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by Sahari
Rated: E · Chapter · Fantasy · #2261915
Chapter 1 of Genesis
My name is Taryn Sil-Tain. I’m almost seven. I need to get out of the village. My name is Taryn Sil-Tain. I’m almost seven. I need to get out of the village. My name is Taryn Sil-Tain…

Taryn stared down at the wrinkled note cradled in her palm and read it silently, over and again. She knew that if she stopped her mind would be consumed with thoughts of spending hours on Damville’s shores picking through the sand for sea shells. Thoughts of journeys into the forest with the Royden Tharin to explore more of the its secrets. Thoughts of playing games of tag and blind man’s bluff with the other children in the village until the sun began to set and their parents called them home. If she forgot the words she would find herself scratching scabs into her arm, mentally reliving her terrified excursion into the forbidden ruins hidden deep within the forest and regretting letting her older brother taunt her into straying from the group.

But Taryn didn’t have an older brother. And she wasn’t allowed to spend any more time away from home than was absolutely necessary, let alone play with the other children. Before that week, she’d had no idea what they did when they weren’t in the schoolroom with her. Before that week, she didn’t have the ability to hear other people’s thoughts.

My name is Taryn Sil-Tain. I’m – Taryn flinched as a surge of excited thoughts flooded her mind. It was near the end of the school day and everyone’s thoughts were aligned with her own: anxious to leave but for different reasons. Roby really needed to find a toilet. Hala wanted to hold her newborn sister. Eana wanted to meet Hala’s sister. Taryn closed her hands into tight fists in her lap, crumpling the note and digging her nails into her palms to come back to herself. She shut her eyes and began muttering the words she imagined floating in her mind.

The only mind she could not hear clearly belonged to the only adult in the schoolroom. Taryn was vaguely aware of Ms. Elah passing through the slanted desks, hurrying to return the graded pages that loaded her arms. But she still noticed when Ms. Elah paused – longer than necessary – at her desk. A break from the ordinary could be a sign of trouble, Papa always said. And Taryn liked to know if trouble were coming her way. So she halted her muttering and looked into her teacher’s eyes.

Her empathy caught traces of concern but it was nothing to be terrified about. Whenever Ms. Elah was concerned for one of her students, she always asked to speak to them after class. Taryn imagined it would be no different from when her mother spoke to her out of concern. But as Taryn began to turn away, she caught the tail-end of a thought.

‘…speak to her parents about this.’ Ms. Elah moved on and Taryn forgot all about her mantra.

Taryn understood her teacher’s concern. The assignment Ms. Elah placed on her desk had been completed the day she first realized her mind-reading ability. The class was given half an hour to answer a writing prompt and Taryn had been so overwhelmed that she’d written whatever had come to her mind. It showed. Her teacher’s concern was understandable. But if Ms. Elah spoke to her parents before Taryn did, they would find out about her new ability, and that Taryn had kept it from them.

They’d been so relieved when she’d gotten her empathy. It was the tamer of the two telepathic abilities and easier to hide. In the thousand years of mutant history, mind-reading and empathy had never been found together in a single mutant. Her parents thought that they had avoided a disaster. They weren’t ready to find out that their little girl was a mutant among mutants. They had enough issues with Taryn being a mutant to begin with. So much, in fact, that they created a host of rules for Taryn to follow and a method of torture in case she didn’t – they called it punishment.

Their most important rule was that no one was ever supposed to know that Taryn was a mutant. It was also the most ridiculous one – in Taryn’s opinion. It was the hardest to follow and she couldn’t find any way to address Ms. Elah’s concern without breaking that all important rule.

Fortunately for Taryn, her parents had a very strict rule that she was never to share anything she learned from her empathetic encounters. The logic was that if the invasion of privacies couldn’t be avoided, Taryn should at least have the grace to avoid announcing everyone’s innermost sentiments. Taryn assumed that the same rule would apply to her mind-reading. So as long as Ms. Elah didn’t open her mouth to make the request (because her parents would ask and Mama would know if Taryn lied) her parents didn’t have to find out until Taryn could puzzle how best to tell them. She’d make an excuse to stay home tomorrow and wait until her parents were in the right mood. They would be able to find a way out of this mess. But for now, all she had to do was be the first person out of the door.

