From Cursive To Curses- Part XXII
The wine was still pouring from the fountain as they entered the village. The square was bustling with life and energy. Jacob stared for a moment. How could a town so full of life be so close to a place filled with death? As they walked through the square, people stepped aside. He arched a brow as a child skittered out of their way, tripped and kept going.
“Is it just me or are people avoiding us?” Rafe whispered to Aledia.
A shop slammed its door shut as they passed by.
“It would appear that way,” she said and looked over to the stall full of flowers.
A man spotted them and sprinted down an alley. A few other vendors followed suit. At this rate, they were going to be the only ones left in the square.
Aledia looked over her clothing and then at the others. They were all particularly clean. Nothing was out of place. She saw nothing that hinted they emerged from the darkest of all places. Even still people moved away or ran into buildings.
Wilhelm stopped. “This is ridiculous. We need to ask who came this way last. It is our first clue as to where the ferryman went.”
“How can we ask anyone if people are dead set to avoid us?” Aledia asked.
“What gives anyway? It is not as though we stink or something,” Rafe exclaimed.
He sniffed his shirt and shrugged.
Wilhelm pointed towards the fountain.
“You lot go that way and I will move off this way.” He stalked away from the group and waited.
The townsfolk watched their every move. Wilhelm watched his companions move away as the people fled. He leaned in the shadow of a building and waited. Sure enough, a man ran past him to avoid Jacob. Wilhelm stuck his hand out and caught the back of his collar. The man blanched as he looked up at Wilhelm.
“Why are you running from us? Why is everyone running from us?” Wilhelm asked.
The man sunk away from Wilhelm’s touch. “You are marked by death!” the man exclaimed as he continued to shrink away.
Wilhelm looked up and noticed Jacob stopping to watch them. “What do you mean marked by death?” Wilhelm asked looking back at the man.
“It is the aura around you. You carry the curse of death with you,” he whispered, quivering.
Wilhelm shook his head. “I’ll let you go if you tell me did anyone come this way?”
“Yes, you did a day ago!” the man wailed as tears started to form in his eyes.
“I mean walking back towards the valley of the golden apples. Don’t be daft! You know what I am asking,” Wilhelm said and gave the man a shake.
“Y-Yes! He was an older man but he did pass this way!” he cried and pointed in the direction of the valley.
Wilhelm released him and the man darted away. Jacob approached and watched the man turn the corner.
“We are marked by death?” He asked aloud and looked to his younger brother. “Well, that can’t be good.”
“What does that mean?” Rafe replied. “You let him go without an explanation?”
“ We know where the last ferryman went,” Wilhelm said and crossed his arms.
Jacob ran a hand through his hair and looked towards his apprentice. Aledia watched everything quietly. She was the only one to not react to the news.
“All you care is about the ferryman! What about us? Marked by death? Does that mean we are the next to die?” Rafe asked.
“I have a theory,” Aledia said as Rafe was about to start banging on a shopkeeper’s door. “We walked through the devil’s realm and returned. What if by doing that we are cursed just like Jacob and Wilhelm are?”
“Death! Death marks us. This isn’t some silly curse! We are marked for death!” Rafe said as he stomped towards her.
Aledia held up a hand. “Marked by death, not for death. We stood on the devil’s shores with his mother. That had to have changed us in some way. I would wager, we break the curse on the Grimm family, and we break our own.”
“She has a point lad,” Wilhelm said as he moved out towards the valley. Jacob and Aledia followed.
Rafe looked over his shoulder at the shop’s door. He should knock it down and demand answers. The glitter of something caught his eye. The wine flowing from the fountain had looked inviting the first time around. Now he thought it looked more like blood. Shivering he followed after his companions.
We must come back this way again,” Aledia chimed in, “with the ferryman. Then we’ll know if bringing back the ferryman breaks the curse by the way the villagers act.”
“That’s a big gamble,” Rafe said as he caught up to the group.
“You have to be willing to throw your all into it or you’ll never get anything back,” she said and moved down the road.
“Well, you’re ‘all’ is our lives. How can you two just go along with this?” Rafe asked, looking to the Grimm brothers.
Jacob shrugged and Wilhelm ran a hand through his beard. By following Aledia’s theory, they were leaving the answer behind. They could go back and demand answers.
“It feels right,” Jacob said after a moment.
“That it does,” Wilhelm hummed.
“You both are going off her idea because it feels right?” Rafe asked and kicked a rock down the dirt road.
It flew for a few seconds before skidding to a stop in some bushes. Around them, trees began to thicken as they made their way away from the village of wine.
“She managed to outwit the devil’s mother. Besides, there is a feeling in my gut that she is right about this,” Jacob said as he looked to the sky.
Rafe grumbled quietly to themself as they continued down the path towards the valley. Everyone was consumed in their own thoughts. Would the villagers of the golden apples run from them? Would they be as welcoming as before?
Rafe brightened at the thought of fresh food. If the village greeted them like before, there would be food offered. He licked his lips at the thought and his stomach grumbled. When was the last time they had eaten? The night before? With all the excitement and terror, he had forgotten all about food.
“Rafe should enter the village first,” Aledia said.
Everyone stopped and looked back and forth between Rafe and Aledia.
“Why me?” he asked.
“You will test my theory. Wilhelm, Jacob, and I stood on the devil’s shores. You never left the boat,” she explained.
“That’s because you all told me to stay put!” Rafe said.
Aledia held up her hand.
“I am not saying you were wrong. You had to stay on the boat so we could get back. However, you may not have been marked by death. You never touched death’s sand. You did not run from the tortured souls of the damned.”
“So you might be able to get us some answers. We need to make a list of questions,” Jacob said and looked more seriously at Rafe.
Rafe ran a hand over his eyes and groaned. What had he gotten himself into?
“Chin up, lad. You are a messenger boy, and you will simply be doing your job.” Wilhelm said.
“With you three, nothing is simple,” Rafe said shaking his head.
Featured Photo by ID 12019 via Pixabay. Altered by Lindsey Gruden.