Summary: Richard was not his brother by blood, and Michael always been jealous of the affection his parents showered upon him, but not truly resentful until that fateful day
Notes: For the Legendland 'inspired by the episodes Prophecy/Destiny' challenge
He had known for a long time that his brother – that Richard – was adopted. It should not have mattered, and in fact it might not have made any difference to his feelings, except that it was of importance to his parents. There was no doubt that they had always treated their sons differently.
Michael was their child, their flesh and blood, and they loved him, yes, and they encouraged his ambitions and his father was so proud when he was named Councillor that he'd wept a little and expressed regret that Mary wasn't alive to see her son achieve so much.
Richard, the foundling, son of the Creator only knew whom, they loved him too. For reasons Michael had never quite understood, they seemed to love him more. Richard was a woods guide. He could cut logs, and make bridges, and take people safely through the forests, and he was a good hunter and fisherman. But he wasn't a warrior, nor a leader. He would never make a difference the way Michael would. Yet George and Mary had always seemed so proud of every little thing that Richard did.
Michael had also never grasped why it was a secret that Richard was not his brother by blood but George had sworn him to silence the day he'd revealed this truth. The sting of knowing the favoured child wasn't even George's son was salved somewhat by the knowledge that he was being trusted with this most precious confidence. Thereafter Michael regarded Richard, the cuckoo in the nest, more coolly, though he would never betray his father's trust by speaking of the reasons for his reservations.
"Richard is such a good boy," people would say as the years passed. "So kind. Such a credit to you and Mary. So handsome. So polite."
These things were all true. Sometimes Michael wished with all his heart that Richard would make a mistake, would do something so outrageous that it would forever tarnish his spotless reputation.
Wasn't he a good man? Michael wondered. Wasn't he deserving of praise? Yet every compliment he ever received was tainted by detachment, the words said with deference rather than with the affection which Richard inspired without even trying.
He could admit that he was jealous though he despised himself for it. He comforted himself with the thought that sibling rivalry was natural, understandable. He didn't truly resent Richard. Despite everything, he did care for Richard, and Richard, unburdened by the truth, loved Michael.
Everything changed that day.
Finally Michael began to understand that Richard was indeed a special child who'd grown up into a dangerous man. The witch, the women in white, she had come for Richard. He had brought this danger to them. Even then, .if they could capture the witch, maybe Michael could put a stop to this before it went too far and ensure that Richard had a fair hearing for his part in it all.
Then his father was murdered.
That Richard could kill their father was unimaginable but in his grief Michael didn't question it. Who knew what the witch had done to Richard's mind? First he had been told that Richard was dead and then found that he wasn't – was that witchcraft? Maybe this was Richard's true destiny, to murder them all and conquer Hartland. There was too much Michael didn't know and only one thing that he did: George Cypher was dead. It stood to reason that Richard and the witch were to blame.
Michael chose his side, and it was against the man he'd once called brother.
He was wrong, of course, though he didn't know it at the time. Hartland was conquered soon after and the best hope for their survival was for Michael to go along with the charade that he was still in command. Too late he realised that he'd chosen unwisely.
He'd lost his mother, his father, and his brother, and finally his freedom and with it the right to lead his people. If the chance came to make amends, he'd risk the one thing left to him.