Adiscordia closed the door behind them. They were both so frail and thin. She’d have to fix that if she wanted a proper meal. The girl was young, fairly innocent. She could make for a good meal. The boy seemed to be older, more mature. He was her caretaker, suspicious if Adiscordia before having entered. He was probably around her own age. He had a fascinating feel to him. He was innocent, but found himself guilty. He was hyper aware of the troubles around him. He was smart, she’d have to get rid of him before she tasted the girl. However...
Adiscordia thought for a moment. They loved each other. Love was weakness. She hated love. Love was the same thing that made her send Grizelda away, when she was the perfect sacrifice. Grizelda held innocence maintained through desperate trials and fire. Love was a monster beyond the curse. It offered promises it could never keep. She looked at the pair. She wanted them to know this.
Gretel gasped in wonder. Everything in the dining room was also made of sweets! The table was marbled chocolate. The chairs, strong peppermint with marshmallow seats. There were stringed licorice curtains. She couldn't help but look around in amazement.
Hansel on the other hand, continued to take note of the exits. This may have been what was taking children. The chairs, flooring, even lolly flowers, it was too much. Could Maud have made her intentions anymore obvious? As he looked past her, he realized they weren't locked in, at least for now. He had to admit all of it smelled delicious, making his stomach and head beg him for a single bite.
“Please Sit down! What are your names?” Adiscordia asked. Gretel sat down cheerfully, her legs swinging slightly in excitement. As Hansel glared at her from be behind dark brown strands that could conceal his emotions. At times he longed for her blissful ignorance and joy. He could pretend at least, feign some stupidity. It would be better than rebelling and having to fight.
“My name is Hansel. This is my sister Gretel. Thank you so much for allowing us in Miss Maud.”
“Oh! Simply Maud is fine!” Adiscordia replied with a smile. “Well Hansel, Gretel, The pie you saw on the window was for a friend of mine. She lives closer to town and I was going to make the journey tomorrow to give it to her. I don’t at all mind you two joining me. I know the two of you are probably hungry so while I cook feel free to help yourselves to whichever treats you like. I can remake them- However, try not to destroy my furniture. Those take a while longer.” She admitted heading to the kitchen.
Gretel squealed in delight reaching for a cookie like art piece that hung on the walls. She grinned as she chewed eagerly. “Hansel eat something! Please! You haven't eaten anything good since two nights ago!” Hansel shut his eyes. Did she have to give Maud even more of their weaknesses?
“No furniture.” He warned coming close to her and looking around for something to nibble on. The table caught his attention the first time he came in. The marble being so intricate, he had to remind himself the warning. He came next to her with a quiet tone. “Gretel, she could be dangerous. Who builds a house like this, in the middle of a forest, unless they wanted to lure wanderers or children in?”
Gretel frowned at him. “You’ll make a plan, You always do. I’m not going back in the forest until you eat something. If Maud was a monster, and we escaped before she hurt us only for you to fall from starvation in the forest what good would that do?” Defeated by the flattering comment and concern for his health he decided on a small chocolate statue.
He hadn't had chocolate in years. Within the first bite he could almost hear his mother’s steps in the kitchen. He wanted to run to her. He wanted to get scolded for nibbling too much on the sweets she made. Only for her to praise him for his elaborate schemes to get her out of the kitchen. For a moment, the taste made him feel like he was there again, before the secrets, before the poverty, before the flames.
“Hansel!” His sister’s hand on his shoulder made him jump a little. He was awakened and back to reality. “Are you alright?” Gretel noticed he had been licking his fingers visciously after finishing the statue quicker than she thought possible. He hadn't heard her the first time she called. It was unlike him.
Hansel looked towards the floor, disappointed in his lack of awareness. He needed to get over himself. He held Gretel close. His redeemer. It was his job to protect her, and keep the Rhioninians alive through her. “I think I was just hungrier than i thought. Thank you Regi-Gretel.”
Regina? Did he almost call her Queen? It was true that she was next in line after her mother had passed, but this was not the time! Definitely not the place! What was wrong with him?
“Are you sure you’re alright Hansel?”
He nodded. “I’ll be fine.” His answer was shorter than she was hoping. She knew him well enough to know he was avoiding something.
Adiscordia came into the room with two plates, glasses, and a smile. “Thank you for not trying my furniture, I know they can be tempting. Decorations on the other hand are quite fun to make! Perhaps if we have time I'll show you later this evening!” Adiscordia had realized the boys weakness. The chocolate made him cling to a time of perceived innocence. Fascinating! She needed him. She set the two plates on the table with a sandwich on each. “I made these quickly. The treats and these should help tide you over until dinner is ready.”
“Thank you Maud!” Gretel chimed, quick to eat her sandwich. The bread was warm, almost fresh out of the oven with a large portion of flavorful meat and cheese. Hansel sat next to Gretel carefully observing her out of habit. It seemed okay, after all if Maud wanted to poison them she would have already. The door was still unlocked.
