Blood or Ash?
Once Grizelda had calmed down enough she laid quietly against Milia. She feared telling her, she knew Milia would make her stay. Even worse, how would Gotto react when he understood that the missing children were being taken by her sister? Grizelda held her doll, after moving she had nearly forgotten about it. Now, if anything, she needed the strength her mother had when managing the situation years prior. She laid on the bed, staring at the ceiling with her eyes wide open, waiting to hear the steps of men or see some light from the windows.
She had begun to think they had decided against her when it finally came. A group of united steps and light. She ran down the stairs quietly looking outside before standing at the door. She watched the men pass but they said nothing to her. The man she had spoken to the other day was surprised to see her standing there but gestured for her to join them.
“Do your parents know you’re here?” he asked.
Grizelda thought about the answer for a minute, before replying. “My mother does.” It wasn’t a lie, but neither was it the whole truth. It seemed to satisfy him. She was relieved, the purpose wasn’t meant to deceive the older man, but judging by this situation he had his own problems. He didn’t need to worry about her as well.
The group went deep into the forest before stopping to discuss where to look next and how to prevent losses. They didn’t need anyone getting lost. They divided the group and gave them each a knife to mark their path on the trees. The best way was to make a circle around the tree that could be seen either way, with an arrow that led to the meeting point. She had surprised the team when she pulled out a knife from her pocket. She was ready.
She was paired with the leader of group whose name was Cecco. He was impressed by her determination and markings as she wandered. She clearly had fear but something greater was her motive. He meant to ask as she stopped behind him to mark a tree. He heard the knife hit the bark as it carved. “Grizelda.” He asked, wondering how to speak to a child that had the determination of a grown woman. “What’s brou-“ as he turned to her he realized she was gone. She was right behind him! “Grizelda?” he looked around with the torch calling her name before marking the tree where Grizelda had vanished. “The girl has been taken!”
Grizelda walked, there seemed to be a clearing with almost smoke rising from the trees. There wasn’t supposed to be anyone living out here. “Signore Cecco! I found something!” She waited but received no response. She turned around, no one was near her. There was nothing but darkness and empty forest. She was alone. She started to panic just before she smelled something that was enough to provoke her intense curiosity. Her feet began wandering as her own thoughts began to numb. It smelled sweet, delicious. It smelled like marzipan, cakes, cookies, and cream. It smelled like home. It was then she remembered the sweet mess of treats smashed against her lips as her head hit the wall years prior. It was that smell. There was a loud click as she came closer. She waved her torch, looking for some sort of wild animal. As the light shown on the raven, it stopped. Grizelda froze staring at what seemed to be a ghost. She slowly reached out to her bag as she was stared at. She lifted up the feather, comparing it. She wasn’t able to for long, the raven cawed angrily before swooping down and taking it from her.
“Nicholas!” She yelled as she chased after it. “You can’t take that! That’s all I have!” The bird only seemed to mock her by not flying out of sight, each time she thought she had him he would fly off. The smell grew stronger. She was getting closer. Her torch soon went out but another light source came into view. Finally, the bird stopped, landing on a large stick fence. The texture troubled Grizelda. It wasn’t wood, it was cinnamon. With that she snatched the feather from her fathers beak and put it in her purse. She stayed at the fence for a while, observing the home. It was made of cakes and sweets, sugary filling goodness, false promises of ended hunger. It was beautiful, she couldn’t help but admit it. Had she not known any better she would have loved to taste it.
Innocence. This was pure elongated innocence mixed with childhood that had face trial after trial. It smelled delicious, like a fine wine that had aged perfectly. Her senses tingled, she needed it. “Hello dear.” She asked. “Come in! Are you alright? no one should be this far in the forest at night.”
Grizelda took a deeper breath. She entered, she could almost feel the curse inside her push her further. Evil and corruption surrounded this place. She stopped midway. She couldn’t keep going. Even more so the woman in front of her was so- Her hair was picked up in a mock up of wealth. The black hair going past her shoulders with a large bow in her hair. Her dress was so long, and poofy that it was hard to look away at all the lace trying to hide what was underneath. On her neck was her mother’s necklace.
Could Adiscordia not recognize her? She looked up, one of Adiscordia’s eyes was blanker than the other. “Are you alright?” she repeated, “you seem a bit in shock, love. You seem afraid?” Adiscordia began to come closer. “such a sweet child like yo-“ Adiscordia was losing it, the innocence in front of her had faced so much. It was so beautiful, overwhelming. It was killing her senses.