Taryn hurriedly loaded all of her things – her stylus and inkwell, her books and folio of parchments – into her bag and slung it over her shoulder. She folded the incriminating assignment and tucked it in her tunic, next to her copy of ‘Primus.’ When the hollow tone of the clock tower bell announced that one o’clock had arrived, Taryn bolted from her seat and raced to the door. Her classmates scrambled to gather up their belongings and Ms. Elah spoke over the clamor to say something about a home reading assignment. Taryn ignored it all and threw the door open.

Someone had thought it a brilliant idea for all of Damville’s most popular shops and important buildings to be in the same place. They encircled the courtyard at the center of the village. The single-room schoolhouse was one of those buildings, and it only had one entrance. At one o’clock, on any given day, the center was alive with travelers and villagers alike. The travelers flooded in and out of the inn and on and off the roads to purchase bright fabrics from Mr. Finney and juicy fruits from Mr. Sacc. But most came to see the Lady’s Fountain at the courtyard’s center.

The fountain was made entirely of an indestructible skymetal that the mystics called brælten. Its wide twelve-sided base supported a round basin. Crouched in the center of this basin were the carved statues of five winged men. Their faces were stern. Their wings stretched wide. Their muscles were tense as they held tight grips on the swords at their hips. All of this suggested that the winged warriors were poised to launch themselves into some heavenly battle. And resting on the tips of their wings was the Lady.

The Lady was older than the Lothor god-kings; older even than the beginning of the War of the Royals. And despite their deep devotion to the Kings, Lothorians flocked from all over to visit the village at the bottom of the kingdom to worship her. They believed that the water flowing from the Lady’s lips had healing powers, but only for the most sincere believers. They came to beg and pray at the base of her pool and didn’t dare touch her waters unless without the approval of her black robed priest. Lest her winged warriors spring to life and strike them down.

Taryn usually kept away from the fountain and its mystics – those of Lorric or Keeper faith, those who believed in magic and the gods and other wonderful things Taryn was taught not to waste her thoughts on. Papa didn’t want her to contract any of their lunacies and Taryn was always careful to think ten times before disobeying her Papa. But Ms. Elah would never think to look for her there. It was a dangerous risk but worse things would happen if Ms. Elah’s message reached her parents.

Three seconds. That’s how long Taryn stood in the schoolhouse doorway. One deep breath to focus her mind on the importance of her flight so she wouldn’t lose her sense of self. Then she ran across the sand-packed cobblestone yard and muscled her way into the midst of the mystics.

After only a few steps amid the mystics, Taryn realized that her risky plan did not merely conceal her. It swallowed her up entirely. The faithful mass stood wailing their sincere supplications. They knelt and professed their desperate pleas. They lay prostrate in worship, too ashamed to even look upon the Holy Mother. Surrounded by all of this, Taryn was no longer herself trying to get out of the village. She was a mother seeking healing for a chronically ill child. A warrior needing restoration for a shattered knee. She didn’t want to leave the village. She wanted a drink from the fountain. Needed it. And as she shambled and ducked and limped her way closer to the sound of those flowing waters, she prayed the black-robed priest would choose her.

She couldn’t hear his words over all the other voices clamoring around her and rattling in her mind. But she could see him. See the sweat beading on his wrinkled forehead as he spoke with passion and fervor. See his hands tremble as he hoisted the most magnificent cup she’d ever see. If she didn’t know better, she might have said that it glowed in the sunlight. Whether that was true or not, she did not care. That was the prize. A drink from that cup would make her whole. If only the priest would choose her.

The priest’s eyes seemed tired as they moved lazily through the crowd. Searching for someone to heal; someone to bless. Taryn began to think of ways to draw his attention. Just as she began to wonder about moving a few objects around her, a man beside her suddenly leapt to his feet. With a jubilant shout, he threw his hands in the air and began to plea louder as he hopped and spun and danced to a music only he could hear.

It worked!

He’d caught the priest’s attention, and that of those around him. But the holy man quickly lost interest and the gathered mass was unmoved. They returned their gazes to the priest. And when Taryn’s focus rejoined theirs, she found that the priest was looking… He was looking at her!

His eyes locked with hers and she felt… curiosity there. And wonder.

‘Children do not usually come unaccompanied to these sermons,’ he thought. ‘And those eyes… Strange. Beautiful. Like Bellautorex gold.’

