This is the first scene I came across that might be an info dump? The first few chapters have been edited for that issue already, so it took a bit of looking. There’s a lot of info here. It’s important information, but it might be too much all at once?
The two stood in Leo’s bedroom at the apartment. Amadeira sat on the bed, silent, and Leo watched her, unsure what he should say. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.” He scuffed his shoe along a crack in the floor. “I figured you’d already deduced it from what you’d seen.”
She shook her head. “I thought it was a bit odd how the shadows always seemed to cling to you. But I figured I was just seeing things. Or overtired.”
He shifted, eyeing her without speaking.
Sighing, she waved him over to sit next to her. “The legends say Rithden are creatures of Rith. Sons and daughters of the shadows and the night. You know, beings of great evil.”
“I’m well aware of what’s said about my kind.” Leo stared down at his boots.
“Obviously, but what I don’t understand is why they say that when you clearly aren’t evil.”
“Depends on who you ask.” The corners of his mouth twitched up. “But no… I’m not from your viewpoint at least. And I don’t exist, if you ask anyone else.”
“But you don’t hate the power?”
He shook his head. “No, but it’s easy to lose myself to it.” He rested his arms on his thighs. “I’ve done so before and barely came back to myself. When I was young and it first manifested, I was out of my mind with despair, grief, and anger. I started drawing on the life force of the things and the people around me… It took something from me. I’ve never fully recovered.”
“What…” She licked her lips. “Leo, what happened to cause you to lose control?”
His jaw wound tight and loosened, then wound tight and loosened again. “It… I…”
Amadeira wrapped her arms around his torso and laid her head on his shoulder. “It’s alright if you don’t want to tell me. I understand, and I’m here if you ever want to talk.”
He clenched his fists, resting them on his knees. “I don’t want to talk about it, but…” He bit his lip.
Can I really do this? Trust a stranger with something only my mother, Elkis, and the head of the assassin’s guild know? He swallowed. She isn’t a stranger though. Not really.
“But what?” Her arms clenched tighter around him, making him feel vulnerable but at the same time secure.
How can I feel both at the same time? What’s happening to me? To us? “But I need to,” he whispered.
“Then I’m here.” She leaned back, and he missed her warmth.
Steeling himself, he dropped his head into his hands and took a deep breath. “I lost control because of my father.”
She stayed silent, and he appreciated her willingness to wait for him to tell her what he would in his timing instead of pushing him.
“When I was six, my father decided I should be taught what it meant to be a man. And to an Ishtralian, that meant I needed to learn that women were only toys for our amusement. It’s one of the earliest things they teach their boys.” He shook his head, his stomach twisting and knotting on itself.
His lower lip trembled, and he closed his eyes, recalling the memory of it. Tears pooled behind his lashes. “Even here in a country that would execute them if they were found, it’s still taught. He brought me downstairs one night. It was dark and storming out… And he told me, ‘Son, it’s time you began to learn what it means to be a man.’” He pressed his hands over his mouth.
Amadeira held him to her, pulling his head onto her chest and cradling him close like she had a week ago after her first ball. “Leo… Listen, he can’t hurt you anymore.”
He was shaking now. Gods above, I can’t… I can’t even make myself tell the whole thing. He let Amadeira pull him down on his side, facing her on the bed, and he didn’t resist when she embraced him again.
“If it’s too painful, you can stop…” Her tears joined his, hot on his chest as she pressed close to him. “I can’t bear seeing you hurt like this. You’re supposed to be a strong, stubborn clodpole. And it’s okay… It’s okay to hurt and not to be strong all the time. But…” Her breath hitched, and she stopped rambling for a moment. Then she whispered, “But I don’t want you to hurt. If I could, I’d take it away.”
He sucked in a breath and wrapped his arms around her too. “My father began with beating my mother. I knew something was wrong before that night because I used to hear her cries. But I didn’t understand. When I saw him hit her… I just…”
Amadeira’s small frame stiffened against him. “He hit Anne? How could he?”
“It’s normal amongst the Ishtralians. Just visit Aleshtain, and you’ll see. They do far worse, and they’d see it done in Argos too.” Leo gritted his teeth. “It’s best we stay as far from the cult as possible.”
“What happened to you? Did he ever hit you?”
“Sometimes. But usually, he just punished my mother instead. That night, I didn’t understand everything I saw. I do now. I ran before the worst of it, but I’ll never forget what I saw.” He closed his eyes and tried to calm his breathing. “He didn’t stop at beating her…” Leo cut off in a guttural whimper.
Amadeira’s fingers ran through his hair, and she shifted. “Leo, that wasn’t your fault.”
He shook his head, keeping his eyes shut. “I didn’t stop him.”
“You were six.”
“I didn’t stop him when I got older either.” Leo’s jaw clenched tighter, as if his subconscious mind was trying to hold back the information.
“You weren’t to blame.” Her hands cupped his jaw. “Leo, look at me.”
He opened his eyes, tears slipping down his cheeks to spill over her hands.
“You were a child. You couldn’t have stopped him. But you did eventually, didn’t you? Because he’s not here anymore. I hear you telling Anne that when she’s having one of her episodes.” She rubbed her thumb across the stubble on his jaw.
He closed his eyes again and swallowed. “I killed him. The first time I lost control of my power was that night at six. It manifested during the night while I stayed out in the cold, freezing and starving because my own father locked me out for not being strong enough to watch everything. Before that, I was one of the UnInherents… Powerless, unlike my father.”
Resting his forehead against Amadeira’s, he drew strength from her silent presence. “I drew the life force from smaller animals in the forests and flung the shadows out to keep the predators at bay. I had no idea what I was doing. The second time I lost control was the night I killed him in those same forests. That time, I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t care.”