Updated: Oct 17, 2019
Chapter 3: Brave & Bold
As the King awoke he immediately sent for his builders. Meanwhile, Hans and the dwarves continued to make their way deep into the forest. It was midday and the heavy morning fog had finally dispersed, making their trek a little less unnerving. The search party had been in the forest for almost two days now and they were growing increasingly worried about Hansel's well-being, not to mention they would soon run out of both food and drink. They were determined to find him, but had not seen or heard any sign of him. No footprints, no sounds, and strangely enough they had not even seen wildlife. The Grimm Forest was seemingly barren. They decided to rest for a few minutes in a small clearing they had found. The dwarves decided to grab a quick bite to eat, but Hans sat on a nearby stump trying to distract himself by sharpening his axe.
"Hans, do you think Hansel could have made his way back on his own?" Filgog asked as he walked over to where Hans was sitting. Filgog was the eldest and wisest of the dwarves.
"I suppose that's a possibility Fil, but I'm not too keen on splitting up, are you?" replied Hans.
"No, I certainly am not; however, I think it may be wise for us to make a decision on when we will turn back. Our rations are depleting, and even if we turn back now it'd be a two day journey to the forest's edge. I'd propose we head back if there is no sign of Hans by nightfall," Filgog advised. "Shall we put it to a vote?"
The dwarves began to murmur amongst themselves, discussing the possibility of returning empty-handed. They all had grown hungry and were longing for a pint, but it wasn't in a dwarf's nature to walk away from a challenge. Hans took a deep breath with his face planted in his hands. He knew they couldn't stay out there much longer, but the idea of leaving Hansel in the forest was heart-wrenching. He also knew the decision would ultimately be up to him since the loyal dwarves would surely follow his lead.
Lifting his head and looking towards the dwarves Hans spoke up, "We will not have a vote." A hush came over the dwarves as they listened intently. "If we have not found my son before the sun sets we will make our way back home. Perhaps I can implore the King to send a party of his own if Hansel has not made it back."
The oft-grumpy Silpog interjected, "Are you sure Hans? We will stand by your side whatever you decide."
"I am sure." Hans said.
With that, Hans stood from the stump and took one step before pausing and turning his gaze to the surrounding brush. He slowly grabbed his axe from beside the stump and the dwarves followed suit, having heard the sound as well. In the midst of their conversation their guard had been let down enough for someone or something to sneak up on them, and they could only hope it was not one of the monsters rumored to call the forest home.
"Dad, put your weapon down and tell the rest to do the same." The party heard Hansel shout, though they still could not see anyone around them. By this time they had created a circle, backs turned to one another, facing outward towards the brush. The party looked at one another doubting whether they should give up their weapons.
"Hansel, are you okay?" Hans called back, voice shaking. "Are you being held captive?"
"No dad, I'm fine, but you need to put your weapons down now, okay?" Hansel yelled with a bit more strength to his voice.
Hans looked at the dwarves and nodded as they all began to lay their weapons on the ground. As soon as they had, the brush began to move and out walked Hansel, but he wasn't alone. Walking by his side was a pack of wolves. Startled, the dwarves stumbled backwards a bit, but didn't dare reach for their weapons. Hans ran to his son without any regard for the wolves and lifted Hansel into his arms, squeezing him tight. He looked his son in the eyes and stroked his messy blonde hair, "Are you hurt son? We thought we'd never find you!"
"Yeah Dad, I'm okay, in fact I'm more than okay," Hansel said with a smile.
Suddenly the ground started to shake and beasts began to walk out from the trees and brush surrounding them. To their right a creature larger than any they had ever seen stomped into the clearing, to their left a slightly smaller greenish creature crept out of the trees, and behind Hansel came a larger wolf standing upright swaggering towards them with a cane in hand. More beastlike creatures of all shapes and sizes wandered into the clearing and just as the search party thought the last of them had arrived the trees began to sway. The beasts began to cheer as a large red dragon swooped down finding his own spot to settle into the clearing.
Excited as ever, Hansel began to tell his dad all about the creatures that had gathered round. "Dad, meet the kind folks of the Grimm Forest! I ran into a couple of them last night while trying to find my way back home. They spent all morning showing me around the forest! I even got to take a ride on the dragon! His name is Adalhard. They are all so kind! At first I was a bit afraid, but I realized it was only because of all the stories. I viewed them through the lense of the Grimm Tales I grew up hearing, but quickly came to see that they are just like us!
Hans jumped in as soon as Hansel paused to take a breath, "That's great son, I'm just glad you're okay! What were you thinking venturing into the forest on your own? You really could have gotten hurt!"
"I just wanted to be brave and bold dad, like you. The other kids dared me to go in, and I wanted Gretel to know she had the bravest brother in the whole wide world! I wanted the village to know you had a bold son that would step up when others wouldn't!" Hansel answered, eager to share more about the creatures he had met. "I can't wait to get back and tell everyone in the kingdom that we have no reason to fear the forest!"
Each of the dwarves took their turns giving Hansel a hug and the entire party took a little time to get to know many of the creatures who had gathered in the clearing. The dwarves were especially happy to meet some gnomes who had brought some mead to share. Hans spent some time talking with the leaders of the forest folk and came to realize the old tales about exiled beats were true. These creatures had been forced into the forest long ago and managed to form their own life and kingdom within the trees. None of them knew what may have caused the spells of silence to fade, allowing those outside the forest to hear them, but they wondered if the other spells trapping the creatures inside had faded as well. The creatures were perfectly content with the lives their ancestors had built for them there in the forest, but they didn't want their presence to cause fear in the neighboring kingdom.
Hans decided that the group would head home and try to create a plan to either reinstill the spells to hide the creatures or somehow ensure that both the forest folk and those in the kingdom would be able to continue their normal lives without fear of one another. Deep down Hans was worried that King Reginald wouldn't take kindly to the idea of letting these "beasts" continue to live in peace right next door. As they prepared to head back, the beasts offered to help them return quickly, but Hans and the dwarves didn't want to risk the creatures being heard or seen by villagers. They restocked rations with food and drink from their new friends and started on their way home!
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*ALL ART IS DONE BY MR. CUDDINGTON*