Chapter 1: Prologue
Maurits looked up from doing his homework when he heard something ticking against the kitchen window. When he saw the big black bird outside the window a big smile appeared on his face. He closed his laptop and walked over to the window to open it.
“Rafaël!” he exclaimed, “It’s so good to see you again! Did you bring any news from Thomas?” The raven nodded and stuck his claw out so Maurits could detach the piece of paper that was tied to it. It did not look like the other letters Thomas had send the past few days, this one was a lot more official looking with the red Raveleijn seal sealing the letter shut. Before taking another look at it, Maurits ran upstairs to the rooms of his siblings, knocking on their bedroom doors while yelling;
“Guys, Rafaël just brought another letter from Thomas! You wanna read it together?” Joost came storming out of his room two seconds later and a few moments later the twins joined as well. Maurits wanted to break the seal on the letter, but Joost stopped him.
“Shouldn’t we get mom and dad as well? I’m sure they wanna know what Thomas wrote this time.” Maurits nodded. After they got back the kids had decided to tell their parents about Raveleijn together, because they deserved to know where Thomas was and why he had stayed there. Of course they had been shocked and it had been hard for them to believe everything at first, but the evidence was there, because Thomas had not come back. Rutger gave up his idea of using the gate as an entrance for his vineyard, as it was the only way to get in contact with his oldest son.
“Good idea little brother, let’s get mom and dad.” Together the four siblings ran down the stairs and out the back door. After first looking in their mother’s atelier, they found both their parents in the vineyard.
“Mom!” Lisa yelled.
“Dad!” Emma exclaimed.
“Thomas send us another letter!” Joost added in excitement. Maurits presented the letter with the official looking seal proudly to his parents. He handed it to his mother.
“Mom, I think it is your turn to read it out loud.” Their mother nodded, carefully broke the seal and unfolded the letter. Another piece of paper fell out of it and Rutger picked it up from the ground, giving it to Sophie. She first read the little note that had fallen to the ground.
“Dear mom, dad, Maurits, Emma, Lisa, Joost and Spike,
I am really happy and proud to tell you that I am engaged to Samira Grafhart and I want to invite you all to my engagement party. I also gave Rafaël the official invitation, but I really wanted to tell you myself as well. So I hope to see you there! I really miss all of you a lot, I know it has probably only been a few days for you since Maurits, Emma, Lisa, Joost and Spike came back, but here it has been a few months already. I can’t wait to see you all again and to show Raveleijn to mom and dad.
I love you and hope to see you soon!
Your favorite brother and son, Thomas”
Chapter 2: The engagement
Chapter by Femke_The_Orange
Maurits makes a new friend when he is forced into socializing by a dying phone.
“I’m having so much fun!” Joost laughed, as he stuffed another piece of cake in his mouth. “Maurits, do you want some?” Maurits slowly looked up from his mobile phone, that he had brought with him. His siblings still didn’t understand how it was possible, but he did it anyways. Of course, without reception, or internet, the only thing he could do was play some games, which was what he had been doing for the entire evening.
“No thanks, Joost.” he replied, and went back to his game. His battery was almost empty. Soon he’d have to socialize if he didn’t want to get bored to death. Thomas and Samira were having the times of their lives, of course. Emma was chatting with some girls she had met. Joost was eating, and playing around a little, and Lisa was talking to some man she thought looked cute.
“Are you sure? This cake is yummy!” Maurits sighed, and lowered the brightness of his screen even more to save the last few percentages of his battery.
“100 percent, bro. I’m not hungry.” 4 percent left. The candy crush level was almost done.
“Hi, Maurits, right?” Samira’s brother, Jarno, had sat down next to him. Maurits simply nodded. “What exactly are you doing? That box is emitting light, you know.” The green rider stared at Jarno, but quickly realized that he couldn’t know what a phone was.
“That’s a phone. I’m playing games.” Jarno still looked at him confused. “A phone, games… Uhm… It’s like… I honestly don’t know how to explain it. Imagine you have books, plays, games, maps, friends, all in a little tiny box?”
