“Do you think we’d find him?” The small boy asked, looking at his big brother.
“We will” He promised “We’d better” He mumbled to himself. They were walking on foot from sunrise and small snowflakes started to fall on them a few moments ago. His little brother wasn’t complaining yet, but he wouldn’t blame him if he would.
To their relief they finally spotted the big inn standing tall over the rest of the village, it didn’t take them long to close the distance through the empty village.
Although it was a little after midday the large inn was half empty when the two brothers walked in quickly greeted by John the inn owner.
“How can I help you lads?” He asked with a smile, realizing he never saw the two before.
The young boy whispered something in the big one’s ear, “We are looking for Arthur” Finally answered the older brother.
“Well Arthur…” John pondered for a moment and then turned towards a twelve years old blond who passed behind him, “Cathy, can you please come here for a moment?” John called.
Cathy came over carrying a tray full of empty plates, though her ragged clothing she was pretty.
“How can I help you?” Cathy asked the brothers.
“I….I…we….” The older brother mumbled staring at Cathy.
“The lads are looking for Arthur” John helped seeing the boys look.
“I believe they are tending to the horses, they are supposed to come replace us later on” Cathy answered.
“What is this about?” Gwen the small brunette girl joined them.
“We are looking for Arthur” Said the little brother.
“What is it?” Gwen asked him patiently.
“My puppy got lost” He said on the verge of tears.
“A puppy?” John wondered.
The boy only nodded his head, tears streaming down his red cheeks.
“We heard he solves problems” The older brother explained.
“I’ll get the boys” Gwen said with a sympathetic look, quickly leaving outside while Cathy lead the brothers towards an empty table close to the fire.
By the time Gwen returned with Peter and Arthur the two brothers were warming by the large fire place. The two were drinking tea in silence from large mugs, that Cathy who was sitting with them had brought.
“Hey boys, here they are” Reaching their table Gwen said introduced them.
“This is Arthur?” The older brother asked skeptically.
“We can go…”Peter answered a little offended for his friend, giving a hard look at the older brother who was a couple of years older than them.
“No, please” The younger brother plead.
“What is the problem?” Gwen asked patiently.
“Our puppy is lost… ” Explained the younger brother again a little calmer.
Not giving him a chance to finish his older brother intervened explaining it is missing for two days already, the pup had never left his brother’s side, following him like a shadow. It was a large wolf like pup.
“A puppy?” Peter rolled his eyes.
“Let’s go” The older brother stood up “They can’t help us” He said to his brother who immediately started to cry.
“Sit down, Let’s all calm down” Arthur said.
“I still can’t understand why do we need to look for a puppy?” Peter whispered to Cathy.
The four where already making their way towards the boy’s house, riding their horses a present from the queen they got during their adventure in the previous summer after they had prevented the black lord from taking over the country.
The older brother was riding behind Arthur and the younger one rode with Gwen who looked at him like he was her own little brother.
“You heard the two” Cathy whispered back “Arthur thinks we should try to help, they made such an effort to reach us”
Moaning his disapproval Peter continued to stare forward into the white horizon. The snow had stopped but the ground was still covered with a small white blanket.
It wasn’t such a short ride and the thought alone of the two making their way on foot from their house at the adjacent village was surprised the group.
Reaching the house the group dismounted tying their horses inside a small barn behind the house.
“Where are your parents?” Cathy asked.
“Our dad is a shepherd, he probably got stuck in the snow with his herd in the valley” The older brother answered, blushing when Cathy looked at him “We have an older brother who is a shoemaker apprentice in a small town”.
“What about your mother?” Gwen tried.
“She died a few month ago” He paused for a moment and then continued “”The pup was a gift she gave my brother”
Peter nodded his head slowly realizing they made the right decision by coming there.
The sun was almost gone and even when it was visible between the clouds it didn’t help much, the cold bit through their clothes and it wasn’t getting any better than that. Standing in front of the house the group was standing outside the house trying to figure out where to start.
“Where did you see him last?” Arthur asked the younger brother.
“We were coming back from behind the barn” He started “He suddenly raised his ears and bolted towards the woods” Pointing towards a point almost a hundred feet away behind the house, where a thick forest started.
“Well… We know where to start” Arthur said. The four turned to their horses unpacking their short swords and bows they received the previous summer from their friend Glen the traveling blacksmith.
The group split into pairs walking within a shouting distance from the other pairs.. Arthur wanted Cathy to join him but the looks on Peter’s face made him change his mind. Gwen took the younger brother with her and headed first into the forest
“Did you hear anything before he disappeared?” Gwen asked when they were already deep into the forest, walking at a very fast pace.
“Uhmmm, I think I heard a distant cry, like a little boy you know?” The younger brother answered after a short moment.
“Did you see anything?” Gwen tried, she only got a head shake in response.
Making their way slowly between the trees the two could feel the cold, barely thinking of the task at hand. There was almost no light coming through the trees, both Arthur and Peter knew they would all have to go back soon.
