Mrs Wilthric was stylish by anybody's standards. She had large hazel eyes and her hair was brown with blonde highlights, often arranged in long ringlets. She was surprisingly tanned for the climate she lived in, and despite having three children, she could have easily passed for a single, childless woman.
Of course, now she looked very annoyed.
She strolled into the living room with an air of superiority, her eyebrows raised strictly and her jaw clenched. Will noticed that her fingernails were fake and gold. 'Did Prince Andrel enjoy himself?' she asked, with every intention to humiliate her son. 'Not too tired, are we?' Andrel gulped nervously. 'I suppose that bedtime doesn't matter, just how evening curfew flew out of the window!'
'We, uh, got lost,' said Andrel in a blatant lie,
'Really?' his mother chuckled. 'In all the five years we've lived here, you've never gotten lost. How strange that your sense of direction suddenly died!'
'Nothing happened. You didn't have to worry about me,'
'You? Oh, I wasn't worried about you at all,' she said, batting her hand at him dismissively,
'You weren't -?'
'Of course I was!' she exclaimed. 'Do you have any idea what it's like when only one of your twin boys turns up? Not only did you leave Arlamus to walk home alone, but your rebellious streak put Will at risk!'
'Mrs Wilthric,' said Will, stepping forward. 'I'm so sorry. We didn't realise how late it was, I guess we got carried away.'
Her eyes immediately softened. 'Oh, I see. Well, you aren't hurt, are you?'
'I'm fine, we just had too much fun,'
'I see,' she said, giving him a small smile. She turned to Andrel with a hard expression. 'As for you, we'll discuss your punishment in the morning. It's too late now, so both of you go to bed. And be quiet when you go up, Seph and Arlamus are sleeping.'
The lodge's entranceway opened onto a grand, pine staircase lit by a huge long-chained chandelier. The kitchen was situated on the left, the dining room on the right, and the upper floor led to bedrooms, studies and offices where Mrs Wilthric managed her affairs, bathrooms, and an attic scuttle at the end of the hallway.
Andrel and Arlamus slept in the attic on the second floor, with their own bathroom, play room and living space. Andrel took a metal hook from the wall and pulled down the scuttle. Stairs slid down in front of them, the gas lights upstairs in the hallway lighting up immediately.
'Grr,' Andrel said furiously. 'She gets on my nerves sometimes. She always wants to know where I am or what I'm doing. She's so controlling, I can't breathe, but Arlamus loves the coddling.'
'I guess that's what mothers do,' Will murmured after hesitation.
'Well, you're lucky,' he retorted. 'It sounds like your guardian lets you do whatever you want.'
'Who?' Will asked, raising an eyebrow, following Andrel up the ladder.
'The one you told me about,' said Andrel absently.
'Oh, Wilhelmina...' It then occurred to Will that he hadn't thought of her in a long time, mainly because he didn't know if he'd forgiven her yet. Wilhelmina Crayol had been Will's "mother" for the years after the death of his parents, an event he couldn't remember, alongside the first eight years of his life. She was a troll living in Vincula - the prison county of the Outlawed East, amongst murderers and rapists. Will had always known they couldn't have been related by blood, but he could never have guessed the truth. It had been a shock for Percival Paradam and Anala to appear at his door, revealing the murder of his real family excepting his twin siblings Carmen and Karn'el, who had been kidnapped at the time. He'd also heard in the most detail about the Elemental Court, the usurping human bureaucracy that had sent the royal families into exile. Will had been separated from his siblings, his death faked, and Wilhelmina had become his adopted, changelling mother.
He had no idea why it had to happen to him, but he hated most that the truth had been obscured from him for so long, given to him not even by the woman who professed to love him. Until the moment he'd left her, she'd lied to him, and now Will couldn't stop thinking of her as manipulative and a liar. Why she'd let him do what he wanted for so long, allowing everything and telling him nothing, was unclear. He wondered if it was because, deep down, she knew that he was not hers to control.