Hansel Turns Out to Have a Very Particular Set of Skills

Baba G screamed and rushed toward the doorway. Hansel rushed out of it, flinging the still hot and dripping pan at her. While she ducked, Hansel put Grendel between them.

The monster was not 100%. He was still very out of it from whatever potions the witch had given him, and more than slightly drunk. He took a large bite of the door cookie and flung the rest into the woods.

“Your cookies taste like cardboard!” the monster roared.

“You smell like a sick dog!” the witch screeched back. She was holding her hands in claws, muttering a spell under her breath. A cloud of green shining particles coalesced in her palm, swirling like a little tornado.

Grendel roared for real, an earth-shaking howl. As the witch raised her ball of green death to see how fast hairy monsters catch on fire, he sprang forward and swung one large fist in a windmill, full shoulder rotation, and bonked the witch squarely on the pointy hat.

“Bonk,” he said, and giggled.

Baba G did not giggle. Her pointy hat crumpled like a wet sno-cone wrapper, and she took the full impact on the top of the head. The witchfire in her hand winked out and she fell over.

“Is she…dead?” Hansel asked after a respectful moment of silence.

Grendel was breathing hard and shaking his head, trying to sober up with very little success. He rolled the witch over. Her chest rose and fell, indicating a continued problem.

Hansel didn’t want to ask, but he had to know.

“Are you going to eat her?”

“I’m not eating her. Vegans taste terrible. Besides, you’re supposed to push her in the stove. Do your job.”

“What?”

Grendel mimed opening the stove, pushing something in, and slamming it closed. Hansel shook his head. Baba G groaned slightly, making the conversation less academic.

“Can we just leave, though?” Hansel asked. “Will she follow us like Agnton?”

Grendel blew a loud raspberry and rolled his eyes. “Maybe she will, maybe she won’t, but I’m not in charge of this one. If you won’t push her in the you-know-where, think of something else.” The monster sat heavily on the ground and hummed a few bottles of beer off the wall.

“Look,” Hansel said, “we actually kind of owe her one, because you were in pretty bad shape. Maybe we can make a deal with her.”

“BABA YAGA DOES NOT MAKE DEALS, CHILD.” The debate portion of the program had exceeded its allotted time. The witch had recovered. She tossed aside her squashed hat and started calling up her green glowing death ball.

“Baba who?” Hansel asked. “I thought your name was Baba G.”

“I thought I recognized you!” Grendel roared, roughly pushing Hansel out of the way. It seemed there was some history that trumped Hansel’s supposed responsibility. The looping swipe Grendel aimed at the witch whiffed badly.

“You’re a fine one to judge, you! Everyone thought your mother ate all those people, but it was YOU!” Baba Yaga threw the phosphorescent ball at Grendel, grazing a shoulder.

Grendel straightened, fangs showing. “You don’t talk about my mother,” he growled. A shiver ran down Hansel’s spine.

“I will carve her true name in your skin with my knives!” Baba Yaga screeched, flinging another magic fireball. Grendel ducked and the hair on his head flared briefly. The stench of singed animal fur and swamp magic was nasty.

Hansel had no way to physically intervene. He was a boy of his wits. His wits came through. Running for the house, ignored by monster and witch, he yanked open kitchen drawers until he found what he was looking for.

Back outside, nothing had improved. Grendel was trying to get close enough to take the witch’s head off, and she was keeping him at bay with fireballs. Small smoldering fires were burning in several spots. Grendel roared and rushed the witch directly after she scored a hit on his furry shorts. Baba Yaga very unfairly flew out of his reach. This had to stop before serious damage happened.

“BABA YAGA GHANOUSH!” Hansel yelled holding up his prize from the house. “STOP.” To his surprise, everything did stop.

“Put that down, boy,” she snarled, thudding down a few feet from him.

“What, this?” Hansel said, feigning surprise that it was of any importance. Walking slowly to a large rock, he untied the knife roll and let it fall open. “Which one did you say was your favorite?”

“Hand them over and I’ll show you,” she hissed, taking a step toward him.

“No, you stay back,” he said, pulling a long, thin serrated knife from the roll and pointing it at her. She froze. “We are going to have a talk about how we’re going to leave and you’re going to leave us alone.”

“Not likely!” she screeched, a glow beginning to form in one hand.

Hansel brought the knife down on the boulder as hard as he could, point first. The tip broke off in a little triangle and the rest of the blade bent at the handle. The weapon had been murdered.

The witch’s fire sizzled out. “No,” she breathed. “That bread knife has been with me for four hundred years.”

“If you let us walk out of here right now, I may leave the other ones alone. If you attack, or follow us, I will destroy every one of these knives as only I can. I have a lot of experience.” He did, too. Extortion was the primary currency he’d traded in with Gretel.

“Give them to me,” she demanded. “Give them to me and I’ll kill you quickly.”

“Naw, I don’t think so.” Hansel threw the ruined bread knife on the ground and pulled out the six-inch butcher knife. “This one’s your favorite, right?”

She gasped and pulled her arms around herself in a weird hug. “Please?” Hansel knew he’d found the crumbly spot in her gingerbread.

Hansel put the cutting edge of the knife on the rock and sawed back and forth, making a horrible squealing, grinding noise. The witch looked ready to cry. “You ready to make a deal yet?” Hansel asked, spinning the knife slowly on its point.

“Just get out of here!” the witch said. “I don’t want to eat you, anyway, you bitter, ungrateful brat. Just don’t hurt any more of them.”

“You have to give me your word you’re not going to mess with us after we leave.”

“I promise,” she replied, her eyes shifting to the left as she said it.

The lie was so obvious, even Grendel snorted. Hansel needed leverage.

“Tell you what, I’m going to take this with me.” Hansel shoved the butcher knife roughly back into the roll and secured it. “Grendel, get your pack.”

“You can’t take them!” Baba Yaga whined. “I helped you!”

Hansel snorted. “I’ll leave them out in the woods if you don’t follow us.”

“How do I know I can trust you?”

“You don’t.” Hansel felt like that sounded very cool, so he left it there. The witch hissed at him. Grendel beat a weaving retreat into the woods and Hansel followed, refusing to give the witch the satisfaction of looking back.