Siargao, 3rd Month of Madrina’s 23rd year

From where she stood, Siren could hear the boom of the waves as they crashed into the hollow beneath the cliffs. No one knew better how treacherous those waves could be, after all, this was where Siren had spent her childhood–the country where she’d honed her skills, where she’d discovered a joy that exceeded the dream of flight.

Her heart twisted at the look that crossed Adji’s face. They’d worked side by side these past few weeks, and she’d never once imagined that the surgeon was the one she sought. Siren had seen her handiwork firsthand and every single timoran who had passed under this woman’s hands would bear her mark. An indelible stamp to prove that they had passed through the hands of one of Ayudan’s most gifted surgeons.

More than catching her, Siren wanted to know why, but time was running out and the look on Adji’s face sent alarm racing through her body.

Don’t you ever feel it in your blood? Adji said. Don’t you ever wonder what it’s like? Surely the heritage that travels through your veins whispers to you sometimes.

I don’t know what you mean, Siren said. We are the same, aren’t we, Adji? Common. You and I. What other heritage is there?

Adji laughed.

You are no more common than I am. You who display the work of Corazon so proudly on your walls. I’ve seen your body map, Siren. I know what waits in your blood.

You speak in riddles, Siren replied. Come away from the Cliffside, Adji. It’s dangerous there.

Deny it all you want, the woman said. I know what I saw when I looked inside you.

You saw nothing I don’t already know, Siren said.

A flash of light showed Siren the look of pain that crossed the Adji’s face.

They took from us, Adji said. We gave and still they took until we were left with no other choice but to leave. We must hide the proof of who we are while they traverse the skies and the spaces that were once ours.

It’s not my intention to harm you, Siren said. I only want to ask you some questions.

Adji laughed.

It’s too late for talking, she said. No one listened before, and no one will listen now.

Please, Siren said.

Adji backed away from her, inched closer to the edge of the cliff.

Listen to me, Adji said. There are secrets you don’t know about. You think you’ve found your saboteur, but I will tell you this, it wasn’t my hand that broke the timoran.

Then why, Siren asked. Why run?

In the distance, Siren could hear the voices of the others. Finally, they were picking up the trail.

Adji heard them too, and her face twisted into a grimace.

You won’t understand, Adji said. But you will understand very soon.

As in a dream, she saw Adji reach towards her, her body jolted forward and then they were falling, falling through the darkness, falling through the rain, the sea was rushing up towards them and then Adji’s voice was in her ear, chanting a song, chanting a rhythm, strong arms closed about her, and then just when the spray touched her face, they were lifting up and away. Talons gripped her flesh, the arms that enclosed her were scaled and the body pressed to hers was no longer woman, but something other.
Qata, the word whispered through her mind as oblivion took her.

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