Chapter Six Darkness Falling
"Ayna?" Dominic said gently.
Ayna's wings were folded around herself, huddling her form. #I'm sorry... I'm sorry, don't hurt me, don't send me home...#
"Ayna... Ayna, no. I took you in, and for as long as you are with us, you are in my care." He cupped her chin. "Look at me. Look at me, Ayna, please."
#I called her... I called her, but she didn't reply... she didn't hear me, she didn't #
"Ayna. Listen. Listen. We will find her. We will get her back."
#Me...# Ayna whispered. #It was me... I should have helped, I should have helped them...#
Dominic put the question aside. Later.
"Shh... shh, little one, shh. I'm here. We're here."
Ayna folded herself against him. #Please... Xeffy...#
Then only the sound of sobbing.
Dominic held her then.
"I'll do it."
Magnus paused. "Hm?"
"I'll do it." Sandra repeated. "I'm close enough. I'm of Allie of her flesh, her mind, her soul. Her twin. If I'm not close enough, no-one is."
"I would prefer Ayna." Magnus observed. "After all, the twin bond is closer than almost any other."
"Closer than you think." Sandra said coldly. "They're not twins."
"I know." Magnus set his staff aside. "I am not so unskilled as to miss the signs of correspondence of alternity. Ayna is Xeffy correct?"
Sandra hesitated, then nodded.
"A Xeffy who led a different life, took a different path, before she arrived here. Before she met you. A counterpart. An alternate version." Magnus walked around the pattern he'd traced, considering it. "From a world of... a world of what, I wonder? Most definitely a world of fear and hatred, for one such as her. A Siren born to a family of Muses? One who bears all of the Sirens' signs? Yes... A mirror world. A dark mirror. And I do not think your mirrors know kindness well..."
Sandra was silent.
"We are lucky, I suppose." Magnus remarked. "I do not think she suffered much physically if nothing else, they would fear the spilling of kin-blood. But one does not need to wound the body...
"She is whole, in body, mind, and soul but not unmarked." He glanced over at Ayna. "She would be our best choice... but if not, then you or Dominic, for family would be close enough. Someday you will have to tell me how it came to be that a Siren and a shapeshifter were born to the Muses... There. Done.
"It is ready."
"Our love for the ones we've lost, yes." Dominic said quietly. "I am a father. I was a husband. What do you think became of their mother?"
"I'm sorry, old man..."
"I have my daughters," Dominic told him. "I have my studies. And I go on."
"Has it occurred to you that three possibilities have been suggested? Those lost, those left behind... and those we have." Eighth said.
"The rose you cherish. The flame that guides you. The key that opens the heart..." Dominic glanced over at the circle, as Sandra and Magnus waited. "Ah."
He turned to Ayna. "Ayna... Ayna, it's okay. Sandra or I can complete the spell. You don't need to do it."
"Here you go." Eighth bent down and gave her a hanky.
#Thanks.# Ayna sniffled again, wiping her eyes.
She blew her nose.
Then she looked up, eyes flashing.
#Let's do it.#
Magnus "Ninety per cent alcohol, it burns well. Varne, take North, Ayna, you are South, I take East and we need a volunteer for West. Now for the painful bit."
[Magnus produced a fifth chalice and then a knife. Slashing the knife along a vein he proceeded to fill the chalice with his blood. His hand glowed faintly as the cut healed.]
Magnus: "By the way congratulations on discharging that thing. It might be all of an hour before it recharges. That or a day, it depends on how well the screen generator works. Since that was designed to take care of alarm systems I have no idea how it will work in this case. Just to make my position clear, I have accepted your 'Bread and Salt'. I am committed to your side of things until this is over."
Varne: "Lord, you forgot something."
Magnus: "Yes I did. The position of West involves some risk and must not have a blood connection with Xeffy. It would be far easier if all we wanted was her soul, but since I am trying to get her back intact..."
Varne: "Are you sure you want to do this, the cost after all?
Magnus: "I have accepted their food and drink, implied contract and all that, as you pointed out."
Varne: "But Lord "
Magnus: " Don't call me Lord, Varne."
The summoning spell, now nearing completion bothered her most, but, like a nightmare's shadowy menace, she couldn't pinpoint exactly why it bothered her. There was something they were all missing forgetting leaving out.
Her eyes lighted on Ayna: terrified yet resolute, blaming herself. It was something Ayna had kept on saying something no one bothered her to ask her about.
