by J.L. Rowan -
Elmerin stood within the shadows of an abandoned corridor and gazed down its length at the little girl cowering behind a broken table. She squeezed shut her eyes as though her inability to see the world would protect her from its evils.
He’d been spying on her of a night, when his duties ended and he was free to take his rest. Tegan was small, smaller than any other child on Avenir, and undernourished, a mere wisp of humanity, leaving her easy prey. But she’d surprised him. She knew more places to hide than the engineers who had built the ship. He left food for her in those secret places, but it was no longer enough.
A scrape of metal and a muttered curse drew his gaze to the end of the corridor. A trader stalked in, a strap of leather in his hand. “Where are you, you brat? I know you’re here!”
Elmerin clenched his fists and stepped into the light of the Whale. “No one is here, sir. No one but me.”
The trader started back. “My lord wizard, I—a girl came this way—”
“No girl came here,” Elmerin said. “Leave. The next Approaching will soon be upon us. I require solitude.”
A look passed over the trader’s face, a panoply of rage that stopped the breath in Elmerin’s throat. With a snarl, he spun on his heel and disappeared.
Elmerin crossed to the table and knelt. “He has gone, child.”
Tegan uncurled, blinking, lifting her teary gaze to his. Her eyes widened, and she stared at him. “She told me you would come. She showed you to me, and told me you would come.”
A chill seized him. “Who? Who told you this?”
“I don’t know. She lives in the waves, and comes when I sleep.” She touched his face gingerly, as though he would vanish if she pressed too hard.
A sharp, bitter taste surged in the back of his throat. “They speak to you? A child?” He could hardly whisper the words.
“She said you would save me.” And she threw herself into his arms and clung to his neck.
He closed his eyes. He couldn’t let jealousy take from her the only beautiful thing she had ever known. He held her close. “Of course I will save you.” He rose, lifting her in his arms. “No one will ever hurt you again, I promise.”