Prey and Predator
Gretel rushed to the table. “Adiscordia! I’ve made a roasted pig, rice, stew, some seasoned bread, an apple pie, and there’s a cake in the oven!” A nervous smile spread across her face, she had never done any of these before. She followed instructions by the book, often tasting things to see if she should add more sugar or less salt to avoid poisoning her brother. She had nearly burnt the pork, and her first failed attempts at the pie lay underneath a few dishes. Even so, whether this would count as a feast in Adiscordia’s eyes was uncertain.
Adiscordia walked around the table. She could smell what Gretel had cooked, amongst a few failures. She was rather fast for her first tries and her fear had helped as she searched for perfection to please Adiscordia. Her hand reached for the pie, landing on the table as she slid it around and searched slowly through the darkness.
Gretel watched as Adiscordia’s hand blindly searched. “What are you looking for?”
Adiscordia squinted angrily. Her eye sight had declined sharply, no disguise could hide this now. Gretel’s question wasn’t meant as an insult by the tone but it still aggravated her. She said nothing, searching a little longer before answering. “I am looking for the pie.” Her hand was taken gently to a warm silver tin, inside it was the pie. She growled slightly at the gentleness. They were enemies, this left place for hate, not gentle grabs and concern! She felt it, huffing a bit. “You’re lacking whipped cream.”
Gretel was caught off guard. “But! The recipe didn’t show any whipped cream!” She protested.
“That’s why you need experience!” Adiscordia snapped. “It’s not about the recipe, its about adding everything the book says to create something delicious and productive.”
Gretel watched, one small detail had caused all her efforts to fail. “Are you going to use your power on him?” It was difficult to tell, Adiscordia was definitely angry, but also quiet. Without a response Adiscordia began to walk to the cage. Gretel began to panic, “Wait, please! Don't do it again! I'll put whipped cream on next time! Please!” The image of her barely moving pained brother was still vividly etched in her mind.
“It has cream!” Addy talked back. Gretel calmed down looking back. It now had a generous portion of cream. Was it enchanted? If so, then would Addy only cast spells on what Gretel hadn’t perfected?
“Piglet!” Adiscordia called looking back at Hansel. “Are you ready for more?”
Hansel didn't respond, trying to show submission, fear, and anger at once. He came closer, letting the cage sound so she knew he was close and listening. He hoped it would keep her entertained enough to keep her sanity.
She smiled, revealing a playful nature. “Respond piglet?”
Hansel couldn’t help but roll his eyes before snorting. She watched her grin, at least he wasn’t facing her fury.
“Alright then. Come closer, I want to check your progress.” Hansel was startled by this. He should’ve seen it coming. He was beyond scrawny when he arrived, but wasn’t counting the basket. Adiscordia took a sniff. “So clever, Why do you hide your innocence?” She placed a hand through the window, it landed on his face and started feeling it. “It's covered in guilt. So much pain. You feel responsible for them. Lost lives." She started in fascination, reading Hansel's scent. "You're so young yet-” Adiscordia pulled her hand back immediately in shock. He bit her. He feared her and was ready to wage war against her in order to keep his sister from knowing what he had done. Guinniverre was the perfect bargaining chip.
He bit her. He had to. He didn't know how she knew this but this wasn’t how Gretel was going to find out. “I thought you were going to check my...” He paused, not wanting to continue the thought. “Not the deepest aspects of my soul.”
Adiscordia nodded. “Very well. Its still fascinating...” She muttered for a moment as if she had been caught. “Give me your finger.” Hansel did as he was told, making it easy to reach so he could get this over with.
A panicked breath was heard as she rapidly pinched and prodded. “This! That basket should have put plenty of meat on your bones!” Adiscordia was shocked, this would take a long time! To make things worse he was different. Hansel was a trophy, a hog who’d speak and bite back. One with a hidden innocence for a different taste, with his own sister to ruin and toy with before she destroyed them. “Verre! He's a living corpse! What are you waiting for! Feed him! Eat Child!”
Hansel grinned sliding back in. He was safe for now. Although something Addy had said disturbed him. Did she call Gretel, Verre? It didn’t seem like she cared if she was Rhioninian but how much did Adiscordia know?
