Chapter 1: Cheers!
Poire or Perry: Pear juice... But don't give it to the kiddies. It's fermented, and similar to cider.
One of the kids gets drunk on medieval drinks.
“And what can I get you, sir Maurits?” Rombald had pulled out two more mugs for Maurits and Joost. They were celebrating Samira’s name day at the inn, and Thomas and Samira had already run off with their beers to have a nice chat together. The twins had declined the invitation, and so Maurits and Joost were left on their own. Maurits looked at his younger sibling, then back at the bartender.
“Do you have anything… fruit based?” Maurits asked, trying to avoid any alcohol.
“I’ve got apple cider?” Rombald looked under the bar and held up another bottle when he saw Maurits’s disgusted face. “I’ve also got Perry, if that’s more your thing. Made out of pears.”
“Yes, we’ll take that, thank you!” Maurits smiled.
“And I’ll take one too!” Joost yelled, holding his mug up in the air in enthusiasm. Rombald looked at him in confusion, but filled the mugs anyway. It wasn’t a very popular drink, so he still had a lot of bottles left, and if he could get rid of them to these two, that would just be a lucky break.
As soon Joost tasted the drink, he immediately spat it back out.
“Ew! Gross! Maurits, this doesn’t taste like pears at all!” he said, looking at his brother with an offended look on his face. Maurits took a tiny sip, and then a big gulp.
“It tastes good enough for me. Besides, it’s this, or milk. That goes for the both of us, by the way, Rombald. Don’t give us anything besides those two, no matter how much my brother may beg for mead or ale, or any other drink that sounds manly to him.” he aimed the last part at the bartender, who simply nodded. Joost huffed.
“Fine. I’ll take some milk then!”
They spent the rest of the evening chatting, buying a new drink every now and then, and making some talks with the locals in the bar as well. Joost had left Maurits a while ago, and had been chatting with Thomas and Samira for a while. When he returned to the taproom, he was growing tired. The milk hadn’t exactly been cold, and it was late, so he wanted to go back to the Belfort and go to sleep. He was shocked however, when he saw Maurits. His older brother was laying over the bar, looking almost passed out. Joost poked him to see if he was awake.
“What the fuck?” Maurits immediately shot up, apparently not asleep but merely lazy. Joost was shocked at the vulgarity that just left his brothers mouth. Maurits saw his brothers face and replayed his words in his head.
“Oh god, I said fuck didn’t I? I’m so sorry! And I did it again just now! Oh fuck, our parents are never gonna forgive us, Joost, we’re doomed! Please forgive me?” he asked, slurring almost everything. At that moment Rombald returned, carrying a new bottle of Perry. When he saw Joost, he looked relieved.
“Ah, sir Joost! Thank heavens you’re here! Your brother has been harassing patrons for the last thirty minutes or so, and I couldn’t get him to leave. He kept asking everyone if they had seen his whistle! The vulgarity...”
Joost took another look at his, now lying again, brother.
“I’m not gonna be able to get him out on my own, but I’m gonna get help. Keep him here for a second, will you?” He dashed out of the room to fetch Thomas, but before he went through the door, he turned back.
“Did you give him anything besides the pear stuff?” he asked, accompanied by a yawn.
“No sir, only Perry. About five bottles of the stuff by now too.”
Thomas had, of course, drunk a few mugs of beer, but nothing too much. Just enough to get a little tipsy. Samira had joined him, and now they were in a constant state of laughter, laughing about everything from a spider on the window, to ridiculing Count Olaf. The night was going great, and now that Joost had gone home, they wouldn’t be bothered anymore, as Maurits knew to keep his distance.
“Thomas? I need your help.” Thomas turned around to face his little brother, standing next to their table once again. Thomas groaned and slammed his head on the table, but Samira looked concerned.
“What’s wrong, Joost?” She asked, as Thomas got back up, sitting with his back turned slightly towards Joost, as to indicate his disinterest.
“Well, uh, I think Maurits is drunk?” Joost whimpered, not knowing what to do. Thomas immediately shot back to Joost.
“Drunk? On what? Didn’t he ask the bartender for something non-alcoholic?” Thomas said angrily.
“I don’t know, okay? He apparently only had that gross pear drink, Perry or something, and now he’s drunk.” Joost yelled back, not appreciating his brother’s anger. He didn’t have anything to do with it anyway, so why would Thomas get mad at him?
“Oh no.” Samira whispered. “Joost, how much of the Perry did he have?” Joost started counting on his fingers, but quickly ran out of fingers and asked for Thomas his hand. Samira’s face grew more and more concerned with every finger.
“Fifteen!” he finally answered, glowing with pride. Samira groaned.
“What’s wrong sweetie? Nothing wrong with pear juice, right?” Thomas asked.
“That’s not pear juice, that’s pear cider. There’s a reason I told them to only drink milk.” Now it was Thomas’s turn to groan. He stood up and walked past Joost, whose face was starting to become filled with realization, and into the taproom, where he found the middle brother lying on the floor now. Another empty mug stood on the bar. When Thomas leaned over Maurits, Maurits’s face flashed with recognition. He stretched his arm out and slapped Thomas, but he was too drunk to actually hit him, so it was more of a weird, drawn out cheek-pet.
“Thomas, you’re a terrible brother. I said words in front of Joost.” Maurits slurred, and Thomas removed Maurits’s hand from his cheek.
“We all say words in front of Joost, Maurits. It’s called talking. Now get up.”
“Nononono! You don’t get it!” he said as he started to sit up. He motioned for Thomas to come closer, and then proceeded to whisper. “I said bad words. Realll fucking bad words.”
“I’m sure this has traumatized him for years to come. Do you need help?” Thomas continued, as he saw his brother trying to grasp the edge of the bar.
“I’m… what’s the word again? Fine, yeah, I’m fine.” He reached for his cup, and turned it over. He was noticeably disappointed when he saw it was empty.
“I want another one, Thomas, fill it!”
Thomas sighed. “I think you’ve had enough. Also, you ruined my date, and yes, I am holding you accountable.” Thomas gave up on Maurits helping himself up, so he pulled his brother of the ground. When he almost immediately fell down again, Thomas hoisted him onto his shoulders and kicked the outside door open.
