“Nicholas! Nicki!” Grizelda exclaimed when he was in sight. She vaguely remembered this place. It was as if a memory was banging at the doors ready to get out. Heavy smoke rose from the top of the house as things slowly transformed into wood and iron. She held her son close. “Nicki! I’m so happy you’re okay! Oh dei! I was so worried!
Nicholas held his mother close, burying himself in her arms as he cried. His mother was here, it would be okay. Everything would be okay. After a short while of being held Nicholas squirmed free. “Mamma, Do I have an aunt?”
Grizelda looked up, the smoke was heavy. It was almost going straight to them. The barrier inside her weakened and memories flooded through revealing her last encounter with Adiscordia. “You do..” she muttered. Her sister had become a monster, kidnapping and eating children. Yet, She hadn’t sent her away. Adiscordia had let her fly away for her own safety. She sent her past the trees and falling just before Cecco. It was Grizelda’s own fault she had become this way. Adiscordia did it for her. “Let’s go see her.” Grizelda rose up, protectively carrying Nicholas in her arms. He was an innocent child, and if Adiscordia could barely keep from killing her own- Sobs filled the air as Nicholas held closer to his mother’s shoulders. He shook his head repeatedly.
“No! No! I don’t want to go inside! Don’t take me inside!” Nicholas begged. Had they met already? What had Adiscordia done to him? Nicholas pointed at the smoke and before they both knew what was happening Grizelda was racing inside to rescue whatever poor child had shown up on Adiscordia’s door step. She coughed, it was difficult to breath. There was so much smoke, she could hardly see.
“Addy? She called out. ” A raspy voice responded, calling Grizelda by name and provoking her to come closer. Nicholas shook his head. The furniture had changed, it was all clearly changing right in front of him. His aunt was magic! He watched his mother cough and struggle to continue. In front of them was nothing but the hall to the kitchen. What was he missing? He felt Grizelda drop him gently on the ground. “Stay here and close the door, hide.” Nicholas nodded and obeyed as she disappeared into the kitchen.
The oven, there was something in there. She pulled the lever and with the loud clicking of chains pulling the door was open. Inside was Adiscordia. Grizelda’s eyes widened without a voice to clear her thoughts as she fell on her knees. Not much was left, the fire was too strong but she knew it was her. The unshakable bond between them that had survived the unthinkable remained. Grizelda slowly reached out to her sister. “I’m so sorry…” she whispered before crying. Her tears sizzled on the ground from the heat. Her hand slowly retreating back from reaching towards her sister’s remains before it was grabbed unexpectedly. Grizelda looked forward, Adiscordia was dead, but something inside her was alive. It was black, a shadow was all she could see. It had many faces, voices, and races. In her grief and pain, it grabbed her, and took her. It consumed her, right through her lips and tears.
“I’ve been waiting for you too long.” The voice echoed.
Nicholas heard a loud wail and scream come from the kitchen. Despite his mother’s command he knew the voice was hers and he raced to the kitchen. Something was different. His mother was kneeled against the oven shaking. She seemed to be mumbling something but he couldn’t tell what. The most startling change was her hair. It was usually a black and white curly mess, but now only the color of darkness remained. “Mamma?”
There was a noise. No, it was another voice. Her senses roared, it was her, it was him. It was in both of them. It was weakness, it brought grief and pain. It brought feeling. It needed to be removed. Her mind had been tampered with so quickly. The voice rung with a familiar tone that she loved. It was her son. She remembered him quickly trying to focus on that. What was happening? “Go back to hiding.” She told him simply. There was a pain in her chest, she groaned grabbing at it. It was getting worse and he remained. “I said Hide!” She yelled as she watched him. Her stomach hurt, she gripped at it. The famine was back again.
Nicholas watched in complete fear. His mother seemed angry. He had never seen anger before, not from her. His frozen legs were forced to move as an invisible force threw him back. “Out of my sight!” She growled. She couldn’t see him. It hurt. She feared she’d hurt him. Grizelda grabbed her head, she hungered for something else. It wouldn’t stop. The bedroom. That’s where it was. The black bird raced, pecking at the door. She rose, her legs weak in the knees wanting to fall back. It was her sister. She’d continue for her sister. At the door she took a sniff and smelled it. “I know you’re there~”
Gretel looked from under the bed. This was it, this was the end for her. She had killed Adiscordia to save her brother and now Grizelda had come for revenge. Her brother, where was he? She had lost sight of him. Where did he hide?
The door swung open revealing a boy with crossed arms leaning against the top of the bed frame. There hadn’t been a place for him to hide. He was too weak to pull at the floor boards and too big to fit in the wardrobe or chests. The window would have been too noticeable, even if he didn’t get stuck. All of these were obstacles, but it didn’t mean he lacked a plan.
