-Not Always A Crystal Stair-
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It was dark tonight, the moon once bright and round was hidden by the ominous looking clouds, not even a star could be seen through the thick blanket that was now covering the sky. It was hard for Athaleus to see.
It was cold, mist rose into the air from two sets of mouths, one easy, paced, breathing calm, the other more quick, alert, hand resting always on the golden handle of his sword.
'Life won't be easy for you my son,' she had told him, 'it won't be no crystal stair.'
His horse trotted along with ease, seeing well enough in the dim light, provided by the burning torches along the sides of the dirt path. It was risky travelling this way, but it was necessary.
'What am I to do then mother! Just leave you here to die? The rebel forces will be taking over in a matter of hours!'
The younger man moved slightly in Athaleus' arms, wrapped in the thick warm material of the older man's cloak. Mumbling something in his sleep, he turned his face into Athaleus' shoulder, savouring the extra warmth of the larger body against his, his elegant fingers clutching gently at the rough fabric of his companion's shirt.
'I don't care whether I live or die, my life is over anyway, go now, take him, taker your father's horse and sword and flee with him. For three years we have taken that child into our house, sad and alone on the street. Don't let him down now. Go to Margathia, to the King, you are my son, they will give you sanctuary. Take Nefer and leave now!'
Nefer shivered again; even wrapped within the bundle the cold still plagued him. Athaleus drew him closer still, one hand still holding the reigns, around him keeping him steady.
'Remember to keep him warm Athaleus, poor darling doesn't do so well in the cold.'
For eight days the pair had travelled, for Margathia was half way across the country. The Rebel army which had taken over Athaleus' home land patrolled every road, positioned in every village along the way, it took many detours to avoid them, often doubling back and taking the long way around.
Even for his age, that was almost twenty-seven years, the journey had been tough and ruthless. He had to slay many soldiers along the way, to find food and keep Nefer safe, young boys were often the targets of the Rebel soldiers. Often taken as slaves and used for their own means. Athaleus was already starting to feel different, but he could only wonder what bad thoughts inhabited Nefer's young mind.
'Things will be hard for you son, I can assure that...'
Athaleus' ears pricked up, his head rising quickly as he squinted, trying to see in the dark. A shiver ran down his spine and his arm tightened around Nefer, the sound was not mistakable; someone was riding down the path.
The forest was too dense on either side, a person, let alone a horse could hide in there. He was trapped, the trees like giant walls, fencing him in.
Athaleus' turned his horse sharply around, feet hitting loud on the ground. His large hand clasped his sword and drew it from within its sheath; he raised it high, the metal not covered in the enemy's blood shone in the now bright moonlight.
The sound was deafening now, he couldn't tell how many, but he knew his was out numbered, he had to run. He clutched Nefer close and went to turn his horse back around.
His breath caught in his throat as he recognized the voice, he gazed with utter relief as the horses rounded the corner, all of them white, much like his own.
The man at the head of the pack quickened his pace and slowed to a halt right next to Athaleus' horse, it was like looking into a mirror, his father was here.
"We finally found you, your mother sent word of your leaving before she was taken. We are to escort you to Margathia."
Relief flooded through Athaleus as the pack of horses, and the men in shining armour surrounded him, urging him to continue on his way.
Nefer stirred in Athaleus' arms, and raised his head, looking up at him with great blue eyes, still glazed over with sleep.
"What happened? What's wrong?"
His voice sounded tired and weary, and Athaleus smiled, leaning down to press a kiss to the younger boy's forehead.
"We are safe now, do not worry little brother, go back to sleep."
'Oh yes, it will be hard for you son, you'll have a lot of challenges to face, but there will always be help when you need it. Always a light to help you on your way.'
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