"Look, she's awake!" The voice was heavy and thick within her skull.

Mylia flinched and then moaned as a terrible pain wracked her body. She wondered how to open her eyes and then felt it strange that she had to think so consciously of a movement that her body performed a thousand times a day. She thought hard and willed her eye lids apart and then quickly closed them against the searing light.

She had dreamed heavily and her ears still rang with the roar of many people. There had been a stage and a great audience of clapping hands and lights so brilliant she could not see the faces of those gathered to hear her sing. She had never had such a vision before and found it strange and pleasant. They shouted for her, for Mylia!, and she, for the first time in her life, felt wanted.

"Go fetch the prince. He will want to know immediately," again the female voice spoke and then a sharpness pierced her arm.

Mylia's eyes flew open from the happy reverie, her golden irises flaming into focus upon the source of pain. A woman in a long, white robe lent over her and poked a needle in her arm. Mylia snarled.

"Tom, make sure she's tied down. She's wriggling like a fish and I can't find a vein," the white-robed woman stated.

Mylia's eyes darted around the simple, tiled room with the clusters of metal equipment and colored cords streaming from the walls to her bed. Looking to her feet, she only saw the vague shape of her body as lumps underneath the linen.

Tom, the ad hoc boyfriend of the witch who betrayed her to the prince, rushed to Mylia's bedside. She felt the fastenings tighten around her arms and legs. She was strapped and unable to move. Even her neck lay tight against the downy pillow with a cushioned tie.

Before panic could fully crawl up her throat into a scream, a door burst open and Prince Asher entered.

"How is she doing?" He asked the doctor.

"We stabilized the blood loss and performed the surgery as you asked. She's lucky to have been found so quickly. If she lost any more blood…it's not like we have two pints of fresh wyrm blood in storage."

"You're an excellent doctor, Leah Thrall," the prince murmured and stepped up to the bed. Mylia studied him in great awareness but could read little in his face. Indeed, she could have imagined him carved from stone save for the rapidly discerning eyes that flittered over her body.

Tom spoke. "The bartender who found her by the trash…he called the authorities, you know. Do you think he'll tell the newspapers tomorrow?"

"No," the prince replied. "I've ensured the silence of the bartender and the police who answered. You and the doctor will receive ample payment for your work here. You understand, of course, this must be kept a secret."

The Doctor nodded but her eyes were cautious. "I understand, Prince Asher. Tom, I command your silence in this matter."

"Thank you. Now, if I could have a moment with Mylia?" The prince continued.

When Doctor Thrall and Tom left the room and the door closed upon their fading steps, Asher turned again to Mylia. She softly snarled at him. For whatever purpose, she had been brought back to life and the thought was not amusing to her.

He pulled up a chair to her bed and sat down.

"Mylia, can you hear me?"

She closed her eyes and feigned sleep. And perhaps sleep and that glorious dream would again return to her…

"Mylia?" He leaned over the bed.

Lightning quick, she grasped his arm with her naked fingers. The flesh upon flesh contact made her initially start in shock. It worked. She felt the ripples of intelligence through the nerves, felt the quickening of his pulse and the movement of flesh over muscles and ligaments. And then, deeper, as though diving into a thick, muddy river and hitting the bottom, she met his thoughts.

Asher stared at her as though entranced.

You saved me again. Why can't you just let me die? She echoed into his mind.

"I moved in anger yesterday. I should never have thrown you out. I had a quick temper and I do not tolerate disobedience. I thought you were unreasonable. And then, you were discovered in some alley and I learned what you had done. You finally….finally!…desired to be human. It was a noble gesture to cut off your tail."

I regret it with every passing moment.

"I know. But you did it anyway. You know what is possible in your future and thus you have begun to forget your past. I can help you complete the process but I need your trust."

Mylia grimaced. Trust. What is that? So you can just throw me out again when you have no more need for me?

The Prince shook his head. "If you agree to join me in my plans and commit yourself entirely to my cause, I swear that I will always be there for you."

Her golden eyes expanded and glittered in thought. Underneath her clasped hand, she felt the speed of his thoughts, rushing through his veins like a swift current. There was something else he hid from her, some great thought and purpose that pushed every droplet of thought with a powerful thrust. An image of gold entered her mind and then a darkening shadow. A great chair of iron and silver. Throne. That was the name. It was a throne.

You pursue the prophecy that will make you the Emperor, she thought to him and her eyes snapped wide in knowledge. Prince Asher, attempting to overthrow the greatest Empire the world had ever known. And he would succeed.

And there was another thought curving like a swordfish through the echoes of his mind. The prophecy was a lie.

