By Lindsey Gruden No comments

Wilhelm followed the tug in his chest. A hand gripped the bottom of his tunic as he moved through the snowy tundra. As they trudged forward, the clouds moved over the moon. He held up his hand, yet he could barely see it through the darkness. Still, he followed the tugging from his ribs. It led him around trees and obstacles in the darkness.

The wind whistled through the trees, causing Aledia to shiver. She held Rafe’s hand tight. The darkness had settled in so quickly that it was startling. Jacob held onto his brother’s tunic, and Rafe gripped Jacob’s cloak. That left her to cling to Rafe. She didn’t mind. His grip was comforting in the darkness.

“Is it much farther?” she asked, teeth chattering.

Wilhelm rubbed his chest. The tugging was slowly stopping. He looked around. They had to be near the trees. What if this didn’t work? He could have led them into a glen where they would freeze to death. But that was if the guards didn’t find them first.

“I wish we had a light. It’s hard to tell anything in this darkness,” Wilhelm muttered.

A single spark of light illuminated beside them. Rafe yelled and tugged Aledia away as the spark of light danced and fizzled into a small orb. It darted around beside Wilhelm, regardless of how he stumbled from it.

“What did you do?” Jacob asked, grabbing Wilhelms’s cloak and forcing him to stop backing away from the light.

“I said I wanted a light,” Wilhelm answered, watching the orb with a wary eye.

“Do you have magic? How did you do that?” Aledia asked from the distance where Rafe had pulled her.

“I don’t have any magic. I think we’ve made it through. Wish for a place to rest and a place for my friends to rest,” Wilhelm said. He waited.

“Did you just wish?” Rafe asked. His limbs shivered in the cold. He felt rage bubble up. “You brought us all the way out here to just wish?”

“Rafe, I am sure he had a reason,” Aledia said, stepping in front of Rafe. She turned to Wilhelm, “You do, don’t you?” she asked.

Jacob also turned to his brother. Wilhelm would have never had jeopardized their safety on a mere whim. There had to be more to it. The gold orb of light circled around the group and darted off in the distance.

Wilhelm stared at it for a moment. Someone calling out broke the silence. They saw a light. Aledia spun around toward the noise and cursed. They were still being followed? How? It was so dark.

“Follow the light!” Jacob said and started running. Wilhelm ran beside him. The snow crunched under his feet as he took after the orb.

Aledia picked up her skirts and started after Jacob. Rafe ran at her side, making sure she didn’t fall behind. She breathed heavily as she ran. This could not end well. If they were following the light, so were the guards. They were all going to run deeper into the woods toward the same goal. Whatever that goal may be.

“Don’t think about it, Princess,” Rafe said beside her. “They won’t catch us,” Rafe breathed.

Aledia nodded but knew he was lying. There was nowhere to hide, not when their tracks followed them in the snow.

The light darted around a tree. The Grimm brothers skidded in the snow as it made another sharp turn. The orb seemed to speed up. Aledia and Rafe caught the turn and ran past the stumbling brothers. It would have been comical, but for the voices of the guards getting louder.

What would happen if they were caught? They cursed their own kingdom. What would the King and Queen do to those who had discovered their secret? They climbed over a fallen tree trunk and chased after the dizzying light.

It stopped suddenly and circled around a huge tree trunk. The four stopped, panting and staring up at the tree. The orb circled the huge trunk faster. What did it expect them to do? Wilhelm looked over his shoulder and tried to gauge the distance of the guards.

“What does it want us to do?” Rafe breathed and followed Wilhelm’s gaze. In the distance, a flash of silver glinted with the orb’s light. The guards were closing in. Panic set in. His heart hammered against his chest.

“What do we do? We can’t outrun them now,” Aledia whispered and took a step back towards the tree.

“Aren’t you a princess? Shouldn’t that carry some weight?” Wilhelm hissed.

“It would if my father knew I was here! I doubt they’ll let me write a letter from the dungeon,” she said.

“That’s assuming we get put in the dungeon. If they are cursing their kingdom, they’re desperate to keep the secret,” Jacob said, his eyes scanning at the area. Even if they climbed the tree, their tracks would lead the guards right to them.

Rafe turned on a heel and glared at the dancing orb. “You stupid thing. You brought them on us. Give us somewhere to hide rather than putting a beacon on us,” he snapped.

The orb flashed red and stopped its dazzling path. It zipped towards Rafe, a deep red. Rafe gasped and stumbled back toward the tree. All at once, he fell straight through the trunk, disappearing.

Aledia jumped toward the trunk, calling out after him. The trunk absorbed her all at once. The shout of the guards grew louder. Wilhelm and Jacob looked at each other before turning and diving into the trunk.

The orb faded into a dull blue and circled the snow around the tree. Their footprints vanished into pristine snow that glittered in the moonlight.

Rafe landed on something soft. In the darkness, something hard landed on him. He yelled and heard Aledia yelp in surprise. A moment later, Jacob and Wilhelm landed on the pair. Rafe groaned and shoved limbs out of his face.

If he thought outside was dark, it didn’t compare to this darkness. The air was warm but stale. He rolled his shoulder in pain. Being the landing pad for the group was going to hurt tomorrow. He sat up and fell around. Rough bark trailed under his fingers.

“Where are we?” he asked. His voice sounded muffled in the hallow space.

“Want to wish for a light?” Jacob muttered as he pushed Wilhelm off of him.

“A little light would be nice,” Wilhelm said. The small orb sparkled to light.

The light reflected off of the surfaces and dimly lit their small space. The four sat in silence. They sat on a cushion inside the trunk of a tree. Aledia pressed her ear to the wooden walls around them. She froze. There were voices on the other side.

Her eyes widened, and she pressed a finger to her lips. Jacob moved to her side and pressed his ear to the wood. The guards were outside the small hideout.

“You said you saw a light. Where is it?” one of them yelled.

“What do you mean, ‘me?’ You saw it too, and we were following their footprints. Don’t pretend that you didn’t see them, either.”

Aledia looked at Jacob. He nodded and glanced back at Rafe and Wilhelm. They sat in silence, waiting.

“What are we going to tell the King?” one of the muffled voices asked the other.

“What do you mean, what are we going to tell the King? For all we know, that wasn’t them at all. Let’s just keep looking,” the other muffled voice said, growing quieter.

Jacob breathed a sigh of relief. “Sounds like we should be safe for the night.” He looked to Wilhelm. “Is this the place you were taking us to?”

Wilhelm nodded.

“How did you find this place?” Aledia asked, and settled her wet skirts around her. There wasn’t much space between the four of them.

“I met a girl here. She needed help…” he explained and started into the story of the girl in the glen. Aledia leaned against the wall and listened. At the very least, they were safe for the night. They could figure out their next steps in the morning.

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