She didn't realize she had fallen asleep until she found herself being shaken awake by Princess Valerie.
"Sorry." The princess apologized. "I know you didn't get much sleep and honestly I didn't either but we need to keep moving. We need to travel as much during the day as we can."
"Fine." Jane muttered grumpily. She really isn't much of a morning person.
As Valerie gathered the apples to take with them Jane put her hair up into a ponytail using a rubber band that had been around her wrist. Valerie had taken off her cloak and turned it into a makeshift bag to put the apples in.
They stayed to the golden path and as they walked the forest began to give away to endless cornfields with the occasional farmhouse.
"Are we almost to your kingdom?" Jane asked.
Valerie shook her head. "It's still a couple of days ahead of us. We should make it to the village of Isengaurd before nightfall. I've never personally been there but hopefully we'll be able to get a room for the night and possibly hire a guide to help us."
Jane stopped. "Did you hear that?"
Valerie frowned. "Hear what?"
A whimpering noise came from the left of them somewhere within the cornfield. It didn't sound quite human.
Jane parted the cornstalks and was about to walk into the unknown when Valerie called out to her.
"Jane, where are you going?"
She hesitated. What am I doing? She questioned herself.
"Someone is hurt. We can't just leave them." She said and continued through the corn.
She came upon a small clearing with a creek running through. An ancient oak with gnarled roots grew beside it. At the base of the tree a large beast lay. After closer inspection Jane realized it was a very large wolf.
It had a dark grey coat that had once been beautiful but now was badly singed and covered in soot. In some places the fur was completely burned off. At first Jane thought the creature was dead but then she noticed its chest moving up and down heavily like it took a lot of effort just to breathe.
"Jane, your humanitarianism is inspiring but we really don't have time for- OH, MY GOODNESS!" Valerie hid behind Jane.
The wolf's eyes flickered open and Jane found herself under his golden glaze. As she looked into his eyes she saw intelligence and wounded pride.
Valerie tugged at the back of Jane's shirt. "That is a wolf! Let's go before it eats us!"
The wolf snorted. "I-I am no threat to any-*cough*-one. I- I was just- outsmarted by three fat - porkers." He huffed painfully.
"You're the Big Bad Wolf!" Jane exclaimed.
"T-that's what the - huntsmen call - me." He wheezed.
"What's your real name then?" Jane asked.
"Beowulf." He responded.
"I'm Jane Doe and this is Princess Valerie." She introduced.
He smiled thinly. "Pleasure."
Suddenly he shook with pain and a whimper escaped from his throat. He tried to extend his tongue to the creek but fell short by an inch. He attempted to shift forward but was unable to lift his body.
"So- thirsty." He croaked.
Jane felt tears trying to emerge from her eyes and she blinked them away. Her heart panged for the once strong predatory beast struggling to live. It was the most pathetic thing she had ever seen. She is also a dog person.
She began to walk forward but Valerie grabbed her arm.
"Are you mad?!" The princess wanted to know.
"Valerie, look at him. He's dying. He needs help." Jane said.
"Wolves are very clever. You cannot trust them." Valerie said.
"If you're scared go wait by the road." She said as she shook off Valerie's hand.
Valerie crossed her arms angrily but didn't abandon Jane.
Jane knelt in front of the wolf. She cupped her hands into the creek and allowed him to drink from her hands. His pink tongue lapped the water greedily. She refilled her makeshift bowl until he couldn't drink any more.
"Thank you." He said.
She looked at the burns covering his body. "Is there anything else I do for you?"
"No, you've done more than enough. I will not forget your kindness." He said
"Jane, we should get going." Valerie said.
Jane glanced up at the oak tree and saw several crows (normal crows, not the zombies ones) staring at Beowulf greedily.
"I don't feel right just leaving him here." She said.
"The princess is right." The wolf said. "This a dangerous place and it becomes more dangerous at nightfall. You need to continue on your way."