Gretel knew it. Addy knew too much. She rushed in with a bowl of stew and bread sliding it in. Adiscordia seemed surprisingly disturbed by Hansel’s weight. What did she think famine looked like for a young man who was cutting wood frequently? Hansel was tall and disgustingly underweight with just enough muscle to carry an ax and tools and swing harshly. Gretel couldn’t imagine Hansel overweight at all. At least Adiscordia had a challenge on her hands.
Hansel looked at the stew, thinking about another idea with a click. Adiscordia stared at the boy. “Your sister cooked the dish. It isn't cursed. Eat! I don't hear you eating!” Gretel watched him frown. Whatever it was, the plan didn’t work, but he did as he was told. He wasn't starving, but he wasn't full by any means thanks to Adiscordia’s healing. It was surprising to note that she was telling the truth. His mind felt clear! With that he dug in slowly, to give him self time to think. He would have clicked again had Adiscordia not been so close.
“Too slow! At this rate you won’t be ready for another year!” Adiscordia stood up and stomped her foot in frustration before calming down significantly and smiling. “The game will be going a step further now! Verre, put all the dishes in the cage.”
“But, I just gave him the stew!” She protested, not understanding, or liking Adiscordia's desperate desires. Adiscordia seemed to nearly fly right in front of Gretel with her jaws opening. It terrified her. She dodged letting out a scream as she grabbed as many dishes as she could and brought them to Hansel. "Okay! Si! Oui! I'll do it!"
“Verre, cook a proper feast or I assure you I will take care of whatever isn't left! Hansel, you must eat whatever is given to you quickly. I can tell when you aren't.” She grinned. “And if you dont-” She slowly walked towards the table and took out a shiny clean plate and observed it while Gretel continued to slide dishes in. She stared closely at his sister, as she raised the plate.
“Gretel dodge-Move!” He yelled as porcelain crashed against the cage walls. Gretel having rolled away just in time. Sharp pieces grazed her face as they bounced off the cage, too distant to cause damage, but enough to create a scrape across her cheek.
Hansel narrowed his eyes in anger. “I was eating!” he yelled. “It was unnecessary! That was a break in the game. Do you want to play dirty? Si! let’s play mind games!” Adiscordia was startled listening in curiosity. “Adiscordia Hex, sister of Grizelda Hex. You disappeared ages ago because of some type of curse, you aren’t a goddess, you’re just a coward with a virus inside! You left your sister to rot, you aren’t that scary! Yes, you have a curse and can kill us both in an instant, but you’re just a child Adiscordia! A spoiled child with all the magic, knowledge, and riches in the world, who thinks she doesn’t need anybody. You’re probably just as old as I am! If you want to be alone, then go ahead! Roast me right now! But you still love her, I know this because Grizelda is still out there in the bakery my mother used to work in after leaving to find the robber of children! Yes, you have the upperhand, but if you’re going to hurt Gretel, and bring up my mother, and fallen soldiers, then you know I’ll bite you back.”
Adiscordia stood there, eyes wide. There was a burning inside her. It was horrible, her cracks were opening. She was an awful vessel, memories rushing in. There was nothing heard other than an eerie silence and cracks appearing in Adiscordia’s skin. Hansel sat back, slowly eating through his stew as he watched her to avoid more trouble. Gretel watched in horror as an inhuman scream was let out from the inside of Adiscordia. Gretel covered her ears. Hansel nearly dropped what he had been working on, feeling his ears pound. The curse was literally breaking through Adiscordia. She had no control over it. If she kept breaking how much flesh would be left? Was this why she consumed it? In seconds Adiscordia seemed to flash out of the room to her own. There were hits heard against the walls. Gretel stood, staring at Adiscordia's door dumbfounded.
“What did you do?” she asked.
Hansel barely heard her, his ears were bleeding. Her lips were still moving, so he could guess. He took a casual spoonful of stew, almost unfazed. “She tried to hurt you.” He answered simply before taking another spoonful. “Adiscordia’s weakness is that she has a weakness. She acts high and tries her best to look scary although she already is. She was trying to separate us but more than that she wanted to use our darkest weaknesses against us. Your kingdom, and my mother.” He further explained. “She has the power to kill but she’s like a big bully. She wouldn't have to flaunt her power so much otherwise. She’s shoving her own pain on us, I just reminded her that. It seems the curse didn't take too kindly to it.”
Gretel was even more in shock. “That looked horrible...” She admitted. “If we could fix her do you think she’d be grateful?”
