Time stood still on the clock, golden hands trapped in an echo of ticking seconds. Marius wiped the crystal face, dust of years turning to smears like the memories it tugged at. Strange that Nanny Cara hadn’t dusted. He tapped the clock, willing the hands to move, seeing in his mind the day it broke, the tears smudged on her lined face. Maybe not so strange.
He turned to the bay window, cream curtains hanging stiff and yellowed with age. They crackled as he pushed them aside, eddies of dust swept up in the ruffles on the floor. Darkness covered the world outside, snow sprinkled path untouched by footprints reflected by the light left on downstairs. Hopefully they would see it. Damon should remember what it meant.
As he turned back with a sigh his eyes caught on a moving light in the gloom outside. His heart slowed. They were coming. Leaning back against the wall he closed his eyes. Nanny Cara had been right. This trouble was too deep for him. Sinking down to the floor he drew his knees up, resting his clasped hands between them, his head resting on the wall. He opened his eyes but the room was still empty, the air thick with time lost and discarded. His finger traced the scar on his wrist, little more than a faded line now.
Crunching gravel and snow sounded from the path below the window, cutting the silence.
A bright flare of red lighting up the window.
His mouth twisted. She was strong. Blinking his eyes against the red, seeing again in his mind a man knocked down by crimson fire, a child running for his life, his own arms stealing round little Ella, he let out a shuddering sigh. He deserved her rage.
The furious light died, replaced by waiting silence.
Dark purple mist filtered through the open door, floating over faded carpet and discarded toys, seeking. He held out a hand and it wound its way to him, playing over his trembling fingers.
The mist tightened on his wrist, binding him. His lips curled up. So much for brotherly trust.
A chill breeze as the front door opened. Only one lot of measured footsteps thumped on the wooden floor. The creak in the steps avoided by someone familiar with the house.
Shadow filled the doorway and he looked up into his brother’s face. Shame sat behind his eyes, pushing them away but he fought it, holding Damon’s calm indigo gaze though his heart pounded in his chest.
“Marius. Where is the child?”
Damon’s brows lowered but no darkness stole the light in his eyes. Leaving the doorway his brother walked slowly over towards him, filling the room with his presence as he always did.
He smiled as Damon crouched next to him, black coat dragging in the dust, wondering if this was the feeling that made humans cry.
“I’ve been waiting, brother, sitting in this room where the walls leak memories, trying to figure out where the path broke.”
Damon sighed and the purple mist around his wrist turned lilac, loosening its grip until it was more of a caress.
“It broke a long time ago Marius.”
Damon’s eyes went to the clock and he stared at the scar on his wrist.
The words dragged out of him, ripping at his heart. “Why do you think she did it?”
Damon tore his eyes from the clock, eyes darkening to midnight purple. The lilac mist fluttered up to tousle Marius’s hair briefly before dropping away, vanishing as Damon stretched his legs out, leaning away from him with a sigh.
“Because we were in the way.”
“And power was more important.” It wasn’t a question. He’d answered it long ago. His mother’s face as she turned her back on them an image he could never scrub away.
“As it is more important to our uncle.”
He flinched. “He tortured her, Damon. In front of me. He had Aerin screaming on the ground. His own daughter. I couldn’t stop him.”
“We never could.”
His fingers traced over the scar, burning now with remembered pain. “I thought he was right. I thought it would work. But it didn’t and now I’m caught.”
Clasping his hands tighter he steeled himself, looking up at Damon’s face. “I’m in trouble and I need my big brother to help me.”
A small smile tugged at Damon’s lips. “I’ve been waiting a long time to help you, Marius.”
He reached out his hand and his brother’s clasp sent strength through him in a rush.
“But now, brother, you need to help me get the child back.”
He nodded, guilt a heavy weight in his chest.
“I am sorry about Ella but she’s not hurt. I sent her away with Nanny Cara before Orlon’s soldiers came.”
“The candle in the window told me as much. It was harder to convince Phoebe.” Damon released his hand and stood, shaking dust from his coat. “Come, Marius. Facing her won’t be easy but the right thing never is.”
He rose more slowly, pushing against the wall. “Do you think it’s too late to change paths?”
His brother shook his head fiercely, eyes glinting in the dim light. “I am forging a new path brother, one free from our mother and free from our uncle. Join me on this one. Help me find Ella. Help me keep Phoebe safe.”