“Joost, pay the bartender and hand Samira her coat. We’re going home.”
Maurits had already fallen fast asleep before they even fully left the inn.
Chapter 2: Afterwards
The Woudenberg kids have some trouble adjusting back to normal life.
It had been weeks since they had gotten back home from their magical adventure, but there were definitely permanent changes for the Woudenberg kids. Nothing huge, but after spending such a long time in a completely different environment, people change.
There were small things, such as clothes feeling weird, hair not feeling right and the boys having no facial hair at all anymore. Thomas had trouble playing his guitar, and Joost couldn’t see as much as he used to anymore. Their parents didn’t notice this, of course, these things didn’t affect them.
The things they did notice were bigger changes, more permanent ones. Lisa had gotten braver, trying out new things more often. Emma had taken up horse riding and bought a frisbee, something she had never even looked at before, and becoming an avid sportswoman. Thomas seemed more caring towards his siblings, and had gotten a lot more friendly out of nowhere. Maurits was more accepting of things he could not figure out, no longer breaking himself over small imperfections. Joost was still as excited as ever, but he seemed a lot more confident than before. The parents still had no idea about what happened behind that gate, but they were glad it impacted their children in positive ways.
It was a nice sunny afternoon, and everyone was sitting outside. Joost was starting to get annoyed with his bike. It didn’t listen to him like his horse had. He kept falling over, even though he knew perfectly well how a bike worked. Thomas was watching him struggle, and was snickering behind his hand.
“C’mon, Joost. You know how a bike works, don’t you?” He called. Joost shot him the angriest look the seven year old could muster, causing Thomas to laugh even harder. He walked over to his younger brother, and helped him up from his sitting position.
“I can do this, don’t worry.” Joost said, and he biked another 5 metres before falling over again. Thomas ran over and pulled him up.
“You rode a horse, Joost, you even raced me on one. How hard can a bike be?” Sophie and Rutger looked at eachother in confusion, but decided against saying anything. It was better if they didn’t ask. Slowly but surely, they’d piece the story together.
“You’re nothing without your sister, huh?” Lisa felt her head collide with her locker. These kids had been bothering her for weeks now, ever since high school started. And now that Emma had caught “the flu”, nothing was stopping them from being even worse than before. Lisa bit away her tears and tried to walk away, but a hand grabbed her arm firmly and pulled her back.
“You’re not going anywhere, bitch.” The girl who the arm belonged to spat at her.
“Let me go, please.” Lisa nearly begged, and wished for a miracle before they did anything worse than words. The kids simply laughed.
The rush of footsteps seemed to be her saviour. Maurits came running through the halls, carrying a pile of books. He immediately dropped them when he saw his sister, and his face turned dark.
“Let go of her.” He said calmly, stepping forward. The kids gniffled silently, but their leader did a step back and stared Maurits down.
“Or else? Mr. Nerd is going to beat me up? What are you going to do?” She dared. Lisa looked at Maurits pleadingly, and he gave her a small nod.
“Then we’ll settle this in a duel.” He said, before realizing what exactly he said. The bullies were looking at him quizzically. He slapped himself in the face, and tried again. “I’ll get a teacher or something. Either way, you are going to unhand my sister right now.”
Luckily for him, that was the exact moment the buzzer went. The kids huffed and walked past him, bumping into him. Lisa ran towards him and pulled him into a hug before silently thanking him.
“It’s weird for me too, you know. I would’ve owned them if I still had my powers.” She whispered, and Maurits laughed.
“Let’s get back to class. We’ll talk to mom and dad once we get home.” He picked up his books from the floor. “Don’t tell them about the duel. They’re already weirded out enough.”
Chapter 3: Happiness Station
Halina really should have her workplace cleaned up someday.
Emma was starting to relate to murderers. The constant grating of her brother’s singing was causing her fingers to twitch, and every missed high note caused her hand to hover over her disc thrower for a while longer. She, Lisa, Maurits and Joost were sitting at a table together, trying to ignore their older brother. Halina walked in, the pain from laughing too much visible on her face. She was carrying an empty flask.
“I think I’ve found the problem.” The flask was labeled, but the handwriting was terrible, and it was easily mistaken for decoration. “I… made a drink to help Olaf if he was feeling down, to filter out the bad thoughts and… make him happy. I guess it worked too well.” Lisa dropped her head on the table.
It had been fun at first. To see their brother whistling was a nice change, and Samira surely appreciated the flowers. The little show he had put up for the children on the square was a little weird, but it was nice of him to let Joost join in. However, the moment he immediately forgave Joost for causing a little earthquake by accident, resulting in Thomas falling over, that was the moment they realized something was wrong. Nothing seemed to get him mad anymore, not even a baby vomiting on his cape, while his temper tantrums had been almost constant before, even on a good day.
The first one to put his patience to the test was Lisa. She found him serenading Samira, and silently placed down her shell rapier in the sand. Trying to ignore the false notes, she focused on sending a stream of water into Thomas’s face.
“Samir- ah! I seem to have been splashed.” His demeanor was calm, and Lisa stepped away from her dagger, causing Thomas to notice her. “Oh, hi Lisa! Did you splash me?”
Lisa waved awkwardly, and coughed. “Yeah, I did. What are you gonna do about it?” She put her hands on her hips and stared at him daringly. Samira was still standing in her doorway, sending a grateful look towards Lisa.
“Water fight!” He replied, laughing, and ran towards the fountain to grab a bucket. Lisa groaned in anger and walked away, before feeling a load of water hitting her back.
“You are insufferable like this, Thomas! Stop it!” She yelled, before storming off. Thomas looked back at Samira, shrugged, and lifted her up for their third date that day.
The second one was Emma. She didn’t do anything special, but she made Thomas trip all day. After a while he figured her out, and just started dancing whenever he spotted her, to avoid tripping. Maurits gave her a pat on the back for her effort.
“You managed to make him even more annoying, but it was worth a shot.”
