You can read part one of this story here:
Illian was tired of feeling her own hot, moist breath on her face. It got to her more than the constant darkness. She even thought it was worse than the bronze spikes that went through her ribcage, bound her neck on one end, and shackled her wrists at the other end. Being permanently pierced through the torso was uncomfortable, but the swampy exhalations blasting her face every few seconds was torment.
Sometimes she’d hold her breath for as long as she could. She was sure she could manage minutes by now, but the first few breaths after that were awful. She’d get just a long enough break from constantly smelling her evaporated spit to smell it all over again, worse than before. And her heavy breathing would steam up her face anew. It was maddening.
There was a clank somewhere ahead of her, and the creaking sound of the hinges of a heavy metal door. Footsteps approached. They grew louder until they stopped right in front of her. She held her breath again, though this time to listen. It was silent for several eternal seconds.
A heavy sigh shattered the silence, and Illian suddenly felt a hand on the top of her head. The black sack covering her face, that cursed cloth torturing her with her own air, was quickly but gently lifted away. The light of a thousand suns assaulted her eyes.
“Take a moment to adjust,” a familiar voice said to her.
She gasped at how much her eyes stung. “Hello, Philippe,” she said to her captor.
“It is better if you call me Iowis Menarde,” he cautioned her, though his tone was soft.
Illian squinted up at him defiantly, tears streaming from her burning eyes. “Let me ask you something, Iowis Menarde,” she hissed through clenched teeth. “Where does that French accent you wear come from? You and I both know you are much older than France.”
Even just in silhouette, she could see his jaw tighten. “I suppose you think you’re trying to make some clever point,” Philippe replied evenly, “But you’re right. I’m old. Much older than you. And more clever.”
Illian shifted and made a show of straining against her bonds. “Don’t suppose you could help a girl out, oh great high Beres Iowis?” she asked rhetorically.
“Beres means high,” he corrected her redundancy.
“Didn’t think so,” she sulked.
“Well, Illian, as entertaining as this all is, let’s get down to business,” Philippe said with the same humorless voice he’d been using since he walked in. “I’ve come to make you an offer.”
Illian scoffed animatedly, rolling her eyes and dropping her head as far to one side as her bronze restraint allowed.
“Would you like to see Cenzarra?” he asked.
Illian’s demeanor changed instantly. She sat up straight and looked at Philippe with wide eyes, despite the light. “Chenzie? Is she really…”
“She is…alive.” Something about the way he selected that last word didn’t feel encouraging.
“You don’t sound so sure,” Illian said quietly.
He was silent for a long while. “Her cells, much of her body, still lives,” he finally said haltingly.
Illian stared at him, her eyes nearly fully adjusted now. “What does that mean, though?”
Philippe took a deep breath. “It means you may not have completely killed her,” he said, unable to hide his resentment entirely.
Now Illian took her turn to be quiet. “What’s your offer?”
“Doctor Gachet has made remarkable progress in restoring Cenzarra,” Philippe began. “But no one has ever done what he’s trying to do. The more her body is repaired, the slower the process becomes.”
“Okay,” Illian said with a hint of confusion.
“It’s better if the doctor explains. Come.” He stepped aside and waved toward the open door.
Illian looked at the hallway beyond the door that had held her for these last… Weeks? Months? Years? She couldn’t tell. Her life since coming here had only been darkness. Sometimes it seemed like days passed before someone brought her food. There was no way to mark time in this hell.
But now the hallway spread out in front of her like a portal to some other world. She wondered how far it was from here to the outside. She wondered if she could run fast enough. Were there guards? A long, uncomfortable quiet hung in the cell.
“If you’re thinking of escape, I promise it’s quite impossible,” Philippe said, reading her mind. “We are quite far underground, and there are many checkpoints. You won’t get much farther than ten meters.”
Illian shook away her thoughts and stood. Her arms shifted and tugged on the bronze contraption twisted around and through her. It hurt. She swayed and steadied herself.
Philippe made no move to help her. “Those restraints are quite effective against our kind,” was all he offered.
“Bit unnecessary, if you ask me,” she growled through gritted teeth. “You said so yourself. It’s not like I can get away.”
“Hmm,” he answered doubtfully. “Can never be too careful with your kind.”
“Our kind,” she spat.
Philippe turned and began walking toward the hallway. “I’m not like you, Illian,” he said over his shoulder. “That’s why you’re in here and I’m not.”
