Tag Archive: Lukas


Part Six

Emil washed quickly and changed into a long, thick nightshirt and climbed into bed.  As he had on the road, Lukas sat beside him, ruffling his hair and singing softly to him until he slept.

He woke slowly very early the next morning.  Both of his brothers were still sleeping and he slipped out of the bed, torn between curiosity and anxiety.  He wanted to explore the inn, as he could not have done the previous night due to his exhaustion, but he wanted to stay close to his brothers.

In the end curiosity won out and he crept down to the common room in his nightshirt and stockings.  The front door was already open and the innkeeper stood talking to a man who had long blond hair and green eyes that seemed to roam around the empty room on their own.  All of these detail Emil was able to take in as he stood on the bottom step not more than a foot away from the pair.

Then the stranger seemed to noticed Emil standing there.  “But who’s this?” he said.  He stepped closer and met Emil’s eyes.  “Are you the young potential that I’ve heard so very much about, then?” he asked.

“You’ve heard about me?” Emil asked, suddenly nervous.  “From who?”

“Whom,” the stranger corrected automatically.  “I’ve heard about you from the innkeeper.  Apparently, you and your brothers caused a bit of excitement last night.  I’ve heard about your ilk from those in the capital.  They are very keen to gather young potentials such as yourself there and put them through an education program.”

“Brother says I need to learn control,” Emil murmured.  “I don’t think I want to go to the capital though.”

“You are correct in your thinking, my boy,” the man said.  “The school they have is less for education and more for indoctrination.  Do you know what that means?”

Emil shook his head.  He looked up as his brother answered the question from further up the stairs.  “It means that they teach you to think the way they want.  They won’t just teach you to control your magic.  They’ll put you under their control as well.”

“That’s scary,” Emil said.

“It is,” Lukas agreed.  “Hello, Kurland,” he greeted the stranger.  “So news from the capital is pretty bad.”

“It is… as bad as I’d feared and worse.  Magic-users cannot be in this land without being on the government coin and it won’t be long before even that won’t save them.  Anyone with any sense is leaving.”

“Where will we go?” Emil asked.

“The lands t the east… the south… the east, all are suitable for most.  For people with your particular affliction, Lukas, I’d suggest either the east or west.  The southern lands are too sunny for people so sensitive to the light.”

“We’re closer to the western border,” Lukas said.  “Can you help us, Kurland?  We don’t know anyone beyond this village.  This is as far as even Daniel has traveled.”

“I can’t go with you but I can give you a letter of introduction and a map that marks safe houses for those of our kind, Lukas,” Kurland said.  “If the red-coats should get a hold of that sort of map though… the whole network would be compromised and everything we’ve worked for would be lost.”

“Don’t give us the whole map and don’t mark it obviously.  Just… point the places out to us so we know where to go,” Lukas said.  He grinned and shook his head.  “Rather point them out to Daniel since I can’t read maps.  The print is always too small for my eyes.”

“If you’re a magic-user won’t you be in danger?” Emil asked.  “An what about me learning control?”

“That will have to wait until you’re someplace safer, but I can give you a damper that will keep your magic from loosing on its own,” Kurland said.  “As for me… no one knows that I have magic.  I’ve never used it where anyone could trace it to me.  Don’t worry, I’ll be careful and get out of this place before it gets too hot.  Meantime, I have to help others, like I’m helping you.”

“Thank you,” Emil said.  He sighed and looked back at his brother.  He was relieved that his magic wouldn’t loose itself but he wished that he knew better how to control his powers as his brother seemed to.

“Hold your arm out,” Kurland instructed.  He slipped a silver bracelet over Emil’s outstretched arm and then stepped back with a satisfied nod.  “That should do it. You’ll still be able to call up your magic if you’re in danger and need it but it won’t loose unless you release it.”