After a while, Joost got creeped out by his brother’s behaviour as well. Of course, he didn’t mind the fact he wasn’t being called smurf anymore, but even he could see this wasn’t natural. So, he put as much effort as humanly possible into being clumsy and failing at everything in general. He dropped plates, swords and any other thing he could find, “accidentally” broke Thomas’s guitar, and constantly caused earthquakes.
The third broken vase was the limit for Joost. Thomas had already picked up a broom, and with a smile on his face, had said: “Don’t worry, mistakes happen, I’ll clean it up!”
After that, Joost had joined his siblings at the table.
Halina was starting to get a little worried. The potion wasn’t meant to last this long, and while it had been amusing at first, it was now causing to be a distraction, a rather huge dent in the security of Raveleijn. This was causing Olaf to get a little tense too, and with everyone in the palace this tense, any little thing would cause a fight.
“Halina, please, dearest. Sit down. Stop walking around, you’re making me go insane.” Olaf said with a sigh, and he tapped the spot next to him. As soon as she sat down, he pulled her into a hug, and said: “I’ll just get the wachters to patrol a little extra for today. Stop worrying, Ruyter Thomas can take care of himself. He’s a grown man.”
This caused the countess to cough a little, but she quickly held back her laughter and instead just nodded.
Thomas was rummaging in the kitchen. The potion had stopped working hours ago, but seeing how annoyed his sibling had been, he had decided to continue his little act. In the privacy of the kitchen he could finally remove the grin from his face, and instead focus on just singing. Everytime he purposefully missed a high note, he could hear a ground coming from the other side of the wall, causing him to snicker a little.
“Do it once more, like Oya LéLé!” he shrieked, and grabbed a plate. It slipped from his hands, and he dropped it on his foot.
“Shit!” He yelled, and placed his hand in front of his mouth. Within seconds, all his siblings were standing in the kitchen, their faces filled with pure rage. Thomas smiled awkwardly, and waved.
“No more K3?” he whispered, and Joost ran towards him, pulling him into a hug.
Emma sighed. “I’m so glad you’re back to normal, Oliebol.”
Chapter 4: Adults, or whatever those are.
Halina and Olaf learn something new everyday.
The tower was nice and quiet, the days had been silent. After the initial problems were solved, Halina and Olaf had some time to spend with each other again. They took long walks most of the time. The walks helped Olaf get back into normal life, and they helped Halina too, in a similar way.
Often they chatted during these walks, but today they let the silence and peace wash over them. Guards still looked at them with a look of fear, but slowly, the fear was deteriorating and making place for calmth and respect. Halina smiled at one of the Guards, and softly squeezed Olaf’s hand.
“I’m so glad everything is safe.” Halina sighed, and Olaf nodded thoughtfully.
“Those Ruyters really help too.” He stopped and walked towards a window, looking over the market square. “I’m glad you found such capable people to protect the city, dearest.” Halina smiled softly, remembering why these people were here in the first place. When Olaf saw her slight distress, he gave her a kiss on the cheek and pulled her closer.
“No need to worry with them around.” Halina seemed comforted, and together they walked on.
Suddenly the silence was broken by yells coming from behind them. In a dash of bright colours, Joost sprinted past them, wearing five different coloured capes, blowing raspberries. Not far behind him came Emma, then Thomas, then Lisa, all yelling at their younger sibling to give back the capes. Lastly, Maurits jogged behind them. He was exhausted, and stopped running just in time to avoid bumping into the count and countess.
“W- What is going on here? Sir Maurits, would you care to explain?” Olaf asked, obviously shocked. Maurits stuck one finger up in the air, the other hand rested on his knee as he was still panting.
“Haven’t… been exercising... enough.” Halina let go of Olaf’s hand, and helped Maurits to stand up straight again.
“While that may be an explanation for your lack of breath, it doesn’t really explain why all five of you were running through the hallways like dogs chasing a toy, or…”
“Like children.” Olaf finished for her, and Halina nodded thankfully. Maurits’ expression changed from exhausted to sulky.
“It’s Joost’s fault!” He said, pointing down the hallway, before quickly walking the other way. Halina looked at Olaf, who shrugged.
“They may just have a bad day, honey, don’t worry about it.” He tried to calm her down, but instead, it did the opposite. Halina looked like an angry mother, and he chuckled.
“I don’t see what’s funny about this, Olaf! We can’t afford them to have a bad day! What if…” she paused for a second. “What if he comes back?” she whispered. Olaf placed a hand on her shoulder. “They need to be professional. I’m going to talk to them.”
She walked fast and purposefully, and, dragging Olaf behind her, within a minute she spotted them. Joost had managed to run into a dead end, and had climbed on top of a closet. His siblings were standing around him. Thomas was attempting to shake the closet, but, with the closet weighing close to 200 kilo’s, without much succes. The twins were yelling at him, and Emma was already halfway up the closet, but Joost had placed his hands firmly over his ears and was singing loudly. Halina’s mouth fell open wide as soon as she saw them. Olaf saw them soon after, and looked equally shocked at the display. However, Halina’s emotion quickly changed to rage.
“What are you doing!” She shouted, quickly shutting everyone up. Thomas turned around immediately, his face nearly as red as his outfit. Emma jumped down from the closet, and she and Lisa pointed at Joost simultaneously, who, in some miraculous way, hadn’t heard Halina and was still singing.
“It’s all his fault!” Emma yelled back, causing Thomas to facepalm. Olaf was mad too now, and the disrespect was the last drip for him.
“Don’t talk to us like that, Lady Emma. You are in no position to be so disrespectful towards us, especially not after attempting to climb a closet.” The last words were accentuated, and Emma immediately looked down in shame.
“But- uhm, Count Olaf, she is right! It is his fault! He stole out capes and-” Before Lisa could finish her sentence, Halina had put up her hand in the air, signaling her to stop.
“I don’t care who or what is at fault here, what I care about is that the five of you, who we took into service to protect the city, stop behaving like six year olds!” Joost had stopped singing after he realized everyone was silent, and cleared his throat.
“Yes, sir Joost?” Halina asked, her annoyance clear in the tone of her voice
“I am actually seven years old.”
The hallway was completely silent for a few moments. Thomas cleared his throat and stepped forward.
