Seamus sat across from One Old, the man who had sat on the Council as One Young back during the Union Wars, who had basically handed over the Nobles and won the war for the common people. He was a hero, but Seamus couldn’t help but feel a complete lack of anything in his presence.
Seamus tried not to look in his eyes. It was too painful seeing that mix of sympathy and confusion on his face. And after living in East Marca and after seeing Sadie taken away in chains, it was hard to believe that any of his emotions were real.
“How often do you think young people actually fail their Passage?”
Seamus didn’t know. He figured not very often or else the Council would have a long line of 13-year-olds outside of their doors every day. He was pretty sure nobody wanted that.
One Old took off his spectacles and rubbed his eyes. “Your silence tells me that you are ashamed. That’s good. A little humility give us perspective. Seamus, do you want to go back to live in the Palace District again?”
The question caught him off guard. Wasn’t he here to talk about his life path?
“You’ve been caretaker for the old Grelio home. How would you like to do the same for the Council building?”
Seamus felt helpless, crushed.
“Sir, I hoped I would be able to… redo my proposal?” It sounded stupid now that he said it out loud.
“No, Seamus. You showed us ineptitude and we failed you. You can never join the University.” He folded his fingers on the desk. “I’m offering you an opportunity, Seamus. You can live in the luxury you were accustomed to. If you serve me for long enough, maybe someday I will recommend you to Council.”
“But the people vote for that.”
“And I could give you a nudge in right direction, Seamus. Connections mean something.”
“…can I think about it?”
“I need your answer now, Seamus. If you don’t agree to this, I’ll need to meet with the rest of the Council and find another place for you.”
Seamus closed his eyes and tried to imagine working at the Council Building, dusting the art and filing papers. It would be a little like what he did back at the museum. Only he’d be doing it for the rest of his life. But what other choice did he have?
“I guess that would be okay.”
“Wonderful. I’ll let the others know.”
Seamus sat and stared at One Old scribbling some notes down.
“You may go, Seamus.”
Seamus had to will his legs not to run out of the office. He closed the door softly behind him then half-walked, half-jogged down the hallway. Whatever would get him away fastest without drawing attention.
The hike back to East Marca took until almost sunset. He was tired and his feet hurt. But when he got to his door, he didn’t want to go inside. Mom would probably be more upset than him that he wasn’t able to follow his life path. And Dizzie would probably just make fun of him like usual.
More than anything, he wanted to talk with Sadie again. He never got answers for why she did what she did. Everything she had said ended up being true, about Quellamunga and its history. And the Council. So, why? Why would she join with such horrible people to burn down the museum?
Seamus hadn’t noticed the the young man sitting on his steps. He had a yellowing bruise below his eye.
“Why so glum?”