Adiscordia frequently looked outside. When would she come? Wishing Hearts were supposed to come when their descendants were in the most danger! She was about to eat him, she had given him nightmares, she had broken the boy and made him suffer alone by leaving him with his past! What else did she have to do to him? The curse was certain, pointing to the boy. He was the key but knowing this didn’t help the situation. Adiscordia's left eye was completely blind, and the other barely had vision left. She had to start using a cane to get around, to prevent herself from hitting things. It was humiliating but a devastating signal that she was running out of time. If it got to the point that she only had a second left she would roast the boy. She wanted at the very least a good meal before she passed but it was infuriating, now matter how long she tried he remained bone thin! She could hear him eating, so he wasn’t disobeying her. He was just there, eating, crying, and sleeping. She could feel him existing without any further purpose. That on its own was beginning to upset her so much that she wanted him gone. His innocence was truly being destroyed by himself, he wanted her to eat him! Where was the fun in that?
“Piglet!” Adiscordia yelled hitting the cage with her cane a few times to wake him up.
Hansel groaned as he woke up. Each time, when he had almost gotten used to being alone in the dark, immune to the outside troubles by his own dreams and fantasies Adiscordia had to ruin it. Light would pour in and he’d be back to reality, forcing himself to glut himself on poison to escape again. He was getting tired of it. Occasionally he’d catch a glimpse of Guinniverre during these check ins. Her figure would pass by for a brief moment and remind him of the reason why he kept this up, but she barely acknowledged him anymore. He was dead to her after what he had confessed. “What do you want?”
Adiscordia crossed her arms. He knew what she wanted! “Progress Check!” she snapped.
Hansel sighed. He wanted to reveal the truth already, but he needed to stick around as long as he could for Guinniverre. His nightmare had come true. Adiscordia had transformed her, the first day her eyes were blackened and something inside her was struggling to get in. Her veins showed with blackness through her light skin. At first he was terrified. She was numb and emotionless, only doing Adiscordia’s will. Slowly, it began to fade, and he could see hints of positive emotion flash by. There were hints to Guinniverre returning. Adiscordia didn’t seem to want to hurt Guinniverre. She kept her safe and fed her well and even granted her protection. This was good but dying without Guinniverre completely recovered? It wasn’t an option for him. He sat there thinking for a moment longer. What if she was never the same?
“Well?” Adiscordia growled impatiently. Her arm slamming on the side of the cage. "Get up!" She heard him shift. He forced himself on his knees, belly sliding on his lap and pressing against the door. The cold iron against his skin brought chills. He had to remain quiet, it was his own fault for losing track of time. He bent lower away from the light in case she did have some eyesight left and gave her the bone. It had more meat on it than usual, but it wasn't quite oven ready. He knew Adiscordia was blind, not stupid. If he didn't show some sort of progress he'd be found out at a bad time.
Adiscordia grinned in excitement. "Progress! Finally! Verre it's starting to plump up!" She brought herself closer as she held it tighter to taste when Hansel ripped it from her grasp and scurried to the back of the cage. He panicked staring at the broken ties as he tried to fix it. Before he knew it he was left in the darkness unable to do much. His plates magically slid out and more appeared as he heard Adiscordia celebrate.
How long had they been here? The coldness had brought a realization. His body had changed. Clearly not overnight but he was ripe and ready. He felt his face. What were once sharp cheekbones were now plump cheeks that lowered to a second chin. What happened to his jawline? When did this happen? How many nights had it been? He could never tell not seeing the daylight or without a sister to tell him. It was always just darkness to him. The endless naps to digest blurred night and day. Regardless how many nights it was it was clear that he had been here long enough. His arms were no longer strong but soft, with chub dangling as he lifted them. With all the escapism he could hardly remember when his shirt stopped fitting, but he knew he had been using it as a pillow. He guessed running would be out of his reach again. After so long without standing or moving even getting on his knees tired his legs. As for where all of it was going- Hansel grabbed his middle in shock. His ribcage had long since disappeared somewhere under a heavy dome of fat that hid a large portion of his thigs. This was bad.
Hansel grabbed a large portion of meat to chew on. He couldn't panic, he had to drown it out. The broken ties of the bone snapped him out of it as they clanked against the ground. This was the problem. He couldnt keep doing this. With the broken mechanism he had two, maybe three more days before the truth rang out. He needed to talk to his sister before it happened. It would be easier if he could tell the time. He knew what he had to do. He tore off his necklace, taking the knife and forming a plan.
"Adiscordia, did you call me?" Guinniverre stepped in.
"It's plumping up! There's progress!" Adiscordia sang out eagerly.
