Adiscordia came in the room with a smile. Her bow had been adjusted although her hair seemed to be a bit of a mess, presumably from cleaning and packing. “I’m so glad you enjoyed them, my sweets!” After such naïve boring choices of meat these two presented her with some sort of challenge and maturity that she was all too excited to take on.
Hansel scrunched his nose slightly, the thought of being called sweet in a house like this had such an ironic tone to it and he hated it. Maud was a predator who was awful at hiding it. Gretel giggled at her brother. With his eyes constantly being covered his face could be a little silly at times.
“You didn’t touch the cake!” she exclaimed coming over quickly. “Was it too much?”
Hansel groaned quietly closing his eyes tightly. Was this on purpose? These memories were sealed and shut tight. They had been tucked away for years to help him function. Now all of a sudden they were pouring out without stopping like the burning center of a lava cake? Was this her? His mouth watered. He couldn’t help but want it and the sweet reality numbing memories it granted him.
Gretel didn’t know what was bothering her brother so much, but after what he had said earlier she quickly nodded. “Yes, I’m so sorry! The stew was delicious, but neither of us can eat another bite.” Her brother didn’t respond, and it was beginning to worry her. He wasn’t himself. The forest wasn’t the best place to go since Maud seemed to have an influence over it, but they couldn’t stay here. Fear was beginning to rise up within her, they needed a plan.
“Oh, that’s alright.” With that Adiscordia took their plates. She was eager to mess with them both again, especially the one who battled with his own self worth based on his own guilt for crimes he hadn’t committed. “Oh, Hansel’s plate is empty! The poor boy must have been starving! Are you sure you wouldn’t like a sliver, just to try it? Other than a few far friends I don’t often get visitors often enough to tell me their opinions.”
Gretel looked over to her brother, he seemed to be detached from the present. She tapped his shoulder. “Hansel?” There was no response.
Adiscordia came closer. “Dear?” Hansel stayed put, his face surprisingly relaxed. She let out a chuckle. This was easier than she thought. "Perhaps it was that good. I think he’s asleep dear. I prepared a room for you two. Let me wash the dishes and then we can wake him and lead you two up there. As she left Adiscordia couldn’t help but grin. Him sleeping gave her a much more devious idea.
Gretel watched her brother closely. “You’re scaring me.” She whispered to him. There was nothing. She turned to the kitchen. “She’s gone... I cant see her anymore..”
With that Hansel sprung back to life looking towards the kitchen and holding a finger to his lips. This relieved Gretel, he was fine. It was just a plan, but why then? Hansel waited until he heard a bucket of water being placed on a counter. Adiscordia was busy washing dishes.
“We need to leave. We can't stay tonight.” He whispered. His usually unexpressive face showing seriousness and fear.
“To the forest, with your broken compass and no direction?” Gretel asked. “If we left don't you think she’d bring us back?”
Hansel nodded in agreement before grabbing Gretel's shoulders softly. “Do you remember when you first came with me? And you missed your family so much. You would cry at night again and again and I'd comfort you?” Gretel listened closely with a nod. “Sometimes you shared nice memories about your mother and nothing else mattered. It was like you were there again.” He paused. “That’s what the chocolate is doing to me. I think of my mother and I don't think of you or Maud anymore. Nothing else matters, and I just want more and more of mamma, but I cant. I need to stay here, I need to protect you.” Gretel was dumbfounded. Hansel had never spoken of his mother. She knew he had to have one. “I don't know why this is happening right now. I thought I wouldn't think about it anymore- but”
Hansel was stopped. Gretel was wrapping her arms around him tightly. He relaxed slightly in her embrace hugging her back. She had no words to say to him but she stayed there. Hansel heard Maud finishing her dishes as he pushed away slightly. “We’ll stay, but we need to see if we find something that’ll help us. Some sort of map or way out. We need to earn time and to survive through Maud or remove her if we need to.”
Gretel nodded in agreement until she found a large flaw to his plan. How were they supposed to remove Maud? As the thought came Maud came in. Gretel turned to her brother who was already silent and relaxed again. His head laid back gently.
She would have believed it, if her hearing was as bad as her eyesight. It had grown unusually strong over the years to make up for her vision. If He wanted to act like an unknowing innocent child, two could play at that game! She walked over to him. “Hansel?” Gretel nudged at his shoulder a bit. “Hansel dear, I have a bed for you and Gretel.”
Hansel groaned a little slowly, before sitting up. “bed?”
