FROM CURSIVE TO CURSES- PART XI
Jacob sat on the bed in the guest chambers. He supposed that anyone would have been uncomfortable staying in an unfamiliar place. The unease had passed early in his travels. He glanced over to the journal. Why had he helped his brother? He should be teaching Aledia.
He ran a hand through his hair and picked up the journal. The worn binding creaked in his hands as he opened it. His brother had read it from start to finish.
“There is nothing in here. Whatever Wilhelm hoped I would find, it’s not in here,” Jacob said.
The fire crackled as if cackling at him. In some way, he had found something. He gazed down at the entry. Several pages of entries detailed how Jacob had failed as the eldest son. Jacob took a deep breath and snapped the journal closed. Jacob hated the man. However, if he found the bastard, he would forever be free from the bonds of his old life.
“Damn Bastard,” Jacob said. He slammed the book onto the side table and paced the room.
Princess Aledia found the connection between the king’s tale and his own father’s disappearance. When Jacob had first entered her kingdom, he hadn’t expected to take on an apprentice. All the same, she was proving to be quick-witted. It made him smile to think of the potential scholar that she could become.
His smile faded as his thoughts moved towards his other travel companions. Rafe, the messenger, was hardly a character worth noting. His brother, however, was proving to be more stubborn than he remembered. At one time, Wilhelm would have followed Jacob anywhere. Now it was as if anything that could be an argument was an argument. He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
In the past, they were as thick as thieves. Now, it felt that oceans stood between them. They may have stood beside each other in the throne room, but he never felt further away. A knock sounded on the frame of the door.
Jacob stood and opened the door. A small girl, around the age of thirteen, stood in front of him. She wore a simple maid’s dress and smiled at him. Her green eyes glittered in the firelight. With a timid curtsey, she held out a serving tray.
“The cook has sent a meal for you, Sir Jacob,” she said.
Jacob took the dish from her hands. “Thank you. I assume you have seen to my companions as well?” he asked.
“Yes, Sir. They expect to see you at breakfast tomorrow morning…” she replied and hesitated.
Jacob arched a brow as the girl twisted her hands around her ironed apron. “Was there something else you needed?” he asked.
“It’s just that… we are forbidden to talk about it,” she said.
Jacob placed the serving dish on the bed and waved the girl inside. It was clear she did not want to say whatever she needed to in the corridor. He stood to the side as she scampered inside.
It clicked shut; she whirled on him. “I have seen your father. He was here in the castle months ago. We were not allowed to say anything,” she said. Tears pricked the side of her eyes.
Jacob ushered into a chair before the fireplace. He moved to the chair beside her. “Why and who forbade you from speaking about my father?” he asked.
“The king did not want anyone to discuss the matter. They sought to protect anyone that would follow in his path.”
“We were planning to ask the king about it tomorrow. Are you saying that he would hide in route to my father?”
“Yes. Your father sought to follow the king’s journey to the devil. He refused to accept no as an answer. With great amounts of quarreling, the queen relented. She disclosed the path her husband took all those years ago,” she said. Her shoulders appeared heavy, as if weighed down by the knowledge.
“If what you say is true, why tell me?” Jacob asked.
“I must tell you, or you’ll never find him,” she said. Her tone took on a sudden sharpness. “However, to ensure that no one spoke of it, he had the castle enchanted. I cannot tell you the way.”
“Can the enchantment be broken? Will distance cure it?” he asked.
She shook her head. “The enchantment was binding. I could no sooner break it, as I could bring back the dead.”
Jacob paused and nodded. She was kind enough to tell him what she could. He guided her to the door. Once out in the corridor, she curtsied.
“You will find everything you need on the serving tray, Sir Jacob. Please do not call me again,” she said and walked away.
Jacob sighed and ran his hand through his hair. He should call for his brother. Wilhelm would need to know if they have a lead. Although this would leave them straight to the devil. Jacob moved and sat on the bed. Under the tray was a plate full of meats and cheeses.
“What exactly have you gotten yourself into, old man?” Jacob asked himself.
He unwrapped the cheese from the napkin and bit into it. His eyes landed on the fire as he allowed his thoughts to wander. The king and queen had told them the overall story but skipped on the details.
How did one find the devil, take his hair, and return? It didn’t seem possible. Jacob scoffed. Every journey seemed to press the limits on what he deemed to be.
Jacob chewed it slowly and glanced at the napkin. In the firelight, there looked to be something on the stark white napkin. He unfolded the napkin and stopped. There were lines and words written on the folded linen.
He went back to the tray and shuffled through the meats. The napkin in his hand was the only piece to the puzzle. Dropping the rest of the cheese on the plate, he ran towards the door. The girl was brilliant. She could not tell him or convey it in a message. However, if she scrambled the pieces, then the message was up to interpretation.
He knocked on Princess Aledia’s door first. She opened the door and arched a brow at his state. He held up the napkin.
“Do you still have your dinner dishes? We need the napkin,” he said.
She moved to the small bedside table and shook out the napkin. The backside of the linen held more scribbles. They laid out the pieces. It looked like a map.
“Wilhelm and Rafe might have the other pieces,” she said.
Together, they moved towards Rafe’s and Wilhelm’s chambers. They had received similar meals. The napkins each held markings. The four stood gathered in Rafe’s room with the linens laid out on a table.
“It is a map,” Rafe said as he moved the pieces around to make the most sense.
“She couldn’t tell us the way. So, she gave us a way to discover it,” Aledia said. She beamed up at him.
“The map lists out three places in particular,” Wilhelm said as he peered over the map. This was the first true lead. It was the first real sighting of his father. He pointed to the castle. “Here we are. We need to go further south to a town of running wine…” he said. Wilhelm glanced towards Jacob for help.
“I am not sure what that could mean. Maybe they have vineyards,” Jacob said. There was no way to tell for certain. They would have to go and hope this servant was sending them in the right direction. Perhaps by sending them out towards the devil, it would lift the enchantment on the castle. He glanced towards Aledia. She was jotting the map down in a journal.
“We will leave tomorrow. Speak of this to no one in the castle and play ignorant when we speak to the king and queen. They enchanted the castle to not be able to speak of it. Let us not give them a reason to press their will on us,” Aledia said.
Wilhelm could not stop the smile that stretched across his face. After everything he had been through, they finally had a lead.