Illian grimaced at his back and followed him gingerly. Now that she was moving with this bronze monstrosity shaking and shuddering inside her flesh, she was starting to wonder why she had been so agitated by her breath all this time.
Philippe led her through a maze of hallways. They passed many guards standing near doorways or looking through windows. There were combo locks, biometric scanners, and even a section where a guard peeled back one whole side of their faces to make sure their skulls were intact.
Eventually, they arrived at a large room with what looked like very expensive equipment lining every wall. In the center there was a tank filled with some kind of clear, bubbling liquid, and in it was something that looked vaguely like a person. Illian turned away from it quickly and looked at a wall.
Philippe gave her a piercing glare. “What’s wrong, Illian?” He asked venomously. “Ashamed of your own handiwork?”
She glared right back at him, though tears were poised on the precipice of her lower eyelids. “Is that why you brought me here? To shame me?”
“Iowis Menarde!” a new voice called from across the room. It was a welcome interruption.
“Good afternoon, Dr. Gachet,” Philippe greeted the short, bald man approaching them.
Dr. Gachet stopped a few feet from them and sized up Illian with a wild and slightly terrified look. “This is the, uh, sister?” he asked.
“Yes, this is Illian,” Philippe confirmed.
“Oh, good,” the doctor nodded, but his expression disagreed. “Have you explained the situation?”
Philippe shook his head. “I thought it would be better if you did.”
“Oh,” said Gachet with evident disappointment. He was clearly uncomfortable with the idea of addressing Illian directly.
“Well, then,” the doctor began, “Um, the subject — by which I mean your sister, uh, Cenzarra — sustained considerable damage to her soft tissue due to exposure to a highly caustic substance.”
“She knows what happened, doctor,” Philippe sighed. “She’s the one who did it.”
“Oh, y-yes. Yes, of course,” the doctor stuttered. “Well, uh, to be more precise, while Aetipelos can withstand some exposure to such compounds — especially if the damage is limited to the dermal layers — prolonged exposure to the soft tissues inside the body can be particularly harmful.”
Illian was looking mostly at the floor and occasionally glancing at the walls. She didn’t understand what this doctor was going on about. Of course caustic chemicals caused damage. That’s why it was one of the few ways of effectively disposing of their kind.
“More specifically,” the doctor went on, “the caustic substances react with the tissue, breaking existing chemical bonds and creating new ones. This binds the molecules that were originally part of the individual, making them unable to reassemble as they normally would.”
“I’m sorry, doctor,” Illian interrupted impatiently. “I’m not sure what anything has to do with me. Philippe said there was some kind of deal.”
“Yes, yes, I’m getting to that.” The doctor raised his hands defensively. “As I was saying, in order to restore your sister, I had to carefully separate the damaged tissue, as well as recover the remaining material from the liquid she was laying in.”
Illian’s memory flashed back to Cenazarra’s form, floating in the tub. The front of her skull was missing. What remained was filled with foamy pinkish muck. The image made her feel sick.
Doctor Gachet was too involved in his droning to notice the way she paled. “The material needed to undergo several chemical reactions to separate the original compounds, which could then reassemble and be reintroduced to the body. As you can imagine, however, this process is very delicate, and some small amount of the material, sadly, cannot be recovered.”
Illian finally looked directly at the doctor. “What does that mean? You can’t save her?”
The doctor’s eyes widened as if he was afraid to answer. “Well, I, uh. That is to say, it’s not that I know she can’t be saved. It’s just that, uh, there may be some more aggressive interventions necessary.”
“Aggressive interventions?” Illian repeated. She looked at Philippe, who shrugged.
“Yes,” the doctor said. “I am still in the process of recovering original material. It’s very meticulous. Many of the pieces are microscopic, and it’s difficult to know exactly where they should go. I generally put them in this tank here where, uh, the, uh…subject is being reconstructed.”
He walked over to the tank. Philippe followed, and they both looked at Illian, who was still standing in place, trying hard not to look at the form floating in the liquid. Eventually, she hesitantly walked over.
“You can see here,” the doctor continued, pointing at the figure in the tank, “we have several small tubes — thousands, in fact — that penetrate all the way, deep into the soft tissue. These tubes have a series of holes all around their circumference and down their length. This allows original material to travel down to the closest appropriate location where it will hopefully migrate into the correct position over time.”
