Spring Cleaning and       
            Foolish Dancing

Rhaeen sneezed and then snorted to open her sinuses again. She wiped her nose and flicked some tears from her eyelashes with her fingers.
"Gesuntheit!" her twin sister Rhean shouted from around the house.
"Why do I always have to dust when you know I'm allergic!" Rhaeen shouted back, trying to beat the dust out of her cloth as far from her nostrils as possible.
"Because you hate cleaning out the stables and you sure ain't coming near weeds if you can help it." Stinga called out from the stables.
"Point taken." Rhaeen sighed and sneezed again. "That's it, I'm taking a break."
"We arrived just in time!" A loud voice sounded from the fences near the road leading into town.
"Who's there?" Rhean asked.
"I'm hurt that you don't recognise my voice." The young man called back, "It's Quent."
"Quent, I'd consider getting a new girlfriend." Rhaeen teased her sister, "I mean, she doesn't even recognise your voice!"
"Who should I ask to the Summer Equinox Feast then?" Quent asked, "You?"
"Don't even dare!" Another voice called out and one of Quent's brothers, Philip, rounded the corner, followed by his twin Phiol and the youngest of the Pioen family, Theo.
"I told you Rhean loves to flirt." Quent winked at his brother.
"I was just teasing Rhaeen." Rhean laughed, running over to her date to the dance.
"What are you doing here?" Stinga asked.
"Well after close inspection we found out that Phiol doesn't have a date for the dance yet." Philip said, shoving his twin forward, "And we finally found out why."
Phiol turned red and tried to take a few steps back. "Eh... It's... not important." He stammered.
Theo, with a mischievous glance in his eyes stepped in front of his brother and looked at Stinga: "Phiol and Stinga, sitting in a tree..."
"What! You said you wouldn't tell!" Stinga suddenly called out.
"I believe our sister is growing up." Rhaeen said mockingly.
"I didn't tell." Phiol defended himself, "Not intentionally anyway."
"You should know Phiol talks in his sleep." Philip said with a broad smile on his face, "I will never look at you with the same eyes again, Stinga." 
Stinga, close to making sure Philip would have no eyes left to see her with, was restrained from doing harm by her apparent boyfriend.
"Dad is going to like this..." Rhean mused, "I mean, all of us falling for his best friend's boys."
"It's not like we have much choice." Rhaeen said.
"Hey!" Theo called out.
"You'll find a girl to your liking as well dear." Rhean said, "Just not one of the Viooltje family."
"People might think we did it on purpose." Quent winked.
"Although, we do still have a few nieces half a world away. Maybe they're worth a visit." Stinga winked.
"I think we should just invite Theo to come along to the dance."
"Without a date?" Stinga asked.
"We could take turns dancing with him." Rhean continued.
"That is, if our dates approve." Rhaeen added quickly.
Theo suddenly looked up and smiled. "You would do that for me?"
Rhean looked at her sisters warningly, but neither of them needed her cue to be easy on the boy. Stinga knew what it felt like to be left out as youngest of her family, and being the sister of twins, even when they were so different as Rhean and Rhaeen. And Rhaeen, well, Rhaeen was already thinking up smart and sizzly replies to anyone who dared comment on her dancing with a boy barely reaching to her shoulders.
Theo looked up at his brothers, his light brown eyes reflecting hope. Philip and Phiol were already nodding and Quent wanted to allow his little brother to come too, but it really wasn't his call.
"We'll ask Mom." He said, referring to the absolute ruler of Pioen house. Nothing could be passed without consulting her, and even though her three oldest sons were considered mature, they still knew that bypassing their mother was something that could lead to very undesirable consequences.
"Can we go ask her now?" Theo asked impatiently.
"Patience is a virtue." Quent remarked.
Rhean smiled, "You better go anyway, before we make you do our chores."
"Speaking of chores, aren't we supposed to clean out the hay-attic?" Philip asked.
"If Mom catches us..." Phiol started.
"She'll have our heads stuck on poles along side the road." Philip suggested.
"She wouldn't go that far." Quent said with a slightly worried look on his face, "but she would make sure there would be no dates for several months."
"Aiee." Phiol smiled, "Let's return before she finds out."
"Tell her we said hi!" Rhaeen called after the running young men.
"Do you believe anything they say?" Rhean asked.
"Not a chance," Stinga laughed, "just as allergic to dust as Rhaeen is."
"Hey!" Rhaeen called out, launching for her sister, her broom extended in front of her, "Come here!"
Stinga could only barely avoid an unpleasant encounter with her sister's broom and dashed toward the garden.
"Keep out of the perches!" Rhean called out in terror, "I just finished raking them!"
"Can't sis!" Stinga called back and jumped through a few of the flowerbeds.
