“They’re going to kill him,” Kahina said against his chest. “They’re going to take him away and kill him, and no one seems to care!”
He pushed her far enough away from him that he could look into her eyes. They were so red and swollen–his heart dropped in his chest. “Who’s being killed?”
“Junaid! They say he was using magic, but that’s ridiculous!”
Seti glanced back at her parents, who shifted uncomfortably. Junaid was Kahina’s younger brother, couldn’t be more than thirteen, and Seti had come to like spending time with him; it reminded him of his brothers. It reminded him of when he was a boy, and his family had thrown him away because they feared his magic. So many people were afraid of magic without even thinking of the people who were behind it. This boy probably hadn’t even known about his magic until recently. He’s probably as scared as everyone else, and no one seems to care except his sister. And maybe Seti himself. They had played board-games and made funny faces at each other across dinner tables at boring social events. They have had conversations about what it was like to grow up in an aristocratic family and not know what role you were supposed to play as the youngest child. Junaid had taken the time to get to know who he was when the rest of his fiance’s family had thought of the marriage as only part of their games. The thought of the boy dead set something off within him, and a burning calm took over him.
Seti faced the parents. He looked them right in the eyes, and he let them see that hatred was burning inside of it. He would not let another boy be thrown away by those he loved because he was born different. “Where is Junaid now?”
Kahina’s father met his eyes. They never liked each other; there had been a sort of business agreement between the two in that they avoided each other as much as possible. It avoided his son too. “We are law-abiding citizens–he’s too dangerous to be allowed to walk free. He’s not my little boy anymore.”
That was the Senate’s decision–it was too dangerous to have people more powerful than them walking the streets even if it meant children died so regularly that people barely cared anymore. It was the Senate that was turning this family and the murderers.
A muffled yell came from under the house, and Seti felt his magic surge within him. So much of what was happening reminded him of the day his family discovered his magic. The way his mother had looked at him. His brothers had been wide-eyed and trembling in pain in the blood and the screaming. He couldn’t let himself think about the aftermath, about potential dangers that came with magic, because he only had so much time before the guard showed up to kill this boy. He was not going to stand by and watch another one die; he couldn’t. Maybe this wasn’t about the parents anymore? Perhaps this was what he needed to do. He turned away from them. He took a deep breath. He focused on what was right in front of him and what he could do about it. He grabbed Kahina’s shoulders and met her eyes again. “Where?”
“The cellar,” Kahina said. “Can you save him? Please, if you can, save my little brother.”
Her eyes were so pleading, and the crowd outside was getting restless from the growing noise. Tears started to ring her eyes as she looked at him, and there was a slight tremor going through her that he could feel through his hands. Everything else faded to the background as he took her in. If nothing else, he wanted to see her smile again. So Seti forced himself to smile. “You’re asking me to commit treason, my love. You could never marry a traitor.”
He wanted her to understand why he hesitated at all. More importantly, what it meant that he was willing to do it anyway. Had to prove to himself that he was ready to do it because Seti had been telling himself for weeks that he didn’t feel anything or Kahina and her family except the marriage’s potential gains. The gains that came before the wedding. He had never intended for any actual relationship to become a reality. It was only a game, after all. A game that had suddenly become a genuine danger to his health.
This place with its ornate hangings on the walls and furniture imported from different parts of the country– even this place couldn’t protect a young boy from the evils of the world; the ignorance of the world around him. It probably made it worse, given that his family had to keep it by putting on airs that there were abiding citizens with all of their power and influence. His parents had too much the same– or at least his father had been.
“Please,” Kahina whispered that single word, and it drove down into his soul. When did he allow her to get so close to him?
Seti kissed her forehead. “Then this is goodbye, Kahina. I never thought I would marry you in the end, but I didn’t think it would sadden me the way it does. I wish you happiness if that is possible after today.”
With that, he turned from her and pulled himself up and over the staircase railing into a free-fall.