"Senor witha bounteious pleasure I, Raymond Toro presenta to you - the renound, legendary, generala to the King-" Ray Toro - the man with the curls, continued to ramble on, bowing low before the General who sat watching him, rolling his eyes a little as he waited for Ray to get the point. A young maid stepped into the room, carrying a pot of something foul smelling over to the grey haired General and began to spoon a lumpy brown... concoction... onto his plate. The General held up his hand to stop her adding more when he saw it and she stepped away politely as he raised his fork.
" - Versatory Capitan - The men knowna as a - the Brothers Way." Ray turned and sweeped his arm round to point at the two brothers who had been pulled into the room by French soldiers, still wearing their pajamas and looking angry and confused. Ray grinned at the general, evidently proud of himself. But the General was too busy poking at the stuff on his plate with his fork.
"Err... Vat is it exactly that I am enduring here?" He asked the maid in a thick French accent. Her smile fell and she looked at him in surprise. "Can someone please tell me, who gave birth to zis." He demanded the room at large, no one answered him and the brothers continued to struggle, their wrists chained together.
"Its Vervarian blood sausage -" The maid said after a moment, smiling again. "With sour crout. I gutted the pig myself." She declared proudly and the General glanced at her in disgust before prodding at the 'blood sausage'.
"I bet you did..." He mumbled, picking up his knife. Ray pouted, annoyed that the blood sausage was getting more attention than him and he stepped towards the brothers as he spoke again.
"You - area happy to stand here, charged a with theft -" He poked Gerard who stood beside Mikey, both their heads bowed. "And burgary." Ray continued, poking him again. Gerard nearly choked and looked up in shock.
"I'm sorry?" He gasped, staring at the Toro guy in shock. Buggary? But he was perfectly straight.
"Burglary." Mikey whispered to Gerard seeing his look of horror and the elder Way brother sighed with relief. Ray, who hadn’t noticed anything, continued.
"By which the minimum sentence is -" Ray turned to the General with a grin, wanting him to finish the sentence. The General looked up, his fork poised just outside his mouth.
"Death." He finished in a bored tone, taking a large bite out of the brown food the maid had served him and grimacing instantly as the Way brothers began to laugh nervously and deny everything.
"That’s absolutely ridiculous!" Gerard cried with a fake laugh as Mikey dropped to his knees before the table.
"Don’t kill us!" He cried, being dragged to his feet by the French soldiers and taken to the other end of the room with Gerard. The General Didnt respond, merely picked up his napkin and spat the food from his mouth into it.
Mikey and Gerard were stopped infront of a strange wooden contraption, resembling a giant well, where the French man Ray Toro was turning a wheel. The clinking of chains could be heard and out of the floor Bob and Frank appeared, tied upside down with glass boxes over their heads, filled with -
"Are those... snails?" Gerard asked with a frown, staring in surprise. Frank nodded his head, a snail latched onto his chin.
"Yes - snails." He whimpered, pale in the face.
"Your a friends have told us everything - everything excepta one thing." Ray said with a demonic grin, being cut off by the general who was pushing the food around his plate with a glare.
"Ver are the children of Marbaden?" He demanded. Mikey and Gerard glanced at each other with a frown.
"What children!?" Cried Mikey, staring at his two friends who were being eaten alive by garden snails.
"Ah - letta me kill the little bambini -" Ray cackled, pointing at Frank who looked panicked and gave a begging look to the brothers.
"We've never even been to Marbaden!" Gerard cried.
"No!" Mikey agreed.
"Open up the cauldron!" Ray laughed, turning the wheel so that Frank and Bob began to disappear through the floor once again. Gerard and Mikey leaned forward to risk a glance and gasped when they saw that the chains led down through to the floor below where soldiers were waiting around a large black cauldron, filled with bubbling water.
"NO NO NO!" Both brothers cried, turning to wave their bound hands at the general.
"Aaaahhh!" Bob wailed, struggling against his bonds.
"We didnt do it - we didnt do anything!" Frank sobbed as the cauldron grew closer. Panicking, Gerard tried to lunge forwards but the French soldiers stopped him.
"By God - By God I swear -"
"We didnt do it!" Mikey finished, both brothers yelling in panic at the thought of their friends becoming part of a snail soup.
"Of course you didnt." Snapped the general, finally pushing his plate away. "We ave been observing you for quite some time - Toro, stop." He ordered and Ray looked up in surprise.
"Uh?" He whined, still turning the wheel.
"No stop - HE SAID STOP IT!" Gerard shouted and Ray reluctantly stopped the wheel, the sounds of Bob and Frank still wailing assured the brothers that they had stopped just in time. The General waited to make sure Ray wouldn’t get tempted to start again before continuing.
"Owever, someone in Marbaden is working in the same ways as you. Same terms. Same tricks - it is a thorn, in ma toe." He snapped. "You pull it out... and I might be persuaded to offer you a pardon." He sat back, satisfied and Mikey swayed a little in horror.
"So... you mean... If we work for you..." He stuttered and Gerard nodded.
"That’s right Mikey." He whispered.
