The Phoenix King: The Awakening [Book 1]

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Rescue

***Fifteen Years Later**

Grimsby Castle had never been more befitting of its name than in the years which followed the crowning of its new King. Once a building that had stood tall and acted almost as a beacon of hope, a refuge for those in need to flock towards, the castle now only inspired fear and hatred. The gleaming white walls had withered and grown grey, some parts of the walls were even stained red with blood and few bodies littered the citadel, left there as an example of what happened to those who crossed the monarch. The surrounding lands had become desolate as many of the villagers who had once lived there had fled during the battle or afterwards in search for sanctuary. Those who had remained behind, either due to an inability to leave or refusal to show fear and run, now lived in fear under the strict rule of Kain and the laws which the young King had imposed only minutes after is coronation, laws which had remained in place and were likely to always remain.

Inside the castle itself was dark and gloomy, playing host to a series of magical creatures and criminals alike. The red banners which had once hung from the ceilings printed with a Phoenix rising from the ashes had been torn down in the space of fifteen years and the halls were dark, lit only slightly by the numerous torches and candles which were posted on the walls. Stone guards stood on every floor, positioned strategically by all doors, the majority of windows and multiple secret passage ways of the castle had been sealed off. The great Chamber doors were currently closed with two Ogres standing on either side of the mahogany entrances holding large axes and wearing somewhat vacant expressions. A man's yells could be heard from the other side of the doors, loud and filled with rage, followed by the sound of something smashing against the stone wall and breaking. The King was incandescent.

"YOU TOLD ME THAT HE WAS DEAD! BOTH OF YOU SWORE THAT HE WAS DEAD WHEN YOU BROUGHT THAT BITCH BACK TO ME!" Kains naturally pale face was bright red, his eyes bulging slightly as he yelled. He halted in his pacing to glare at the two men in front of him who were on their knees and staring at the ground beneath them, their bodies shaking. Everyone else who was in the room to witness the Kings temper kept their distance from the man, all except his sister who took advantage of her brothers momentarily stop in his pacing to advance towards him and press a hand to his chest so that she could feel his thundering heartbeat underneath his clothes and chest. Katelyn thought of the vision she had seen once more of the small bundle of blankets concealing the lost Prince floating down what was so obviously a river when compared to the greatness of the sea on what looked like a small raft, that same raft coming to a stop as it got caught in the banks of the river Cillas as the route narrowed and then a man... Katelyn hadn't seen his face, only his shadow and no matter how hard she tried to concentrate and look back upon her vision, even attempt to see him now in the present day, she could not and each time she was made to watch as the baby was carried away by a stranger to safety.

"We will find him." Katelyn could see her brothers lips pressing together into a thin line and the battle between remaining calm under his sisters touch and wanting to allow his rage to control him until his temper had calmed naturally raging on inside his mind. Finally he nodded a small nod meant only for her and she pulled her hand away, albeit a little slowly.

"Why have you only seen this now?" There was an edginess to his voice as Kain spoke to Katelyn. He felt betrayed by the men who had not moved since Kain had ordered them to kneel before him, enraged at their betrayal and his stupidity for believing them, confused as to why he was only finding out the information regarding his cousins escape and fearful... The realisation that with Phoenix still alive he was not the rightful King and how the people would look upon him as such – more than many already did – should they find out that Phoenix was alive hit him like one of his sisters most powerful spells. "Why didn't you have any warning before?"

"My Sight is not my most power form of magic. Enchantments, potions, curses and intuition have always been easier to control and use. The ability to see into the future, even the past, comes to me when it does. I cannot control when it does, what I see and I do not have the power to ultimately decide if it may or may not come to pass... Not yet." Kains hand tightened on his sword, drawing in a deep breath, and Katelyn gazed down at the two men kneeling beside them. "I've seen more than enough and more than you need to find him, regardless if it is not as much as we would like to have at our disposal but you have more than enough men who bow to you and would be willing to do the job of finding him and killing him, properly this time."

A smile had begun to form on Kains face now, the same smile he had worn the day the crown had been placed on his head and he nodded, glad his sister had understood what he planned to do by the smallest of actions and even happier that she agreed with his decision. He waited until his sister had walked out of range before unsheathing his sword swiftly and swinging it so that it cut through the flesh and bone of the largest man before him. There were a few gasps from the audience in the room and even a few sniggers as Kain withdrew his sword and pierced the blade into the back of the other man who had attempted to scramble to his feet to make a break for the chamber hall doors. Kain wiped his swords blade on the mans shoulder after he had pulled it out of his body, wiping the blood from it before putting it away once more. He felt better now, more relaxed and he strode toward the throne and sat down upon it.

"Better. Peter, gather up your best men and form a search party, send words to the other villages and cities and Valleriah as well. I want every red-headed boy of the right age slaughtered – none have to be overlooked." A tall, brown haired man stepped out of the line of those still backed up against the wall and looked up at where the King and the Witch sat now side by side like King and Queen alike.

"Of course, Sire." He said simply with a simple nod and Kain watched as he disappeared out of the chamber with several men in pursuit of gathering more and doing as ordered. At least, Kain thought to himself as the doors swung shut and the remainder of his Knights and council relaxed as one, sensing the worst was over, and made their way slowly out of the hall leaving the twins alone with one another.

"Should we tell the Queen of the hunt for her son?" Kain asked curiously, he imagined what her expression would be like if he told her that her son was alive. Would she be relieved or would she merely laugh at how stupid he had been to believe him dead for fifteen long years? She had most likely already spend her days and nights in her dungeon cell laughing at him... Something that she would be paying for.

"No," Katelyn responded firmly. "We tell no one, not even Ester and she is not Queen anymore." Katelyn blamed Kains years of Knighthood for his consistent titling of the woman and she had corrected him many times in the past as she would continue to do in the future until he no longer referred to her as a Queen but merely as he would any ordinary woman.

"What about the girl? How is she faring in his prison?" Kain asked as his thoughts travelled across the Black Sea to the Lone Island where the Princess was being kept captive by Katelyn and Thomas when Katelyn left to visit home. "The last I saw her she was a child."

"She still is, she's only just entered her teens." Katelyn smirked and she felt Kain shift in his seat beside her to turn towards her properly, interested in what the expression on her face suggested. "She knows of her mother, as done any child really even if they are taken from them in any form." At this she allowed a empathetic look at her brother. "She knows she is a Princess, the fault of such a fact being known being the stupidity of Thomas and his desire to taunt and tell her the story of your victory. She believes as we did until this morning, that her brother was killed whilst Ester attempted to get him to safety."

Kain nodded, feeling somewhat satisfied. "It was a good idea to keep the child then. Had it been a boy I would have slain him on the spot after him. However, I suppose it's good to have someone else to use as leverage. She might even be useful in luring the boy here."

