Someone cried suddenly in the doorway, startling the father and son.
Claude's eyes darted to the door to see Arbeit standing there, staring at the money in his little brother's hand, eyes bloodshot.
Morssen frowned as a pungent whiff of alcohol assaulted his nose.
"Where were you? You didn't come home last night, and now you reek of booze?" Morssen's voice raised as he spoke.
"I... I didn't go anywhere... I was just... just playing cards with some friends... and... and drank some alcohol..." Arbeit said, convulsing in a suppressed vomit as he stumbled to the table, "That's not important... now... Why are you giving… him... so much money... You... you've never given me so much..."
Arbeit stretched his hand out for the money, but Claude slapped it away.
"This isn't for me. It's to pay back money I borrowed from my friends to pay for an antique book I bought for mother."
"You... you're lying!--" Arbeit half lost his grip on the table and nearly fell, but his other hand darted to the table fast enough to stabilise him. "--What... what piece of crap antique... book... when did antique books suddenly… become so… common... you... lying to me are you..."
Arbeit pointed at Morssen. His stupor made it almost impossible for him to gauge distance, so his finger very nearly slammed into his father's eye.
"You... you're picking favorites... giving him so... so much money... If I didn't come back... I... I wouldn't even know..."
Morssen, already on the brink, pitched over. No one had ever been this rude or insulting to him, much less any of his children. He rose out of his chair, Claude didn't know if he did it quickly or not, it seemed to be both a violent jump and a glacial growth like that of a mountain at the same time.
"You're drunk. Go wash your face, brush your teeth and clean your mouth -- you stink -- and tidy yourself up. You're Sir Fux's personal secretary, you have to look the part. You cannot lose your composure like that, and you certainly can't stumble around town like a drunkard!"
His drunk son couldn't be bothered with him, however.
He looked at the money still in Claude's hands and his lips started moving again.
"You... you can't give him... my... my money... this is my money... all this... is mine..."
He grabbed his father by his collar. He opened his mouth to say something again, but a bubble of gas decided at that moment to escape his gut, and he belched right into his father's face.
"Let go!" Morssen shouted furiously.
"No... I won't!" Arbeit shouted back just as loudly. Indeed, he was completely overtaken by Dutch courage. "Give me my... money... all this house's money... is... mine..."
Claude didn't see the point in trying to talk to a drunkard. He stepped forward, grabbed his brother's hands and twisted them as he shoved the man away from his father. Arbeit stumbled back several paces before finally stabilising himself.
"Step aside!" Morssen barked as he pushed Claude out of the way.
He half-lunged forward in a single, long stride and his palm connected with his son's cheek. The drunkard spun and collapsed to the ground, his face already swelling.
"Buzz off to your room. Come see me when you're sober tomorrow morning!" he roared, turning around and heading to the stairs. He stopped after two steps, quickly turned around and took the cookbook, and continued on his way.
Claude put the money in his pocket before turning to Arbeit, ready to rebuke him as well, but the sod was out cold.
He knelt beside him just to make sure he wasn't dead, and got a whiff of alcohol in his face. Nope, he was fine, alright. He stood up, gave the bastard a good kick, and turned around. He found his little sister staring at him from the kitchen's doorway. He didn't know how much she'd seen, but he suspected everything after his brother first shouted.
"It's okay, Anna. Arbeit's just drunk and Dad taught him a lesson," he said, quickly moving to her side and stroking her hair.
"You're going to leave him like that?" she asked, peering around his chest at her oldest brother.
"Yup. It's not like I can carry him to his room, or want to for that matter. Who asked him to grow so tall?"
His little sister stared at him with puppy-dog eyes for several long seconds and he sighed, turned around, and dragged his brother by his legs into the room's nearest corner.
"Go to his room and get him a blanket. I don't want him to be sick tomorrow when Dad is really going to scold him and get dad's sympathy."
"What difference does it make to drag him there?"
"Mom won't see him there tomorrow morning. She'll just think he's still sleeping in his room. It's not like I can carry him up the stairs. He can go to his room on his own if he wakes up in the night.--" He glanced into the kitchen over his sister's head. "--You done cleaning up already? Help me put out the candles and shut the doors and windows then. Oh, go get his blanket first. I'll wait for you."
