Updated: May 21, 2019
Chapter 1: Rising Rumors
"Dad! Dad! Dad, come quick!" Gretel yelled as she ran towards the village. Seeing that her father was running towards her, she stopped to catch her breath only for a moment. "Hansel went into the forest!" she exclaimed. "He wouldn't listen to me. The other kids dared him, and all I knew to do was come tell you!" Gretel collapsed and laid back in the grass, exhausted from the sprint.
Caught between anger and concern, Hans, the village woodcutter, tried to process the situation, rumors darting through his mind. He knew what the talk had been throughout the kingdom. Some said the forest itself was alive, while others still believed the old tales of exiled monsters living within the darkness. Lately a rumor had risen that the forest holds a bridge to different worlds, and many people had begun to wonder if the King had fed them lies to keep them from the wonderful treasures hidden throughout the forest. No matter what hid within those trees Hans knew he must move quickly to ensure his son's safety. He scooped Gretel up and dropped her off at the neighbor's house. "I love you Gretel. I'll be back soon." Hans gave her a quick peck on the cheek and ran off with his ax in hand.
Being a woodcutter Hans wasn't afraid of the forest, but he felt it best to have some help before venturing in on his own. Racing towards the forest, Hans approached a familiar structure. Surrounded by trees lay a quaint cottage covered with overgrown vegetation. The place looked cozy and warm with an old stone path leading towards the front door. Out of the chimney came a steady stream of smoke, which meant Hans was in luck, the inhabitants must be home. Hans rushed down the path and burst through the front door to find the Seven Dwarves, who had just sat down to eat supper!
Hans quickly explained the situation and begged for their help. As always the dwarves were happy to help without a second thought, though Silpog seemed a bit grumpy about the whole idea considering it was dinner time. They hurriedly grabbed a couple pickaxes, lanterns, a few old battle axes, and their flasks and quickly followed Hans out the door to the forest's edge.
As the treeline came into view Hans wanted to be completely transparent with his friends. "If any of you want to turn back now is the time. We've all heard the rumors and I can't guarantee safety for any of you as we move ahead."
The dwarves looked around at one another before Silpog looked at Hans and grumbled, "I didn't leave a hot bowl of stew and a full pint of ale just to give you a goodbye kiss, let's get goin!"
With that, the group entered the forest as dusk settled in. They had not traveled five minutes into the forest before Milnog the dwarf spotted a door hidden within the roots of a nearby tree.
The group hoped Hansel may have hidden inside, so they walked over to check it out. Hans opened the door and immediately knew what the group had found. This was not someone's home; rather, it was a hidden vault filled with traps, weapons, and bags of money. What better place to have a secret hideout than in a forest that nobody enters?
"Is this the Huntsman's hideout?" Milnog asked.
"I believe so," said Hans.
"What is he doing out here?" Milnog asked, "Surely he's not hunting monsters!"
"I've got no idea, but I'd rather not stick around to find out!" quipped Nilnog.
"We all know the Huntsman is kin to the king, so who knows what he's been up to out here in the Grimm Forest. If I had to guess it's nothing good and it certainly wouldn't be good if he found me or any of you dwarves snooping around. Let's grab a couple of traps and move on." The group grabbed some traps and a few handfuls of coin before heading out, all hoping the Huntsman didn't keep a tight inventory of his keep.
Meanwhile the news about Hansel was spreading like wildfire from village to village, quickly racing to the castle as well. People throughout the kingdom were terrified for the young boy. Gretel and her friends, Goldilocks and Red, decided to form a group of their own to help with the search, but people didn't exactly jump at the chance to enter the Grimm Forest. King Reginald the Greedy, selfish as always, was frustrated with both the boy and the search party. He knew if anything happened to them an uprising would be certain. The people were fed up with his decision not to investigate the forest as the rumors had continued to escalate. The King called together his advisors to devise a plan for proceeding with the current situation.
The small council gathered together in the Great Hall of the Castle. At this point the King only had two advisors. His selfishness and greed had pushed away much wise counsel over the years. Those who stuck around were, in many ways, reflections of himself–selfish and greedy in their own right. They sat around a large table, quietly staring at the food and wine as the fireplace roared at the end of the Hall. Both Puss in Boots and Rumplestiltskin knew they were expected not to eat until the King did so first. After thanking them for coming and explaining his predicament King Reginald asked for any and all ideas.
"Send me, Your Grace! I'll retrieve the boy and then you can burn the forest to the ground. I'm sure we can work out a fair agreement," said Puss in Boots with a tip of his hat.
"While I appreciate your offer Puss, I'm not looking to make deals with my advisors. And to be clear, if you attempt to profit from my struggles again I will happily send you to a master in need of a good barn cat. Understood?"
Sinking into his seat, Puss replied, "Yes, Your Grace, I am very sorry, Your Grace."
"What say you Rump?" the King asked as he turned his attention to the quiet Rumplestiltskin.
With a sly grin forming Rumplestiltskin spoke gently, "Well, Your Grace, I believe I have the perfect plan to remedy this little situation of yours."
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*ALL ART CREATED BY MR. CUDDINGTON*