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Varian: King of Corona

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Chapter 1

Long Live the King

 

The kingdom of Corona gathered at the castle, along with many Dukes and Duchesses, ministers and mistresses. Common folk and representatives of other lands all congregated in the throne room to view the crowning of Princess Rapunzel. The brunette stood at the front, with the ceremonial outfit on and the regalia ready to receive. She felt nervous knowing this day is now here, but looking into the crowd saw her friends and her husband Eugene. They smiled being proud of her, feeling it in their hearts that she will make an excellent queen.   The archbishop stood reciting the oath the princess is making, as Rapunzel kneels to be crowned a purple mist begins to roll in from the closed doors.

The common folk in the back then noticed the fog and jumped. Everyone backed away from the door as not soon after the door shattered with a blast. Everyone shealed their faces and turned away. Rapunzel quickly looked to see who or what had caused such a blast. A figure came through as the fog cleared and the sun shone through the dust and debris of the explosion. The heavy footsteps of boots clomped their way into the room. The fog covered the figure, the stride of the intruder pushed the air away as he walked. The boots where tall, just under his knee. Dark black pants, with leather straps wrapping around his leg. Then a leather apron. A chuckle came as the figure was revealed.

He had copper goggles with cogs and metal on them that turned and shifted automatically, it gave him a sinister look with his long black hair falling on his face. He had a green collared shirt, clipped together, and black welding gloves. He laughed as he walked forward, his looks were indeed horrifying, but the staff he was welding was the most frightening. It was nearly as tall as him, the top had pipes leading all around it, with a ball of glass filled with what look like lightning. The staff itself seemed to be made with a copper rod for holding, but at the end of it, that connected with a spiraling wire of gold, had one of the notorious black rocks that threatened all of Corona years ago; sharp and jagged.

Rapunzel stood showing her bravery. The intruder kept a smile on as he stopped a few feet away from the brunette.

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel… do you remember me?” The figure laughed as he kept his fox like grin. The princess looked closely at the man in front of her, she had no clue who it could be.

“How would I know who you are?” She said with a proud and strong voice. She is to be queen of this Kingdom, and thus she needed to show her people that fear is not for her.

“Hmm. perhaps my appearance has changed, but, not what you did to me.” The man said as he looked at his clothes.

“Leave my castle immediately.” She demanded. The man then laughed.

“Why would I suddenly listen to you?!” He shouted. Rapunzel stood unmoving and with her head held high she stared down this man.

“I am your queen.” She felt her moxie burn with pride. The others in the room also felt the same fire within. They were amazed to see how far she had come in the recent years. Though the energy turned when the man gave a chuckle. He lifted his head and held it with pride.

“You are not my queen.” He growled. Then the castle guard reinforcements had arrived; Rapunzel was buying time. They aimed their crossbows and readied their swords as they began surrounding the man.

“Surrender or go down!” shouted the captain. The man looked at the guard and chuckled.

“Shouldn’t you consider retirement old man?”

“Not till the day I die.” The captain smiled. The strange man then twirled his staff in hand.

“Then congrats, your about to retire.” The man had no concern for the crossbows aimed at him as he sprang forward at the captain, the arrows went flying, but missed. The captain stopped the man with his sword. As they were locked in battle he looked closer at this intruder trying to get an identity.

Meanwhile Rapunzel, Eugene, and Cassandra opened the back exit and bagan to escort the people out of the room. Cass peered over to see her father locked in combat. She knew he would not be able to hold his own for too long, especially with stamina.

The captain and the man were still locked in battle as the other guards moved in.

“You are a fool to walk in here with only a staff!” the captain yelled.

“Perhaps, but don’t underestimate me.” The man smiled. He then shifted his weight and pushed the captain back, breaking the hold. The other guards sprang forward. The man dodged the attack. As the swing was still in progression, the man grabbed the guards arm and flung them over his shoulder at the other guards, toppling them over. The others launched arrows, but the man just moved and dodged them.

He took the guards out two or three at a time, none were severely injured, just a bit shaken, but unable to continue. The captain charged at the man but as he did, the man twisted the rod on his staff as it made a click, and let out steam. The black rock on the end turned into an amber color; crystal like.  He touched the ground with it, and the captain was trapped up to his arms in crystal like rock.

