeared to him in all her glory. Dark, wavy and flowing hair pinned back with gold adornments, just like the day he'd met her and as he'd seen her at the games. She looked absolutely breathtaking, had he any breath to be taken.
"Renata." His voice caressed the name by which she was called and she stood there, amazed, having recognized him. "It's been a great many years since I last saw your face."
She paused and crinkled her forehead as if trying to remember something. "Demetrios, yes?"
"The one and only." He replied.
"Tell me, why have you come? After so long, such a small thing I did, for you to come back here and find me is confusing. And how is it that you have managed to retain such youth and..." She visibly and audibly gulped. "And strength and..." Her eyes were wide as she looked him up and down, not before having noticed how absolutely attractive he was. No, not attractive: irresistible. "Beauty.
She had not once had a problem with trying to keep her virginity. She knew it was her sacred duty, one of the only ones she had apart from keeping the flame going. Her actions would define the fate of Rome for if the fire went out for whatever reason or she was found to be impure, there would be dire consequences. This she knew, however, this she could not care about if it involved the man in question. For the first time in her entire life, she started to doubt her ability to perform well as a Vestal.
"I might say the same of you, Renata. You've grown up to be a lovely woman, as I knew you would." He approached her, casually backing her up against a pillar and getting to close for comfort, his hands straying to hold her hips.
She had never been held by a man since she was taken away from her father and now, fifteen years later, here she was, a god himself, likely, holding her as if she were a great treasure.
"No." She whispered. "No, please, get off. Have you no respect for the gods? Or for me? I will be disgraced and beaten, if not killed, for being found in such a compromising position with you, good sir. I am not to consort with men unless it is to make a legal agreement."
"In that case, I propose a legal agreement." He said, his honeyed voice and intoxicating scent driving her over the edge. "And as for your gods? No, I have no respect whatsoever. And I'll tell you why, Renata. Because I've been to the other side and I have conquered death. Why am I still the same age I was when I met you? Because I found a way to cheat death and let me tell you that all of your duties to the Roman people are farces. This is nothing but pageantry and unnecessary." She looked as if she was about to cry.
"I'll have you know that the fate of Rome is in my hands! I was appointed to this position by the will of the gods. My blood is sacred. It is an unspeakable and unforgivable crime to spill the blood of or to lay with a Vestal." She explained, more to herself than to him.
He sighed, rolling his eyes. "You're telling me." Her blood was more than sacred, it smelled like the heavens but for whatever reason, he did not find himself inclined to finish her off. Not because of her silly ideas about the wrath of the gods but because he had likely just met his mate and killing her would not be such a good idea. He would become like Marcus and that was not something that he really wanted out of this life
"I still fail to understand the purpose of your visit." She huffed, annoyed with him but more with herself for letting him get to her so.
"I am afraid it is rather difficult to explain, pulchra. I do not want to frighten you." He told her.
She narrowed her eyes. "Frighten me? Well, you're certainly no thief. What are you, then, a demon? A lupus? A male lamia?"
His smirk widened, his ruby eyes meeting hers for the first time causing her to be taken aback. "I think, in your language, striga would be most appropriate."
"A... a striga." She sighed and pouted her lips. "Well, that's certainly different. What do you want with me?"
"There are more of us. We are very powerful in our world and there might be a place for you in it." Renata gasped. "Do not fear me, Renata. It would be for the best if you agreed and came back with me to our home. You have been chosen.
Anger flared in Renata's orbs. "I have been chosen?" She asked in an acidic tone. "How dare you come in here and try to take me away from all I know? That's all that's ever been done to me, being taken away. First, from my parents to fulfill a duty that I did not choose, one I was, as you say, chosen for. And now, here you are, repaying me for doing the great grace of saving you by choosing me to leave once more. You have a nerve to come here and speak to me so.
This time, Demetrios was taken aback. "Listen. Either you come with me willingly, or my friend Felicius will have to come get you himself. And believe me, I am far nicer, as far asstrigae go."
"And now he threatens me." Renata laughed dryly. "I apologize if I was rude, but I do not take kindly to being ordered about."
"Then let me persuade you, mea tu belliata." Demetrios leaned in and she was overtaken by his sweet aroma, a mix of cinnamon and something else entirely. He was consumed by her scent, as well, one of fruits and flowers. "Come with me and you can leave this duty you do not enjoy behind.
"And how do you know I don't enjoy my duty?" She asked. "In fact, just today I persuaded my friend that this life isn't bad at all. Sure, we are not allowed relations with a..." Her breath caught in her throat at the sight of his eyes. "With a man for three decades, but we will be highly sought after once we're done serving Vesta."
He replied, mockingly. "Ah, so you're content to live that way."
"I am well provided for." She smirked.
"You will be well provided for in our home, as well, Renata." His voice, like silkened honey, was starting to get past her defenses. Demetrios leaned in, his lips next to her ear, cold breath making her shiver. "I will give you two weeks to decide."
And with that, he simply vanished. Renata looked around for him but he really was nowhere to be seen. How strange, she thought to herself. Perhaps he really was a striga, then?
Quickly, she made her way back in to the temple and was met with a furious Flavia.
"You will get us both killed if you ever do that again." She reprimanded .
"I am sorry, Flavia. He simply wished to speak to me." Renata, however true that was, could not conceal her blossoming blush.
Flavia frowned. "Oh, my dear girl. You mustn't be... Oh, by the powers of Vesta, he's left a mark on you."
Why yes, she thought. I think he has.