"Hopefully we won't even need to use her to lure him here should your men prove successful this time." Katelyn seemed less sure of the mission Kain had set than he did and Kain didn't like it. "Should they prove successful in their task, he'll be dead before he ever finds out who he truly is."

"How do you know that he doesn't already?" Kain asked sceptically, his eyes narrowing and his brows furrowing together. "There aren't many with the traits he has inherited from his parents, even more so from Rollan. He'll be recognised, no matter how he looks now."

"If he had been then it wouldn't be a vision that would make it clear to us that he would be alive, it would be a change in atmosphere, celebrations, flocking of the people, an army building itself up and travelling to our castle's doors." Katelyn hated how much uncertainty the mere boy created, the fear that he managed to install into her brother and into her... In the eyes of many of the people she and Kain were the enemy, the villains in a fairytale they had created in their head but in theirs, there was only one enemy, the 'true' Prince.

"Then it's a good thing that my men are on task and every one of them knows now what will happen to them should they fail. I want that boy brought to me dead, or alive so I can kill him myself." Kain pouted slightly and although fifteen years had passed since he had been standing in his sister cruck house just outside the castle, planning to take over and seize his rightful place on the throne, in that moment the older man looked younger than his age and resembled once more the pouting, demanding seventeen year old self that he had never truly grown out of. Katelyn noticed this and was reminded of that day as she leaned forward to press a gentle kiss onto her brother cheek.

"And you shall have it." She pulled back to stair at her brother who was grinning widely and she returned his sudden bout of cheerfulness before turning to stare at the door. Despite her brothers confidence in his men being successful, she began to develop a plan of her own which would not fail should they. This plan would only ever come into place should her brothers men fail and relied on months of concentration, studying, practice and her ability to bend whomever she wished to her will. Beside her, Kain was staring thoughtfully out of the window. He was more relaxed now after his sisters promise and was growing impatient already for the news that the Prince was truly dead, or at least the opportunity to meet the boy and kill him himself.

Miles away in the next section of land which made up the Kingdom of Lotherynheim named Gwyneth, the Prince who had been the main subject of the conversation between the King and his sister woke with a start to the sound of a familiar voice calling out to him from outside and travelling in through the hole in the wall of the small stone house which acted as a window.

"Come on boy, up with you!" Phoenix turned over to lie on his front on the small bed in the corner of the cruck house in which he lived with his Father and brother. The sound of his Fathers voice travelling through the hole in the wall from outside reached his ears once again, pulling him further into reality once more. "Don't be a lazy ass." Despite himself Phoenix smiled, although his eyes still remained closed. He had been having a curious dream where he had been flying, at least it had felt like such. He had been flying through the air with the stars which glittered the sky only visible past a canopy of leaves about him. It had felt so real, which was the curious thing about the dream, like a distant and long forgotten memory. However, as far as Phoenix could remember, he had never flew in his life nor did he think or know how it was possible – expect for the witches, although he had never met one of those either.

He had almost begun to drift back into unconsciousness when he was drenched in cold water which soaked through his cloth shirt and pants and he jumped up as he let out a cry of surprise over which he could hear laughter. His brother was standing in front of him, holding a wooden bucket in his hands which was often used to gather water from the well or river not far from their home. His pale blue eyes were gleaming with mischief and Phoenix pushed himself off the bed which was now wet to wipe the water from his eyes.

"You heard Da, don't be a lazy ass." Phoenix didn't waste any time in chasing him and the two boys raced outside, Phoenix in pursuit of Flint who, despite being smaller that Phoenix and having shorter legs, managed to outrun him easily. A part of Phoenix wished that Flint would slow down and allow himself to be captured just so Phoenix could have a sense of victory but the other part of him admired Flint for never doing such a thing and instead making Phoenix work for the victory. Like always, Phoenix didn't manage to catch his brother before he reached their Father and the older man took one look at them both and shook his head.

"Men at work and you two still manage to find a way to fool around." His eyes fell on Phoenix taking in the unruly red hair and night clothes before he gave a small shake of his head. "Get back to the house and tidy yourself up, will you? Get some proper clothes on too." Phoenix gave a sigh before turning and nudging past Flint who laughed.

"Want to race back? I'll give you a head start." Flint grinned, staring at Phoenix and begging him to take the challenge. Phoenix, however, couldn't be bothered to run all the way back and shook his head as he made his way back down the path which led home. Flint followed behind him and Phoenix listened to his ramblings about the daily gossip of what was going on around the village where they lived. He didn't like when Flint went on about other peoples business, not when they were private affairs that had nothing to do with them and so he never listened during Flints monologues.

After getting dressed into the clothes that he often wore for work he gave his brother a disapproving look once the other finally fell silent. "I wish you wouldn't do that." There were many differences between Phoenix and Flint and not just differences in their personality but their appearance as well. Phoenix was tall and lanky for the age of fifteen with flaming red hair which was always a mess on his head, his eyes were emerald green and his pale face was covered in freckles. He was quiet and reserved, although his main downfall was his own curiosity which often led him to wandering and later getting into trouble for it. A year older than Phoenix, Flint was only a few inches shorter and his face was more rounded with neat blond hair plastering the top of it and his forehead. He had pale blue eyes like their Father which left Phoenix to believe that he had obtained his own eye colour from their mother who had died when he was a baby. Flint was a lot more outgoing than Phoenix, neater and more daring. One thing Phoenix also noticed about Flint was that the older boy seemed to always know everything about everyone and never held back in showing it by telling whoever wouldn't tell him to shut up speech. He was also very convincing and somewhat cunning, having always been able to convince others of things or to do things for him. Phoenix had only realized this recently and he felt somewhat used when he noticed that he had been the victim of his brothers laziness and fibs on more than several occasions.

"Wouldn't do what?" Flint asked although it was clear from the expression on his face that he knew very well what Phoenix was going to say.

"You know what. You shouldn't know half those things and even if you did, you shouldn't go telling other people about it, you shouldn't go telling anyone about it." The grin on Flints face faded and was replaced by a frown as a result of his brothers scolding.

"Why? You can't say you aren't curious. You always listen when I tell you." Flint argued and Phoenix had to agree, he was curious to know the going ons of his home village, both private and public, but that didn't mean that he didn't know it wasn't right.

"I try not to listen!" He replied defensively as they left the house once more. "Do you know how hard it is to ignore someone who's practically shouting things at you?" Flints grin returned again as he registered the usual compliment behind Phoenix's words. Of course, Phoenix thought to himself as he rolled his eyes, trust Flint not to hear the condescending tone but only what could be used to feed his ego further and suddenly 'you talk too loud' had turned into 'you're too important to simply be ignored'.

Flint had been about to say something when he was silenced by the sound of a loud scream in the direction of the hills where the animals were allowed to graze. There was a moment of silence as though the world had been put on paused and then chaos seemed to erupt, seeping into the village from all angles as men in black stormed in on top of their horses, not bothering to avoid anything in their way and merely trampling over it, food, land and people alike. Phoenix immediately looked to Flint who grabbed his arm and began pulling him in the direction of where their Father was working at the quarry.

