Weightless is how I would answer if anyone were to ask me how I felt right now, running and tossing my body from one tree limb to the next. Carefully placing each foot before continuing again. I could hear my brother’s loud steps all around me along with a loud cracking noise and Eric blurting out a cuss word that would get us all in trouble if mom had heard it. I paused for a split second to laugh until a familiar cracking sound came from below me instead.
“Shit.” I muttered, quickly flinging myself to a branch within arm’s reach.
The branch I was on earlier crashed to the forest floor, sending a short-lived shock wave through the ground. I proceeded on my original path, feeling the cool wind against my face. I stopped short of throwing myself onto a less than wrist thick branch. It would most likely break under my weight. My lungs grabbed at large intakes of air and my heart worked to pursue its purpose of blood flow. In the following seconds I felt the branch tighten with a new presence of weight.
My knees bent in an attack like position before turning around and grabbing their wrist, pulling them forward. My so-called assailant turned out to be my twin brother, Ryan. I smiled and calmly let go of his wrist.
“You need to stop doing that or I’m going to end up kicking your ass,”
“Noted,” He moved to my side. “So, do you have a good reason for leaving me behind?”
“If you want the honest answer, you’re kind of slow. If you want the sugar-coated answer, then I accidentally left you behind and thought you were by my side the entire time.”
“I’ll take the sugar coated answer,”
“Of course you would,”
“What can I say, I prefer anything but the truth,”
“Moving on, where are the others?”
“As if I would know, I lost sight of them at the beginning of the race,”
“Right, the race.”
“You forgot about the race, didn’t you?”
“Yup,” I gently popped the P.
“Where has your mind been lately? You’ve been forgetting things constantly and not to mention staring off into space all the time.”
“It’s nothing, I’m fine.”
“Bullshit.” A familiar voice sounded off from beside me. Tony swayed on a branch to my right.
His eyebrow was slightly cocked as per usual.
“You’re one to talk, everything you say is bullshit.” I called him out.
“That’s why I’m so good a spotting it,” He defended himself. I snorted at both Ryan and Tony, irritated with their idiocy.
“As I said before, I’m fine you imbeciles.”
“Alright, easy there. We’re just looking out for our little sister.”
“Well your little sister is doing okay. Where are the others?”
“Right behind you.” Yet another familiar voice spoke only this time, they had snark.
I spun around coming face to face with Crime standing on another close branch, leaning his weight against the thick trunk. The rest of my brothers stood on other nearby branches that surrounded the tree that the four of us were on.
“I swear that if one more person sneaks up on me, I’m going to kill them, and no one will ever find the body.” I threatened.
“June, you need to change up your threats because that one is getting old. You need something new like if you sneak up on me again, I’ll hang you up by your thumbs and have you torn apart by Elkikes,” Tony suggested.
“What is it with you two and murder?” Elliot questioned in a concerned tone.
While Tony advocated on why murder was a good threat, I turned my focus on the view from the treetops. Hills sank down and then rolled back up to create dense valleys. The poles of the castle, our home, pierced the sky. They looked like they could reach the gods home. Sunlight casted deep shadows over the area. I took closer looks at the position and shape of the shadows before switching my sight to the watch on my wrist. I’m sure the color in my face turned from dark latte colored to the shade of buttermilk when I saw the time.
Once again, I flipped back around to see my brothers continuing their pointless conversation.
“Uh, guys. We have a problem.” I informed them.
“Are you going to tell us what it is or are you going to have us guess? Tony asked with the same level of snark as Crime.
“Well if you especially were to try and guess, it would take longer,” I made eye contact with the others, ignoring Tony entirely.
“Remember how mom told us to be home at a certain time for that addressing thing? Well we may or may not be almost ten minutes late already and by the time we get back, we will be twenty minutes late.”
“Mother-!” Crime didn’t finish that sentence due to Eric giving him a warning look.
“See! This is why we should’ve brought Dominic along. He would have been constantly checking the time and would’ve had us back a few minutes early.” Ryan pointed out.
“Come on, Ryan, you know he wouldn’t have wanted to come. Maybe he’s turned into a Raymond and thinks he’s too good to hang out with his younger siblings.”
That comment from Mickey earned daring glances from all of us however I was the first of them to speak.
“Learn to shut it, Mickey. You know this just isn’t his thing anymore plus that’s not the matter at hand. Our real concern is going to be mom’s reaction to out late arrival if we don’t book it back home.” I reminded.
The others finally seemed to understand the somewhat seriousness of the situation. None of us wanted to deal with moms scolding. With a short-shared nod, we began to make our way back to the castle. Tree branches swayed under our weight as we quickly moved through the forest, while carefully avoiding a collision with each other. Higher and thinner branches came closer to whipping us on multiple, separate occasions. Annoyed animals living in the trees chirped at us in anger. After a few minutes of jumping through the dense forest, the ending came into clear view.
Past the tree line, people were continuing their average day, consisting of selling items, taking care of children, calmly patrolling the streets, and other common day activities. Numerous were making their way towards the main area of the castle.
“I think this is it. Mom may actually kill us and hide our bodies this time. She’s the queen, she can make it happen.” James said.
“Calm down, dude. We’re not that late. I think we can still sneak in. We just have to avoid the mobs of people” Alex assured him in an uncertain tone.
He gave the rest of us glances, looking for agreement. We gave him a common supportive nod but kept our true feelings and thoughts about the situation to ourselves.