Suddenly, Taryn was no longer a member of a faithful mass. She was a lonely old man. Glad that the fool hadn’t hurt the child in his reckless bid to demonstrate his zeal. But Tovar was so tired. He was frustrated. Enraged. He should not be here! Why had the Lady commanded him to stay? It wasn’t as if one of these hopeless beggars would relieve him of his burden. Though he couldn’t say that he wished they wouldn’t. The fruit of his prayer time after Karn’s departure were such that he would not balk if one of these so-called believers simply took the Chalice from him. Oh, how he wished they would.

But no. These were people of an empty faith. They’d do anything to receive a drink from the cup, but none of them were called to take it. They would abandon their children and shame themselves but they were void of the truth of the Lady’s power.

Tovar heaved a weary sigh. If he was going to condemn anyone for abandoning a child in pursuit of faith, he’d have to start with himself. The last time he’d seen his little eaglet, she’d been a few years older than this one. But that didn’t make him feel any better. He wondered where she was now. Was she happy? Was she well? Despite himself, he was relieved to know that she hadn’t been claimed as he had. He should have asked Karn. There was much that he longed to know. Much that he wished had gone differently last night. But his Lady had to come first. His mission above all. If anyone ever came to claim the Winged Chalice, then he could have more of his eaglet than these painful reminders and empty hopes.

When, he corrected himself.

Tovar watched a smile spread across the girl’s face. Then she began to move through the crowd towards him and the cockles of his old heart began to warm. He’d asked the Lady for Her Champion. If She saw fit to send him a reminder of what he’d sacrificed in his service to Her, he’d make the best of it. In fact, he would stop thinking of it as a reminder of things lost and start thinking of it as a promise of his coming reward. He decided in himself that even though the Chalice had failed to heal these last fifteen years, he would do whatever he could to answer the girl’s request.

Suddenly, the warmth in his chest grew intense. It became a heat that radiated through his entire body until the Winged Chalice itself began to tremble in his grasp. Gently, at first. But quickly growing ever more urgent. Surprised, Tovar glanced down at the Chalice and –

Taryn staggered to a halt when the black-robed priest broke eye contact with her. Freed from the empathetic pull of his mind, she was herself again.

My name is Taryn Sil-Tain. I’m almost seven. I need to get home. My name is Taryn Sil-Tain. I’m almost seven. I need to get home. I need to get home. I need to get home. Eyes closed, fists tight, Taryn reverted to the security of her mantra before she could be lured into another mind. She elbowed her way from the fountain and its worshipers.

The village circle was built like the face of a clock; twelve buildings bordered its edge with the fountain at its center. The clock tower above the inn was positioned at the twelfth hour; the schoolhouse at the tenth. Taryn’s home was hidden near the edge of the forest somewhere to the northeast. Normally, she would reach it by way of the southeast road that was cobbled between the fourth and fifth hours. But Taryn hadn’t been normal all week. Since the rise of her mind-reading, she wasn’t able to withstand the onslaught of excited and enterprising thoughts on the road as people poured in and out of Damville.

As she emerged from the crowd of mystic somewhere near the fifth hour, she set her mind to ducking between the shops at the first and second hour and trudging through the wilderness beyond the village proper to get home. With her mantra on her lips and the image of home in her mind, Taryn began to move. Somehow, she still managed to find herself standing before the bakery that stood at the eighth hour. For a confused moment she stared longingly at a frosted mini-cake near the end of the display window.

“Ma-ma.” A small boy ran forward and stood beside Taryn. He pointed a small finger at the same decorated treat and looked back at the woman hurrying toward him. “I want that.”

Taryn mentally kicked herself for overlooking that weakness: the younger a person was, the harder it was for her to avoid an empathetic response. She squeezed her eyes shut and shook his thoughts from her mind, silently reminding herself of why she needed to get away. It grew easier for her to fight the urge to act out the boy’s frantic protests as his mother hauled him further away from her, kicking and screaming, into a carriage.

Glancing back at the schoolhouse, Taryn saw the last of the students pouring out. Ms. Elah would be close behind and Taryn was exposed. Her abilities had sent her on two circuits around the fountain and her head start didn’t even matter. She realized that she wouldn’t be able to run. Even with her mantra it normally took her ten minutes just to free herself from the courtyard – plenty of time for her to be caught. She needed a diversion.