The captain took as gasp of air at the sudden stop, and realized his situation. It was a familiar crystal. Dangerous and uncontrollable. The man then turned his staff back and it clicked releasing steam once again. The rock turned back to its black color.

“Now, have a good retirement,” The man said as he raised his staff like a spear. Just as the man was about to take the captain’s life, Cass appeared and shattered her sword on the rock of the staff. It halted the actions of the invading man.

“Don’t you dare!” She shouted as she pulled out her dagger. The man was frozen as he looked down at the women in front of him. He stood shocked for some reason.

“C-Cassie?” The man asked. She looked up at him in question.

‘That name...’ she thought. She's heard someone call her that before. The man seemed frozen in his tracks. They couldn’t tell what he was thinking or his expression due to the goggles over his eyes. Cass was able to get a closer look at the mans features. His face was slim but healthy, fading freckles, and fair skin. His long black hair seemed to fall perfectly, but what got her was the one blue streak. To her, she felt this man was familiar but couldn’t place him.

“Cassandra get away from him!” Shouted the captain, interrupting both of their trains of thought. The man then looked at his surroundings as more crossbows were pointed at him.

“I won’t let you die, father!” Shouted Cass. The man gave a slight jolt.

“Wait, He’s your dad?!” He pointed as if he knew about her father, but didn’t know his face. Cass looked at him confused as to why he suddenly became so casual.

“Yes, now release him!”

“Not a chance,” He returned to his intimidating presence. Cass was not going to let his man take down her father, nor go after her best friend. She launched forward with her dagger in an attempt to stop him.

He didn’t move at all and stayed in place while he grabbed her wrist and twisted her arm around. She shouted at the pain. She couldn’t move and dropped her weapon.

“Now, you listen to me,” He bent close to her ear, his voice low, almost a growl, “I am in control here.”

“No you’re not! We listen to Rapunzel!” Cass shouted. Suddenly screaming came from the back, the villagers that were escaping came running back in.  Eugene and Rapunzel turned quickly to see a beast charge through. Its body was that of a lion, its tail a snake, and its hind legs were a goats. It was horrifying.

People tried running through the entrance of the room, but just as they were about to cross the threshold, another monster appeared, this one more horrifying than the last.

It had the wings of a bat, the body of a weasel, and the head of a hawk. It screeched at the people trying to escape.

“W-What are they?!” shouted Rapunzel. The man then released Cass and began walking to the throne as the archers readied themselves. Just as they were about to fire upon the stranger, they all started to drop one by one, a small mouse then appearing from the bodies. It had long fangs, was dark blue in color and there were nearly a dozen of them.

“People of Corona, Rapunzel is not going to become queen today, instead I am becoming the king!”

Everyone in the room gasped, they all looked at the princess in confusion and concern.

“I will never give you the crown!” Rapunzel shouted at the man. Her voice was strong, full of pride and confidence for her people and kingdom.

“Not willingly, I have to force you too.” The man sneered. No one liked what he said, they feared he would imprison Rapunzel in the crystal rock. Suddenly he twisted the copper staff again and the black rock turned amber as he only tapped the ground with the spear; the amber grew quickly. Then he pulled the staff out of the small crystal path it made. He decided to show off a bit and spun it around stabbing the black rock into the amber crystal.

“Now you’ll see what I can do.” He twisted the copper rod once again, this time, he did it twice, and steam released at the top. The ball of lightning seemed to go wild and the amber shattered with a blast. Everyone gasped in fear.

“The thing is, the crystal is not just any crystal, its a form of diamond. The black rocks, are not rocks, not completely anyway. They do have some unusual properties that I have been unable to break down, but the main thing I can find is carbon.”

“So what?!” Cass shouted, she was not pleased about this situation. The man kept talking like he was friends with them. It made her and everyone angry. Cass wanted her father to be released from the crystal before anything bad happened.

“Well, thought you’d like to know what would happen to your father if you don’t want to cooperate.”

Cass turned and saw that the crystal was growing. She became frightened and feared the worst. Cass turned to Rapunzel who had a horrified expression on her face. She knew this was bad, but being the next in line for queen, she had to make a decision.

“You don’t know what you’re messing with!” Rapunzel shouted seeing the crystal grow more. Cass whipped around and stood near her father knowing there was nothing her friend could do to save him. The strange man was too strong.

“Surrender the crown to me, or he will face his fate.” he spoke sternly.