Illian glanced down. She immediately regretted it. Though it was hard to see very much detail through the liquid and the thousands of tiny tubes protruding from Cenazarra’s body, it was clear she was still in a very raw state.
“Can she feel anything?” she heard herself ask aloud.
The doctor exchanged a glance with Philippe. “It’s hard to say,” he said. “She twitches sometimes. She has even thrashed occasionally. I mostly believe it’s just an automatic reaction to certain connections being made in certain parts of her brain. Still, it’s difficult not to wonder.”
Illian turned away again. “So what do you need from me?”
Gachet cleared his throat. “Well, um, I have a hypothesis. As you know, we can take skin from multiple sources without worry of rejection, even from various species. Many of our internal structures, however, are not so flexible. But the two of you are sisters. I believe there may be a chance we can supplement her recovery with donor material from you.”
Illian looked at Philippe. “Is that my part of this deal you proposed?” she asked.
“It is,” Philippe nodded.
She bit her lip. She did want to save Chenzie, of course, but she was in a tough spot. She had a suspicion that if her sister had died, her own fate would have been similar. Possibly worse.
“What’s your part of the deal,” she boldly asked.
Philippe sneered. “It’s not enough to save your sister, who you very nearly killed with your stupidity?” His voice carried.
Illian flinched and looked away. Her eyes welled up.
Philippe breathed for a moment, seemingly calming himself. “It may — may — improve your sentencing by the tribunal,” he said more quietly.
“What will I have to do?” Illian asked.
Dr. Gachet cleared his throat. “Well, I will have to take several samples from various parts of your body. Not very much at first. Just enough to verify my hypothesis.”
Illian’s brow furrowed. “And if your hypothesis is right? How much will you need then?”
“Oh, don’t worry,” the doctor said. “It shouldn’t be anything your body can’t heal from.”
That didn’t sound particularly reassuring, but what choice did she really have? “When do we start?”
Gachet looked again at Philippe.
“Now,” Philippe said firmly.
The doctor flinched. “Oh. Oh, yes. Yes, I think we can begin now.”
Illian glared at Philippe who now seemed intent on staring into the tank.
Doctor Gachet led her to an examination table and had her sit down. He pulled various carts over with medical equipment that made her feel more nervous than she already was. He finally turned back to her, looked down at her restraints, and closed his eyes, looking rather flustered.
“Iowis Menarde, can this contraption be removed?” he called.
Philippe broke away from staring down into the tank and walked over to them. He looked at Illian’s restraints.
“Not easily,” he replied. “Is it necessary for what you need to do?”
“W-well,” the doctor stuttered. “I mean, it would be easier. And i-if for some reason she were to, uh, l-lose consciousness…”
Illian’s glare turned once again fully onto Philippe.
Philippe glared right back at her. “She’ll survive, I’m sure,” he said with a hint of a smirk. “Those bonds are intended to be very difficult to remove. She’s an extremely dangerous criminal.”
The doctor was silent for at least a full minute while Illian and Philippe stared one another down. “I see,” he finally whispered.
“I suppose our kind has no compunction about cruel and unusual punishment,” Illian spat.
Philippe scowled. “Do not mistake this for some human system of justice,” he warned her. “And you had no compunction about laying your own sister, who cared for you for two centuries, into a bath full of lye. Don’t speak to me of cruel and unusual punishment.”
Illian backed down, turning away. Once more, her eyes stung.
“Well, um,” the doctor interjected gingerly, “if you could sit on this stool here.” He pulled a short stool over and guided Illian by the arm.
She complied and sat on the stool, staring off into the distance. She hated all of this. She hated Philippe for refusing to understand. She hated this doctor, who treated her like a wild animal. She hated this place. She hated that damn tank in full view, reminding her of that bathtub scene that played over and over in her mind. She escaped the only way she could for now. She stared off and disappeared into herself for a while.
It was hard to stay there long. The doctor brought out various tools. A long thick needle that he tapped into her bones to suck out marrow. One he stuck into her spine to draw out fluid. He made incisions, crammed in machines, snipped off and ground up small pieces of her insides. Each more invasive thing brought pain and terror, but even when Illian couldn’t hide in the corners of her mind, she gritted her teeth and stoically resisted the urge to scream and fight back. Philippe was watching. She refused to give him the satisfaction.
At last, the doctor set down his last implement. “There, I think we have enough to start with,” he said with an uneasy smile.
“Thank you doctor,” Philippe said. “Please keep me apprised of your progress.”