Taryn scanned the courtyard until she found a good one. Several yards in front of the school’s entrance, a slow-moving cart lumbered dangerously across the courtyard. The misshapen lumps of its loaded goods shifted beneath a white canvas as the cart was propelled forward by a pair of young men. Taryn raised her hand to her waist and curled her fingers into a claw. She twisted her wrist just enough to stop the cart from moving, then waited until its drivers shoved hard against it. Another twitch of her wrist toppled the cart on its side, sending a wheel rolling free in the courtyard and raising a cacophony of wood and metal as its contents spilled across the school’s entrance. A grim smile tugged at Taryn’s lips. She was proud of her precise control of her abilities, but she felt bad that she had to ruin someone else’s day in order to save her own.

Taryn turned away and hoped that this attempt to free herself from the village would be her last. She wasn’t going to try her normal route or her established detour anymore. She would focus on getting away from all of these minds. She could figure out a way home once she was free.

In the days since she’d develop the ability to read minds, Taryn had managed to learn more in her ten minute maze-runs through the village than she did in her three hour school day. She’d learned that the Smith’s only grandson wanted to join the Lothorian Guard. Every day he told himself that he would tell his family of his desires later that evening. But every morning he was kicking himself for not having the courage to do so. She often felt his frustration as he walked through the village running errands for his family. She’d learned that Mrs. Jeska’s secret ingredient wasn’t really worth the prices paid for her sweet cakes. She even knew who kept stealing Mr. Sacc’s peaches. With all these thoughts dancing in her head, Taryn found it hard to hear when someone actually spoke.

As she stood in front of the baker’s window, bracing for the onslaught of minds ahead of her, she wasn’t sure if she could even recall hearing faint whispers of her name. She was, however, absolutely sure of the familiar voice that spoke to her now, and the gentle grip that restrained her.

“Taryn.”

Taryn turned back sharply to look up at the arm attached to the hand on her shoulder. It was the same shade of ground nutmeg as her own skin. The slender fingers, the slim build; all very familiar features. Taryn swallowed nervously as her heart pounded. She forced herself to look into the finely sculpted face that offered her a warm smile. She dared herself to look into the honey golden eyes that mirrored her own. “Mama?” Taryn breathed. “What are you doing here?”

“It’s nice to see you too, love.” Mama bent to take Taryn’s school bag, dangling several streaks of her shiny black braids in Taryn’s face.

“Why are you here?” Taryn asked.

“I wanted to walk home with you.” She strapped Taryn’s bag onto her own shoulder. “Is there something wrong?” She didn’t look at all concerned as she reached to touch the side of Taryn’s face.

You aren’t supposed to be here, Taryn thought to herself. “I can make it home on my own, you know.” Taryn gently pushed the hand away and her gaze darted behind her mother.

Ms. Elah had occupied herself with helping to clean up the mess Taryn made but she stole a few glances of the crowd, her eyes searching. If Ms. Elah saw Taryn’s mother… Taryn’s terror intensified when she realized that her mother might have seen what she’d just done. She looked back into her mother’s face, looking for signs of anger, listening for thoughts of what might be coming. But her unstable new abilities had chosen that moment to close her mind to the thoughts of those around her. Only her empathy remained and Mama was an expert in fooling Taryn’s empathy.

“I know. I have something for you.” Mama rummaged through her own bag. “You’re always so famished when you get home so I thought I’d get you a treat for the trip.”

Taryn looked skeptically at the pair of velvety red peaches. Mr. Sacc grew the sweetest peaches on this side of the kingdom, and even though Taryn had only had them once in her life, she could understand why someone would want to steal them. “I’m not allowed to eat these.”

The ban on sweets was Mama’s rule. Papa had agreed that it was a ridiculous one so he smuggled a piece of honey cake as small as Taryn’s fist to her one morning. Taryn had been four years old. They were a few weeks into her lessons and he’d wanted to reward her accomplishments. She’d gobbled it up and in her excitement she accidentally uprooted a pair of nearby saplings. She fainted not long after and spent the rest of the day in bed. Now that they knew what sweets did to her control, her father made them incredibly rare treats to be enjoyed in the solitude of the forest. And Taryn stayed away from them otherwise, no matter how desperately she craved them.