Emil nodded and scowled down at the silver band around his wrst.  It was plain and unadorned but if he squinted, he could almost see words inscribed on the surface.  The words seemed to move and shift making them impossible to read, though they were most assuredly there.

“The words are the dampening spell set into it,” Lukas explained.  “If it was complete… closed, then your magic would be locked within.  With this little break in it, you can still work magic, but only if you want to.  Do you feel a bit better?”

Emil nodded and hugged his brother.  “So… what happened yesterday won’t happen again?”

“No,” Lukas said firmly.  “And remember Emil, that was the magic, acting on its own, not you.  You are a good boy, Emil.  You would not willingly harm anyone, having magic now doesn’t change who you are.  Now go get dressed and wake Daniel so we can prepare to go.  We have a long way to travel to the border and a long time until we’re free.”

Emil murmured agreement and bounded up the steps.  He couldn’t help but wonder what awaited them on the other side of the western border and what it would be like to be free?  How would things change in another land?  What would learning control be like?

Emil sat drowsing over his stew as his brothers spoke quietly with Daniel’s friend.  The friendly couple who’d helped them earlier had left hours ago but Emil had been too anxious to eat then.  Now he was too tired.  His brothers, however didn’t seem to notice how tired he was.  They continued to talk long after the common room was almost deserted.

He watched Daniel’s friend through half-lidded eyes as he tried to figure the man out.  He was a few years older than Daniel and obviously more worldly and well-traveled.  He’d brought out several maps and the three of them sat studying the maps, discussing routes and destinations.

“Brother?” he whispered when there was a short lull in the conversation.

“You haven’t touched your stew, Emil,” Daniel said seriously.  He set a hand on the younger boy’s forehead and murmured, “Are you feeling alright?”

“I’m fine.  I’m too tired to eat,” he replied.

“I’ll take him up to the room,” Lukas volunteered.  “We should all be turning in soon.  I’m sure that the proprietor would also like to be getting to bed before the dawning.  He stood and grabbed their travelling bags.  “Let’s go, Emil.  I want you to get washed up before you climb in bed.”

“Of course,” Emil said.  “I’m exhausted but I have to take a bath, it’s been over two days after all.”  He followed his brother up the sraircase out of the common room and into a long narrow corridor.

“Here’s our room.  I asked them to bring us some hot water for bathing.  You go first, little brother,” Lukas said.

Emil sighed and headed inside.  He dropped his bag beside the door and his cloak soon followed it.  Then he loosened his tie and drew it off with his sweater.  He kicked off his boots and then focused on unbuttoning his shirt.

He spun around, a protest on his lips.  The protest quickly died as he saw his older brother, held in the arms of a law-giver, his long red coat proclaiming him though Emil couldn’t see him clearly enough to distinguish his features.  He opened his mouth to call for help and the point of a sword swam into view.

“Not a word, Boy,” the man growled.  He pushed Lukas into the room and then entered himself, pushing the door shut behind him.  “Where’s the other one?”

“Not here, Lukas snapped, as he moved between the law-giver and Emil.

“It doesn’t matter.  It’s the two of you that we want,” the law-giver said.  “You, boy, get your clothes back on and then you’ll be coming with me.”

Emil shook his head, his eyes wide with fright.  He didn’t want to go anywhere with this man.  “Where are you going to take us?  What do you want with us?  We’ve done… We’re just travelling.”  He couldn’t bring himself to say he’d done nothing wrong.  Not when he’d killed people just that morning.

“You have a great deal of potential, little one.  The powers that be want to make sure that those gifts of yours are used for the betterment of all.”

“You mean for the betterment of those in power,” Lukas protested.  He darted toward the law-giver.  Emil gasped at the suddenness of the movement.  Then something gray protruded from his back and he stiffened.  With a soft groan he slumped to the ground.

Emil screamed.  Then he ran to his brother’s side.  Lukas was still and Emil couldn’t tell if he was alive or not.  He looked up at the law-giver and saw that the man was startlingly clear.  He looked as shocked as Emil felt and unlike the law-givers that morning, his soul was not monstrous, merely dark.