“Thank you…” He gave a gentle nod before he took a bite. A grin spread across his usually numb face for a moment. This was real food, not sweets without nutrition. Once he had finished eating and drinking, his head was pain free. It was the perfect time to think of an escape plan. Although, It was difficult to plan without knowing what powers Maud possessed, or if she was even human. She may have been the source of his compass troubles, meaning magic was involved. The simplest answer was to sneak out, but it couldn’t be that easy. As Hansel continued with his own thoughts, Gretel couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong. Was what happened earlier really just his own hunger?
Finally, the smell began to wave into the dining room. A rich chicken stew was warm and ready. “Hopefully I haven’t ruined your appetite already because dinner is ready!” Adiscordia called out in a melodious tone. Two large bowls of stew were placed before them, as well as drinks. A plate full of bread slices to dip in was set in the center, as well as a small bowl of fruit, and behind that a small chocolate cake.
“This looks so much better than the food at home!” Gretel exclaimed, quickly remembering the many times where there wasn’t food at all, or if there was- it wasn’t chicken. It may have been some wild rodent but not chicken. Despite the sandwich soothing her hunger along with the cookie and sugar pieces Gretel dug in. Hansel looked over to his sister, at least she was enjoying it. The chocolate cake was calling to him, but he knew it would intoxicate him with memories. It was almost like something was making him crave his years of guilt free life on purpose. He had no idea how he would even finish this bowl, not being used to eating much at all. Maybe if he did the cake wouldn’t look so good anymore. With that he dug in, watching Adiscordia closely.
He searched for anything to suggest danger, or a hint to what she could do. There was nothing. Adiscordia was starting to sense his hypervigilance. She could feel him studying her, even if she couldn't see it. Was that why this boy refused to cut his hair? To hide his emotions and interest from other people? One slip up and she could probably be found out. They were usually so innocent and naïve! Yet because he thought he wasn’t innocent, he had grown to be a mature and worthy opponent. A challenge she almost craved.
She stood up. “Please enjoy! I think I have a few more things to get ready for our trip tomorrow and visitors. I’ll eat in the kitchen as I pack for my trip.”
“Good luck!” Gretel called out. “and thank you again Maud! This is delicious!”
Hansel nodded in agreement with a mouthful. “It is good. Let me know if there’s anything we can help with to show our gratitude!”
Adiscordia paused, facing the kitchen. She couldn’t help but grin. This was a perfect opportunity to show the first lesson, and cause some fear and helplessness. “Well- actually there is something you can help me with! I have a few things I need that I stacked behind a few heavy boxes. I may need a bit of man power. If you’re willing?”
“I can help too!” Gretel said sliding off her chair.
Adiscordia shook her head. “no no please, enjoy! This should only take Hansel a second. I don’t think you’d have much strength to offer. After all, my kitchen is a bit messy. I don't want too many people inside at the moment.” She admitted truthfully.
She was definitely trying to separate them. On one hand if he went with her it could be falling into a trap. On the other hand, he could learn something new to add to his plan. He didn’t dare refuse and upset a predator, but he couldn’t leave Gretel. He could run, the door was still unlocked, but to what? She’d probably attack and put Gretel in danger either way. He stood up wiping his lips, putting a hand on Gretel’s shoulder. “Its okay. I’ll only be away for a moment.” He turned to face her quietly. “Plan.” With that he started walking towards Addy.
That was it? He was going to a quote on quote predator to make a plan? Why couldn’t he just eat and run away at night like a normal person? “Hansel!” Gretel quickly grabbed his arm causing him to stop. “I don’t want to be alone…” She pouted.
Hansel sighed looking over to Adiscordia. “I’m so sorry- maybe after dinner we could go together, even if she doesn’t help?”
“Yes of course! We still have tonight.” With that she walked past the door to the kitchen. She took the meat pie she had cooked up, eating it angrily. That was definitely on purpose. She growled blood dripping from her lips. These two were messing with her. She chuckled tilting the pie side to side to see its contents. She wasn’t against playing with her food.
Hansel looked over at the kitchen, then at Gretel. She wasn’t that whiny, He let out a quiet laugh and prideful smile. “Plan!” he whispered.
Gretel smiled in return pulling him back to the table as she continued to progress through her bowl. “I learned from the best.”
Hansel couldn’t help but love her. In a dangerous situation like this, at least he wasn’t alone in thinking up solutions and acting. To Gretel’s surprise Hansel finished his bowl, laying the spoon back in with a clank as he laid back. That was probably the biggest meal he had ever eaten, discounting all the sweets he would steal s a child. That’s when he remembered Adiscordia had made dessert. Hansel grabbed his head a bit in frustration. What was his problem with chocolate? Reality was right here with Gretel. His mother was gone. The flames were over. The Rhioninans were gone. Why was this coming to him now? His stomach ached with all of the stew and bread inside, why did he crave even just a tiny slice?
Gretel looked at her brother, not having finished her plate. She could never finish something like that, especially after a thick sandwich, frame, and half of a window. He was frustrated, suffering in silence. She hated when he did that. She came near holding him close. His face was wet. Was he crying again? “hey…Hans-“
“I’m fine.” He countered before she could say anything. “Just. For the love of all that is good. Don’t let me eat the chocolate.”