“Of course you aren’t. Not here, at least.” Mama smiled. It was deceptive and fed Taryn’s suspicions.

“Well, thank you, then. They look delicious,” said Taryn cautiously. “But can we leave now?” She had been looking around but Ms. Elah was nowhere near the school or anywhere else she could see.

“What’s your hurry?” Mama asked. “I thought it would be nice for us to spend some time together. It’s been so long since we’ve just talked. Your father says you haven’t been very focused during your lessons. I wanted to make sure that everything was alright with you.” Her mother busied her hands with smoothing out Taryn’s eyebrows and straightening her clothes, her face a mask of concern. “Is everything alright?”

“Of course,” Taryn gently grabbed her mother’s hands and held them away from her. “Everything is fine.”

“Okay.” Mama gave a small chuckle but made no move to leave.

Taryn told herself to tread carefully. If it were her father who’d surprised her in the village, she would simply urge him to leave and he’d hurry away with her. Then he’d wait the necessary days – or weeks – for Taryn to explain why. But then, Papa would never surprise her in the village to begin with. “Did you leave Papa alone with Nayt?” Nayt was Taryn’s nine month-old-brother and her father was terrible with babies. He’d once been left alone with Taryn when she was nearly one. It had taken them a week to clean up the messes and repair the damages he had let her get away with. Nayt wasn’t a mutant, but normal nine-month-olds could be difficult in their own right.

“Alright,” Mama agreed, taking Taryn’s hand. “Let’s go.”

Taryn’s relief was short lived. They had only taken two steps when Ms. Elah emerged from the crowd a few yards ahead of them.

“There you are, Taryn. And Malah! Now I won’t have to send for you.”

Taryn kept her hand from squeezing her mother’s in a panic. It took her less than a second to act this time. She snatched a peach from her mother’s hand and made sure her mother saw her take a huge bite before she pulled away and ran. In a few quick seconds, she was out of her mother’s sight. The horrified look her mother gave her was all the guarantee Taryn needed to know that this conference with Ms. Elah wouldn’t be long.

Taryn didn’t stop running until she was out of the village, where the packed and trampled dirt paths met the untamed open fields that surrounded Damville. The grass there reached up to her waist and she waded through it, traveling along the edge of the village to get to the road. There her mother waited, leaning against the arch that marked Damville southeastern entrance. Taryn couldn’t tell if she had actually been waiting long or if that was what she wanted Taryn to believe. But Mama was no longer concerned.

Taryn started again on her peach, keeping her head down to avoid her mother’s false warmth while she tried to find a way to explain… everything. She headed up the road. She started to make the gentle climb away from the village until –

“No,” her mother said. Then she walked onto the field north of the road and bid Taryn to follow her. Taryn reluctantly obeyed; there would be no road full of travelers to save her from having to explain her actions.

They walked together in silence, save for the sound of grass crunching beneath their steps and the summer wind blowing gently around them.

“That was dangerous.”

Taryn looked up to make sure that Mama was expecting a response. She didn’t want to make the mistake of answering her mother’s thoughts. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”

Mama gave her a knowing look, her lips twitching as she repressed a scowl. “I called your name three times.”

Taryn turned away and wiped her face of the peach’s juices. “When?”

“After you came barreling out of class.”

“Oh, I guess I didn’t hear you.”

“You ran right past me.”

“I guess I didn’t see you.”

“Why do you think that is?”

Taryn shrugged. “I usually try to avoid everyone in the village. I am supposed to be hiding.”

“Are you sure there isn’t another reason?” Mama asked. “Anything you might want to tell me about?”

“I don’t know. Is there something you want to hear?”

“Let’s try this again.” Her mother placed a hand on Taryn’s shoulder to stop her. “Is there something you should tell me? Anything you think I should know?”

“Um…” There were a couple of things Taryn thought her mother should know. But until she found a way to say them without getting into trouble, she’d keep them to herself. “I love you.” Taryn offered her best smile.