“Oh yes! I don’t have many visitors, but I like to be prepared for when I do!” Adiscordia replied cheerfully. “Come, I’ll guide you. You can stay the night, and then we can go to the village in the morning.”
Hansel took his sister’s hand in reassurance, who in return tightened the grip as he stood up. Gretel followed her big brother’s lead while trying to look around for anything that could help them.
Hansel followed Adiscordia to the kitchen. Like before it was made of sweets, but there were a few regular things. There was a wooden bucket for carrying water, iron hooks on the ceiling, regular trays and dishes, plenty of baskets, a few chests, and then, the wall.
Hansel paused with his sister bumping against him to see the largest iron oven he had ever seen. That was definitely big enough to fit both Gretel and him combined. It terrified him, fire itself had proven to have a traumatizing effect. This weapon didn’t help at all. Gretel stared at it wide eyed, mouth slightly open. She hoped Hansel wasn’t thinking the same thing she was. It was then she remembered the act. “Maud? Is this how you make your gingerbread walls and dessert furniture?”
Adiscordia stopped to look at the oven before giving a light laugh. Usually she would cover it, but she enjoyed this game. She could sense their fear, and she was ready to start a game of cat and mouse. Their plans would be useless but entertaining for sure. “Yes! Although even with this I have to split walls and bigger furniture in different pieces, which is why it takes longer to make than a simple picture frame or statue.” The oven made Adiscordia frown, proving her disadvantage. She slowly moved her fingers to count. It had been six years, the curlicues of the oven had vanished. Nothing was left but a dark gray blob that fused into different colored walls. The walls once made with bright colors to prepare for this day, now seemed to barely vary. They varied enough that with her memory she could tell just about where everything was, but she knew blindness would happen soon enough. Hansel noted Maud’s change in expression, was there something he was missing? Gretel seemed to notice as well, she wanted to identify her expression but it soon disappeared as their hostess turned from them. “This way!”
Adiscordia turned to a small hallway and then another door to reveal a guest room. Made again of sweets, but ones that seemed less appealing. They were beautiful but had lost their smell. In the middle of a chocolate truffle tiled room was a small nightstand made of dry mint. The bed itself was large enough to fit the two children. Gretel had to admit, it was all impressive. “This is beautiful Maud, thank you! Isn’t it Hansel?”
The walls. Maud had come straight from hell. She was doing this. He let out a quiet nod before crawling into bed and laying his head on a pillow. It felt as if he were laying on a cloud. He wouldn’t mind a nights sleep but he had to stay awake. He kept his eyes on the walls, the internal struggle keeping him awake.
“I’m sorry Maud, last night was difficult on the both of us. Thank you again.” Gretel let out a polite curtsy before crawling into bed and pulling the taffy sheet covers over the both of them.
“Of course! I can imagine it was awful, with the wolves and beasts of the night. It was a miracle you found me! I can’t bear to think what would have happened otherwise. Please!” Adiscordia stepped up to them, kissing them on the forehead. “Sleep well. You’ll need your rest for the journey tomorrow.” With that she blew out a candle, walked to the door and closed it with a thud. “Good night!”
Gretel stared at the ceiling, her head sinking into what seemed to be a cotton candy cloud. She had to sit up, this was too comfortable. She knew her brother was awake, she could feel him shaking a little. She rummaged her fingers through his hair. “Did you see that oven?” she whispered.
Beyond her she could hear something else. They were alone, weren’t they? There was metal clashing against each other. “Do you hear that?” There was no response, instead there was some grinding, and she began to see some sparks from the corner of the room. It sounded as if weapons were being created. “Hansel-“ With that she nudged him quickly, grabbing at his shoulder.
Then there was a familiar voice. A voice that made Gretel stop in place. “We must prepare for war. We don’t know when the enemy is coming, or why they are targeting us but we know they are coming.”
“Papa!” Tapping of shoes could be heard as the princess rushed into the room. She could almost see it again. Her father, her kingdom. He smiled looking down at her. “Maman said-“
Those in the meeting looked on disapprovingly, one of the men interrupting. “Roi Eudes, please, this is not the place for children. Dearest Guinniverre, your father is in the middle of a crucial meet for the kingdom.”
“Yes I was, and one day Guinniverre will grow to take my place. She should become familiar with the board and her future role, just as you capitaine should know yours. Now tell me Guinn, what has Maman told you?”
