Grizelda was preparing some bread, when she heard victorious cries and a soldier march. She ran up to the window, watching as they announced their victory. She dusted her hands on her apron and ran down to the public area. “Mamma! Papa! The war is over! We were victorious!”
Gotto stopped to watch her. She was putting on an excited display in front of everyone for them to believe that she did side with them. That way the rumors would lessen and increase the bakery's reputation again. In reality it was more than that. It meant the stopping of deaths, and that was what she was so happy about.
“The Rhioninians surrendered?” A customer stood up and asked rushing to the window.
“It’s them! They’re back home!” another who came to pick up a dish exclaimed joyfully.
Milia couldn’t help but smile at Grizelda. She had grown to love more than most, despite her lineage. As her caretaker she couldn’t help but be proud.
There it was. They had heard her exclamation, perhaps the rumors would lessen. With time and counsel Grizelda learned to ignore the rumors, the curse would try to magnify the importance of them. As a result Grizelda had to magnify the goodness and love in everything and everyone. She was getting better at it. She learned the more good she did, the less the rumors bothered her, and the less bad people could say about her. She continued to stand there proudly, before nodding at her family and heading up to continue her work privately.
She giggled as she got back to work. “The war is over.” She paused thinking it over. “I endured the stress of war, and rumors. It’s been nearly a year!” she exclaimed. “I really did it! Without misbehaving!”
As she spoke to herself a dove perched up on the window sill. Grizelda observed the bird, it was beautiful. It seemed like a pure dove, without fault. It chirped a beautiful noise that made Grizelda stop and listen. With that the bird crawled in through the window.
Grizelda cocked her head and attempted to shoo her away. “I’m sorry little one, I can’t let you near the bread.” The bird flew off causing Grizelda to sigh, before returning with a black feather inside its beak. This startled Grizelda. “You chirp beautifully!” she said heading over. “but I told you, you can’t be ne-“ at this point Grizelda stopped speaking sternly, her tone changing to one of realization. “ar the bread.” The bird wasn’t near the bread at all! It wasn’t near anything edible, in fact It was perched on a series of books. It lay the feather down in the middle of two of them. “Okay. well if you don’t go near the edibles. I can let you stay.”
With that Grizelda continued her work. The chirping continued, longer than she thought it would. Grizelda couldn’t help but talk back. “Do you want something little bird?” the sound that came out was something that she wasn’t expecting. Two chirps, yet in a different syllable. It was almost as if the bird was trying to respond. Grizelda wondered how to respond, she may have been getting distracted. “I can’t give you anything to eat or drink, I’m sorry.” She responded. She was greeted with another syllable chirp. Then silence. “Or perhaps you’re looking for a friend?” The bird did not respond, rather it waited.
It waited until Grizelda began putting the bread in the oven. The front was now clear of edibles other than flour. It took a hankerchief laying it down and spreading it as to not contaminate the counter. When Grizelda turned back she looked at the bird. “It’s almost as if you understand me.” She muttered quietly. The result was a two syllable chirp. Grizelda was slightly frightened. She decided to repeat the question in a different manner and find a response. “Do you not understand me?” There was a one syllable chirp. The bird flew to Grizelda, tapping its head over and over at her chest in some sort of rhythm. This confused her. “What are you trying to say to me?” she asked without her usual playful tone.
It was then Katherine began to chirp out in song. She sang the same song she sang to Grizelda at night, the same song she sang when she was scared, and the same song she had sang before she left. Grizelda felt her heart beat quicker in fear and confusion. She was so safe here, without reminders of all those who had left her. Her eyes began to water, and as she cried the bird stopped beating its head to her chest to the beat of her heart. This worsened it. This bird couldn’t have heard and repeated. It was too intelligent for that.
“Katherine..” The bird stopped hitting only to peck at Grizelda’s arm causing a pinch. She jumped back. “Mamma?” with that the bird sat on her shoulder, laying next to her peacefully. Her mother had become a bird. Questions filled Grizelda, none of which she could ask. Only yes or no questions for now were able to be answered. Even so Grizelda only grew more curious as she received answers. Grizelda was happy to have her come back, so much that she grew to accept the lack of explanation.
Katherine didn’t try to live with Grizelda after that. She knew her place had been taken from her. She stayed a distance allowing Milia and Gotto to be her caretakers. To fulfill her motherly instinct she watched over her from the trees and nests. Her feather's nearly shining with pride at her youngest daughter each day.
