Emma – Belgium
Lars – Netherlands
Tino – Finland
Berwald – Sweden
Peter – Sealand
Alfred – ChibiAmerica
Matthew – ChibiCanada
Greta Eisenberg – OC
Anya – Fem! Russia
Mayor Gruber – OC
Roderich Edelstein Sr & Jr – Austria
King Wolfgang – Germania
Arthur – England
Lukas – Norway
Vladimir – Romania
Aleksander – Bulgaria
Chapter 1 : The Woods
Two years before Sleeping Beauty …...
Sounds of pursuit followed Emma and Lars as they ran through the night-covered forest, the trees hiding the full moon above. Lars was holding Emma's hand as he ran to keep her by his side. What was chasing them was catching up, Lars could tell. The sound of crashing through the trees behind them was getting closer and it encouraged Lars and Emma to run faster.
"You smell like waffles, little girl," a voice called. It was a harsh hiss so it was impossible to tell if it was male or female. "I wonder! Will you taste like waffles?"
Lars heard Emma give a little scream at the threat as they crashed through shrubs, making for the edge of the forest. When thirteen year-old Lars woke up this morning in the orphanage, he never expected to be running through the forest with his eleven-year old sister, escaping from … what?
Not able to sleep during the full moon, Lars had seen the orphanage manageress taking Emma from the building at night and followed them. The woman had taken Emma to the middle of the woods and left her there, saying someone had adopted her and she was to wait. Then the woman left, ignoring Emma's protests that she did not want to be separated from her brother.
After the woman left, Lars went to his sister and they decided to run away, rather than be separated. But as they made their way through the forest, they began to get the feeling that they were being followed. At first, they continued to walk, eyes darting left and right among the trees but, as the feeling got worse, they finally began running. And that was when they began hearing the sounds of pursuit.
They were within sight of the edge of the forest when Emma cried out as she felt something grab the back of her dress and begin to pull her back. Lars held on to her hand, grabbed the other one and began pulling her away. All he could see was a figure in a black cloak and a pale hand gripped the back of his sister's clothing. Lars could feel Emma being pulled back away from him and, with a burst of energy, he gave a massive pull and Emma was pulled free. He shoved her ahead of him.
"RUN!" he ordered. Emma ran and Lars followed her. But then he felt his collar being grabbed and he was pulled backwards by something strong.
"Oh dear," the voice hissed. "The sweet little girl's gone but you'll do, instead." Lars tried to pull away but the creature's grip was too strong.
"AaaaaaaAAAAAAHHHHHHH!" The war cry echoed around the woods as Emma came running from the side with a large stick and she brought it down on the arm of the offending hand. The creature shrieked and let go of Lars's collar. Emma dropped the stick and the two of them ran for their lives.
They burst out of the forest into the moon-lit, open fields and kept running. They wanted to put some distance between them and the woods as they bolted over the land and made it to the road.
And ran straight into a band of trolls.
"They've refused us again!" A small, blonde, violet-eyed man said to his tall, blonde, blue-eyed husband.
Tino was upset and Berwald hated to see that. He and his 'wife' had been trying to adopt a little boy from the orphanage, a boy called Peter Sealand, originally from the United Kingdom (the name given to the combined kingdoms of Britannia, Caledonia, Cymru and Eire). Peter's parents had died during an epidemic and he had been in the orphanage ever since.
Berwald and Tino wanted a child of their own so badly but their attempts to adopt Peter were being thwarted at every turn. And to make matters worse, Peter had told them of strange goings-on in the orphanage.
"Did th'y give a reason?" Berwald asked. It would never show on the stern-looking Swede's face but he was worried. Worried about Tino, about Peter, in fact worried about all the children at the orphanage, especially Peter's two friends, Alfred and Matthew Williams. They had lost their parents in the same epidemic as Peter.