Rapunzel sighed knowing what she needed to do, but what she wanted to do would be the worst. She needed to keep her kingdom safe and the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Even though the captain, Cassandra’s father, was a great man, he knew the second he was trapped that he was done for. In her heart though, she did not want to make this call. She saw the panicked face of Cass. It broke her heart to even think about letting her best friend suffer the loss of her only parent.

“Please… stop this, I promise as your queen I will listen to you, just stop this!” Rapunzel shouted to the man. He stayed silent. He tightened his grip on his staff.

“Sorry, princess… but I know first hand how well you keep promises.” The man growled. Rapunzel gasped. She recalled those exact words before.

“I...I know who he is…” She huffed under her breathe. Cass turned and Eugene looked at her concerned.

“Who is he then?!” Cass shouted with anger, wanting to know the enemy before her. Rapunzel was shaking knowing how strong her opponent is now, she felt fear creep its way in.

“Rapunzel… who is he?” Eugene asked as he stood next to her seeing her shake.

“Well princess? Who am I?!” The man shouted with anger.

“V-Varian…” She shook out. Everyone gasped as the man began laughing maniacally.

“Hello everyone! I’m baaack!” He hummed out in full glory. Everyone shouted, screamed at him, telling him to leave and that he had no place in this kingdom. When Varian couldn’t get the crowd to quiet down, he gave a sharp whistle. The lion creature in the back  reacted and stood with pride as it let out a defining roar. The crowd became as silent as a graveyard. Varian walked in front of the beast and held his ground as he spoke.

“You will listen to me!” He shouted, “Rapunzel, surrender the crown to me now, or he will die.” Varian pointed to the captain. Cass stood in front not letting him get close.

“Varian stop this!”

“Now!” He shouted as he slammed the rock into the ground and the crystal encasing the captain rapidly increased in growth.

“No!” Cass shouted as her father was nearly completely sealed in, “Rapunzel please listen to him!” Cass cried to her friend. Rapunzel clenched her fist in frustration. She stood before Varian and went on her knees and bowed.

“I surrender the crown,” She spoke solemn but then lifted her head and look Varian as close in the eye as she could and demanded, “Now release the captain.”

“I will, once the whole ordeal is done.” He smiled cunningly. He turned to the crown, the archbishop, and looked at the regalia.

“You heard the lady, return with the kings wear now!” Varian demanded harshly. As the servants ran to gather what was needed, he turned to face the kingdom.

“Do you hear me now?” He asked looking down at Rapunzel. She scowled at him in disgust.

Varian was kneeling as the crown was placed on his head.

“I now crown the new ruler of Corona.” Said the Archbishop.

Varian stood with pride as the golden crown rested perfectly on his head, and the king's royal robe resting gently on his shoulders. Looking over the people and Rapunzel, he shown a devilish grin, as the final words of the oath were said.

“Long live Varian: King of Corona.” The Archbishop announced as Varian was now officially crowned king. The boy smiled cunningly.

I did it!

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

Locked Away

 

The throne room was cleaned up, the people released, and Varian sat in the kings chair. He did not sit like royalty. He was sideways in the chair, hanging his legs off the arm rest, feeling relaxed and in power. He smiled knowing he did what he set out to do. Knowing how well his plan went; even better than he had thought it would. The castle workers and guards stood waiting to hear the words of their new king. Rapunzel, Eugene, and Cassandra stood at the front. They all felt a deep anger at the man before them.

Varian smiled seeing the anger they held. He knew they would be frustrated with him for awhile, but assumed they would get over it. Rapunzel had enough of this game, she was entrusted by her parents to rule this kingdom with greatness. Now seeing this troubled boy in front of her wearing the crown and sitting in the chair where her father sat, enraged her.  She took in a deep breath as she stepped forward.

“Varian pleas-” She was interrupted.

“It's your Majesty to you, Rapunzel.” He scoffed. The brunette gritted her teeth. Varian stood holding his staff close. He knew he was incharge.

“Well, your Majesty…” Rapunzel snapped the words with disgust. “Do you know how to run a kingdom?”

Varian walked over to the brunette still in defence mode. He towered over her. Eugene took a step forward not liking how close the boy was. He knew Varian was a threat, that much is obvious, but he didn’t know his motive. Cass stopped Eugene from going any closer, last thing they needed was another scare of amber.