Eloise couldn't stand it any longer. "No!!" she shouted at the group inside Magnus's circle. "Stop!!! This is wrong!"
Magnus turned to her, his eyes flashing. "Do you realize," he asked, his voice as sharp as the blade which had just drawn his own blood, "how dangerous it is to stop a spell once it has begun?"
Eloise nodded. "I do," she said. But she did not back down. "But much more dangerous, I suspect, to finish it, at least now."
The blood rose in Magnus's cheeks. "Are you suggesting I'm "
"No. No," Eloise cut him off. "I trust your motives... If not exactly pure, they are noble. It is your method that worries me." She turned to Ayna, ignoring the sputtering from Magnus. "When you tried to call Xeffy before," she said, "...you said you heard voices plural."
Ayna nodded, uncertain.
#Two no... Three.#
"Three." Eloise paused to take this in, see if it fit anywhere in the overall picture. No such luck. Yet.
"How clearly did you hear them?" She was counting on a theory she had that a siren's ears had to be at least as clear as her voice. "What can you tell us about them?"
#One was Xeffy's voice, and one was a grown-up's voice That one I heard as I was running away, saying something like 'wake up', but...# Ayna shook her head. #I don't know... It was a voice but it wasn't, I couldn't hear it any place but inside my own head. Maybe I just imagined it.#
"Those are two voices," Eloise prompted, what about the third?"
Ayna shook her head again. #It was nothing. I must have imagined it.#
"Come on, Ayna!" Eloise prompted again. "There must have been something someone real. You mentioned that there were multiple voices before more than once."
"What are you getting at?" Dominic demanded.
Eloise shook her head. "I'm not sure. But if Xeffy is with others or if or if "
"Or if her mind is shattering into different voices?" Sandra asked, having been there.
"Right," Eloise said, grimly, "... just like Sweetheart's mind is shattering. If we do a summoning spell now, how do we know we'll only get the part of Xeffy we think we know? What if we end up pulling her apart?"
"Why am I not surprised by this? I decide to have a quick walk round a few trees and suddenly I'm lost in the middle of the big big big forest. Next thing you know I'll trip on something and end up crawling around, feeling the ground and screaming "My glasses! I've lost my glasses!" "
A finger poked him in the arm.
~You're being silly.~
"Sorry. It's either that or I cry like a small baby, so I decided silly was the best option."
~Good. If you'd started crying I may have had to slap you.~
Gordon was very relieved he hadn't gone for the crying option, as he didn't like the idea of getting a good smack round the chops on the best of days, the fact she was currently wearing armour...
"I'm sure if we keep walking around we'll meet up with someone eventually, that's usually the way these stories go isn't it?."
He looked back and Silence was no longer there. He looked forward again and where had been a forest clearing was now a large, deep valley with a bridge crossing it. A sign at this end read "Toll brigde, 1 gold coin."
Standing beside the sign were a young boy (about nine, scruffy, ever-so-slightly shifty looking) and a small girl (about five, cute, hugging a small plush troll).
The boy rather unconvincingly wove a pointy stick at Gordon.
"I'm afraid I don't have any money on me right now..."
"Pull the other one mister, it's got bells on!"
"It does?" Gordon couldn't help quickly looking down at the boy's feet, just in case.
"If you don't pay the toll, you don't get across the bridge!"
"I'm serious, I don't have any money on me at all, if my coat hadn't changed into these cheap robes and there was an ATM machine about it wouldn't be a problem..."
"Then tell us a story."
"You're a storyteller aren't you?"
Gordon looked at his scruffy robes. "Ah, so that's what I am?" he mumbled.
"So if you don't have any money, you can do your job and we'll think about letting you across."
"Er..ok...any particular kind of story?"
"A good one!" said the little girl.
Gordon thought for a minute. He was kind of out of stories right now. At least, the sort suitable for a young audience, the last thing he wanted to do was scare them. He momentarily thought about trying to run past the boy, he was only small, probably couldn't stop a large Gordon at full tilt, but something told him he should play by the rules in this worldlet, lest something bad happen.
He lifted his head and looked into the children's eyes and started to tell a story...
Beside the sign stood a man (early-thirties, scruffy, extremely shifty looking, eyepatch, carrying a big cutlass) and a woman (late-twenties, scruffy, shifty looking, carrying several daggers.
~I'm afraid I don't carry money with me.~
"Ah, that is a shame, but also a good thing, we are rather out of practice you see." the man said, waving his cutlass meaningfully.
"If you manage to defeat us in battle, you may cross. Otherwise..." he left the rest unsaid.
