Only a Redeemer?
“Hansel, are you awake?”
He wished he wasn’t. The dream had made reality ring back, his self hate returning with a vengeance. He wondered if Adiscordia could tell if he lied. With that light poured in as his sister opened the window, causing Hansel to shove the pillow over his head immediately with an irritated groan. It was pitch black, and with him lying down the light hit him hard.
Gretel held in laughter. He was definitely awake. “If you weren’t so used to hair in your eyes maybe you might be more used to the light.”
“That doesn't make any sense.” He protested. He forced himself in a sitting position. His stomach growling startled him. He was hungry already?
“Good morning.” Gretel clarified. He seemed unaware of how much he had slept. He also seemed upset. Maybe? Once again his expression was hidden by hair. "Are you alright?”
“I’m okay.. How are you, and what about Adiscordia’s conversation last night?” He asked working on the cake that had been left from the day before. Delicious. He tried to think of it as his mother’s, it made the situation far more bearable. Maybe if it was his own choice, if it was his own greed and gluttony again, maybe it would be less stressful.
“I’m okay.” Gretel answered quietly watching her brother devour the sweets with an amount of passion that she hadn’t seen before. “We talked about you, Hansel are you sure you’re okay?” He stopped, before shaking his head furiously and hitting his head repeatedly before pushing the pillow and blanket out. It was so nice, but it wasn’t real! He had to focus on Gretel. He had to focus on her safety. Adiscordia knew things. He had angered her earlier and then left her alone with Gretel. After making sure he was asleep to not interfere. She had a conversation with Gretel about him. What did she say? Did Gretel know the truth? Whatever happened now was his own fault. He shouldn't have fallen asleep. He should have been there!
He took a second to compose himself, taking quick breaths of panic before grabbing a fistful of cake to focus on as opposed to pure panic. Adiscordia was right, she hadn’t given him a nightmare. She had just hit him where it hurt the most, reality. “I’m upset that I fell asleep. I should have watched her, she could have hurt you.”
Gretel looked down, he was genuinely frightened of leaving her alone with Adiscordia. It wasn’t because of the physical danger. It couldn’t have been. “If she did, you wouldn’t be able to stop her.” She reminded. It didn’t help, Hansel dove back into the sweetness to avoid panic on his face. “Can I help?”
Did she know? What if she knew? What if Adiscordia really did separate them with the truth? What was he without her? A criminal worthy of the death penalty? A boy unloved alone who was abandoned by the forest? He opened his mouth to speak but what came out made him more upset.
Did he just ask for chocolate? Gretel was frightened remembering the last night’s conversation, then when they had first entered. Of course she had made chocolate cake to cheer him up, but if she gave it to him now she doubted they could have a conversation. She had to calm him down, this wasn't like him. “Hansel? Look at me.” He ignored it. “Look at me.” She repeated. He stopped and did as he was told. “I want to see you look at me.” She emphasized. Hansel sat up looking straight at her, attempting to push his hair back with his arm. It worked temporarily. “I’m right here. You haven’t failed me. I’m right here for you. I’m okay.” This seemed to calm him significantly. After waiting to make sure he didn't dive into his own poison again she continued. “Adiscordia seems to think you’ll have the ability to free her. She thinks your mother was righteous enough to earn a wishing heart and free her from the curse. If she does, she’ll be separated from it, and will no longer crave human flesh. Since your mother would come to protect you, she needs you.”
Hansel felt his heart was stabbed. Adiscordia was cruel, she really did hate him. She really was going after everything he loved. “Then why eat me?” He let his arm down to cover his eyes and expression again.
“She still needs human flesh, and she wants an apprentice to help her find the heart.”
Hansel’s panic nearly rocketed again. “Not you?” Gretel remained quiet. “Tell me you didn’t.”
“Of course, I didn’t accept!” Gretel argued in offense. “but I want to free her...”
Hansel shook his head furiously. “No! If your father came back, would you want to give the chance of him back away?” He asked in a louder angry tone. "For someone who is trying to murder you?"
