123 A.D. A hidden cavern near the waters of the Blue Grotto in Italy.
Tamar shivered with her twelve companions. They were about to attempt their most daring incantation. An opening at the top of the cavern allowed the light from the full moon to shine down on them, illuminating their secret gathering and adding its own power to the unfolding ritual.
Salt water splashed on her from a waterfall in the nearby pool. They'd searched for the water of immortality, a legend that had spread since before her birth. Far and wide, people had spoken of water that could make a person eternal and young.
But it wasn't the water that conferred immortality. It was the creatures that lived inside the water. They were transparent and hard to see, with spongy tops and long tendrils on the bottom that could sting if you got too close. They didn't die. Instead, they could age backward, reaching the end of their life, and then, without dying, start over again.
"We'll freeze to death if you don't hurry." Tamar glared at the man in the middle of the circle. The irony of freezing to death while seeking immortality caused her to stifle a dark laugh.
"The potion must be altered with other ingredients unless you want to come back as a newborn each time. You'll find that frustrating," Jacob said. He was their leader and the best with potions.
Tamar made a face, but huddled closer to her sister, Naomi, for warmth. A circle of salt had been poured around them. Candles were already lit. A large stone had become a makeshift table upon which the coven leader worked. The sea creatures had been pulverized and added to an iron pot. He poured the herbal infusions into the potion.
Jacob passed a sharp knife to the person on his left. "Each of us must contribute blood to the potion or it will fail. The magic is in this creature, but they have no blood. Our blood must bond with this animal if we hope to succeed."
"Are you sure that's necessary?" Naomi asked. Tamar nodded her agreement. Cutting themselves and mixing their blood seemed extreme. What would be the consequences of linking together eternally?
"I am sure," Jacob said, losing patience with their squeamishness. Magic like this had a price, and they all knew it. But the consequences always showed themselves when it was too late.
One by one they sliced the center of their palms with the ritual knife and added their blood. Jacob stirred the concoction with a wooden spoon; it smelled like death. When he was finished, he dipped a silver goblet into the brew.
"We each drink and then we chant," he said, passing the goblet.
Tamar couldn't help feeling pride at the chant she'd written. When they'd all drunk, they clasped hands and turned their faces up to the moonlight. The cavern echoed their words back to them. "Da immortalitatem. Renatus sine oblitus. Numquam moriens. Da immortalitatem. Renatus sine oblitus. Numquam moriens..."
And then they all died.
Tamar jolted as oxygen flooded into her body. Something felt very strange. Had the spell worked? She glanced around at her companions, each of them coming back to life one by one.
"We're all children."