Sara’s legs burned as her breathing grew heavy. She ran deeper into the catacombs, ran until she thought she would collapse and then ran some more. Finally, mercifully, her brother held out a hand to stop.
“We’ll take a break here,” he said. “Catch our breath.”
I’ll make sure the soldiers haven’t followed us, Xon said. No matter what, stay here.
Sara leaned against the wall. Her fingers slipped through a skull’s eye sockets and she screamed.
“Stay away from there,” Hue said. “Sit on the ground if you need to sit.”
She did. “Hue,” Sara said. “Do you think mommy is buried here?”
Hue winced. The Sour Scale had taken their mother swiftly but not before her flesh turned to slush and fell off her bones. Hue kept it from Sara. She was too young and their mother too broken. “No,” Hue said. “She’s somewhere much nicer.”
“I hope so,” Sara said, small. “There’s something about this place. I can almost hear her… I… I do hear her!”
Hue listened. He, too, wanted nothing more than to see their mother again. To hear her voice. He imagined Xon felt the same about Botan. But he knew it could not be his mother. She was dead.
His breath caught in his throat when he heard it, too.
“It’s her!” Sara said, darting off.
“Xon said to stay here!” Hue said, rushing after her.
The voice grew louder until Sara reached the end of a corridor where a woman with auburn hair and a blue cotton dress stood smiling.
“Momma,” Sara said.
“I’ve missed you,” said their mother. “Come. Give us a hug.”
Hue held Sara back before she could dash off. “Who are you?” he demanded.
“Oh Hue,” their mother said with a smile. “Always the protective one, aren’t you?”
“It’s momma, Hue!” Sara said. Silent tears streamed down her face. Her voice cracked. “Isn’t it?”
That’s not your mother. Xon. In a burst of light blue light, he appeared. “You hide behind tricks and deceit, brother,” he said aloud.
Sara and Hue watched their mother fade to dust as Xao lunged forward, snapping and biting and clawing.
Sara and Hue stood awed as Xon sparkled radiantly against the dark, lit sigils across his body rippling as he struck. Xao’s wings, legs, and torso turned crimson, bleeding hatred.
Xao and Xon fought in a flurry of blue and crimson light, faster than either Sara or Hue could see.
In their minds’ eye, Xon told Sara and Hue about Xao. As Xao’s sigils let him read other’s memories, Xon’s allowed him to share his own.
It washed over them in a jumble of images. They were spirit dragons, brothers, summoned forth throughout time to defend against the forces of the Black with their human guardian counterparts. But Xao had been corrupted. He joined the Black and its avatar, Saturion. Xon had imprisoned them both in the egg, where they had slept for centuries under Botan’s care until a man dressed in black stole it. Saturion.
“He used me,” Sara said. “Saturion gave me the egg. He wanted me to open it.”
“Sara, we have to run,” Hue said.
“No,” she said. “I’m tired of running.”
Sara shrugged out of her brother’s grasp and walked into the middle of the melee. “Hey!” she said. A sigil burned bright on her forehead of a shield guarding a dragon. “You’ve made me a very angry girl.”
Light flowed from the sigil on her head as her body began to glow with night blue Dust.
“Sara,” Hue said. “What are you doing?”
She hovered off the floor and when she screamed, a cannon roared.
Opeth, dragging Botan in its mechanical claws, shook the catacombs as it emerged from behind followed by fifteen soldiers.
“Should we run?” Hue said.
“No,” Sara said. “This time, we fight.”