Children.

A sudden noise from near a broken down wooden pushcart caught there attention.

All three turned toward the sound of terrible creaks and crackling, the sound of old wood being disturbed after a long sleep.

Their instincts kicked on high, each awaiting the moment to attack whatever hid behind the dusty barrier just in front of them, less than five feet away.

Shay and Ethan touched minds, silently powering up.  It was a natural instinct now, to unify their abilities as one.  They would always be more powerful as one.

Drek held deathly still.  His shadow long and lean, as though he were not there, merely a piece of the scenery.  No words of magic were as powerful as deluding the mind into believing there was nothing there to be afraid of, never preparing itself for the attack that strike at any moment.  This was his greatest strength, stealth.

And then they appeared.  The children.

They stepped from behind the cart and stood in the full light of the overhanging sun, which should have been impossible.  They were hand in hand, calmly composed with serene looks upon their young faces, as though the world around them were not made of ash and dust and dirt and creeping things waiting to kill all who chanced near them.

The boy, dark-skinned with thickly coiled light brown hair, was about ten years old; close to Ethan’s age when Mother and Father, his handlers, had taken him from his home, had pulled him from the arms of his dying mom, the last survivor of his real family.

The girl, fair-skinned and red-headed, was slightly younger, perhaps eight, around the same age as when Shay realized that the world she was born into was somehow not right.  Though she had known no other life, she had always sensed the way things were were not how they were supposed to be, that something at some point, long before she was born, had gone terrible wrong.  A twist set in motion by the Fates, if there were such beings.

For a moment, all were silent, all stared, none moved.  They were like an aged portrait from some forgotten nowhere, left to dry and droop in the harsh sun.

It was the boy who spoke first.  He spoke, clear and to the point, yet his thick full lips never moved.  “We are alone.”

The other three knew this was not true.  Though there was no other living thing to be scene at this high-day hour, except the five who stood here, there were sleepings – or hiding – beings all around them, sheltered in place til dark.

The girl was next.  It was the same, her voice was perfectly pitched, but her pink mouth did not open as she said the words.  “You do not need to fear us.”

Still the other three made no attempt to reply.  This could easily be a trap.  The Elders were not done with them. Perhaps they had rallied and returned sooner than anticipated and were not using some illusion to get Ethan and Shay – and even Drek – to let their guards down.  All eyes stared, all minds remained focused.

Then, finally, it was Shay who took a chance, against Ethan’s wishes.

No, he warned her across their mental bond,  don’t.  They are not true children.  There is no way they would be able to survive standing in full sun like that.

That is the reason why I am doing this, Shay replied, they Elders cannot do this kind of magic.  Not even they are powerful enough to override the power of the sun on human skin.  We thought only we could that.  And since that’s not true anymore, we need to know who they are… they could be allies, Ethan.  And we need as many as possible now… even Drek.

There was still hesitation in his mind, but he understood her points.

Ethan nodded toward Shay and then she turned to the children.

“Who are you?”  She spoke with real words this time, so that Drek could also hear her.

The tiny pair in unison this time, aloud using their lips to release soft and flowing words that touched the ears of the other three ever so lightly as though a breeze had gently floated near them, wrapping them in both calm and unease at feeling such a quiet calm.

“We are your friends.  We have come very far.  We are here to help you.”  They stepped forward a few more feet, flooding their faces in even more bright midday sun, nearly illuminating their beautiful and delicate features.  “We must be quick to move,” they continued as one, “There are enemies on the way.  And they will arrive ahead of dark, clothed in the energy of the dark storm.”

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from By Moonlight, An Apocalyptic Fairytale by Q. Lenise Lee.  All Rights Reserved 2020.

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