She picked up the photo, handling it carefully. She didn't frown, but felt it should have been warranted. The frame was old, the thumbprints of a long dead artisan still frozen into the soft metal, chilly with ages.

The photo itself was even older. It glistened strangely, a slim tablet about as large as her palm with the fingers spread wide, made in the days when freezing magic over an instant of time had been the most popular means of carving down memories into a physical form you handle. 'Let this do the remembering for you', she had heard propagandists saying hopefully at the sides of the markets where they had peddled the complicated machinery to do this. (Photography had come a long way, in mechanics. The attitudes had changed little. That actually brightened her up.)

Turning it this way and that way, the photo shifted in strange ways, like looking into one of those 3D holograms she sometimes saw at bookstore graphic novel covers. The colors were suspended, part of the photo and yet their own thing entirely, the surreality of it making it hard to look at except directly from in front as was intended.

The woman in the photo looked like a mirror of her. The mark of having been chosen by the gods had been new, then; this was the only difference she could see.

A woman, not yet made hard as obsidian by the passing of years and the passing away of all she knew. The loss of all family, but a few scattered descendants, is to a heart like a pressure cooker is to ordinary materials. Things get hard, and survive it because they are hard. Few friends; those chosen by the gods were not known for their amicable temperaments, and the creatures of the night were mercurial at best. Loneliness had not yet befallen her.

The woman holding the picture stared back at a younger her, unaware that she was imitating the open smile. Her teeth were longer than the girl in the picture, pointed and sharp… and made of glossy obsidian, long fangs almost poking over her lips. Her eyes glowed, the pupils slitted like a jaguar, at least until she closed her eyes and sighed.

She stared, with a frown, at the buildings in the background; the long causeways, the towering stepped pyramids, the massive canals that had been the envy of even the mightiest magical nations rival to her own. And the people who looked like her; the same dark skin and straight hair, born to battle the fearsome things of the jungle and daily beat it back, their hearts burning to give civilization life in a world with stars hungry for all that lived…

She closed her eyes. Don't think about that. Do not think about it-

Thousands of years is a long time, indeed. Long enough for empires to die and leave almost no trace of them. For all they wrought, all their grand creations and mighty works of art to just… fade away. And long enough, certainly, for her people to vanish just as certainly from this world.

All, except for her.

Not for the first time, she wondered what purpose the gods had chosen her, when they had given her longevity, the power of blood and life, and her title (and how she hated it when modern people, oblivious to the stories that shaped her and gave her power, laughed at the title of Glass Hummingbird). She had wondered that for thousands of years, wondered it as her civilization fell and her people vanished from the world, one more magical cataclysm bringing them to the gods in the traditional fashion.

She might go on, wondering.

She glanced at the photo, once last time, and briefly, a sickening thought curled around her, and her stomach churned.

Would she go on wondering... forever?

She closed her eyes. One fist clenched so tightly that the knuckles went white.

She put the photo down.