The smell of the sea, that was what she remembered most. It always smelled salty, and like fish. Not cooked fish, not searing fish sputtering in a pan, but old fish, drying in the sun. She remembered the way the sailors, Biqaj and human, would laugh and joke and swear and spit. She saw them from the window of the hovel she lived in, both her parents working every trial to provide enough silver nels for them to eat some of that old fish, always yestertrial's catch. She remembered the way the walls of the abode felt like a prison, but the docks themselves were home. Among the legs of the sailors, some wooden and some not, she felt like she belonged. She was molded by the city of Ne'haer, bred to be hard like the sailors that came and went. She was salty, like the seas they sailed. She was fierce, roaring waves on breaking rocks. Ne'haer, what seemed like a lifetime ago, was in her blood.
And this woman was in her head.
It had been fourteen arcs since anyone had used the name Tesellios. When her parents left, Anya forsook the name, choosing instead to take aj'Siera, 'the faithless'. It fit her, and her new Biqaj family saw no issue with her styling herself as such. That trial, fourteen arcs ago, Anya Tesellios had died, and Anya aj'Siera had replaced her. Looking into the dead gray of the woman's eyes, Anya memorized her face, every detail, scrutinizing. The high cheekbones, the widow's peak, the slight wrinkles pulling at the edges of her eyes, the full lips... The Aberrant's face was hers now, forever etched into the crevices of Anya's memory. Something about the woman, who knew Anya's name, her true name... It made Anya's hairs stand on end, and the loss of control was immediate and gutting.
Falling back defensively, Anya was shaken. She wanted to scream out at the woman, to ask her to identify herself, to explain herself. Was she a mind reader? Had she some magical power that allowed her to discern Anya's birth? Or was she truly that prepared, one step ahead of a woman she had never met? It was chilling, and Anya's mind raced for an explanation. There was a connection... Miranda, when they'd come to Quacia, had told her that there is always something that was missing when someone knew more than you did. This woman, this mage, she was someone... And she was someone who knew Anya.
And then it hit her. This woman, Miranda had warned her about. This woman had set the fire, the scars of which Anya carried on her palms and in her soul. Morgana Dare, the Coven mage that had drawn Miranda to Ne'haer in the first place. Anya hadn't considered her coming to Quacia, thinking it too obvious or dangerous for a Coven mage to come to call. But she was here, Anya was sure of it, and the look in the woman's eyes was all that Anya needed to know that she was correct.
"Morgana Dare." It was a statement, not a question, but Morgana's reaction confirmed it nonetheless. An inhuman grin consumed her face, and in an instant, she was rushing towards Anya. On the ground, still doubled over in pain, Anya was helpless to stop the woman, but she saw the man rise to guard her. She had to admit, she didn't have much faith. When Dare got close, Anya could smell the fetidness of her breath, could feel the too-warmth of it brushing her face. It was putrid, as if each tooth were rotting to its core. She was correct, Anya was not aware of the man, but she did not claim to know every face in Quacia. Outside of the Enclave, Anya knew very few people, and she preferred it that way. Had Miranda not forced her to spend time with the mages in her Enclave, Anya may not have known anyone in Quacia besides Miranda.
But it concerned Morgana, obviously, and Anya knew that was their biggest weapon: The mute's unpredictability. As Morgana drew closer, Anya tried to recoil, but couldn't. Instead, the breath blasted from Dare's lungs, wafting in a nauseating wave over Anya's face. The edges of her vision blurred momentarily as unconsciousness threatened to steal her from the moment, but then she was back in her own body, staring into the bulging eyes of the Aberrant. When she fell back, Anya scrambled backwards, away from the choking mage and her horrid breath. She pushed to her feet, bending her knees to prepare to fight the woman. The wind stilled, quiet and sad, and Anya understood the choice that Quiet had made. Reaching a tattooed hand out, she laid it on his shoulder, silently insinuating that he no longer needed to command the wind. Instead, the two now stood side-by-side, staring down at the Coven mage whose breath was slowly returning. She sputtered and pushed to her feet, gracefully, with a baleful glare.
"You think that, because I offered to share my secrets with you, I won't kill you, bunny?" Her voice was mocking but cold. She stared hard at Quiet's face, measuring the determination behind his eyes, before turning back to Anya. "And you, you think this runt will save you? I've traveled a long time, searching, for you and yours. Do you really think that I would have come this far without a little... assurance?"
The word made Anya's skin crawl. She knew that the woman probably had accomplices in the city, hidden away as was the crux of the Coven's operations. Suddenly, Anya felt eyes everywhere, but more than that, felt the rage inside her build. The embers caught spark in her chest, where the heat rose to her cheeks. She wanted to scream, to cry out and hit Morgana, to kill her... The burnt skin of her palms itched suddenly, reminding Anya of all that Morgana had done to her, had taken from her... And the dam broke.
Fury fueled fists, and Anya advanced upon Morgana with hatred in her eyes. Her right arm swung, then her left, a barrage of blows that took Dare back, but never landed. Instead, the woman danced gracefully away, laughing in mockery as Anya kept coming. To the Defier, the Coven mage was taunting her, pulling her closer and closer in, but rationale brought nothing to temper the forge of her anger. She knew she was outmatched, and likely outwitted, but Anya was powerless to stop it. She Called the wind to speed her steps, to push her farther and faster, to close the gap between she and the laughing sorceress. When she drew close, Morgana simply darted away again, and again Anya pursued. There were two options. Kill Morgana Dare.
Or die trying.