"Try not lag behind this time, will you?" Phoenix ignored Flints jibe and followed as closely behind his brother as he could. The route which Flint chose to run meant that neither of them would run into many of the invaders, although they did narrowly miss detection twice and manage to make a close escape from one other, mainly due to their ability to turn swifter in the other direction than the man and his horse. They reached the quarry several minutes later and their Father who had by the looks of it just finished knocking out a man much larger than himself.

"Boys, over here! Now!" The two complied at once, running together towards them, many had huddled together, closing ranks like soldiers even though none of them were as experienced as the men on horses. After skidding to a halt by his Father who set to moving backwards and backing both Phoenix and Flint towards a small cave in the rocks, the tunnel of which no doubt let to the edge of the land which ended in a steep drop into the Mydharrean Sea.

"Father, look out!" Phoenix called as one of the Knights who was no longer on his horse came running towards him. His Father had just near enough raised his hammer before another man, who Phoenix recognised as one of their neighbours, Lane, appeared out of nowhere from behind one of the fallen boulders and slit the throat of the man about to attack them.

"Watch yourself there, old man." Lane joked although there was no smile on his face as he gave the fallen man a kick in the head. "God I hate these lot. Best get the boys in there now, Jonah. Go on." The last order was given to Phoenix and Flint and their Father nodded at them. Phoenix did not hesitate in making his way towards the cave at once but he stopped before entering as he heard Flint some bit away.

"I'm not going anywhere, I want to stay and fight. I'm not scared." Flint argued loudly. Phoenix watched as both men stared at his brother disapprovingly, although there was a proud look in his Fathers eyes. "I can help!"

"It's not a matter of whether you're scared or not, there's a thin line between bravery and stupidity." Phoenix had heard his Father say this many times and the majority of those time he was saying it to Flint. Phoenix understood what it meant even though Flint could not. Those who run into a fight without thinking or planning were often the ones who were killed or injured due to their own recklessness.

"Listen to your Da, lad. It's for the best." Lane said and Flint shot him a glare before realizing that even if Lane hadn't been there, his Father would still object to him being allowed to fight.

"I'll come get you both after it's over," Phoenix heard his Father promise. "You go look after your brother for me." Phoenix didn't know if he was imagining things but his Father seemed to look especially concerned then and he looked away quickly as he saw his Father turn his gaze in his direction before placing a hand on Flints shoulder. "Keep him safe, OK? Keep yourself safe as well." He gave Flint a push in the direction of the cave and Phoenix watched as their Father and Lane disappeared and Flint made his way quickly but clearly reluctantly towards him in the shelter.

"We'll stay here until the fights over and Da comes to collect us." Flint told Phoenix, clearly unaware that the conversation he and their Father had just had had been within earshot. Phoenix nodded, reaching out to touch his brothers shoulder where their Fathers hand had rested upon his cotton shirt and he led Flint further into the cave.

"What do you think they want?" Phoenix asked his brother curiously as the took a seat upon the ground. He could see his brother still unable to settle, itching to go out and help. Phoenix wanted to help too but he knew for a fact that he wouldn't be any help in a fight. He hated fighting, even play fighting with Flint had always proved a waste of time and was merely another way for Flint to show off and for Phoenix to develop bruises on his easily-bruised pale skin.

"I don't know." Flint replied shortly with a shrug. It was rare for Flint to say those three words. "Maybe it's just the same as last time, another invasion, the King telling his men to remind people who's ruling these lands." Phoenix frowned. He could remember the last invasion, many of the people he knew had died then... It had been the worst six days of his life staying hidden with his Father and brother in the forest and not knowing whether he or either of them would be killed in their sleep or if he would wake up to a new day, have to remain hidden and be haunted by the exact same thoughts that night as the night before. They had received help from a mother and her daughter in Redhollow that time who had been passing through before the invasion had began and gotten stuck in the forest, scared to leave for fear of their lives. The mother had been skilled at hunting for a woman and the daughter had been someone whom Phoenix would possibly call a friend. His brothers voice pulled him out of his train of thought and he gave Flint a questioning look. "I said it isn't going to be as bad as last time if anything, we're all more prepared for invasions since then. Everyone is better protected."

Phoenix nodded and spent the rest of the time they both sat in the cave for in silence. He wished he could think of something to talk about, he wished he could make a lot of noise, so much that it would drown out the yells and cries and sound of metal upon metal which deafened him even from within their hide-out. Finally, his attention was caught by movement in the corner of his eye and he looked up to see Flint rising to his feet.

"What are you doing?" He asked, alarmed as his brother turned towards the mouth of the cave. "You can't go out there. Think about what Father said."

"Well, it's been too long." Of course it had most likely only been a couple of minutes but even Phoenix had to agree it had felt like they had been sitting in there for hours, being forced to listen to the battle outside but not know what was going on. "I'm going to see what's going on and I'm going to help." When Phoenix stood up to Flint stared at him, eyebrows raised.

"I'm not staying in here by myself." Phoenix told him and he saw a flash of amusement in his brothers eyes as they crept out of the cave, so close together that they were almost the one person. As soon as he had stepped out of the cave, Phoenix wished he had remained inside. Across as far as he could see there were multiple bodies littered on the ground and hills. There were still a fair amount of men fighting and even less men on horses which was a relief to see.

"Come on." Phoenix heard Flints voice in his ear and he followed his brother who had spotted a tool box not far from them. He took a hammer from it and handed Phoenix a small axe. "Don't hurt yourself." He mocked and Phoenix made a face although he held the tool which had now become a weapon cautiously in his left hand. From somewhere to their left the shouts of an unfamiliar voice caused them to turn and they watched as a man still on his horse came riding into the centre of the quarry. Phoenix's eyes narrowed as he noticed that the mans sword was still in its sheath.

"What was the point of the king sending orders on who to kill when you lot are going to waste time by killing everyone else and not looking for the right target?!" He didn't sound angry as much as tired as he pulled on his horses rains to stare at the scene around him. Then, much to Phoenix's surprise, he threw a blade in the direction of one of his own men who fell to the ground, dead. That, along with the yell from the man who had only just arrived, caused the battle to cease as every man halted. "There isn't any need for any of you to fight," He addressed the villagers as he spoke, weaving his horse in a figure eight. "We're looking for someone specific, I've got no desire to have unimportant civilians blood spilled today. The person we're looking for is a boy, a young boy about fourteen or fifteen years. He shouldn't be too hard to find, line up all of the young lads of that age with red hair and there doesn't have to be any more fighting."

Phoenix froze on the spot and he could feel Flint staring at him. It wasn't him specifically, he told himself as he watched the mans mouth move once more although he wasn't paying attention to the false promises being made by the stranger. The man hadn't meant him specifically, he'd said any boy with red-hair and around that particular age who resided in the village. Phoenix couldn't be the only one surely, some other boy must have gotten into serious trouble or broken the law for Phoenix was certain he'd never broken the law or done anything wrong that might have caused anyone to come looking for him – particularly not in this manner.

