Pain and Healing
The first thing that came to Hansel’s mind as he was finishing the basket was pain. So much pain. Why had he done this to himself? He slowed down munching on sweets, his hand slowly rummaging through the basket. It was finally empty. His senses were returning. He laid down slowly, finding there was just enough room.. He groaned weakly, he felt like he’d burst. He didn’t want to move. To make matters worse it smelled like more food was being cooked.
He heard a small window slide open as light poured in again. Hansel closed his eyes tightly. Each time that door opened it felt like he was being blinded. “Hansel you’re awake!”
The voice was enough to soothe him. She was fine. “Grazie agli dei... I’m so happy to hear you...Are you okay?” He slowly forced himself up to observe her. She didn't seem bruised or hurt.
Gretel looked at him wide eyed. He looked sick and in pain, his stomach distended and swollen on his lap. How was she supposed to feed him any more? She nodded. “I’m okay. She hasn’t harmed me. Are you okay?” She asked with an emphasis.
Hansel forced a gentle nod with tired eyes. The last thing Gretel needed was to worry about him. “I’m sorry about this... I dont know what happened last night...” Hansel paused for a second trying to regain his senses. He wasn't all there yet-there was something else he needed to remember. The more he woke up the more reality hit. The pain, exhaustion, and panic, coming all at once.
“Its okay...” Gretel spoke softly feeling awful for him. She wanted to see his eyes, the truth. He could hardly move. He was not okay, that much was obvious. She waited for a moment, just listening to his forced breaths. “Adiscordia is gone. She left a while ago but hasn’t come back.”
Hansel turned to lay against the wall, pushing the basket out of the way through the small door in the bottom. “Who?”
“Maud- Her real name is Adiscordia Hex. She said she’s some sort of goddess and she said that she’d let me in on the game.” Gretel forced herself to stop. She wanted to give him all the information she could before Adiscordia returned but he didn't look like he could fully understand it right now. She took the basket as he remained quiet. “She wants to fatten you up so she can eat you!”
Hansel winced in fear. “No more...I can't eat a single... bite more... Please” He had chosen senses and memory over relief. With the news he was almost regretting it. Adiscordia's intentions had been clear, but the thought of more food made him nauseous. There was something about Adiscordia. He had heard that name before. Where had he heard it?
“I don't know how much time we have left together to come up with a plan-” Gretel confessed, hoping he’d come back to his normal self. She stretched her hand out through the window to hold his cheek. He was hot. “You’re burning up!”
Hansel pushed against her, holding her hand. Gretel was right there, it was so comforting. Then there was him, helpless. He should be comforting her! Gretel was his sister but also his redeemer. She had gone through so much suffering that no child should have to. Without her, Hansel had no reason to live. He deserved this. “I’m fine...” He mumbled. “I just need to sleep...but it can wait... Gretel,” It hurt to admit this. He hated this. “I’m not myself enough...to think of a plan... I can’t do much while I'm stuck...here either. Tell me all you can...hopefully I'll feel good...enough soon but-” He gripped his lips, if he kept talking he wouldn't be able to keep it down.
Despite the urgency Gretel could hardly stand to see him like this. He was right, she couldn't keep depending on him. All these years he had given everything for her. Now there wasn't much left to give. “Hansel! Lie down! You’re hot, pale, and you look like every inch of you is in pain. You’re just waking up from a hex. I’ll think of something, I promise!” Hansel didn't hesitate, slowly lying down on the cold floor. It helped the heat slightly. Gretel looked away. It wasn't his fault, he did it for her but she felt so alone and incapable. She was unsure if she could keep her promise. She shifted, ready to leave him to sleep.
“I’m listening.” It was loud and perfectly clear. Gretel looked back at him quickly. “I’m still here.” He slowly shifted, pulling his hair back gently. The damp tangled mess rising to reveal two big pained and exhausted eyes staring at her. They were eyes that showed devotion through trials. He wouldn’t abandon her, not even like this.
She couldn't help but smile. “She seems young and still playful. She likes to brag about her power and I think there's something living inside her. The ashes on her face, they’re something else! She said it came from the suffering above and that we’re fragments.”
Hansel listened carefully lifting a finger to slow her down. This was fascinating information but he doubted he’d remember the details. The game she was in worried him. His own game was met with failure and debilitating pain. “The game...What do you do?” He mumbled, struggling to keep awake. He had just eaten far more than what he would have eaten in a week. To worsen matters it was so delicious and rich, but his body wasn't used to it at all. If he could manage to stay awake just a little longer...
