Destan quickly spoke up before the mayor had a chance to leave. “My guests actually came here with me to interview the villagers for possible story ideas. Do you know of anyone who would be willing to speak with them?”
The man thought for a moment, stroking his mustache. “I can’t think of anyone at the moment, but I’m certain—”
“We’ve got a story,” said a freckle-faced teenaged boy who stood just outside the tent. The boy was tall, skinny, and looked to be about a year or so older than Destan. He had dark brown eyes, short, unruly, light brown hair and had patches sewn on his clothes.
A girl, maybe a year or so younger than the freckled boy, stood beside him. Her light brown hair was in pigtails and similar dark brown eyes peered out beneath heavy bangs. Destan guessed that the two were brother and sister. The girl also wore simple looking garments which looked to be neatly pressed.
The last girl, who stood just behind the boy who had spoken, did not look related to the other two. Of the three she looked the youngest. She had curly dark brown hair which cascaded over her shoulders and was held out of her face with a plain white hair ribbon. Her large eyes were a pretty hazel colour which Destan had never seen before.
The prince smiled at the children, but only the girl with the hazel eyes reciprocated his friendly gesture. The mayor, however, frowned and cast the prince an apologetic look before turning his attention back to the children.
“You again,” the mayor said with a scowl. “I’ve told you little pests countless times to—”
“We just want to tell our story,” the girl with the pigtails interrupted haughtily.
The mayor scoffed. “That nonsense about the witch who lives in a gingerbread house in the forest?”
“She was living in the gingerbread house. She’s dead now so she can’t very well still be living there. And it’s not nonsense!” the boy fired back. “It really did happen to me and Gretel!”
Wilhelm sat forward in his seat, looking very much intrigued. “A witch, you say?”
“A gingerbread house…?” Jacob asked sounding a bit more apprehensive towards the idea.
“Yes,” Gretel, the girl with the pigtails, nodded before motioning to the boy beside her. “It all began when Hansel and I were helping our father gather wood in the forest last year.”
“We wandered too far away from our father and when we tried to find our way back to him, we got lost,” Hansel said.
“But Hansel, who, I’ll admit, can be clever from time to time—”
“I’m just going to stop you right there,” the mayor said impatiently before turning towards the prince and his companions. “Hansel and Gretel Bachmeier are known liars and thieves, your highness.”
“They wanted a story, didn’t they?” Gretel said. “We were just trying to help out.”
“So much for trying to be ‘fine, upstanding citizens’,” Hansel added with a roll of his eyes.
Destan sat forward, smiling at the children. “I, for one, would like to know the rest of your story.”
Wilhelm was already jotting notes down in his journal. “Yes, yes, do continue!”
Gretel gave the mayor a smug smirk before going on. “As I was saying, Hansel had made a trail of breadcrumbs leading from our house all the way into the forest, in case we got lost.”
“Which we did,” Hansel said. “But when we went to look for the trail, the birds had already gotten to it.”
“Indeed,” Gretel said, glancing accusingly towards her brother. “Who would have thought that birds liked breadcrumbs?”
“We had run out of flint and I didn’t hear you coming up with any better ideas!”
Gretel merely waved her hand dismissively before going on. “We wandered for hours and hours until we spotted a cottage in the distance.”
“I actually spotted the cottage,” Hansel corrected. “Gretel was too busy complaining about how hungry she was.” The girl gave her brother a deadly glare which he did not seem to notice. “So we approached the house to find—much to Gretel’s excitement—that the entire cottage was made of gingerbread.”
“And then we began to eat it,” Gretel said.
“You began to eat the house?” Jacob asked with complete disbelief.
“No.” Hansel crossed his arms over his chest. “She began to eat it. Most of it was covered in bird poo, but that didn’t stop her.”
Gretel scowled. “It was not!”
“Oh really?” Gretel hissed. “I can recall you taking a few bites out of the poo covered gingerbread house as well!”
“I don’t recall that,” Hansel replied evasively before continuing, “As it turned out there was an old witch who lived in the house and she was quite upset when she saw us.”
“Could it have been because you were eating her home?” Destan asked slowly.
Hansel shrugged. “It was made of gingerbread. If she didn’t want anyone to eat it she should have made it out of vegetables.”
Gretel made a face at the mention of vegetables before continuing the story. “So the old, evil witch dragged us inside and locked us up in a cage.”
Hansel began to grin. “Then she feed us cakes and cookies—”
“Don’t forget the apple strudel!”
“I was just about to mention the strudel, Greta,” Hansel said with a roll of his eyes. “Anyway, the witch fed us well, she did.”
“But only later did we learn that she was just trying to fatten us up!” Gretel cried, flinging her arms up.
Hansel scoffed. “The old crone wanted to dice us up and make us into a pie.”
“I think you would have done better as a roast, Hans.”
“That’s not the point,” Hansel grumbled. “The old witch was trying to make a meal of us! Fattening us up like pigs for the slaughter.”
“And we weren’t the first she’d done this to either. There were bones in our cage,” Gretel said solemnly before a sly smile stretched across her face. “But I, being quite clever myself—”
“Oh you wish,” Hansel jeered.
“—I devised a plan,” she said, continuing on as if she had not even heard her brother. “When the witch came to check on how fat we’d become, I had Hansel stick out a bone for her to prod at so she would be led to believe that he was still thin, which he wasn’t.”
“Speak for yourself, Gretel,” Hansel said. “You ate more than I did.”
Jacob leaned against his hand, his dark blue eyes glimmering with fascination. “So the witch prodded at the bone and was fooled?”
Gretel nodded. “We think she couldn’t see very well. She walked with a cane and would always trip over things.”
“It was good fun to watch!”
The girl smacked her brother’s arm, “Don’t be mean, Hans.”
“She planned to eat us! I think I have the right,” Hansel grumbled. “So after the crone poked at the bone a bit, she decided that I wasn’t worth it and moved on to Greta.”
Gretel grinned, looking quite proud of herself. “I stuck out my arm for the witch, she gave me one poke, opened up the cage, and led me to the oven.”
Hansel smirked, crossing his arms over his chest. “The old woman seemed so delighted by the thought of eating Gretel that she forgot to lock up the cage and I snuck out.”
“Then that dreadful, old witch tried to trick me into getting into the oven by asking me to check ‘if it was hot enough for the bread she wanted to bake’,” Gretel explained. “I guess she must have thought I was stupid or something. But I got her!”
Hansel nodded vigorously. “Tell ‘em what you said, Greta.”
“I said, ‘I don’t know how to do it. How shall I get in?’, and then the witch stooped down and stuck her head in the oven to properly show me. And that’s when—”
“I pushed her into the oven!” Hansel interrupted yet again.
Gretel put her hands on her hips. “No! I pushed her in! You just watched.”
“I did not just watch!” After a moment, Hansel sighed softly, his shoulder falling forward. “Alright. You may have pushed her in, but I was the one who shut the oven door so she couldn’t get out.”
“Well, of course.” Gretel scoffed. “Only an ox like you has the strength for something like that.”
Hansel rolled his eyes and turned to Wilhelm and his notepad. “So we killed the witch, took some baked goods—”
“It’s not like she was going to need them anymore,” Gretel said almost defensively.
“And we eventually found our way back home,” Hansel finished with a firm nod.
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