Chapter 1: Canto Eins - Little People
Gretel baked gingerbread the way Mozart composed symphonic masterpieces, or Leonardo DaVinci painted women with mysterious smiles. People loved her gingerbread cookies and were hooked with one single taste. And her recipes were a carefully guarded secret, as was the reason that she lived alone in the little town of Norwall, Iowa, on the eastern edge of Wright County. Gretel was basically a very happy person, a very loving person. But there were good reasons for her secrets to remain secrets, and though the people of her little Iowa town loved her and took care of her, they must never know the truth.
“Gretel, old girl, you make me work hard for my milk,” complained Lumpkin the Brownie as he deposited the special bag of flour on the kitchen table.
“Ya, you are such a kidder, you are,” Grandma Gretel snapped at the little brown-skinned man who had just climbed through her kitchen window and thrown the small bag of magical ingredients on the table. Lumpkin was a local fairy and benign spirit who got away with living in town because he was only three inches tall and could turn invisible at will.
“No kidding, Grandma. Brownies don’t like to do work. We’re just as lazy as human beans. We only do this stuff because we are compelled… or bribed. And your milk and your gingerbread is magical.”
“Ya ya, magical… this I know. But what you can be telling me is… did you have to do any bad things to get the fairy flour?”
“We are not the Unseely Court, Grandma Gretel. We don’t deal in evil or pain. We do it for love.”
“Love of cookies and milk I am thinking.”
The brownie grinned a great, wide, and particularly ugly grin. “Still counts as love, old woman.”
“Okay, I thank you very much. Ich danke dir sehr… you and all the little people.”
“Are you going to bake the Erlking’s recipe today, Grandma Gretel?”
“No… not yet. I must take great care with this recipe.”
“You know the Erlking is not happy about what you plan to do with his magic. It will make more fairies of a very different kind. There could be very bad consequences.”
“No. Nichts Schlectes… If you knew what had happened to them, you would know they could not possibly the evil thing become.”
“You still need to work on your English, Grandma.”
“Oh, ya. I will better get with practicing. You know my süßes Kind, Sherry Cobble, is helping me. Many fairy stories I am telling her. She will be here any moment to visit this alte Frau.“
Lumpkin immediately got a sour look on his wrinkly brown face. ”Give me the milk, then, for I must be off.“
Gretel put down a bowl and poured a full serving of milk from a carton that had the cartoon face of Elsie the Cow on it.
Lumpkin practically inhaled the milk. Then wiping his wide brownie mouth with his sleeve, he leaped off the window sill back into the garden below.