Xia felt her back stiffen, and the crackling lighter faded from her fingertips. She trembled violently, and swayed where she stood. The Other was here, in this room?
The Child smirked. “Marianna Iskandra. You have found us, I see, you have found us. But there is nothing that you can do, for she is mine.”
The Other said, “You wish wholeheartedly that you speak truth, yet you do not. I have not lost.”
The Child’s smile widened. “Ah, but you see? She is almost to me. She was coming to merge with me bu you so rudely stopped her.” Focusing that blazing gaze on Xia, The Child said, “COME!”
Xia felt her legs jerk forward, but her feet did not move. The Other, Marianna Iskandra, had looped a tendril of power around her neck. Xia was afraid to twitch, or even breathe deeply, fearful of upsetting The Other. But, her name was Marianna? Xia’s brow creased, thinking hard. Marianna Iskandra. Where have I heard that before? Iskandra..
She gasped. “Iskandra? My mother’s name was-”
“Iskandra Xian,” filled in The Other – no – Marianna. “I know. I named her.”
The Child clapped, startling Xia. “This is lovely, it is, but we are wasting time. Xia, my Heir, come!”
“She will not,” Marianna answered. “She will come with me, to The Council.”
Xia struggled to speak. “But, The Council – you said – my power -”
“Child,” said Marianna, loosening the rope-like power around Xia’s neck. “Look at me,” she commanded.
“No,” Xia said. “It is forbidden. I refuse to fall for your trickery.”
“There is not trickery. Look at me. Tell me, what do you see?” Very slowly, Xia turned to face The Other.
An old woman stood before her, draped in a black, hooded cloak. As Xia watched, bony, spotted hands pushed back the material shielding her face. Long white hair, carefully braided, tumbled out, spilling down the old woman’s shoulder. Her graceful features were marred by the ugly burn across her brow. Faded blue ink swirled, in an intricate design, down the sides of her nut brown face. Xia flinched and looked away, awaiting the punishment she invited by gazing so openly. Yet, she could not completely avert her eyes; there was something comforting and familiar in the old woiman’s looks.
Drawing herself up, Xia asked The Other, “You..Marianna Iskandra. What did you mean by saying that you gave my mother her name?”
The Other’s face crinkled into a hard expression. “Just what I said. I named her, after I birthed her.”
Xia gasped. “Huh? What – what are you saying? You lie!”
“I do not lie. I, former High Priestess of The Order of Truth, servant of the Goddess – who is, I might add, not this perverted, twisted, child-like creature standing here with us – am named Marianna Iskandra. I gave birth to a daughter some forty years prior to this one, upon whom I bestowed the name of Iskandra Xian.”
“You lie,” Xia said, softer this time. “If you gave birth to my mother, then-”
The Other gave a sharp nod as roars of disbelief rose from the crowd. “You, Xia – no, Xian Duvonte – you are my granddaughter.”