Perfidy: One

short story, writing

Aisa had to admit, the government could be really confusing and frustrating. She sighed and skimmed over her papers one more time. At first, she had thought it was just Senator Swarhos who would change the subject matter of her speeches, but after being transferred, Senator Brell did the same thing. 

She drummed her fingers on the table and flipped to the next page. While norism– discrimination against nonmagical humans– was technically illegal, it still was very present in Rowhux, and according to Senator Brell, the MOST IMPORTANT THING SHE MUST PREPARE A SPEECH ON. 

That is, after she had already prepared a speech on how taxation affected the Rowhuxian impoverished, and before that, a speech on why large-scale magic ought to be banned. She sighed and glanced at the desk beside hers. Edison had his feet propped up on the desk, papers strewn everywhere. A small blue fish swam–or more precisely, floated–in circles around his blond head, and that fish seemed to be the only object of his attention. 

How he managed to get into the internship program, she didn’t know. It either took brainpower, a parent’s influential power, or, even rarer, incredibly strong magical powers, normally. She had a little bit of all three. Edison, from what she’d gathered, came from Authnoma, a shabby mountain town known for its inbreeding. His speeches were decent but overridden with the accent that made all his words slow and his vowels sound like “ay.” And the only magic power she could detect was the live fish that perpetually swam in circles around his head. 

She sighed again and rolled her eyes, but apparently, this second sigh was enough to deem her worthy of attention. 

Edison tore his eyes away from his fish, which also turned to look at her. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” She nodded towards the pile of papers. “Just tired of working on this.” 

“What’s it on?” He ran a hand through his hair, narrowly avoiding smacking the fish. 

She tugged on a strand of thick, dark hair. “Norism and implementing it into the workplace.” 

“I’ve never seen why it’s such a big deal.” His white collared shirt was wrinkled. Very wrinkled. Didn’t he own an iron? “Like, sure, I have magic, but it’s only that Saph swims around my head all the time. I can’t do anything else, and I still get jobs.” 

Aisa let a tendril of her own magic snake around her fingers. She stared at the sparkly darkness. It wasn’t like her own magic was very useful in getting her jobs, but still, someone with controlled death was less discriminated against than even someone who couldn’t kill people with a wave of her hands. 

After a moment she shrugged. “Yeah, it doesn’t make sense.”

“It’s kinda hard to see why it’s a big deal.” His eyes followed the fish again. “Less than half of the population is without some form of magic.” 

“I don’t know.” Aisa shook her head. “It feels confusing and messed up. Sure, nors ought to have the same rights as us, but sometimes they can’t perform jobs as well.” 

“Jael’s a nor, and she basically runs the whole government.” 

Aisa said a quick prayer for patience. Edison would just keep playing devil’s advocate until she admitted whatever side he happened to be on at that very moment was right. She checked her watch. “Speaking of Jael, I’ll have to avoid her at the party tonight if I don’t get my butt over to the hall.” 

Edison saluted. “We wouldn’t want that. See you tonight, then, I guess.” 

Aisa stood and waved slightly before gathering up the pile of papers and leaving the small office that she, Edison, and Senator Brell practically called home. She kept her head low as people pushed into her in the overcrowded hallway. She had proposed that she write a suggestion to expand the offices, but Brell quickly informed her that there were more pressing matters at stake. At least Jael would be happy that norism was being addressed. 

The room hummed with hushed voices when Aisa entered. She slid into the nearest seat and stacked the papers in front of her. Her eyes darted across the room. She spotted Jael’s light-brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, but she couldn’t see the young woman’s face. It looked like her friend was talking to one of the high council members– a group of three nearly-retired officials who were only employed in times of crisis. 

Butterflies fluttered in her stomach. She really needed to present this speech correctly it If she didn’t, she would be sent home to continue as a rich lady whose only purpose was marriage. The general commissioner tapped the microphone in front of his podium. It only took him a moment to address all of the pressing issues within the assembly, before he gestured to her. Nerves churned in her stomach as she stood up. Eyes bored through her black dress and into her soul. She pushed a strand of hair from her face before climbing the narrow steps to the stage. 

Her ankle twisted, the high heels slipping out from under her. She was sprawled on the stairs. The papers in her hand exploded across the room. Someone behind her gasped. ‘Nish. Why did something like this have to happen to her under such circumstances? Heat burned her cheeks as she forced herself to her feet, leaving the high-heels behind her. With each passing step, her ankle ached worse. Tears whetted her eyes, but she tried to blink them away. After a few more limping strides, she reached the podium. She leaned against it, the cool metal chilling her fingers. Resolve balled in her stomach, freezing the butterflies with its weight. She’d practiced this speech a dozen times. She put her mouth to the microphone. 

“Lords and ladies of the assembly, we have a present crisis that plagues many of the lower class–“

A door slammed open. A nervous noise bubbled through the room. Aisa paused her speech to watch a rumpled messanger sprint up the aisle. Terror pounded through her veins as he lept two-by-two up the stairs. He reached the microphone and grabbed it with both hands. She stumbled aside. This could mean only one thing. 

“The king is dead.”

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