From Cursive To Curses- Part XXV
The wind bit at their faces as they arrived at the nearest tavern. Aledia sniffled as she looked around. Her eyes landed on the table. It was the spot where she had witnessed Jacob and Wilhelm reunited. As the four moved towards the nearest table, bone-tired, she couldn’t help but smile. The room was the same, but they were all different. She took a seat and shook the snow from her cloak.
“Do you think the King will allow us back into his castle?” Rafe asked as he waved a barmaid over.
“Why wouldn’t he? They are on good terms with my father. It wouldn’t be very political to shun the daughter of a neighboring kingdom,” Aledia said.
Jacob and Wilhelm nodded in agreement but said nothing.
The barmaid approached and smiled. “You lot look familiar! Glad to see that you have decided to venture my way again. Let me get you some pints of ale to warm your bones!”
“She’s right,” Jacob chimed in as he watched Wilhelm dig through his pack. “It would be foolish to deny a princess. Kingdoms have started feuds for lesser things.”
“How you survived dealing with the kings and their games is beyond me,” Wilhelm muttered. He pulled out his latest creation from this pack and a few tools. He studied the likeness of the tree he was carving. The woman stood before the twisted wood. Whenever they stopped on their journey back, he would work the wood into shape.
The barmaid returned with stew and ale. The smell of the stew made Rafe’s mouth water. It was never wise to ask what was in a bar’s stew. He never asked, and he felt all the smarter for it. He scooped up a spoon and shoveled the mystery meat stew into his mouth. The warmth soothed the cold from his bones.
“Did you all find what you were looking for?” the barmaid asked and took a seat next to Aledia.
“Well, yes and no,” Aledia said slowly and drank from her ale.
“How did you know we were looking for something?” Wilhelm stopped carving, his pulse quickening. He looked up at the barmaid.
The barmaid tossed her red braid over her shoulder and huffed. “Lad, I work at a tavern. If you don’t think I hear a thing or two, you would be wrong. It’s been all over that the Grimm brothers are searching for something. Some people say it’s a treasure, some people say it’s family, and even some say they are fighting over a woman who is on the run.”
Aledia’s laugh turned into a cough as she drank her ale. People were talking about them? What on earth drew attention to them?
“It’s nothing like that,” Jacob said as he passed a napkin to Aledia.
“Well then, what are you looking for?” She said again. “My bet it was where the King got his treasure. You were asking all about him last time. I have some coin on a wager that you were looking for him,” she said, leaning in. Her green eyes scanned each of them.
“Who else is asking?” Rafe asked, arching a brow. He took a sip from his ale. He had been the messenger for enough years to feel the danger. If the King and Queen of this kingdom wanted to keep the journey to devil quiet… His ale became hard to swallow. There were always ways to ensure people stopped asking questions.
“Oh, everyone has! Every couple of days, a guard comes here asking if anyone has seen the Grimm brothers. There’s a real looker, that one…” she sighed.
Aledia glanced to Jacob and then Wilhelm. Jacob pursed his lips, and Wilhelm’s hands froze over his wooden sculpture. They all saw the danger then. The King and Queen could easily have them killed. When was the last time she had written to her father? Did he even know she was here?
“You have it all wrong,” Aledia breathed. The words sounded shallow to her ears. She cleared her throat and looked around the table. “We aren’t searching for much of anything.”
The barmaid leaned back and tapped a finger to her mouth. “That’s not right. Last time I was here, you were talking about looking for something.” Her green eyes sparkled as they narrowed on the brothers. “If it wasn’t a treasure, it must have been someone very important. Am I right?”
Aledia jumped to her feet, bumping the table with her hip. Her pint wobbled before toppling over onto the barmaid. “Oh gosh, I am so sorry! Can I help you?” she asked, flustered.
The barmaid jumped up, cursing, and rushed towards the kitchen. Aledia looked at the group. Rafe dumped some coins onto the table. Wilhelm shoved his carvings into his pack, and they bolted out of the tavern.
Rafe ran after the Grimm brothers, with Aledia trailing behind him. “Where are we going?” he wheezed as they ran.
“We need to get out of this kingdom. If they are willing to curse their staff, not talk about their former King. What do you think they would do outsiders,” Jacob said.
They ducked into a dark alley and paused for breath. “Just where are we going?” Aledia asked. “There isn’t a town near here that we can hide out in for the evening. There’s nowhere to camp, either. Anyone will spot us if we make a fire.”
“And we’ll freeze if we don’t make a fire,” Rafe said, gesturing above them.
Jacob looked up at the darkened sky and noticed the falling snow for the first time. The situation was getting worse by the moment.
“Lad, give me your map. There has to be something around here,” Wilhelm demanded. Rafe rummaged through his pack and pulled out the well-worn map.
Jacob looked over the map with his brother and pointed to a forest nearby the outskirts of town.” There is a ridge right there. Do you think there could be a cave there? It would shield us from the wind.”
Wilhelm scanned the map and shook his head. “This forest here,” he said, pointing to a set of trees marked past a stain on the map. “It’s the same forest that connects to Snow White’s kingdom, correct?” he asked and looked at Aledia.
Aledia looked at the map and nodded. “That has a place we can hide out in until morning. It shouldn’t be a far walk, and it would take us out of the reaches of this place.”
A clang sounded from the side of the alley, and the group froze. “Did you hear a barmaid saw the Grimm brothers at the tavern?” a voice rumbled.
“Aye, the King’s got a good bounty on their heads. The town is stirring since she came out yelling about her dress and the tab not being paid,” someone else said.
“I paid the tab,” Rafe muttered under his breath. Aledia pulled on his coat and shushed him. The voices carried off as they walked in another direction.
Wilhelm moved to the other side of the alley and glanced around the corner before ushering the group forward. It was now a matter of keeping everyone quiet and unseen. There was a bounty on his and Jacob’s heads. He never thought he would see the day when he became a wanted man.
They moved together; the snow crunching beneath their feet with every step. The voices were correct. Villagers and guards alike were out with torches, looking through the streets for them. Aledia kept a hand over her mouth to keep her breathing quiet and to prevent any puffs of air from giving them away. She looked, and Rafe was doing the same.
Keeping to the shadows, they took their time. One misstep, and they would get caught. The tavern was at the heart of the village. They ducked, crept, and froze when they needed to. After going to hell and escaping that, they couldn’t let this stop them.
They made their way into the darkened trees. The lights of the village faded behind them as they stumbled forward. No one dared to light a torch in case that brought attention. They could only hope they were moving in the right direction. The wind whipped around them, and Aledia shivered.
Jacob followed Wilhelm. After a few more moments, he reached out and stopped his brother. “Do you know where you are going?”
“I do. There is a glen nearby that should provide for us,” he responded and started walking forward.
“How do you know we are heading the right way?” Aledia asked and stumbled forward through the snow.
Wilhelm rubbed his head. There was a tug as if someone had tied a string to his ribs and was pulling him forward. It was an odd feeling, and there was an instant urge to distrust it. “I just know where to go,” he replied and moved forward.
The rest of the group moved forward, not wanting to be left behind in the darkened woods. Rafe heard Jacob’s stomach rumble as they walked. He rummaged through his pack. With frozen fingers, he passed over some dried jerky.
“Didn’t get to eat while we were being interrogated?” Rafe asked.
Jacob took the jerky with a nod. “I was a bit too busy. Although, I think you had enough stew for all of us. Was it any good?”
“Not really,” Rafe lied as they walked through the snow towards the unknown.
Featured Photo by ID 12019 via Pixabay. Altered by Lindsey Gruden.