"Oh no." Rhean said, slapping her hand to her forehead and covering her eyes to not see the destruction her sisters were wreaking in the garden. "I'm not going to clean that up." She repeated to herself, "Who am I kidding? No-one else will." She sighed and then picked up her gardening tools again.

"Where is Mom anyway?" Theo asked.
"She went into town." Quent answered, "She won't be back for a few hours, more than time enough to clean out the attic."
"Maybe we should have Phiol do it on his own for keeping secrets from us." Philip suggested.
"Look where that got me." Phiol sighed, his face looking at the ground. He never could keep a secret from his brother. Half and half Phiol suspected Philip of actually asking him questions when he was asleep. 
"If we finish early..." Quent started.
"What then? it will be night and we'll have nowhere to go." Phiol said
"Do I have to remind you that Rhaeen, Rhean and Stinga's parents are out of town?" Philip cried out.
Quent smiled at his brothers, "Exactly... maybe we could have dinner there."
"And try Rhaeen's cooking?" Theo asked, already looking kind of sick.
"I believe Rhean's cooking." Quent said.
"How do you know that?" Philip asked.
"This one I know!" Phiol said, "She told him to come over."
"There is hope for you yet." Philip answered.
"There is, and she said I could bring over some guests, that must mean you."
"You offered, don't complain if she wanted you two to have a candlelight dinner." Phiol said.
"Just because YOUR girlfriend is a hopeless romantic, doesn't mean HIS is too." Theo said emphasizing the two words overenthusiastically.
Phiol wisely shut up after that remark. He had some serious thinking to do, about his brothers, about Stinga. She had started the whole thing with him and had told him she wanted it kept secret. What if she had only wanted a relationship for the excitement. God knew Phiol on his own wasn't very exciting. Maybe he needed to be extra romantic for her to keep interested.
"I'll meet up with you guys later. I have something left to do." Phiol told his brothers and then hastily made his way toward the nearest meadow filled with flowers.
"Where is he going?" Philip asked, "Hey! We got work to do!"
"Later." Phiol gestured back before getting out of earshot.
"I can't believe it." Philip sighed, "Leaving us."
"Come on." Quent said, "You left us many times too, let Phiol have a day of for once as well."
"I still don't like it."
"He didn't say you'd have to like it." Theo remarked.
"Shut up."
Night was falling when Philip, Quent and Theo saw Phiol again, carrying a large bouquet of flowers. He looked rather winded, which probably meant he had done more than his share of mileage to gather the flowers.
"Back?" Philip asked.
"Of course." Phiol said, "I told you guys I'd be back."
"What about work?" Theo asked innocently.
"Did you check the fencing on your hike?" Quent asked.
"Of course I did."
"How much did you cover?"
"I don't know... Everything from here up to the River and then back over the roads."
"Any problems?"
"Nope, though there was an open gate at the river, but no animals were grazing the fields and I closed it."
"Ok, we'll check back there tomorrow and after that we've got a lot less ground to cover."
"Oh!" Philip said, realising what his brother was planning, "Great! Less work for us!"
"Let's go!" Theo said, already heading off toward the Viooltje residence.
The walk was short and uneventful, however the arrival was not. "What are those lights?" Philip asked.
"I think Rhean set her sisters to work on setting the tables while she cooked dinner." Quent smiled, "And from the looks of the candles, Stinga got the upper hand."
Philip almost turned back immediately before he was held back by Phiol, "Don't worry, Rhaeen will have kept you a seat in the darkest corner without a view on the candles."
"Unlike you." Quent added.
"I don't really mind candles." Phiol shrugged.
"Hello!" Theo called out.
"Rhean!" the loud voice of Rhaeen shrieked, "Our guests have arrived!"
"Wait a minute!" the muffled yell of Rhean came back from the kitchen. Smells of freshly baked bread, fried cheese and bacon and baked eggs drifted toward them, along with the sweet odour of pancakes.
"I'm glad we said yes to this dinner." Theo said to no-one in particular, but Rhaeen caught it and was about to make a harsh remark when Philip caught her by the arm and led her away from his brother. After all, his mother would want to know who was responsible for turning her youngest into a crying wreckage and that'd better not be his girlfriend.
"Stinga's idea?" he asked, which was enough to see Rhaeen launch into a tirade about candles and flowers.
"We had to do something with the flowers you and Stinga broke." Rhean said, coming out carrying the bread and eggs, while juggling a dish of raw vegetables and fruit. She was followed by Stinga with the ham, bacon and pancakes. "And we needed lights."
"Oil lamps apparently aren't good anymore." Rhaeen whispered under her breath.
"Calm down." Philip told her, "After all, it is dark." he winked.
"Good point."
Everyone sat down and enjoyed the food and the conversations. Theo taking particular care in depositing honey on his pancakes until they nearly glued his mouth shut when he ate them. 