Gretel shook her head slowly. “No. of course not.” She was quieter, and felt bad for mentioning it. He had never raised his voice at her, but she knew what a fragile topic it was and mentioned it anyways. She took a deep breath. “She said to ask you about her death, and the fire, and the Rhioninians.” It was barely a question. She wanted to attract his anger and over emotion to Adiscordia. It was scary to see him raise his voice at her like that.
He knew it. He knew what Adiscordia had done. “She’s trying to split us. Who knows if what she’s saying is even true. Why should I tell you about that, she’s trying to eat me!” He argued fiercely and defensively. His hair could do nothing to hide the emotion in his voice after the extreme quick shift from past memories and the threats of the present. Gretel noted he was avoiding the subject. “Adiscordia has given me nightmares, made me sick, she’s hurt you Gretel! Why are you listening to her, Don’t listen to her!”
Gretel felt betrayed and a bit angered
“How did she die and does it have to do with me? It’s a simple question! Why are you avoiding it?” she paused. “You’re starting to scare me.”
Hansel became quiet. “I’m avoiding it because it hurts.” He answered honestly. “It hurts me, a lot.”
“But Hansel, how are we supposed to stay close together if you can’t even prove me that Adiscordia is lying. She told me you know things, you could have saved my parents. She said that you only care for me to redeem yourself.” Hansel had shut her out, barely looking at her. His biggest sins and mistakes being thrown in his face. Her usually rational and very smart brother had been an emotional mess since he arrived here, and it seemed like he was going to break apart now. Could it be true?
“You’re my sister. I love you. It’s not like that.” Hansel answered meekly. If Adiscordia was going to keep poisoning Gretel’s mind, lying was useless at this point. “Mamma was a baker. She made the most delicious beautiful things. All of this?” He emphasized licking some frosting from his fingers. “Reminds me of her. I was able to push it back because of the famine, I had wood to chop, and I had you to take care of, but all this. Its bringing it out, and she’s using that against us.”
“How did she die?” Gretel asked him. “and why did you save me?” she leaned closer listening as carefully as she could.
Hansel tried to find his words, but his tongue was stuck. He didn’t know what to say, but he had to speak and at this point he couldn’t lie. “The bakery hadn’t been doing too well. It was my fault really, I kept eating sweets before Mamma could sell them. We went out on a family trip to cope. I think my mom had given up on punishments for me, she had tried everything but at the end I had the tendency to plan how to take things and avoid consequences. She went to bed early and reminded me to put out the fire at night. My dad fell asleep, and I wanted some more warmth so I ended up disobeying her.” He paused. Gretel could tell how much this hurt him. He felt like it was his fault. “Because I kept stealing sweets I wasn’t as thin and quick as I am now. I couldn’t run that fast. When I woke up everything was on fire. There were burning falling branches, and so much smoke. I couldn’t see or hear anyone. I tried to run but I was surrounded by the flames. My parents had escaped, and I felt like I’d die so I just kept screaming! Then my mother came rushing through the flames. She picked me up, wrapped me in herself and acted like a shield as she ran. She threw me on the ground on the other side and Papa took me. When I looked back she..” He paused again.
Gretel wanted to hug him. She needed to hug him, but she couldn’t with him stuck there. “I’m so sorry..” she whispered.
“She burned for me.” He said bluntly. “So yes, I can see her having a wishing heart. As for what that has to do with you. While we were running away people asked my father and I where the fire came from. It was a big fire Gretel, horrible. It brought destruction and was so hard to put out, papa knew it. It was our fault, we could have been executed. So he lied. I lied. We blamed it on the Rhioninians.”
It was true. Guinniverre backed away not wanting to be near him. She continued to listen, hurt. "If it werent for us, there would have been no rumors and no wars. Rhionine would still be standing. I was and am a disgusting excuse for a human being. I'm a worse brother. I couldn't stand myself. I had nightmares every night but i couldnt bring myself to say anything! When I saw you for the first time, afraid and hunted, I thought i could save you. Maybe I didnt have to be a bad person and I could do something right for once! I saved you because I couldnt stand myself and needed redemption but now I love you! Gretel, you've grown to really be my blood sister. I love you. I mean that, I truly love you. Without you I'm nothing." There was silence. Hansel could hear tears and heavy breaths. "I don't expect you to forgive me. I understand if you'd hate me. I'd even understand if you let Adiscordia kill me. I'd kill me. I deserve the death penalty, but Gretel I'll still love you."