Silence slowly drew her swords...
"Her parents loved her, but they were scared, for the kingdom in which they lived, like all too many others was afraid of the unknown, the different. The rulers of the kingdom decreed that anyone who was too different would be taken away. Nobody was sure where they went, they didn't care, they had been taught to believe that different was wrong and they didn't question that. At least, most of them didn't."
"One day, the rulers sent people to take the girl with no voice away. Somehow they had found out that she was different, although her parents had done their best to hide her. In the middle of the night they smashed down their door and came in and took the girl away."
"That should have been the end, however...the girl with no voice was saved. Saved by others like her, others who were different but had somehow escaped or been missed. They lived in their own secret kingdom, far, far out to sea. The commoners knew of these people, the ones they had been taught to fear and as is usual, they gave their fear a name. They took a word from their language which meant 'outcast', 'alien', 'fallen'. They named their fear the Voord."
"The girl with no voice grew up with her friends. Although she had no voice, she learnt how to talk with her hands and to write. She fell in love with books, for they took her to other places and worlds she knew in her heart she would never visit."
"As she grew older, she became a fierce fighter, helping defend her friends from those who feared the different. She also kept reading and reading, learning many, many things. She discovered through the books that the stars in the night sky were suns just like the one which rose above the kingdom each day, that worlds with their own kingdoms lay beneath those other suns. She dreamed, dreamed that someday she would be able to travel to and explore those kingdoms."
"One day a traveller came to the kingdom. This traveller called himself the Doctor. He called himself this because he would travel to places and always try to make things better. He discovered the rulers of the kingdom were building a magic engine, that would impose their will on all the people of the kingdom. The Doctor knew that this was wrong and so with his friend, Katherine, decided to stop the rulers from doing this."
"While they were doing this, they met the girl with no voice. She joined them in their quest and helped them in their fight. It was a long and difficult voyage, but by the end, the engine had been destroyed and the people of the kingdom shocked by the truth behind their rulers."
"For their rulers were also different. They hid their weak, feeble bodies behind automata, taking their anger and despair out on the others who were different, in some terribly misguided attempt to hide the truth about themselves. They thought that if the people saw the rulers hated the different, that they couldn't possibly be different themselves. I admit, it had a warped logic behind it, but that was no excuse for their actions."
"The old rulers were deposed, new rulers chosen by the people of the kingdom were appointed. Apologies were made, many, but not all were forgiven. In the middle of this, the girl with no voice stood, for it was she who had revealed the faces behind the false rulers, indeed, she was one of those chosen to join the new government. However, she knew that was not what she wanted to do. She knew the Doctor travelled to those other kingdoms, worlds and suns and so she asked him if she could go with him."
"To her delight, he said yes. And so, the girl with no voice realised her dream. To travel, explore, discover and experience all those countless other worlds."
"And that, is where the story ends...for now."
"It doesn't matter!" said the boy. "You're still not getting across!"
"Whyever not? Of course I suspect you're only here to keep us away from something..."
Suddenly, two screaming figures raced past Gordon, past the children and onto the bridge. The boy looked startled.
"Mum? Dad? What's happened?"
The man ran back slightly "Let them past son, we've done our best at delaying them, but they're just too good!"
"Delaying us? From getting to what?" shouted Gordon.
"We did it for your own good! There's something else in here, hiding just round the corner, every corner. We tried to keep you away from it, safe but it's too late now!"
The boy ran after him, the woman called out to the little girl to follow quickly.
The little girl tugged on the edge of Gordon's robes.
"What happened to the girl with no voice?"
"I do believe she just kicked your mummy and daddy's arses..."
The girl just giggled and tottered off after the rest of her family.
Gordon turned to see Silence walk out of the forest, helmet in hand, grinning.
"You really enjoyed that didn't you?"
~Whatever makes you think that?~ she signed, innocently. ~So now what?~
"Well, we could try ripping it's face off to see if it's actually Mr. Farnsworth, the proprietor of the safari park?"
~You're being silly again.~
"Or we could get out of here very, very quickly?"
~That's a much better idea.~
"But if we run through the forest I suspect we'll just get lost again and find Mr. Farnsworth there around every corner, so I think we'll do something it's not expecting."
"Hand me a book, one of the ones with big pages."
Silence delved into her pack and brought out a book.
"Asterix & The Roman Agent? Good choice."
He lay the book down on the ground, open. He tore a couple of pages out.
"Sorry about this."
