A/N Thank you Philippa, for looking this over for me (twice). Although we eventually discovered that I did not, in fact, steal Temenus's name from her story The King's Wedding Night and Other Minor Disasters, I still recommend you all read it.
Temenus ran around the corner, ducking a blow from an irritated guard. He had no time to stop and apologize, and had no intention of letting the irate guard catch a glimpse of his face. His standing as a member of the Eddisian nobility did little to elevate his standing as a barracks boy in the Eddisian guard, but the guard would mention it to Temenus's father, and Temenus had good reason to want to avoid that attention as long as possible.
Where is that little devil? he wondered, scanning the skyline of the courtyard. He knew better than anyone that when his little brother went missing, looking up offered the best chance of finding him.
Stable boys, guards, and servants pushed past Temenus in the busy courtyard. He made sure, again, that his hood was secure, hiding his face. One of the minister's sons running through the palace grounds as if chased by half the court was, by now, commonplace enough as to cause no comment to be passed along to his father. Unfortunately Temenus was not that son.
The rooftops were empty of eight-year old boys, and Temenus cut through the nearest stable at a run into the practice court of the Guard. The narrow yard was filled with soldiers paired off to practice drills or sparring. Temenus skidded to a stop, scanning the men for the familiar face of his father, who often practiced in the mornings. Temenus's father was not there, but several of his other relations were, and they knew very well that Temenus was supposed to be in charge of his brother after his latest... escapade.
Temenus pulled his hood sharply as he walked along the outer edge of the courtyard. He scowled as he thought of his punishment responsibility over his brother. It had been completely unfair for him to get punished for something that was obviously his younger brother's doing. It wasn't Temenus's fault that Eugenides had pulled him into the whole mess!
Distracted, Temenus looked up towards the gateway on the far side of the courtyard which led towards the kitchens and saw his younger brother standing in the shadows, holding a bun in one hand and flipping a coin with the other.
Not thinking, Temenus broke into a run. "EUGENIDES!"
Immediately, Temenus realized that he had made a mistake. He should have tried to sneak up on the boy. Even though he would surely have been noticed, he would have gained some ground and would have also avoided the attention of the men in the courtyard. As it was, every guard's attention snapped to him and Eugenides took one look in the direction of his brother, dropped the bun, and bolted in the opposite direction.
Gods damn it! Temenus thought, skidding through the gateway, leaving the guards staring after him.
Eugenides was fast and Temenus didn't need his cousins to tell him that if you let him get out of sight, you'd never catch him. None of his cousins, however, had been motivated by the very real threat of an angry Minister of War, and Temenus was actually gaining on Eugenides by the time they reached the end of the next courtyard.
Gen ducked under the basket held by a maid exiting one of the long palace kitchens. Temenus cursed again but was quickly distracted as the maid jumped out of his way and he followed his brother into the long, crowded room. This was one of the newer kitchens and was not attached to the palace; the doors at both ends led into separate courtyards. Temenus quickly lost the lead his long legs had gained him outside as he knocked into cooks, servants and baskets that Eugenides was quick and small enough to dodge. One of the cooks stepped back from an oven to watch as Eugenides ran past and Temenus ran into him, knocking the pair of them into a stack of sealed jars of olives. Jumping up, Temenus slipped on the spilled oil and caught himself. He ignored the shouts and curses as he slid out the door. When he emerged into the sunlight, dripping oil, Eugenides was gone.
"Gods damn!" Temenus nearly stomped the ground in frustration. He was soaked in oil, he would have to buy a new cloak (and there was no chance his father would supply him with the money for it), the entire court would hear about the mess in the kitchen, and to top it all off he had still lost the little monster responsible for the entire mess!
Fine, Temenus admitted, he had known Eugenides's plan when the boy had looked up at him, too innocent to be believed, and had asked whether Temenus could get two of their cousins into a specific hall late one morning. Those particular cousins were older than Temenus and had humiliated Eugenides in front of half of their family. They should have been concentrating on their training, not tormenting a boy six years their junior (and his little brother, not theirs). So, yes, Temenus had pleaded with them to meet him in the hall and help him with his swordsmanship.
But how was he to have known some of the court's ladies were going to be in that hall that morning? And how was he to have known Eugenides had planned something so... dramatic? It wasn't like the cleaners wouldn't get the colour out of the clothes, anyway... eventually. And Temenus had heard women scream that much about less. Yes, the guards had come running from every station within fifty feet and, yes, he and Eugenides both had been found in a room down the hall laughing. That had been mostly terror, though—on Temenus's part, anyway.
Regardless, it had been all Eugenides's idea. No reason for him to be suddenly responsible for every ridiculous idea the boy came up with. How was he supposed to watch him, anyway, when he had his own duties and classes and the kid could climb out of third-floor windows to escape?
At that last thought, Temenus automatically scanned the rooftops and started to run as a small, dark haired head pulled out of sight over the edge of the roof. Temenus ran alongside the wall of the building, under the overhanging roof so he was out of sight. There was a man unloading tiles from a cart and Temenus took a running leap onto the cart bed. Ignoring the driver's shouts, Temenus jumped again, grabbing hold of the roof's edge and pulled himself up. Eugenides looked back, startled. He always forgot that they shared a grandfather. Even if Temenus had shown early that he was better suited to the life of a soldier than a thief, he had still learned some of the old man's tricks.
Eugenides stopped, looking back and forth between Temenus and the edge of the roof. Temenus smiled as he caught his breath. He had cut off his brother's escape and the younger boy had no choice but to return to the palace with him.
As if reading Temenus's thoughts, Eugenides looked back at his brother and smiled. Temenus felt frozen to his spot on the roof, seeing that smile. It was a smile that said Eugenides thought he could do anything he wanted to do. The boy turned and ran towards the edge of the roof and launched himself into space.
"No!" Temenus shouted, watching as Eugenides waved his arms in wide circles, soaring over the courtyard below as if time had slowed. Temenus watched as his brother cleared that impossible distance and grabbed hold of the edge of the roof on the opposite side. His feet scrambled on the wall for a moment before he pulled himself up. One cheeky grin and Eugenides was gone, disappearing over the roofs of the palace; no doubt he would be in hiding for the rest of the day. Until Grandfather returned that evening, anyway. There was one person Eugenides had never been able to hide from.
Temenus collapsed on the tiles. He knew he would have to climb down soon, answer the furious questions of the people in the courtyard who had seen Eugenides's leap, and then walk back to the palace and report to his father, but that could wait until his heart got over the fright his brother's wild leap had caused it.
Finally, Temenus sighed. What had to be done had to be done. His father had probably already heard about his sons' latest escapade and getting to him quickly would be Temenus's best chance at escaping a month of mucking stalls.
As he slipped away from the servants' and guards' angry questions and trotted back to the palace, Temenus shuddered. He wouldn't have tried that leap for anything. He had been sure, for a moment, that Eugenides was about to fall to the ground below.
Somehow Eugenides had managed to cover the last foot as if he were flying himself... or buoyed up by an invisible hand. The thought caused goosebumps to rise up on Temenus's arms, but only not for long. By the time he stood in front of his father, he had forgotten the bizarre moment entirely.