Prologue

With one cosmic magical explosion, it was done. The 108th Fruit of the Divine Tree, sealed off and protected from Soa's Fate and its own existence. The tree's globe—its life-giving center—now hung low in the sky, a gruesome moon glowing from the remainder of a body left within. The being's soul rested in his hands, captured in a glass sphere and irrevocably separated from its other half.

"Be careful, Melbie."

The man holding the sphere sniffed. "I've got it under control. No need to worry, Charle."

He shoved the sphere into his coat. Charle smiled, but only briefly.

"I know," she said, "but if you aren't careful, you—or we, rather—may be in danger. And the world, too."

"The only danger here is allowing ourselves to be dominated. This prevents that."

Charle's brow furrowed. "Melbu, you know as well as I do that Soa's plan—"

"Like I give two shits about Soa's plan! As far as I'm concerned, the Divine Tree is dead and Soa's been thwarted. I answer to no one."

"Don't say such things!" Charle gasped.

Melbu whirled to face her, his amber eyes flashing.

"And why not?" he snapped. "Is it sacrilegious? Well then, dear sister, you shall fall with me because you sealed the god as well."

Charle's eyes flew wide. "It's not what I meant! You must be careful because—"

"Because of what? The power? Because the Winglies are now the all-supreme beings?" Melbu snorted and turned to his sister. "You're afraid that we just defied Fate, aren't you? That we spit in the face of God!"

Charle swallowed visibly and nodded. Melbu smiled, smugness written in his expression.

"With the 108th species asleep forever, we needn't worry about such trifle things. It's thanks to us that the world isn't going to end."

Charle straightened her posture, clenched her fists and cleared her throat. Her brother towered over her physically, but rarely did she allow him to best her mentally.

"At least for now," she said. "There is no guarantee the signet will hold permanently. We are but mortals, Melbu. We cannot defy Soa's will forever."

"I can."

Charle rolled her eyes, and moved toward her flowerbed. The man-eating roses slept fitfully, their purple-red petals closed against the night. She knew it annoyed her brother that she cared as much for plants as he did for control.

"People will ask, you know. About the moon," Charle said, patting one of the plants. It gurgled and appeared to smile, a row of pointed teeth visible beyond its lips.

Melbu blinked. "I'm aware. Tell them something believable. People are ignorant and stupid. They are inclined to believe what we tell them."

Charle sighed and said, "Very well."

Silence fell between the siblings. Kadessa's vivacious nightlife was unusually still tonight.

"Anyway, it's quite late," Melbu said finally. "I've much to do tomorrow."

He turned away and glanced at the sky's new moon. Despite the ugliness it contained, the thing was really quite beautiful. It sported an incandescence independent of the sun, sparkling with the turquoise magic that had placed it in the sky.

"Good night, Charle," Melbu said, and walked away, whistling.

Charle watched him go and shook her head as he poked a hand into his coat to stroke the sphere.

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