"They say our financial position is too tenuous to risk putting a child with us," Tino replied, angry at such a blatant untruth. Berwald was the only carpenter in Holzstadt and he also served the surrounding villages. He was very good at what he did and his services were sought after. This gave them an income that, while far from super-wealthy, meant they could afford to take care of a child comfortably.
Then there were the stories that Peter told them about the orphanage.
Children apparently disappeared from the orphanage every month. The others were told that these children had been adopted but no one apart from Berwald and Tino had ever come to see the children and the ones who vanished disappeared over-night. Berwald did not like what was happening and made a decision. He put down the chisel he had been using to work a piece of wood with, wiped his hands and left his workshop. He went into their study and picked up a paper and quill.
"What are you doing?" His Finnish 'wife' asked.
"Wr'ting a l'tter," he replied.
"Where's Lars and Emma?" Peter asked as he walked into the room he shared with the six-year old Williams Twins. Peter was a year younger than his two friends. Alfred had sun-kissed hair with a cowlick that stuck up at the front, sky-blue eyes and a dazzling smile. Matthew was also blonde but it was a slightly different shade to his twin, of which a strand stuck out and curled in the centre, and his eyes were violet. He was quieter than Alfred who was the more boisterous of the two. Matthew sat on his bed with his white teddy bear while Alfred sat at a table, drawing pictures of knights rescuing damsels-in-distress but he looked up at Peter's question.
"I don't know," he replied, looking at the younger boy, another blonde with blue eyes and big eyebrows. Alfred took it upon his six-year old shoulders to look out for his brother and the younger boy.
"The moon was big last night," Matthew said, quietly while hugging his bear. Peter and Alfred looked at each other. In the last eight months, the children had learnt to fear the full moon because that was when their fellow orphans seemed to be 'adopted' but this was different. Never before had two gone missing but they were brother and sister so perhaps they had been adopted together but why did they never see these prospective parents? And why did they get 'adopted' overnight?
"What's happening, Alfred?" Peter whispered. Alfred got up and hugged the young boy.
"Everything's okay, Petey," Alfred replied, trying to convince himself as much as Peter. Matthew was not convinced at all. None of the children were. There was an edge of fear over all the children in the orphanage and it hung in the air like a poisonous mist. It was not like they were mistreated or starved, in fact they were well-fed and treated well, even the warders were nice but some intangible threat could be felt by every child in the building.
Alfred pulled Peter with him over to Matthew and sat on his bed, hugging the other two boys.
"We stick together," he said. "We don't go without the others. Pinky swear!" Alfred held out one little finger to Matthew and the other to Peter. They hooked theirs into his and made their vow.
Night had fallen, all the children had been put to bed and Fraulein Greta Eisenberg was in her office, trying to relax, despite the disappearance of Lars Andersson. She could not shake the feeling that it had something to do with his sister, Emma, who Greta had taken to the woods the night before. She had someone out looking for the boy but he still had not been found.
She was sipping her glass of mulled wine when she felt the atmosphere turn cold. She only felt that in the presence of one being and she slowly turned to face the dark-cloaked figure in the corner of her office. The figure pushed back the hood of it's cloak to reveal a beautiful woman with pale skin, ice-blonde hair and eyes of lavender with a cold look in them. Greta shrank back a little, the woman exuded danger.
"Your offering escaped!" she said, her voice as sweet and as cold as ice-cream but the kind that gave you brain-freeze. "One of your orphans helped her, a boy!"
Greta cursed under her breath. That explains the Andersson boy's disappearance. He must have spotted her leaving with Emma, followed them and rescued his sister. Which left her with a huge problem.
And a very unhappy, Dark Fae!
"I can give you another offering," she said, desperately. "There's a five-year old boy who ….. "
"The full moon is done," Anya replied. "I cannot accept an offering now. I managed for this full moon though." Greta went still.
"Who?" she asked.
"Does it matter?" the Fae smiled, creepily. Greta shuddered.
"I swear I didn't know the boy was following," Greta stated. "It was the girl's brother. He's protective of her."