She had been starved from this for so long and here it was. She hated them, the truth was if Grizelda hated anything she hated the gods. She hated the gods who had created this curse, and had now led her sister to her demise. She hated everything they had created. Her own grief led to a need for revenge, and the thought, only for a second had poured light on her secret hate that was hidden behind the curtains of having to be good for so long. She had been limping, struggling on her own, and now the curse had taken everything and everyone from her. It had always been inevitable. Only Nicholas remained, and despite the bond she couldn’t break, he wasn’t of her blood. “Who killed her?”
“I did.” Hansel called out, gripping harshly at the bed frame. It was wood, and he knew all about wood. While Gretel panicked and wondered in fear about his hiding place he had taken his necklace of tools and worked on the frame slightly. Grizelda watched him a grin slowly spreading across her face.
“You? The meat?” She hissed. Gretel trembled, she knew what he was trying to do. It wouldn’t work. “You’re not clever enough for her, but if you insist.” As expected Hansel was pulled forward. He held on, refusing to let go of the bed frame. Grizelda hummed in surprise before pulling him harder, bringing him right to her with a knob and joint of the frame now broken still in his hands.
Gretel watched his feet fly to his killer. She wasn’t going to let him sacrifice himself for her. She began to crawl to the exit as wood fell, the bed frame sides collapsing after the corner joint had been torn off. One piece affected another sealing off the exits on all sides. She was trapped. He did this on purpose so she couldn’t reveal herself, not while he was right in front of her. The frame holding the mattress would collapse in a few hours, which gave her time to find a way out when he was gone. She'd have to be careful and slow, any quick move settled by panic or a rush to rescue him would send it crushing her. For now all she could do was watch.
“Hansel-” Grizelda started.
“Grizelda.” He replied with a tone of voice he hoped would take the edge off his fear.
“Don’t interrupt!” She growled before taking his throat in her hands. He didn’t fight back. Instead his lack of expression and fight dared her to do it.
“Kill me.” Hansel commanded audibly. Once she did she’d head to the kitchen to soothe the pain and urge. It would give Gretel time to escape through the hole he’d left behind her through the window. He’d left his necklace and compass right there, she’d find her way home.
Grizelda did nothing before laughing. He wanted her to kill him. She wanted to kill him. A moment ago she could barely think of uttering something rude to her father who had kidnapped her son. Now she didn’t even fear murder. She laughed harder. All these years of fighting it and it only took a second of grief and vulnerability to consume her fully. How did she not see how pointless it was? The gods had already set her destiny. She never had any free will or choice, none of them did! The gods created this blood lust and abomination. If they wanted her to be a monster, then she'd be the worst nightmare they’d ever see. She'd destroy their creation beyond belief. The curse wanted to go home? She’d take it home. Shed march right up to the gods and give the curse back and kill them all. If they killed her, fine! She never asked for this life! Rage filled her. She’d use their little world against them.
Hansel watched something scarier than death as Grizelda stopped laughing and stood there. Shadows rising above her that plunged into her as she stared upwards, her grip on him weakening before she let him go. His feet landing safely on the ground as he slowly backed away. Accepting her role in this world had let the curse in full force, without any room to go back. He watched her bend sharply as stones and spikes erupted from her back, while she grow larger. Her frail thin frame becoming stronger and more muscular. Hansel watched as she closed her eyes and growled through her teeth in pain. They were becoming sharp, rows of filed stone that broke through her mouth. Her eyes opened with an unnatural shine as she gasped for air. They were inhuman, black and blood red. As Grizelda’s body was thrown and jerked by an invisible force he could see her nails grow into durable claws. Her chest seemed to grow as her dress ripped apart showing a chest full of grown stone. There were small towers of stone growing from where her heart should be, but what was scarier was the rip of flesh that tore from her breasts to her navel. Everything inside was visible. Sharp razor like stones came from it, separating her insides. A tongue slithered out and reached for him. Hansel tried to get as far away as possible. It was an open route to the inside of her, and with how things were changing she could probably fit a child in there!
Gretel watched from below the wood. She heard yells and cries, bones cracking and could see Hansel’s feet run to the walls away from Grizelda. She could hardly see Grizelda herself, but she seemed to be floating. He wanted her to stay there. She knew he wanted her to stay put until the threat left, but there was so much terror radiating off of him! How could she stay there? She needed to get out! She tried pushing at the wood but it was locked in place. How in the world could he have managed to think of a trap so quick!
Grizelda cracked her neck slowly going back to the ground. “So it was you hmm?” Hansel could barely move. She wasn’t using any type of magic, only pure terror kept his frozen. He opened his mouth but no voice came out. All he could do was nod for his sisters sake. “It was so nice of my sister to invite me over for a meal.” With that Grizelda walked to him and squished his cheeks, her claws cutting him and drawing blood. This caused her second tongue to salivate. He winced, with light whimpers. “Isn’t this what you wanted?” she asked before screaming for her son to join her.