“I am afraid.” She admitted. “But I came here on purpose. For a reason.” Grizelda felt pain and anger well up inside her. Her sister was so contaminated that she couldn’t even come to her senses for a few seconds to remember her. “I came for the children, Adiscordia. The villagers need them, and this!” she grunted in frustration as she pulled the necklace off her sister’s neck. “Isn’t yours!” Grizelda felt her eyes tear up. Her sister was this far gone? She shoved the necklace in her pocket.
That foolish determination, and stubbornness, yelling at her as if it knew her. It was just meat, that was all. Yet, those blue crying eyes. Those were different. They infuriated her. She didnt know why. How did she know so much? With the innocence she held, she should've been more gullible. Yet, with how hard she had tried over the years to stay so innocent, it made sense. With a swift gesture the dress deflated fitting to Adiscordia's body. With meat and robbed nutrition she had grown taller and stronger over the years. Her hair covered her face, that cracked in places where shadow and ash had began to creep out. Her hand gripped out grabbing Grizelda’s throat and lifting her in the air. “You’re disrupting my mind. Why shouldn’t I kill you right now? Give me a good reason.” With that, she smiled to fully capture her subjects fear, and leaned in for the kill. Her tongue tasted Grizelda’s flesh in satisfaction, and teeth sinking in drawing blood.
“Because you did all this for me! It’s my fault you’re killing children.” Grizelda cried out trying her best to get loose and run away. “I'm your sister! It's me, Grizelda!” She couldn't get loose panic began taking over the anger. It was clear on her face.
Adiscordia stopped. Her teeth pausing on Grizelda’s flesh as they slowly retracted, red burbling from her lips. She could hardly contain the curse inside her. She loosened her grip slightly staying in position. She smelled her, so close- With the grip loosened Grizelda took a few steps back before running and clinging to the fence which wouldn’t seem to open. She was stuck helpless, wailing like a wounded animal. She gripped her arm trying to stop the blood flow.
Adiscordia stood back up. “Gri?” she approached the trembling Grizelda. Her long thick nails passing over her eyes gently. “Blue eyes, so pretty.” Slowly it began to return to her, like a dream. Her sister, the reason for all this. Her impulses roared inside her. Her hands shook as she began to fight the curse. She couldn't kill Grizelda but she couldn't save her either. “So delicious...”
Grizelda's voice was shaky. “Y-Yes. Its me, Grizelda. Last time we met you hit me against a wall over and over, and tried to force feed me sweets you stole.” Memories continued to awaken in Adiscordia's mind. “You ran away and I was adopted from the family you robbed. I was saved and am alive because you did that. Are you really going to kill me now?”
She couldn't. Adiscordia forced herself to step away, forcing each bone in her body one by one. Each muscle was tense, shaking, against the curse that now controlled her. The gate opened and with that Grizelda ran out sobbing, leaving a trail of blood behind her.
This broke Adiscordia’s self. She had caused this. She had almost killed her sister. Was it worth it? She had let the most innocent being escape. The one stained by years of trial and resolve, the only one, escaping. Adiscordia knew better than anyone what that took. Adiscordia ran to her, mind now numbed by the curse and exhaustion fighting it. She hated guilt. Who was she to feel guilt? Legs and feet going faster- then the pounce.
Grizelda could feel Adiscordia's claws graze her and then a loud boom filled the forest. It was magic. The last of Adiscordia's desperation sending Grizelda flying away to safety.
The curse was enraged. Now Adiscordia had done it. She had taken its perfect kill. It would need a replacement.
Grizelda fell straight against the tree she had been taken from with a loud yell then silence. Steps came, Cecco was the first.
“Grizelda!” He ran to her. “There is a beast! It bit her flesh right off of her! Quick! Bandage her up! We need to take her home!” They said quickly. “We couldn't see it, but it has returned her to us.” He grabbed Grizelda and her bag in his arms. “From now on no one goes into the forest, especially children!” He declared as he ran home.
When Grizelda woke up Milia and Gotto were in hysterics as men tried to ask Grizelda about the beast. They hadn't even arrived home when they had been hurt with the news that over 6 children had vanished from their beds. They needed answers, and yet Grizelda remembered nothing.