Wander - The Children of the Whispers

The cries and echoes of revelers faded as Bamford Alley dwindled behind them. They passed into Geartown, moving between hulking factories deep in their slumber. The globes of light were spaced further apart, shrouding this district in a heavy blanket of shadow. The moon peeked around the buildings across town, in Cashborough. The darkness, coupled with the swelling silence, made for an uncomfortable commute.

The two boys passed through the quiet streets. Brom shied away from Gaspard. The bigger boy said nothing as he scanned their surroundings, as if looking for something he'd misplaced. Tension hung between them; Brom didn't take kindly to being threatened, but being threatened with Callow took it beyond just bullying.

"Where are you?" Gaspard muttered under his breath, hunching his shoulders and peering into the shadows. 

Brom raised an eyebrow. "What are you doing?"

Gaspard ignored him and stalked toward one of the buildings, eyes narrowed. "I know you're there. You better be there if you know what's good for you."

"You talk to yourself often, then?"

"Quiet," Gaspard growled. He cupped his hands around his mouth and bellowed. Night-birds squawked and scattered at the sound. "Come out here now! Don't you make me wait any longer!"

Brom opened his mouth, but his words caught in his throat as he detected movement from the corner of his eye. A pair of figures slid through the shadows, small and nimble. In the flickering light from a nearby streetlamp, Brom saw the dirty, familiar faces of two children.

Axel was of a height with Brom, but with darker features and a blunt, ugly face. He was as talkative as he was handsome; he acknowledged both Brom and Gaspard with a nod and a grunt. He held a sack in one hand and a small blade, no longer than a finger, in the other. He approached Gaspard and held out the sack. The larger boy snatched it away.

The other child smiled up at Brom and approached him. He'd known Jenique since he'd left the Wayward House, and she always gave him the same fawning smile. Her skin was dark like Axel's, but unlike his brutish face, she had soft features. A smattering of freckles dotted her nose and cheeks. Her teeth gleamed in the weak light.

"Hi Brom," she hissed.

Before Brom could speak, Gaspard pushed past. "Where's your take, girl?"

She shrank back from him, her eyes wide and terrified. Before Brom was aware of what he was doing, he grabbed Gaspard's arm and pulled him away from her, shoving him at the end. The bigger boy's face twisted angrily, and he stepped forward with clenched fists.

"It's here!" Jenique cried, pulling a smaller sack from beneath her folds of clothing. Her eyes darted between Brom and Gaspard, fearful. Gaspard snatched the sack away from her, never taking his eyes from Brom. "It's fine, Gaspard. It's all there. No need to get mad at him."

"I'll get mad at whoever I want to get mad at, and you'll have no say," Gaspard snarled. He tilted his head at Brom. "Is this the way of things? You want to take a swing at me, do you? I'm standing here. Take your shot."

Brom said nothing. His nostrils flared and his heart thrummed in his chest. His own fists were clenched, but he prayed it wouldn't come to that.

Gaspard leered. "Yeah, that's what I expected from a nothing like you." He shook the sack in front of Jenique. Tinkling sounds echoed. "Not much from you, girl. Better not make this a habit. I'd hate for your boyfriend to have to stand up for you and get himself hurt."

"He's not my boyfriend," Jenique said in a small voice, but Gaspard ignored her. He muttered something to Axel, and the two of them began moving in the direction of the Whispers.

Brom and Jenique watched as they moved away. Brom looked at her, his expression weary. "Are you okay?"

"Me?" she asked, and failed to supress a nervous giggle. "It was you he wanted to kill. I can't believe you actually did that." She paused and hung her face. "Thank you."

The End

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