He looked down at his brother and saw a nimbus had surrounded Lukas.  “Don’t die, brother,” he whispered hoarsely.  He looked up as the law-giver moved toward them, bloodied sword in hand.  “Stay away from us!” he shouted.  The man was thrown back against the wall.

Then the door opened beyond him and Daniel and his friend entered.  “Luke!” Daniel cried.  he started toward his brother but his friend caught him.

“He’s locked in his magic right now, Dan,” he whispered.

“He’s my brother.  He wouldn’t hurt me.  See to the law-giver.”  He knelt down and met the youngest brother’s eyes.  “Emil, can you see me?” he asked.

“Lukas is hurt,” Emil said.  He felt far younger than his ten years suddenly.  He just wanted everything to be alright.  He closed his eyes, as he had when they’d been in the tunnel, imagining Lukas whole and well, imagining the law-giver far away from them, far away from anyone.  Then he felt a hand on his and looked up to find Lukas staring at him with a look of pure wonder on his face.

“Where did he send the red-coat?” Daniel’s friend murmured.

“Far away from anyone,” Emil said.  He threw himself into Lukas’s arms with a sob.  “I was so scared, brother.  You were so hurt and… he was going to take me away from… I don’t want to go with any of them.  I… want to stay with you.”

“There, there, little brother,” Lukas said.  Then Emil felt Daniel’s arms join his and they were all hugging one another, crying and laughing at once.

When they had regained their composure  Daniel shook his head.  “How did you do that?” he asked.

“I just imagined it,” Emil said.  “Brother’s always saying imagination and love and music are powerful magic.”

“What would happen if you combined them all?” Daniel whispered.

“That was just two of them, brother,” Lukas said softly.  “Let’s get you washed up and into bed, Emil.  All that magic is going to catch up to you.  Kurland will be here tomorrow and… we’ll see where to go from there.”

“We might be leaving this land altogether,” Daniel said.  “A lot of mages are.  My friend is helping them.  Kurland… it all depends on what he was able to learn in the capital.”

The day dragged on and the brothers walked.  Most of the time they followed the road.  Sometimes, they cut across farmer’s fields.  Occasionally, they stopped to eat or drink.  Eventually, as the stars were beginning to brighten in the sky and the moon edged over the horizon, they reached an inn that stood at the edge of a village.

“My friend lives there, little brother,” Daniel said.  “We’re nearly there.”

Emil looked up at his oldest brother and smiled wanly.  He was nearly exhausted; more interested in sleep than dinner.  He followed his brothers into what turned out to be a crowded common room.  Lukas led him to a spot near the corner of the room, away from the hearth while Daniel went off to talk to someone.

He slumped into a seat and sighed deeply.  They had been through so much in such a short period of time.  It felt like his life was falling apart at the seams.  He groaned softly and laid his head down on the table, wishing he could sink into the ground.

“Emil, look at me,” Lukas said sharply.  When their eyes met, he whispered, “Remember the most powerful magic?”

“Imagination, music and love,” Emil replied, his tone almost sullen.  “What happened this morning…”

“Happened because love was involved – the love you have for us and for your kitty.  That love made you want to protect us and your magic responded to that wish,” Lukas said.  “Just don’t make the magic respond to any other wishes, eh?”

Emil blinked and looked down.  He could see that the boards beneath his chair had buckled as if pushed by some unseen force.  Then he looked up at Lukas, his eyes wide and terrified.  “Brother, I don’t want it.”

“You’ve always had it, Emil.  Now you must learn to control it; or it will control you,” Lukas said.  His voice was calm and soothing.  He caught Emil’s hand and flashed him a smile.  he looked up as a serving wench came to their table.

“Something to eat or drink?” she asked.

