the night sky was cloudless. stars hung in the sky like diamonds, the moon shone like a lamp, bathing the snow-covered ground in it's cool glow. wind was slight, but chilled to the bone those who were not prepared for its cold sting. johnathan walked down the seldom-traveled path with no sense of urgency, taking in the scenery of the frost-ridden forest before him.
he grimaced as a squirrel scurried by, realizing again his utter disdain for the wilderness, born of months spent down inthe depths of his laboratory.
not wearing his typical lab coat, he instead wore the long black trench coat he'd had for almost as long as he'd been alive. he'd taken extra care to keep it clean for this occassion, the one day out of every year that he would wear it. having thrown lidz to jeffrey long ago, he could not match the trench coat with his traditional headgear. however, it was of little concern to him, as he relied more on science than on magic nowadays anyhow, and a hat like lidz would simply be in the way. finishing the outfit was a blood red scarf, wrapped aroundhis neck, a beacon in an otherwise dark attire.
johnathan viewed his surroundings with a nostalgic sigh. in almost 300 years, the place hadn't changed at all, save for the saplings having become tall, strong oak, birch and pine trees.
dark vine had borderline insisted that he accompany johnathan on his journey, for fear of anything happening to him. johnathan let loose a small chuckle. of all the experiments, it seemed like dark vine had been the only TRULY successful one so far. johnathan yet again ordered dark vine to stay at the lab and monitor the later experiments. this was a trip he made solely on his own each year.
as the wind began to pick up, johnatthan made sure to keep his hands in his pockets, and pulled his blood-red scarf over his nose soas to keep his face wark.
the cold hurt his scars. deaying skin, the side-effect of the overuse of black magic, held together with wires and thread, throbbed with each gust of wind. truly and utterly, he hated the cold almost as much as those rogues who escaped the lab, but now was not the time to think of such things.
further through the forest he traveled, following the set of footprints ahead of him. he didn't need them to figure out where he was going, what irked him was the person whose footprints these were. of course HE would be here as well, he WAS family after all. but the thought offered him no solace, no omfort. jeffrey refused to help him in his attempt to bring order to this world. the man was essentially dead to johnathan. however, this day out of the year was not one for fighting, so he begrudgingly accepted jeffrey's prescence.
years ago this forest was much larger in size. the humans began cutting it down to build their villages, which quickly evolved into towns, then cities. the thought disgusted him.
johnathan spat. HUMANS. they seemed to be the cause of every distasteful thing in his life. the order, specifically. the Order of the Red Blade. a blade bathed in the blood of anyone or anything that the humans deemed to be...abnormal. the very thought of that organization sent waves of rage through him so fierce that his limbs began to shake with rage.
johnathan reached into his pocket and pulled out a bottle of pills. pills that he'd specifically developed to keep his emotions under control. though he remained sane for the moment, johnathan knew what was to eventually become of his mind. the overuse of dark magic in his experimentation would eventually drive him into madness. even now, he could feel his control slipping, little by little. it wouldn't be long before he would be gone completely, and he had to establish order before then. once that was accomplished, he would turn everything over to his most trusted subordinate, then join the ones he loved.
after quickly popping one pill into his mouth, he continued his treck through the forest.
the moon was high before he reached his destination. a small opening, dusted with the glittery-white snow, untouched by anyone save him and the other man, already sitting at a small table he had conjured up through the use of magic.
there sat his brother, jeffrey masters.
"glad to see you were able to make it," jeff said happily. "i was beginning to think that you wouldn't bother this year."
johnathan offered a polite nod, and sat at the opposite end of the small table. "you of all people should know what today represents. to not remember the day that changed our lives would be worthy of the greatest dishonor."
jeffrey handed him a mug of hot coffee. "maple sugar added. no cream. that still your favorite?"
johnathan allowed a half-hearted smile to betray him. "indeed it is," he replied, taking the mug from jeffrey, "thank you."
jeffrey's own smile faded. "i suppose i could try to have the same conversation with you as i do every year."
johnathan took a swig of coffee. "i suppose you could, brother."
"look, it's not right, what you're doing here" jeff pleaded, You're doing to people, especially those kids you tortured, exactly what today did to us. you're traumatizing them."
johnathan did not budge. "it is, i believe, a required evil, in order to create a perfect order. there will be no chaos in the world i seek to create."
jeff shook his head. "i wish you would come to your senses. i went through the same thing you did. i'm certainly not trying to do the whole 'take over the world' thing."
johnathan glared, his black and yellow eyes matching his brother's in determination. "you lacked conviction. in an ordered world, things like this won't happen."
jeffrey sighed, then took a swig of his coffee. "it gets harder and harder to try to reason with you, bro."
johnathan let out a small laugh. "as it is with you. i continually tell you to join me, yet you want no part in it."
"i want no part in denying the sentient races their right to freedom of choice," jeffrey rebutted.
the brother's eyes met, and it was clear that they were far more different now than they once were, and that the differences between them grew with each passing year.
"perhaps," johnathan said, his voice cold as ice, "we should get on with why we came here."
jeff nodded. "maybe you're right. shall we take the remainder of this walk together then?"
johnathan agreed. they both stood up from their chairs which disappeared, along with the table, at jeff's command. the made their way to the center of the field, whereat stood a medium-sized log cabin, clearly aged past the point of being livable. the roof was caved in in several spots. the glass window were cracked and broken, the front door was all but rotted away, and the logs the cabin was built from were growing mold and rotting away themselves.
they made their way to the back of the house, and suddenly, even the wind stopped.
they stopped for a moment, and stared at the stone slab that jutted from the ground, about fifteen feet away from their childhood home.
"here lie eliza and joseph masters. endearing wife and caring husband, loving parents to jeffrey and johnathan masters."
"almost two hundred years since the order took them from us," johnathan noted the anger rising again. "still they thrive, preying on those they deem to be unfit for living."
jeffrey sighed. "now, really isn't the time to focus on the order."
"now is the perfect time," johnathan replied, his anger rising. "if it weren't for the order, they might still be alive." angry as he was, he knew that in a way, jeffrey was right, so he calmed himself down enough to observe the yearly "ritual" the performed each year.
in front of the tombstone was a rusted metal mug and a wilted flower wreath. jeffrey picked up the mug and polished it up, then poured what smelled like blueberry mead into the mug from a flask he'd carried with him. afterwards, he set the beverage on the ground in front of the tombstone.
"dad's favorite," jeffrey said quietly.
"indeed it was," johnathan agreed as he pulled out a new wreath of white roses, and laid it on the ground next to the mug, "as white roses were mother's favorite flower."
the two stared at the stone for quite some time, until the wind began to pick up again, once again reminding johnathan that he could still feel the burden of pain.
"you headed to your wife's grave after this?" jeffrey asked johnathan.
johnathan was quiet for a good while before he replied. "i am. after which i shall return to my research. i do believe i've seen enough wilderness to last me a good while."
jeffrey allowed a small laugh, then shook johnathan's hand. "you really should get out more."
the two offered each other a nod, then released their handshake. johnathan began to head a little further into the woods when his brother called out to him one last time.
"you know, johnny, i'm still going to try to stop you from doing this."
johnathan grinned. "as you do all year, brother. but i promise you the same thing i promise YOU every year. you will fail."
the two offered each other one last look before heading off in their seperate directions.
johnathan finished the last of his coffee and banished the mug, then stuck his hands back into his pockets as the wind began to pick up again, the ice-cold air biting at his exposed flesh like horseflies.
truly and wholy, he hated the cold.