“A trip! Maman said that we would visit the Zephia river tonight. We’re going to go camping outside of Rhionine! You’re coming with us, Oui?” The princess bounced up. The king smiled, savoring this moment before he kissed her forehead. He then held her close, in an usually long embrace. Looking up at the memories now Guinniverre knew why her father had held her so close, with that kiss. He knew that may have been the last time, and it was. She wanted to cry, letting go of Hansel to wipe her tears. He was so close. She reached towards him, pleading for an embrace, one last time.
“Princesse Guinniverre, I give my humblest apologies but I will be unable to join you-“ They were immediately interrupted by a man left panting at the door.
“Roi! Urgent message, The enemy- They’re at the border with others!” The king stood up, this was sooner than expected.
“Go!” He commanded. “Take what we have and seal the entrance. We need to create more weapons, and find ten guardians for the Reine and Princesse!” Men rushed out of the room and the king took his sword leaving Guinniverre frightened. “You must go with this man, he will find those who can protect you.”
The man lifted his hand, before taking his helmet to his chest. “Roi, there was another message.” The king stood there, barely breathing. His face pale. “La Reine-”
“Arrêter.” He ordered before picking up Guinniverre and placing her in the mans arms. “Keep her safe, with your life.” Then with a final kiss the king ran to fight.
“Papa! Don’t go! Papa!” Guinniverre screamed struggling and pushing to reach her father as he faded from view.
Gretel watched in pain. The reason her mother never answered her cry was because she had been killed before the war started. All over again they were gone. They still had so much to teach her. She couldn’t help but wipe more tears, paralyzed as she saw bloody grounds. They were all gone. Lifeless bodies on the ground, weapons strewn about, debris, and the silence. The awful silence, the echoing marker of the fall of Rhionine. Her shaking hand reached for her brother as she still stared at home. Her hand touched the patterns of the licorice bed. She reached further, nearer, before looking down. Gone.
Hansel was gone, and again. She was alone.
“Gretel, the plan. We need to find a way to-“ The figure besides him shifted, her hand leaving his. He turned to watch her get up from the bed. He sat up. “Gretel?” He called out in a concerned whisper. “What are you doing?”
Standing up the girl turned to him, revealing dark discolored eyes. There was a darkness emerging from her, her veins beginning to slowly show through her face as if she were being poisoned from the mind. She walked to the door in controlled steps. “Guinniverre!” Hansel exclaimed rushing from out of the bed in front of her. He gripped her shoulders shaking them. “Wake up!”
Gretel did not respond but rather pushed the intruder out of the way with a surprising amount of strength. Hansel was left stunned falling back on the bed as Gretel reached for the doorknob. She opened the door slightly when Hansel threw himself on her back, grabbing her tight prepared for an outburst. “Guinniverre de Rhionine, where are you going?”
She stopped resisting but stared ahead. “Home.” With that she bit Hansel’s arm tightly forcing him to let her go before she ran out the door.
Hansel winced. His arm thumped repeatedly in pain as he ran after her. “Gretel!” he screamed unable to keep calm or think of any plan on the spot. His mind was clouded in worry. The hallway seemed to take a dive lower, with red steps. The crackling of flames could be heard as smoke rose from the ceiling. He wasn’t getting anywhere, he couldn’t run fast enough. “Gretel Stop!” He dove, jumping on her back sending them both against the ground.
He turned her only for her to become lifeless, disintegrating slowly into ashes leaving Hansel in shock to watch all over as the ashes flew near the oven. Everything was so hot, as candy and sweets began to melt. Hansel didn’t care, he rushed towards the oven. He coughed, sweating as his skin reddened. "Gretel!"
“Hansel.” There was a raspy voice behind him. Despite the heat he could feel his body freeze in terror. He couldn’t move. Slowly she grabbed his face, pulling him up and turning his head. Looking upwards Hansel’s breath stopped. Long dark curly hair removed by flames, with sunken sockets. Skin burnt away with small bits of muscles barely clinging on to a charred skeletal frame. The tall figure looked down at him, with a sense of honesty, disappointment, but love. “You couldn’t even save yourself.”
Hansel woke up immediately in a sweat, his body jerking up before his head hit a hard surface. It was dark. Where was he? He could see nothing. “Gretel?” There was no response, his hand rapidly patted around. Nothing, nothing, corner, walls. A sliding noise was heard as light poured in. Two empty discolored eyes on pale skin closed in on him with a stare.
“Good morning, Piglet.”