“Strew and bread for three,” Lukas said.  He laid a coin down on the table as he added, “Cider to drink.”

“As you wish,” she said.  She took the coin and headed off, swaying her hips meaningfully as she walked.

“I think she likes you, brother,” Daniel teased as he sat down beside Emil.

“She knows me for a traveler and figures I’ll bring her out of this work-a-day life she finds herself in,” Lukas corrected.  “Are our friends about?”

“Mine is,” Daniel replied.  “They expect yours to arrive tomorrow.  He’s been to the capital.  Word is that they’re gathering together the young potentials to teach them the right way.”  He shook his head.  “Those beyond that point, of course, can’t relearn and are put into camps or prisons; depending on if they’ve been actively practicing magic.”

They looked up sharply when a girl ran into the inn.  “Red-coats!” she shouted hoarsely.

A taller man came over and caught Emil by his shoulder suddenly.  Before the boy could do more than open his mouth to protest, he was pushed into a chair at the table of a couple he did not know.  “Sir, Madam, your son is joining you for dinner.”

“Of course,”the said.  “Just act naturally, son.  Everything is fine.  We won’t turn you over to the red-coats.”

Emil nodded and glanced over his shoulder, back at the table where the stranger now sat with Daniel.  Lukas was nowhere to be seen and he looked down at his hands, fisted in his lap.  His kitten wriggled out of his pack to hop to the ground and then jumped up into his lap, demanding to be petted.

“I thought we told you to leave the kitten home, dear,” the woman said.

“I meant to… Mama,” Emil said.  “He… he doesn’t listen to me and hates to stay home alone.”  He looked up as the red-coats entered.

“We’re looking for three boys, ranging from age ten to age nineteen, travelling as a group from the north,” the captain of the law-givers said.  He looked around.  “The younger two are very fair and nearly blind.  The law-bringer would like a word with them.  Has anyone like that passed this way since early this morning?”

There were murmurs around the room that were either negative or uncertain and the man scowled.  He looked toward the table that Emil was seated at. Emil forced himself to focus his gaze as best he could on the places he knew the man’s eyes to be.  Blind people, or those who were nearly so, did not meet the gaze of anyone – at least that was the common belief.

“How old are you, boy?” the red-coat snapped.

“E-eleven this past March,” Emil lied.  He glanced at the woman who still had a had on his.  “Mama?” he queried.

“This is you son?” the red-coat asked her.  His voice sounded a trifle uncertain now.

“This is our Felix.  He was sickly when he was small and didn’t grow very well.  But he’ll be fine.  Takes after his father, he does,” she said.  She tousled Emil’s hair in a motherly gesture and he couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to stale, to have a mother and father in reality, instead of simply to fool the red-coats.  He glanced at the man and smiled.  His hair was nearly as fair as Emil’s or Lukas’s.

Since the tale was so believable the red-coat went on.  He question several others but, finding nothing in the end left.  Admonishing everyone to tell the law-givers should the three boys show up.  There were nods and murmurs of agreement all around the room.  Then the man left, his troops following behind him like a very small and silent parade.

The townspeople waited a full minute to begin chatting once again.  Then Lukas came over and sat on Emil’s other side.  “Alright, little brother?” he asked, his voice immanently calm.

“Lukas,” Emil said.  He leaned on the older boy’s chest and took a shuddering breath.  “I was so scared.  Where did you go?”

“I hid in the back room of the kitchen,” he said.  “Thank you for helping my brother,” he said to the couple they were seated with.

“You’re Kurland’s friend, right?’ the man asked.  At Lukas’s nod and smiled.  “Any friend of Kurland is a friend of ours.  We were happy to help.”

Emil woke all at once the next morning with a gasp.  He sat up, his heart pounding in his chest.  He couldn’t fathom what had woken him, certainly not so suddenly.  Was it a dream, or had he heard something?  Was the redcoat troop riding back along the road?  Had they been found.