Hansel said nothing at first. He understood Gretel’s innocence and desire to help everyone but he felt he needed to remind her of the obvious. “The curse is from the gods. We have no chance, and Gretel.” He paused coming closer for emphasis. He put the bowl down and pulled his hair up to show the seriousness in his eyes. “She wants to eat me, probably you next. She threw a porcelain plate at you. She hexed me. She gave me nightmares and keeps reminding me of things I’d rather run from. I am in a prison, Guinni. She is helpless against the curse, what makes you think we can help her? There’s no separating the curse and Adiscordia, especially while we're fighting for our own lives. Right now we can only try to live through this.”
Hansel was right. He let his hair down again and continued eating. It just looked so horrible! The curse needed to be destroyed, not Adiscordia! Right now it was her or them. Clearly the siblings would have to focus on themselves. “Did you have a plan?” she asked now staring at the door in conflict.
Hansel clicked repeatedly to get her attention. Not fully responding until she looked close to him.
“She’s blind but can sense me eating. So clearly, me not eating isn’t an option. The only time I can buy is if I stay thin.” He paused looking at the meat in his stew. “I need the rodent you used for this. Skin it, and give me twine and toothpicks.” Gretel looked at him with confusion, wondering what he had in mind. “But, this just buys us time. After my outburst I wont be surprised if what’s inside Adiscordia drives her further. You need to find a way out. You need to find a way to be rid of Adiscordia.”
Gretel was frightened. “Me, but Hansel! She’s taken control of my body a few times! I’m helpless!”
Hansel shook his head. “I’m helpless.” He emphasized. “I’m stuck in a cage barely able to stand. All I can do is eat and watch myself grow into what she wants. You on the other hand, are free enough to observe and act.” There was a pause. “Gretel, this really hurts. I am helpless.” He said again trying to think, clearly upset. “I can’t protect you. I need to protect you.”
It was then that something the curse had spoken to Gretel came to mind. Why did he? She wanted to ask, but knew she had to cook. Perhaps this wasn’t the right time, after all, Hansel didn’t feel confident in this position. She needed to step up, and find a way out. She already knew that only Adiscordia could free Hansel with her magic. So it seemed the only way to free them was to kill Adiscordia. Someone she was beginning to feel a heavy amount of pity for.
“We’ll only be free if we kill her...” She admitted. Hansel was chewing, deep in thought before responding.
“Si. Okay then, let’s do it.”
Gretel felt a stab in the heart. Adiscordia could barely with her own life, and they wanted to take it? Gretel shook her head quickly. It was them or her, that was the simple answer. This wasn’t murder, this was a rescue mission for them both. She wished there was another way. “Is there another way?” she asked. “You saw her! She’s prey herself.” Gretel could nearly tell by Hansel’s head that he was giving her a hidden stare of disapproval and thought. Hansel shook his head.
“We could try and think of one but right now its her or us.” He tried to explain gently, wishing Gretel wasn’t so innocent, emotional, and scared of taking lives. Some people, in his mind, deserved to die. He, himself was on that list.
Gretel nodded. He did listen to her at least. There was probably no other way, but he listened to her concerns anyway. It was comforting. She turned to the table. “Is there anything specific you want me to cook or bake for you?” she asked. He felt helpless and hurting. She had to cook plenty. If she could comfort him while doing it, she would love to. They could both use some comfort. She saw Hansel pause for a moment in thought, his lips parting to say something before shaking his head. He did want something, and with everything that had gone on she had an idea of what it was.
Adiscordia slowly rose up from the ground with panicked breaths. She felt like she was being ripped apart from the inside. “What do you want?” She sat on her bed, laying down and panting as she tried to catch her breath. “What do you want!” she screamed in agony.
“You are weak, too young.” She heard. “You can’t withstand it, but you can start it. I want one thing. Home. I want to go to home.” Adiscordia listened under her breath begging it to stop, to numb her mind again, and to forget again. She wanted to erase all memory of her past. “Start it.”
“You need to find a wishing heart.” The answer was so simple, and just like that Adiscordia was released. She gasped for air, it was inside again. She slowly stood up, regaining her strength. The wishing heart, a story she had been told since she was young. This was an emergency. She no longer could stand the curse any longer. She needed to harvest a wishing heart to let it leave. The heart itself was rare as far as she knew. It was left only for the innocent who lived blameless lived and sacrificed their lives in the name of love. None of her family could be included. It came to her as a sudden realization, a grin spreading across her face. She needed them.