Two weeks later on a beautiful sunday afternoon, the sun returning to the ground, turning the sky the colours of an Icarian sunset. Stinga looked out toward the road, waiting for the boys to arrive. It was her first time with a date to the S
ummer Equinox Feast. The first time that she was actually permitted to stay on her own after night had fallen. Everyone knew the festival lasted long into the night, with campfires and story-telling, dancing and laughter. 
Rhean entered the room and found her sister saying those words. "I hope you're not going to hurt someone tonight." she said.
"Who am I going to hurt?" she asked.
"Phiol if you keep acting like he's just an excuse to get you to the dance."
"He isn't!" Stinga defended herself.
"Does he know that?"
"Well he has been giving me lots of presents, doesn't that mean he likes me?"
"Yeah, but he also knows you enough to try to turn himself into something he's not."
"He's just Phiol." Stinga said.
"That's not what Phiol wants you to think, sister."
"But that's who he is."
"He's a bit insecure, he always has been, a dreamer more than the charmers his brothers are."
"That's what I like about him."
"Then tell him that before he does something stupid."
"Getting himself drunk and jumping into the river?" Rhaeen suggested.
Rhean gave her sister a dark look and then said, "Nothing like that, just don't hurt him, k?"
"I won't." Stinga said, turning to the window again, muttering something the others couldn't understand before standing up and yelling: "They're coming!"
It took the boys 5 minutes to get to the Viooltje house, only to have to wait another 20 while the girls made last minute adjustments to their good clothes. They sat down in the kitchen, all four of them trying to pass time without getting up to urge the girls to get done faster because each one of them knew that would just prolong the ordeal.
"Why do you think they do that?" Theo asked.
"Do what?" Phiol said while he was uninterestingly watching how his twin juggled a spoon on the tip of his nose.
"Know that we're coming and still not be ready."
"It's to let us know who's boss." Philip said in utter concentration to keep the tip of the spoon in balance.
"Yeah, plus they need to make sure that other girls see who came with who. A load of nonsense, but if it keeps them happy..." Quent added.
"Keeps who happy?" Rhean asked, entering the room.
"No-one in particular... they... You know." stammered Theo.
Rhean gave the youngest Pioen a weird look, but then shrugged and walked toward Quent. 
"Are you ready?"
"I am, but what about the dates of these other lonely guys?" he asked pointing at Phiol, Philip and Theo.
"They'll be down soon." Rhean smiled, "They always were slow."
Theo opened his mouth, but before he could make a remark Phiol placed his hand over Theo's mouth, "That's good to hear." Philip said distracting Rhean.
"We'll be out within minutes."
10 minutes later, when Rhaeen and Stinga still hadn't appeared Philip was about ready to go up there himself and haul them down, dressed or not, matching the colours of his clothes or completely clashing with them. He just didn't care and it became harder with the minute to keep his cool.
"What is taking them?" he asked.
"Nothing anymore." he suddenly heard Rhaeen say from near the doorway.
"A guy could start to wonder.." he said.
"What dear?"
"About the reason why his girl wants to see him break before entering a room."
"I did no such thing." she said smiling politely.
"Women..." Philip muttered under his breath, cursing the day he had laid eyes on Rhaeen.
"Let's go!" Theo said impatiently, his sentiments mirrored by the look on Stinga's face as she took Phiol's arm and put hers through it.
"Yeah, let's go, we're already late."
Outside the sun had almost set and the last light was just enough to see the ground, but the trees in the distance were black and looked more like a wall than a forest and the lights of the festival fires could already be seen in the town square where they were headed. 
Halfway to the town Rhaeen tripped and cursed. "My ankle." she said.
"What did you trip over?" Phiol asked, helping his brother to get her up right.
"A log or something... I don't remember it being here before.
"They looked down and saw what appeared to be the top of a deep brown log laying at the edge of the path. Then it moved.
"What is it?" hissed Rhaeen as she saw the movement.
"It's alive." Phiol said.
"Great deduction, genius." she answered sharply which earned her a look from Stinga that couldn't be misinterpreted. 
"What?" Rhaeen shrugged.
"We still don't know what it is guys." Quent added in a calm tone.
"I'll follow it!" Theo said, always ready for an adventure.
"Wait!" Rhean called out, but it was too late, Theo had already vanished in the bushes.
A loud rustling suddenly sounded and Stinga clutched Phiol's arm tighter -to his delight- and nearly stepped on his toes, which he failed to notice since his heart was pumping adrenaline so fast through his body he felt like he was invincible.
"Was that Theo?" Rhean asked.
"He can make a lot of noise for being such a little guy, but that sure wasn't him." Philip answered.
