From Cursive To Curses- Part XXIV
Wilhelm shook. He felt it in his hands, the slight quiver of anger that demanded the move. Pawns? They were pawns in someone’s game? Jacob had acted so collected during her unearthly presence. Now all Jacob wanted to do was throttle something. His life, his brother’s life, and his father’s life could not be reduced to mere pawns in a game.
“You all look as though you can use a break. Come to my home and rest as you once did. I do not care if you are marked by death,” the old man chuckled.
The chuckle reverberated through Wilhelm and his feet began moving. Who was this old man to laugh at their troubles? They went to Hell and back. The man had the audacity to laugh at them, at their situation. He moved past Jacob before his brother could stop him and grabbed the collar of the man’s shirt. Red bled into his vision.
“Who are you to laugh at us? Who was that thing? You seem to be friends with it!” Wilhelm demanded.
The old man arched a brow at Wilhelm.
“Feeling as though you’ve been put through the wringer, boy?” He asked.
Wilhelm’s grip tightened. He had never hurt a soul and he felt so close to it. Jacob grabbed Wilhelm’s arm.
“Whether they are friends or not, doesn’t matter,” said Jacob.
“It does if he can tell her to get her ass back here,” Wilhelm bellowed. “I want answers. She’s got them and I am tired of running in circles!”
Wilhelm gave the old man a shake.
“You act as if I can control her. I am not laughing at you lot. You have my pity. As for her… She can hear you just fine. I would imagine she is laughing at your outburst,” the old man said with a scoff.
Aledia approached and placed a hand on Wilhelm’s arm.
“I know you’re angry. This whole thing is a mess. We’re close to the end. It doesn’t matter who she is. Wouldn’t it be more satisfying to beat her at her own game?” She asked.
“Close? How can we be close to the end if we have yet another impossible task laid before us?” Wilhelm sneered.
“It’s not impossible,” Rafe chimed in from behind them all. “Just difficult. You are not one to shy away from difficult situations. Shaking a harmless old man isn’t going to help anything. You’re better than this.”
Wilhelm dropped the old man.
“Better than this? How do you know I am better than this?” he asked as he stalked towards Rafe.
Jacob shifted through his bag and pulled out a small wooden carving.
“A man who loves to create does not resort to violence when he doesn’t get his way.”
He stepped between them and held out the small carving.
Wilhelm stared for a moment before turning back to Rafe. He could feel the anger pump his veins, but another emotion began to creep into place. A small amount of shame burned at the nape of his neck, and he rubbed it away.
The old man cleared his throat.
“I know you are upset, lad. I would be in your situation. There is something to be learned and gained from this. There always is a lesson within her games. Your friend is right. The journey may be difficult, but it is not impossible.”
Aledia gave a shaky smile.
“May we come back and pick up our clothing. I would imagine it is still winter on the other side,” she asked.
The old man snorted.
“Are you planning on traveling at night? A good way to get robbed. One justified outburst will not shake my hospitality. Come to my home, eat and get some rest.”
The old man turned and began to move slowly towards his home. The group exchanged glances. Rafe was the first to follow the old man. Everyone fell in step behind him.
Jacob couldn’t fault Wilhelm for his anger. In the end, he doubted anyone could. Who would have thought when he left the farm that he would be wandering straight into Hell? He smirked. Wilhelm had ventured straight into Hell with his estranged brother. At the same time, Jacob reunited with the family he wrote off. The brothers even managed to shake off the ghost of the past.
Wilhelm gave Jacob a nudge with his elbow.
“Stop acting like a fool,” he muttered to his brother.
Jacob nudged him back and slid the wood carving back into this bag.
They traveled through the serene woods towards the small village. It came to life as it had once before. The people walked and mingled in the light of the golden apples hanging from the trees. Not a single person darted out of the way or rushed into the hiding as the group approached. If the people knew the group had been marked by death, they said nothing.
The old man led them into his warm cottage. As before, a meal had been laid out across the wooden table. Rafe tossed all decorum aside and rushed for it.
The old man chuckled at this and with a simple, “help yourselves,” he left.
Just as before, they ate alone and enjoyed each other’s company. Aledia filled Rafe in with the small details of Hell including the devil’s mother and the wandering souls. She explained the texture of the black sand and the smell of rot.
Wilhelm began to work on another carving. Small pieces of the wood curling under his tools and falling to the ground. He hadn’t carved in a while. It felt good to work with his hands, to do something normal. In his satchel, he had carried the supplies. With everything going on around them he hadn’t stopped to indulge.
Jacob watched the group and wondered when he would tell them about the deal with his father. Wilhelm and Jacob had begged their father not to continue his journey into the depths of Hell to find their mother. It was nothing more than a fool’s journey. He bargained with his father. He would return home if his father came with them.
The deal came as a shock to Wilhelm. Their father was also shocked. However, Jacob could see the resolve set deep within their father’s eyes. This was what his father wanted from the very beginning. Now it was in reach. Which would he give up? His wife or his son?
Someone flicked a piece of bread at Jacob’s head. Jacob blinked and looked up at the group. He must have missed a question.
“I beg your pardon,” he said politely.
“Rafe was thinking you fell asleep with your eyes open. Once we head out in the morning, will we go back to the castle?” Aledia asked.
“Which castle, there have been so many!” Rafe exclaimed.
“The castle of the lucky child. He made the same journey we did and knows more than he is letting on,” Jacob said and ran a hand through his hair. A few breadcrumbs came free from his curls. He arched a brow at that.
“I wonder if they’ll talk now that we have gone on the same journey…” Aledia mused.
Jacob shrugged and watched Wilhelm work. They would be back in the cold tomorrow, assuming time worked the same in this strange realm. He wasn’t thrilled at the idea but imagined the rest of the group were excited to be back in this world. The time and seasons were predictable. He glanced out at the golden apples. They would see this place again. With any luck, it would be sooner rather than later.
Featured Photo by ID 12019 via Pixabay. Altered by Lindsey Gruden.