You went into the Wylds but you did not obtain a prophecy…or anything, and she began to wonder. You walked around the forest for a bit and then returned with a grand story…and me. But, why?

"People believe in destiny and so I will give it to them. Mylia, the world is whatever you want it to be…within reason. With your voice, you will become famous overnight. The world will love you and the Emperor will invite you to be his direct confidante. We will move into the Palace and begin the plot. Your future power over the people as their beloved popstar and my cunning in political advice will make us into a powerful team. Ever since I first saw you, I knew this would be out future."

What happens to me when you become Emperor?

"What do you want?"

She paused and considered this. What I want…what I truly want, returning to my home in the Wylds to dwell in peace with my songbirds amid the falling snow and sunlight, is no longer possible. And so I want to control where I go, what I do, who I speak with and for whom I sing. No one, not even you, can ever order me around again.

"I see we have more in common than you my yet realize," he returned with a subtle smile. "If you help me, I will ensure that you have all the freedom you desire. I only ask for one thing in return."

Her eyes glittered. You've already asked for so much. You humans are greedy.

"It is not for me that I ask. I request that you continue the work to change your identity. The doctor is a clever plastic surgeon; the best in the world, I will say. She already has plans to alter your body to become more human but I need your permission first."

Mylia lay quiet.

"You must appear more like us to survive. It will hurt at first but you will find human ways to your liking. Perhaps one day, you will completely forget the life you lived amid the forests and mountains."

She nodded. It was the only way. Or death. She had nowhere else to go. And a small, firm interest had sprouted deep within her mind. She had always relied upon her cleverness to survive the harsher levels of the Wylds. This life among humans would be little different, the same strategies with new scenery. She would never fully lose her wyrm-hood. It would simply morph and fuse into this game she intended to play with the prince. Best of all, her dream of crowds gathering to hear her voice would come true. And this thought quivered her lips into a smile but the prince again spoke—

"I only ask this. If the world ever knows who you are, they will desire to kill you and I will not be able to protect you. You must keep your original self a secret. Do we have an understanding?"

Yes, I agree with those terms, she thought back to him and unclasped her hand from his arm and lay upon her pillow.

"Thank you," he replied. "I will leave you now. When the operations are complete, we will get to work."

He concluded their meeting with a gracious bow and ordered the hospital staff to care for her every need.

Under the Thrall's quick administrations, Mylia soon felt the slippery pumping drip of morphine into her arm and a numbing sensation swept through her nervous system, calming her to sleep. Her last thought before slumber smote her vision was a distinct impression that her beautiful tail was indeed well and fully gone.

The next day, she learned the truth as the staff changed her bed sheets and comforter. During her faint, Doctor Thrall had removed the remnant of her tail to the joint. It was not merely docked. No, it was gone as though she had never had a tail in the first place. She refused to think of her tail again. Instead, she gazed upon the old yellow sunlight of the day half spent and carefully ate bread from a tray left upon her bed.

Her wings were to be next. Thrall had already peeled back her hospital gown, shapeless and itchy to her tender white skin and probed around the knobby base of the wings. With Tom's help, she stretched out their width and sketched marks upon the pallid flesh with a marker that stank of chemicals and pain.

Mylia felt glad to know she would be rid of them. They had bothered her for all her waking adult years like a scratch just out of reach. They had been useless, crashing into the trees as she swung along, or coldly flapping against her skin during those snowy nights. She imagined the feeling of sheets against her naked back once the wings—crumpled curtains of leathery skin and bone—were gone.

Thrall made her bite into a strange tray filled with goo. The gluey substance tasted horrible and it took several tries before Mylia's teeth made an appropriate ring of dents.

A strange machine appeared at her bedside table one day. The Prince must have sent it for she recognized his scent upon the instrument; a warm lingering fragrance of fir and snow. She felt oddly nostalgic for him, if only to have his scent remind her yet again of the Wylds she loved so much.

Tom pressed buttons and the instrument sputtered to life. He called it a radio and Mylia soon learned how to turn the knob to select different stations. She also pressed the on switch, the favorite stations buttons, and another button which checked the signal.

She never asked Tom how Fay was doing. The witch had pretended to be her rescuer and friend, only to turn her over at the first opportunity. Such trickery ended all possibility of friendship. Mylia could not think of Fay without remembering the hurt of her betrayal and so she tried to forget her entirely. But Tom performed under the orders of others and thus was somewhat more absolved from the direct guilt incurred by Fay.

The days passed and the sun and moon lazily fought for light space upon the pallid hospital floor tiles. Mylia noticed how dreadfully inconvenient her long claws had become. At Thrall's orders, Tom filed them to the tops of her fingers and then taught Mylia how to file and keep them short.

