Jake found that he couldn't sleep. He stared into the blackness; the only sound was his brother's breathing. He listened to it for some time and then he spoke.
"You weren't meant to read the story, Will. No one was ever meant to read it. Papa and Lotte were dead and you had left, saying that you never wanted to see me again. I wrote it for me, to give me comfort and the courage to move on. Will, I needed to be able to start again, here at the University. Ma understood that, that's why she gave me the book. New book, new start. I know I should have destroyed it, but it was in Papa's book, Will and I couldn't damage that. I'm sorry, Will, you have to believe that. If you want to leave in the morning, just go, Franz will help me find something else to do. But do me one favour, please, keep in touch with Katia or Max…"
There was no response from Will, only the sound of his breathing. Was he asleep? It was probably better if he was, Jake decided. He felt tears sting his eyes and he let them come. It had been a long time since he had cried for what happened all those years ago, and what had happened since. But it seemed appropriate for him to alone in the dark, crying, for the sins of his past. Suddenly he heard a movement in the dark and he was pushed out of the way as someone sat on the bed and then put their arms around him and he heard a familiar voice.
"Hush, now Jake. There's no need to cry anymore."
Will had always been the one to comfort his younger sister and brother when they were upset. Often their mother would wake to find one or sometimes two empty beds and all three of them huddled together after nightmares had struck. He saw no reason to change that now, but he did have a question.
"Why me, Jake? Why make the hero me?"
"Because you are, you always were."
"Wilhelm Grimm, no, Wilhelm Carl Grimm: Hero," the idea amused him, but if Jake was asking him to take that role, who was he to refuse? As the saying went, if the cap fits… "I must say that it has a nice ring to it, don't you think?" He laughed gently, "Tears stopped? Good, now get some sleep, we have things to plan in the morning." He let go of Jake and returned to his own "bed".
"But, Will…about the story."
"Jake, it's just that, a story. Written some time ago. We have both changed since then and if I can't forgive you for a story, what kind of brother am I? But if you do ever write a story that DOESN'T include magic please feel free to use me as your hero. NOW GO TO SLEEP!"
Will heard Jake settle and soon he began to murmur and Will knew he had fallen asleep. So he stretched out and let Jake's words lull him to sleep and dreams of his heroic adventures.
Will woke next morning to find one thing missing from Jake's room, Jake. He went to the door and checked the corridor, but there was no sign of his brother. Jake's bag, with his book inside, was still in place, so he hadn't gone far. But where was he? Was his collapse due to the shock of the events of the previous day or was it an indication that they all had been wrong and Jake wasn't as recovered as they had thought. Was the best course of action to return with Jake to Arnsburg and let him recuperate further and then try to convince the University to reconsider it's decision, or was there some other way out of this situation? But, before he could consider any answers to the problem he had to find his brother first. He got dressed and, as he had not other idea of where his brother may have gone, he decided to go the tavern that they had been to last night. At least there, Franz might have some idea of where else Jake could have gone.
Will made his way back to the tavern, keeping an eye out for Jake as he went, only to find him sat with Franz when he got there.
"Jacob, where have you been?" he demanded angrily.
"Will, he's been here with me, and quite safe, so you can calm down," replied Franz
"I woke up and he was gone, no note, nothing. What was I suppose to think?"
"Jake, you didn't tell me Will had no idea of where you were?"
"Franz, I thought I would be back with the breakfast before he woke up. He stayed the night to look after me, so I thought the least I could do was to provide the breakfast, but I got a bit distracted by Selina."
Will looked at the woman who was also sat at the table. She was one of the tavern's serving girls and rather well endowed. "Yes, Jake. I can see why you might find her distracting."
"Yes, Will the story she was telling about the witch in the woods near her home town, was one I haven't come across before. I need to get her to repeat it, so I can write it down."
Will and Franz exchanged looks, "Well, Selina. I apologise for interrupting your tale, please continue."
Selina's home village was several miles from the town and could be reached by two roads, one that went through the woods and one that wound its way around them. Common sense would make the road through the woods, which as much shorter, the route of choice for most travellers, especially if it was getting dark or the weather was bad. But there was a story that a cottage lay on that road that was inhabited by a witch who would take unwary travellers and put them in her pot. Over time, and due to the fact that one or two traveller had, indeed, taken the shorter road but never arrived at their destination, the stories had grown from just being put into the pot, to being turned into unnatural things or forced to do the witch's bidding.
"There was a man in my Grandmother's time that took that road during a storm and he turned up nearly a week later in a terrible state, his clothes all messed up and terrible cuts and bruises all over him, passed out right in the middle of village, he did," continued Selina.
"But how do you know that it was the witch that did that to him?" asked Will.
"Because he said so, right before he passed out. Whole village hear him."
"And people still won't use the road, even though it takes them longer to use the other one?"