"Of course that wasn't me!" Theo's voice sounded from just a little distance away, "Come here!"
Quent shrugged and followed his brother in the bushes, the others soon followed to find Theo sitting beside an older male in front of a mud drak.
"This is Quinn, everybody!" Theo said, "He is a Knight."
"Nice to meat you." Quent nodded, "I hope Theo didn't bother you."
"Oh, no... I was practicing the art of spying with Evanderi here, apparently we need practice."
"His tail gave it away." Theo laughed, "Rhaeen almost fell over it."
"I am very ssssorry." the drak said, bowing his head toward Rhaeen, "But maybe I can make it up to you."
"How?" Rhaeen asked.
Rhean shoved her and said: "It was nothing, Rhaeen would have tripped sooner or later."
"No problem at all. Quinn, I think we might need to passsss these to Merilka or Aosssihari."
"We do? All of them?" Quinn looked rather stunned.
"Did we do anything wrong?" Phiol asked.
"No, Merilka and Aosihari and their knights are the judges in our home castle. But you couldn't all fit in the one clutch we have at DesCas.
"Nor would we want to." Stinga remarked.
Quinn laughed, "I can imagine that it could cause problems, but I know the other castles wouldn't mind having a few extra aspirants."
"Just like that?" Rhean asked.
"Just like that if you decide you want to come."
"I want to go!" Stinga yelled out a bit too fast to please Phiol, though he knew it was one of her more serious life-long dreams to become a Knight. 
One after each other, all seven of them nodded and agreed to be taken to respective castles so that they could have as wide a variety of non-related draks as they could have at present time.
"Ok, it will take several trips, I'll divide you up in couples who will go to the same castle to pair.
Rhean turned to Quent and said, "I know this is a goodbye, but it won't be a long one. Come find me when you pair and maybe then we can tell the world what we've been planning."
Quent laughed and said: "Maybe some time apart will be good for our hearts."
"Out of sight, out of heart?" Rhean asked.
"Distance makes the heart grow fonder." Quent answered.
He kissed her and walked over to the waiting drak, "I'll be coming now, but who will come with me?" he asked. Rhaeen stirred and said, "I think I like the sound of Chindor."
"Ok." Quinn said as he helped them on Evanderi. Not much later the mud drak flew off, opened a portal and was gone, leaving nothing but star-filled sky where his dark shape had been.
"Who will go next?" Theo asked.
"I can go." Phiol shrugged.
Stinga took him aside, and heeding her sister's words, she said: "This has always been one of my dreams, but following it, I have only one regret."
"Which is?"
"Not having my dance with you." she said, smiling.
"We could always reschedule." Phiol said hopeful. "If you can find me once we pair."
"I could always find you!" Stinga said, "You stand out like a horse in a field of cows."
Rhean smiled and approached her sister after she had turned away, "I will go with him and make sure he keeps that promise."
"Why do you suddenly think he's the one going to hurt me?" she asked.
"The tears in your eyes when you said you'd regretted not dancing. I'll make sure he remembers you."
"I don't think that will be a problem." Stinga said, "But what were you thinking letting Rhaeen so close to Quent?"
"I have to have some faith in him if we want to get married." Rhean laughed.
"Really?" Stinga asked, "Am I the first you've told this too?"
"I think mom knows, but yeah, you're the first one I've told."
"That's great!"
Evanderi landed again, "That's my ride!" Rhean said to her sister, "Take good care of Phiol and Theo!"
"I will!" Stinga called and waved as her other sister and boyfriend vanished through the portal.
"That leaves us." Philip said.
"It does. Where are we going?"
"I was actually thinking of going to DesCas." Theo added.
"On your own!" Stinga called out.
"Who's going to stop me?" he asked, "Besides Quinn told me he could use another smart squire now that his current one is growing up."
"Always with the plans... So we should trust this Knight?" Philip asked, "You know what mother would say when she knew we left you alone like this..."
"She doesn't have to know... besides, Quinn will look after me."
"I imagine he would."
"Last call for DesCas and Drockh-Tallahn!" Quinn called out from behind them, "Ready to go?"
"We are." Theo said, hopping onto Evanderi with minimal help of the drak. "See! I won't need anyone to look after me!"
Stinga shook her head, "So that's why he stayed behind while all the older ones went away."
"Yeah, he can be quite devious if he wants to." Philip added, "He'll be fine."
"No way. I'm going to DesCas too." Stinga decided.
Evanderi flew up one last time and left through another portal, this one going to Lanaara and then to DesCas.

stats and draks:

Rhaeen and Quent are Aspirants at Chindor
Rhean and Phiol are Aspirants at Dun Keiba
Philip is an aspirants at Drockh-Tallahn (forum)
Stinga and Theo are Aspirants at Castle DesCas

All background images found here