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Morven Kinnaird
Description: Morven is disciplined, determined and ambitious. At her worst she is vicious and moody, and can hold a grudge for a long time. Her temper, when provoked, rages something fierce. She protects those she loves with a startling intensity, whether they need or desire her interference. At her very core she has a strong sense of justice, and will act according to her morals irrespective of consequences. She loves the outdoors. Is both passionate and flirtatious. Dedicated to her job.

Brown skin and dark, amber-flecked eyes; thick, tightly curled dark hair to just past her shoulders. She is not over tall (5'5'') but statuesque in bearing. Her accent has dilluted after five years living in London, but the cadence is still there.

Biography: Born in the village of Lairg in the Scottish highlands in 2022. Morven's upbringing was, for the most part, inconsequential. She was tomboyish as a child, forever outdoors among the elements, often as not trailed by her younger sister Lyall. The two were close as tree roots, twin shadows, and born only a year apart. Independent and adventurous from an early age, as teenagers they would spend summers hiking in the highlands. As they grew older, their explorations drew further afield; a firm favourite to travel south to trek the Lairig Ghru trail into the Cairngorms, and spend a night or two under the stars. It was on one such trip, the summer before Morven was due to leave for med school, that Lyall began to confess of vivid dreams and voices that whispered on the wind. In the glow and smoke of their fire, her eyes lit strangely bright, and Morven teased her about pechs and doonies.

The next day Lyall was uneasy, gaze flitting to shadows in the trees. "We're being watched."Her expression flickered uncertainly. "We shouldn't stay in the open tonight."

As the sun sank, they took refuge in a bothy near the Derry Burn, a simple stone dwelling with a fireplace and chimney in its northern gable. Outside the sky had darkened with bulky cloud when the stranger arrived, a lone traveller seeking refuge, speaking  of wolves in the mountains. His voice was soft, inoffensive, but he stared at Lyall in a way that made a chill ghost Morven's spine. She sat by her sister protectively, and glowered when his gaze crossed hers, but he made no attempt at conversation, and unrolled his sleeping bag along the furthest wall.

Morven drowsed, determined not to sleep, while outside the winds began to churn.

Somewhere distant, wolves howled a mournful cry.

And her eyes snapped open.

The heavy night shadows shifted. Rain pelted the roof tiles. Lightning cracked through the shutters. Lyall suddenly yelped, struggling against the weight of an assailant. Metal glinted. Blood spilled.

Something broke inside her. A dam unleashed. Dizzying spindles of light lashed in the darkness. Morven pulled herself to her feet and the stranger flew backwards, the blade wrenched from his grasp. Winded, he gained his feet, only to stumble, then crash unnaturally through the door like he was yanked backwards on puppet strings. Rain lashed hard, sheeting his face. The whites of his eyes flashed, sparking bright as lightning forked the sky. The heavens screamed. Morven's skin tingled as she stalked passed the threshold, white hot with anger. He flailed backwards again as the storm around them worsened. Her wrath was dreadful. Uncompromising. Uncontrolled.

The wolves continued to howl.

Back inside, Lyall curled on the floor, nursing her wounds. Blood bubbled through her fingers and she panted like a dog, panicked, murmuring between breaths about snakes. "They're calling,"she said. "They say if I go home, more snakes will come for me."

Morven gathered her sister up. Doctored her wounds. Lay in protective watch until the sun rose.

In the morning the river had flooded. It was not unusual in August.

She did not look for the body.


It was only a half hour drive to the hospital in Inverness, and they stopped on the way home to see if Lyall needed stitches. The ER nurse pawed suspiciously over the gash in her forearm. Last night, when Morven had bound it, bone had glowed white through the blood. Now the wound was half healed. The nurse asked why they had waited so long to get it looked at, dismissive and then impatient when they insisted it had only been hours. It would leave an ugly scar, she said, then shooed them out of the cubicle.

Once home, Morven began a determined search for answers. Of wolves and dreams. Of snakes and knives. Of ways they might protect themselves from both. She accepted the supernatural quietly and quickly; believing her eyes and instincts, trusting in her love for her sister.

Not three weeks later another obstacle presented itself; she became sicker than she'd ever been in her life, rent through with a shivering fever that left her bed-bound. Abandoned to her own devices Lyall absconded for nights at a time, sneaking back in the early mornings with bloody fingers and wild eyes. A predator's smile. It became harder to hide.