"We're not interested in your rewards or your gold. Clear off!" That was his Fathers voice and Phoenix turned his head in the direction it had come from. He heard Flint sigh with relief next to him and he allowed himself to sigh as well, relaxing only slightly as he watched the man on his horse turn the horse so that he could look the speaker in the eye.

"Are you sure? You could use that gold to buy something pretty for your little wife if you've got one." The man said and Phoenix watched as the usual pained expression took hold of his Fathers face for a moment before he glared at the man who was obviously the leader of the small army.

"My wife is dead, killed people like you as a matter of fact, Kings-men." The last word was spat and Phoenix shot a glance in Flints direction. His brother had a slightly hungry look in his eyes as he always had when receiving new information which had been previously unknown to him and Phoenix knew that this was the first time Flint was hearing about how their Mother had died just as it was from him. Their Father rarely spoke about their Mother at all, let alone about how she had died.

"Shame," The man tutted although neither his voice or facial expression held any sympathy. "Then perhaps with the right amount of gold you'll be able to buy yourself a wife. I'd like what I desire now." A smirk appeared on the mans face as he sat back on his horse, waiting but Jonah did not move. Finally, when it became clear to the Kings-man that Jonah nor any of the others were going to follow the orders given, he dismounted his horse and moved towards him. The few men in black that were left held their line along the villagers, acting like a wall between all of them and the man. Phoenix was just staring at the back of his head now, noting how there were what looked like claw marks on the back of his neck which looked as though they had been a deep wound once. They began underneath the mans greasy brown hair and disappeared underneath his armour, clearly travelling down his back. Phoenix thought for a moment, wondering curiously what had inflicted the wound; a bear, or perhaps a wolf... or something bigger.

"We're not giving you anything." Phoenix heard his Father growl and he focussed once more on what was happening. "Like I said before, clear off, or maybe that wasn't clear. Fuck off." Phoenix seemed unable to look away now as he noticed the mans shoulders rise and fall and the sound of a chuckle reached his ears.

"Then I suppose I shall have to take what I want by force." Both men's faces were inches away from each other and Phoenix could hardly see his Fathers face anymore, all he could see was one of his Fathers eyes which was fixed unblinkingly on the dark haired man. The man made to move forward and before Phoenix could even spot that his Father had raised the hammer in his hand, the dark haired man was on the floor clutching at his head with his hand before drawing it away to reveal blood. Now that he was watching, Phoenix saw that the soldiers hand was now moving towards his sword and he opened his mouth to let out a yell.

"NO!" Before he'd managed to make a sound, Flint had already called out and was not scrambling over the rock they had took cover behind to watch and running in the direction of the two men about to resume the fighting. Phoenix watched in horror as the man stepped forward to his new opponent, laughing and withdrawing his sword. Another yell in the same direction seemed to echo around them and Phoenix watched as his father launched forward with his hammer to attack the dark haired man from behind. The next few minutes seemed to happen in slow motion although even then it happened to fast for Phoenix to do anything. Before his third blow to the mans head with his hammer, his Father appeared to stop mid swing and even Flint stopped running to stare ahead.

The hammer which had been tightly in his Fathers grasp seconds before fell to the ground, closely followed by the holder and Phoenix's eyes widened once more as he saw the red now staining his Fathers white shirt. He hadn't even noticed the man truly using his sword and yet he had managed to strike behind him without Phoenix noticing anything at all. He heard Flint shout something that their Father would have scolded him for any other day but now there was a look of concern on the mans face as his sons yells and that concern was for his sons life and not for his own which was coming to its end.

Flint put all of his strength into the swing as he skidded to a halt in front of the soldier but missed and instead of killing him, the older man simply used the handle of the sword and thrust it towards Flint so that it connected with his head knocking him unconscious. "I forgot that's how I like kids best, silent." The battle seemed to have commenced now as the other villagers had gotten over the shock of the death of a friend and began to fight to gain revenge. Seconds into the battle Phoenix took the opportunity to climb out from his hiding spot and run towards his Father. He didn't even slow when he passed Flint, he almost felt guilty for it but in that moment the person he wanted to be with was his Father. He'd almost reached the man when he was knocked onto his side, causing him to drop the axe in his hand and scraping his hands and the side of his face on the hard earth beneath him. He's barely adjusted himself to stand when he was flipped onto his back and he felt the weight of a man on top of him and the sound of a blade being drawn from his belt. The cold steel rested on his throat and Phoenix was surprised to find that he wasn't afraid. He was still numb from having watched his Father being murdered, not even the adrenaline from witnessing it had begun to course through his veins as to give him the energy to fight like it was everyone else. He accepted in that moment that he was going to die, surprised yet again as to how easy it was just to surrender. He watched as his captors lips pulled up into a wicked grin, his eyes alight with manic glee and Phoenix closed his own eyes so that he would not have to look at him as he felt the blade of the knife press harder against his skin.

"STOP!" Phoenix flinched, his eyes flashing open before following the gaze of the man who was restraining him to set sight upon the man who had saved his life, or at least spared it for a few seconds longer. Much to his surprise, and clearly the surprise of the man on top of him now, he found himself staring at his Fathers murderer. There was blood in his hair now and he was wearing an expression of both disbelief and... fear.

"What's your name?" He demanded to know but Phoenix didn't answer, not just to spite him but because he couldn't find his voice. "Well?" The elder pushed after a few seconds of silence had passed and a voice at the back of Phoenix's mind told him to lie but he had already spoken before his mind had caught up with his tongue.

"Phoenix. That was my Father you killed." He knew that the man would know which individual out of the many mend he had just slaughtered he was referring to and he wasn't surprised to see the expression on his face hadn't been taken over by one of regret.

"Was it now?" The scepticism in his question made Phoenix's brow furrow and he felt as stab of anger break through the numbness. His eyes seemed to look up and down before resting on Phoenix's hand and the ring upon his finger and he seemed to freeze up on the spot. "Fancy piece of jewellery for a poor lad." He seemed to only just managed to say this and he spoke more to himself than to anyone else.

"Yes, it was." He replied stiffly. If the knife hadn't still been pressed to his throat, he would have put up an unexpected struggle in the stillness of the moment which would surely have throw off the man on top of him regardless of his heavy weight, but he didn't dare move. One small movement that was too quick right now and the blade would slit his throat. It took Phoenix a couple of minutes to realize that the man was still staring at him, now looming over him, he felt somewhat more threatening than the man who had the weapon.

"Funny how you look nothing like your Father or brother. Gregoire, get up, we're leaving." He announced suddenly and both Phoenix and the man known as Gregoire blinked up at him. "Bring the boy."