And placed them above the book.
Silence looked at him, wondering exactly what he was doing, but handed over the key anyway.
"At this moment I am really hoping this book is from the TARDIS library."
"Well, thank goodness for that."
He stuck the key into the book, twisted and opened up the book and the extra pages like a trapdoor. He looked up to see whatever it was that was after them getting nearer.
"Jump in!" he shouted. Silence jumped...
...and landed on the warm, wooden floor of the console room. She looked down, her clothes had returned to normal. She only just got out of the way before Gordon landed in a crumpled heap beside her. He quickly leapt up and closed the "door" they'd come through.
"Don't ask how I did that, I read it in a book once, I think..."
He looked round the familiar brown wood and golden brass of the room, the paper drums and oscilloscopes embedded in the walls, the roundels providing light, the bookshelves, the six sided console in the center with the beautifully complex cylinder of light and glass slowly rotating.
He saw a cup of tea and a Jaffa Cake on the edge of the console. He picked them up and mouthed a silent "Thanks." at the ceiling.
As he munched on the biscuit, he pondered. The lounge turned into a fantasy worldlet. What if other rooms of Sweetheart have turned into worldlets as well? What if there're party-goers in the rooms at the time? He quickly scoffed the rest of the biscuit and downed the rest of the tea before racing out of the TARDIS with a quick shout for Silence to follow.
They made their way through the car-park. From the outside at least, everything seemed okay, but that was always the way wasn't it? They made their ways over to the main doors, opening them slowly. Silence peered inside.
~...~ Silence shrugged.
Gordon popped his head in the door and looked.
Ruthie was, in Gordon's opinion, one of the nicer people he knew, and there are certain consequences which follow from such matters. Exempli gratia, when a fellow Nice Person is borne down on by the forces of all-consuming hell-born Evilosity, it is "all for one and one for all", it is "pranged is pal without partner to protect 'em", it is "ultimate blasphemy from the nether pits of Nofunheim, ten whacks with a big wet fish, rapid!" Wherefore to see a chum of that very description being borne helplessly towards the door in the claws of a seven-foot harlequin-scaled frog-demon, is to feel excessively indignant with Silence for not dicing the reptile on the spot, and to feel acutely one's immediate lack of the now-proverbial Kenwood Chef.
Gordon surveyed his options, and found them but indifferent good.
Ruthie waved to him.
"Hey! Gordon! Silence!"
Gordon readjusted his perceptions. Whilst we are throwing out generalisations faster than were they shares in Arthur Andersen, we will take the opportunity to remark that an attempt to dance a minuet to Wang Chung's immortal Everybody Have Fun Tonight resembles a contested abduction in so many points as, at first blush, to be scarcely distinguishable from same. Even when one partner is no excessive multiple of the height of the other. But enough generalisations already! For such, with added size differential, was in fact the exploit in question.
"Nay, fair maid," the demon no, wait, got it, it's a Terileptil! boomed, releasing her and bowing courteously to the new arrivals, "here's ill greeting for one who's 'scaped the dire dreamworlds for better craic with thee and thy merry boon-fellows! Sir Gordon: I've heard much of thee, second maybe in these joyous lists but to Dame Eloise herself! Honour's mine i' meeting. I'm Fastolf, called Swan-Drake Fat-Man Boreas Uncle-Dragon You-Bastard! and many song-feet more. Thy Muse and I were blooded together in sharp battle against the arch-Spamite, boldly running away in concert where big guns reaped small honour." He looked Silence up and down with a grave appraisal that only a non-humanoid could have achieved without offence. "But soft, man! name our queen of swords, who walks so solemn-graceful at thy side! lest mine incontinent tongue address her ere's granted introduction, mauger all gentle usage and custom?"
"He means, 'introduce Silence!'," Ruthie mouthed surreptitiously, having had a while to install the proper filters.
Gordon did this thing. Fastolf bowed yet more deeply, and gave a huge throaty chuckle.
"Since hast drawn my measure's measure ere 'tis rightly measured, I'll beg thee measure for measure, and the next dance e'en with thy fair companion, as I surrender thee mine with mine, jewel-small, jewel-precious. Dame Silence: though iwis thou must still be still of speech, still wilt not grant me measured motion in this next dance's style? or first wouldst steal a drop of still's juice to unsteel thy mettle thews? (Slivovitz we boast, and Highland Park withal; and Polish Spirit eke, but there's stale jest indeed!) I'faith, needs not retort upon the metal of thy steel, should Spa "
Silence drew the great reptile into the dance, leading.