"How are corn fields dangerous?" Jane asked.
"They hide things." The wolf answered.
"Oh, Jesus Christ, there aren't Children of the Corn here, are there?" Jane demanded.
"Is that another one of your fairy tales?" Valerie asked.
"No, it's a movie." Jane responded.
Valerie looked puzzled. "What's a movie?"
"You need to get going if you want to get out of here before night falls." Beowulf said.
Jane chewed on her bottom lip. There was nothing else she could do for the wolf.
"Goodbye, Beowulf." She said.
"Goodbye, Jane." He said with a strained smile.
She allowed Valerie to pull her away. She took one last look at Beowulf before continuing on her journey.
"Do you have a death wish?" Valerie scolded as they continued down the yellow road. "That was a wolf. They have a tendency to eat people."
"He was hurt. I feel so bad that we just left him there all alone." Jane's eyes filled with tears.
Valerie sighed. "I'm sure he will be fine."
Jane noticed something odd in the corn. "What is that?"
"Your homeland doesn't have scarecrows?" Valerie asked.
"Yes, we have scarecrows but those ones are really…scary." Jane responded.
Along the side of the road were three scarecrows grinning evilly. They had eyes blacker then the pits of Hell. Their hands were hooked claws and their ripped and tattered clothing appeared to be stained with blood. Jane gasped as she noticed the mangled bodies of crows at the scarecrows' feet.
"I think we should get out of here." Jane suggested fearfully.
"I concur." The princess agreed as they backed away slowly.
The scarecrows roared as they leaped down from their posts.
"Brains!" The middle one screeched as it leaped at Jane.
She struggled with the scarecrow as it tried to scratch at her face. It had jagged needle-like teeth and its breath stank of rotten flesh.
Its jaw unhinged like a snake and attempted to take a bite of her skull. Some of its saliva dripped onto her face and she closed her eyes and screamed.
Suddenly the weight of the scarecrow was off her and she heard it shriek with pain. She opened her eyes and saw straw being flung in every direction.
The two scarecrows holding Valerie down were grabbed by a large grey beast and shredded without mercy.
Jane ran over to Princess Valerie and helped her up.
"Oh, my god! Are you okay?" Jane asked her.
"Yes, I'm fine. Are you well?" Valerie inquired.
"I'll survive. What the hell was that?!" Jane demanded.
"Cursed scarecrows" Beowulf answered as he shook the straw off his coat. "The farmers here are also powerful sorcerers and they bring their scarecrows to life to scare away bandits and animals that may ruin their crops. Unfortunately sometimes the enchanter doesn't know what they're doing and the scarecrows become violent towards anyone living. They're jealous that they don't have brains of their own. So they try to take yours."
"That is messed up. Thank you for saving us, Beowulf." Jane said.
He bowed to her. "Jane Doe, I am in your debt."
Valerie looked at the sun creeping towards the horizon. "We have to get to Isengaurd before sundown or we'll be facing worse beings then cursed scarecrows."
Beowulf nodded. "I know a shortcut. It'll be close though. Isenguard closes its gates at dusk and will not open them for anything."
Jane started to follow him as he headed into the cornfield. Valerie grabbed her by the arm.
"He is a wolf. We cannot trust him." The princess said.
"We really don't have a choice unless you want to get stuck out here after dark with the zombie scarecrows." Jane said.
Valerie frowned. "I do not wish that but we must remain on our toes."
The girls followed the wolf through the sea of corn. A couple of times Jane had the feeling that they were being followed and she caught a glimpse of something within the corn.
"Something is following us." She whispered.
Beowulf nodded. "I know. It's afraid of me. It will not harm you while I am here."
"What is it?" She asked.
The wolf shrugged. "I do not know."
Jane didn't find that very comforting.
The sun was nothing but an orange sliver in the sky when they made it to the iron gates of Isenguard. The guards were already beginning to close the gates.
"Wait!" Valerie cried out as they sprinted towards the gates.