Gretel felt her throat well up, unsure how to tell him. “Well- she said you’re too skinny for her. She wants you fat. The way she said it. You have time. I got angry and I think I impressed her. She said a lot of the food she creates has magic in it since she cant see well enough to properly cook. She said if I cooked for you she might not influence it. She gave me supplies and everything but Hansel, it’ll be healthier and hopefully it wont cause you to end up like this.” He didn't respond. She was met with nothing but silence. His eyes were barely keeping open but he was awake. “I’m sorry, I don't want to hurt you!” He mumbled something she couldn't quite understand, but it seemed he didn't hold it against her. She looked down quietly, then perked up. She heard a click. He had clicked. She looked at his lips as he did it again. He had an idea!
It wasn’t the best idea but it was something. He could detail it later. If they could only... Hansel's hand thumped, a curly mess of hair falling over his face as he succumbed to sleep.
Gretel’s smile faded. He couldn’t hold on any longer. She went back to the kitchen, checking on some pork. The smell waved across the room, she had neglected it. It was a sign that it was almost burning. She removed it letting it sit before going back to her bowl. Eggs, Milk, Flour, Butter. Water was still boiling as she mixed ingredients. Vegetables had to be sliced, a pie was still baking, Breads had to be seasoned. She didn't want to make him eat it, but she saw and knew better than letting Adiscordia do it.
If they weren't in an awful situation she may have been proud of it. They weren’t bad for her first few attempts. Although it was making her stomach want, Hansel may have feasted but Gretel hadn’t eaten anything yet. She didn't want to eat what could be for him. Scanning the room Gretel took a piece of bread spreading jam on it. It tasted delicious as she savored the taste. Opening her eyes it had become darker, a large shadow was looming over her. She was afraid, freezing up slightly before choosing to ignore it. Taking the rest of the jammed bread and shoving it in her mouth before rushing to put the batter in a pan, and going to chop vegetables. If Adiscordia truly was a goddess, she was the only one that had to be feared. This was far too tall and gloomy to be Adiscordia.
“Are you siblings by blood?” Came a coarse whisper that made Gretel whimper but continue working. It would go away. It may have been another hallucination. Was she not supposed to eat bread? Was this punishment? “Answer me.” Gretel heard a force hit the table. A knife being thrown and hitting the table after grazing her arm as a warning.
“No! No, we aren’t siblings by blood! I was adopted!” Gretel replied frightened grabbing the knife and beginning to chop carrots. “Where’s Adiscordia? She’s taken us, so if you hurt me you’ll be sorry!” She spoke in a panic, unable to turn around and look at the figure. It didn't want her to look.
“Adiscordia Hex is asleep right now. She will return. Have you been to the ruins of Rhionine?”
Gretel quickly grabbed another carrot, before remembering the water and dumping rice in it. “I haven’t been to the ruins.” She lied. The response was an eerie silence.
“You lie Guinniverre, holder of the throne of Rhionine. I can sense your sorrow and loss for your fallen kingdom. I give my sorrows.” Gretel rushed to the book reading further and adding salt to the water, before heading to get another pot. She tried not to listen to the strange figure. It didn't sound good. It was trying to get inside her mind. “Hansel too holds sorrow and loss for the Rhioninians.”
“Our countries were at war. He was my enemy but didn’t understand why lives had to be lost.” Gretel reminded. “I don't know what or who you are but I need to finish these before Adiscordia returns.” She tried to stay her ground. If this creature knew all, he knew it to be true.
“You think you know so much about him...How does a boy without resources or education, in a society that hates your people, with a family that hates your people, risk his life to save the princess. Why would he?”
Gretel lowered her head in frustration. “I don't know. I have never known, but you cant turn me against him! I've been with him for years and he has loved, cared, and protected me. So you better stop now.”
She felt a chill touch her cheek. It was a cold she had never experienced, with an air that felt so real. It was a new type of touch that she couldn’t express in words. “I pity you both. My wish is not for your suffering. I only long to go home.” Gretel didn’t know what to say. It was unexpected. Slowly, what kept her from looking behind her faded. There was a loud thump from behind her and Gretel turned.
Adiscordia laid on the ground. New stones had erupted, deforming her body. It left blues, blacks, and purples as she forced breaths in panic looking around slowly. Ashes and shadows retreating back through the cracks of her body. There were definitely more of them now, small but plenty. Seeing her like this, she wasn't that scary. She was actually small. Adiscordia was smaller than Hansel! She was wearing heels under her dress to look greater and more intimidating.
Gretel almost felt pity. Maybe Adiscordia needed to do this. Maybe she lacked a choice. “Adiscordia,” Gretel paused. This was the child eating beast she was talking to but she needed to ask. “Are you alright?”
