The Other broke the strained silence, asking “Do you know why you have not yet been summoned before The Council?”
Xia poked her lips out, willing herself to be, for once, cordial and humble. She settled on word answers for the interrogation that she knew was coming. “No,” she answered simply.
“The Council is concerned about your level of ability. Your Taint appeared earlier and is stronger than we have ever seen. If you are not properly trained and controlled, the possibility of your rebellion against us will rise.”
“You must study with proper supervision.”
“Yes.” Xia started to wiggle her toes and clench and unclench her fists. If this session did not cease soon, she was afraid that her patience would run out and she would snap, risking pain and punishment by speaking her mind.
“You will remain in this room, under guard. Your meals will be delivered to you, and one of us will always be watching. Always,” The Other stressed.
Yes,” Xia hissed through her teeth. She felt the air soften as The Other vanished. Groaning softly, she stretched her limbs and stood. She paused, listening, to make sure that The Other was really gone. Satisfied that she was alone, she walked to her bed and flopped down. She pushed up the left sleeve of her shirt and stared at the first of her Three Marks of Taint.
On the underside of her arm, running from her wrist to the crook of her elbow, was a series of complicated, interlocking symbols. They were written in a language not seen in this land in millennia, and appeared burned into her milk chocolate skin. They appeared on the twenty-sixth day after her birth, Xia was told. Her mother was ordered to give her to The Council for observation, but she refused. After packing a small bag, she fled with baby Xia in tow. They were successful in evading capture until Xia’s twenty-sixth month, when the second Mark appeared.
Dropping her marked arm, Xia raised her other hand to trace the small, serpent-shaped mark that rested in the hollow of her throat. When that was discovered, as the story goes, the townspeople forced them out of the gates at weapon point, where The Council’s guards were waiting. The armed men and women took the two females into custody, cruelly separating mother and child. Xia vaguely remembered the incident. She remembered screaming and trying to bite the arms of the warrior that held her in a vice-like grip. Explosions, crying and screaming sounds filled her young ears. The next thing she remembered was waking up in a hard, cold bed. Alone.
The Other pounded unwanted knowledge into her over the years: that she was the sole cause of her mother’s death, and that the destruction of the town was her responsibility alone. Her third and final Mark of Taint appeared that day. Her eyes, formally a soft brown, morphed into glowing blue orbs, and her enter body crackled with electricity when she was angered.
Shaking her head, Xia shoved her memories away from her and slid off the uncomfortable cot. Her bare feet thumped the floor as she crossed the short distance to the door. Twisting the knob, she narrowed her eyes at its resistance. Taking a deep breath, she focused on the steel lock. Sending a wave power into the barrier, the lock disengaged, just seconds before the door exploded in her face.