The gateman man hesitated and allowed them to enter. One of the guards drew his sword and pointed it at Beowulf.
"Wolf!" He called out.
Jane stepped in front of Beowulf.
"Wait." She said. "He's- he's my dog."
"Dog? That is no dog." The guard sneered.
"Yes, he's half wolf but he's a sleigh dog." Jane lied.
Beowulf hung his tongue out and did his best to look dog-like.
"Yes." Valerie added. "Jane is from the very very far north which is why her dress and speak is very strange."
The guard didn't look convinced but lowered his sword. "I'll be keeping an eye on you."
"Sir, can you point us in the direction of an Inn?" Valerie fluttered her eyelashes as she spoke to him. At first Jane thought she just had something in her eye but then she realized the princess was flirting with him.
The guard nodded. "Yes, just keep going straight and turn right at the fountain." He smiled at Valerie. "I'm Captain Jack Morgan by the way."
Jane noticed that he was dressed a little bit fancier then the other guards and the other guards seemed to have a sense of respect for him. He had dark blonde hair and crystal blue eyes. He had a white scar across his lip.
Princess Valerie returned his smile. "I'm Valerie and this is my friend, Jane."
"It's a pleasure to meet you. May I ask what brings you two young ladies through this cursed land alone?" He asked with a suspicious glance at Jane and Beowulf.
"We- we started out with a guide but was killed in the Forest of Sorrows. We're trying to return home to Florence." The Princess half-lied.
"I see. I'm sorry for you misfortune. I hope the rest of your journey is prosperous." He said.
Valerie curtsied to him. "Thank you for your kind words, Captain. I must bare you farewell. My companions and I have traveled far and must rest."
"Companions? Isn't it just you and the Northerner?" He asked.
Valerie blushed. Jane concluded that she must have counted Beowulf as part of their party.
The princess's lip trembled and her eyes became shiny with tears. "I- I keep forgetting that Philip is gone. He-he was a wonderful guide."
Captain Jack patted her shoulder. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. As captain of this hellhole it's my job to be suspicious."
"It's okay. I really must be going now." Valerie said.
He nodded and let them pass. "Watch out for thieves and pickpockets. There has been quite a few shady characters hanging around the center of the city." He warned the girls as they headed into the direction of the inn.
"And the Emmy goes to…?" Jane congratulated Valerie once they were out of the captain's hearing range.
"I beg your pardon?" Valerie asked.
"Oh, right. It means that you're a good actress. You were awesome." Jane explained.
"I see…" Valerie still looked confused.
After following Captain Jack's instructions they found themselves in front of a large brick building with a wooded sign that read 'Red Fox Den'.
Inside was a pub that was hazy with smoke. There were people drinking and having a good time.
The inn keeper was a plump man with cherry-red cheeks. He shook his head as they entered.
"I can't allow your wolf in here." He said.
"He's a dog." Jane argued.
"He still can't be in here. You're welcome to keep him the stables." He said kindly.
"I'll get us a room while you put your 'dog' outside." Valerie said.
"Um, okay. Come on, Beowulf." She motioned for the wolf to follow her.
The stabled were located through an alley behind the inn.
"Are you going to be okay in here?" Jane asked.
The wolf laughed. "Compared to where I usually sleep this is a palace."
"Okay, just don't eat any of the horses." Jane said.
He laughed again and then in a serious tone he asked. "You're not from around here, are you?"
Jane sighed and shook her head sadly. "No, I somehow ended up in this world after being pulled through a hole. Valerie said there is a wizard or something at her palace that might be able to help me get home so I'm tagging along with her. Which there is a black knight trying to kidnap her and force her to marry him so he can take over her kingdom. And to top it off I accidentally killed the Gingerbread Witch and according to a talking lion , the Sinister Seven want me dead. So, yeah, we're busy people. If you want to leave I would completely understand."
He gave her a wolfy grin. "What? And miss all the excitement? I don't think so."
