Starvation vs Ignorance
Hansel woke up first, still holding his sister. Her face against his chest. The wolf had gone, and the symbol had been brushed over with dirt. The sun was beginning to peek out. They needed to get out of here today now that there was light again. Hansel checked the compass. It was fixed! He patted his sister’s shoulders. “Gretel! My compass is working! If we went only north and back yesterday it shouldn’t be too hard retrace our steps!”
Gretel turned to him, waking up slowly. She was scared realizing again where they had been left, yet seeing Hansel’s face seemed to comfort her. Even though plenty of his hair had escaped their holder through the night and clung to his face, content with covering his eyes. Gretel took a minute to respond, during which she decided to tie his hair again. “If we go back, what keeps papa from leaving us again?” there was a definite hurt to her voice, one which Hansel had no clue how to comfort.
He frowned. “nothing.” He admitted. “but we can’t stay here. I don’t know what’ll happen tomorrow Gretel, but I know what we can do right now. That’s stay together, and try to get out of this forest.” With that he stood up with his compass in hand, heading to yesterday’s marking. Yet again, the further they went the more unfamiliar things seemed.
“This doesn’t look any better than before-“ Gretel whined, somewhat shaking. It was colder than yesterday, with a bit of wind that kept leaves scurrying across the ground. With the branches waving and the clouds darker signaling rain any hope of getting home was beginning to disappear. Hansel looked around pausing, she was right. The compass might’ve still been damaged.
“I think there’s still something wrong with my compass-“ He said shaking it in frustration. They needed to get home soon. Hansel was cold, hungry, thirsty, and getting weak. He would’ve regretted not eating anything in a day and half but bread crumbs if it hadn’t given Gretel the strength to keep going for the night. He looked down at her, not knowing what to do anymore. He was feeling hopeless. When he first met her he promised her safety, and that promise still stood. He slid off his coat putting it on her shoulders for warmth, before untying his hair to cover the worry in his eyes. If it rained the pearls would be covered in mud, no longer visible and useless.
“But Hans-“ Gretel protested. Her brother shook his head. She hated how selfless he could be at times, he wouldn’t take it back. Gretel searched around for an answer before Hansel started walking again. “Where are we going?” she asked. He didn’t answer, his compass clanking against his chest forgotten. Again she began to pray in Rhioninian, hoping for another miracle. The scariest thing of all was probably the tear that she could have sworn strolled down her brother’s cheek. One that made him almost start sprinting, Gretel barely being able to catch up. “Hansel, can we- can we sit down!” He stopped, leaving her to catch her breath.
Hansel let go of her for a moment and laid against a tree, covering his face with his hands as he fell down against it. The clouds had reached their peak, and he could feel a drop of water make its way to his shoulder. They couldn’t start a fire with the rain, and he didn’t have the tools to catch any sort of meat. He couldn’t hear a river, and collecting raindrops wouldn’t be enough. His head ached with hunger and stress, and now he had run out of ideas.
Gretel watched her brother cry silently. She wanted to join him. If her brother had run out of ideas, then, it all really was hopeless. She crawled next to him, before catching sight of something in the distance. Was that smoke? There couldn’t be a fire during the rain like that unless it was indoors. Did someone live out there? She tugged at his shirt. “Hansel!”
His sister's quick call made him spring up bringing her with him as she pointed at the smoke. That was enough to wake him from his self pity as they wandered towards it.
“Why would someone live out here?” he asked curiously.
“Does it matter? Warmth Hansel! Safety! Maybe they know the way out!” Hansel shook his head softly. That’s what a predator would want them to think, but what else could they do? Just a minute ago he was crying in front of Gretel. She didn't need another reason to lose hope. At least now they were headed somewhere. The smell was faint at first but almost filled them with need. “It smells like a pie fresh out of the oven!” Gretel exclaimed rushing ahead. This made Hansel fear it further, whatever it was, it wanted them closer. Was this what took the others?
Hansel locked eyes with a raven as his sister pulled him along faster in excitement. It was the first bird he had seen since they woke up. Why a bird would be out in the rain was suspicious. Or- had the rain stopped? Hansel looked up to see the clouds opening to provide slow sunshine. Everything was so quick, his head trying to form plans for whatever they were up against. The raven landed again on a bright colored ceiling, from where the smoke was coming from. Gretel stopped, leaving a tired Hansel to hold his head and catch his thoughts.
