Act 1: Chapter 1, Part 4

Posted on March 12, 2017

In Which a Light Bearer is Spotted

Megan. First Day of School. Before School.

Groups of other teenagers were meandering along the lane up ahead of them, and behind them as well. Three blocks ahead, the lane ended, spilling those travelling up it into the campus of Persephone High School. A medium sized cluster of large rectangular brick buildings around a taller cylindrical brick tower, amid landscaped grounds, Persephone was the only high school in the Olympus school district, attended by approximately twelve hundred students. She’d been to the campus before, but not enough to really know her way around.

“So, keeping your piece in your bag pocket, huh?” Evan said, jolting her out of her consideration of the high school they were all about to start at. She looked at him; he was smiling a little, amused smile, one that was immediately familiar, despite how different he was now.

She shrugged. “Yeah. It doesn’t really go with my outfit, and I don’t like wearing gun belts. I’m a lousy shot, anyway. In the extraordinarily unlikely event a Beast shows up in the middle of the day, I’d be more helpful by running away than trying to help take the thing down.”

“Have to teach you sometime,” Evan said, with an overly casual shrug.

“Evan,” she said with an eye roll, “you know very well how much my father’s made me practice. I’m never not going to be a lousy shot. I hate the damn things.”

“Yeah yeah,” he said, “but you still haven’t gone shooting with me. That’s been your mistake this whole time.”

“Plus ça change,” Ryan said, glancing over his shoulder. “You two should try having a new conversation someday.”

Megan giggled, and she and Evan exchanged a smile. “Yeah, I suppose that was pretty silly.”

Angie dropped back to walk beside Megan, primarily to make sure both Megan and Evan could see her rolling her eyes. “You guys had that conversation like once a week in sixth grade.”

“Hey,” Megan pointed out. “Evan started it.”

“Yeah yeah,” Ryan said, his voice dry. “Except he wouldn’t have done that if you just had your gun on a belt.” They were crossing the last block before campus. Up ahead were teenagers all over the place, knots of them standing around and excitedly talking, flocks moving this way and that, as more students streamed onto campus from every direction.

“You’re not even—“ Megan begun. Her throat closed up, though, when Lauren Bakili rounded the corner of the administration building, with a few of the usual party already in tow, gesturing expansively the way she did when she got going. No sign of Brandon, so they must be off-again. Tate Fisher was there, though, standing close to Beth Mishra, and both Katie “Katie Kay” Königsmann and Katie “Katier” Ryuyama were hanging on Lauren’s every word. Lauren did the Sweep even while emphasizing a point with a slash of her hand, and her all-seeing eyes zeroed in on Megan despite the crowd and the six-dozen feet between them.

Megan could feel her face get cold as the blood drained out of it. The others looked where she was looking, and Evan said, “Sacred sounds, already? Haven’t even had a class yet.”

“Can you stay?” Megan asked, meaning to speak but whispering instead.

“What now?” Angie said, regarding Lauren and her approaching party with distaste.

“Please, stay,” Megan asked, managing to make the words heard. “Help me be strong.”

“Megan,” Angie said evenly, “You should be in Lauren’s position. You’d be way nicer. Of course we’ll stay.”

"I'm not from a Light Bearing family," Megan said as she glanced at Angie, letting her expression convey all the gratitude that she couldn't express in words, then turned her focus back to Lauren.

Lauren’s presence only grew as she approached: nearly as tall as Evan, her twilight skin, flowing crow’s wing hair, and midnight eyes served to emphasize the whiteness of her teeth as she beamed at Megan. The family’s matriarch, a Light Bearer in the nineteen teens and twenties, had come to Seattle from northern Africa in one of the first waves of migration during the Great War, and Lauren personally had four different gran' tongues1. Every generation of every branch of the family had produced a Light Bearer; the Bakili family was a pillar of the community.

“Megan!” she said, sweeping in for a hug. “It’s so good to see you!” she said, voice bright and clear, as she squeezed out all of Megan’s breath. She drew back, keeping her hands on Megan’s shoulders, and gazed down on her fondly. “You were so hard to reach this summer! We barely saw you. We missed you!”

Beth chipped in, “We did!” The Katies nodded as well. Tate studied all four of them intermittently, alternating with looking around at the crowd. His body language made clear he neither had nor wanted any stake in whatever was about to happen.

“Hi, Lauren,” Megan said once she had the breath to say it. “I’m sorry. My family was really busy this summer. Father had to go to Mumbai, so we went with him.”

“Of course. I know how it is,” Lauren replied, her smile wide. “Family is important.” She was wearing a long Egyptian-inspired tunic dress, light and airy, and a multi layered gold necklace. Her long gleaming black hair was clipped behind one ear by a silver laurel leaf charm but otherwise loose, flowing down over her shoulders. With the dress she wore a chic, subtle shoulder holster; the revolver handle peeking out of it was inlaid with lapis lazuli. Around her neck hung an amulet of red coral.