A life changing moment was when Grizelda had found a young boy abandoned while wandering. He was too young to speak or make sense of the world. Rushing home Milia and Gotto were surprised and unsure of what to do. Despite their riches the famine had not ended. Though Grizelda helped provide more income, feeding her was still a hard task at times. Let alone another child!
It was clear what had happened. With the famine growing newborns and children were beginning to be left behind due to financial restraints. If they didn’t take care of him, at least for now, no one would. She was sure to remind them of that. It didn’t help that she had also formed an attachment to him. She knew what it was like to be left on her own helpless so she took care of him the most with plenty of tips from Milia. She even named him from her own blood, Nicholas.
With this, Grizelda continued to do good while she helped in the business by raising him. She would often see the light shine in his innocent young eyes. He even called her mama at some points!
Even with this, his sweetness didn’t prevent her caretakers from struggling further. It hurt. In a sense she felt guilty, watching them give more to her and Nicholas. She needed to do more to help provide, this was far better than when she was younger but money didn’t kill the famine.
Time passed and she watched as signs began to be posted up. They were of children. Children had began to go missing. This was common, but in these numbers it was unnatural. Some parents had begun to lose their children, without cause or purpose! Children would simply disappear overnight! This troubled Grizelda, she wanted to help. She wasn't yet a woman but rushed out anyways as she heard the thumping of another sign being nailed down.
“Has anyone gone looking for these children?” she asked.
“Don’t worry. They’ll be found soon.” The man answered as he put his tools away.
“I’m not worried.” Grizelda said full of seriousness. “I want to help.”
The man looked over at Grizelda, kneeling over to reach her short stature. “There’s a search party that’s being organized. They have plans to look through the forest and find if something is taking them. I’m sure they’ll find something or some sort of clue. We’ll find them, I assure you.” He said with a smile.
Grizelda could tell there was doubt and fear behind the smile. All emotions whether good or bad had been amplified to her over the years. It didn’t calm her at all. She sat down as the man went to leave. Katherine watched above her. Grizelda looked up at the dove, clearly bothered. What kind of beast would enter the city and rob children without leaving any evidence or hurting any grown person? It only hurt small innocent souls! This troubled Grizelda but as she stared at her mother it suddenly made sense.
Her body rushed to the man without explanation or thinking. “I must go.” she declared. “Where will they meet?” The man stopped and stared at her.
“You’re a very persistent child. What do you think you could offer us?” he asked her, not expecting a legitimate answer.
“Temptation.” She answered quickly. “If this beast only takes children, you’ll need a child in order for it to be tempted to come into view.” The man tried to speak but came without an immediate response. “You wont be able to find another child willing to sacrifice themselves willingly.”
This was true. The man clearly felt conflict. Grizelda was clearly still a child, yet her determination and self sacrificial nature wasn’t one he could ignore. “Tonight, when the sun is out of sight. We’ll be meeting at the Tavern.”
Grizelda pouted. He was still refusing. “I’m not allowed in. You know this.” A sigh was the response.
“I’ll talk to the other members. I swear it. If they agree, and you’ll stay awake, we’ll pass by here on the way to the forest.”
Grizelda nodded content with the response. She then entered her home once more. At most, if she were attacked self defense was not a sin, she would die trying. If she did, and the curse remained dormant Milia and Gotto would continue with food for themselves and survive better without worrying of the curse. She walked past them, as they were too busy to notice. Walking upstairs with a heavy heart she opened a book, a black feather laid as a bookmark.
Katherine flew to her windowsill. She was worried. There was clearly logic and goodness behind this, and she should have been proud, but so many things could go wrong. “It’s Addy. Isn’t it?” she asked quietly, before sliding down the wall and laying on the floor to stare at the roof. She didn’t know how to respond when the two quieter chirps rang out.
Finally she gripped at her face, pulling at it in emotion before Katherine flew away. She let out a long pained wail full of tears, along with yells of self anger as her throat welled up. Milia rushed up the stairs, leaving Gotto to manage the front. All she could make out through the bangs and screams were “I’m sorry.” She opened the door as Grizelda hit the floor repeatedly, and held her close.
“Grizelda, what’s wrong!” Milia held her tighter before looking at her face. “What’s wrong?” Grizelda stopped screaming, instead she just cried in Milia’s chest. This worried Milia greatly. She just heard the same things repeated as Grizelda tried to release what was inside of her.
“I’m so sorry Mamma! I tried!”