Gretel covered her mouth and felt her legs weaken as she fell to the floor. Her brother, her guardian angel, let Rhionine fall. If the rumors hadn't spread they could have called reinforcements! Her fathers dead face, her mother missing, the soldiers all came to memory. She felt like she was there again, screaming for help but finding no one. If he could have told the truth before the lie grew it'd be much easier. He could have stopped the fall of Rhionine, but he didnt. It had to be him, him of all people. The one she loved the most. The only one she had who hadn't left her. Guinniverre stayed on the floor, not wanting to move or speak. His claims of love seemed so far away. He didnt love her. He needed her to live with himself.
"Guinni.." Hansel started. She shook her head. She didnt want to hear him. Hansel understood, backing away to the back wall of the cage. He would have given her more space if he could. He wished that if he had to tell her, it certainly wouldnt have been in a situation like this! He really was a horrible person. He stayed there focused on her in case she wanted comfort from him while going back to eating the cake.
Adiscordia opened the door dramatically. She hadn't had the best night after what she had last told Guinniverre. The tears in her flesh, darkness, and rocks were all evidence of this but it worked! It obviously had worked! She couldnt help but laugh before walking to the crying lump on the floor. "Did you ask?" There was no response other than hysterical crying. She did.
Hansel was infuriated. Adiscordia had even laughed as she dramatically entered! She walked to him. "The truth is revealed!" He didnt bother responding. "Think about that next time you try and bring up mine." She growled, teeth far sharper than before and pointed right to him. He'd be lying if he claimed Adiscordia wasnt absolutely terrifying. She barely looked human. "Come closer piglet. Progress check."
Hansel took a deep breath. With how upset Gretel was, if she told the truth on him he didnt know what he'd do. He took the finger he had made attaching it, and slowly pushing his real one behind the walls of the cage, folding the others. Adiscordia was a bit harsh, searching for it at first before going manic. "Verre!" He quickly shoved it back in the cage. Guinniverre could barely respond, still crying.
Adiscordia sighed, it was her fault after all. "Piglet, if I dont sense you eating faster Guinniverres perception of you wont be the only thing I destroy!" She warned. "You-You're a bag of bones, a corpse! If you cant go past your limits I'm not afraid of breaking them myself!"
He took a deep breath. Okay. It might've worked a little too well. On a bright note, she did have a point. Hansel could be considered corpse material, and the calories would need to fill in the gaps and cover bones first, before he became any where near fat. What he wasnt expecting was all the dishes Guinniverre had cooked to suddenly appear besides him, leaving him with hardly any space to move. He looked around. She made all this? "If you arent finished and ready for another full meal by dinner time, expect consequences!" Adiscordia threatened.
"But this- This isnt humanly possible! No one could possibly eat this much!" Hansel protested quickly.
"You're right! Humans cant, that's why I use hungry little hogs. You like sweets don't you Hansel? I know you used to be very greedy about them. Just think of them as your mothers." With this, she left.
Adiscordia was cruel. She was vile. She existed to rip him apart. He had nothing but purr hate for her. He wished shed be thrown in her own oven, or maybe be stuffed to bursting! Adiscordia was worthy of death! As Adiscordia faded from view he was left again with his sister crying. It brought him back. He was worthy of death. He needed to stay to watch her. He loved her too much not to. Yet, he couldnt blame the gods. They had given him so much more time to live than they should have. Fighting it back would only hurt Guinniverre.
It was then he realized the double chocolate cake was assaulting his senses. Guinniverre had run out of space so she built upwards. This was wrong. This whole situation was so wrong but if he was going to finally die, and his sister would be safe if he did, he might as well enjoy it.
"Grazie, Mamma. I'll join you soon." He whispered before digging in.