Jane grinned. "I'll see you in the morning."
He walked around in a circle several times before flopping down on a pile of straw. He looked up at Jane and grinned. "Until then, beautiful."
Jane blushed and headed back down the alley. It had gotten darker and she felt nervous being in there alone. The only thing she could hear was the echoing of her own footsteps.
The hair on the back of her neck stood up as she had the feeling that she was being followed. At first she thought it was just her paranoia and refused to give in and turn around but unconsciously she quickened her pace.
She heard another sound besides her footsteps. It was a scrapping sound like claws against stone.
Maybe if I ignore it, it'll go away. She thought hopefully. Or maybe it'll just eat me anyway.
Jane tightly clenched her fists and turned around.
In the middle of the alley a white rabbit sat on its haunches looking quite amused. Without a doubt in her mind she knew that he was the rabbit that had lured her into the rabbit hole.
"Who are you and where is Waffles?" She demanded.
The rabbit seemed to smirk as it hopped away.
"Wait! Come back here, you furry little bastard! I'm talking to you!" Jane lost her temper as called after the fleeing rabbit.
Jane chased after it as it bounded down the alley. She knew that the rabbit was most likely evil and following after it alone was stupid but she felt a rush of desperation seize her chest. The rabbit was the only clue to how she got to be in this world and maybe it could also provide away out.
She sprinted after the rabbit as it zigzagged through the streets of Isenguard. She didn't see a single soul out and about. A couple times she lost sight of the white rabbit but she would see it again around the next bend, teasingly waiting for her to catch up before it went bounding off again.
She found herself in an old neighborhood on the outskirts of town. All the houses were large mansions that had probably been beautiful once but now were abandoned and rundown. The lawns were overrun with grass and weeds and the brick road was crumbling underneath her feet.
She had lost track of the rabbit and he wasn't waiting for her at the next curve.
"White Rabbit? Where are you? White Rabbit!" Jane called out. "I'm sorry I called you a 'furry bastard'. Please, come back!"
She sighed and sat down on the curb. I am so stupid! This is obviously a trap of some sort. I'm completely lost. Why the hell did I follow that damn rabbit?
She felt tears stinging her eyes. She put her head in her hands. I will not cry. Everything is under control. Everything is okay. I can do this. She tried to comfort herself.
When she looked up everything was different. The lawns were well trimmed and the houses were well kept. She was back home in Suburbia.
Her neighbor, Mister Rogers waved to her while he pruned his rose bushes. She hesitatingly waved back. Something felt off. Everything looked like it should but she felt like she was looking at a coloring book she had when she was a child. The purpose of the book had been to circle the things that didn't belong in a seemingly normal picture.
She cautiously approached her house. It was a two story egg shell white house with blue shutters and a white picket fence. In the front yard was tire swing hanging from her family's only tree.
Jane opened the gate and walked into her yard. Everything looked alright. She didn't see anything she needed to circle. It looked like her house to the very last detail. Maybe she really was home.
She heard familiar barking coming from the house.
"Waffles?!" She cried out. She opened the door and walked into the house.
It wasn't her house after all. It wasn't even a house. She found herself at the top of a very tall black tower.
It stood alone in what seemed to be an endless desert of blood red sand. The sky was a light violet and all around the tower was a red moon stuck in a different lunar phase.
Jane turned around but the door was gone.
"Figures." She muttered.
In the center of the tower was a trap door. Jane sighed and opened it. There really didn't seem to be much point in staying on top of the tower.
She followed a set of rickety stairs into a large round room. The room didn't have any doors or windows. The walls were lined with shelves full of books and what appeared to be spell ingredients. There was a large table with a black cauldron and a crow sitting on a skull that had sharp vampire looking teeth.
In the very center of the room was a green orb about the size of a basketball that sat atop a pedestal that was made from human bones. Reflected in the orb was a little girl in a sunflower dress and a matching hat sitting on a bench in front of a rose bush crying.