“What Joost meant to say is-”
“I honestly do not care what he meant to say. What I do care about is the level of disrespect your brother just showed towards my wife, and the harshness of the punishment fitting for this.” Olaf spoke, and Thomas gulped audibly.
“Look, sir, he honestly doesn’t understand the situation, he’s too young to understand the implications of what he’s saying!” Thomas tried desperately to take his younger sibling into protection, not wanting him subject to some form of medieval punishment. Olaf now directed his glare at Thomas.
“Are you implying that your brother, clearly an adult, is not aware of his actions? Halina, did you take an idiot, a complete buffoon into service?” Joost made an offended sound, still sitting on the closet, which Olaf chose to ignore. “Please explain yourself.”
“Well, the thing is…” Thomas started, attempting to make himself sound sane. “He’s not an adult? None of us are adults, actually, uhm…” He scratched his chin, but pulled his hand back when he felt his beard. “Yeah. He’s seven.”
Olaf let out an exasperated sigh, and turned to Halina, who was still in shock. When she saw her husband staring at her, she straightened out her dress and cleared her throat.
“If… If this is a joke, please tell us, now, and refrain from doing such childish things in the future, okay? And, sir Joost…” She looked at him, and he smiled back, a little too happily for the situation. “Please, get down from the closet.”
Emma and Lisa snickered as they watched their brother attempt to climb down the closet, the capes still tied to his back. As soon as he hit the ground, they snatched their capes from his back and turned around quickly, their braids almost hitting Joost.
“Hey! Be careful!” He yelled, and turned to Olaf once the latter cleared his throat.
“Sir Joost, would you please answer my wife?” He said, calmer than before.
“‘Bout what?” He asked, but made an ‘oh’ sound when both Thomas and Olaf glared at him. “The age question? I’m seven, duh, I already told you that. But I grew a lot, so now I’m an adult. How old are you?” Thomas walked up to Joost, and snatched the red and green capes.
Putting his own cape back on, he broke the silence by admitting his own age. “I’m… sixteen. Emma and Lisa are eleven, Maurits is fourteen, and the gate magically made us older. We…” He paused for a second to look at the count and countess. “We probably should've said this earlier.”
Halina closed her mouth, which had been open for the entire time.
“That would’ve been a nice warning, yes.”
Chapter 5: Quiz
"Do you have pets?" She whispered tenderly in my ear. I was shaking. After taking another sip of water, I replied. My voice was still shaking.
"Yes." I finally decided.
"oH MY GODODDDDD EFTELING IS BAEEE!!!!" She replied, screaming in my ear. She was still too close for comfort. A single tear rolled down my cheek. Finally. Efteling is bae.
Chapter 6: Till Death Do Us Part
I still suck at titles, and Thomas and Maurits have a chat.
Maurits was glad he was finally being left alone. The thoughts running through his head were almost too much to bear, and his siblings wouldn’t help. The others were all still sitting next to the fire.
“Maurits, you should stop being so hard on yourself.” Thomas suddenly said. Maurits turned around. He shot an angry glare to his older brother, and turned back.
“I’m serious. I don’t know what you’re thinking about, but we need to work together and your sulking isn’t helping.” Thomas ate another piece of bread, chewing calmly. The judgemental stares of his siblings were getting to Maurits, as was the silence, and the soft crackling of the fire. Everything seemed mad at him. He was mad at himself, too.
Without responding, Maurits walked deeper into the forest, away from the safety of the campfire. He felt like the forest was speaking to him. He didn’t stumble once, and walked deeper and deeper into the forest, ignoring his older brother’s angry shouts, instead focusing on the soft whispering of the wind through the trees. The forest was getting denser and darker, and after a while, Maurits sat down.
“Maurits? Get back here! You don’t have any right to call me a hormonal teen when you’re running off into the forest!” Maurits sighed. He closed his eyes. Today had been harder than usual. Of course, deep in his heart he had always known that this wouldn’t end without anyone getting hurt, but he had never imagined he would be the one hurting people. To protect his siblings, of course, but still, it felt so incredibly wrong.
Suddenly, the darkness he saw through his eyelids became a bright, burning red, and he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Get back to the campfire, Mau. You’re gonna get a cold.” Thomas said, holding out his sword for light.
“Fuck off, Thomas.”
“What?” Thomas looked offended.
“You heard me.” Maurits stood up, and pushed Thomas away. “Fuck. Off. I need some time, I’ll come back.”
“Maurits, I’m not leaving you behind in the cold. I don’t know what your angsty brain is thinking of, but whatever it is, it’s not a good enough reason for you to sit here in the cold and sulk. Get back to the camp, before- “
“Could you shut up, just for a second?” Maurits yelled. Thomas was astonished, but remained silent for a while. “Do you have any idea what happened today? Or is this just your own personal damsel in distress story for you? Just a joke, a tale to tell, a song to sing? If I’m not wrong, you were the one who didn’t want to go out of fear of getting hurt.”
Thomas remained silent, but lowered his sword. “Look, Mau, if you have a bruise or anything, you can just tell us, you know.”
“I killed a man today, Thomas. A living, breathing man, probably with a family. I shot him. Through his chest. He’s dead.”
“Baltar is still alive, we let him go, remember?”
“This is exactly what I mean! You only pay attention to what’s important to you!” The light being emitted from his sword allowed Thomas to see Maurits was shaking. “You don’t pay any attention to anything except yourself, the villain, and Samira! I killed one of the guards, Thomas! He was standing up there, on the wall, and I shot him off! There’s no possible way he could’ve survived that, believe me, I’ve done the math!” Thomas closed his eyes. He could hear the tears in his little brother’s voice.
“Listen, Mau, I’m… I’m sorry, okay?” Maurits fell back down onto the ground. Thomas wanted to laugh at the sight of the 24 year old man crying in front of him, but the knowledge that his 14 year old brother had such a traumatic experience without him even noticing was slowly getting to him. “I- I never meant for that to happen either.”
“Of course you didn’t” Maurits hiccupped, in between sobs. “Who would mean for that to happen. But it did, and here we are.” Thomas sat down next to his little brother.
“You didn’t want it to happen either. Let’s go back, okay? Get warmed up and some sleep, we all need it.” Maurits nodded, and stood up.