“Yes, Beres Iowis,” Gachet answered with a nod.
“You, come with me,” he barked at Illian.
Illian obeyed, eager to leave, hoping she’d never have to come back. They made their way quickly through the halls. Philippe repeatedly checked his watch. Once there was some distance between her and that room, she began to feel more bold.
“In a hurry to get me back to my cage?” Illian snapped.
“To your hearing,” Philippe corrected.
Illian stopped. “Hearing?”
Philippe grabbed her shoulder and urged her forward. “Yes, hearing. And the tribunal is very annoyed by tardiness. Let’s move along.”
“Shouldn’t I have time to prepare?” she asked.
“Prepare what?” Philippe scoffed.
“I don’t know, my defense?” Illian answered incredulously.
Philippe actually stopped at that and turned her around to look at him. “Listen to me now, this is not a trial. The tribunal may ask you questions. Do not speak unless you are spoken to, and for God’s sake, don’t be as petulant with them as you are with me. It is only because of my efforts that you have not already been thrown into a vat of acid!”
Illian blinked in startled confusion. “Your efforts?”
He turned her back around and continued to guide her through the halls. “I lobbied the tribunal heavily for this hearing. It’s your one chance,” he cautioned.
“Why?” Illian asked, trying to make sense of it.
“Because your sister would have wanted to save you,” Philippe said more gently than she’d come to expect from him. “I have no other motivation. But for that knowledge of her love for you, I would’ve let them dispose of you like garbage.”
Illian was silent through a few hallways until Philippe brought her to an elevator. Once the doors closed, she finally ventured to comment, “You love her.”
Philippe’s jaw tightened. “Cenzarra and I worked together closely for a very long time. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for her.”
“But you love her,” Illian insisted.
He looked away. “How I feel is immaterial,” he said.
“Did you ever tell her?”
Philippe looked back to her with a grimace. “Aetipelos who rise to positions like ours have no room for relationships. It’s bad enough we have families who can be used against us. There are some very bad individuals who will hurt the ones you love to get to you. That’s what happened to your parents.”
The elevator chimed and the door slid open. Philippe grabbed Illian’s shoulder and led her down another series of hallways in silence. They arrived at a security checkpoint in front of a set of ornate wooden doors. The guards searched them for weapons, peeked at their skulls, and thoroughly pulled at and jostled Illian’s bonds to make sure they were still secure. Once the guards were satisfied, they were permitted entry into the room beyond the doors.
Illian hadn’t had a lot of time to consider what she might expect stepping in there, but she briefly imagined dim lighting and a tall dais with ornate desks and inscrutable judges peering down at her. Instead, she found a well-lit room with a long, low table and regular looking if nicely-attired people gathered on one side.
“Good afternoon, Iowis Menarde,” one of them said with a slight nod of her head. “Thank you for your punctuality.”
Philippe returned her nod, keeping his head down slightly longer. “Thank you for taking the time to see us, Potis Nassar.”
“This, I assume, is Illian?” the woman asked.
“Indeed,” Philippe confirmed.
Potis Nassar looked at some papers on the table with a brief tight smile. “Stand here, Illian,” she said without looking up, pointing to a spot in front of the table.
Illian complied without hesitation. She was slightly terrified, but she tried her best to look stoic.
The other people on the opposite side of the table sat down, eight of them in all. Potis Nassar seemed to be running the show.
“Illian Cortina, you have been brought before this tribunal for your crimes against both a human and, more seriously, another Aetipelos,” the woman began ominously.
“It has been reported that you did incapacitate an innocent human for the purpose of acquiring various parts. That you did remove the facial section of your own skull to replace with your victim’s, as well as a length of his trachea to include his vocal chords. That you did ultimately dispose of his body with significant evidence that would have ultimately led human law enforcement to you, potentially risking their discovery of our people and abilities.”
Potis Nassar looked up from her paper with a stern look before continuing. “No sooner had you returned home from this task, you then proceeded to drug another Aetipelos, your own sister, and similarly harvest her parts for an illegal disguise. You then attempted to dispose of her in a bathtub filled with lye. Furthermore, you impersonated her when Beres Iowis Menarde arrived at your home looking to retrieve you for your long overdue assessment.
“Do I have all these facts correct?” she asked Illian, pressing her lips tightly together when she finished.
“Well, yes, but-”
“Do you understand how many of our strictest laws you have violated?” she continued, cutting Illian off.
