They seemed to walk forever and Emil began to struggle to keep up with his brothers.  “Almost there,” Daniel called back on occasion.

When he said it for what seemed like the hundredth time, Emil stopped and said, “Brother, almost where?  We’ve been walking for… for hours and… where are we going that we’re almost to or are we just going to keep walking until we get to the border and you won’t tell me because it’s too far away?”

He would have said more but Lukas turned around and caught his hand.  He set a gentle finger on Emil’s lips and shook his head.  “Trust us,” he whispered.

“I do,” Emil said.  “I do trust you and Daniel, Lukas but… it’s so far and… where are we even going?”

“Daniel has a friend who’ll shelter us for a few days.  We’re going there but it is quite a distance.  Normally we’d ride but there was no time to gather the supplies we’d need.  We’ll probably walk for the rest of the night and into the day.  Tell me if you need a rest.”  He started to turn away but Emil kept a hold on his hand.

“I need a rest, Lukas,” he said softly.  “I know we have far to go but I’m hungry and tired and… where will we go… after Daniel’s friend, I mean?”

“Let’s rest then,” Daniel said.  “And I’ll stop telling you that we’re nearly there until we actually are.  There’s a good place to camp, off in the trees here away from prying eyes.”

Emil followed his brothers to a quiet place within a copse of trees.  He started to slump down but noticed that both of his brothers began to set up a campsite.  With a soft sigh, he stood again.  “I’ll get water,” he volunteered.

“Good on you,” Daniel said.  He handed the younger boy a bucket that had been collapsed flat in his traveling bag and pointed behind him.  “There’s a stream over there,” he said.

Emil walked along toward the stream.  He wished that he could see the rest of the world like he saw the dwarf in the tunnel.  He wished he knew why the law-givers were after them.  He wasn’t a soothsayer, frightening people into buying fake charms of protection, or any kind of witch woman mucking around in a kitchen with herbs that might kill someone.  He was just a half-blind, white-haired, lavender-eyed boy who’d never done anything important in his entire life.  As far as he knew, his brother was the same way.

He knelt beside the stream and put the bucket in to scoop out so water but then he heard a sound that made him look up.  It was the steady rhythm of hoof beats.  It didn’t take good eyesight to pick out the bright red coats of the law-givers.

He spun back; forgetting the bucket on the shore and running all the way back to the camp.  “The law-givers,” he hissed to his brothers.  “They’re on the way.”

Daniel nodded and motioned for Emil to stay with Lukas.  He peered out from the trees toward the road which stretched out, like a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor.  “Their captain rides ahead of them,” he reported, though Emil could see it, if faintly from where he sat.  “The red-coats are marching behind him.”

“What do we do?” Emil asked; his voice hushed with fright.

“We sit here and we wait for them to pass,” Lukas said softly.  “Emil, lean close to me.  There is no danger.  I am here tonight.”

Emil nodded and leaned on his brother’s chest.  He could hear the older boy humming softly a song that their mother had sung when any of them had been frightened.  He couldn’t sing without alerting the law-givers to their presence but at least he could give a small comfort to his youngest brother.

After what seemed like hours of waiting, Daniel turned to his brothers and murmured, “They’ve gone.  All’s well.  Emil, finish fetching the water.”

“Wait,” Lukas said.  “First… I need to do something… in case we’re separated and you run into danger.”  He stood, drawing Emil to his feet as well.  He traced a symbol on Emil’s chest, a symbol that glowed with the sharp clarity that meant magic, as he said, “May there always be angels to watch over you; to guide you each step of the way; to guard you and keep you safe from all harm; for you are my own dear little brother and my heart.”

“Mama did that for you before she died,” Daniel whispered.  Emotion was thick in his voice.  “Emil was too sick himself to receive that blessing.”

Lukas looked back at their oldest brother and nodded.  He looked back at Emil, their proximity letting their eyes meet.  “Now I give it to you, may it keep you safe in this troubled time, little brother,” Lukas said.

“Thank you, Lukas,” Emil said.  He set his hand on his chest and nodded.  “With this blessing… I know that I am not alone.”  He flashed a quick smile and went back to the stream.  He found the bucket and refilled it.  Then he turned to head back to the camp.  He paused long enough to look up at the sky.  The law-givers… the law-bringer… they were afraid, though of what he didn’t understand.  There was one thing he did understand though: in the end, there was no strength in trying to break anyone.  In the end the ones that they tried to break would be stronger, better for the difficult times that they’d been put through.

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