"I wouldn't, would you? At the risk of being turned into something by that old witch. I have family I need to take care of. It may take a little longer, but it is much, much safer." The woman went back to her chores in the tavern whilst the three men sat back and considered her words.
"You see, Will. There must be something to that story for it to have lasted so long. I must remember to write it up for my book when we get back to my room."
"Jake, weren't you listening? That story persists became some fool took a ride in a storm, got thrown by his horse and then got lost. He turned up after days in the wood, scared, hurt and alone. Is it any wonder that the stories he heard had affected his mind? He passed out straight after he said it! He was probably delirious from his injuries and lack of food and water. That was no good reason for anyone to be too scared to use a road that would save the villagers time and money."
"Maybe someone should go and prove to them that the tale is false and then they would probably use the road again," pointed out Franz
"Yes, maybe someone should," said Will.
They are their breakfast. Jake and Franz had to provide the conversation, as Will was silent, lost in thought. They said their good byes to Franz and made arrangements to meet him there again, in the evening. They walked back to Jake's room, Will still silent. Jake glanced around his room, a look of sadness in his eyes.
"Jake," said Will, "you don't have to be upset about leaving this place. You don't belong here."
"But, I do, Will. It's one of the few places I do feel that I belong. Surround by my books, full of their tales. They feel like friends."
"But all they are, are bound pages full of writing. They have no life, Jake, no feeling to them and they have taken you as far as they can. You know that yourself. You went out to seek the tales in the places that they came from. Those tales weren't just on paper, they were in people's minds, alive and you saw what they could do to people. We both did, with the story that Selina told us. It was just a story but it still stopped people from using that road."
"I know, I was trying to find stories that could provide the evidence I need to support my theories and Selina's did just that. All those people believed in the story, so there must have been something to it. Something that started it, something real?"
"Jake, be realistic. If all those stories were true, we'd be tripping over magic on every street corner. But the main problem is that those stories make people scared of places, so scared that won't go there, and that's not right. What people need is someone to show them that their stories are fakes and then they will be able to overcomes their fears."
"And when the fake one are reveal it will only leave the ones that are true!"
Will decided to ignore that comment. Jake, at least, seemed to be open to the idea, now all he would have to do was convince him that THEY were the ones who should do this. He had been thinking about this ever since Selina's story. He had seen from Jake's books that there were hundreds of stories from Germany alone. If he could plan this just right, then there could be a way to make a profit form this AND keep an eye on Jake.
"Good day, Herr Wallem."
"Good day, Herr Grimm. What may I do for you?"
"It's about my brother, Jake."
"Ah. I see that he has told you of my decision. I can assure you that you cannot make me change my mind. Your brother is no longer welcome at this University."
"Because of me?"
"Yes, in part. Your name has been mentioned in connections with certain events…"
"I was young and stupid then and believed that a woman could not lie about how she felt. I have learned from my mistake. You should not use that as an excuse to be rid of my brother."
"Oh, Herr Grimm. You have too high an opinion of yourself! Jake had fallen out of favour sometime ago and it was only a matter of time before he was asked to leave. His illness was just the opportunity we needed. His place may now got to someone more worthy."
"More worthy… or more able to pay?"
"The University must survive, Herr Grimm, and your brother's theories on magic will not secure the University any further funding, but I understand from certain sources that you have turned your "mistake" to quite a profit. If you were able to provide some reason for your brother to remain here I am sure I could persuade my colleagues to reconsider."
"Oh, Herr Wallem. I didn't come here to beg you to let Jake stay. I merely wanted to learn the real reasons why you had decided to get rid of him. My brother still has dreams and imagination and it will be a pleasure to take him away from here before he becomes as dried up and greedy as you."
The fact that Will didn't actually agree with Jake's dreams and imagination, or in fact most of the things that he said, wasn't something he felt that he had to enlighten Herr Wallem on. Her merely left the meeting and went to meet Jake and Franz as agreed.
"I'm sorry, Jake. I tried but I couldn't convince Herr Wallem to change his mind," Will watched as his brother's face fell. "But I have been thinking about what we could do now that you are a free man, so to speak."
"What?" Jake tried not to sound too interested.
"You remember the conversation that we all had after Selina's story. Well, now that you won't be staying I have been giving it some thought and…" he paused and looked at Jake and then Franz, "…I can't see a reason why it couldn't be us."
"You and Jake?" Franz looked at Jake, but judging by the look on his face, it would seem that it came as just a surprise to him as well.
"But, what part would I play in all this?" Jake needed to clear on what his brother intended
"You're the one with all the stories in your head."
"Jake, you have to admit that you are a walking fountain of knowledge on all things magical, Professor," added Franz.
"I will admit that I HAVE read a number of books on the subject."
