Alton was a bold, straight-forward little boy. For him, the world was "black and white," so to speak, with no "gray areas." Decision-making and action both came easily to him. It was not so with Newel.
Newel was a timid child. He fretted over things that his brother would have scoffed at. He fretted over the fact that he fretted over things that his brother would have scoffed at.
Newel liked to sit by himself and think. Alton's play involved action. The servants would see him standing on a wall making a speech to an imaginary legion of soldiers preparing for battle. They would see him swinging a stick at a pretend foe. By the time Newel was a little boy, Alton had traded his imaginary play for practice with various weapons and enjoyed it even more. But Newel would curl up in a corner, out of the way, and pretend that he did all of the exploits that his older brother performed (only better).
Newel's mother was his refuge from troubles. She shielded him as much as possible from other influences. And on a daily basis, she told him of his greatness and his right to be king someday. He knew she had ambitious plans for him.
Newel's fondest dream was that his father would love him and take him with him. He nearly went crazy over longing for this. As it was, he clammed up every time his father spoke to him. He was so afraid that he would do something wrong and ruin his chances of his father's love that he was nearly terrified at every interaction. The result was that his father, not understanding the boy's reticence, assumed the little lad was happier at home with his mother.
It was not only his father that misunderstood the boy. No one seemed to understand Newel -- especially not Newel himself. On a daily basis, Alton was idolized as a standard of princely behavior and no matter how he tried Newel could not make himself exactly like his brother. He could only be ashamed of himself.
|(this picture doesn't exactly fit the scene. What I really wanted to find was an indoor scene, a boy in his early teens dueling against a middle-aged or somewhat older man, and a little boy crouched in a corner).|
"On guard!" shouted the swordsmaster, his blade flashing as he charged against Prince Alton. His blows were parried neatly, and, for a full minute, the only sound in the arena was of scuffle of feet against the stone and the ring of the metal blades.
"Very good," called the swordsmaster, lowering his sword and retreating several paces. "But you are slow on your left side, my Prince. Shall we try again?"
Alton dragged his forearm across his forehead, wiping the sweat from his brow. As he turned his head, he caught sight of Newel crouched in the shadows of the arena, behind a rack of swords. The hungry look in the little boy's eyes caught Alton's attention.
"Yes," Alton answered the swordsmaster, although his eyes remained on Newel's face for a few more seconds. Then he turned to face his opponent and nodded. "Again," he agreed.
The onslaught repeated itself, and again the arena rang with the clashing of swords. Alton's face was serious and focused but he was clearly enjoying his game. After a moment, the swordsmaster retreated again.
"Excellent, my Prince," he praised. "Your father shall be proud of you. What shall we try next?"
Alton's eyes were once again on the half-hidden figure of his younger brother. There was something in his face that reminded Alton of his own dreams of becoming a swordsman. Hadn't Alton followed his father to the training arena at Newel's age? Why shouldn't Newel, if he wanted to?
"Come give it a try, Newel," Alton called to his brother. He held out a sword with an encouraging smile.
Newel stared at the sword. How often had he longed for lesson such as Alton had? How often had he wished to earn that proud look that his brother often received from their father the king? His little heart beat faster at the thought.
But his heart was beating with fear, too. He did not know how to use a sword. And the sword in Alton's extended hand looked frightfully heavy. Newel clinched his little jaw. He knew exactly what would happen. He would try to swing the sword, and he would make a fool of himself. Everyone would laugh at him. And that would be worse than the way everyone constantly ignored him. Newel hated to be laughed at.
Alton still stood there, holding out the sword. "It won't bite you, Newel," he promised. His brow contracted, trying to understand the little boy's hesitance.
Tears rushed to Newel's eyes, stinging him. It wouldn't work. He wanted to try the sword, but he couldn't. He hated himself for it, telling himself that he would never grow up to be a man. Newel's chin worked against his jaw as he forced his legs to stand and take two steps forward. But it was no use! With a sob as emotional as a girl's, Newel turned and fled the arena.
He hated his older brother for making him cry in front of everybody. His little heart churned with wrath as he told himself how everyone had laughed as soon as he was out of earshot. Newel's small legs pounded up the stairs as he sought a hiding place. He didn't want to see anyone, not even his mother.
But his mother found him. With gentle hands, she drew him from his cowered position, her eyes taking in the tear-stained face. "Alton?" she queried.
Newel nodded his head, his lip trembling. There was no use trying to explain further.
For a moment, his mother gazed into his face, reading there the story that couldn't be spoken. Then she gathered her small son into her lap. "People say Prince Alton is great," she began. The droop in Newel's face let her know that she had discovered the source of his troubles. "Alton has stolen your throne, Newel -- your rightful throne." She lifted his chin in her fingers and looked into his eyes. "Are you not the son of a king? Are you not the son of Mara?" she demanded, gently.
Her touch was soft, but Newel felt the power in her words. It made him feel stronger.
"It is your prerogative to place your foot on the neck of a nation," his mother told him as she tapped her foot against the floor. Newel stared at the floor as if inspired.
Mara slid one finger under his chin, lifting it to her own again. When she spoke, her tone was deadly serious - the tone of a leader imparting vital information for a secret mission. "Your father will give the kingdom to his oldest son, but you, my son, will take it back by whatever means necessary. You will reign. You will be the great one."
Newel stared into her face, awed by her passion for his greatness.
"Your brother? Bahh," she scoffed, snuggling him closer. "He is not so great as they say."