11. May contain dandruff
"Good luck Will. You'll show him, eh?" A man who didn't belong to the group of usual suspects that accompanied the brothers to their hopefully last deployment concerning the Petermännchen gave Wilhelm a friendly pat on the shoulder and nodded to him before they set off.
Jake turned to his brother with a lopsided grin: "Looks like you finally made some friends here."
"Oh, you know, they're not too bad, once you get to know them." the older Grimm mumbled a little sheepishly.
"Especially the innkeeper's wife seems to have taken quite a shine to you." his brother went on, smirking.
"Well, you should have heard her comments on your chest-muscles while you were digging."
"What? Are you kidding me?" The speed at which the colour drained from Jake's face was nearly uncanny.
Wilhelm grinned smugly: "Absolutely not …"
Amidst the ruins of the old castle, the brothers prepared for their final showdown.
Will presented a small glass vial to the onlookers who were watching in raw fascination.
"So, we have this water in which twelve virgins have washed their hair by moonlight and then subsequently have died of a severe chill." (1)
"These girls were a bit hydrophobic." Roland frowned, observing the vial.
"Well, obviously it's not all the water they used. This is highly potent stuff. The innocence, their sacrifice and the energy of the moon-rays are all in here."
"And dandruff possibly." Fridolin volunteered.
"Possibly." Wilhelm agreed to avoid any potential argument.
Fridolin gave a little shudder: "Ick, now that'd exorcise me."
"Poor girls" Paul commented in his usual rather monosyllabic manner.
"Hah, serves them right for jumping around at night for their little washing session. Very unhygienic. In my days decent people washed in daylight, every Sunday ten sharp." Karl declared condescendingly.
"Yeah, no wonder they were virgins if they spent the night washing their hair …" Mrs. Schenker sniggered.
With a short clearing of the throat Will continued his illustrations: "So, the water will extinguish the fire of his eternally burning soul and thus send him to heaven."
"Heaven?" Roland asked doubtfully, his face clearly indicating, that in his book heaven wasn't exactly the final destination held in store for murderous evil spirits.
"Well, not the first rate heaven for the really holy people of course. But more the economy class heaven where the seats are a little less comfy and you have to pay for your own nectar and ambrosia. But certainly better than hell. So his soul is going to be at peace. Or, if it isn't, it's more likely to complain to the management than to haunt your town. Still, someone has to distract him. He mustn't spot our intent." And saying that Wilhelm turned to his brother: "Jake, you're going to be the bait."
"Well ain't that a surprise…" the younger one muttered to himself.
"I'm going to jump up from behind, pour the water on him and speak the banishment. All right, that's it. Let's get started. Where's my … damn!" Visibly annoyed at himself the older Grimm sacked and turned around in a search he already knew to be fruitless.
This behaviour was rewarded with several questioning faces: "What is it?"
"I forgot the sword. I can't go unarmed."
A spade's handle was proffered into the blond man's face. "I brought my shovel, just in case." Karl explained.
Turning it over in his hands, Will inspected the offered instrument and then shrugged: "Better'n nothing, I guess."
Fully armed with shovel and vial, he nodded to his younger brother, who walked out into the ring of pillars and shouted: "Hey demon! Show yourself and face me!"
Instantly Willibald strode out of the shadows: "Who dares to soil my halls with his unworthy presence? Hah, but you will not leave again alive."
The evil spirit flicked his wrist and threw his fingers out at the younger Grimm as if to spray him with water.
On cue Jake's voice took on a very fake panicky tone: "Oh no, it's a spell. I can't move!"
In the meantime Wilhelm had been sneaking round the clearance and now rose from behind the Petermännchen, shovel raised menancingly, like a strangely agricultural-minded avenging angel.
"Begone foul fiend, your evil reign is now finished!" he thundered, pouring the water over Willibald's costume, where it left a ridiculously minuscule stain.
With an earpiercing wail, the Petermännchen vanished in a puff of green smoke, but hissing and wriggling reptiles occupied the spot he had been standing on.
Still standing immobile Jacob exclaimed anxiously: "Will, his spell is still on me, crush the snakes, his soul is hiding in there. Oh he's trying to choke me." And gasping and wheezing he repeated his plea in more urgent tones: "I can't breathe, he's choking me. Quick, crush the snakes."
Will coughed and felt tears sting his burning eyes. He could hardly see a thing in the bloody smoke. But there was no time to be lost. So with a cry of "I'm coming!" he just jumped in and smashed Karl's shovel on the spot where he suspected the snakes to be with as much force as he could muster.
But unluckily the voice that yelled out in pain was distinctly familiar: "AOW! Thanks, Will…"
"Ooh, I'm sorry…"
"Never mind." came the very feeble reply from somewhere within the smoke.
Through the green wisps he made out the form of his sibling, hunched up on the ground and cradling his leg, face contorted with pain.
"Oh, shit, I'm so sorry …" Will started meekly.
"Snakes …" Jake managed through clenched teeth and pointed his chin towards the heap of writhing crawlers, that knew nothing about the fate they had so narrowly escaped just now.
Will looked down and jumped in alarm: "Ew, horrid beasts, get away from me."
"It's only slowworms …" Jake mumbled but Will didn't hear him as, gripping the shovel on the furthest possible point and standing back as far as practicable he gave the poor animals a hysteric beating until there were reduced to nothing more but smear on the stone.
Finally the green smoke had lifted.
"Well, no need to bury these any more." Jake commented dryly into the exhausted silence as his brother stood panting. "No soul of pure evil with any standards is going to hide in something that looks suspiciously as if it was a stork's dinner just having come up the other way."
Suspecting the main excitement to be over, the town people approached cautiously. "Is it gone?" the mayor questioned nervously.
"Observe" Jake stated with just a trace of mocking, "the remaining smudges of the Petermännchen." And he gestured towards the unsavoury grey pulp.
"You're completely safe now." Will affirmed.
"Well, jolly good. Well done brothers. I say, this asks for a victory party." Roland declared. "Everybody off to Alfred's!" And with a concerned glance at Jake who still resided on the ground, he added: "Oh, I see you got wounded in the fight, Jacob, can you walk?"
"I can carry you, no trouble." Paul offered, but met with Wilhelm's stern look: "Thank you, Paul, I think I can support him myself."
The smile the older Grimm received from his younger brother made his stomach flutter a little and with a cough he hastily ushered the people on: "Well, off you go, no good hanging around here. Bad karma, you know …"
While the citizens walked on ahead, talking and arguing urgently about the spectacle they had witnessed, the brothers fell behind a little, as Jacob hobbled along slowly, one arm round the older man's shoulder.
For once, Wilhelm seemed quite contend: "What do you think? Should we stay here over Christmas? Such a lovely little town …"
Not quite trusting his ears, Jacob treated his brother to a surprised frown. But when he saw nothing but open honesty in the older one's eyes he nodded in acceptance: "But not at the Schenkers!"
"Nah, wouldn't want to have you ravished in your bed …"
No slowworms were hurt in the writing of this chapter.
Nor do I support any form of cruelty against slowworms.
Well, um, that's it. Hope you enjoyed.
(1) The dying of a severe chill is from "The importance of being earnest" if you're being finicky …