"So where," asked Gordon, scanning the room in vain for his literary partner-in-canon-crime, "where's Yokoi got to?"
The Magical Mechanical Musical Box, or something looking suspiciously like it, was playing Blur's Girls & Boys. Silence and Fastolf, intrepid heroes both, were dancing something suspiciously like a pavane to it. Ruthie drew a deep breath.
"Well, excuse me!" huffed a voice from over Gordon's shoulder.
Ruthie's eyes went very wide...
Which was quite understandable, given Yokoi was wearing a bunny suit (complete with ears).
"Some people should not be allowed to do makeovers." Imran muttered. For some reason, he was dressed as a cut-price Phantom of the Opera, complete with top hat, opera cloak and half-mask.
"Kill me." Allie appeared to be the diva to Imran's Phantom, clad in something pink, flowing and not-quite-revealing. "Kill me now."
"This is evil." Someone had apparently decided that Charley would make a good Valley Girl, and had outfitted her accordingly. "When I get out of this thing..."
Danel had got the Spike treatment leather duster jacket, black shirt, tight trousers. "Would it be too much if I admitted I still have no clue what's going on?"
"Yeah." Katherine had gone for the now-legendary 'Andy Pandy' look made famous by Sarah Jane Smith.
And all of their outfits were glowing.
Ingo, le singe blue, marched to the front of the little group, and snapped off a "Heil Hitler" salute.
"Okay, who decided to restage 'The Producers'?" Gordon wondered.
"Actually," Yokoi began, " and believe me, I wish this was 'The Producers' this console room has been commandeered in the name of the blue simian race and their noble ally, the Trousers of Spectral Uncertainty. Reconfiguration beginning in five... four... three... two... one..."
And everything changed.
"..." Gordon said.
It was about all he could say, really.
"No evil here," said Merlin.
"Why are you talking at me?" Lancelot asked.
"Because, being the wettest blanket I know, you're probably passing judgment on all these people right now for their sinful good time."
"I don't see any food fight stains on your clothes," Lancelot retorted calmly.
"You know, we came here to party," Guenevere complained. "Yes there are spam demons running around, and yes there is some kind of large device threatening the very existence of the being hosting the party but those things are in hand by very capable adventurers."
"We're sworn knights," objected Lancelot. "We must help."
"Who's to say that the disrupting the natural progression of the party isn't the ultimate goal of one or more of the monstrous evil assaulting us?" Nimue suggested, in the way she sometimes had of seeing the obvious ahead of everyone else. "Or that that disruption wouldn't be disastrous to the spacetime continuum in ways that we can't possibly imagine?"
"I can imagine quite a lot," Merlin huffed.
Arthur made a decision. "We haven't been able to do much else arriving on each scene just too late. But Eloise is our hostess and takes that duty very seriously but is unavoidably detained."
He'd persuaded Lancelot. "Protection of the innocent is the purpose of knighthood. Let us insure the continued "
"Incoming!" Guenevere snapped. From an interior door several blue monkeys had entered the faux barn, with many more visible behind them in the corridor.
"Console!" Merlin leapt to the refreshment table nearby. He moved a bowl of potato chips six centimeters closer to table center, then stirred the jalepeño dip rapidly three times clockwise, and there were no more blue monkeys.
"Where did they go?" Arthur asked.
"Nowhere," said Merlin. "I didn't do anything to them I altered the time-capsule's architectural configuration. This is no longer the console room, which is what the monkeys were after no doubt. Our partiers are safe, and our hostess and her fellow adventurers shall have this celebration to return to when their quest or quests are done."
"Was leaving a TARDIS' console room to a bunch of hostile monkeys the right thing to do?" Nimue asked.
"No other way to secure the party," Merlin said. "Allie and her group had Ingo under wraps when we left them and they can nobble him again; and we'd just agreed what our part of this adventure is."
"Right!" Guenevere grabbed the stack of paper party hats began passing one to anyone who didn't already have one.
The Grey One sighed exasperatedly. "Carrie and I were trying to answer the Riddle of the Spam how a once-innocent form of junk-food, indeed a traditional component of hearty London proletarian fare in the shape of spam fritters, acquired the mystical taint which allows the ultimate evil behind the Order of the Cross-Post to literally incarnate itself in admittedly rather crappy forms of just such meat."
"In sentences that are not also paragraphs," Seventh specified. "Besides, it is well-known that the Curse of Monty Pythia is to blame but best not to speak of that. No, best not."