“Better than you, Princess.” Varian snapped back. “From now on you will be my servant, and bring me food.”

“Fine.” Rapunzel hissed. She kept that fire in her eye. That glow made the rage in Varian fester.

“Kneel and say it.”

“No.” Rapunzel refused instantly feeling a jab at her pride and her kingdom. Varian pointed his staff at Cass and Eugene. The two of them jolt at being targeted. Rapunzel showed worry for her friends.

“Those close to you matter, but…” He said as he shifted his threat to Rapunzel, “to them you matter more.”

The rock was close to her stomach but she kept her stance and did not waver. The one holding the sharp object to her was, in her eyes, still the young alchemist she met years ago. Varian was not a killer, a swindler and fighter, but not a killer. Rapunzel felt she could change him and hopefully help him reconsider his threats and current claim of the throne.

Varian sighed and sat on the throne again. Rapunzel called his bluff.

“Bring me some food, I'm hungry.” he huffed. Rapunzel nodded and turned to leave. Everyone else followed the brunette out the door. Varian watched as they all left. He saw how they still held true to Rapunzel, giving her worried looks, a hand on her shoulder. They all care for her greatly, Varian could see this. Leaning back, he pouted at his situation, though he holds the title king, he is by no means in control.

 

Rapunzel walked along the hall with Eugene and Cass. She still walks with power, and now elegance. She thought long and hard on how this was going to turn out. She wanted to make this right, not just by her and her kingdom, but by Varian as well.

“Rapunzel?” Eugene was worried for her, as everyone was. She has a distant look in her eyes, it freaked him out. She smiled to him, seeing him here gave her strength.

“What should we do?” Cass asked. Eugene gave an angry pout to her, feeling now was not a good time to ask. Rapunzel thought otherwise, and was unwavering in her decision. She had a fire burning in her; she has a mission now.

“For the safety of everyone, follow along with Varian’s wishes and demands, last thing I want or need is for any of you to get hurt.” She was greatly concerned with the welfare of her people and close friends. She saw the power Varian displayed today, no one stands a chance against him in a head on battle, especially with those creatures he has.

Eugene and Cass smiled. The both of them appreciated the kindness and compassion Rapunzel has for everyone. However they did not want to comply with that throne stealing dirt- bag.

“I get your reasoning Raps, but he needs to be taken down.” Cass said as she clenched her fist. Rapunzel gave a weary smile.

“I agree, but I don't want anyone to get hurt, including Varian.”

Both Cass and Eugene sigh, Rapunzel was too kind for her own good. Even though she is beyond frustrated and upset about her kingdom being taken over by a criminal.

“With all do respect, your highness, this boy needs to be eliminated.” Everyone turns to see the captain of the guards. He walked up and spoke sternly and low.

“I have a plan, however, Varian will not make it.”

Rapunzel was surprised that the captain would even consider harming another person.

“I understand Varian is in the wrong, but his actions do not condone death.”

“His actions of not only treason, but his coup d'etat to claim the crown is more than enough reason to condone death. He is not a child anymore your highness. He is an adult now, and an even greater threat.”

The captain’s words hit deep. Rapunzel was threatened, her kingdom taken, the people frightened, and yet she still saw a hopeful light within Varian. She wanted to fix the past, which she knew was impossible. With a heavy sigh she knew she had to move forward, and the current obstacle was Varian. Looking at her friends, the captain, and in her heart, Rapunzel knew stopping this new threat came first. She didn't want to hurt the troubled child, but the captain is right; Varian isn't a boy anymore, he is now a man, and he is dangerous.

“What is your plan, Captain?” Rapunzel sighed. Everyone gave a determined smile, they were glad to know Rapunzel could pick her battles.

“Let's walk to the kitchen while I explain.” He motioned for Rapunzel to walk forward.

 

Varian paced around the room, he was thinking what he could do with the time he had. He perked up to the sound of footsteps and went back to sitting on the throne. The door opened and Rapunzel, Eugene, Cass, and the Captain walked in. Rapunzel had a tray of food ready.

“How many people does it take to get one tray of food?” Varian asked all smug.

No one smiled or chuckled, the room was silent as Rapunzel walked up to give Varian the food. He stopped her part way, stood and grabbed his staff. As he walked over he pulled a vial out of his apron pocket. He then poured the liquid in the vial out on the food. The food turned black and dissolved. Everyone was wide eyed in confusion. Rapunzel scouled

“If you didn't want it, why waste it?”