She took another step back and turned toward Angie. “Hello, Angela,” she said, still smiling. “How was your summer?”

“It’s Angie,” Angie said coolly. “If you don’t mind.”

“That seems so informal,” Lauren replied. “We’ve hardly ever talked before. I feel like I would need to know you better to address you in such a familiar manner.”

Behind her, Katie Kay, tall and blonde, and Katier, somewhat shorter but not short, with walnut brown hair, exchanged a glance and a giggle.

Angie opened her mouth to reply, but Lauren cut her off when she turned to face Evan and nodded her head deeply, almost bowing, toward him, face suddenly solemn. “Evan. I was so sorry to hear about your father. It’s a terrible tragedy. He was a great servant of the city.”

Megan whipped her head in Evan’s direction. What about his father? Evan, for his part, had gone completely still, a strange remoteness creeping into his face. Then he frowned. “Yes. Well. The breach was over a year ago. It seems like a little late to bring it up.” The Katies and Beth were all taking in this exchange with puzzled expressions on their faces.

Lauren smiled again, almost sadly. “We haven’t conversed since it happened. It would have been so rude to not offer my condolences.”

Evan appeared to consider that. “Hard to argue with that, I suppose,” he said, in a decidedly unenthusiastic tone.

Ryan was staring Lauren skeptically as she turned her attention to him and said, “Ryan d’Maughan. Man of mystery.” Her lips quirked up slightly as she said so. “How are you?”

Ryan tipped his head to the side, his eyes narrow and his voice puzzled. “I don’t know what we’re doing here. Can you get to the point?”

“Well, I’m not sure what you mean, Ryan,” Lauren said. “I’m greeting my dear friend Megan, whom I haven’t seen enough of lately. She’s walking with the three of you, and it would be rude of me to ignore you, even though I don’t know you very well. Really,” she said, turning her gaze back to Megan, “It would have been better for Megan to introduce me, because I really have had almost no interactions with you three. We’ve never shared any classes.”

Megan bit her lip, and said, “You didn’t ask.”

“Well, I guess that was rude of me, then,” Lauren said, shaking her head. “My apologies.” She smiled at Megan, let her gaze Sweep over the other three. “So are these friends of yours, Megan?”

“You know they are!” The words burst from Megan’s lips unbidden, and she clapped her hands over her mouth, mortified. “I mean—“

“I do?” Lauren said, a delicate frown creasing her brow. “I haven’t seen you spend any time with them in all the time we’ve been close. I thi—“ she stopped in mid-sentence as something behind Megan and the others caught her attention, her mouth hanging open, something like amazement on her face. Her friends, too, seemed to have been distracted by whatever it was.

Involuntarily, instinctively, the four of them turned to look.

It was a boy, walking toward the administration building’s entrance. He seemed to be greeting everyone he was passing close by, a friendly word or two, judging by his expression. As he passed, too, heads turned, and he left a wake of rapid murmuring behind him. He was handsome; that much was clear even from a distance. His hair was as dark as Lauren’s, maybe even, impossibly, blacker than that, raven’s-wing to her crow’s-wing. His skin was fair, though, as fair or fairer than Megan’s. He was dressed sharply, in a t-shirt that faded from an emerald green around the shoulders to a deep gray at the base, with a breast pocket, out of which some item peaked, unidentifiable from the distance they were at, and jeans that were a richer blue than any others in sight. A black leather belt graced his hips, and he wore black leather boots as well, with the multiple buckles that were trendy that year.

Hanging from his belt was a broadsword in an ornate scabbard, rather than a gun, as well as a short baton of iron, spiked at the end hanging free, and a copper lantern, a tiny flame burning inside.

“Sacred Silence,” Lauren breathed. “A Light Bearer. A new Light Bearer.” Her gaze Swept back to Megan, and gave her a no-nonsense look. “Megan, we’ll catch up later. We can figure out what’s going on... here, and I will give you all the deets on that guy.” She grinned, sudden excitement gleaming in her eyes, and with that she was gone, the others following behind.

Katie K and Katier gave her little smiles and little waves as they passed, just wiggling their fingers; Katier leaned in close to Megan while giving Angie, Ryan, and Evan an oblique glance, and whispered, “Sorry!”

Beth paused to give Megan a warm smile and her hand a quick squeeze, her clouds of mahogany curls ruffled by the slight breeze. “We really did miss you. We’ll talk later.”

Tate’s copper skin was striking in the morning sun as he gave the group as a whole a shrug, his palms briefly upturned, and then he was a half pace behind Beth.

Then they were alone in their group, one knot of teenagers among many. “Huh,” Ryan said. “That went… pretty innocuously.”

Megan gazed after Lauren and her posse as they disappeared through the administration building’s door. “Who,” she murmured, “was that boy?”

  • 1. A catch all term for grandfather and grandmother tongues, a term for the language one's grandparents speak. An extension of mother tongue and father tongue, the primary language one's parents speak.