"Indeed," returned the Steward, twisting the umbrella-point aside with a scowl, "since closer research indicates that such is itself a mere manifestation of a pre-existing condition, and that the Pythia gag is merely your pulling the Gallifrey retcon leg again, it were best not to speak of that at all. I had Carrie finesse her ability with PLOT holes to visit... to all intents and purposes, the actual past, which admittedly proved a bit tricky; and I couldn't get through at all. Carrie being an AI, she's much better at virtual personality transfer. Be that is it may, the end result is that we narrowed down the Evil Event quite a lot. Spam was not accursed when it was invented in the 30s. Spam was accursed shortly after the end of the Second World War. Something in there happened that laid spam, and perhaps only spam, open to that evil which has since usurped its very name!
"We focused down more closely. In the process, we seemed to draw some hostile attention both there and Outside Continuity but seeing as the point of this was to give our side a chance at doing a Genesis of the Daleks job on the Spamites in the first place, that was only to be expected. I brought Fastolf on board when things really started getting rough; and the heavy supernatural artillery won't come near Celia. All I had on the other end was Carrie, though, and our comms set-up was a lot less than perfect.
"And, round about late 1944, we located the choke-point, and thereafter were stymied!" The Steward pounded a fist into his hand by way of emphasis. "Some agency was working against us, something smarter than we were. It took us far too long to work out, from all the evidence we had, that what was up against us was your own Fifth aspect, popping up precisely everywhere he shouldn't and scotching everything we tried before it got started!" He combed his hair back with his fingers in a harassed manner. "He was working under an alias, and he seemed to have clout with the authorities. Finally I agreed to confront him about it; and apparently more to my surprise than Carrie's, it turns out that neither he nor you remember anything about the whole shebang!
"I have no idea why she thought that 'Begone!' dodge would work. Like I said, our intertemporal comms have all the bandwidth of a dodgy telegram service, so we've had to keep things kind of economical. And PLOT holes in this matter are getting to be like standing in a spam circle sacrificing spam to St Spam of the Make $$$ By Spamming Your Neighbours and praying for Spamites chips and Spamites, so we tended to avoid the inconvenience wherever possible..."
He brought out his antique Lenin-shaped pewter nosepicker, and applied it to its proper function meditatively. "If you have any idea why you might have spent years in the 30s and 40s establishing a deep cover identity so you could protect the Source of Spam from all comers or why someone who was clearly your companion round about then should be summoned the moment I jog his-your-whatever-the-bloody memory about it well, I'm in the social market for suggestions!"
But events at the summoning circle derailed the conversation rather abruptly at that point...
Eloise gasped. "Oh no " If she'd interrupted it at the wrong point
"No..." Magnus said. "No, this is not what should happen. We were interrupted before the dangerous part, the spell should have aborted... It would have been painful, mind you, but still aborted."
"...Then what is it doing?!" Eloise asked. "What if it calls Xeffy back now?"
Dominic turned to Magnus. "Magnus ?"
Magnus shook his head. "I cannot stop it. Something has usurped my control."
:no, not now... don't do this...:
:the walls come tumbling down...:
:light and dark call us back once more...:
^DON'T DO THIS!!^
:all things shall be revealed.:
^DON'T DO ^
Then Morgan was alone.
;Fare thee well...;
Brighter and brighter still, until they could not stand to watch, but could not avert their eyes.
For a moment for a terrible, eternal moment the whole room burned with chill red light
and then it stopped.
The voice was Xeffy's and yet not. Older, edged with bitterness and loneliness, a choral undertone underlying her words.
"Two are become one, and oh, what has come of it..."
She raised her head, let her brown hair tumble down her back.
A smile flashed across her face wolf-like, dark, touched with mischief.
"We are what we were meant to be, and we are one at last."
The face was older, too, the gawkiness gone from her movements.
Beautiful. Starkly, coldly, beautiful, arrayed in clothes that befit a queen.
Xeffy as she might be might yet be.
"Who are you?" Dominic's voice was angry, afraid a challenge to the stranger. "WHO ARE YOU?!"
She tipped her head on one side. "And what a father it is, who does not know his child's own secrets..."
Dominic's voice was a snarl. "Don't you dare. Don't you dare..."
"And why not?" she inquired, her smile dark. "Why not, indeed? For this you did not know...
"Light and shadow together, made one.
"I am Xeffy. I am Anya.
"But I am neither.
"I am Xephanya.
"And I am here."