“That’s… good.” Guinniverre tried to keep some enthusiasm. It was harder. After what he had admitted, she hated him but no one was supposed to die. The heart was supposed to keep him from dying by freeing Adiscordia. Wasn't that the whole purpose of her helping Adiscordia, to save lives? Then again, there had been no sign of Lucia, and Adiscordia did need to eat. Guinniverre had been eating well but Adiscordia was starving, her body unable to heal fully from the curse's wounds. She wouldn’t admit it to Adiscordia, but she had thought about Hansel a few times recently. All these times she wondered about using her magic to tell his validity. Did he actually love her, or was he just attached after being with her so long? If given the opportunity would he do the right thing? She wondered if she would be able to ask him soon and read him well.
The past two days stray memories popped into mind. The two laughing or him simply comforting her. She almost missed him slightly. She couldn't tell Adiscordia or think of it much. Adiscordia was very knowledgeable, but Guinniverre knew she couldn't love.
“It’s excellent!” Adiscordia exclaimed. She had the perfect plan for the coming week. She doubted she'd live past that. “Papa!” she called out causing Guinniverre to stare at the raven who rushed to her. She had family with her this whole time? Nicholas was startled to be acknowledged. “I need your help with something.” Adiscordia then went into her room with the bird and closed the door. Guinniverre couldn’t help but slowly approach and try to listen in.
“I don’t have long left, a week or two at most. If the heart doesn’t come by a few more days then I'll have my final feast, and I want a special guest to join me.” She heard some clicking. “Who else? Yes! Bring her to me!” Guinniverre’s heart beat rose. She wanted to hate him. She couldn't.
Grizelda was downstairs helping clean when she heard screams from upstairs. She ran up the stairs. Milia and Gotta had left for a small meeting regarding the business so that left only her and Nicholas. Racing into her room she saw Nicholas waving away a quick black blur that seemed to be hurting him, drawing blood. Katherine was on the windowsill panicking making loud bird like screeches. Grizelda ran and covered Nicholas, then it stopped. It wouldn’t peck her. She lifted Nicholas’s face to her own. “Nicki! Are you okay?” Nicholas didn’t answer, he was crying. He had holes on his face bleeding where the bird had pecked so hard and taken off flesh. She took a handkerchief and began helping clean his face.
She looked at her father and his feathers, then her mother still on the window sill. She wanted to yell at him, but he was cursed. That’s what he wanted, he wanted to anger her. He wanted to provoke her.
“Why are you here?” Grizelda asked with a surprising amount of authority and volume.
There was no response rather he communicated with Katherine in a series of noises Grizelda couldn’t understand. With that Katherine looked at Grizelda moving her head hoping she’d follow as she flew off. “I don’t want to… Mamma.” Grizelda said quietly afraid of being disobedient.
Grizelda refused? There were other ways to get his offspring together. A dark aura began to rise from the raven’s wings. Grizelda watched in horror, he was so small but the curse still lived in him. She backed away slowly as large claws of stone and ash were formed attaching to the raven’s body. “Okay, I’ll go, I’ll go.” Grizelda whimpered feeling the corruption in front of her. Life had been so good recently! This was so sudden, she hadn’t had a second to even prepare herself and It was terrifying. “Let me prepare somethings for the journey.”
There was a loud screech. He wanted her now, he didn’t know how long Adiscordia would last. She was weakening and even her cane was giving her trouble. He had been watching her until he was called. He needed Grizelda to come as soon as possible. “I can’t leave him alone I need to prepare for the journey!” Grizelda protested. “It will only take a few minutes, I promise!” She begged holding her son close and going down the stairs.
It only took a few seconds for him to be ripped away from her. “Nicki!” She watched the birds claws take the boy’s shoulders. Her son couldn’t even move, or speak suspended in flight begging for her to rescue him with eyes frozen in fear. Grizelda ran after him without a coat or any supplies. She only had the white bird to guide her into the forest.
She watched Nicholas disappear. “Nicki!” She wailed as her feet raced past tree roots. She tripped forcing herself to catch her breath while she was on the ground as the white bird tried to tug her up. “Is he going to hurt Nicki?” she asked but no chirps were given. Katherine simply urged her forward.
Adiscordia remained in her room. She should have probably told Verre that she was waiting for a special guest. The last time she had met with her sister things had gone on horribly. She needed to prepare herself and control herself. She would allow Grizelda in tomorrow at the earliest. She had to ready herself, as well as the other white meat. She doubted the heart would come anymore. If it did come it would be at the life-or-death moment. Either way, she had to get the meat ready. For now she laid in bed, numbing her body for the pain that would come soon.
She wasn’t studying and Adiscordia had left and didn’t seem to want to come out. She was waiting for a visitor and together they would eat Hansel. The thought made Guinniverre race to the cage before stopping thinking of all she had learned and what he had done to her. Did she still care for him? She could feel feeling begin to rush into her as her body fought it. It hurt, she paced around the floor as her thoughts conflicted.
