On that August day of the year 1210, Seymour de Winter was (officially) sixteen years old, as of the previous Wednesday, six feet five inches—and still growing—and his only current problem in life, as he saw it, was that trousers and doorframes were always too short. He had an adoptive family that loved him as if he were their own blood, despite the fact that he was of a different species. He had friends—true, they weren’t the safest of crowds to run with, but at least they accepted him. The others hadn’t. Respectable people didn’t want to be associated with Aechyeds—especially free Aechyeds. It just wasn’t done.
And so Seymour did not associate with respectable people. Thus it followed that Seymour was disinclined to behave respectably.
But that wasn’t why he had hit Raif.
Seymour de Winter knew nothing of his parents. He didn’t know the name they had given him. All he knew of his early life was that he had been left on the doorstep of a local home for orphaned boys in one of the coldest, darkest Decembers in Brysail history. The matron had approximated his age to be four months, and had selected an arbitrary date in August to list as his birthday on the official records. He didn’t know why the orphanage had even taken him in in the first place. All the other boys there were human. Perhaps his features, which were more delicate than those of a typical Aechyed, even as a baby, had led the matron to believe that he might be half-human, and she had enough pity for that half of him to bring him in from the snowstorm. Despite all that, she had always liked him the least out of all the children in her care. She had him washing floors by the age of three, encouraged the older boys to cover him in cuts and bruises whenever they were so inclined, and banned all books and writing utensils after she discovered that he was trying to teach himself how to read and spell.
But that wasn’t why he had hit Raif, either.
Seymour de Winter was alone in a world where humans hated him for being an Aechyed, and Aechyeds hated him for being too human. He was scared and angry, but he wanted to seem confident and collected. He wanted to feel important, respected.
But even that wasn’t why he had hit Raif.
When it came down to it, there was no reason why he had hit Raif. No outside force or influence moved his hand. The cold, dark snake of hatred had done that, rearing up from his own heart and lashing out with its venomous fangs, hatred for the stupid, weak human boy who clearly loved him more than anything. He despised the fact that Raif was always trailing behind him wherever he went, like a Rezyn-damned smitten puppy. But most of all, he hated the part of himself that still liked the boy, that still thought he was cute, that still was—now that they had been seeing each other for nearly two years—attracted to him.
Perhaps he had hit Raif just to spite that part of himself. He didn’t know.