The woman said nothing as she studied her child’s face and Taryn’s smile wavered as a familiar cavern yawned within her. Taryn didn’t know how Mama had learned that direct eye contact made her empathy stronger but she never wasted an opportunity to apply that knowledge. And every time Mama’s golden eyes dug into her own, searching and pulling at everything Taryn was, a cold, vast emptiness would creep into her core and fill her with such a futile, faceless yearning that it left her feeling sad and small. Part of her wondered if Mama knew that it hurt her. But she was afraid to ask. So Taryn clenched and endured. If she fidgeted or look away, she would betray her guilt. If Mama got her way, Taryn would break completely and confess – she would want to. Taryn dug her nails into her palms to remind herself to stay quiet, even as the words of her confession began forming in her mind. Thankfully, her measures proved unnecessary.

“Okay.” Her mother turned away and started walking again.

Taryn let herself fall behind while she slowed her heart and caught her breath. She needed to put some distance between them. “Okay?” she asked warily.

“Yes,” her mother answered over her shoulder. “You can tell your father when we get home.”

“No! Wait, wait, wait!” Taryn hurried to catch up to her mother and pushed against her belly to make her stop. “How much did she tell you?”

“Just that she’d like to see your father and I tomorrow.”

“She didn’t tell you why?”

Mama gave a triumphant smirk that turned Taryn’s stomach. “I assumed you knew all the important details. Otherwise you wouldn’t have tried so hard to get away.”

Taryn sighed. She reached into her shirt and pulled out the folded sheet of parchment. “Please don’t tell Papa,” she pleaded.

Her mother shook her head. “You know you’ve done something wrong and you tried to hide it. I don’t think you deserve any leniency.”

Taryn grudgingly handed her the parchment and watched her mother read it, feeling the cautious curiosity turn into confusion as she read what her daughter had written.

“What is this?” Mama asked as she read through the lines again.

“We were supposed to write about our favorite memory.”

“Was it a group assignment?” Mama asked.

“No,” Taryn replied softly.

“Sweetie, this looks it’s been written by several…” Her eyes went wide, then narrow and cold. “How long?” she asked quietly.

Taryn winced against the anger she felt. “Since Benday.”

“Four days? You kept this from us for four days?” Her mother yelled and gave her another of those disarming looks.

Taryn turned away this time. “I was going to tell you,” she muttered.

“Before or after you had shared it with the entire class?”

Taryn said nothing. Anything she could think to say would have added to her mother’s anger.

“Can you hear my thoughts right now? Actual words?”

“Not right now. It comes and goes.”

“And are you still an empath?”

Taryn knew what her mother wanted to hear. She wished she could tell her ‘no.’ But sparing Mama’s feelings now would only get her into more trouble. Taryn nodded.

Mama said nothing. Her face had gone blank but Taryn could feel her fear and her worry. Taryn tried to reassure her. “Mama, there’s nothing to worry about.”

“It’s worse. Your mutation is getting worse.”

Taryn clenched her jaws and focused on the line of trees ahead. She drew away from her mother and headed for their shade. She hated when her mother talked about her ‘mutation.’ She made it sound like a disease.

“How are we supposed to deal with this?” Mama spoke to herself but Taryn answered her anyway.

“We could just tell her that I’m a mu – ”

“You know better than that,” Mama snapped.

“But if we just tell her then – ”

“Taryn, listen to me.” Her mother grabbed Taryn’s shoulders as she crouched down to meet Taryn’s pleading gaze with a determined stare. Taryn felt the conviction with which she spoke. “No one can ever know what you are. Do you understand?”

“No, I don’t.” Taryn answered angrily as she jerked herself from her mother’s grasp.

“Well it doesn’t matter if you understand or not,” her mother said, rising. “You broke the rules, Taryn.”

“I didn’t know there was a rule against getting new abilities.” Taryn wanted to make sure her mother heard the correct way to address these changes.

“But you did know about the rule against using your abilities in front of others.”

“Abilities I can control. I can’t control the mind-reading yet.”

“But you can control your telekinesis.”

Taryn couldn’t object to that. Her telekinesis was the one ability that she had complete control over, when she was awake. Her father had made sure of that. He would be merciless if he found out about what she’d done. When he found out. Taryn felt like crying.

“You are also supposed to tell us as soon as your mutation gets–” her mother stopped when Taryn’s defeated expression twisted into a glare. “You’re supposed to tell us as soon as you get a new ability. That way we could avoid situations like this.” She gave the assignment another saddened glance. “Sometimes I think you do these things on purpose.”

