Andrew changed out another tray of cooked gingerbread with another one going into the oven. A crease deepened between his eyebrows as the tower of cooling gingerbread shifted to accommodate the new one. “Let me get this straight,” he said. “She won’t burn the house down straight away because she’ll have to come inside to find out who’s responsible, even though by burning the house down, she’ll remove whatever threat we pose.”
Tristan nodded agreement.
“Then, once she’s inside, her power will be reduced because the gremlin’s rule here.”
Again, Tristan nodded.
Andrew continued, “These are the same gremlins she’s been controlling for years and she doesn’t want them to have any power over her.”
Tristan nodded but a scowl now darkened his features.
“Do you see where the problem is?” asked Andrew.
“You don’t think she’ll come inside the house,” said Tristan.
“Why would she, when coming in would mean her risking everything. She’ll know you’re inside, because you can’t leave. All she has to do is burn down the house with you in it and she’s done.”
“She can’t burn the house down.” Hansel still lounged amongst his cushions, his expression still blissed-out from the gingerbread.
“Why can’t she burn the house down?” asked Andrew.
“It’s protected,” said Hansel. “If she wants to burn it, she has to come inside and set the fire from here, without using magic.” He scrambled out of his nest of cushions and stood. “Also, she can’t destroy Tristan’s magic like that.”
“If he’s dead, he won’t have any magic,” said Andrew, not understanding how anything else would be possible.
“Tristan’s magic will protect him. If she wants him dead, she has to come in here and kill him.”
“If she does that, my magic will be free; it won’t automatically go to her.” Tristan joined the conversation as he sat at the table. “The Magical Council will feel the jolt of my magic being released even though the seat is over three hundred miles away. They’ll know I’ve died by violence and come to investigate. They’ll recognise the gremlins’ signature all over the place and she’ll be held accountable because the gremlins can’t act without her permission. She’ll be stripped of her own magic and cast out.” He sat back and crossed his arms over his chest.
“She won’t risk that,” said Hansel.
Tristan nodded at Hansel. “No she won’t. She can’t burn the house down to kill me and can’t kill me outright. She’ll know the gingerbread isn’t my doing so she’ll have to come inside to find out what’s going on.” He leaned forward and grinned at Andrew. “That’s when we’ll have our chance.”
“Our chance to do what?” Andrew sat in the seat opposite Tristan. “You keep telling me how powerful she is. She trapped you here. How are you going to defeat her.”
Hansel scoffed. “She’s not so powerful. She didn’t trap Tristan here; Gretel and I did that.” He came close to the bars but stopped before they could burn him again. “We felt Tristan’s power as soon as we stepped inside. He’s spent the last two years studying and is now much more powerful than she’ll ever be.” Hansel preened. “And you have me,” he said smugly.
“You’re a prisoner,” retorted Andrew.
Hansel picked up another piece of gingerbread. “How do you think we replenish our powers?” He puffed a breath onto the gingerbread, then slid it between two bars and slowly moved it to the side. Red light hummed as the gingerbread came in contact with the bar. When the light dimmed, Hansel’s hand, with the gingerbread was on the other side of the bar. The gingerbread had passed through the bar, cutting it neatly so a slice of air, exactly the width of the gingerbread, was clearly visible between the top of the bar and the bottom. When Andrew and Tristan jumped to their feet, Hansel waved his hand at the bar and it joined together again.
“You could have escaped at any time!” said Tristan.
Hansel grinned. “That was the last bar.” He waved a negligent hand and all the cushions and gingerbread disappeared, leaving Hansel alone in the cage with a pile of dirty blankets. “She’s coming; be ready.”