Tristan passed the next day pouring over his spell books, frantically writing notes that would be used to create a new spell that would free Hansel and Gretel and trap Mistress Osborne forever. He didn’t think either Andrew or Hansel noticed he was still in the house.
Andrew baked all day. He made gingerbread, ginger cake, ginger biscuits, even a ginger and chilli stirfry. Hansel spent most of the day groaning in ecstasy while he ate gingerbread and breathed deeply of the heady ginger fragrance throughout the cottage.
After lunch, the stirfry having dragged Tristan away from his books, Tristan gasped. Andrew looked over from the table where he rolled another batch of gingerbread.
“That’s the key,” said Tristan as he stared at the latest batch of gingerbread men. “We need to finish cladding the house.”
Andrew frowned at him. “What’s the point? Both Hansel and Gretel know they can get as much gingerbread as they want if they just come inside.”
“They do, yes,” said Tristan with a grin. “Mistress Osborne doesn’t know anything about it, and I’ll be Gretel doesn’t tell her about the gingerbread either. She won’t want the mistress to know there’s an alternative source tempting her gremlins away.
“How can she not know? Won’t Gretel tell her all about how we trapped Hansel?”
“She won’t mention the gingerbread,” said Hansel from his prone position amongst his cushions. “That’s our secret weapon.”
“Exactly,” enthused Tristan. “So, when Mistress Osborne arrives and sees the house completely covered in gingerbread—”
“Minus the bits we ate,” interrupted Hansel.
“—minus the bits you ate, she’ll go completely mental.” Tristan clapped his hands together. “She’ll storm in here, flinging spells around all over the place, and won’t notice what’s really happening.”
“Yes!” Hansel jumped out of the cushions. “She won’t know what’s going on until it’s too late.”
Tristan and Hansel grinned at each other.
“What will be going on?” asked Andrew into the triumphant silence.
“Er…,” said Hansel.
“Um,” said Tristan.
Andrew sighed as he placed another tray of gingerbread on the table. As he slid it farther onto the table, the other trays lifted to make room for it. Within seconds the hovering tower of trays stabilised.
“Why is it so important that the house be covered in gingerbread?”
Tristan smiled again, back on secure footing. “She uses gingerbread to control Hansel and Gretel. If she thinks they’ve found an alternative source, she’ll want to destroy it.”
“What’s stopping her from just burning the house down?”
“She’ll want to make sure whoever is making the gingerbread can’t start over somewhere else.”
“That would be a given if she burns the house and us with it.”
Tristan scowled at Andrew. His fatalistic, simplistic attitude wasn’t helping. “She won’t burn the house down until she knows that’s all it would take to stop us. To be sure of that, she’ll have to come inside and assess the situation.”
“You seem pretty confident that she’ll actually want to know who’s doing it, rather than just kill us.”
“I’ve worked with her for four years. She needs to know what causes everything because that’s the only way she can make sure she controls it. Destroying the house would only be a temporary measure, and she’d be losing a potential source of gingerbread with which to control the gremlins. She’ll storm in here and try to intimidate you, then browbeat you into offering to support her.” Tristan leaned back in his seat, triumph bubbling through him. “It won’t even occur to her that you might say ‘no’, particularly as coercion spells are her forte. And there’s a pretty good chance she’ll totally forget that her magic won’t work inside this cottage.”