It took Jane a second to recognize that the little girl was herself, about nine years ago. She didn't remember crying next to a rose bush but she remembered wearing the sunflower dress to her cousin's wedding.
Cautiously she approached the orb. It grew brighter as she neared. Hesitantly, Jane reached out to touch it. She stopped as the air felt heavy, like it was full of electric static.
"I wouldn't touch that if I was you." A voice said from behind her.
Jane turned around to see a young man, about her age standing in-between her and the stairs to the trapdoor.
He had shaggy hair that was as white as snow and eyes that were bluer then the ocean. He was wearing a black suit with a matching top hat. In his left chest pocket was a blood red rose. His tie had been casually loosened and his sleeves were rolled up, revealing a tattoo of a dagger through a spade.
He wore a cold smirk on his lips as he looked Jane up and down. She internally shivered. He had an aura around him like an intense cold that seeps down into the bones. His presence gave Jane the feeling of dread. It was the same feeling she had encountered when she had first run into the white rabbit.
"Y-y-you're the white rabbit!" Jane stammered with fear.
"My, my, aren't you the clever one." He sneered.
He advanced towards her and Jane unintentionally backed into the pedestal, nearly toppling the orb.
"Be careful with that! It is worth more than your life!" He snapped.
"Sorry, my bad." Jane apologized fearfully.
Jane had nowhere else to go as the rabbit-man approached her. He caressed her face and Jane was horrified to see that his fingers ended in large talon-like claws.
"Do you remember me?" He asked her and his breathe was cold on her neck.
"From yesterday, when you pulled me into this hell?" She asked.
"No! Before then!" He snapped.
He saw the confused look on her face and sighed. "No? It's probably better that you don't."
"What the hell is going on?! Who are you?!" She demanded.
He smirked. "You can call me Peter."
"Oh, like Peter Rabb-" He put his clawed hand tightly over her mouth.
"If you say 'Peter Rabbit', I will rip your cute little pink tongue from your mouth." He snarled.
Jane's eyes widened with fear and he took his hand off her mouth.
He stroked her hair. "Sorry, I'm a little sensitive about that."
"Where is Waffles?" She asked.
"Waffles? Oh." He rolled his eyes. "I don't know where your damn dog is. When things are pulled through dimensions they don't necessarily turn up together which why I had to hunt you down."
"And what do you want with me?" Jane asked nervously.
He laughed coldly. "You don't need to worry about that right now."
Jane shivered from the coldness of his body. "You're going to hurt me, aren't you?"
"Yes." He said matter-of-factly.
"B-but what have I ever done to you?" She asked with tears in her eyes.
"Nothing yet." He said darkly.
"I don't understand." She frowned.
"Oh, poor little Janie, the crows are singing and the cat is at play, but where is your mother today?" He sang.
"She went to the market and lost her way, with my blood she'll have to pay." Jane finished the rhyme.
Jane gasped. Where had that come from?! She could not recalling ever hearing that poem before.
Peter grinned. "Good girl."
"What the hell?! I want to know what's going on and I want to know now, you carrot eating son of a bitch!" Jane's temper flared.
Peter backhanded her across the face hard enough to spring tears from her eyes. She felt blood drip down her chin.
"Was that really necessary?" She asked him.
"Wanna go again?" He raised his hand and Jane flinched back.
"That's what I thought." He sneered. "You will not raise your voice to me again. You will show me respect, Janie."
Tears rolled down Jane's cheeks. "My name is Jane not Janie. I want to go home." She whimpered.
Peter wiped the blood off of Jane's lip and licked it off his finger. "You're mine now, Janie Baby. You aren't going anywhere."
"Get your disgusting claws off her!" A voice growled.
Beowulf and Valerie stood at the foot of the stairs. Beowulf's lips were curled into a snarl and his hair stood on end.
Peter laughed icily. "Well, isn't it my good buddy, Beowulf. I thought you were dead."
