I probably shouldn’t have ran. I was different enough to begin with and running attracted attention. But I was scared and I needed Papa.
I didn’t know what I’d do when he was gone.
The soles of my shoes slipped in the dust as I turned the corner toward home, making me stagger a little, but I was used to how worn they were and quickly caught my balance. One leap let me avoid the wobbly bit of our front steps then I slipped inside.
Papa lay on his bed in the front room, cocooned in blankets. He stared at me blankly for a moment before recognition slowly seeped in.
“Aren? Is something wrong?” His words were whisper thin and edged in pain.
“Papa? What’s treason?” I gasped as I leaned against the door. The sweat wicked into my dress as I stood waiting for his reply.
I’d understood most of the notice in the village square, more than enough to terrify me. The rest hinged on that one unknown word. Hopefully it wasn’t as bad as I feared although, judging by experience, things tended to be worse than expected and not better.
Papa pulled himself up a bit more onto his pillow. “Treason? It’s when you go against the king,” he replied. He coughed and the sound echoed through the mostly empty room. “Of course you need to have a king in order to be charged with that.”
I couldn’t stop the shiver that traced a path along my spine.
“It’s okay Aren, I know what Robert’s calling himself,” he assured me. “Smallest province in Avenna and he claims he’s king. I could call myself king of this bed just as easily and it would mean as much.”
He gestured briefly across the bed then he winced and his hand dropped.
“Papa?” I took a step forward then stopped when he smiled.
“I’m fine,” he whispered. He coughed again and raised his voice slightly. “When King Nicholas was alive, treason was one of the few crimes with a death penalty. I assume that much hasn’t changed.”
It felt like my heart dropped into my stomach. I stared at him in horror. He stared back, his face was so pale it looked waxy.
“It’s that bad Aren? What is he calling treason?”
“Half-elven babies,” I replied. I was right, it was worse.
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