Aaron's hooves slam into the ground beneath him, a hard staccato beat that plays the earth like drums, and the chill evening air tugs at Castiel's thick cloak, whistles through the bare, gnarled trees and rustles his dark hair. He rides hard, the horse's strong hooves kicking up mud and dust as he streaks down the wooden path, lungs burning with effort, face flushed and breaths quick and heart hammering.
This is not the first time Castiel has left home, but surely he thinks it will be the last. He has never seen eye to eye with his brothers, and he runs now from their fury and abuse, leaving behind a soft life of velvet and cream that he has never truly enjoyed.
The youngest son of a noble lord, Castiel is educated and trained, but his ambition has always reached beyond home, past the cruel grip of his family, his brothers who always held their heads too high and ruled those beneath them with a tight fist. Soft, they had always called him, too warm, too kind; serfs and servants and commonfolk were little more than insects, puppets, tools to be used and squeezed for profit, and Castiel had tried to make change, used his father's protection to do what he could to ease the hard life of those he feels they are meant to protect and guard and provide for.
But his father is gone. Disappeared. Dead or abandoned them, Castiel cannot say, and the shock of Lord Novak's disappearance has rippled through them all, giving his brothers free reign to turn on him at last, to vent their fear and abandonment and anger all on him. Without his father to shield and sanction him, Castiel has fled, furious and chafed and angry, hurt, all of his paper thin self confidence pulled to shreds so quickly, like a straw hut in a hurricane. He had packed everything he could into Aaron's saddlebags, and fled.
He's well past his providence now, beyond the lines of his family's influence, for he knows he must melt into the landscape, and disappear as his father had, find himself somewhere safe to close himself off in, to sort himself out, to think.
The gnarled root rises from the earth in the shadows beneath him, neither horse or rider see it, and Aaron trips, stumbles with a whinny and Castiel is flung from the saddle with a shout, landing hard on the damp earth, unharmed beyond perhaps a few scrapes. But Aaron has thrown a shoe, and limps lamely, and Castiel feels the first hints of panic beginning to grip at his breast. It's quickly becoming dark, and they are miles and miles still from the nearest town, and in the distance Castiel can hear the mournful howl of wolves. Quickly, he snaps up Aaron's reins and guides him along the path as fast as he can, and it's only by chance that he sees the twisting, overgrown path that branches off to the east - on horseback, he never would have seen it, old and broken as it is, but when he squints through the shadows Castiel thinks he can spy a gate, some twenty or so yards down winding ribbon of earth.
It's his only hope.
With a gentle word and a palm smoothed along Aaron's proud neck, Castiel leads him quickly down the twisting, narrow road, pushing aside brambles and clinging branches until he finds the rusted iron gate looming up before them, its sharp spires piercing the grey, darkening sky, and beyond it.. a castle. The grounds are silent, the building itself tall and foreboding, beautiful in a sad and dreadful sort of way. There is no life here, no movement or anything to suggest that these grounds are inhabited. The doors are shut tight, the carriages overgrown and in disrepair, the marble paths and statues overgrown and choked with weeds and ivy - but lonely or not, it is the only option he has, the only safe shelter he will find before the sun sets, and when thunder rumbles dark and treacherous above, Castiel knows he has only this one option.
Shoving the creaking gates open with his shoulder, Castiel leads Aaron onto the grounds and closes the gate tightly behind them before he's leading the white stallion along the churned up path, over broken stones and toward the tall doors, dark and peeling, the hinges creaking and groaning loudly when he pulls the doors open - and it takes all of his strength to do it, sure that these doors can't have been opened for many, many years for how rusted the hinges have become. Tugging his hood up and his thick, fur-lined cloak tightly around his shoulders, Castiel ducks his head, and slips inside.