Eric was the first to jump from the tree line with the rest of us following. Rain from a day ago had made the ground soft enough to ease our impact. We all waited a single second prior to running out at top speed. It was Elliot’s smart idea to take hidden alleys and half hidden side roads to help us avoid people. Taking these passages took a little longer for us to get to the castle but it avoided us from getting spotted. Being spotted wasn’t a huge problem on its own although in this situation, the citizens might wonder why we’re running around with less than an hour before our parents address the kingdom.
The castle loomed over us, blocking the sun from an easy view. We had taken the back way and arrived behind the castle where the guards still stood. They let us past and some even gave us a look of warning. Which could mean that mom is mad we’re not here or the clocks running down and she’s going to find out soon. With the back entrance open and dozens of different pathways to take, we bolted down one.
The castle staff gave us looks or a slight shake of the head as we moved through the hallways at a quick pace. Elliot and Eric checked around corners and listened in for voices as they lead the rest of us through the unmoving castle.
“Okay, all we have to do is head up those wraparound stairs to get to the other wing. Once we’re there, we get down the other set of stairs and change in our rooms all while avoiding mom and Peter.” John laid out the short plan.
Our steps creaked through the upstairs, past paintings and tapestries. The tapestries were the type that would display the family names that either joined the royal family or the main one that was already here. I’ve read over them several times for no reason. I can recall the family names by date and remember the family crest of each one. Yet there was some reason to why I memorized them. Dominic wanted to memorize them all just for the knowledge and little ten-year-old me didn’t want him to do it alone. So, when he came up here, I joined him and studied each one as carefully as he did. At that time, mom and Peter were proud and happy with us for learning the names of the past. It was odd that I was thinking about that now in our situation but I couldn’t help it.
Ryan interrupted my thoughts by moving to my side in a timely fashion.
“What’s your plan for getting past mom and Peter if they’re down there? I’m asking because the others don’t have one.”
“I’m like the others, I don’t have one.”
“What?” Ryan asked, slightly too loud.
A small, quiet roar shushed him before we could. Down the hall to our right was our own pet Elkike running towards us. His spots sprayed across his body and his antlers moved with his head.
“Shhh, Trist. Mom and Peter can’t know we’re up here.” Max shushed.
Trist seemed to understand and didn’t roar again. Instead he simple trotted next to us as we continued to move.
“Back to our conversation before we were interrupted,” Ryan paused to gesture towards Trist and scratch behind his soft ears.
“Why don’t you have a plan again?”
“Why am I supposed to have a plan? We only just figured out that we’re late a moment ago in those woods. How am I going to come up with a plan in such a short amount of time?”
“I don’t know. You usually always have one if were in a situation. Kind of like Dominic would have one.”
“Well I don’t have one so just deal with it, okay?”
Trist must’ve sensed the tension between Ryan and I which caused him to scurry to the back of the group.
“This just proves why we should’ve had Dominic come along with us. Even if he didn’t want to come, he would’ve come anyway and then he’d be able to get us out of this mess or would’ve helped us avoid it entirely.”
“We get it,” I snapped in an angry whisper. “We’re idiots and we should’ve brought Dominic along, but we didn’t. Now were stuck in this mess without him. So, I guess that means we’re screwed.”
“Enough, both of you. This isn’t helping us and it sure as hell isn’t helping either of you to come up with a plan. Right now, our goal is to get to our rooms and change. Even if mom knows were late, we’ll get scolded a lot less if we’re ready by the time we need to be.” Elliot scolded us like mom would.
Ryan’s face took on a look of embarrassment. In truth no on liked being called out by your brother in front of the rest of your family.
My face turned hot like Ryan’s probably did however I untucked my hair behind my ears and moved it closer to my face, hiding any possible sign of blush. We kept going on our way, moving slightly faster than a speed walk. Conversation between us had stopped entirely. Then again at this moment there was nothing to really talk about. The important things were already said, leaving nothing left to talk about. The stairs came into view and no one stood below them. This was our perfect chance to sneak past and get ready, so mom doesn’t get too angry with us. We started our way down the steps, being cautious not to make a sound that would trigger attention.
Unfortunately, Trist hurried down the stairs with us, getting in between the legs of Crime. Unknown to Trist, he was going to be the cause of us getting caught. Crime let out a small gasp in surprise in advance to him crashing into the back of the group. Which set of a chain reaction like a line of dominos. All of us crashed down at the bottom of the steps. I pulled myself out from underneath the large pile, groaning from the before weight of all my brothers on top of me. With a short look up, I realized mom, our stepdad, Peter and Dominic had appeared and were standing over us. Trist had somehow escaped the stairs a second before we had crashed down and was now trying to bound himself up Dominic’s leg. Dominic stroked Trist’s head and looked over at us with concern in his eyes. I couldn’t tell if his concern was for us all falling down the stairs or for what mom might do to us. In all honestly it could’ve been both.
A smile of uneasiness and pain took its mark across my face.
“Hey guys, what’s up.”
The boys looked up and noticed who was standing over us. The color drained from their faces like mine did in the forest. We all collectively knew one thing, we were in a whole lot of trouble.
Elkike(s): A wolf type creature with elk horns and white fur commonly found throughout Javehtenlean and the Avarekin islands. Males normally have spots while females have stripes however some can be found with both. While Elkikes are normally feral, they can be domesticated into homes.