Marianna trembled violently, furiously denying the scene she saw before her. Cold water ran through her veins as the impact of her actions slapped her in the face. She had orchestrated the death of her only child, and to what end? The monster she feared still walked the realm.

She felt all of her years as Xia’s transformation ended. She peered up into the blazing blue orbs of the winged serpent standing over her and swallowed audibly.


“Silence,” Xia hissed. “You are unworthy.” The young woman tested her new wings, flapping them slowly. “I must say, this feels rather nice.”

The Child squealed with delight. “My heir!”

Xia dipped her head. “Mother of my new self, I honor you.” She frowned. “Wait. How did I-”

“You are truly my heir! Not only did you free your own power, you absorbed the language and history from me!” Her eyes shined with glee. “A wondrous, truly wondrous occasion, it is, it is!” She extended her own wings and dropped to one knee. “Child, will you rise with me, and rule this realm?”

Xia was prevented from answering by the heavy sound of running people. The Child scowled, and rose, staring over the heads of the remaining worshippers.

“Council guards,” she announced bitterly. “Shall we flee, or shall we fight, or shall we slaughter them in their boots, my heir?”

Xia answered, “We will flee. But first, I will take care of this one.” She jerked her head in Marianna’s direction and smiled cruelly. The Child nodded and pumped her wings. She rose off her feet and flew toward the the intruding humans.

The Council guard rushed in, with Uno in the lead. He spotted a flying abomination and aimed his weapon at the creature. His finger squeezed the trigger; at the same moment, a raspy voice commanded, “CEASE!” Uno felt his finger slip off the trigger against his will. He turned, lowering his weapon, and dropping to one knee.

An ancient woman, held upright by a large male, staggered forward. “You will not harm them,” she addressed Uno.


“You will not harm them. They are the embodiment of The Truth. I though we had lost Her Grace eons ago.” The old woman’s voice wavered, and the light in her eyes faded slightly. She shook herself, and continued. “You are my guard; you will obey my command.”

Uno felt his head bob up and down, as if it were no longer attached to his body. “Yes, Lady,” he choked.

The old woman squinted across the stone temple. She spotted the wrinkled traitor quaking in fear before The Heir and smirked. “Marianna Iskandra,” she called out. “You failed in your duty, though I suppose this can be considered a success, after all. You were to ensure the survival of The Heir by ensuring the survival of The Vessel. You chose to go against my orders, but you see? The Heir, The Truth, cannot be so easily defeated.” She chuckled. “Come to me, Xian Duvonte.”

Xia bared her fangs and hissed, “No.”

The old woman nodded as if she had not heard. “Yes, yes, quickly now. Come on. And you, Marianna, will spend the rest of your days in a cage for derelict of duty.”

Marianna collapsed and whispered, “No.”

Xia growled. “I said, ‘NO.’ What part of this does your aged brain not process? I will not accompany you, and neither will this woman. She is mine.” Xia looked down at her grandmother, and tried to summon an emotion other than hatred. Digging deep into her inherited knowledge, she found the perfect solution.

Marianna began to weep. “Kill me quickly, please. I know it is selfish of me to request this of you, but please. I am an old woman. I won’t last long in that cage waiting for me. Kill me know, and save us all time and pain.”

Xia smiled a terrible smile. “‘Won’t last long’, you say? I can fix that for you.” Grinning, she darted forward, so swiftly that her grandmother did not have time to react. Mouthing a series of complicated words, she flicked her now dripping claws and shoved them into the older woman’s shoulder.

Marianna’s eyes grew wide when she felt the sting of the injection. The droplets of alien fluid chased themselves through her body, and rushed toward her brain. Her eyes widened as the information stored itself in her mind. Feeling nauseous and fearful, she closed her eyes and waited for the death that would not come.

Xia rose rapidly into the air and flew toward The Child, who was waiting for her at the entrance to the temple.

“With this, are you satisfied?” The Child asked her Heir.

“With this, Iskandra Xian’s death will never be forgotten as long as the ones who killed her live. Never.”

The Child chuckled. “Never is a very long time, child, it is, it is.”

“Indeed, it is,” Xia agreed. “Let’s go, Mama,” Xia said to The Child as howls and gunshots rang out behind them.


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