“You know, in some way, I’m glad it was me, and not Emma, Lisa, or Joost.” He whispered, and Thomas softly nodded. God knows they would’ve taken it harder than Maurits would.
Chapter 7: Thanks, Lisa
Thomas really shouldn't be so grumpy all the time.
The sun was seething hot, and everyone in Raveleijn could feel it. People were gathering in shadowy places, and the Count and Countess hadn’t left the coolest lower levels of the Belfort all day. Thomas was silently wishing he could have that kind of privilege, as he blocked another attack from his sister.
“Come on, Lisa, a little more force.” He said, looking the other way. Thomas felt a hard blow in his stomach, and staggered backwards.
“I’ll use more force when you pay attention, Tho.” Lisa snickered, and dropped the wooden sword to drink some water. Thomas was glad he had taken most of his armour off, but he was still sweating like a pig. The others seemed to take the heat a lot better than him, although some of the guards who had joined the training seemed to regret their black outfit choices.
Maurits left guard he was fighting with and walked up to his older brother. “Thomas, do you want some water? Otherwise you should get back to training, it’s only going to get worse. Soon the sun will be at its hottest, and then- “
“Yeah, I know. I’m fine.”
“Guys!” Joost yelled. “Can we do something else now? This is hard and I’m getting bored.” Emma followed him, laughing a bit, and threw her wooden sword aside like her sister.
“Yeah, I think Joost is right.” Lisa said, with a smile. “Besides, I’m dying to practice with my element for a bit.”
“Great idea, Lisa!” Maurits nodded, and went to grab his crossbow.
“Absolutely not.” Thomas said. Joost looked at him sadly, dropping his daggers.
“Aww, why not Thomas? It’ll be fun!” Joost said, and the twins nodded. Emma and Lisa had already eagerly grabbed their weapons, but Thomas looked at them with a stare that could kill people.
He pulled out his sword. “Joost. Can you tell me what temperature it is?” Joost shrugged, and Maurits’ hand shot up into the air. “Yes, Maurits?”
“It’s… about 30 degrees. Pretty dry as well.” He licked his finger and stuck it up into the air. “I’d say the wind speed is about 1 or 2 on the Beaufort scale.” Joost looked at his older brother quizzically.
“The Beau…. What?” Maurits smiled patiently.
“It’s a scale on which-“
“It doesn’t matter.” Thomas grumbled. “What matters is that it’s f- really hot, there’s almost no breeze, I’m sweating my ass off, and I am not going to practice with my element.”
“Aww, Thomas, please?” Joost said. “It’ll be fun! You can practice with me if you want, then you don’t have to be afraid to get beaten!” Joost’s smile was endearing, but Thomas simply wasn’t in the mood to play-fight with his younger brother.
“Thomas, I’d never thought I’d see the day you’re too afraid to fight with your siblings.” Emma said, and Lisa nodded.
“I think he might be, what you call a…” Lisa added. Thomas shot her a glare.
“Don’t you dare say it.”
“A chicken.” The twins said, simultaneously.
Thomas grabbed Lisa by the shoulders. “While that is easy for you to say, my dear sister, do you have any idea how hot fire is?”
“Oh, well, looking at the colour of your flames, I’d say about 1600 degrees Celcius!”
“Shut up, Maurits. Anyways, add that to the 30 degrees it already is, and what do you get?” He ignored Maurits’ protests about how incorrect that math was, and shook Lisa, mostly to get the shit-eating grin of her face. “A temperature that can boil your skin straight off. I’m not doing it!”
“Please, Thomas? It’ll be loads of fun. Me and Lisa can make mud again, and maybe we can make a sand castle! Like we do on the beach!”
“No! I’m not- I’m already sweating like a whore in church!” Joost’s eyes widened and he covered his ears. “Cut it out, Joost, you’ve heard swearwords before. But I flat out refuse! I’m leaving.”
“Thomas, you can’t just leave, we have to stay on track with training! What if something happens! Besides, all the guards are counting on us as well, we can’t just leave them!” Maurits said, pulling Thomas back by his shoulder.
“I’m going to take a cold bath and then sit in the shadow all day. You can train without me.” Thomas walked away, but suddenly felt a splash of icy cold water hitting him.
“Does that help?” Lisa said, laughing at her older brother, drenched and still angry.
“Not at all!” He yelled, and took a step back when he saw his sister’s devious grin.
“Geez, bro.” She said, and Thomas took another step back.
“Don’t you dare, I swear, I will hurt you-“
“I swear to god, Lisa, I will push you out of a window, get that grin off your face and those hands away from that lance.”
“Get so heated up about it.”
With a scream filled with hatred, Thomas stalked away.
Chapter 8: The Well
It had been weeks since the rumour first surfaced, but it seemed like it had died down by now. In fact, Leon mused, it seemed like everything had died down. Maybe it was just his imagination, but Leon could swear everything was turning greyer by the minute.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Evelijne and Fleur were sitting at breakfast together. None of the boys had made it to the mess hall yet, so they decided to start without them.
After the fall of Falco Peregrinus and the return of the real, actual Olaf to the throne, many people had left the guard. Of course, it still had a bad reputation, even though things were gradually getting better.
“Why are they so late?” Fleur said, waving a piece of bread. “They should know better than this, if they keep this up there's just going to be no food left.” Evelijne nodded.
“They're probably doing their hair.”
Suddenly, voices could be heard arguing just outside the door. The door slammed open, and Leon, Edun and Frederic walked in, in a heated discussion.
“I'm telling you, Edun, it has to be fake! Come on, you can't really believe it, can you?” Leon said, as he sat down.
“Believe what?” Evelijne asked. Leon looked at her, and back at Edun, who looked incredibly mad.
“There’s a gang of wolf-people attacking Raveleijn, and I say we should inform the Count.” Edun finally said.
“Come on, wolf people?” Leon shouted, throwing his hands in the air. “It's bullshit, and you know it, Edun.” Before Frederic could interrupt him, Leon placed his finger over the blonde's mouth. “Now is not the time to defend your boyfriend's fairy tales, Freddo.”
