28. The Site of Our Brotherly Implosion

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Without me realizing, my feet had started leading me in that direction. Most likely, Yasmin had been scared by the commotion and taken the babies where she thought it was safe. Hakan wouldn't have placed them there himself - not when they would be easily found, killed, or traced back to him. I needed to get them, disguise them in the commotion and lead them outside...

But.

There it was. Effat's energy.

It struck me like a whip, a spike in the drone of the palace, and then retreated, as muted as before. I only needed to feel it once. The Throne Room. My feet led me away from Hakan's chambers, in its direction. At the moment, Effat was the priority, especially if the fire truly was the result of my unstable influencing gone awry. The fire needed to stop being released before we could hope to put it out.

Another pulse of Effat's energy rung out, scrambling my energy and inhibiting my walk, before retreating once more. Finally, I approached smoke. It filtered out of the hallway, low to the ground and creeping upwards. The palace was built in patronage to the god of the suns - it was born of fire, built to withstand it. Effat's smoke was reminiscent of that of a candle. The leftover char of Takehiko's bomb attempt on the War Room still left several walls stripped of ornaments and blackened, but otherwise, the scene was underwhelming. Then I came closer, and the shouting came into earshot, high and ringing and desperate and unintelligible and confused. Effat's voice. And Xerxes's.

They did not notice the loud creak of the heavy golden Throne Room door as I entered. The smoke that had once leaked through its cracks spilled out in relief, and I coughed with the influx. If Effat and Xerxes heard, they did not give any indication.

A small blight of loose green fire curled behind Effat like a blanket in the far corner of the room, dangerously close to her skin. Xerxes gripped both of her hands in his as his feet pushed back against the tiled floor, trying to move her away from it, but she thrashed and kicked and shouted and shot all of her weight against him, into the fire. Effat shook her head so vigorously, her chador slipped halfway down her hair and her tears became clearly visible. Xerxes's eyes were waterfalls, too. He pleaded with her in hushed cries, his voice patient and kind but urgent, each word tripping over the next.

"You have to just step back- It's alright, it's alright, everything's going to be okay- Ef, just trust me, please, you aren't making any sense, none of this is- Please just trust me- Ef, we can get into minds, we got into their minds a long time ago, they aren't real, it's not real, you're alright, you're okay- Ef, you just aren't thinking clearly, you're being irrational, it's not you, you'll realize- It's alright- But for now you just have to trust me- Ef, just let go- Let go, let go, let go, let go, let go, let go- Ef- Come on-"

And Effat.

"I have to, don't you understand? I have to- I don't have a choice- I have to I have to- It's going to be so much worse if I don't, you have to trust me- trust me, trust me, trust me, trust me- There's no comparison in time, it's a few minutes as opposed to eternity, I have to- I'm sorry- Understand- I know, I know, I know, I know- I know it sounds insane, but what if I'm right? What if, what if, what if- The stake is so much higher, we'd lose so much more, there's just no comparison- I know, I know, I know- I hear, I feel it, they have to choose- I know, I know, I know. I'm sorry-"

Xerxes screamed as Effat bit his hand.

She took advantage of his shock to yank herself away from him and dove sideways towards a long, folded cloth. Jars of imprisoned green fires wrapped inside of it illuminated her outstretched arms.

I ran forward.

"Effat!" I fell to my knees next to her and grabbed her wrists, but I only made her will grow stronger. She kicked me to the ground, grabbed a jar, and smashed it on my head.

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