Alexander walks into the hall. He doesn't even know what time it is. There had been clocks on the way home, but he hadn't paid much attention to them. It's Halloween, and the children are all out in their devilish finery. And Alexander was out too. It's hard to believe that he's been in the world for sixteen years, but it had happened somehow. Between all the ruthlessness of the Ducartan Army and his hellish upbringing and Zachary Whitaker coming in and sweeping him off his feet at fourteen, it's a miracle that he made it.

Needless to say, he'd gone out for a drink last night. He's legally allowed to drink now; Ducartan law standards are somewhat less formal than those of other nations. No one's ever batted an eyelid; they'd all taken one look at his army uniform and put down another pint on the counter. The thrill soared through his veins. Alcohol's always been forbidden under the harsh rules of Governess Avery, the woman who reared them all as children with harsh words and a backhanded slap.

There are a lot of orphans. The Ducartan orphans are pushed into the care of the army. It isn't so bad, really. Sector C is good to them. Alexander's heard the stories of what the other kingdoms do to their orphans. And he knows firsthand that the Acothran military children had to run miles every morning. Before breakfast. Alexander shudders at the thought of it, and he's no desire to ever return there again. They seem so far away, but since the island only has a four-hundred-mile radius, the Acothran Army could be on their doorstep within hours if they want to

It's good, then, that the three nations to the east, Acothra being one of them, and the three nations to the west, Ducarta being one of them, brokered a peace early into their foundations. As the Acothrans said, 'There is no victory without a battle.' It's almost been shattered many, many times, mostly due to the fact that monarchs often don't trust each other and have large armies at their disposal, but that truce has held for far longer than Alexander's been alive.

Still, no twelve-kingdom war compares to the collective glare that Nicholas, Gabriel and Zachary give him when he staggers haphazardly into their shared bedroom. It's murderous enough to slay scores of men in a single blow.

It's Zachary that speaks first. "Where the fuck have you been, Alexander?"

Alexander sighs in return. "Out." The onslaught of wild staring only intensifies. "Drinking."

At this, Nicholas starts to splutter. This is a rare occurrence; Nicholas' known for keeping his cool in even the direst of situations. "You're not even legal, Alexander!" Alexander narrows his eyes, and then glances around the room looking for the calendar. The room's dark and sort of blurry. Alexander doesn't know whether that's due to the fact that he was probably drunk or the fact that it was either really late on the 31st or really early on the first. He suspected it was a combination of the two.

Nicholas apparently follows his line of sight around the room and finds the calendar before he does. "Damn," he says finally. "Happy sixteenth. Not that it changes the fact that you are going to have to play chess tomorrow."

In response to this, Alexander slumps down onto his bed and closes his eyes. He feels the weight o a blanket being thrown over him and vaguely hears whispers of "Goodnight, Alexander," as someone, probably Gabriel, switches off the light and leaves them all in darkness.