“To be honest, Maurits, that sounds terrifying. I would never want to trap my friends in a box. Not even with all that stuff.” Jarno sighed. “But maybe this is just another thing from the modern world I do not understand.”
Maurits bit his lip. “Probably. It’s really difficult to explain, too. Want to see the game I’m playing?” Jarno nodded, and Maurits turned his phone so he could see. “Look, it’s called candy crush, and you have to line up 3 or more of the same coloured candy, so they explode. It’s really addictive.” Maurits dragged his finger over the screen, and made a chain of 5 blue candies. They popped away, and the sound of victory emitted from the cell phone. Jarno looked enchanted.
“That was amazing! I can’t believe you guys have moving pictures, and- uh, all that other stuff, in a tiny little box!” Jarno’s eyes were wide. “Technology is really cool, when…”
Jarno snickered, but it didn’t sound genuine. “When you’re not trapped in it.” Maurits looked away, replaying the events of Falco’s first attempt to take over the city.
“Can I ask you… What was that like? I’m curious as to how these things worked. They’re really advanced, for your time.”
Jarno sighed. “Dark, scary… I was unconscious for the most of it, but the times I was awake, I had no control over what I was doing. I was… piloting it, I think, but it was hard to tell. I’m honestly glad I couldn’t see anything, because I can’t imagine the fear on everyone’s faces as I- I mean, the Graffer, approached.” Maurits nodded. Jarno took a deep breath, and continued. “I still wonder almost every day if I ever hurt anyone, if I ever threatened my family and friends.”
Maurits placed his hand on Jarno’s shoulder. “Hey, remember, it wasn’t you, ok? It was Peregrinus, using your body and life force to pilot those terrible things. So, stop worrying about it, I’m sure all the others think the same.”
“Oh, no, they really don’t, you know?” Maurits looked at Jarno quizically. “Most people blame the exiles for the Graffers even existing, because… Because if we hadn’t betrayed the city, Falco wouldn’t have needed to make them. We still have a bad reputation because of that.” Jarno sighed, the sadness audible. Maurits shook his head.
“That’s really terrible. I’ll see if… maybe my siblings and I can give a speech or something about that soon. That might work.” Jarno looked at Maurits.
“You’d really do that? That would probably really help, you know!”
Maurits smiled. “Of course! Wouldn’t want you to be treated like second rate citizens because you wanted to live in safety, right? Besides, we’re your friends, and that’s what friends do.” 3 percent. Maurits turned his phone on standby, and put it in his pocket. Jarno looked incredibly grateful.
“I think I’m going to get some food. Joost said the cake was great, so…” Maurits looked at the giant buffet. “Might as well try it.”
Jarno snickered. “I mean, I really prefer fruit, but to each his own.” Maurits took a small bite of the slice of cake.
“Oh, dude, this is good! I mean, Joost eats everything, so I guess he’d know what’s good and not, but this is… really good cake!” Maurits shoveled the cake into his mouth, and Jarno laughed. “What? Do I have whipped cream on my face?”
“No, no!” Jarno tried to stop laughing. “It’s just, for someone who says they really love the cake, you sure shovel it down quickly.”
“It’s so I can take another piece quicker.” Maurits said, aiming the fork at Jarno. “Do you not understand the cake-eating rules?”
Jarno started laughing even harder. Maurits’ face was incredibly serious, but Jarno could see he was trying to hide his laughter. “The cake- The cake-eating rules?” he hiccupped.
“Mmhm!” Maurits nodded, placing another slice on his plate. “The cake-eating rules.” He was obviously averting his eyes to the ground to avoid breaking into laughter, and shoveled another huge bite into his mouth.
“What- What are the- cake-eating rules?” Jarno asked, in between laughing.
Maurits snorted. “If you- If you like a cake,” he started, with the most serious voice he could muster, “You have to eat it all before someone else can.”