He looked up and sighed.  The moon was moving toward its setting.  It floated, like a ghostly galleon upon cloudy seas above them.  He stood and crept toward the edge of the copse that they’d sheltered in.  He looked out over the moors and sighed.  There was nothing on the road that he could see.

“What are you doing up?” Daniel called softly from across the campsite.  “Hungry?”

Emil sat up and turned toward his brother in one fluid motion.  He sighed and plucked at his bow tie.  “Not sure,” he replied.  “I woke up like I’d had a bad dream.  I don’t remember dreaming though.”  He stood and walked across the copse to sit beside Daniel.  “Thought we were going to walk until we got there.”

“You and Lukas were too tired for that, really,” he said.  “Magic takes a lot out of you.”

Emil sighed.  “I don’t have magic.  Lukas might but, not me.”

“You have it too,” Daniel corrected.  He shook his head and sighed.  “I’m more like Papa was and you two are like Mama.”

“I don’t remember them,” Emil said.  He leaned against a tree and looked up at the slowly brightening sky through the tree branches.  “Mama died of that fever I got when I was little.  What happened to Papa?”

“Stupid,” Daniel murmured.  “He left me in charge of you two and went to find work in the neighboring town… ended up going to the big city… He wrote to us as often as he could.  He sent money… at first.  He saw to it that I was able to finish school… and Lukas… and you started.  Then the money stopped coming and a letter followed.  It was all very official.  There had been and accident in the factory that he was working in.  He was among those killed.  It was under investigation.”

“So we’re orphans,” Emil said.  He sighed and shook his head.  “I always knew it… no one ever said though and I… Papa was never there… not since I can remember.”

“You were so little when he left.  You were still in diapers when Mama died and you were hardly more than toddling around the house when he left.  I’ve been both your Mama and your Papa, I suppose… Lukas too, really.”

“Just tell me I’m not magic because of my other condition,” Emil said.  “The stories…”

“Are just that,” Lukas put in.  “We’re just magic and albinos.  The two aren’t connected.  Mama wasn’t an albino.  Her hair was the same color as Daniel’s  Papa wasn’t either for that matter.  I guess that it’s back there in the family line someplace or we wouldn’t both have it, but it’s not connected to the magic.”

“Thought you wanted to sleep,” Daniel said.

“Who can sleep with you two chattering like magpies?” Lukas asked.  He stood.  “Let’s get breakfast into us and get moving again.”

“The sun will be bright for you,” Daniel said.

“We have hats o s our eyes,” Lukas said, his tone sharp.  He sighed and spun away.  “I appreciate your concern, Daniel.  It’s not that… but we have to keep moving.  I don’t like it out in the open and… it’s too risky.”

“Because of the law-givers,” Emil said.  He stood too and sighed.  “So, what’s for breakfast?”

“Whatever Daniel packed,” Lukas said.  “Go wash up by the stream.”

“Code for older brothers have to talk and little brother doesn’t need to hear,” Emil said.  He rolled his eyes and headed off toward the stream.  He saw the white fluffy blurr that was his kitten as he walked.  “Bet you that they’re figuring that we should leave you behind someplace,” he said softly as he knelt beside the stream.

The cat chirped and batted at Emil’s hands and he chuckled.  “Never going to happen,” he said.  “You are my cat and no one else’s.”

He washed his face and hands in the stream.  He scrubed his hands dry against his pant-legs and sighed.  It was getting bright outside.  He’d need to wear a hat or risk being blinded by the sun.  He looked up at the sky, which was brightening toward a brilliant blue shade.  “You just couldn’t stay cloudy,” he said his tone sour.

He’d finished washing up so he headed back toward the camp but the sound of raised voices made him pause.  He caught his kitten in his arms and knelt down in the shrubbery that surrounded the campsite.  He could see the campsite was now full of law-givers.