“My hands are freezing” Peter said looking down at his hands rubbing them against each other.
“I hope we would find something soon, else we’ll give it another try tomorrow morning” Arthur said.
Snaps of wood under their weight and the whistle of the wind all they could hear, the thought of retreating to the sheltered house seemed more and more appealing with every moment that passed. Arthur wanted to continue just a bit more. He could see a hill not far away, they’ll reach it and look around.
Reaching the top of the hill the boys were already out of breath and the look down didn’t reveal much more than trees and snow.
“Look” Peter called pointing towards to figures almost running in the distance below them, it was obvious they were Gwen and the younger brother.
“They are running towards something” Peter continued and Arthur only nodded.
“We should stop them and go back” Peter said, hoping to go back as fast as he could.
The two started down and they now could see something they’ve missed from the peak, a cabin was standing at a far point below them, on the far right was a big clearing leading into the cabin. This was where Gwen was headed, as they drew closer they thought they heard a dog barking, and for a moment it sounded like more than one.
The cabin disappeared from their view and so did the pair below, Peter and Arthur hurried making their way through between the trees. Arthur tried to spot Gwen between the branches and for a moment saw her, a man was towering over her with a sword in his hand. Arthur lost his footing and rolled on the snow, bumping into bushes on the way down.
Running towards the cabin after seeing Gwen been carried inside by a stranger followed by her companion’s little brother, Cathy spotted two figures sliding involuntary down the slope on the far side of the cabin between the trees. It was a harder approach from there but they were concealed from view for a longer time this way. Cathy couldn’t persuade her partner to try a safer approach once he saw his brother taken as well and they were now following the same route as Gwen took.
After finally standing up Arthur saw Cathy, he waved to her trying to get her to change her route towards them but nothing was changing, the older brother was headed straight to the cabin.
The already breathless boys two picked up the pace trying to reach the cabin at the same time as Cathy. Arthur thought a two fronts attack will be at least better than one at a time.
Almost twenty feet from the cabin they heard the dogs barking again and the boys hid behind a tree, glimpsing around it managing to spot Cathy approaching fast.
The dogs were barking and Arthur could see a movement inside the cabin.
Two men appeared each turning in a different direction towards the Cathy and the older brother. The one closest to Arthur waited near the corner hiding out of Cathy’s sight. There was no sign of Gwen and Arthur slowly approached the cabin stepping from one tree to another with Peter on his heels.
When they looked down a big dog was blocking their path towards the cabin, growling silently ready to bark. He was tied around his neck with a long rope to a tree.
“Give him some food” Arthur whispered.
Peter frowned and went through his pockets producing a small piece of bread, throwing it away from them the two managed to reach the entrance of the cabin.
Gwen and the young brother were lying on the floor of the cabin, but aside them were three more children in small cages at the corners of the cabin.
“What is this place?” Peter asked.
“They are selling us” One of the boys whispered with tears in his eyes.
Arthur looked outside the window seeing one of the men approaching the two outside, while Cathy was aiming her bow at him. The older brother was yelling and Arthur could see this wasn’t going to be solved peacefully. They edged around the door coming behind the second man. He was holding a club in his hand ready to swing.
They saw the older brother take another step forward towards the man who in turn raised his sword and swung his hilt into his face dropping him to the ground. Taking another step forward while bending the string on her arrow Cathy aimed at the attacker, she was ready to shoot when a loud noise was heard and Cathy disappeared into the ground.
Letting out a loud gasp Arthur and Peter lost the element of surprise and the man turned and swung his club, barely missing Arthur’s head who jumped out of the way.
The boys worked together preparing to attack. Peter took a step forward, faking an attack. The man took the bait and sent a blow towards Peter leaving himself exposed to a hard blow with the dull side of Arthur’s sword to the back of his head sending him down almost taking Peter on the way down.
Arthur turned to look the second man, but he wasn’t ready for the attack and the man jumped on him from behind sending a hard blow to his shin.
Looking around Peter saw he was the only one standing, furiously charging at Arthur’s attacker, raining easily blocked blows on him. The man took a few steps back, standing only a few steps from the cabin entrance, he readied himself for an attack his sword was raised high. He started forward when a club hit his legs and he dropped raising his head only to see Peter pointing his sword at his throat while Gwen was ready to swing her club at him again.
Quickly after knocking him unconscious Peter and Gwen turned to look for Cathy, who was being pulled out of the freezing water by the older brother. The clearing next to the cabin was a frozen lake in this weather.
Warming up in the boy’s cabin the four were happy to be alive, all of the boys were with them.
“We will go out tomorrow morning and find your parents” Arthur said to the grateful kids.
They were all busy eating a hefty dinner but the smile returned to their faces.
The younger brother kept playing with the pup, but now there were five more who needed a home.
“We should all get a good night sleep” Cathy said getting up, she turned to the older brother “Thank you for rescuing me” She said and kissed him on the cheek making his face go red.
Cathy headed to the adjacent room with Gwen closing the door behind them, as the door closed Peter burst into laughter.