Jael didn’t like a lot of things. She didn’t like rulebreakers, or cheaters, or that redhead who always picked on her in grade school. She didn’t like people who thought they were better than everyone else, or people who put her on a pedestal, or people who said something and did something else. Most of all, she hated people who thought human beings were more valuable because of the extent of their powers, rather than the content of their character.
So while public speaking didn’t top the list of her favorite things, the aforementioned list was the reason she was standing onstage right now in front of the assembly. It was also the reason she would head to Wong Path tonight, to convert her friends into followers, and protect her people.
The room stilled.
“Lords and ladies of the assembly, we have gathered here tonight because our great monarch is dead. We will soon have a time of mourning for his life, but before his death we listened well to him. His request was that after his passing, we implement a new government, to make it fair and equal to each citizen of Rowhux.”
Someone shouted from the group. “Fairness and equality aren’t the same!”
Jael scanned the room, but couldn’t put a face to the unfamiliar voice. She cleared her throat. “Exactly, which is why we must define what makes a human equal. Why are we judging based on powers? I am a nor myself, and yet I stand among you, as capable as anyone in this room.”
A different voice. “Blick the nors.”
“That would be what your ancestors did, and that’s why your own power is so ‘nishing weak.” Jael’s words burst from her. “You shouldn’t blame today’s nors for your weak power. It’s not our fault. Most of us are your kin, you know. And we aren’t worth less because you have decided that magic equals value.”
A murmur swept through the room. Jael straightened her posture and smoothed the blue pencil skirt. “All that to say, I believe it unfair to insist that nors are at fault for society’s problems. I believe the responsibility ought to be fairly distributed and nors should be allowed rights that they are not currently holding.”
Another murmur, like a low rolling wave with sharp splashes of descent.
“I believe that no monarch should sit on the throne, as magic-users would refuse to sit under a nor, and nors would be oppressed by magic users.” The tension in the room swept through her veins. She needed to finish this before weapons– magical or otherwise– were drawn. “A democracy presents itself as the highest solution, as long as all citizens, every citizen, has the right to vote.”
She cleared her throat and walked off the stage. Scattered clapping– polite, but not affirming– emerged from the audience. Her stomach turned. THis was not how it was supposed to go. She needed supporters. She needed people who agreed with her. And then Mocha stood up.
This time the cheers turned genuine. Anger flushed her cheeks. This is why they needed more nors in the assembly. They shouldn’t be cheering for someone like Mocha because of his beliefs.
That wasn’t to say that she hated Mocha. He was a nice enough guy– good sense of sarcasm, suave and well spoken. But he also held to humorless mistreatment of nors. Segregation was high on his agenda– not surprising, considering his apprenticeship under Lord Cactus.
Mocha ran a hand through his thick black hair, his already slanted eyes narrowing even more. “Wonderful introduction by Senator Jael.” He emphasized the title—emphasizing her nor, and her non-aristocratic heritage. “It’s obvious to all of us, though, that her bias towards integration is strong. Too strong, some would argue. Implying that those Dios did not bless with powers are equal to those who he did is pure blasphemy.”
Jael’s eyes narrowed. Bringing Dios into this conversation—insisting that he created some better than others… That was the blasphemy. She eyed Lord Cactus at the front, his posture straight and proud. What did he and Mocha have against the nors? It made no sense, their constant tearing down of her kind. Pride came before a fall, though. And heaven knew that she prayed to Dios daily for the fall of anti-nor sentiment.
She just didn’t expect the fall to come right then, that very second, as a bullet shattered the glass above their heads and a slew of glass and metal rained down aiming precisely for Lord Cactus’s neck.
Jael had no time to react even as she watched the bullet plunge through the lord’s spine and his proudness quite literally fell– from his seat, onto the floor. She leapt to her feet and spun around. A dark figure stood on the roof. His features were sharp even though he was backlit. Brown hair. Blue eyes. Pale skin. He hoisted his gun, and then was gone.
She spun around as the assembly converged around the dead man. Mocha still stood on stage, his eyes glazed over and slack-jawed. Emergency services. They needed to call emergency services. She grabbed her phone. No signal. She tried to shove her way into the crowd, but even the fringe was too thick to push through. She looked over her shoulder again, but the dark-haired young man wasn’t on the roof, which meant he wasn’t actively aiming to kill anyone else. But he could have set a bomb. They could all be in danger–but people were too busy gawking, all too close to the front of the room and blocking everyone’s escape. Jael struggled to breathe. They needed to get out of here. They were targets. Too easy to kill. She tried to yell, to get Mocha’s attention. He had the microphone. He could give orders.
Her shout was lost in the crowd.
She kicked off her heels. She had to get out and call emergency services. ‘Nish. This skirt was hard to climb in. she thought she heard a seam rip as she climbed onto the table. Mocha was onstage, still staring numbly.
Another gunshot rocked the room. More screams. Jael ducked, covering her head. Why were people still in the room? Why weren’t they trying to escape? A purple stream of magic flew over her head. Someone floated into the air. Jael stood and lept from her table. The table she jumped for trembled as she landed. The exit was six desks away. She stumbled backwards, avoiding the large falcon that darted past her.
Then she jumped again.
Someone else screamed and suddenly the room was shaking. Jael stumbled as she hit the third table. The slick surface repelled her touch and she slid, landing on top of a large woman with purple hair. Jael jumped to her feet, struggling to push forward. A chair slid from where it stayed as the world tilted to one side. Jael forced her way through the crowd and found herself at the edge of the stage. Mocha was sitting now, but still unmoving. She climbed up the stairs on all fours and crawled over to him. They had to get out of there.
He looked over at her. “What the blick is happening, Jael?”
“Come on.” She could barely hear him over the cacophony, but grabbed his arm anyways. He tried to pull away, but she gripped him tighter. “Come on.“
And then the roof fell.