Frederic now looked mad as well, and turned around to have a conversation with Edun. Fleur spoke up. “Where did you guys hear this in the first place?”
“The entire city is talking about it. But that's just what rumours do, right? And we know all about how those end.” Leon said, with a glare, causing Evelijne to kick him. Leon yelped. “Not necessary, woman!”
“Very necessary. Anyways, if the entire city is talking about it, it's still worth investigating. Maybe we should talk to Korda about it, but let's keep it on the down low for now.”
It had been weeks since the rumour first surfaced, but it seemed like it had died down by now. In fact, Leon mused, it seemed like everything had died down. Maybe it was just his imagination, but Leon could swear everything was turning greyer by the minute.
“Winter must be near. Everything is dying. Eef, do you think we should send people to see if the people outside the city have enough food? We don't want another riot.”
“Yeah, I think that's a good idea. Even though…”
“Well, don't the squads outside the wall usually send a letter about the situation this time of the year? And I don't recall Korda or the Count receiving anything from the other cities either.” Evelijne snorted. “Not that the Count is currently doing much.” Leon nodded, slowly. He was feeling more and more tired everyday. Deep inside he knew something had to be wrong, but he was just blaming it on the colder temperature till he actually would get sick.
“You’re right. Maybe something’s wrong. We should…” He paused. “You know what, fuck it. We can't really go to the Count right now, as he's… preoccupied with the tree, so let's just gather the squad and see if we can find someone to talk to ourselves. Eef, can you go get them? I'll ready some horses.” Evelijne didn’t respond, but stared down the wall, silently. After a while, a whisper left her lips.
“Isn't… isn't that Jacob?” Leon slowly walked towards her. Looking down he saw a young man, made out of the greyness he had seen approaching for the past few days. From this distance, he could see it was stone. Cold, grey stone, exactly the size and shape of Jacob, their youngest squad member. He seemed as if he had been trying to yell at them, mouth opened wide and eyes fearful. Leon looked down at his hands, noticing he couldn’t move them anymore. They were rapidly turning more grey, as was Evelijne next to him.
“Oh my god.” she whispered, and the greyness reached her head. Her face was stuck in a look of disbelief, and Leon closed his eyes.
The entire Belfort was engulfed in silence. Fleur was enjoying the peace and quiet, standing outside the meeting room. From inside, she could hear hushed whispers.
So, the rumour had finally reached the higher ups. Perhaps it was for the best that it took so long, because nothing had really changed in the past few weeks. Well, nothing in the city. Fleur had been feeling more and more slow over the past weeks, and she could tell she wasn’t as alert as she was supposed to be. But, mentally looking at everyone she knew, she noticed that everyone was feeling a bit sluggish.
“Must be the weather.” She murmured. Fully against the rules, Fleur leaned back against the wall. Even that simple movement went too slow for her tastes. A loud crash could be heard inside the meeting room.
“Councilmen, please, listen to me! A dark force is approaching, I can feel it, we need to act! Please, at least react!” The voice of the Countess was filled with tears, but loud in the complete silence.
“Anyone?” No one responded. Fleur slowly batted her eyelids, trying to ignore the stiffness in her legs. When she looked down, she saw they were turning grey, and the greyness was rapidly expanding. Fleur slowly leaned her head back and closed her eyes.
“Must be my imagination.”
“Oh… Oh no, Lord Thijmen, Lor- Oh no…” The doors opened with a bang. Halina quickly walked out of them, and spotted the statue of a young woman leaning against the wall, seemingly resting.
“Oh, god no.”
”Patrolling is easy when no one's outside.” Frederic joked.
“Do you think they're all still afraid? I mean, I have to give it to Leon, nothing happened after all.” Edun said, shrugging. Nothing had happened, nothing at all. Not even petty thievery, no pick-pockets, no bar fights. It was as if everyone was so afraid of actual crimes that they didn’t commit any themselves anymore.
“To be honest…” Frederic stretched his arms. “Maybe it's just too cold to go outside. I mean, I'm feeling pretty cold, and I'm wearing full black.” Edun gniffled.
“And you're rocking it, dear.” Edun stopped walking. “Can we sit down for a second? My legs feel really heavy.”
“Sure. Are you ok?” Frederic looked worried. Edun wasn't the type to easily get tired out, especially not during simple patrols.
“Yeah, I'm fine. Just… Feels like I have weights tied to my boots.” He shook his leg to emphasize. “No weights actually present.” Edun stared into the distance. A gust of grey wind blew to the town, and Frederic noticed that some of it got stuck on Edun. Patting his back, he led the younger man to the nearby well, to sit.
“Maybe…” Frederic said softly, as he sat down as well. “You should wash up… and…” Edun simply stared, not responding, but softly breathing. “Maybe we should just call in sick.”
“...Yeah…” Edun whispered. Another breeze blew through. More of the greyness got stuck to Frederic. Edun attempted to lift his hand, but notice it seemed stuck to the well. Frederic didn’t seem to care anyways. Not about the dust on his clothes, not about the grey tint on his cheeks.
“Frederic… are you?” Frederic had stopped moving completely. The grey dust had reached his face, and Edun whimpered. “What’s happening to you? Fred-” He tried to pull his arm loose again, but saw his arm was turning just as grey as Frederic’s face.
“I think it’s… the…” Edun turned his head back to Frederic, who was still unmoving, grey, and seemingly made out of stone. “Frederic, please… We’ll be alright.”.
A tear rolled down his face as the stone immobilized him, and left the two of them like grey statues on the well.
Amazing art by yara122001!
Chapter 9: Till Death Do Us Part, 2
Someone give these kids a hug.
It was pitch black outside when Maurits left his home. He silently closed the door behind him, and aimed his flashlight on the road. The forest was dark, and Maurits barely even noticed the gate until he almost bumped into it. Silently, he whispered the words that would grant him entrance, and ran through the gate. He didn’t even stop when he felt the horse beneath him, and rode straight to the city through the darkness of the night.
Trying to avoid contact with the guards, who’d surely give him problems at this time, he took his horse to the back of the city, and tied it to a tree.
“Stay here, okay?”
He crawled through a tiny tunnel Joost had dug by accident while training, and no one had bothered to fix. Thankfully, no one saw him.
