A/N: this week's bounty was start at the end of the installment!
From fifty feet away, Julian saw his brother fall in love.
Edmund was frozen to the spot, his stocky legs apart, his head turned upwards as if trying to see the girl from a new angle. His shoulders were slack and for once, he was silent. He reached out a thick arm to take the girl’s thin hand from under her cloak. A branch under Julian’s foot cracked, and Edmund turned, gave him one of his signature massive, accommodating grins. “Julian, come and meet-“ He stopped short, and Julian knew that Edmund did not know his lover’s name yet.
“Aurelia. My name is Aurelia.”
Edmund stared at her as if she truly were made of gold. With a sigh, Julian continued down the bank, and wondered how they had gotten into this situation. Again.
Edmund traced his initials on the glass window of the carriage with a finger, his fingertip coming away wet and cold. The EW glowed clear for a minute, and then was obliterated as drops wound their way down through it, like portcullis bars dropping.
“You wreck the windows by doing that,” said Julian, not taking his eyes away from his book.
“You’re missing the countryside by reading,” Edmund retorted. His brother had kept his nose buried in between the covers of a history book the whole way from the capital. It was true that they had taken this trip a hundred times or maybe more, but the roads through the forests though never ceased to amaze Edmund, how they twisted, how the trees seemed just that bit taller every year.
The first autumn storm of the year had come three days before. They had felt it in the capital, the freezing winds racing through the cracks in doorways, the windows rattling, the cold seeping in through the roof of their great aunt’s The city was bone dry the next morning but the forest floor still glittered with raindrops. In the little bits of sunlight sneaking through, the whole forest looked like it was covered in fairy dust. Edmund couldn’t help staring.
“You know, maybe nature would teach you more than that book,” he said to his older brother. But he knew he was fighting a losing battle. Julian never appreciated nature, and made a point of disagreeing with Edmund on just about every matter under the sun. Sometimes Edmund lay awake at night wondering what tricks the heavens were playing when they let the same blood run in two such different men.
He sighed at the thought, leant back towards the window. Amongst the trees he was sure he saw a glimpse of pink, like dying sun even though it was around noon. He blinked, but then it was gone again.
“When was the last time you read a book?” Julian asked him.
“I read a novel last week.”
Julian snorted. “A real book, Ed.”
Edmund opened his mouth, trying to think of a reply, when he felt the jerk of the driver bodily pulling on the reins. The carriage rolled to a halt.
“Why are we stopping?” Julian shouted through the hatch.
“There’s a felled tree in the way, m’lord.”
“Isn’t that great,” Julian muttered, opening the door. “Come on.” He stared at Edmund with his ice-blue eyes. “Get out and let’s see what we can do.”
There was no way the three of them could move the tree. It was huge, centuries old with twisting branches going every which way and the roots mimicking them at the other end.
“Is there a way around?” Edmund asked hopefully.
“Mighthap for us and the horses, but there’s no way that carriage is getting through anytime soon.”
Julian and the driver fell into a serious conversation to which Edmund was pretty sure he wasn’t invited. He looked around the woods instead, and saw the same flash of pink as earlier.
Now that he was sure it wasn’t a trick of the light, he decided to follow it.
He dived into the trees. “Ed!” he heard his brother call, his voice full of reproach. But there was no sign of Julian trying to follow him. The pink showed itself again a few trees ahead, and then came into full vision. It was a cloak.
A pink cloak. The very idea made Edmund smile.
“Hey!” he called, but the girl- he assumed it was a girl- sped up, trying to get away from him. Edmund picked his feet up into a run. “Hey! We need some help! I don’t want to hurt you.”
The girl slowed, paused. Edmund kept running towards her so that when she turned, he could see her face properly.
She did turn, and he was not disappointed. He was greeted by huge eyes the colour of the forest in summer, a small sloping nose, lips as pink as her cloak, her dress. She was beautiful, and staring at him.
“There’s a tree on the road,” he explained, not taking his eyes off of hers.
“I know,” she said.
“We need help, we can’t get past.”
“I don’t think I’d be very good at moving trees.” The girl seemed breathless, but neither did she take her gaze away from him.
“Is there a lord of these parts from whom we may receive aid?”
She raised her eyebrows, those lovely pink lips forming a tight circle. “Do you mean Lord Dewmont, my father?”
“Yes,” Edmund said, feeling himself buoyed by this beautiful girl, whoever she was. “Yes, that would do quite nicely.”