"Likewise." The wolf growled. "Let the girl go!"
The rabbit roughly grabbed Jane by the back of the neck. "I don't think so. Beowulf, in honor of the old days, I'll give you and the wench a chance to walk away."
Princess Valerie's cheeks burned red. "Did he just call me a wench?!"
"I'm not going anywhere without Jane." The wolf snarled.
"So be it." A large ball of green fire appeared in Peter's hand. He threw it forcibly at the wolf.
Beowulf nimbly dodged away from it. The wolf and rabbit demon circled each other.
"Let her go and we can finish what we started many years ago." Beowulf offered.
Peter laughed darkly. "Why? I won that fight. All I need is the girl. You are nothing. You should go back to your forest before I make you into a rug."
"HOW DARE YOU CALL ME A WENCH?!" Princess Valerie grabbed a glass vial off a shelf and whipped it across the room. It smashed at Peter's feet. A large toxic-looking smoke burst out.
He screamed as it wrapped around him like a snake.
Jane pulled herself from his grip and ran for the stairs. She followed Valerie up the stairs, taking two steps at a time. Beowulf followed closely behind her.
Once they were on the top of the tower Beowulf and Valerie threw themselves on top of the trapdoor.
"Jane, open the door!" Beowulf commanded.
Jane looked around. "What door?"
"The door back to Isenguard!" Valerie sounded scared.
The trapdoor began to shake as something tried to get through.
"Open the door now!" Beowulf sounded strained as he tried to keep his ground on the door.
Jane walked around. "I don't see any bloody-ow!"
"Found it." she muttered as she rubbed her head where she had made contact with the invisible door.
She felt around the door till she found the doorknob. It swung open to reveal the abandoned suburb.
"Come on!" She called out to her companions.
They ran through the door and it slammed shut behind them.
"Don't worry, he won't follow us." Beowulf said.
"How do you know?" Jane demanded.
"He has no power here. He would have to be in his rabbit form and he wouldn't stand a chance against me." He said.
"Why would he have to be a rabbit? How do you two know each other? What the hell is going on?" Jane was starting to get pissed. She wanted a straight answer instead of half-answers that leave her with twenty more questions.
"Now is not the time." The wolf said.
Valerie crossed her arms. "I would like to know where you stand in this as well, Beowulf."
Beowulf sighed. "I'm going to tell you what I know, but wouldn't you rather be at the inn instead of the middle of the street?"
"Fine, but you're not off the hook." Jane said.
The trio walked in silence as they made their way through the abandoned streets. Jane felt incredibly stupid. She had fallen for an obvious trap. She knew it had been foolish to wander off and follow the rabbit. Jane couldn't understand what Peter could possibly want from her? She wasn't anything special.
"Jane." Beowulf woke Jane from her thoughts. "From now on you are not to go anywhere alone."
"Okay." She muttered ashamedly. "I'm sorry. He tricked me."
The wolf smiled kindly at her. "Peter is famous for his deceptions. He has destroyed entire kingdoms without ever drawing a sword. Don't let it bother you too much."
"What does he want from me?" Jane asked.
Beowulf shook his head. "I don't know but I will not let him touch you."
The girls and the wolf journeyed back through the abandoned streets to the little Inn. Jane had a million questions on her mind but deiced it would probably be best to wait till they were somewhere more private.
"I'll meet you in your room." Beowulf informed them as he disappeared into the shadows.
Princess Valerie frowned into the shadows Beowulf had disappeared into. "I don't trust him." She told Jane.
Jane frowned. She had been beginning to like Beowulf. "Why not?" She asked.
"He seems to have some sort of agenda." Valerie sighed. "He better have a good explanation for knowing the beast that tried to do you harm. Let's not waste anymore time out here."
Jane followed the princess back into the dimly lit bar. The barkeep gave the girls a friendly nod. There were quite a few people hanging around drinking and having late dinners. They made their way through to the room they had rented for the night.