"Okay," Angelina smiled and darted up the stairs obediently.
With the cookbook out of his hands and everything in it read, all Claude's worries were dealt with. He quickly tidied up his desk and got a few things ready for his trip, then went to bed. He slept soundly, only waking up when the bell rang.
A that was a good sleep... He murmured to himself in his mind.
He quickly freshened up and went downstairs for breakfast. He recalled the previous night's excitement as he came down the stairs. He found his brother sitting by the table, sipping tea slowly, his face pale and swollen, the fingers still visible on the bulging skin. He was in his pajamas and it looked like he'd even taken a bath.
Morssen must have just finished lecturing him as he sat meekly, but his eyes burned hatefully as they swept over Claude..
"Come here, Claude," Morssen said in a deep voice, beckoning him closer.
"Good morning. Need me for something?"
"Why did you leave your brother in the dining room?"
Claude shrugged innocently.
"I couldn't move him, and I definitely couldn't carry him up the stairs. You were so angry I didn't want to bother you, so I just left him downstairs. I did put a blanket over him."
Morssen grunted, words failing him. He had forgotten he had been the one to put that palm print on his son's face. He was so angry he'd struck out without thinking, and had stormed off without thinking about getting the young man to his room. He didn't think for one minute that his son even tried to get him up the stairs before deciding to leave him where he was though.
"You did it on purpose. Aren't you usually really strong?" Arbeit chirped.
"You shouldn't start something you can't finish," Claude warned threateningly, "If you weren't drunk you wouldn't have just passed out. Not to mention that you wouldn't have been so brave to try and assault Father and gotten slapped. You must've lost all your money last night during that card game, right? That's why you freaked out when you got home, isn't it? Tell me, how much did you lose, huh?".
"I... I didn't play any cards... I only went drinking a little. Don't spout bullshit," Arbeit shot back guiltily.
"You told us yourself!" retorted.
He knew how much his father hated gamblers and alcoholics, especially since his grandfather had been both.
"I... I was only spouting nonsense 'cause I was drunk. I didn't play cards," Arbeit insisted stubbornly.
"Shut up, both of you!" Morssen barked angrily.
Claude sat down obediently and started eating his breakfast.
"Going fishing this afternoon?" Morssen asked finally.
"Yes. We already paid for the boat. Hopefully I'll make enough money to pay back the debt."
"Alright, I'll let you go. But you have to be careful, okay?"
"Yes, Father. I will."
"As for you, Arbeit. You'll stay home this weekend. Your face has to heal before I'll let you go out again. I can't have you going out looking like that. You'll be the town's laughing stock. Sir Fux should return after the break, so you have to freshen up and work hard. Don't disappoint me again."
"Yes, Father," Arbeit said clearly, yet softly.
Every year on the 26th of the 5th, the eve of Restoration Day, the middle and elementary schools organised celebratory events.
Almost every school did exactly the same thing. The students were gathered and paraded in town. They were taken to Memorial Plaza, where Stellin IX fired the war's first shot. They would offer flowers to his statue, and the headmaster would deliver a speech.
The mayor would then do his own speech and everyone would bow to the kingdom's banner three times before dispersing and going home.
Claude had to go home before he could join his friends to change out of his uniform and into his hunting clothes.
The four friends met up at the pier shortly after lunch.
Old Sunny was docked and waiting for them when they arrived. His boat was about seven metres long and four metres wide at its widest. It was completely filled with gear, leaving only about ten square meters for anything the boys brought along and for they themselves to sit.
It was a very common fishing boat design. They usually carried up to three people and could only go out in calm waters and had to stay close to shore if they went out to sea.
Borkal paid Old Sunny, the old man gave them a few words of blessing and then left.
"Do we have everything?" Eriksson asked as he put down the last luggage.
He was the de facto captain of the boat.
"Wait," Claude said, "Don't you also have a net? Let's take that, too. I told my family I would go fishing, so I can't leave without even bringing a net. We'll drop it somewhere close to the island."