When Seoc was twelve years old—two years before the day he was caught kissing Owen the stable-boy and was subsequently sent to Waelyngar—a physician, his father’s colleague, raped him.
It wasn’t the first time that such a thing had happened. Nor would it be the last time. Before, though, he hadn’t been old enough to understand it. Before, he had never told anyone. Because his attackers had told him not to. Because it was a secret. Because, maybe, they said, it might cure his epilepsy, but if he told, it wouldn’t work. Because they were grown up and he was only a little boy, and therefore he had to trust them.
And he had trusted them.
But, by the time he was twelve, he knew enough about humanity to see through the lies. And so, still with the man’s foul, alcoholic breath festering in his nostrils, with the finger-shaped bruises still fresh around his neck, still limping from various injuries in uncomfortable places, he had told his sister, Fiona, what had happened. Fiona had wasted no time in relaying the information to their mother, who had confronted their father at the next opportunity. Dr. Tormod MacInnes vowed to keep the predator away from their home. He appeased his wife, promising to make the man pay for his crimes.
Then, the moment her back was turned, he had beaten Seoc within an inch of his life.
Because his colleague was a moral man, and Seoc was to blame for seducing him.
Because it was Seoc’s fault.
Because he shouldn’t whine for getting what was coming to him.
Because he oughtn’t to smear the reputation of a good, moral man.
Because Seoc must have taken a loathing to this man, this colleague, this physician, this friend, and therefore had plotted deviously for a means of his downfall.
Because—and this was the cruelest accusation of them all—Seoc must have enjoyed it.
And if Seoc ever told anyone again, he would regret it until the end of his short, pitiful, cowardly life.
Seoc had wanted to die then, too. He had opened his third story window, sat on the ledge. Looked down to the busy street below. Imagined himself, broken and splattered, on the merciful cobblestones. It wouldn’t be abnormal, he had reasoned. People jumped out of windows every day in Iliathor. There were plenty of high places, and plenty of hard paved roads below.
But there were too many innocent people down there, going about their daily business. He didn’t want to hurt anybody.
So he hadn’t jumped.
But he never did tell anyone again, either, and never intended to. Not only because he was afraid of his father finding out, but because he was ashamed. Because perhaps what his father had said about him was true.