Jarno stared at Maurits. Maurits stared back. The staring contest went on for mere seconds, before both boys broke into laughter, and Maurits nearly dropped his plate.
“Well, go on then!”
“Huh?” Maurits looked confused, as he was trying to compose himself.
“Eat it! Eat the entire cake, come on! You can’t break the cake-eating rules if they’re really that official!” Jarno picked up a few more plates, and placed multiple slices on each. Some of the slices were wobbling dangerously on the edge of the plate, and Jarno tried to balance them all as best as he could. Maurits looked terrified.
“Jarno, I-” Maurits snickered. “I made that up, it’s lies-”
“What, are you telling me… you lied to me? And you can’t really eat all this cake? How do I tell my parents? How do I tell Samira? How do I tell the other members of the Five that you’re not the best cake-eater in the land?” Jarno sighed dramatically, and started putting the slices back onto the big cake platter. “I guess I really can’t trust anyone anymore.”
“Geez, Jarno, exaggerating is an art.” Samira had closed in on the two, and patted her younger brother on the back. Maurits waved.
“Hi, Samira! Good to see you again, having fun?” Samira nodded, and looked back at Thomas, who was happily talking with his parents, and introducing them to his new parents in law, the Count and Countess.
“Yes, I am. Thomas is rather nervous though, I think he wants to keep his reputation, and not do anything awkward. I can imagine this is hard when you don’t exactly know the customs, even though we talked through them multiple times.” She smiled fondly, and Maurits nodded. “But anyways, I see you’ve met my brother. Be careful, he’s a pest.”
“Hey!” Jarno sounded offended. “I’m making friends, Samira!”
“For the first time in your life, if I’m not mistaken.” Samira winked, and laughed. Maurits snickered behind his hand.
“Not true, Samira, geez. Remember Astrid? And Mees?” Samira laughed again, and ruffled his hair. “Come on, sis, stop bullying me.”
“Don’t take it too hard.” Thomas whistled, and Samira turned to see he was calling her over. “Oh, I’ve got to go, Thomas needs me! But it was fun chatting with you, Maurits!”
“It was, have fun!” Maurits called after her.
Maurits took another bite of the second slice of cake, and Jarno grabbed a plate that still had a slice on it. “Might as well try it, if you claim it’s that good.” Maurits smiled, and checked his phone. 2 percent left.
In the middle of the room, Thomas was climbing on top of the table. When he was finally on top, he helped Samira up, careful not to ruin her gorgeous new dress. When they both stood, Thomas whistled on his fingers.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for coming today to celebrate the engagement between me and my gorgeous fianceé,” he spoke, and blew a kiss to Samira, who was blushing heavily. “Samira Grafhart. I’m especially glad my parents could make it, seeing as it is quite a journey to get here. Besides that, I hope you’re all enjoying yourself! We tried our best to combine two completely different lifestyles, but there is one thing I sadly couldn’t talk Samira out of. Apparently there’s some kind of… Ceremonial dance? Am I saying this right?” Samira nodded, with a little smile. “Yeah, so, just… Grab the hand of the person next to you, make a big circle, around the tables, and follow our lead.”
Maurits looked around him. Jarno looked exited, and so did the girl on his left. It looked like everyone was enthusiastic, except for the Woudenberg’s.
Hesitantly Maurits took Jarno’s hand in his own on his right, and in his other he held the hand of the girl that was standing on his left. As soon as the circle was closed and everyone was holding hands, they slowly started moving right. The steps were not very complicated, because that would have been impossible with so many people at the same time, but it was hard enough for Maurits. He was only watching his feet and was so concentrated on his steps that he didn’t notice any of his surroundings. First crossing his left foot behind his right, then move his right foot, another step to the right and then a little jump back to the left again.
After a few minutes Maurits slowly but surely started to get the hang of it, and he looked up. Thomas and Samira were dancing on the other side of the circle across from him. They were laughing and quietly talking to each other. They looked like they were having the times of their lives. Maurits looked around the circle and spotted his other siblings dancing as well, even his parents! He snickered, he never thought he would ever see his parents dancing!
