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Wandering through the darkness, Vonteal stopped, listening for a moment.
He ushered his wards, one young woman and a small boy, quickly through the trees. He waited until they were safely on the other side before crossing over himself.
"How much farther, sir?"
The little boy-child pulled on his tattered shirt sleeve, his big blue eyes pleading. All of them had been walking...well partial walking, mostly running, for a full week now. Von could see the constant movement was wearing on him. He glanced quickly at the young woman, whom also had the silent question in her storm-cloud colored eyes. The apology flickered in his eyes before he could hide it. She nodded and took the boys' hand, tugging him onward.
"You can do it, baby. Don't stop now." she cooed. Unable to pick up the six-year-old to comfort even his small feet she ran her hand through his soft brown hair as they continued still, forward. Von felt horrid, but figured as long as they stayed alive they wouldn't hate him. They wouldn’t condemn him for simply protecting them. But they could. He moved ahead of them again, on full alert, somehow still moving in his naturally powerful, graceful stride.
Just keep moving, the safe-house can't be too far now... he thought, holding a branch up to allow the two to pass.
He resumed his position at the front.
A shiver ran the course of Aleah’s spine. It was getting colder. She looked up at the sky and gasped. The winter clouds had begun to gather overhead, matching the color of her widening eyes. ”Please don’t snow.” She whispered. Von gave the sky a momentary glance and let loose a short string of curses under his breath. Then, as though suddenly remembering the boy who was now looking at him quizzically, he said, "Don't repeat that.” He looked up at Aleah and added, “I'm sorry for cursing." she smiled at him in thanks, before returning her attention to the sky.
He motioned for them to walk a little faster, now sharing his attention three ways; his surroundings, his charges, and now unfortunately the weather as well. Of course it could be far, far worse.
Vonteal looked around him once more, seeking safe shelter and finding none.
F***! It can’t snow. He glanced back at Aleah, dropped his gaze to her belly then a little lower to Raphael, who was kicking rocks as he walked. He snapped his eyes back to the front and growled low in his throat. I cannot risk it snowing. I have to find that house, like, now.
A rustle in the bushes made him turn; in a smooth movement he had a knife in his hand and his entire being between this threat and the ones he was protecting. An hour seemed to pass before a small child, not much older than Raphael slunk from the bushes. The girl-child was shivering in what remained of a dress three sizes too big for her. Her long auburn hair was viciously knotted and there was a long cut on her cheek, the blood steadily dripping off her chin. It didn’t seem to bother her too much, but Von winced inwardly at her poor state. Before Von could really process what to do about the child, Raphael was at her side.
“You can come with us. Mr. Teal won’t hurt you.” Raphael took her hand and tugged her over, into their little troop. Trina smiled a little at the girl and she beamed, the girl-child had quite a few teeth missing, at a quick glance Von guessed something like ten. Raphael looked up at Von then with a certain conviction in his eyes. Oh no. V thought locking his gaze with the boy, He likes her. Sighing, he nodded creating a silent agreement that she was Raphael’s responsibility. Even though in the back of his mind he knew he had just taken on another life to carry.
They began to move again, Vonteal leading, with the children in the middle and Aleah bringing up the back. Normally he would have argued that they put Raphael in the rear, but knew Trina wasn’t going to have any of that. He decided to pick his battles with her.
Another hour passed as they sped through the darkening forestry. When they paused momentarily at the outer limits of a clearing he heard another quiet gasp.
He blinked, turning his death glare slowly toward the sky. Sure enough, the small white flakes fell from the heavens like so many down feathers. He looked back at Aleah, the water brimming in her eyes sent a stab of pain through his heart. Raphael took the little girl’s hand in his and watched Vonteal with utter respect and trust. Waiting for his next move.
He couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe, hell he probably couldn’t even move. He didn’t know for sure. He had yet to try. The falling ice bit into his face, chilling him and bring him back into the now. What was he was supposed to do now? He had three lives depending on him, four if you counted the small life Trina carried with her. The children continued to watch him. Aleah’s tear-filed eyes focused on his own, pained ones.
Think Vonteal. If you don’t, they will die, and it will be your fault. Again.
He flinched away from the memory, now wasn’t the time to break down. “We’re going to have to move quicker.” He knelt in front of Raphael and the girl keeping his voice level, easy. “Do you think you can carry her, Raph?” The boy smirked and nodded curtly. V recognized too much of himself in the simple expression, but nodded once and stood. “Aleah, I would carry you.” He held out his hand for hers. Hesitating she grasped his hand and was instantly pulled up into his arms. Cradling her, he looked down at the boy who had taken his companion up into a similar pose.
You’re going to make it.
A distant, familiar voice echoed in his head. He couldn’t place it, but it gave him a comfort. As the snow began to fall faster he began to run, smoothly so not to jolt the woman in his care. He picked his paths carefully so the small boy, being forced to grow up far too quickly, could keep up.
There would be no error this time. He would finally bring a dawn to his forever endless night.