"Got him Peter, Sir." Gregoire and the man now known as Peter nodded before turning and making his way back to his horse. Phoenix heard him announce that the attack was over and they would be returning to the castle as Gregoire pulled him up, keeping the knife at his throat and a strong arm wrapped around his chest to hold him in place. They followed in the direction Peter was heading in, back to the horses that stood by the path.

"You aren't going to get anything for taking me prisoner." Phoenix told them all as one of the men stepped forward to tie his hands together. Behind him, he could sense the few that were left watching and he was sure someone had tried to step forward before being kept at bay by the tip of a sword. Next to him, Peter laughed.

"I think you'll find we'll get a lot for taking you prisoner and it won't be from any of these poor bastards." If looks could kill then Peter and his men would already be dead. Unfortunately, they couldn't and Phoenix had to endure the insult directed at the people he had grown up with as he was turned and pushed in the direction of Gregoires horse. He'd only managed to stop himself from falling flat on his face when chaos erupted around him yet again. He felt Gregoires fat hand grab his shoulder before it was suddenly withdrawn as he cried out in pain. Phoenix, who had been about to turn and see what had happened, felt himself being pulled even further away. Now he struggled, doing all that he could to escape from the strangers grip until he finally succeeded in doing so and he broke out into a run at once.

He had only been running for a few seconds before one of the villagers, intent on escaping the chaos himself, crashed into his side and sent him falling to the ground with a thud, his head taking the worse of the blow and concussing him momentarily. When he managed to get a bearing on what was going on, he realized that somebodies hands were under his arms, pulling him to his feet.

"Boy, you come with me now." Phoenix could hear the mans voice in his ear over the shouts and screams of the battle that had just broken out. It was exactly like his hold, soft but determined, but Phoenix still attempted to break it. "Phoenix." He stopped, turning to face the stranger rather than running from him.

"How do you know my name?" He asked suspiciously. Somehow he could tell that this man wasn't with the others who had just tried to abduct him but that didn't mean that Phoenix trusted him.

"I was friends with your father. Duck." Rather than giving Phoenix the chance to follow the order, the stranger took hold of his shoulder and pushed him down. With lightning quick reflexes, he drew a dagger from the inside of his sleeve and hurtled it towards an oncoming attacker. The blade flew straight into his chest and the man dropped to his knees, dead before he hit the floor. Phoenix couldn't help but being just a little impressed.

"Now do you trust me?" The man asked with raised eyebrows and Phoenix stood up to face him.

"No." He replied simply and the man rolled his eyes.

"We can go through the formalities later. Now, we have to go." Before Phoenix could object, the man drew yet another dagger from the opposite sleeve and reached out to cut the ropes binding his wrists together before holding out the dagger to Phoenix who took it from him slowly. "There you go. If was an enemy, the last thing I would do would be to arm you." With that, he grabbed Phoenix's arm and began leading him away from the chaos.

Phoenix, however, was having none of it and broke free of the mans gaze before setting off in the opposite direction back towards the chaos in search for Flint.

"Where the hell do you think you are going?" Phoenix was suddenly pulled backwards by the back of his shirt and the stranger stared at him as though he was looking at a disobedient child.

"Flint... My brother. He's over here somewhere, I have to get him." The stranger shook his head, pulling Phoenix back again as he attempted to resume his searching.

"You're not going back there." He commanded and when Phoenix didn't give up struggling to free himself from the other, the mans yells filled the air. "You're not going back, that's stupid and it's suicide. It's YOU they're after." Phoenix stopped instantly, staring at the stranger with wide eyes. He wasn't used to people shouting at him, no one had ever done that before. It had rendered him taken-aback but that hadn't been the only thing... What the stranger had said had been the main reason that Phoenix was now standing stock still, confusion clouding his features not for the first time that day.

"Why are they after me?" He asked, the sheer curiosity making his question sounding more demanding that he had intended. "Why is all of this happening?"

"I told you, we haven't got the time." His blue eyes seemed to hold the information that Phoenix was looking before but the stranger wasn't looking him in the eyes anymore. In the distance, he heard another man shout and he instinctively gripped the blade in tighter in his hand but his accomplice didn't seem to feel threatened by the blond now riding towards him on a brown horse.

"Your job was to get him to safety, not get him to the edge of the danger and stop." The blond snapped as he pulled his horse to a stop in front of him. The stranger standing beside Phoenix shot the blond a dirty look before turning his glare onto Phoenix.

"I'm not leaving without my brother." Phoenix stated finally and the blond gave him an appraising look before giving a single nod.

"Go with Carter now and I shall fetch your brother and bring him to you." Phoenix opened his mouth to object, ready to tell the man that he would be the one to collect his brother, or at least accompany him in doing so but he was silenced when the blond raised a hand. "I promise that you will be safe in Carters company, as he will be in mine. Now go." With that, the blond turned his horse around and rode back towards the circle of cottages in the village.

"Come on, lad. Before someone unwanted comes along." Carter said, shifting backwards on his horse and patting the space he had now created on the saddle in front of him. Phoenix stared at him for a moment before putting one foot into the spur and hoisting himself up onto the saddle with Carters help. After he was seated securely on the horse, Carter gave the creature a light kick and the horse broke into a gallop so that Phoenix had to wrap his arms around the horses neck to stop him from falling off.

He wasn't sure when the first tears had began to fall, they had ridden out of Phoenix's home village by the time he had noticed and he was glad that Carter was behind him and could not see that he was crying. He tried not to think of his Father lying motionless on the ground but the more he tried not to think of it the more the image seemed to swim in front of him. It was even there when he closed his eyes, as though plastered in the inside of his eyelids to torture him further. What saddened Phoenix even more than his Fathers death – if it were possible to be in a state of grief worse than this – was the sole fact that he had not even made it to his Fathers lifeless body when he had attempted to run to him. He had never had someone close to him die before and therefore had never understood how important that final goodbye was in obtaining closure until now. As the horse carrying him slowed to a canter Phoenix hid his face in its neck, his arms still wrapped tightly around it as though in a hug, and he could only assume that Carter believed they were now out of harms way. He waited for the man to speak but no noise other than the sound of the horse's hooves beating off the ground could be heard and the faint rustling of leaves. When Phoenix pulled his face again from the brown mane, he realized that they were walking down a narrow path where he had never been before. There were trees either side of him, spaced out across the earth so that the horse could weave in and out of the trees easily as it moved. As the horse began to slow even more, Phoenix found that the notion of riding was more appealing than he had earlier noticed or appreciated, it was somewhat soothing to him despite it had been at least two years since he had last been on a horse.

"We're here." Carter announced at last as he pulled the horses reigns gently but firmly and the horse whinnied before stopping on the spot, hitting the ground with its front hoof a few times and bowing it's head. "We get off here, the rest of the journey is on foot." Where 'here' was exactly Phoenix had no clue and now that he had grown almost numb to the pain of his loss again, he was now wary of being alone in the forest with a stranger after the events that had occurred back in his home village.