"And written enough about them to fill several volumes yourself. It couldn't work without you, little brother," Jake smiled, it seemed that had a place in Will's plans.
"So, Will. How would all this work?" asked Franz.
"Well, lets start with, say, Selina's village. We would arrive, Jake and I would challenge and defeat the witch so that the villagers could use the road again."
"It would be that simple?" Franz couldn't quite keep the amusement out of his voice.
"But, Will. How could we possibly defeat the witch? She'll be using magic!"
"Jake, what are the chances of the witch being real? Have you EVER encountered any real magic? You, after all, are one of the few people who, if magic was real, should have come across it. What I meant was that we would hire someone to play the witch and then stage a fight and having defeated their witch the villagers would no longer have a reason not to use the road."
"And you are going to do this out of the goodness of your hearts, even the person who is going to play your witch?"
"No! Of course not. We will charge the villages for our expenses. I mean we will have gone to a lot of trouble for them and I am sure they will be more than willing to compensate us."
"And where will you get the equipment you need? I don't think that anyone will be impressed enough pay your expenses if all you do is give your witch or whatever a stern telling off."
"Franz, Jake knows what we will need and I am more than able to make the appropriate equipment and weapons. All we need to find is someone to play our witch or whatever and then we can get started."
"Actually, I might be able to help you. There was a travelling theatre troupe in town last week and when they left, they left behind a couple of their number. As far as I know they have jet to find any other work. If you are interested they were staying at a tavern a few streets away from here."
"I suggest that we pay them a visit."
Franz led them to the tavern and their enquiries were rewarded with the knowledge that the men were still there, that their names were Hidlick and Bunst and that they were behind with their rent. They were pointed in the direction of their table. Hidlick was tall and skinny and Bunst wasn't, but both gave their attention to Will.
"Gentleman, my name is Wilhelm Grimm and I have a proposition to put to you. But first, I can see that you are both without refreshment, may I buy you a drink?" They both accepted and Will, with Jake's help brought ale and they all sat around the table, where Will introduced first Jake and then Franz.
"Now that we are all refreshed I feel it is appropriate to outline my proposition to you. I understand that you were previously employed in the theatrical profession?" both men nodded, "Excellent, then I believe that you will have skills that will be most useful in our endeavour. Which I can assure you will provide both an essential, beneficial service to the villages and towns that we assist and a profitable outcome for ourselves…"
Jake, after his initial nod in response to his introduction by Will, watched as his brother went on to explain what he intended to do. At first the men seemed to be wary of their proposition, but as Will explained further and kept repeating that it would provide them with work, and profitable work at that, they began to come around. Jake knew that by the end of the evening Will would have won them over and their plans would be a reality. Will had always had the gift of charming people with his words. Even as children it was always Will who talked them out of any trouble they were in, only their mother seem immune to his charms, and many times he had saved Jake from punishment when his clumsiness had brought trouble again.
Will's plan wasn't exactly what he had envisioned for himself, he merely wanted to find proof that magic was real and what he would do after that he wasn't entirely sure. Study it? Stop it from hurting others? The stories he had read, and written, usually had only those who believed in it prevailing, the others would come to some unfortunate fate. But Will's plans meant that he finally had use for Jake, he had said as much, and would keep him close and maybe he would find a way to somehow begin to make up for what had happened all those years ago and if he could help expose those stories that were false then when he did come across one that was real then perhaps people would be more inclined to believe him?
He also knew that living with his brother wasn't going to be easy. They had often argued as children over some thing or other, usually caused by Jake, and it had been Lotte who had been the peacemaker between them, soothing sore nerves and annoyances, real and otherwise. After her death there had been little or no communication between them. At their mother's funeral Jake had kept as much out of the way as possible, only speaking to his brother when he had to and accepting the condolences of people with a simple "thank you" or "you are so kind" and then retreating into the background again. After that he hadn't seen or heard from his brother until Arnsburg and although that had proved be a turning point for both of them, Jake was not going to delude himself by thinking that they were now the best of friends. They still didn't see eye to eye on many things and he still wasn't sure he liked the idea of deceiving people about magic. But he was willing to make allowances and do what his brother asked him to, to make it work and hopefully with the addition of Hidlick and Bunst there would be a buffer between them that would make it easier. By the end of the evening, Jake had been proved right, and the men had shaken hands on an agreement with Will to ten percent of whatever the brothers made between them.
So Jake's future was now set before him, and to his surprise, it WAS future with his brother in it, which a few months ago seemed as much as fantasy and Will thought the folktales were. But it was as true as the fact that his brother was walking beside him as he made his way back to his room, still acting on instructions from Katia he presumed, and left him there with instructions to meet him again in the morning. He said goodnight and then pulled a chair up to his desk, took out a sheet of paper and started to write a letter to Katia telling her about all their plans.