“Are we here?” he asked with a light groan. After a period of silence he turned to her to see her jaw unhinged, eyes wide in wonder before slowly opening the gates. She was speechless.
The gates felt flaky, Hansel noted as he helped open them. Were they cinnamon sticks? He looked forward at the spectacle. It nearly made his own mind numb with desire. He found his legs instinctively running forward without thinking.
A cottage that was brightly colored, made from gingerbread, marzipan, cakes, candies, and chocolate. Lollipops grew from the garden in front, while a milk river quietly rushed from the side. Large oversized cookies were on display, and a pie was cooling on the window sill. The dirt below them had become chocolate shavings. The delicate designs on each piece, from the window sill next to sugar pane windows, to the textured roof tiles held too much effort to be ignored. It reminded him of a distant memory. One where he would be on his tip toes or climbing on chairs trying to peek at the treats of his mother tracing the designs on chocolate truffles or marveling at the icing designs on cakes.
Remembering the situation thus far Hansel forced his body to stop. He groaned lightly in frustration. He wanted it, badly, but this wasn’t right. He had to be ahead in everything to make sure Gretel was safe. “Can I have some?” Gretel pleaded to her brother, cracked piece of sugar pane already in her hand inches away from her mouth. She had broken property- Although Hansel couldn’t blame her. He was salivating and wanted nothing more than a thick icing tipped chocolate tile to soothe his hunger and mind. He approached her taking a deep breath and nodding. Gretel was quick to sink her teeth into it with a loud crunch. She squealed in delight, grabbing another bite before offering a piece to Hansel. He shook his head continuing to observe her and to watch for signs of poison. She seemed fine, with that he walked to the door.
A child Gretel’s age could still have enough innocence and naivety to be forgiven, but Hansel knew he had to get on their host’s good side. He knocked on the door taking a step back to quickly note the exits. “Is someone out there?” came a call and quick footsteps.
Of course there was. Did she catch a double this time around? The innocence smelled amazing, although Adiscordia noted something else. There was a belief of lost innocence. An innocent child who believed they weren’t innocent? Or perhaps they were aware of their wrongs? It was fascinating. When the door opened to reveal a young woman with a large bow on her head, long curly hair, and a long poofy dress with bows and lace Gretel shoved the remainder of her treat behind her back. Definitely a double catch.
“Yes! Good morning miss, I’m so sorry to intrude. My sister and I were wandering when we found your home. We were wondering if you knew the way back to town?” Hansel asked watching her closely.
“So polite! Yes, I do know the way back, but it’s a long journey.” Adiscordia observed Hansel, he was older than her usual catches, dare she say, possibly her age. She looked at Gretel. “Why don’t you stay to heat up and rest for the night and we can go in the morning, you two look exhausted! How long have you been traveling?”
Gretel rushed towards Hansel. Adiscordia looked lovely! The style of her hair alone showed her wealth. The jewels and pearls almost reminded Gretel of Rhionine. She missed it. She looked at her brother in slight guilt but he seemed so careful and tense. Was she missing something? Hansel held her hand causing her to drop the pane in plain view and panic. “I’m so so sorry miss! I’m sorry I broke your window! I was just so hungry and it looked so good!”
Adisordia couldn’t help but let out an eerie smile that heightened Hansel’s unease. This girl was claiming she was hungry, and her innocence enough was enough to make Adiscordia’s stomach roar with need. “Nono! Remaking it won’t be too difficult. If that’s the case, lunch is cooking. I could add some more to have enough for the both of you! My name is Maud, please come in!” Adiscordia stepped aside. “The two of you both look exhausted and starved. I’ll treat you to a meal, rest, and we can go to town in the morning to find your parents.”
Gretel took a look at Hansel who seemed deep in thought. This wasn’t promising but neither was starving to death in the forest. Hansel himself could hardly think at his best with his head thumping as it was. Right now they both needed shelter and strength. With his hand wrapped tightly around his sister’s he entered Adiscordia’s home.