"Where are we?" He asked as he slid down from the horse and patted its side gently. He looked around, secretly taking note of every tree and looking for some sort of route he could use should he have to run but Carters body language wasn't intimidating at all and he followed behind him slowly as he tied the horse to a tree by the reigns and set off once more to what seemed to be nowhere in-particular.

"Redhollow." Carter replied at once and the lack of hesitation gave Phoenix the impression that he was being honest but then... Flint, who had a knack for lying, knew that sudden replies were the best way to convince people that you were telling the truth. "The woods, to be more precise." He added, glancing over his shoulder to give Phoenix a sarcastic smile.

"Very funny." Phoenix muttered under his breath, looking around at their surroundings once more. Carter seemed to notice then that Phoenix was apprehensive when he had turned and stopped walking to turn and face him.

"I'm not going to hurt you, I promise and so long as I'm around I'm going to make sure that no one else does either. Do you still have that knife of yours?" Phoenix shook his head in response. He'd dropped the blade somewhere back in the direction they had came, most likely when he had been forced to grab onto the horse when it had taken off. Carter didn't seem too annoyed, although the knife hadn't belonged to him and Phoenix wondered how the owner would react when he returned to find that Phoenix had lost his knife. That had reminded him... Flint. He immediately felt guilty for not thinking of him during the time he had spent riding and he suddenly felt sick. Flint had been left behind and although unconscious, it had been witnessed by everyone that he had been merely knocked out and not killed. Phoenix only hoped that he was still in that state now if not at least conscious. He prayed that the man who had gone back for him would find him before anything bad could happen to him and that Flint would go with him.

Phoenix was immediately snapped out of his thoughtful state by Carters voice and he blinked back at the man, his eyebrows raised. Carter was holding out a dagger, a bit bigger than the knife he had been given previously but not as big as the sword hanging from Carters belt.

"Try not to loose it, will you?" He smiled before gesturing in the direction they had been walking in before Carter had stopped to give Phoenix some reassurance. "Shall we?" He asked before setting off again and this time Phoenix followed more at ease.

It turned out that there was a path which they were following and as they continued to walk, Phoenix began to notice it more clearly. It led further into the woods where the trees grew closer together as though to mask the locations of several clearings that Carter led Phoenix past. Eventually, the sound of something other than their footsteps could be heard and Phoenix was sure that it was the sound of voices, or perhaps he was hearing things in the silence...

"What good is a deer that size for six people?" Someone laughed and Phoenix heard something being dropped onto the ground. He could only assume it was the mentioned deer.

"I'd like to see you catch anything better. If I remember correctly, you failed to catch anything the last time you went hunting. What was it he was outrun by again, Jacob?" The carrier replied and Phoenix was sure he heard the man, presumably Jacob, say it was a rabbit before the men who the voices belonged to came into sight.

There was laughter, then one of the men looked up to the top of the clearing where Phoenix and Carter stood and the his laughter faltered before fading completely. The men looked somewhat out of place in the middle of the forest, like Flint often had amongst men at work who had dirtied their hair and face and clothes. Each of them looked as though they should be in their homes or even in a castle rather than in the middle of the forest where it appeared they were living. Now the other two men had noticed that their friend was no longer laughing and followed his gaze upwards. Phoenix followed Carter down the path, being sure to bend his knees in his descent to make the journey easier – something his Father had taught him to do in order to walk down steep hills or paths with ease. Both men seemed to have the same reaction as their friend and one of them, whose hair was shaved so close to his head that he almost looked bald, shook his head slowly as though trying to clear it.

"Fuck me..." He muttered rather than spoke and Carter chuckled.

"I doubt any of us want to do that, Jacob but keep asking around and I'm sure someone will have you." He stated and Phoenix expected a witty remark but no such remark came.

"He looks just like him." It was almost ironic that this statement was said by one of the other men who looked much like the one he was standing next to. At first Phoenix thought that they were twins but looking closer at them, he could see many more differences that twins had and how the one on the left looked older than the one who had just spoken. Brothers then, Phoenix thought and he felt a pang of desire to have his own brother here with him now. As he realized what the man had said, his brow furrowed. Looked just like who? He was just about to ask this question out-loud when Carter coughed beside him.

"None of that tonight, the kids had a rough day." Carter said in a low warning tone and he looked at each of the men in turn. They seemed to obey, keeping quiet but continuing to stare at Phoenix and he was suddenly self-conscious, dropping his gaze to the ground so that he could pretend that they weren't staring and trying to flatten his messy hair to make it look more neat if not more clean.

"Look like who?" Phoenix asked regardless, following after Carter who moved across the space of land between them and the small camp which had been set up to take a seat on a wobbly log. "I think I at least deserve some answers now? What was all of that about back there? Why are we here? Who do I look like?" He was looking at Carter but the questions were directed to all four men although at this point in time it felt as though he was talking to himself.

"You have to tell him some things, Carter. You can't just leave him in the dark, he has a right to know." The older brother said, going to sit by the deer with a knife whilst the younger and Jacob watched in silence. Whilst the older brother who had proceeded to skin the deer seemed to be on Phoenix's side in regards to him getting the answers which he did have a right to know, Carter seemed to be remaining stubborn and silent.

"And I will, Anthony. The lad just needs time, he's suffered losses today." With that, he turned to look at Phoenix with a genuine sympathetic look. "I promise I will tell you what you want to know and what you need to but after you get some rest. You can sleep over there, it's better than sleeping on the ground here and the furs piled there are clean."

"Skinned from the animals and cleaned by me to the highest standard." Anthony interrupted and when Carter looked at him with a single raised eyebrow he simply stared back. "Credit where credit's due." Behind Phoenix, Anthony's younger brother laughed.

"Go on." Carter prompted and Phoenix turned to make his way over to where several animal furs were spread across the ground like a carpet on the forest floor. As much as he wanted to know the answers to his questions and to rid himself of the curiosity which was gnawing at his mind, Phoenix was incredibly tired. His mind reeling, he wished for it to slow down or for the thoughts in his head to disappear completely as to allow him just one moment of peace. Emotionally drained from the events which had turned his life upside down in less than two hours he was glad to be able to rest and being a few metres from the group of men, he allowed himself to cry a little more after settling down into the ground and pulling one which felt like a wolfs fur up over him.

At some point during his battle with his own mind and trying to stop the horrific events of today playing over and over again in his mind Phoenix must have drifted off into an uneasy sleep because the next thing he knew he was being shook awake by one of the brothers and it wasn't until he'd opened his eyes fully and sat up did he realize it was the youngest one. Looking at him from such a short distance and paying attention Phoenix could see that the younger brother was certainly the skinnier of the two and he looked only a few years older than Phoenix.

"We didn't know if we should wake you or not but I thought you might be hungry, your- I mean you're welcome to eat with us if you want or eat alone." It wasn't until the young man mentioned that Phoenix realized how hungry he was. He was too focussed on the sudden empty feeling in his stomach to notice how the other seemed to bite his tongue mid-sentence and correct himself before saying something he would seemingly regret.