"It matters little," Anya said, dismissively. "I accept your ignorance of the boy's presence. Had it not been the full moon, they would not have escaped me but next full moon, I demand two offerings and this time, make sure they can't escape." Greta gulped.
"I'll see to it!"
Anya smiled. The next full moon was special and, with two offerings, she would finally be able to do what she wanted to do for the last hundred years.
She would no longer be alone.
The small town of Holzstadt was in a uproar. A four-year old boy had disappeared from his family home and his family were frantic but, as Greta talked to the Town Mayor, they both knew the boy would never be found.
"How could you let those brats escape?" Mayor Gruber hissed. "We now have a grief-stricken family to console. At least if one of those orphans disappears, nobody cares!"
"You think they won't care if they find out what's in the woods," Greta replied. "And exactly what we've been feeding it? Those children may not have parents but if something threatens one child then ….. "
"People will consider it a threat to all," Gruber nodded. "Then we just have to make sure there's no threat. Remember! If that Fae doesn't get what she wants, she won't just steal our children! She'll destroy our town so keep those parent-less brats under control and don't let any of them escape again!"
"What about the carpenter and his partner?" Greta asked. "They want the Sealand boy!"
"Keep saying no!" he replied. "And keep the missing children on the books. The more orphans we seemed to have, the more money we get from the crown."
"Unless they find out," Greta replied.
"They never sent anyone to check," he said, smugly. "How can they find out?"
A week later ….
The Grand Duke of Austria, Roderich Edelstein, was busy attending to King Wolfgang's correspondence while his wife played with their three year old son, also called Roderich. It was one of his tasks as the King's aide and his job to filter through the letters, sorting them according to importance, those he deemed necessary for the King to see and that was when he came upon the letter from a carpenter in Holzstadt, a town in the north of Germania.
Many other aides would not even bother to read a letter from such an unimportant person but Roderich was diligent in his work and opened the letter, scanning the contents. After reading the letter in depth, Roderich had the feeling that King Wolfgang should see this.
The Three Fae, Arthur of the Kirkland Clan, Lukas of the Bondevik tribe and Vladimir of the Drakulya line, followed by Bulgarian dragon-shifter, Aleksander of the Drackon (meaning dragon), were led into the throne room to answer the summons sent by King Wolfgang. They lined up before the King and bowed.
"Your Majesty," they greeted.
"Thank you for coming, Your Excellencies," Wolfgang replied. "Roderich, please show them the letter." The Grand Duke came forward and handed the paper to Arthur. Lukas, Vladimir and Aleksander crowded in to see the contents.
After perusing the words, Arthur looked up at Wolfgang.
"Forgive me, Your Majesty," he said. "We'll be happy to investigate this but why not send one of your own officials?"
"Because I've heard things from the Kingdom of Denmark," Wolfgang replied. "Similar incidents that were traced to something that devours children during the full moon. Their sorcerers began hunting it down but it disappeared. They're still trying to find it."
"And you think it might have escaped to this town?" Lukas replied. Wolfgang nodded.
"We have a border with Denmark," he replied. "So it's possible. I'm not saying that's what's happened but just in case …. "
"We understand, Your Majesty," Vladimir replied. "If it is something non-human, an official might be helpless against it." The Three Fae and the dragon-shifter looked at each other and nodded.
"We'll go immediately," Arthur promised. "If something is snatching children, we'll stop it."
"I would also like you to investigate the orphanage too," Wolfgang replied. "It's seems that, according to the Grand Duke's findings, despite these apparent disappearances, the list of orphans from this place remains constant. Not to mention that the orphanage seems to be blocking adoptions. My gut feeling is something's going on."
"We'll do all we can, Your Majesty," Aleksander said as the Three Fae and the dragon bowed and, after being given a letter, demanding co-operation from any concerned parties in the investigation, signed by the King, they left the throne room to begin their journey to Holzstadt.