However the tray was smacked from her hands, the sound of clanging metal rang as it hit the floor. Rapunzel slipped back as Varian turned the black rock to amber, it grew in front of her, she scooted back as it stopped right before it caught her.

Eugene saw Varian coming down with the staff, his eyes widened in horror as the rock changed color. As Rapunzel fell back in an attempt to flee, Eugene bolted at Varian with anger and fear.

The staff was still in the ground as Varian saw Eugene charging at him with a hostile look. Varian shifted his stance to hold his ground. As Eugene slid in to a punch, Varian dodged it by grabbing Eugene's wrist, and striking at the elbow full force, everyone heard a snap as Eugene fell with a cry of pain. Varian looked down at the defeated man and walked off. He grabbed his staff and walked to Rapunzel.  

“Leave her alone!” Eugene shouted while holding his arm. He knew it was broken. Cass ran to Rapunzel’s side and held her close as Varian approached.

“Poison huh?” He glared down at the two girls. He pointed the staff at them, “Who's idea was it?”

“Don't think I could come up with something like this?” Rapunzel asked. Cass looked at her shocked and afraid. They were in no situation to be self-righteous.

“Oh please, you can solve puzzles, but you wouldn't know how to kill, you don't have the heart.” Varian grinned.

Rapunzel returned the smile “Neither do you.”

Varians face twitched at the response, he felt a jab to his pride. She was right and that's what irritated him. Rapunzel couldn’t see this irritation since he wore the goggles over his eyes. He lifted the staff as if ready to strike down.

“It was my idea!” Eugene stood holding his limp arm. “I said to poison you.”

Varian paused and turned. “Really?” He turned away from the girls and marched up to Eugene.

“Shall I break your other arm too to teach you a lesson?” Varian smiled. Eugene scowled as he was painting from the immense pain in his arm. He was going to step forward but he was stuck. The amber encased his feet. Eugene fell to his knees unable to balance. Rapunzel wanted to stand, she wanted to run to Eugene. He was already greatly injured, but now she felt Varian would prove her wrong and take a life.

“Stop it, he's been hurt enough!” Rapunzel shouted. Varian huffed.

“You're right… you followed along with it. You are also to blame.” He stops the amber and turns back to speak.

“Rapunzel, you will now find your accommodations in the castle dungeons, for your act of treason.”  

Everyone gasped.

“Take her to her cell.” He ordered the captain. Though no one moved. They all were loyal to Rapunzel, not him. When no one acted he gave a whistle and the lion beast appeared.

“Take her below, seal the lock. Reward after.” He said to the creature as he stroked the lions mane. Its tail, the snake, hissed. Varian smiled.

“And reward you too.”

The lion moved toward the brunette as she held onto Cass. The lion's paw easily pushed them apart. And gently grabbed Rapunzel by the arm with its mouth. She tried to pull her arm away, but the teeth were as sharp as razors. If she struggled the lions hold got stronger.

“Wait.” The lion stops and everyone looked to the captain.

“Release the princess, I am to blame. I set the poison, and told her she needed to do this… punish me, not her.”

Varian began to laugh. “We really playing this game?! Fine then, Rapunzel is still sent to the dungeons, and as an added bonus…” He looks to Cass, who seems defenceless without her sword, but he knows she waiting for the right moment to strike; she is smart.

Cass was doing just that. She had her dagger hidden in her boot, but Varian had yet to get close enough. He was too aware of his surroundings to throw it. She had to wait for his guard to be lowered.

“Cassandra…” Varian approached her with a cunning smile. “You are now my personal guard, and will taste test all my food before I eat it… right in front of me. So I know it is not poisoned.”

Cass gritted her teeth and the captain clenched his fist. She did not respond, nor give any eye contact as she stood and helped Eugene to the infirmary.

 

Varian sat in the throne with a sigh. Once the room was empty he removed his goggles, and rubbed the bridge of his nose, he was trying to get rid of his headache. Rudiger jumped up on to the arm of the throne. Varian smiled to his old friend and gave him a pat.

“I don't know how long this will take, but I'm glad you're here with me.” Rudiger crawled onto Varians lap and curled up into a ball. Varian gave a slight chuckle as he leaned back to relax a bit.