"I'll eat with you." Phoenix said, giving him a small smile mostly to show his gratitude for being woken for dinner before getting to hi feet. Also, he thought seeing the opportunity, eating with them would allow Phoenix to ask his questions which Carter had promised to answer after he had slept. "How long was I asleep for?" He asked, noticing how the air around them had turned a little colder and it had gotten darker since he had last had his eyes open.

"Only a few hours. Cedrik came back about an hour ago and Jacob got some water from one of the wells in the village over the way there before dinner was nearly ready and I decided to wake you. I'm Lucah, by the way." He introduced himself and Phoenix could have sworn he'd bowed his head at him whilst they were walking. Didn't people shake hands when they met?

"I'm Phoenix." He replied before looking over at the part of the camp where everyone was sitting. Carter was talking to a man a bit away from where Anthony and Jacob were seated, already eating. As soon as Carter had moved away, Phoenix recognised the man at once and broke out into a run to close the distance between them quicker.

"Where's Flint?" He asked before he had even skidded to a stop and the man, Cedrik seemed to look immediately disappointed in himself.

"I couldn't find him. I called out and got no reply, I couldn't even see him in the crowds." Phoenix felt something in his chest sink as though it was falling into his stomach. "The Kings men who invaded fled, not long after they realized you weren't there anymore—-"

"Why were they after me?" He shot a quick glance at Carter, daring him to interrupt and stop Cedrik from answering and begging that he wouldn't. Carter remained silent and turned away, his expression unreadable.

"Because the King wants you dead. He doesn't like threats and you're the biggest threat of all, to him anyway." Phoenix would have remained staring at him in shocked silence. Of all the answers he had expected, he had not expected that. A threat? Him? He couldn't help but laugh.

"I'm not a threat." He was the boy who couldn't even win a race against his brother, how could he possibly be considered a threat and a threat to someone as strong and as powerful as the King of all people!

"A true King is always a threat to a false one who sits on the throne." Cedrik answered simply and Phoenix continued to laugh for a moment, short breathless laughs as he registered the lack of anything to reveal that this was a joke in Cedriks tone and expression.

"I'm not a King." He could feel everyone staring at him again although he was too busy studying Cedriks face for any hint of amusement to feel self-conscious about it as he had done earlier that day. "You're lying, you've got it wrong." When Cedrik shook his head, Phoenix turned to look at the others. No smiles or smirks or laughter. He looked over at where Carter was sitting, scrubbing at his sword with a piece of cloth. He looked up to meet Phoenix's eyes with a severe expression before giving a nod.

He needed to sit down. As he did, Cedrik took a seat by a tree trunk next to him and he waited a few minutes before speaking again so that Phoenix could take in what had been said.

"Your Father, the King, was betrayed fifteen years ago by his nephew, your cousin. Your cousin killed your Father and took the throne for himself, of course he had his witch of a sister helping him – maybe if he hadn't then he wouldn't have been as successful as he was." Phoenix looked up from his hands which he hand been staring at after he had taken his seat to stare at Cedrik with wide eyes.

"My cousin is a Witch?!" He accidentally shouted in his surprise and, in spite of the moment, excitement. He'd heard stories of witches of course but he had always been torn between believing they were real because there were stories about them and believing his brother when he said they weren't because they 'would have seen one at some point in their lives so far, surely'.

"The twins." Carters voice made Phoenix jump because it was so unexpected and there was something in the sudden shift of atmosphere that made Phoenix have to suppress a shiver from travelling down his spine. "Took over the entire castle and Kingdom too. Your Mother ran off with you the night they invaded. I used to think she was trying to save you and herself but it was only ever you, she most likely realized that you were the one in any real danger." Phoenix couldn't talk, his brain was slowly processing the information he was saving and despite how his mind kept trying to deny the impossible, because it had to be impossible, there was a strange sensation in him and he couldn't help but believe what he was being told to be true.

"If I'm such a threat to the King, then why has he let me live this long?" Wouldn't it only make sense for someone to get rid of the threat early on before it was allowed to grow into an even bigger threat? "And how come I'm only meeting all of you now?"

"It's took us this long to get to the point we're at now." Cedrik spoke this time and there was a edge to his tone as he spoke. "There used to be more of us, lots more. The rest of your Fathers knights either died in the battle when your cousin took over, sided with him or died since. We all thought you were dead, until we heard otherwise of course. Then a hunt for you was ordered, a slaughter of every boy like you who could be you. That's what today was, the only reason we had the element of surprise was that the Kings men weren't expecting to truly find you, then again neither were we." From the corner of his eye, Phoenix could see Carter shaking his head in agreement.

Once Phoenix was handed a bowl of what he assumed to be stew, which turned out chewier than he had originally expected it to be after looking at it, the questioning resumed and Phoenix learned more about the type of man the King... His Father... had been. He learned his mother been taken back to his cousins, Kain and Katelyn after she had been captured moments after she had done whatever she had done with him to save his life. As far as his Mother was concerned, that was as far as anybodies knowledge seemed to go in regards to her condition, whichever one she might be in. He also learned more about the twins and Phoenix was just about to ask a question about them when that very question was driven out of his mind by the sound of a branch snapping in the distance. The men around him immediately went into defence mode and Phoenix dropped his bowl and the remainder of his strew to the ground as Cedrik pulled him up to his feet and kept him behind him with one arm stretched out to push him back at any moment.

"Who's there?" Lucah called and when there was no answer he looked across the camp to Anthony who stepped forward boldly with his sword, joining Jacob in his advance towards the tree where they had heard the noise. Phoenix stared at the large tree trunk with unblinking eyes as the two men approached it.

"Show yourself." Carter ordered and even Phoenix could tell that he was shouting rather than the other two to give the impression that there was no one approaching the tree because both Anthony and Jacob, despite their builds, were able to move swiftly and silently across the ground without making a single sound. Phoenix watched as the both looked at each other, signalling to one another in their heads before Jonah let out a loud yell and the both went around to attack whoever or whatever had been hiding behind the large tree trunk. The next call that Phoenix heard was so familiar that he let out a yell of his own, shoving past Cedriks arm to get to Anthony, Jacob and their intruder.

"No, don't! It's Flint... It's my brother!" Both men had already stopped, apparently surprised at the sight of a boy and not a full grown man or giant beast. When Phoenix had arrived at the spot they were standing on, Flint was on his back on the ground and his hands raised up in the air above his face as though he could use them as a shield from the steel swords the two men were holding tightly in their hands.

"Flint? You're brother?" Jacob looked positively nonplussed as he looked from Phoenix to Flint. Phoenix was suddenly reminded of his true heritage. Of course, when that was taken into account, Flint wasn't his brother and the man who had raised him and died today hadn't been his Father. Not really.