“No, actually,” Illian barked in spite of herself. Then, more calmly, she added, “My sister never told me about our laws.”
Potis Nassar blinked at her incredulously. “Is it your contention that you did not know murder and mutilation was wrong?”
“No, that’s not-”
“And your own sister?” she interrupted again.
Illian sighed in frustration. “She also didn’t tell me she was my real sister,” she said, though she could hear how completely hollow it sounded.
“Oh, and I suppose you think it’s acceptable to arbitrarily kill random strangers?” Potis Nassar challenged.
Illian’s eyes burned. She was angry, sad, and frightened. She knew if she spoke again, it would be turned against her. She kept the words in, but tears flowed freely.
The woman sighed impatiently. “Iowis Menarde, do you have anything to add?” she asked.
Philippe stepped up beside Illian. “Yes, thank you, Potis Nassar,” he said. “Let me begin by condemning in the most unambiguous terms the atrocities committed by this woman. I worked very closely with her sister for a lifetime. We were collaborators and good friends. My shock at her actions and personal distress can hardly be measured.”
Illian looked over at him with wide eyes. Her lip quivered along with the involuntary shivering that overcame the rest of her body. She felt the nose noose closing in.
“Yet, I do believe there are factors worth considering in this case,” Philippe continued. “It’s true that Beres Iowis Cortina sheltered her sister, particularly from knowledge of our kind. The circumstances of their parents’ death are well known to this tribunal, and this tragedy motivated her to withdraw, not only from our society, but from a more active guardianship role that would have better prepared Illian for life as an Aetipelos in the world. That would have better prepared her to control some of our darkest ancestral instincts.”
Several of the people on the other side of the table exchanged surprised glances.
Potis Nassar leaned forward. “Iowis Menarde, do you mean to use an outdated, pseudoscientific hypothesis to defend this dangerous young woman?” she asked, an edge of warning in her tone.
Philippe cleared his throat, the first glimpse of his own nervousness. “I know that these ideas have been long criticized among our kind, and I agree that much of the early writings on the subject are little more than apologia for ancient Aetipelos cruelty. I would like you to consider, however, more recent research by multiple groups across the globe that suggests there is a kernel of truth to the underlying hypothesis.
“Indeed, Illian’s case seems to read much like many subjects of these studies,” he went on. “Relatively young Aetipelos raised without any significant exposure to our history — contextualized within the framework of our modern morals and values — have shown a higher incidence of aggressive behavior, risk taking, even criminality, though rarely to the degree of this case.”
“These are peer-reviewed studies?” Potis Nassar asked.
“Yes, one was a study out of Germany in the publication Ätipelosische Psychologie. Another from a group in Canada was published in Social Adaptations. There was one from Colombia published in La Mente Compartepiel. One — “
“Very well, Iowis Menarde,” she cut him off. “I assume you’ve officially submitted these papers for our consideration?”
“Yes,” Philippe confirmed. “The full text of each has been uploaded to Illian’s case file.”
Potis Nassar nodded. “Good. Rest assured we will carefully read the papers and consider the conclusions. I will say, however, I’m not sure any of this excuses anything this young woman has done. Even if we agree with the studies, clearly she has trouble repressing these darker instincts, as you say. Would that not suggest she is too dangerous to continue to participate freely in society? And, if I may be blunt, it is not our business to house or monitor those we do deem too dangerous.”
Philippe bowed his head respectfully, but continued in his defense. “You will find, when you look at the studies, that multiple groups seem to suggest that these deficiencies can be treated with various therapies. They document success in lessening the persistence of violent ideation and ceasing aggressive behaviors. In light of this, if we knew we could rehabilitate individuals, would it not be our duty to save them as we strive to save their victims?”
Potis Nassar finally looked directly at Philippe for longer than a second. She seemed to be considering her response. “Iowis Menarde,” she began, “you have clearly given this a great deal of consideration. I am impressed by the effort you have put into crafting this woman’s defense despite your misgivings. I’m not sure I entirely understand your position, but let me explain mine.
“People like Illian are dangerous,” she said flatly. “It’s not just that they might harm other Aetipelos. It’s not that they might take human lives. People like Illian draw attention. The preservation of lives is secondary. It must be. If human eyes begin gazing in our direction, they are not likely to be distracted again. This council went through great pains to have humans relegate us to myth in the beginning. If they rediscover us, it will be our undoing. Do not be fooled by their lack of our unique abilities. If humans decide they want to kill or subjugate, they always succeed.”
