Eyes in the Night

The valley was over the next rise. That was what she kept telling herself. All she had to do was keep her family moving for a few more miles and they would be somewhere where they could stop for the night. It would never be somewhere they could stay forever, the past had seen to that. There were no such places left in the world. Not with the seeking eyes.
The children were slowing down. They always slowed down when the sky began to darken, when it was the most dangerous to stop. She picked up the youngest child and held her close as they moved into the trees. Cover was good. Cover made them harder to spot from above.
They had been promised water and food, and the promises held true for once. A river stretched out across the bottom of the valley and fruit hung from the trees. The children ran forward now, eager to taste the sweet fruit. She looked to her exhausted mate and he smiled wanly. They would have to make a shelter as quickly as they could. Stone was the best, but wood would work if it had to.
“No fires. Remember the rules.”
She said it from habit. Even the youngest knew the rules of the night by now. Never venture out of cover. Never stand on a height. No fire, no light of any kind. The older children gathered as much fruit as they could and dragged it to the shelter. They would feast in the dark but they would do it together in safety.
As the night wore on, she stayed awake. Not that she wasn’t tired, she simply couldn’t sleep. What if it hadn’t been enough? What if something had betrayed their presence? Then, like every other night that she could remember, she heard the humming overhead as the seeking eyes passed them by. Only then was she sure they were safe. Only then could she sleep.

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Speaker

The girl jogging down the street pulled her jacket tighter around her against the chill of the night air. Every bit of light reflected in the glassy surfaces of the buildings around her made her jump, looking like the bright glare of the security bots that patrolled this part of the city. She had to get home before anyone or anything processed that she was out past her age bracket’s curfew. The hood chafed against her long pointed ears, but it was necessary. Those made her stand out, even in this district. Too many of the stories about Speakers starred an elf, too many elves alone disappeared. Better she be thought to be a vandal or a thief than potentially a Speaker. Not, of course, that anyone outside the Corps believed in the Speakers anymore.
“Mia!”
The voice was a hoarse whisper from a nearby alleyway. Turning to look, Mia smiled with relief.
“Aunt Shannon!”
The human woman was in her late 50s, her hair going gray and her face lined. Her clothing was plain and dark, meant to allow her to hide in the shadows. She grabbed Mia by the arm.
“You’re late, girl. Come on, we need to get home before-”
“Halt, Citizens. Provide identification chips.”
Neither Shannon nor Mia had an identity chip logged with the city, it would have meant risking people finding out about Mia’s powers. Shannon shoved Mia.
“Go! Run!”
Mia didn’t hesitate, she was off and running before she even really thought about it. Vaulting over a low wall, she jumped to a ladder and started scrambling upwards. Her only thought was escape until she heard the unmistakable boom of the air heating and expanding as a fireball erupted on the surface level behind her. Mia froze. She couldn’t be sure. It could have been Aunt Shannon using a self-defense spell. It could have missed. It could have…it could have… Then she heard the screams. That was enough to send her off running again, half-blinded by the tears in her eyes.


The sun was coming up when the shaking in Mia’s legs finally got the better of her and she collapsed, the tears streaming down her cheeks. She couldn’t control the shaking or stop the tears. For the first time since she’d been a baby, Mia was alone.


“Why should I care about some snot-nosed brat with no experience whatever?”
Mason Laverty hung his wrench back up on the wall behind his worktop and turned to face his best friend.
“Because, you idiot, she’s a Speaker. A real, honest to goodness Speaker.”
“Are you serious?”
“Completely.” Jarrel Carson rubbed his hands together excitedly. “All untrained, but a Speaker.”
The mechanic shook his head, curls bouncing and disbelief clear on his face.
“How did they miss her?”
“I don’t know. All Shan left me in the data cores was the kid’s name and picture, but are you going to judge the uptimes of a borrowed carpet?”
“We’ll have to teach her and neither of us knows a lick about that side of the magic…”
“And no one knows what happens if you teach a Speaker to Enchant.” Jarrel’s grin was wicked. “So let’s try.”
“We gotta find her first, you ass.”