“Bruder… Vhen can ve go home? I’m freezing mein awesome balls off out here!” Gilbert whined, sticking his warmly mittened hands into his armpits, teeth chattering slightly.
“Ve can go home vhen ve haff the firevood zhat Vati sent us out here to find!” Ludwig growled at his brother. “It vould be faster if you actually helped me.”
“I’m looking for vood. I just haven’t seen any.”
“Ja… Of course you haven’t.” Ludwig grumbled under his breath.
“Vhat did you say, West?”
They trudged on in silence with only a few small grunts from Ludwig as he dragged the heavy wooden sled they were supposed to load the firewood onto through the deep snow. Gilbert began to whistle softly, red eyes darting about the barren white landscape.
All he could see were the dead trees, bare branches reaching up into the cold grey sky like long, groping fingers. Not a creature stirred. Not a bird sang, or a squirrel chattered. It was like the wood was covered in a thick, gray blanket that muffled all the sounds of the world.
“Bruder?” Ludwig’s voice cut through the air like a knife.
“Somezhing feels… wrong here. Ve need to get going. I don’t zhink it’s safe to stay out here much longer.”
“Zhat’s vhat I vas zhinking.” Gilbert began to pick up the pace, cutting a path through the snow, actively digging around for any twigs or branches to take back to their small cabin at the edge of the forest.
“Gilbert!” Ludwig called out, worry clear in his tone.
The albino turned, eyebrow raised, “Did you find somezhing, bruder?”
“More like someone…. Gilbert, look.” Ludwig pointed with his fur glove covered finger to a small mound nestled beneath the base of a tree.
“Ludwig, zhat’s just a snow drift.”
“Nein… Look again, Bruder.”
Gilbert narrowed his eyes. A small patch of (h/c) poked out of the top of the drift. The whole thing shook slightly as if something- someone- underneath were… shivering.
“Mein Gott.” Gilbert breathed, bounding over to the drift and digging down into it. He beckoned Ludwig over, “It’s… eine frau.”
“Vhat?! Vhy vould zhere be a voman out in the forest?” Ludwig shouted, abandoning the sled and trudging through the snow towards his brother.
Gilbert turned towards him with a haunted look in his eyes, “Vhy are zhere no birds singing? Vhy are zhe volves not howling?”
Ludwig nodded slowly, “Because somezhing is wrong… Ja. I know.”
“Vell, vhat do ve do now?”
“Ve take her home. Ve can’t leave her out here to freeze, can ve?”
“I don’t know… Can ve? Ve vere sent out to find vood, not a frau.”
“NEIN! Ve vill take her home!”
“Of course you vould say zhat, Bruder… You alvays haff to do zhe right zhing, not zhe zhing zhat vill save unsere Ärsche.”
Ludwig sighed, “I know, I know… Vati vill not be happy vith us. But ve can’t leave her out here! Zhat vould be as good as killing her!”
Gilbert began to pull the woman out of the snow bank, “Ve haff to be quick. Ve don’t know how long she vas out here. She might have frostbite already.”
“Ja, let’s get her back to the house… before it’s too late.” Ludwig carried her over to the sled, setting her down gently on top of it and smoothing back her damp (h/c) locks.
“West! Let’s go, already!”
“Ja, ja…” Ludwig muttered, dragging the sled back the way they had come towards their little cabin in the woods and a very angry Vati.