Hey everyone, this is my new fanfiction based from the novel The Child Thief by Brom. This will be a multi-chapter fic.
Much thanks to elfenwindakachrno, my beta, whom I bounce ideas around with and who helps me decide where this wild train is going. This chapter is also dedicated to elfenwindakachrno.
Nothing owned or gained.
The knock at the door echoed in the silence of the fort, the sound reverberating off of walls made of thick and twisting roots.
The only other sound in the room as Nick crossed to the round door was the soft snores of some of the other children. It was his turn that night to keep watch as the others slept. It had been quiet that night as he made his way periodically around the cages where his clan slept, even the pixies were behaving.
The bolt was thick but weighed almost nothing to him as he slid it back and opened the door. Standing in the entrance, framed by the grey expanse of the outside stood the leader of the Devils, Peter.
When Nick had first come to Avalon Peter had been taller than him, but not by much, when the magic had been wavering in Nick, though, he'd grown a full five inches. Peter still looked like he did back then, and probably would for the rest of his existence. Pointy ears, freckles, and tussled red hair, with his hand-stitched leather pants with the attached pointy-toed boots and tailed-tuxedo jacket. Peter was the perfect example of what children could become if they didn't have good homes. All the Devils were.
The familiar grin was plastered over Peter's face, the one that spoke of mischief and a world of no rules. But Nick had known Peter long enough to see things behind it as well. Regret, guilt, and a heart-wrenching tiredness that didn't belong to someone with a face as young as the Child Thief's.
"I bring fresh blood." He grinned.
Nick raised an eyebrow at the other's seemingly never-ending perkiness and saw movement behind his friend. "I can see that."
Peter breezed by him with more of a bounce in his strep than usual, and when he saw what the red-head had brought with him, Nick couldn't help but feel his spirits lift the slightest bit as well.
Three children huddled together under his scrutiny.
"Well?" He asked them. They stared back with looks of familiar fear of those who'd just gone through the Mist. "Come in already."
They all stared at him in turn as they scuttled past and he didn't hold it against them. From wherever they had come from, he probably looked as scary as a barghest. He was taller than the door and had to hunch over to even be at eye level with the entrance. His hair fell in choppy layers down his back, but didn't hide his bright gold eyes, looking like a cat's reflected in the light and a ghost pale face. He had the same stitched leather pants with the thick belt around his ribs and pointy boots sewn on as the other Devils, and a thread-bare army jacket that was two sizes too big. His jacket was open at the front to reveal his scarred and leanly muscled chest with the sleeves rolled up to his shoulders. His tattoos were bright turquoise, a colour that had taken a long time to make, and were of claw tribal designs that decorated the round of his shoulder and upper arms. It probably didn't help that his sword was hung at his hip, a knife obvious in his boot, and a spear in hand.
None of the children looked older than thirteen, which was both a good and bad thing, they had less of a chance of the magic wavering, but more of a chance of getting themselves killed.
"Their names are Ribbons and Koli," Peter tossed over his shoulder as he made his way to the back of the fort where the sleeping cages were. "Byrnie is the short one."
"Don't you dare, Peter." Nick said solemnly, never moving from his place. "Ricco's having nightmares."
The older boy jerked their gazes to meet and then nodded with his lips pressed together. "I'm going to go out again."
Nick knew what that meant and grabbed his arm, trying to lead Peter over to the table by the cooking pot. He would be going back through the Mist to find more children without any rest; he was going to run himself ragged.
Peter pulled away with a small smile and let his hand drag along Nick's arm as he pulled away and went out the door.
The tall boy frowned but didn't go after the other, knowing nothing could change Peter's mind, and turned his attention back to the New Blood.
On inspection, he realized Byrnie really was the shortest one; he looked no older than ten. His hair was black and wavy, and his eyes were large compared to his face, giving him a scrawny look. A silvery scar of three jagged lines arched over his brow and disappeared into his hair-line. His green-plaid shirt was almost falling off his shoulders.
Ribbons was the only girl of the three with a round face and red cheeks, she was taller than Byrnie, and over twice his width. Her blond hair was matted in endless knots and her brown eyes were watery and full of guck. She sniffed and rubbed the snot away from her nose and onto her stained white t-shirt.
Koli patted her shoulder hesitantly, and as he did Nick saw a hand-full of old scar needle marks lining his arm. His black hair was spiky in all directions, and his eyes were an odd lavender colour. He had two silver hoops in his right eye-brow and a silver stud in his nose. He was easily the oldest, and Nick thought that he might actually survive for a while around the Devils.
He made his way over to the cauldron the food was made in and lifted away the lid that kept the pixies out, an invention courtesy of their resident inventor, Leo. A lot had changed in the Fort thanks to Leo from Nick remembered it being when he first arrived.
He set down four bowls and filled them with the thick gruel the Devil's ate and three spoons for the newcomers. It'd been years since Nick had used a spoon. He was now far more comfortable using his hands when eating, but he knew it was a slow thing to accept to do for most, and so he saved the kids the trouble of asking. The soup had the spicy aroma to tempt a hungry child and the nutrients to keep them strong in Avalon.
When the boys continued to stand there with Ribbons, their grumbling stomachs audible, Nick stared at them before motioning them forward.
"Sit." He said. "Eat up and we'll talk."
Byrnie was the first to move, almost tripping over himself to get to the table, and scooping the food into his mouth desperately. Hesitantly Koli led Ribbons to the long table and, they too, sat down. Suddenly Byrnie gagged and clutched at his throat, and Nick leaned over with ease and cleared the boy's throat with a sound smack to his back. The small boy coughed and spluttered and nodded his thanks, his face red with embarrassment.
When the three children were all eating Nick took his first handful and started to eat as well.
It was silent as they ate, the sounds of softly beating fairy wings were the only other noise in the quiet base.
The two youngest children jumped when Koli shoved his bowl away across the table, the food splashing out onto the wood.
"Who the hell are you?" The spiky haired boy snarled. "What the fuck were those things in the mist? Where are we?"
The Devil quirked his eyebrow and stared at the young male before him and swallowed the soup in his mouth thoughtfully.
"What year is it?" Nick asked.
"What does that have to do with it?"
"Time is different here." Nick sighed softly. "Answer my question and I'll answer yours."
They held each other's gaze for a moment, neither willing to back down, until Koli seemed to deflate and turned his eyes away.
"It's 2024." The boy said.
Nick nodded to himself and pushed his food away. Fifteen years. He'd been with the Devil's for fifteen years. His mind briefly flashed back to his mother, and he wondered what had happened to her, if she was still alive, if she even cared that he was gone. But the thought drifted away as fast as blood in water, Avalon seemed to have a numbing effect on things like that.
"My name is Nick." He told the others after a moment. "I guess you could say that while Peter's away I'm in charge. I oversee training, chores, patrols, food, everything." Nick shifted to lean further back on the bench. "You know what you saw in the mist, and no matter how crazy you think it was, how impossible, it was real. You're in Avalon now and there's no going back, so either keep up or you'll die."
The air was so thick with tension after his little spiel; it could have been cut with a blade.
"How could you say that?" Ribbons whispered, her eyes wide.
"I don't believe in coddling the new bloods, they pass through quick if they treat this like it's all fun and games." It was cruel, and he knew they wanted comfort, because no matter how badass they thought they were, they were still just kids who were scared out of their minds. Nick frowned. "Look, I'm sorry, but I think it's time you all got to sleep. I'll show you where you can stay, and we'll continue this in the morning."