As Lyall continued to deteriorate and the summer slipped by, Morven deferred her place at the Imperial College of London in order to care for her. Her sister had never been violent, but had spates of it now; vicious and sudden, like a beast clawed its way out from under her skin. Her eyes were changing, a subtle lightening that made them seem more and more amber than brown. At first she spoke incessantly on her dreams, a breadcrumb trail to the heart of her transformation, fuelling the quest for answers.

Only there was nothing to find.

Morven's own health recovered, but her patience frayed. Fears bared themselves like razors. She was losing her sister. They began to argue as they never had in their lives, until Lyall seemed to lose the ability to speak at all.

Then, finally, an answer came when the leaves began to turn gold as Lyall's eyes beneath the contacts.

An anonymous email; a set of coordinates.

It seemed foolish. But she was desperate.

So they went.


Early winter's breath sucked all hint of warmth. The season was in its infancy, but looked to be short-lived; this far north the snows would come sooner rather than later. And yet a sticky sweat cloyed to her skin, burning up like fire underneath her coat. It happened more often these last few weeks. By now Morven knew what it was. Knew also that there was little to be done about it beyond jaw-clenched acceptance.

Suddenly Lyall stiffened. Her lip curled in silent warning, and then Morven saw the shadow in the trees ahead. They'd been following the trail further and further into the Torridon hills for the past hour, and Morven's wallet signal had been out for the last twenty minutes. A strained heartbeat passed and she tried to grasp at the power, too sweet and sharp. Her body protested, shuddering deep. "If you mean us harm, I will kill you." The words were blunt and sincere, but wheezed out of trembling lungs. The energy inside her crackled.

The man who emerged wore a heavy winter coat, a hoodie beneath pulled up over his head. One hand thrust deep inside a pocket, but the other hovered out relaxed and open. "I'm not Atharim," he said. An accent coated his tongue. He sounded amused. "I can show you if you'd like."

The word meant nothing, nor the offer. But neither did he look dangerous, and she could feel her control slipping. She hated gambling, but had no choice. It had to be trust. She was too desperate to contemplate the alternative, so her head dipped a cautious acknowledgement. Lyall ranged nearby, pacing like a caged animal, but she had not fled. Nor attacked. Morven had cleaned her bloodied face enough times to understand her capabilities.

Her lips opened to speak, only to find her vision darkening, like someone had taken a flame to its edges. She only realised she'd stumbled when her hand braced in the cold dirt. Her heart was feathery in her chest, beating erratic. "Lyall." She groped out blindly for her sister. Then fell unconscious.


She awoke in a bed in an unfamiliar room.

A man lounged in a chair, broad and long, his feet stretched out and crossed at the ankle. An array of holographic wallet screens littered the space around him; he scrolled through them leisurely. Bored. He might have been handsome, but gauntness created long shadows down his face. The ghost of a pale beard hugged his jaw. He glanced up. Paused a breath. Waved a hand and banished the wallet's glow.

"You are a fish," he said by way of introduction, flicking his fingers in her direction, then curling them back to lazily gesture himself. "And I am a bird. I tell them this, yet still, here I am. The best to be offered. Lucky for you."

Her brows lowered as she absorbed then discarded his words as gibberish. She pushed herself up. Monitors were strung by wires to her skin, and an escort of machinery beeped faintly in protest. With a shudder she wrenched out a drip. Began ripping the tape from her skin.

"One foot in life, and one in death," he said, watching her. "Your heart stopped. I was almost glad; the goosebumps were driving me mad. But it was, I think, the thing that saved you."

She swallowed. Her skin no longer felt clammy. The fever had cleared. She wilfully ignored the rest to focus on the thing that did matter. "Lyall?"

"Locked up. For her own safety I stress. The Dreams have her now." His lips moved into a grim smile. "And the wolves."

That gave her pause. The talk of dreams and wolves. The idea of a prison cell should have disturbed her more, but she'd grown accustom to Lyall's tendencies, and instead just felt relief that she was here and safe. Morven filtered through her memories, blinking away the disorientation, rummaging for the most pertinent questions. He knew something if he understood Lyall's condition. She remembered the message; felt cautious hope rise in her chest, quickly checked by wary suspicion. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed, grounded her bare feet on the wooden boards. Chose not a question, but a demand: "Explain."

He smirked, folded the fingers of one hand into a fist. Morven tensed, her own expression darkening, her senses reaching for the energy that would protect her. Abruptly the beeping of the machines ceased and the glow of the screens faded. His hand relaxed. "You found what you were seeking, I imagine. More or less how any of us find ourselves initiated. We ask the right questions, at the right time, of the right people. My dear. Welcome to the network."