Nicholas ran to the doorway to see stones having come from his mother’s flesh and blood pouring down with each mutilation. Her body hadn't recovered and it was swollen and discolored. He wanted to run away from the grotesque image. “M-Mamma..”
“Hex.” She hissed. “Grizelda Hex. I know your aunt fed you rubbish but come here.” Nicholas stood in place. What happened? Finally he was taken by force, looking at his mother’s face. Where were those bright blue eyes full of love and mercy? Tears streamed down his face.
“Mamma, this isn’t you!” Hansel watched the scenario play off. Grizelda wasn’t the same, there wasn’t any of her left. She released Hansel and lifted a hand to slap Nicholas sending him to the wall with three heavy gashes across his face. He slowly rose, his eyes still quivering in heavy tears. His cheek burned with new scars that would never leave. “Mamma..”
He was sent to another wall before falling against the floor. Every inch of him was in pain. “Grizelda Hex… I will save you.” He whimpered staying on the floor.
“Feed, or I’ll have no choice but to kill you. I can’t stand your childish innocence for much longer Nicholas.” Hansel had nothing but pity for the boy, fear being thrown away for a second. He took a deep breath. In this state he knew Grizelda would kill her own son if he didn’t obey her.
He slowly crawled out and extended an arm to Nicholas to help him up. Nicholas’s eyes met where Hansel’s eyes would have been. Hansel was clearly afraid but he cared enough to help. Nicholas looked at his mother before standing on his own afraid of being hurt again. He looked at his mother again for instruction. Hansel closed his eyes tight as she gripped at his middle, her hand leaving holes and blood dripping. “Feed.” She repeated.
Nicholas looked over to Hansel. His hair was covering his face, making him hard to read. “I’m sorry..” With that he began to consume him. Hansel waited but stayed in relief, Nicholas was only doing what he needed. He hadn’t bitten him or made the wound any worse, all he was doing was sucking the blood from it. Nicholas wasn’t cursed, thank the gods…
This seemed to please Grizelda as she went closer to his son and sniffed him. Perfect, he was contaminated with her cruelty. His scent would tempt her no longer. Now to do what she came for. An invisible force sent the bed to the corner of the room revealing Guinniverre. Hansel watched wide eyed, unable to move much with the blood pouring out and his middle in agonizing pain as Nicholas held him. As much as he was trying not to make it worse, Nicholas was only irritating the wounds.
“It was me!” Gretel screamed watching her brother suffer, still conscious.
“I’m aware.” Grizelda agreed. “I just wanted to prove the uselessness of his self-sacrifice.” Her words hit his heart like the final blow of a butcher’s knife. No matter what he did, he couldn’t save her. An idea came to mind as he began to click loudly whipping his head to his sister. It was only a hope and a loose prayer but maybe it’d work. Gretel barely heard his clicks. It was hopeless now. Grizelda’s claws retracted as she pulled her up by the throat. Her other hand going to her chest, ready to rip through and destroy her rapidly beating heart.
“Lucia is coming!” Hansel yelled. “You can still free her! You love her don’t you?” Grizelda paused for a second hearing the rambles from the boy. Who was he speaking to? Looking back to the girl she saw her head turn back. Curiously, Grizelda waited to see what happened. Gretel’s face returned to face her. Her eyes closed at first but opening suddenly to surprise Grizelda. Her skin became pale with black in her veins, her eyes completely black with violet irises.
Grizelda stared in wonder. She could barely compose thoughts. Eyes were the key to the soul, and she knew the soul in them too well. Adiscordia was… She couldn’t finish the thought, it frightened her. “Away with you two!” Hansel grabbed his necklace as he ran. Then he tore his sister from Grizelda’s grasp. “and Never return!”
Hansel ran, his legs aching immediately as they escaped. The weight was pushing him down. The weakness leaving him breathless. The trail of blood leaving him dizzy. He had to keep going. He had to run fast enough to save and carry her. He wouldn't let someone else die because of his weak body, not again.
Guinniverre was slowly waking up and joining him with effort to run. They were outside. They had made it! Gretel smiled, barely understanding how it happened. She had just been held by the claws of death! Looking below her there was a steady trail of red. “Hansel?” He stopped, looking back. That house looked so tiny after they had run so far. Gretel noticed he was pale, panting, and bent over without breath. His knees failed under him as he fell to the ground. The curtain was gone giving her a clear view of his wounds. His pale middle was covered in a sticky scarlet that was only spreading rapidly.
“Hansel!” She screamed. “Up! Get up!” She wailed before grabbing his shoulders to keep him from completely falling. She grabbed a chunk of her dress pushing it against his wounds to stop the flow. It didn’t stop his eyes from closing as he fell against her chest.
Grizelda placed the bed back in place and sat on it looking towards Nicholas. “My debt to Adiscordia is repaid.”