“We’re doing nothing wrong,” Daniel said, his voice firm.  “Last time I checked, people could still travel freely, or is that illegal too now?”

“Daniel,” Lukas growled, his voice tense.

“No, it isn’t illegal to travel but… this is very sudden, isn’t it, Master Martson.  Where are you going?  Is it just the two of you?” the law-giver said.

“There are three travelling bags, sir,” one of the men said.

“So then… three travelers as well,” the law-giver said.  “We were told to be on the lookout for three brothers, Master Martson.  The law-bringer would like a word with at least two of them, and now I wonder if that group would be… you.”  He looked around the campsite and frowned.  “You are camped quite a distance from the road.”

“My brother has very sensitive eyes,” Daniel said softly.  “We have the third pack for a friend who will be joining us later.  I’ve been carrying it.”

“Somehow, I find myself not believing you,” the law-giver said.  He drew his sword and Emil bit back a gasp.  Then, his cat struggled free of his arms and ran toward the clearing.

Emil bit back a cry as he tried to catch the little feline.  He hesitated a moment as his kitten ran out to glare up at the law-giver and growl.  Then the law-giver leveled his sword, almost negligently at the cat.

“No!” Emil shouted.  Suddenly, the law-givers in the clearing became incredibly sharp and clear.  They hardly looked human, especially the man who was about to kill his kitten.  It was as if they were monsters instead of humans.  Then, as if they were puppets whose strings had been cut, they fell to the ground.  Something that glowed with a strangely daand Emil slumped to the ground.

His kitten chirped and bounded across the grass toward him but Daniel caught it and picked it up.  “That was very dangerous,” he started to scold.

“Wait, Dan,” Lukas said sharply.  He knelt down where he was, trying to meet Emil’s eyes, even though he couldn’t really see the other boy clearly.  “Emil, look at me,” he said, his voice incredibly gentle.

Emil raised his eyes.  The law-givers were no longer clear; nor did they look monstrous.  Tears welled in his eyes.  “I killed them,” he whispered.  “They were clear and they looked like monsters and… then they went away and then they all fell down and… I killed them.”

“Not you, the magic.  That’s what Daniel and I were discussing.  Your magic is awakening.  That’s why we have to get you… out of here.  I have a friend who knows a place where you can learn control.  When you learn control, the magic won’t do anything unless you want it to.”

“We should go,” Daniel murmured.  He started breaking down the camp and sighed as he looked up at the horses that the law-givers had ridden to their campsite.  “We can’t take these, can we?”

“No, folks would talk,” Lukas said.  “Can you stand, Emil?”

“We can’t leave them for the carrion eaters, brother,” Emil whispered.  He stood and looked over the fallen forms of the men and sighed.  “It wouldn’t be right.  The village priest said that if people don’t get a proper burial then they can’t go to heaven.”

“We’ll bury them then,” Daniel said softly.  “You… help Lukas take care of clearing the campsite.  I’ll take care of them.”

Emil nodded and followed Lukas over to their bedrolls.  He sighed as he listened to Daniel begin the task of digging a hole to bury the law-givers in.  “Magic is dangerous,” he whispered.

“It wouldn’t have been if they hadn’t frightened you,” Lukas said, his voice tense. “Your magic moved to protect you.  Without direction… it pushed their souls free of their bodies.  They couldn’t make their way back in and… they died.  Their souls went on.”

“Why did Papa leave?” Emil asked.

“Because…,” Lukas trailed off and looked up from pushing a bedroll back into its carry-sack   “Because ferral dogs scared me on my way home from the brook when I was your age and I did that to them.  The magic… he couldn’t deal with it and… he knew you would have it too because you were seeing things in the otherworld… the fairies, remember?”

Emil frowned and thought back to those simpler times, so dim in his memories.  He did remember tiny woman so delicate that they could wear flower petals dancing over his bed early in the morning.  Papa scolding him about telling tales.  “The priest says that lying is a sin,” he whispered, half-remembering what their father used to tell him.