He called himself Alvis and spoke of a thousand and more cells, a loose virtual network that spider-webbed the globe. Collating knowledge. Unearthing the supernatural, the strange, the unexplained. Their omnipotent eye had been caught by an anomaly at Raigmore hospital months before, and when the threads started shivering in the ether - her own search for answers - they reached out a curious hand. The women die early, he told her, else are too young to easily pluck from their families. It was a bonus that they'd never observed a change of the wolf ones.

He smiled. Told her they had an offer.


Lyall paced, every muscle corded tight. Her hair frizzed wildly about her face, lips drawn back over her teeth, gaze both panicked and fierce. Her eyes were pure gold now. Horrified, Morven's fingers brushed the window, and her other hand grabbed the door handle. Alvis watched her with faint interest, but did not try to stop her.

"We will protect her from the ones who would exterminate her for what she is. But surviving the transition - that's up to her,"
he said.

"Let her out."

"At best she would run. Do you think you would see her again? At worst she would think we meant her harm. Her affliction will make her savage."

"She's my sister."

"She's changing."

She could see it with her own eyes, and it sewed her lips shut against protest. But she didn't like being told there was nothing she could do. Her fingers itched to open the door in spite of his warnings, desperate to prove him wrong. But it was a stupid thing to do. Her forehead pressed against the glass. She'd come this far. For Lyall. She'd go as far as it took.

"What do you want?"

"Your cooperation. Little else. There are no rules, nor restrictions."

Inside the room Lyall began clawing at the wall. Her howls pierced Morven's soul. She cut Alvis off with another sharp question. "This is part of the Custody?"

Alvis shook his head. "You aren't in the Ascendancy's Facility. You aren't even a prisoner. And it's not a cure we seek."

Her eyes flashed. Not a prisoner. Only stranded in the remotest depths of the highlands. The mountainous vista expanded all around for miles in every window she'd peered from. Still somewhere in Torridon most probably, isolated from even the fringes of civilisation.

"We are autonomous. You'd be beholden to no one but the cause. To gather knowledge. To learn."
He paused a moment, pensive. "And share."

"Who pays for this?"

"Many men pay for knowledge."

"If I refuse?"

He looked at her levelly. Didn't answer.

"And you promise to do everything you can for her?"

"Yes. That is part of the deal. But we will study her also. And you."

"I want it in writing."

He smiled that faintly disturbing smile. "Very well."

He agreed too easily, and it stung her with uncertainty. She pulled herself away from Lyall's door, searched his impassive face. "Why me?"

Still that smile. His eyes were like glass, showing nothing of their depths. "Because you are a fish. And I am a bird."


Lyall survived the transition in that snowy mountain refuge. Words returned to her. She learned to be human again. The network watched and scribbled its notes and offered its suggestions, and slowly the knot of fear unravelled from Morven's gut. As for her own abilities, Alvis claimed he could offer little in the way of assistance beyond cautionary tales. After a week he left them to the care of the disembodied network voice. Weeks passed, then months, before they returned home.

The following year, Morven enrolled at the Imperial College of London to study medicine. She adhered to her end of the bargain; submitting to testing when it was requested and sending the data off into the ether. She complied reports and anecdotal evidence. The self-analysis became rote, and deepened both her understanding and acceptance of what she was.

The network offered no direct contact for years, until Morven was approached at a careers fair. "Miss Kinnaird. I believe we have a friend in common."

He held the platinum business card between two fingers, and offered a winsome smile. Paragon Group, human augmentation specialists. She did not smile back, but slipped the card into her pocket.

Five years later she is about to start a residency at Moscow's ill reputed Guardian complex.

Sekhmet: In Egyptian mythology, Sekhmet is a warrior goddess as well as goddess of healing. She is depicted as a lioness. She was seen as the protector of the pharaohs and led them in warfare. Upon death, Sekhmet continued to protect them, bearing them to the afterlife.

Sekhmet was considered the daughter of the sun god, Ra, and was among the more important of the goddesses who acted as the vengeful manifestation of Ra's power, the Eye of Ra. She was said to breathe fire, and the hot winds of the desert were likened to her breath. She was also believed to cause plagues, which were called her servants or messengers, although she was also called upon to ward off disease.

In a myth about the end of Ra's rule on the earth, Ra sends the goddess Hathor, in the form of Sekhmet, to destroy mortals who conspired against him. In the myth, Sekhmet's blood-lust was not quelled at the end of battle and led to her destroying almost all of humanity. To stop her Ra poured out beer dyed with red ochre or hematite so that it resembled blood. Mistaking the beer for blood, she became so drunk that she gave up the slaughter and returned peacefully to Ra.

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