Hansel knew that someone was out there. It couldn’t have been Adiscordia. He took his flint, now filed into some sort of pin type shape as he worked with the window. The clicks startled Guinniverre, making her stop in place. Hansel had been busy glutting himself into a haze, there was no way he- She stared as the window opened itself from the inside but jammed itself in the center. It couldn’t be opened more from the inside. He grunted in frustration, blinking at the light underneath overgrown hair. “Guinniverre, are you alright?”
His tone was respectful, while concerned and worried. She didn’t know what to do about it. She didn’t sense disrespect or hate coming from him. She avoided the question, emotions were rising. She didn’t know how to feel. “How long have you been able to open that window?”
“I’ve known how to turn the lock.” She was caught off guard by how meek he sounded. Usually he loved to show off his cleverness, but he sounded more like a wounded animal without any pride left. “I just didn’t think you’d want to see me.”
She hadn’t wanted to see him. She hadn’t even bothered to cook for him since the day she joined with Adiscordia. “Are you okay?” He repeated. “Is Adiscordia treating you okay? No punishments?”
Guinniverre was hardly holding on. She didn’t want to cry. She shook her head before turning from him. “I’m fine, Hansel.” Why did he respect her so much? She knew what he did! She wasn't his redeemer any longer! He had lost what he wanted, why did he still care? He didn’t have to pretend anymore. Memories were rushing through her mind. Finally, she spoke. “Do you love me?”
Hansel remained quiet only for a moment to process the question. Wasn’t the answer obvious? “Of course I love you!” He wanted to grab her, hold her, kiss her forehead but with his luck his arm would get stuck in the window. “Come here.” Guinniverre came closer. “Closer.” He said with more authority. Guinniverre did as she was told, her face pressing against the window uncomfortably as he kissed her forehead. She sensed it. It broke the walls caused by hurt. It was comfort. It was something powerful that everyone in the world craved. It was true loves kiss. Guinniverre stood there for a moment. He had told the truth.“I told you I love you! Don’t you ever doubt that!” Hansel said, his voice hurt and slightly angry.
Guinniverre turned around, emotions pouring as she started to cry. This was a bad time but he knew he had to take the chance now that he had it. “Guinniverre, we need to talk."
“You’re not going to last another week!” Gretel blurted out, sobbing. He did love her, and she had left him alone. He was quiet presumably in shock before sighing in relief.
“Thank the gods…” This made her cry harder. Did he really want to die? Had he suffered that much on his own? He was only now facing the death of his mother and her kingdom, and she could feel his regret and pain. It radiated from him! She could feel the grief, the guilt, the self hate. He was in so much pain alone! She wished she hadn’t inherited this power.
“No! Nono! Hansel, we’re going to get out of here. You’ll think of something!” Gretel whispered turning to him again. He needed to. She wouldn’t be able to live with herself if it ended like this. She had abandoned him when he needed it most.
We? Did she say they would escape together? Even if they did where would they go? They were back to square one. Hansel’s mind was tampered and burnt out from the constant escapism and depression. The usual fight response now diminished. He was so glad she wanted to go with him but-“I can’t.”
“You’re the one who always thinks of the plans!” Gretel protested. "You're clever. I know you can get us out of here!"
There was panic welling inside. It felt as if he had to think of an escape plan all over again while the flames rose higher. While the risks grew higher and his gluttony had weighed him down. He wouldn't be able to run. He couldn't escape. He wouldn't let anyone else die for him, not again. Being like this again, and in danger only kept the trauma in his instant memory. It played over and over again. “Open the window.” He muttered full of shame.
Gretel was surprised with the response but did as she was told. It was simple, just a jammed lock that had to be pulled from the outside. Hansel flinched as the light poured in covering his eyes as he fell back in a pile of dirty dishes and garbage. Adiscordia really had been treating him like an animal. She covered her mouth with her hands in shock. Was that really Hansel? He had always been tall and bony, clean, with a mysterious but strong and enduring look to him. Now he was fat and trembling in front of her. She wondered if he could even run in this state if they had to escape. His shirt lay folded as a pillow. His jacket clung tightly to his arms, the seams stretching close to their limits, while some pieces had quit on him. He was so round and unkept with long hair that nearly covered his nose that he looked less human. He was covered in so much muck that he hadn’t even bothered to clean. This whole ordeal had broken him. He wasn’t the Hansel she knew anymore, at least not now. “I’m useless by myself.” He muttered. “It’s up to you now Guinniverre, not that I’d blame you if you stayed with her. She’s keeping you safe. I don't even know how to get home.”
Gretel was at a loss for words simply crying. “She’s dying.” She said between breaths. This lead Hansel to shoot himself forward, fingers gripping at the window edge. If Adiscordia was dying and going to eat him then Guinniverre would be left on her own. He knew she had magic on her side but he couldn't watch her cry. It was tugging at his heart bringing his will back.
“Then you need to calm down and get me out of here.”