The weight of that last statement hung in the silence that followed. Illian felt invisible. That woman spoke like she wasn’t even in the room. She didn’t understand how her people could be so frightened of humans. The Aetipelos had dominated them in the ancient world. What was so different that made them such a challenge now?
Lost in her thoughts, Illian was startled by the sound of Philippe clearing his throat again.
“Yes, as a loyal enforcer for this council, I am aware of the risks you must weigh,” he said. “And while the initial motivation for forming this council was to shield us from human scrutiny, the result is a society of Aetipelos who live and work together for our mutual benefit. We have made great advances in science, technology, art, and culture. In casting off our violent nature, we have bettered ourselves in innumerable ways. We have strived to redeem ourselves as a race. Does it not make sense, then, to offer redemption to individuals who may yet have contributions to make?”
Potis Nassar smirked and raised an eyebrow. “Indeed? That was a lovely appeal to emotion, Iowis Menarde, but what contributions does this woman have to make? Pray, tell.”
“There is at least one thing,” Philippe answered with a smile. “We’ve just come from Doctor Gachet’s laboratory. You no doubt know of his efforts to restore Beres Iowis Cortina.”
If he had piqued Potis Nassar’s interest, she didn’t show it. She merely nodded inscrutably.
“He has made much progress, but there are apparently limits to his methods,” Philippe continued. “Only so much of Iowis Cortina’s material can be recovered. But he believes he can use material from a closely related donor.”
“I assume you’re referring to her sister,” Potis Nassar cut to the chase.
Philippe nodded. “Yes. Today he has harvested the first samples of materials from Illian to confirm his hypothesis. If it works, this woman’s continued donation could see her sister fully restored.”
“I also assume that this is a particularly optimistic outlook,” said Potis Nassar with her humorless tight smile.
“Yes,” Philippe admitted. “It is not known if we can achieve this exact outcome, but it is worth trying. Beres Iowis Cortina served this council honorably and admirably for centuries. She paid a high price to do so. I think we owe it to her to try.”
Potis Nassar sighed. “Iowis Menarde, I do not deny Iowis Cortina’s contributions, but I take issue with the suggestion that we ‘owe’ her anything. Every enforcer strives to protect our people as a whole. We all know when we sign up to do this the risks we take on. Better that one individual should fall than all of us. If you offer another such emotional argument, I will reject any further requests to hear your defense.”
Philippe’s face fell. “Of course, Potis Nassar. I have nothing further today.”
“Very well,” she replied, looking back down at her papers. “We will read over the studies you’ve supplied in the case file. We will also consult with Doctor Gachet on his progress and his expectations. In the meantime, it is my opinion that any decisions about Illian’s fate be postponed until we know whether her contributions will be necessary for Beres Iowis Cortina’s restoration.”
Philippe bowed his head. “Thank you so much, Potis Nassar. And thanks to the council for hearing me today.”
“Good day to you, Beres Iowis Menarde,” Potis Nassar returned.
Philippe turned quickly and grabbed illian by the arm, pulling her from the room.
“Thank you,” Illian called out weakly, not really sure if it was the right thing to do. Everyone ignored her.
They took a more leisurely pace back to Illian’s cell. Philippe looked very tired. His jaw was clenched, his gaze down.
“I feel like you took a big risk in there,” Illian said softly. “I probably don’t deserve it, but I’m grateful.”
“You don’t deserve it,” he was quick to reply. “Never forget why I’m doing this. I want to save your sister. If we can’t accomplish that, you should hope you are somehow able to get far away from me.”
Illian was tired of crying today, but her eyes grew wet yet again. “I suppose you don’t believe those things you said in there, then. That I can be rehabilitated?”
Philippe sighed. “It doesn’t matter what I believe. You could save a million babies, cure all disease, and end all war. If Cenzarra cannot be restored, you will not find forgiveness from me.”
They reached her cell. Philippe swung open the door and shoved her in. Illian couldn’t hear the door slam as she flew into her chair and stumbled over it. With her hands bound, she couldn’t catch herself, and she landed face first on the concrete floor. It jarred the bronze bonds running through her ribcage, sending ripples of pain throughout her body.
Unfortunately, it was not enough to knock her unconscious. She lay there shaking with sobs in a growing pool of tears, blood, and self pity.