“Away from me!” Adiscordia growled, Gretel’s kindness piercing through her. “Away! Now!” It reminded her more of the purity her sister used to have. She needed to destroy it. Both of them needed to be destroyed. She rose ready to attack.
Gretel found herself not leaving but slowly approaching. There was something to be noted about Adiscordia's eyes. She had lost more of her eyesight, blood dripping down her face. She wasn't blind, her eyesight was being taken from her! Was Adiscordia herself was helpless?
Where was she? The innocent energy was coming closer. Addy charged, pinning Gretel to the wall. The butcher knife in her hand ready to slit her throat. “Hansel!” She screamed in a panic. “Adiscordia, if you kill me you’ll forfeit the game!” Gretel spoke quickly. “A-and I'm winning! I cooked plenty look! B-But Hansel is sick! If you kill me he’ll find a way to kill himself before he reaches your standards. I mean it! Please don't kill me!” she begged, as her eyes began to well up with tears.
Her fear, the precious fear. It helped and was slowly calming Adiscordia. She still had control of the situation. She was the predator here, she wasn't weak or helpless like the girl had thought. She held no useless bonds like they did. They were still only meat, the forgotten beggars of this world.
Noting that the knife had stopped and Adiscordia was thinking Gretel continued. “He’s very very sick, and if you don't give him a break...” Gretel was dropped on the floor in relief, quickly looking back at her.
“I’m not merciful.” Adiscordia responded.
“Its not merciful its common sense! I mean it, he has a fever and can hardly move. Your hex was too powerful, if you keep doing this he’ll die before he grows at all! That wont be good for either of us!” Gretel was slowly realizing Adiscordia’s weakness. Her weakness, was that she had weakness. If Gretel treated her like the goddess she thought she was, she was willing to negotiate. Hansel needed to know this.
Adiscordia shook her head but walked over to the cage. The girl wasn't wrong. The door flew open with magic. “Piglet, speak.” Nothing was said. Hansel was still deep in rest. “No more acting now. Wake up.”
“After he finished the basket he fell straight to sleep, we could barely have a conversation! He isn't lying!” Adiscordia looked back to Gretel with a scowl before placing a hand on him. She slowly went up to his face before pinching him harshly. Hansel was definitely in some sort of food coma, to put it mildly. His body was burning in pain while his skin was overheated and damp. She felt his stomach softly, causing him to groan in his sleep and wince before waking up with pained breaths. It was rock solid, barely holding it all in. If he hadn't resisted so much at the start, her magic wouldn't have had to work so hard to keep him down.
“What do your parents usually feed you?” Adiscordia asked.
“There's a famine at home! We usually have a rodent in a stew and nuts. Or a little bit of bread, or bark, or really anything we can find. Hansel usually shared his dish with me so he'd eat even less, but nothing like the rich food you have here.” Adiscordia was beginning to regret having them in a game. She knew starvation too well in her earlier years. She didn't need to be reminded of it.
“Very well, then make him some stew and bread.” Adiscordia declared.
“He can’t eat anymore!” Gretel repeated.
Hansel just listened holding his face softly wanting them to stop yelling. Why did Adiscordia have to come and wake him? “Gretel told me... you’re a goddess.” He muttered. Adiscordia turned to him. She knew what he was doing.
“Fallen! goddess!” Adiscordia emphasized but gave into his unspoken demand. Shoving a hand on his stomach she healed him. His packed stomach digesting rapidly, before it was nearing empty again. The food now nothing but soft flesh added to his middle. His skin immediately cooled and the pain vanished leaving his mind clear.
Hansel sighed in relief. It was gone. He could breathe now. He sat up looking at them. The door was wide open but he knew better than to escape right now. Gretel was fine, slowly calming down. Adiscordia on the other hand looked awful! He didn't know what to do or say. “Thank you.” Was all he could share before she slammed the door shut, keeping the sliding door open.
“Tch. Piglets dont speak.” Adiscordia scoffed, going to look at Gretel’s accomplishments.
Something about Adiscordia proved to be less evil than she seemed. She was a heavy threat, that much was undeniable but there was something else. Regardless, she deserved to be thanked. She could have healed him to eat more but left him full of pain or unable to think. She could have let him die. She could have killed Gretel by now. Hansel sighed softly. “Oink?” He asked, playing into a game she understood.
Gretel watched Adiscordia's expression. Kindness and care brought rage. Submission to her control and fear brought negotiation and a playful childish nature. Hansel's kindness was mixed with submission to her control. She seemed expressionless, standing there in slight surprise. “You’re welcome.”