"French..." Mikey choked.
"Zats right." The General nodded and Mikey looked away, looking as if he wanted nothing more than to ground to swallow him. The General began to speak again, calling Mikeys attention back to him.
"Go to Marbaden, unmask zees villains, find ze missing children, and I shall let you go."
"Hans. We have to stay where we can still see the village!" The young girl scolded as she stumbled along the forest path to follow her brother who walked with a cocky swagger, ripping up the bread he held and tossing the pieces onto the path as a trail.
Some where above them a crow cackled.
"Not if we're gonna find the missing girls." The boy, Hans, retorted. Stepping onto a tree branch before hopping back onto the forest floor, kicking rocks as he walked.
"You're going too fast." His sister whined, looking about nervously as she ripped her own bread.
"Gretta, nothing has ever happened to anyone in day time." Hans sighed, bored of his sisters constant complaining. Gretta paused to look around as another crow screeched somewhere, her eyes wide with fear. Her ginger hair hung over her shoulders in two long plaits.
"And in the very middle of the wood, was the witches Gingerbread house..." She whispered to herself, quoting a story she had heard once. Though she couldn’t quite remember where. She continued walking, Hans had disappeared through the trees but she was fairly certain she knew which way he had gone; So slowly, she began picking her way through the trees and brambles, tossing pieces of bread as she went, only for crows to swoop down and eat them as soon as her back was turned.
Gretta continued walking until she reached a small brook, its water bubbling as it rushed over rocks. She bit her lip and looked across it, but could see nothing but trees. There was a small rock in the very middle of it and she stepped onto it, swaying only a little.
"Hans!" She called, trying to spot her brother through the trees, but there was no sign of him - or his bread. Deciding she had gone the wrong way, Gretta turned around and stepped back onto the bank, walking back through the trees and looking about for her brother.
She gasped as her cape was suddenly whipped from her back and she spun around to see it float down into the water of the brook. She tilted her head to the side and began to walk back towards it, presuming the wind had blown it off her - for she hadn’t seen the tree branch that had swooped down and flicked it away from her before she could turn around.
Gretta stepped back onto the rock she had been stood on before and bent down to retrieve her cape, but her fingers barely brushed it before the wind swept it up once more and blew it up the brook - against the current - and onto a dead tree trunk that had fallen into the water. Gretta sighed and hitched up her skirt, stepping on the rocks that protruded out of the water and making her way onto the tree trunk, which thankfully was not yet hollow and was safe to walk on. She was careful to keep her balance as she edged her way across the bark, bending to pick up her cape once more - but again it was blown away, this time drifting into a gap between two boulders.
"Hey! Come back!" Gretta cried, picking up a long stick and jumping off the branch onto another rock and making her way between the boulders. The brook was deeper here, more like a stream, and between the boulders it snaked its way through the forest, ending in a large pool with a waterfall. The cape stopped in the pool, floating on the surface. Gretta giggled as she found more rocks step on, the whole thing like a great game to her, and she leaned forward when the rocks ended, swiping at the cape with the stick.
"Gotcha!" But she hadn’t. The wind once again had lifted the cape, this time sending it up the waterfall. As if the wind itself was teasing her, letting her get in reach of the garment before snatching it away.
Somewhere in the woods Hans stopped by a chunk of bread. Gretta had dropped it when her cape had first been snatched away, and Hans had found it as he searched for her. He picked up the stale food and looked around with worry, his eyebrows furrowing as he dashed through the trees.
Gretta had managed to climb the waterfall with ease, it was only small with rocks in such perfect places to put your feet that it was if they had purposely been put there. And at the top of the water fall was a gap in a rock face, like a long, narrow cave - which the cape now fluttered through. Gretta continued giggling as she stepped through the cave, standing on rocks and sometimes in the water when there was nowhere else to tread.
The cape was now pressed against the back wall and Gretta paused, it was being sucked into a hole in the wall and it was making a horrible noise - like breathing. She paled a little and felt her forgotten fear returning, she reached out and grabbed the corner of the cape, tugging it as hard as she could, it felt like someone else was tugging at it from the other side and it took her strength to finally pull it free. She gasped and stumbled back, there was indeed a hole in the wall - perfectly round, and hundred of beetles poured free from it. Some flying into the air and around her face as she whimpered and stared in horror. There were strange marking carved into the wall around the hole and she tried hard not to cry as beetles got tangled in her hair, her eyes growing wide as she heard a low humming behind her.
She turned slowly as the humming continued. She recognized it immediately - a local lullaby that everyone knew. For a moment she wondered where the sun had gone, and then she realized - someone, or something, was blocking the entrance to the cave, it could have been a man, but at the same time, it looked like an animal - she couldn’t tell in such darkness. The thing didnt stop humming as it grew taller and taller, or maybe it was just standing up - and then she heard the 'shing' of metal on metal, and she knew it from when her mother sharpened the carving knives, or when the guards at the town gates pulled free their swords. But this sounded bigger than a sword - perhaps an axe.
Crows burst from the trees as Gretta let out a blood curdling scream.
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