By Lindsey Gruden No comments

The corner of the napkins caught the wind as they looked over it. Aledia glanced at the two brothers. Their brows furrowed. Jacob ran a hand through his hair, and Wilhelm brushed his beard. It didn’t make sense. The map had led them for weeks only to stop.

“She would not have given us something that would lead us on a wild goose chase,” Aledia said.

The others gave her a skeptical look. There was the chance the map was nothing more than a diversion. The staff had been enchanted. This would be the perfect scheme to get rid of them.

“The bottom of the map says, The City of Walls,” Rafe said.

Aledia peered at the napkins. The red thread was clumsy but held each napkin in place. She sewed them together the first night of their journey. She had hoped they would find something at the end.

“Maybe, we should keep going? If it is a city of walls, we should come across it soon,” Aledia said.

Wilhelm tossed a bag over his shoulder and continued down the snow-covered path. A frown sat plastered on his face. It had been weeks since they left the Lucky King’s castle. The journey couldn’t have been for nothing.

“Do you think they could be metaphorical walls?” Aledia asked Jacob.

Jacob shrugged. “I would doubt the servant would have gone through the trouble to send us on a spiritual journey. She knew what she was talking about,” Jacob said, running a hand through his hair.

Aledia pulled her cloak closer and gazed around the barren woods. “So, a literal city of walls… Wouldn’t that describe any city?” Aledia said.

“I suppose it would, but there has to be something significant about it. After all, the city is named after it,” Rafe said as he caught up to Wilhelm.

The younger Grim brother looked down at the lad. “It could be a riddle,” Wilhelm said.

Jacob stopped walking. A riddle? The servant could not tell them the way because of the enchantment. Could it be a riddle? Or the map could be off, not to give the exact location. If that was the case…

“Rafe, do you still have the map in your pack?” Jacob asked.

The messenger furrowed his brows and nodded. “I always have it. It comes in handy with my line of work.” Rafe pulled the cloth map. The worn fabric had several mug stains across it and a putrid smell that could only be associated with stale ale. The four moved to look at the map.

“If the servant could not tell us the exact location, she might have given us a hint,” Jacob said. His eyes looked over the map as the gears in his head spun.

“So, in that case, we are looking for something else, but what?” Wilhelm asked as he moved to Jacob’s side.

“It could be a town with a feud or a warring territory or something like that. It’s like the neighbors we once had, remember?” Jacob asked.

Wilhelm couldn’t help but grin. “Ah yes, the Sumilans and the Terians. They still hate each other, by the way,” he said with a chuckle.

“Why?” Aledia asked.

Jacob looked at her and grinned. “The Terians had a prize-winning pig. It was the biggest the village had ever seen,” Jacob said and glanced to his brother.

“That doesn’t seem like the thing to hate each other over,” she said, confusion painted on her face.

“We stole it as boys to ride it, and we lost it,” Wilhelm said with a laugh. “Jacob had the idea to pin it on the neighbors to avoid mother’s wrath.”

“It was that or get a lashing from mother. I’d reckon everyone involved was better off,” Jacob laughed. He clapped his brother on the back.

Aledia wanted to scold the two but paused. They were laughing as if the tension between them didn’t exist. Something shimmered behind the two. She moved around the two laughing brothers and towards the woods beyond.

She could hear the brothers start another story about the neighbors. Aledia walked further away; the snow crunched beneath her boots. The heat of her breath froze in the air. Still, the world in front of her seemed to shimmer again. Aledia took another step forward and slammed straight into something solid. With a small cry, she fell straight onto her backside.

“Princess!” Rafe called and dashed to the girl.

The brothers followed behind. Rafe and Wilhelm asked her what had happened while Jacob held his hand out. There was nothing that should have caused the girl to fall.

Aledia stood up and shook over the snow that clung to her clothes. She rushed forward, holding her hands out. Only air slipped through her fingers. What had happened? It felt like there was a wall one moment and the next nothing. She looked back to the trio. The brothers had been sharing a story when she had felt the wall.

“Tell me another story about your childhood. Please make it something happy,” she said, glancing between the brothers.

Jacob arched a brow. “Are you feeling alright?” he asked.

“I am fine. Humor me,” she said.

The brothers gave an odd look before Jacob cleared his throat. “Once I convinced Wilhelm I could talk to birds.”

“You did not! You convinced the son of the duke,” Wilhelm said. “Also, I believe it was my idea to trick him.”

“Yes, that’s right. It was after he insulted us in the market that morning,” Jacob said.

Aledia listened as the story began to follow between them. She held out her hand and felt something solid. She waited until they lost themselves in their recollection and started to move along the wall. The air was rough like stone under her fingertips. Yet, she only saw the frozen forest beyond. Something snagged her pinky.

She paused and moved her hand around the spot. There was a handle. Aledia pulled the handle down and pushed. There was a great screech of metal on metal.

The world shimmered once again. It was a hidden door, and the world beyond made her breath catch. The trio rushed to her side and looked in as well. A frozen wonderland stood to their backs. Beyond the door, summer gave the woods life.

Aledia did not pause and walked straight through, leaving the men to follow. The forest was lush with vibrant life. She felt the heat through her heavy winter clothing. How could this be possible?

“Ah, visitors!” a crackling voice said beyond the trees.

A withering old man stepped through the trees. He wore a simple white robe and walked forward with the help of a cane. “I haven’t seen any guests come through here in quite some time. Welcome, welcome,” he said with a toothy grin.

“Thank you, but where are we?” Jacob asked.

“You are the in the City of Walls! How could you find yourselves here if you did not know it existed?” the old man asked.

“We were looking for this place. Why call it that? I don’t see any walls,” Wilhelm said with a scoff.

“That’s because you are not looking, young man,” the old man said with a shake of his head. He pointed behind them and smiled. “Sometimes, you will find what you are looking for by letting your own walls down.”

The group turned and stood silent. A tall wall stood between them and the snow-covered world beyond. The old man laughed at the shocked expressions.

“The last visitor we had here was as shocked as you lot are. You humans are always a source of enjoyment. Now that I think about it, my last visitor looked like you two boys,” the old man said, looking at the grim brothers.

“We are looking for our father,” Jacob said, turning away from the wall.

“Ah, so the man was your father. Worry not, I know where he went. Come with me, and I will take you,” the old man said. He hobbled away.

The group shared an excited glance. So, they were on the right path, after all! Wilhelm rushed towards the old man.

“Is he here?” he asked.

“Who? Oh! No, he’s not, but I know where he headed. Only one other sought the path he wanted. Only two have returned. That is a story for later. Come, come. I must bring you to the village. You need to come and have some tea with the misses. She’s a lovely thing,” the old man said.

“We should keep going,” Aledia said. “I do not mean to sound rude. It’s only that we are hoping to find him soon.”

The old man stopped and looked once more at the bunch. He held up a gaunt finger. “It is the dead of summer, and you want to continue to travel in those clothes? You would faint of heatstroke before you made it to him. You won’t be good to anyone then,” he said with a scoff.

Aledia looked down at her clothing. The heavy material was wet from her fall and weighed heavy on her shoulders. She looked at Jacob.

He shrugged and motioned for the others to follow the old man. Whatever waited for them in the village, they were on the right path.

***Disclaimer: This is a work of Fan Fiction. It is an adaptation of the characters created and owned by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. This story is not associated with Disney’s adaptations, their added characters, or story elements. ***

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