Newel glided silently down the familiar halls. It had been a long time since he entered the family chambers of the royal castle -- perhaps not since he had moved to Northumber. It was strange how it stirred old feelings.
He remembered hiding on these stairs or behind that closet. He remembered watching his father with hope and trepidation. He remembered the awe with which he regarding Alton. And he remembered his mother.
The memory of his mother made a strange tugging at his heart. How he loved her! What would he not have given to have her hold him to her bosom one more time! How safe she had always made him feel!
He could almost see her walking down the hall toward him. In his mind, he could see her dark hair pinned up in queenly elegance. He could hear the rustle of her gown. He could smell her sweet perfume -- a scent that he had been unable to find since. Newel's eyes glazed over and he could almost hear her voice. "Newel," she would have said, her voice full of love and pride. "My little Newel..."
A set of footsteps behind him startled Newel out of his daydream, and he spun to face the intruder. It was his brother, Alton.
Alton's face was full of mistrust and suspicion. His shoulders were squared as he walked toward Newel, and his body coiled tight as a spring, ready for action. "Newel," he said, acknowledging his little brother's presence with a mixture of greeting and accusation in his tone.
A twisted smile spread slowly across Newel's face. "Have you no warmer greeting for your own brother?" he asked, cuttingly.
"What are you doing here?" Alton demanded, ignoring Newel's question.
"I have come to offer my congratulations," Newel said, watching his brother's face. "My servant says a prince was born this morning. Are your wife and son well?"
Alton studied Newel's face before answering. "Yes, she had a prince. They are both well...tired, but well."
"I will go give them my welcoming blessing," Newel said, turning in the direction of the queen's chambers.
Alton stepped quickly and interposed his broad shoulders in the doorway. "She won't be seeing anyone today," he said, firmly.
Newel looked up into Alton's face, reading the suspicion and dislike so plainly written on his brother's features. Newel shrugged. He had always known his brother hated him -- his mother had told him of it before he was old enough to see for himself.
But Alton did not move from his defensive position. With each passing second, Alton seemed to grow bigger, filling the doorway with his presence. Newel dropped his eyes and backed away from the queen's rooms. He could feel himself shriveling under Alton's glare, and he hated himself for it. Why did he always cave in to his older brother? If Alton was inferior to Newel, as Newel's mother often assured him, why did his silent rebuke sent Newel running for cover?
Newel hated Alton -- hated him with a passion. Everything went wrong when Alton was near. Newel wished he could shove Alton from a balcony as his own mother had been. But, no, that would not be enough. Newel didn't want Alton dead - he wanted him humbled. He wanted to see Alton begging and pleading, to be full of fear. He wanted to see Alton lose someone he loved. He wanted to interrupt a father and son relationship. In short, Newel wanted Alton to suffer all that Newel himself had suffered.
Alton relaxed somewhat as Newel backed away. He shifted his weight and made an attempt at conversation. "How is your own wife, Newel?" he asked.
Newel's mind flashed back to his wife's face as he left that morning. It was red and blotchy and full of tears. Newel had been angry -- angry that she had not produced an heir when Alton's wife had. And she had cried. It was not a pleasant scene, and Newel's soul rankled against Alton for bringing it up.
He lifted his eyes to meet his brother's. His own smoldering rage, for a second, gave him courage. "Someday..." he threatened. It pleased him to see a little bit of the color leave Alton's face. It pleased him to have his brother feel an inkling of fear from the unspoken threat. "Someday..." he repeated.
Then Newel turned away, slinking through the familiar halls and out a side gate to return to Northumber and bide his time. Someday...