“Magic is not, t’s neither good nor evil, magic just is – like fire is, or water,” Lukas said firmly.  “Papa didn’t know what to do.  He didn’t know how to raise two boys with magic.”

“So he left me to do it,” Daniel said, his tone sour.  “I did the best I could, even though I was only a few years older than Lukas.”  He glanced back at the mound of earth over the bodies of the law-givers.  “We need stones to put on top so nothing digs them back up,” he said.

“By the stream,” Emil said.  “I’ll get them.”

“We’ll get them,” Lukas corrected.  “This will go faster if we work together.”

Part Two

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.

They were things he’d heard his brother say a thousand times.  Imagination is the most powerful magic of all.  Music has magic all it’s own.  Nothing is more powerful than love.  It’s a very special kind of magic.  Daniel had even teased about how scary the three would be if you somehow combined them.  Lukas had agreed in all seriousness.

It had started slowly; innocently enough.  Magic was outlawed.  The phony psychics who bilked people out of their life-savings saw jail time.  People who claimed to talk to ghosts in order to make a quick buck suffered likewise.  Fortunetellers and charlatans all fell to the new laws.  The streets were safer, the law-bringers said.  Magic was a dangerous thing.

Then they’d started rounding up seemingly normal people who were just a little odd.  They’re a danger to themselves, the neighbors who asked were told.  It’s for their own safety.  No one actually believed in magic so if they did they must be mad.  A woman mixing herbs in her kitchen might just as likely poison someone as cure them.  It was only right that such practices were stopped.

Lukas told Emil to stay close to home at that point.  “People see things where they shouldn’t,” he’d said.  “They might mistake the fact that you’re special for something that they think is dangerous.”

Emil was special.  Lukas was the same way, but not so obvious.  There was no mistaking the fact that Emil’s hair was almost white, nor that his eyes were so pale a blue as to be almost lavender.  He was an albino.  People did attach a certain set of beliefs to such things.  Lukas could hide it better.  His hair was blonde and his eyes were blue.  He was fair, like their brother Daniel.  Both brothers got around alright.  Their vision was bad but they weren’t completely blind.

Emil looked up when the law-givers came to their cottage.  He didn’t recognize them.  He couldn’t see well enough to.  He knew them by their long red coats and high black boots.  “Get inside,” Daniel growled.  “Stay with Lukas.”

Emil dropped the ball he’d been playing with and dashed inside.  “Law-givers,” he said in a high tight voice.  “Brother?” he called, his voice soft with tension.

“Here,” Lukas said.  “Into the basement,” he added.

Emil followed his older brother down the steep stairs.  He heard the soft padding footsteps as his kitten followed him.  He sat on the soft ground at the bottom of the stairs and caught his cat in one hand and his brother’s hand in the other.

There was the scuffling of footsteps above them.  Then Daniel’s voice, surprisingly loud.  “You see, they aren’t even here.  They went visiting in the next village.”

“Search the house,” one of the law-givers shouted.  There was a great deal of shouting and scuffling then and a single thunderous crash.  Emil felt his brother’s other hand cover his.

“Stay put,” he whispered.  “China can be replaced, little brothers cannot.”

“They came for me?  Why?” Emil whispered.  “I’m not magic.  If I was… If I had magic, why would I let myself stay nearly blind?  Magic fixes everything… or it does in the old stories.”

“What am I always saying… the most powerful magic?” Lukas said.

“Imagination… Music… and – and Love,” Emil whispered.

“Do you believe?” Lukas asked.  “Do you really believe in that magic – true magic?”

Emil shook his head and then winced at another thunderous crash.  “Hey now,” Daniel shouted.  “Be careful in there.  We need some dishes to eat off of, you know.”

“When they return, you tell us,” one of the law-givers growled.