The radio stations kept her occupied for many days. She listened for hours as humans talked out of the machine and fell asleep to their words spiraling down into her dreams. She began to hear repeated words and requested their meaning from Tom. During that time, her dental fittings arrived. Mylia did not know how long she fell under the black silence of morphine and anesthetic, but when she next knew herself, her mouth felt different with an array of flat, herbivoric teeth, and her wings were gone.

Doctor Thrall brought her a mirror and she saw that all her pointed teeth had been permanently capped. They were also wonderfully pearl in color. Mylia decided that she liked them.

"Humans focus upon teeth, eyes, skin and body shape," he said. "As a half-wyrm, you're already remarkably human in shape and more so with the removal of the wings and tail. Your skin is white enough that with a bronzer, you'll be just fine. We gave you a permanent set of dentures. You'll need to visit us every year or so to make sure they're alright, of course. As for your eyes," but she was interrupted by a nurse to see another patient.

Mylia did not bother to inform Thrall she was only white due to cold and unhappiness. Her skin turned indigo when she felt glad. No bronzer would be enough to color that hue. But she was learning to keep some things secret and realizing that she could.

"Humans focus upon teeth, eyes, skin and body shape," he said. "As a half-wyrm, you're already remarkably human in shape and more so with the removal of the wings and tail. Your skin is white enough that with a bronzer, you'll be just fine. We gave you a permanent set of dentures. You'll need to visit us every year or so to make sure they're alright, of course. As for your eyes, we will keep them gold. They're a beautiful color and," but she was interrupted by a nurse to see another patient.

Mylia did not bother to inform Thrall she was only white due to cold and unhappiness. Her skin turned indigo when she felt glad. No bronzer would be enough to color that hue. But she was learning to keep some things secret and realizing that she could.

After weeks of listening to the radio, Mylia could now follow most of the conversations and had begun to speak sentence fragments. Tom continued to prove helpful in correcting her accent and grammar. Once she got the cadence and rhythm of the language, Mylia found the interpretation of words into meaning to be easy.

The morning lanced cold and blue against the bedside window and she noticed, as if for the first time, the haze to be curtains, now withdrawn. The unfolded view was of sky, rose-tangerine with dawn. Mylia did not yet know of the human imagination, a strange realm of waking dreams and conjoined thoughts. A human could have imagined the hospital room into a spaceship, floating far over some foreign planet made entirely of sunbeams and clean air.

One day, Thrall bade her get dressed. Mylia had practiced the human style of clothes. She pulled on a long, knit dress complete with boots and gloves. Her makeup kit took a longer time to figure out but she added foundation, blush and lipstick. Fake lashes and drawn brows gave her a distinctly brightened, cosmopolitan appearance. Tom helped apply her wig of long, curled red hair. She did not recognize herself in the mirror when the preparation completed but she felt very human.

Outside the hospital with Tom, she noticed people look at her. Some of the glances were admiring, others only looked away. Gone were the horrified reactions of yore. She had fully transitioned.

She was now human.

A car arrived for her. Tom spoke to the driver and then wished her good luck. "When you're done with the Palace come and visit us," he said, "Fay misses you terribly."

Mylia did not reply but the thought lingered in her mind as the car sped up through the city, the driver, unknown.

Once, as they ascended a causeway bridge, Mylia spotted the great, ballooning shapes of sunships, solar powered hovercraft, in the vast ocean. The fleet was large and impressive. This Empire would be fun to rule, she thought with a smile. It had a lot of possibility.

The driver dropped her at the palace and spoke to a guard. The guard spun a Dyn opening and gestured for her to enter. Mylia stepped through the short hallway of blackness and into a room somewhere deep in the Palace. The familiar gold accents, chandeliers, marble floors and velvet-puffed furniture gladdened her. When she moved to the Palace, she determined that her personal quarters would be exquisite and exactly to her liking.

Two people waited for her; DJ Sand and Prince Asher. They greeted her and DJ Sand commented upon her elegance and punctual arrival. Asher stared at her with a look of admiring approval she had never before seen from him. The thought both disturbed and made her glad.

"Well, what are you?" Sand asked, looking her up and down.

"I am a woman," she replied. The words were heavily accented and slow but she would pick up the language at a quicker pace in due time.

"Well, yes, I suppose you are. What else would you be? No, I meant your act. What do you do?"

"I sing," she said. She noticed Asher nod in great approval.

DJ Sand's gaze focused into a smile and then he nodded to Mylia where she stood in a cloud of perfume and linen upon the center of the floor. "Whenever you're ready, Mylia."

And Mylia opened her mouth and sang.