The Curse of 13: a re-telling of the 12 brothers- part 9

Part 9:

“Johannes?! Emil?! Hans?!” Felicie ran through the forest calling for her brothers, pitcher and flowers lay abandoned at the boundary. 

“Franz?! Al?!” She continued franticall. “Please, someone answer me!” She was half blinded by panic and tears. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry. Please, be alright!”

She didn’t understand what happened. All she did was pick some flowers. Were they special? Were they part of the magic protecting the cottage? If so, why hadn’t anyone told her?

She heard cawing overhead and watched as an unkindness of ravens flew toward the cottage. Felicie tore through the trees following them. It was so obvious. She didn’t need to find her brothers, they would be waiting for her at home. Once she got home, she would talk to Johannes. He would know what to do. He always knew what to do. 

When she made it back to the cottage, she didn’t see her brothers. She didn’t see their faces in the window, or their muddy boots kicking around the floors. All that was waiting for her were the group of ravens.

At her approach, the ravens began cawing and flapping their wings frantically. They hopped around her on the ground and circled around her head, but they didn’t claw at her hair or peck at her face. The largest raven flew above the rest and let out a crow so loud and long that the other birds fell silent. He then gently glided down toward Felicie and sat on her shoulder, looking her directly in the eye. She recognized that look. His eyes may have changed from hazel to black, but there was no changing the kindness in his gaze.

“Johannes?” She whispered. The large raven nodded his magnificent head.  Felicie looked around her at the other birds, recognizing some familiar postures and demeanors despite very different forms. Counting the bird on her shoulder, there were 12 in all. One bird for each of her brothers. 

“What have I done to you?!” She cried, dropping to the ground with tears falling thick as rain from her eyes. The birds surrounded her, hopping onto her knees, her back, and her arms. She stroked their feathers as gently as she could with trembling hands. 

Whether she cried for hours or minutes, she was not sure. She cried until her eyes were dry, and her throat raw. Her sobs echoed through the trees, making the branches droop with the weight of her sorrow.

“I’m too late.” Odine walked into the clearing, aged 10 years in a single day. 

Odine had felt the barrier crack when the first lily was cut. With each blossom plucked, the barrier grew weaker and weaker, until it finally fell away completely. She rushed from her tower, through the castle, across the courtyard, and through the grounds as quickly as she could. The forest never felt further away than it did now. She panicked as she ran, cursing herself for her failure. How could she have forgotten to tell Felicie about the lilies? How could they all have forgotten to warn her about the lilies?

Felcie ran to her Grandmother, looking for comfort, assurance, answers, but she was unable to speak. Her throat was too swollen from her bitter tears.

“Don’t speak.” Odine said gently, placing her hands on the girl’s cheeks. “To speak of the curse once it has been activated is to give it truth. It will seal the spell, making it impossible to break.”

Felcie’s red eyes widened with fear and understanding. She quickly closed her mouth, and the boys gathered round in rapt attention.

“Even now, the curse can still be broken, but I don’t know when or how.” She set her jaw to keep her lips from trembling. She knew it was time to let things take its course. She had held them back long enough. She wouldn’t let them live in the shadows anymore. 

“I know you plan to find Raol. I have always known this day will come, and I won’t stop you.” 

Odine helped Felcie cut her long golden hair, and change from her drindl into a pair of her brother’s trousers. She gave the girl an amulet for protection, a bottle of healing ointment, and a small bag of coins to aide in her journey. 

“I will hold off your parents as long as I can so you can get a head start. Roal was last seen traveling East, but his exact whereabouts are unknown.” She blessed each of her grandchildren with a kiss on their head, praying for their safety and success. 

“Trust each other, protect each other, and love each other. Together, you can overcome what you cannot do alone.” 

Odine watched from the cottage door as her Grandchildren went forth into the world, outside the realm of her protection. The image of her granddaughter, walking on a dangerous path surrounded by her raven brother, burned into her memory for the remainder of her days.

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