Chapter II: The Riders and the Raid (4)Mature

Andrel's plans to play outside were quickly made obselete that morning, as like a great wave, the blizzard came again. It swept over the Northern Mountains, turning the distant peaks into grey blurs, covering everything in a torrent of ice and snow. Bootabin, as usual, was affected worse, deep in the valleys. A stroll to the grocery across the road became a knee-deep trek, and from the gates of the Wilthric estate, the visible stupid, brave citizens outside seemed to be sinking, struggling to hold their mufflers and scarves to their bodies in the vigorous winds.

As they always did, they soon learnt that it was best to stay inside, watching and hoping that the snow would settle in a couple of hours. It only seemed to get worse. By mid-morning, Will could barely make out where the town was from the second floor window. Black slate roofs were just visible like debris in a flood, and he wished that it could have been abated until he left, or at least a week.

Confined in the warmth of the lodge, listening to the occasional, worrying creaks of boards, the fireplaces and candles were lit everywhere, light ebbing from every corner like the core of a hearth. Will sat, still in his pyjamas, on the sofa in the living room, listening to the pop and crackle of firewood beside him. Persephone and her mother toasted bread on the fire, often leaving it charred, giggling as they blew on the cubes to stop them smoking. Arlamus led on the carpet, a pillow under his elbows as he read another large book, batting his legs in the air. Andrel was at the bureau in the corner, breaking the content silence by slamming his head onto the desk and groaning. He looked up and said, rubbing his head,

'I'm bored. Give me something to do.'

'Homework,' said Arlamus, pushing his glasses up his nose.

Andrel looked at his brother mockingly. 'I'm bored, not desperate.'

Mrs Wilthric looked up, making a thoughtful 'oh' sound. 'Did you see the package that came for you yesterday? I left it in the hallway.' She lifted Persephone off of her lap and lef the room. She returned holding a brown paper package tied with black ribbon, the size of a shoebox. Will guessed what it was - a present for Andrel and Arlamus' birthday in a couple of weeks.

'Who's it from?' asked Andrel, his voice rising with excitement.

Mrs. Wilthric checked the tag and said, rather plainly, 'your father.'

Like a storm creeping overhead, Andrel's features darkened furiously. 'Throw it away, I don't want it. Get it away.' He stared at the package in his mother's hands, and Will expected it to catch fire.

'Andrel -,' Mrs. Wilthric began, her tone placative.

'I said no!' he shouted, taking back everybody in the room. 'I don't want anything that bastard ever touched anywhere near me!'

His mother's eyes widened. 'Andrel, your language is -,'

'You're thinking it too!' he yelled, standing up and squeezing his fists. 'Of all people, you should hate him! You should want to kill him, you should wish a one-way trip to Helheim for him! Why are you getting angry at me for saying what you're too stupid to?'

Arlamus tried to relieve the tension. 'Mother, is there one for me?' Andrel span around to his twin, wishing every ill on him in that split second.

'Shut up! Just shut up! Did you suddenly forget all those years? Is this how you repay me for what I did? You're an idiot, I hate you more than him! I wish you had gone with him!'

'Andrel...' his mother gasped, near tears with shock, her jaw trembling. 'Apologise to your brother...please.'

Andrel did not such thing. He hurried from the room, pushing his feet clumsily into his winter boots in the hallway. 'I won't apologise for what everybody knows is true! You said it yourself, bruises burn through more than skin. You're trying to bring him back, as if you want to repeat it all again!' He shrugged his coat on, and Mrs. Wilthric ran into the hallway after him, followed by Arlamus, Will, and Persephone, who was whimpering from all the shouting.

'Of course not, I would never -,' she cried hysterically, pressing her fingers into the package edges.

'Prove it!' Andrel exclaimed, pointing at the package, then to the hearth in the dining room. 'Burn it. Throw it in the fire right now.' Mrs. Wilthric battled within herself, her eyes twitching back and forth from her son, the package, the hearth. She closed her eyes, releasing her tears, and shook her head.

'I can't. I...I just can't.'

Seph walked forward, balling her little fists in Andrel's coat, crying at his side, whispering for him to stop shouting. Her brother's hand trembled over her head, hesitating to cuddle her, afraid of his own rage, and of what he remembered whenever he looked into her bright, little eyes.

He span around, separating himself from her, and walked through the front door, slamming it shut as the blizzard encased him. 'Andrel!' his mother screamed futilely. 'There's a blizzard! You'll freeze! Andrel!'

But he was already gone, and Will stood in the corner as he felt the family's peace drift away in the white along with his best friend.

The End

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