When he finally reached his destination, he let out a deep sigh. He lifted his hand and knocked on the door. Stumbling could be heard inside, along with the unsheathing of a sword, causing Maurits to snicker. The door slowly opened.
“Who’s there?” Maurits took a step back from the sword aimed at him, shimmering in the moonlight, and softly pushed it down, careful not to touch any of the sharp edges.
“Dude, it’s me. Put that sword away.”
“Maurits?” The door opened further, revealing Thomas, wearing some medieval pyjamas, looking tired as ever. “Is that you?” Thomas placed the sword against the wall, and spread his arms. Maurits went in for the hug, and laughed.
“So, uhm, not to sound rude or anything, I’m happy to see you, but…” Thomas took a step back to allow his younger brother in. “What are you doing here? In the middle of the night, of all times?”
Maurits ignored the question, and walked past Thomas. He went straight into the living room, and sat down on the couch. Thomas hurried after him, and grabbed a candle to light.
“Please, don’t.” Thomas huffed, and sat down next to Maurits.
“What’s wrong?” Maurits shook his head. “C’mon, I’ve known you for 16 years, don’t try this. What’s your problem? If it’s romance related, I’m gonna have to send you back home, because I’m not dealing with that.”
“Do you remember that talk we had, two years ago?” Thomas shrugged. “I know it was a while ago. I’m talking about the talk in the forest, you know…”
“Back when you killed a man.” His older brother finished. Maurits sighed and nodded. He looked down at the ground.
“Yeah.” He whispered. “That thing.” His voice sounded a little hoarse already. “Listen, uhm… It didn’t really get better. It’s still there, in the back of my mind, and I…”
“I know. I know what it feels like.” Maurits looked up.
“What do you mean?”
Thomas stood up. “Those wolf-men, they were just being controlled, and we both… Well, you know what happened, you were there. Besides that, there’s the statues I shattered.”
“Fuck.” Maurits murmured. “I hadn’t even thought about that…”
“Well, yeah, you have the twins and Joost to keep you from thinking about that, and your video games of course.”
“I guess. Even then, it still… so surreal? I don’t know what effects it had, and… I want to apologize.” They sat in silence for a while. A knock on the door broke that awkward silence, and caused Thomas to sprint into the hallway and grab his sword again.
“I really hope Samira doesn’t wake up right now.” He whispered, and opened the door slightly again. “What do you want?” A soft sob could be heard.
“Well, big bro… I think Lisa would really appreciate a hug right now.” Emma’s voice could be heard from outside.
“She’s crying.” Joost added, and he sounded small. Thomas threw the door open to look at his youngest siblings, standing on the porch.
“Wh- why is Lisa crying?” Thomas murmured, throwing his arms around his sister. Emma sighed.
“Well… We heard Maurits leave and he had seemed a bit off for the past week anyways, so we followed him, and Joost… Joost had a nightmare so he heard us too, so we all went through the gate after Maurits.” She sighed again, looking at Lisa. “We… decided to listen in on your conversation, and I guess it made Lisa realise something.”
“I- There-“ Lisa was barely audible through her sobs. Thomas patted her shoulder in an attempt to calm her down. She wiped away some tears, and looked at her oldest brother. “There were people in those Skrilleks, right?” She finally whispered, her voice cracking. “I drowned them.”
Thomas sat down on the ground. Maurits followed his example, and soon all five of them were sitting. Joost spoke up. “Does that mean I helped?”
“No, no, Joost, none of this is your fault, nor is it Lisa’s fault. Listen, there’s nothing we can do about this anymore, except just… accepting it.” Maurits sighed, and Thomas continued. “I know it sounds bad, but we’ll be fine, okay? Don’t… think about it too much.” Everyone nodded, and they sat huddled together in silence, unbothered by the cold air.
“Alright.” Thomas said, after a few minutes. “I’m going to make the living room into a 5-person bedroom, and send mom and dad a letter that you’re all… sleeping over. I’m not sending you home right down.” As he stood up, he added: “And it might not be a bad idea to tell them to find you a therapist.”
Chapter 10: Drawings
A little AU where Halina was sent to the Exiles early on.
Finally, after 5 year long years, Raveleijn was free. Joost and Maurits were busy freeing the remaining boys from their Graffers, and reuniting families, while Emma and Lisa were comforting and calming the citizens, talking to them and offering water. Thomas was sitting with Samira and her family, telling the entire tale to them and the enthusiastic crowd that had formed around them. Olaf, who had been free for a little over two hours, was walking around the square, still a bit wobbly. Everything was right again, the way it used to be, except for one thing, the one thing he was looking for. Halina, his wife, was nowhere to be found. He had talked to almost everyone, except for the Riders, who still seemed busy. He walked towards Emma and Lisa, who were talking to a lady that still hadn’t found her son.
“Excuse me.” He tapped Emma’s shoulder, who jumped backwards, frightened. She quickly regained herself.
“How can I help you, Count Grafhart?” She said, bowing slightly. Her sister was still talking to the lady.
“Please. Call me Olaf.” He mentioned for her to stand up straight again. “But yes, I do have a question. I heard from Samuel that… you were called here by my wife, Halina, right? She called for your aid?” Olaf said, and Emma nodded affirmatively.
“Did you see her? Recently, I mean?” He sounded nervous, almost afraid.
Emma shrugged. “I wouldn’t call it recently, no. The last time I saw her was…” She scratched her chin. “Two days ago. In the camp of the Exiles. You should look there, dud- I mean, sir. Do you know where it is?” She asked it with a smile, but Olaf could tell the young woman was hiding something.
“No, that won’t be necessary. I know the way. Thank you, Rider.” Olaf answered with a nod.
After he had retrieved his horse from the stables, he rode out of the city with haste. The citizens watched him go, startled, but no one went after him. Everyone was too busy rebuilding the market square. The five siblings just looked at each other, but Emma shook her head.
Olaf rode out of the city, through the Lösterwoud, on his own. The silence was calming, but he was having a hard time, his body not used to the exercise of riding a horse anymore. He arrived at the plains where the camp stood, exhausted. The camp was silent. The campfire had obviously not been lit for a while now, and there weren’t any clothing on the washing lines. It seemed like everything had been emptied when everyone left. Olaf walked into the cave.