"Yeah." Phoenix replied with a nod and he helped Flint to his feet before hugging him. Surprisingly Flint didn't try to get out of it, like he usually did when there were people watching, instead he simply returned the hug and when Phoenix finally pulled away he could see that Flint had been crying too.

"I thought you were dead." His voice was thick and somewhat croakier than usual although he didn't seem to bother about clearing his throat. Phoenix felt as though he was going to start crying all over again just at the sight of Flint and having the older boy here with him but he blinked back the tears which swam in his eyes.

"I thought you were dead." Phoenix retorted, pulling Flint with him as he returned to the camp. They walked a little behind Anthony and Jacob who were sheathing their swords once more and Jacob was mumbling to himself. "Cedrik went back to look for you but you weren't there."

"I was tracking him." Flint gave a nod to Carter who looked surprised but slightly impressed. "But I lost you as soon as your horse got to the forest. Then I was only tracking you on foot so galloping off wasn't in my favour. I only found here when you that one came back and that was just luck." Phoenix gave Cedrik and apologetic look for how Flint had addressed him. Unlike Phoenix, Flint was easy to forget names and that was only ever when he bothered to remember them in the first place.

"I wanted to stay behind and look for you too but-"

"But you had to be taken out of there quickly for your own safety, I got that part." There was a curtness to Flints voice as he sat himself down on a log on his own. Phoenix sat down next to him in silence. As much as it saddened Phoenix that Flint was not his true brother and Jonah had not been his true Father, he still looked upon them as such. Flint, however, had always been traditional about such things and Phoenix was uncertain as to how he would treat a scenario such as this.

"Here, have some stew. There's still a good bit left over." Anthony said, handing Flint a bowl which he took without hesitation. He didn't even seem to complain about how it smelled funny or was hard to chew. "Sorry about nearly giving you heart attack there kid."

"It's nothing, I was just taken of guard. You didn't scare me." This time Phoenix recognised the lie although Flint did well in shrugging off the apology.

"Of course not." Anthony said, although he gave Flint a knowing look that reminded Phoenix of their Father although it appeared to go unnoticed by Flint who was now busying himself by eating.

"If he hadn't been skulking around then he wouldn't have had a near heart attack." Jacob said gruffly and Phoenix looked over at him. He was staring at Flint with narrowed eyes.

"Jacob." Lucah seemed to sigh the name as though it was something he did often and Jacob made a face.

"I'm only saying." Jacob looked back at Lucah with an expression that held some sort of message in it which Phoenix didn't understand. "I don't like people who skulk around."

"I wasn't skulking." Flint said and clearly he had been chewing on a piece of meat and waiting until he had swallowed it down before talking otherwise Phoenix was sure there would have been no delay in his brother defending himself. "I was waiting to see if Phoenix was in trouble, then you were all having dinner together and there was the stories."

"Right." Jacob said in a tone that made it clear that he did not believe what Flint was saying to be true but Phoenix ignored the man. Phoenix waited to see if Jacob would say anything else but he didn't and the uneasy silence was interrupted by Carter.

"Get some sleep after that food." He said, mostly looking at Flint before addressing the rest of the men. "We've got two more journeying with us, that's an increase in numbers. We also have a King in our party, therefore we all need to be on high alert. We'll leave tomorrow at first light." He gave a nod before standing up and making his way over to where the furs lay on the ground to settle himself for the night.

"I'll take first watch." Jacob said flatly before standing up as well and making his way over to the edge of the clearing. Phoenix looked at Anthony and Lucah then who were looking at one another before Lucah realized Phoenix was staring.

"Don't mind Jacob, he has a lot of trust issues." He told him and he gave a small smile to Flint which Flint returned and gave a small nod, although he still seemed put off.

"He's been through a lot. We all have, especially you too and you're both still young." Anthony said and Phoenix didn't like the subtext of what was being said, the implication that there was more still to come and worse things at that... Before he'd had the chance to say anything, Anthony had stood up and he and Lucah had followed Carter up to the 'beds', Cedrik in pursuit.

"Are you okay?" Phoenix asked after he was sure no one was listening. It was a stupid question and he hated himself for asking it when the answer was so painfully obvious but he'd needed to ask. Flint shrugged.

"So you're a King." It wasn't a question and Phoenix looked at Flints face a little closer wishing he could tell what the other boy was truly thinking.

"Apparently." Phoenix said. He watched as various emotions flickered across Flints face, the same emotions he had felt when he had been told until Flint finally turned to look at him with a lopsided smirk.

"You're a scruffy King." The two laughed, both tired laughs that their Father had often done at the end of a longs days hard work only to come home and find Phoenix and Flint messing around and having broke something. The laughter lasted for a good couple of minutes and it seemed that towards the end they were laughing merely for the sake of it. Phoenix felt as though the laughter was just a substitute, an excuse or way not to cry, which perhaps it was. Eventually, however, things turned serious.

"You don't blame me for Fathers death, do you...?" He'd had to ask. As usual, he his curiosity had betrayed him and asked a question which might have an answer he feared. The short seconds it took for Flint to reply felt like a lifetime and he was sure that when his brother replied, he'd heard the words yes... yes...

"No." Flint shook his head. "You didn't kill Father. Even if they were after you, it was the Kings-men who killed Father, so they're to blame."

"But they were after me." Phoenix argued. He didn't want to talk about it but the idea that their Fathers death was his fault had been playing at his mind since he had learned that the men had only invaded his home village to find him by his cousins command.

"Didn't that man tell you that they didn't know it was you until they'd saw you or something like that?" Flint reminded him and Phoenix nodded, somewhat soothed by the fact. "Where are we travelling to tomorrow?" He added as an afterthought and Phoenix shrugged.

"Your guess is as good as mine." He looked over at the bowl in Flints hand and noticed it was empty so got to his feet. "Come on, I already slept earlier but I'm still tired and you look as though you're going to pass out if you don't get sleep soon."

Once they had laid down on two of the furs, Phoenix could already tell that this sleep was going to be more peaceful than the last. His brother was safe and so was he... The cost had been a huge one but Phoenix was glad to still have Flint, having Flint but not his Father was better than having neither of them after all.

"Can I ask you something?" Phoenix didn't know why but he had assumed that Flint had fallen straight to sleep the moment they had lay down and so he was surprised to hear the boys voice coming from the body beside him. He sounded uncertain which in turn made Phoenix a little worried.

"Of course you can." He replied incredulously, waiting to hear what had his brother so doubtful.

"We're still brothers, aren't we?" If he hadn't been more relieved that his brother had been the one to ask his question and had therefore saved him from having to ask then he would have been causing himself serious mental injury by over-worrying about how his brother had had to ask it in the first place.

"I still consider you to be my brother, I always will. My brother and my best friend." Phoenix replied honestly and he turned on his spot to face Flint but the boys back was to him so that he couldn't see his face and Phoenix assumed that he was crying when he replied with the croakier than usual voice.

"You're still my brother too."

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