2.1 Life Sparks

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"I am a mind reader, and thus tainted beyond redemption. My sins weigh heavily upon me. But on Earth, I am distanced from this evil power. No one will recognize the person I become."

- Jonathan Stead


When Alex heard conversational voices echoing down the tunnel, he let himself relax. There would be no battle. By some miracle, the little gray ummins had fooled the Torth, and kept him and his friends safe.

He leaned back against the rock wall and sighed with relief. It had been a very long time since he could relax, and not expect guards to drag him into a fight, or some kind of painful ordeal.

Margo looked sleepy, beautiful in the firelight, curled up next to him. "Has your pain come back?"

"No," he said. "I think it was the broth Kessa gave us." Maybe he owed his fast recovery to the high-grade painkillers, but he'd felt refreshed after four large helpings of broth.

Even so, he'd remained tensed for hours, listening to the crackle of torches. As much as he wanted to try extending his awareness all the way to the surface, to see if he could sense life sparks up there, he figured he would wait until Thomas awoke before trying anything with potential risk. The boy must have huge amounts of helpful knowledge about Yeresunsa powers.

"Good." Margo stretched.

Her relaxation became concern as ummins poured into the cave. Their tones were full of despair. One villager was keening.

"People are hurt." Margo hurried towards them.

Alex crawled after her, wishing the cave wasn't so enclosed, with a low, soot-stained ceiling. It had a lot in common with his prison cell.

Not that he had any right to complain. From what Margo had told him, some of the ummins down here lived their whole lives hidden. They had given up sunlight in exchange for safety.

"Will you go wake Thomas?" Margo spoke past him, to Kessa. "He might have extra medical knowledge."

Kessa rushed away.

Margo knelt by an injured child covered in blood. The child looked flattened, and there were other ummins with terrible injuries.

The rest of the crowd watched Margo with angry suspicion, brow ridges lowered. No doubt they assumed a telepath was tending their child.

A healthy ummin jumped in front of Alex, shouting at him and gesticulating with fury.

"What's this one saying?" he asked, when it became clear the ummin was just getting started. He wished he could understand a word of the slave tongue. 

"Never mind." Margo sounded harried. "They think you can do miracles. I'll tell them you can't heal injuries; don't worry." Her words became foreign without a pause as she switched back to the slave tongue.

Alex backed away from the villagers. He tried to make himself unobtrusive, curling up with his arms around his knees and hunched over. But he drew attention no matter what he did. Dozens of villagers had begun to scream at him, and he didn't need to know their language to guess what they were saying.

They wanted him to fulfill his promise. And they were right. They deserved miracles.

Alex was too ashamed to meet their pained, furious gazes. This couldn't be the only village that the Torth had brutally invaded. During the past few hours, hundreds of people across the continent and the planet must have been injured or murdered.

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