“Yeah, sure,” Daniel replied, his tone sullen.  Then there was the stomping of boots and the slamming of the front door.  After several moments, Daniel peeked down the stairs.  “Sooner rather than later,” was all he said.  Then he pushed the door shut once again.

“Daniel will pack for us,” Lukas said, his voice soft and urgent.  “We leave tonight, Emil.  Can you be strong and brave for your brothers?”

“We leave for where?” Emil asked.  Lukas stood and moved away then.  Emil stood and followed him, suddenly terribly frightened.  His brother was leaning on the wall, whispering to himself.  Then Emil heard it… his voice rising and falling, like a song.  He couldn’t understand the words but he could feel them.

“Close your eyes, Emil,” Lukas said.  “Trust me and believe that I will keep you safe.”

“I do,” Emil whispered.  He closed his eyes and then he felt a hand on his back, guiding him.  Their footsteps echoed – it seemed that they echoed across time.  There was no way that there was a tunnel like this in their basement.

“Believe, Emil,” Lukas’s voice said firmly from somewhere in front of him.

“It’s alright,” Daniel’s voice said from directly behind him.  “Trust us.  We’re your older brothers and we’ve never yet led you astray.”

Emil nodded.  There was a tunnel in the basement.  With his eyes closed, he could imagine how it might look, if his eyes could see properly instead of blurry.  Perhaps there would be little crystals like in the picture books of the dwarven mines.  Perhaps there would be wondrous glowing mushrooms.  Those were in his picture books too.

“Are you doing that?” Daniel asked, his voice hushed with wonder.

“He reads a lot of picture books.  Such things help make his imagination stronger.  Keep your eyes closed, Emil.  We’re nearly there.”  Lukas’s voice sounded so calm, so confident

They seemed to walk forever.  When Emil’s feet started dragging, Daniel picked him up and carried him along on his back.  Still they continued on.  Emil snuggled against his oldest brother’s broad back and soon he slept.

While he slept he dreamed of a wondrous tunnel.  There were enormous crystals, as large as Daniel, mushroom that you could sit on like a stool and helpful dwarves that would peek their heads out and direct the way.  There was a beautiful white boat that moved by itself across a perfectly still underground lake.

Then he was being shaken awake.  Without thinking about his brother’s continual admonitions to keep his eyes shut, Emil opened his eyes and looked up.  Daniel’s face swam into view and then Lukas’s.  “You can stop imagining the tunnel now,” he said.  “We’re out.”

Emil sat up and looked behind him.  A neatly carved hole in the wall was sealing itself up.  Emil watched in amazement as a cheerfully smiling dwarf waved a hand in farewell.  Then he realized something, something remarkable.

“I… see… I saw that,” he whispered.  He turned to look at Daniel and realized that he couldn’t see his brother.  He frowned and looked at Lukas in confusion.  “Everything is blurry but that was clear.”

“The magic is always clear,” his brother whispered.  “For us, it’s the only thing that is.”

“We are magic?” he whispered.  “We are magic!  They weren’t there for just me.  They came for you too.  What would they have done with us?”

“I really don’t know and we might still find out.  That tunnel could only take us so far.  We’ll have to go the rest of the way on foot,” Lukas said.  “That’s why I said you’d have to be brave.”

Emil looked up at the sky.  Night had fallen but the moon was bright.  He pulled his cloak around him and realized that Daniel must have brought it and wrapped him in it while he’d been sleeping.  “Will they be looking for us?” he asked, his voice tremulous.

“You can be sure that they will,” Daniel said.  “They’ll be watching the roads and the house.  That’s why I left the lights burning.”

Emil looked down and gasped as he saw a little white bundle of fur beside his ankle.  His kitten had somehow followed them the whole way.  He lifted up the little cat and then fell into step behind his brothers.

Monica Ferris

an author with many hats

A Land of Curiosity

From the files of Shynian Intelligence

Heather's Fancies

tales from the enchanted gardens and shadow hollow

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