Nonmagical people are being demonized and falsely blamed for Magnifico’s economic problems after Queen Vivian’s bloody rise to power. But politics very quickly become more than abstract views to argue about when secret police wolves are deployed throughout the country to kill those born without magical abilities.
Seventeen-year-old Maximillian’s best friend Katherine is one such nonmagical person. In a bid to keep her safe, Maximillian turns to the queen’s estranged younger brother, a man thought to be dead until recently.
Prince Stefan is nineteen years old and has been in hiding from his family for years. He has no desire to resurface in the political world. Can Maximillian convince him the country needs him before it’s too late?
I got up from the stadium bench, glancing at my friends. “I need a moment.”
“Are you okay?” Katherine asked.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t do this,” I said.
I scurried past Katherine and Taylor and left the stadium.
I cried for the king and queen despite having no connection to them.
Witnessing my grandma’s death a couple years earlier made me cringe every time something even remotely morbid came up. But my sensitivity was a story for another day.
I scoffed at the far-flung connection. Despite how cheesy she’d sounded for saying, “Nice boys shouldn’t see executions,” she’d warned me that attending the execution was an emotional trigger for me. Given that my sobs were already loud enough to cause a scene, it seemed she was right, and that was the last thing I needed.
An icy sensation crawled up my back. Great, another reminder of the impending snowy season.
“Are you okay?” a voice called out.
I spun around, frantically wiping my eyes.
A man a couple of inches taller than me and dressed in a tailcoat, T-shirt, and shorts, stood in front of me, gripping what appeared to be a locket in his hand. He wore a half mask that didn’t inspire much confidence as it made his identity a mystery.
Guessing the person’s age wasn’t hard even if half of his face was covered by a mask. His wrinkle-free skin meant he must have only been a couple of years older than me at most.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
He sneezed. “I’m sorry. Where are my manners? I heard someone crying, and then I saw you. I didn’t mean anything creepy by it. I only wanted to help if you needed it.”
“Oh, okay. No problem.”
The man continued staring at me. “What’s with the reaction? I mean, it’s not like you’re related to the Foley family.”
I huffed out a long breath. “It’s complicated.”
“I know the feeling.”
“Nothing. It would require too much explanation. I guess I was hoping for closure by coming here today.” He bent his head and studied his shoes.
“I don’t understand.”
A shout from Taylor interrupted my conversation with the mysterious stranger. “Hey, are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine now. I was just…”
I glanced back at the unidentified guy, but he was gone.
A sense of disappointment due to the stranger’s sudden absence was kind of weird but wasn’t unrealistic. Sure, talking to the guy wouldn’t erase the image of Queen Vivian’s parents’ beheadings, but the conversation had succeeded with getting my mind off witnessing the actual moment. A chance to ignore, if only for a moment, how fleeting life was.
Meeting a masked stranger had never happened to me before. Not ever. And although some people might have ridiculed me for placing so much interest on one interaction with a stranger, little moments mattered because even the smallest event changed a life, whether for good or bad.
My gaze shifted, the space now absent of the concerned stranger, until I noticed the locket on the ground, and I kneeled to pick it up. The letter S was engraved on the front. I opened it to find a picture of what was obviously a much younger King Dorian and Queen Penny.
I clicked the locket shut and stared at the Son the front; the man’s comment lingered in my mind. He’d come to the execution to find closure.
“I think I met Prince Stefan,” I mumbled.