“What so funny?” A voice to his right asked. Maurits snapped out of his thoughts and looked at Jarno. It took him a few moments to realize Jarno had asked him something and was now waiting for an answer.
“I’m sorry, you asked me something, didn’t you?” Maurits blushed a little, because he had been so distracted by the dance that he had completely ignored Jarno for at least five minutes.
“I asked you what was so funny that it made you snicker.” Jarno gave him a soft smile.
“Oh, yeah, right. It’s just funny to see my parents dancing, because I never imagined that I would ever see them dancing, and certainly not like this.” Jarno’s smile faltered.
“I used to dance a lot with my father and sister. But... well, then all the stuff with Peregrinus happened and we haven’t really danced since. Haven’t really had a reason to, either. I’ve really missed this.” A watery version of his smile was back now, though this time a tear shimmered in his eye. Maurits gave his hand a soft squeeze to comfort him. He actually wanted to give him a comforting hug, but seeing as they were still dancing, this would have to do.
Maybe Maurits should have payed more attention to the dancing and less to Jarno, because he forgot the little extra step to the right, tripped over his own feet and landed on Jarno’s toes.
“Ouch!” A bit startled and guilty Maurits looked up at Jarno, but he relaxed when he saw that Jarno was laughing at him.
“I’m so sorry!” Maurits exclaimed. “Did I hurt you?” Still snickering Jarno shook his head.
“Just a little, don’t worry about it. Maybe you should try to count in your head while you move you feet, that should make it a little easier.” Jarno whispered. “Wait… No. Better idea, let’s count together and just watch what I do. It’s is almost over anyway and we wouldn’t want you to disturb the entire dance by actually falling over you own feet.” Jarno snickered again. “Or mine for that matter.”
The rest of the dance went on without any crushed toes or broken ankles, though Maurits was very aware of Jarno’s hand holding his, and his voice guiding him through the dance.
“Alright everyone, I think that’s enough dancing.” Thomas said, and the music died down. Samira was laughing so hard tears were forming in her eyes, and Thomas nudged her. “Don’t laugh at my family like that, they didn’t have time to practice.”
Maurits laughed at his brother’s words, and sat back down again. He was a little exhausted, as while the dance was easy on its own, focusing on a million things at once wasn’t. Jarno was chatting with a girl for a bit, and Maurits checked the time on his phone. It was late. Pretty soon, his parents would see Joost was getting tired, and would politely say goodbye to everyone, and take them all home. Maurits had been to enough parties with his parents that he knew how they ended.
“Joost, isn’t it time to go to bed?” Maurits heard his mom say, and sighed. 1 percent. Better use it well.
“Hey, Jarno? Did I tell you about pictures?”
“Huh?” Jarno turned around.
“Pictures? I can take pictures with my phone.” Maurits held his phone up in the air, and Jarno’s face lit up.
“You mean, like a portrait? How long does that take?” Maurits laughed at the idea that immediately formed in his head, his mom working quickly to make a landscape each time he took a picture of an animal.
“Yeah, but… more realistic. And it takes a second at most, so maybe we can make one now? It’ll be a good memory.” Maurits opened up his front-facing camera, and Jarno looked surprised at the mirror-like effect.
“Alright, so, it’s a mirror?”
“Not quite.” Maurits lifted the phone, till they were both in frame. “Alright, smile!” Jarno looked confused, but smiled anyways, not quite looking at the phone. Maurits clicked. “Let’s see…” He pulled up the gallery and tapped the picture they just took.
“Wow, hey, that’s us!” Jarno beamed. Maurits nodded happily.
“I’ll keep it as a memory, okay?” As he tapped the back-button, his battery reached 0 percent, and his phone died. “Besides, I think we’re leaving.”
“Alright, I’ll see you again sometimes, okay?”