“Halina?” He shouted, into the darkness. The only thing he heard was his own voice, echoing against the damp walls. Still, he tried again.
“Ravenheart?” Nothing. There was a torch on the ground, he noticed, after he kicked it away with his foot. He grabbed it, and lit it, so he could see.
The hallways were dark and long, with multiple twists, turns and divisions. There were rooms and halls, all devoid of any sign of life. There were still some pieces of furniture, if they could even be considered that. All simple, wood and stone, and with an unclear purpose. Drawings covered the walls, made by children, etched in with pieces of rock. One of the halls contained a bigger artwork, obviously made by one of the older children. It was a drawing depicting Halina, standing gracefully in a beautiful dress. He remembered that dress. It was one of his favourites. Besides her stood a man, his face scratched through with lines. Through the wild and angry lines, he could still recognize his own face. The face seemed evil and filled with hatred. A tear ran down Olaf’s cheek.
“Halina…” He whispered. “What did I do to you?”
Suddenly he heard a cough coming from a nearby room. He ran towards it, continuously calling her name.
“Halina? Halina! Where are you?” His voice was starting to get hoarse, but he couldn’t stop now.
“HALINA?” No response.
Devoid of hope, he opened one last door. Just as he was about to turn back, he heard a small cough from the corner of the room. Quickly, he turned around, and carefully walked to the corner, his torch in front, lighting the way. There, covered by a thin blanket against the wall of the cave, lied his wife, malnourished and sick from the humid air.
“Ravenheart.” He sighed, embracing her. She pulled back, afraid of the man that had send her away from the Belfort so violently four years prior. Olaf gently placed his hand on her forehead. She had a high fever, and he retracted his hand almost immediately. Slowly, he lifted her in her arms, and kissed her on her forehead. They were both shaking.
“I missed you so much.” Olaf whispered. “I’m sorry.”
Chapter 11: The Wild Outside
Thomas, Samira, and the siblings go on a "Family Bonding Time Camping Trip".
“Thomas, we're cold!”
Thomas squeezes his eyes shut tightly. He must've been squeezing his hand shut tightly too, as Samira clears her throat and removes her hand from his. Thomas smiles apologetically, and stops walking to face his sisters. They're huddling together, but the sad faces they're pulling are for show. Even as adults, Thomas can see right through them.
“Stop whining. We're almost there.”
“Almost where?” Lisa asks.
“You said that ten minutes ago.” Emma grumbles simultaneously. The two look at eachother, and burst out laughing.
“Thomas, please tell me you aren't lost…” Maurits mumbles. Thomas doesn't appreciate the condescending tone of his younger brother's voice, but decides to ignore it. In his head, he starts doing as Samira always kept telling him, count to ten, one, two-
“But Maurits! Then it would be an adventure!” Joost’s voice is loud, and a bit too enthusiastic for the time of night. “And maybe we can fight a boar, or a wolf-”
“We're here!” Thomas suddenly yells, dropping his bag on the ground. The others are dead silent. “We're here. This is it. The exact place I had in mind. Maurits, Emma, Lisa, you can start putting up the tents. Joost, you can help me and Samira make the campfire.”
The twins look at eachother, a look of doubt crossing between them. This isn't at all the place Thomas and Samira described. They turn to Maurits, to see if he's thinking the same, but Maurits simply shrugs, and starts on the tent.
Samira smiles at the three, but then pulls Thomas aside.
“Thomas, dear.” She hisses. “What's the matter? This is not what we decided on.”
“Samira- Sorry, but if I have to walk through this damned forest for one more minute with those four whining every step, I would've gone crazy.”
“Are you sure? I mean, there's a reason I chose the other spot, and-”
“I'm one hundred percent sure. Let's just unpack, I'll light the fire, and then we can go to sleep.” Thomas ends his sentence with a wink.
“You're disgusting, and I'm not charmed.” Samira replies with a snort. “Now-” She claps her hands. “Get to work on that fire before I start whining.”
“Of course, ma’am.” Thomas snickers.
They ate, laughed and told stories around the campfire. The tents looked rather wonky, but that didn't matter. It was going to stay dry anyways.
Soon, however, Joost started yawning, and the twins started to look a little drowsy too. If Maurits was tired, he was hiding it, but Thomas knew perfectly well that his brother had taken up the habit to stay up extremely late playing games, so Maurits probably wasn't feeling anything yet. Not that Thomas could judge, anyways. A case of been there, done that. It doesn't matter, anyways.
As the once big campfire starts to reduce to softly glowing embers, working their hardest to provide heat, Thomas stands up.
“Time to hit the hay, guys. It's getting late, and knowing what you all want to do tomorrow-”
“Swimming!” Lisa yells, intercepting him. Emma grins.
“Yeah, whatever. Time to head to bed.”
Emma and Lisa quickly disappear into their tent, giggling and muttering beneath their breaths. There used to be a time when Thomas would frustrate himself by attempting to figure out what they were talking about, if they were talking about him - but he had stopped caring. It was better that way. Maurits stands up, rolls his shoulders, and helps a half sleeping Joost into the second tent. Knowing his two brothers, they'll be asleep within minutes.
He turns around to check on Samira, but notices she's already gone. The flap of the third tent is still open, so Thomas quickly pulls himself in. It's cold inside the tent, and Thomas can just barely stop himself from lighting his sword. It wouldn’t be wise, after all.
In the end, he just grabs all the blankets that lie in the tent, and wraps them around himself and Samira, before wrapping his arms around her.
“Good night, love.” He murmurs.
“Good night, sweetie.” Samira murmurs back, but Thomas is already dozing off.
A sudden scream pierces the otherwise silent night. Thomas immediately sits up straight, reaching for his sword, rushing out to protect his siblings-
“A rat!” Emma or Lisa screams. “There's a rat in our tent!”
Thomas can heat Samira curse under her breath.
“What's the matter?” He asks.
“You never let me finish my sentence. This is what I was going to warn you about.”
“No, this is on you, Thomas.” Samira snickers. “Go save your siblings.”