“I’m sorry. I just didn’t want you to be upset with me again.” A great portion of Taryn’s life was spent in failed attempts to avoid upsetting her mother.

“I’m upset because you kept this from us. But I am also worried about you.”

“You’re always worried, and I’m always fine.”

“You’re not fine, Taryn. You are too young to be half as mutated as –”

“Powerful,” Taryn corrected.

“ – as you are and I’m worried about what we’ll have to do when you can no longer control yourself. If we can’t control you.”

“I’ll just stay out of school for a while,” Taryn suggested. “Until I can learn to control it.”

“You’re still struggling with the empathy,” her mother said. “You wouldn’t even know where to begin with telepathy. And no, we are not going to search for another mutant to teach you,” she added when Taryn opened her mouth to make that suggestion.

Another one of their rules. Taryn didn’t understand it. It would solve a lot of their problems if she could learn how the rest of the mutants in Lothoria controlled their abilities.

“We have to tell your father.”

“No, we don’t.” Taryn was whining now but she didn’t care. She wasn’t allowed to use her abilities in open or exposed areas. Somebody might happen to pass by. She had almost free reign within the cabin but there was nothing interesting to try with her abilities at home. Lessons with her father were her only escape from this rule. He wasn’t a mutant himself but he always came up with fun exercises for Taryn to learn to control her telekinesis and inventive ways for her to use them. If he found out about today, he’d cancel her lessons for a whole week.

“He has to know,” her mother affirmed. “And we have to figure out what to do with you now that you have this new… ability.”

Taryn stood listless as her mother started properly wiping her face clean of the peach juices.

“You’ll get fifteen minutes for not telling us when you were supposed to. Your father doesn’t have to know about the cart.”

Taryn smiled as she wrapped her arms around her mother’s neck. “I knew there was a reason you were my favorite.” Fifteen minutes was a lot better than she had hoped for. She could deal with fifteen minutes of torture.

Her mother laughed and hugged her back. “I know you don’t understand why but you have to try to avoid suspicions. Promise me you’ll never do anything that dangerous again.”

“It wasn’t dangerous. I think running away used up all the extra energy from the fruit. And I’ve gotten better at controlling myself anyways. You should see…” Taryn began, but then she realized what she was asking. Her mother never wanted to see her move.

“Carts don’t just stop on their own and fall onto their sides. If things like that keep happening around you, people will start asking questions.”

“They do if there is a missing cobble in the way. And an axle gets jolted out of place,” Taryn boasted.

Her mother gave her a queer look before she stood and started walking again with Taryn close behind.

“What was that look?” Taryn asked.

“When did you become so clever?”

Taryn dared a smile as her mother’s emotions shifted. “Are you…proud of me?”

“Not for breaking the rules.”

“If we tell Papa the assignment was for today you won’t have to punish me at all.”

Her mother laughed. “Was that your plan?”

Taryn shrugged sheepishly. “Maybe.”

“You’re spending too much time with your father.” Her mother smiled and ran her fingers through Taryn’s braids. “What are we going to do with you?”

Taryn’s mind-reading ability resurfaced in time for her to hear her mother’s somber answer to that question.

‘…tell her eventually.’

“Tell me what?” Taryn almost asked. Somehow she knew she wouldn’t have gotten the truth – if anything – that way. Better to remain silent and let her mother’s thoughts finally reveal her parents’ secrets.

“I guess that makes you three for three; telekinesis, empathy and now telepathy.” She was reluctant to say it aloud, and still wary of accepting it. “At least now we have no more surprises to expect from you. Are there any more surprises you’re keeping from us? Any other abilities, or evolutions you’ve failed to share? I promise you won’t get any more time added to your sentence.”

Yes, Taryn thought. “No,” she said. She had tried to keep one secret and it had collapsed around her. She knew it would be worse for her to delay the second revelation. But her parents had been keeping secrets from her for years. It was her turn.

“That’s good.” Her mother was relieved enough to alleviate any guilt Taryn had for keeping her other ability a secret. “So how far along is your telepathy?”

Taryn did her best to maintain a cheerful attitude. She would have preferred to have this talk with her father. He would have been excited and filled with wonderful ideas and suggestions on how to master her abilities, whereas her mother’s mood would only grow steadily more dreadful as Taryn explained how strong her abilities were – or, in her mother’s words, how far her mutation had gone.
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