 

Rapunzel was being dragged into the dungeon. The lion had no issue taking her along. The group caught up, Cass with a new sword and Eugene in a splint and sling. The lion ignored them and kept walking. The tail hissed at them.

“This thing is downright horrifying!” Eugene huffed.

“It’s about to be dead!” Shouted Cass as she ran up to the snake tail. The tail dodged the attack and hid under the lion. Cass went closer and was swinging up to cut the butt end of this beast. However, it kicked with its hind leg and its hoof hit the sword. It rattled, but didn't cut. The snake took its moment and snapped at Cass, throwing her off balance.

The lion reached an empty open cell and threw Rapunzel in. She fell to the floor and turned to see the door close. The Captain had the keys, and Eugene was ready to bust her out. But the snake came forward and sprayed a green liquid on the lock. It began to melt.

Everyone readied to attack, but the lion turned with a growl. Everyone halted seeing the front of the beast. Its gleaming fangs and sharp teeth. Its yellow eyes shined with rage, its claws extended and ready to strike. Everyone backed down knowing they stood no chance. The snake melted the door to the wall, there was no way to bust Rapunzel out without destroying the cell.

The lion walked its way back with enough pride to infuriate Cass. She wanted to kill the creature herself. Eugene ran up to the cell and reached his hand in to touch Rapunzel. She got up to meet his reach. He caressed her cheek as she held his hand.

“We should have listened to you…” Eugene said with a sorrowful expression. Rapunzel said not to confront Varian and to just meet his demands. Not only did Eugene get injured, but Rapunzel was thrown in jail, and Cass is now subjected to taste testing. The captain walked forward and apologized for his actions.

“I’m afraid I’m no longer of much use in battle, and it was my idea, I am to blame for this.” He hung his head in shame. Rapunzel shook her head.

“This was a group effort, but now we know how strong Varian is.”

“Yeah! He broke my arm like it was child's play!” Eugene snapped.

“Which means he knows hand to hand combat now…” Cass hummed in concern. They all wondered where he learned to fight, who taught him and why?

“Even more so, his alchemy is more advanced. He most likely has more of those beasts… and other weapons.”

“To be honest Raps… he was able to fight without the staff… he doesn't need weapons anymore, he is one.” Cass frowned regretfully at her words. Everyone felt a chill go down their spine at her words.

“What do we do?” Eugene asked Rapunzel. She took a moment to think.

“As I said before, comply with his demands, help him run the kingdom, but please do not let him harm anyone else…” She held a concerned expression for her people.

“You got it, Raps.” Cass nodded with a smile, knowing she will not let Varian do anything to the people of Corona. She would remain strong and train harder to make sure she can hold her own against him.

“I’ll be here everyday and for as long as you need me.” Eugene smiled. Rapunzel was grateful and she gave a warm smile to show her thanks. She squeezed his hand, not wanting to let go.

“You need rest, you need to heal first…”

“I will, but I’m not going to let you suffer in here alone.” Rapunzel was touched to hear those words. She kissed Eugene’s hand as they all began to part.

“I’ll be back with some things for you…” Eugene waved.

“And I’ll be keeping a close eye on Varian.” Cass smiled.

“I’ll also be watching, and let me know if there is anything I can do,” The captain said with a nod.

Rapunzel nodded as they left. The door sounded with an echoing click. She turned to look at her lonely cell, only to be reminded of being locked away in her tower once again. She wished only Pascal was still around to be here with her. If he was, she wouldn't be so alone. Sitting on the bed she looked up to the sky as she saw the sun shine brightly.

‘I promise… I’ll take care of Corona, mom, dad...’

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

Kings Work



Varian disappeared during the night, but his beasts still roamed the halls and flew around the castle watching the area. The lion was not the only one. There were large cat like ones, wolves, and birds, mixed with other animals. About 50 of them in total around the castle and village grounds. Smaller weasel like ones flew around or scampered across the rooftops. It made all the people uneasy seeing the monsters that lurked outside.  Glowing eyes on silhouettes of the creatures made them look like nightmares. To the relief of the people the beasts vanished by morning’s rise.

Cass walked to the throne room wondering where their “king” absconded too during the night. She hoped he had fallen off a cliff or was shot by a hunter mistaking him for game, but when she opened the door, she saw him sitting in the chair with his goggles on again. His new look still made her feel troubled, the goggles especially since they blocked his eyes. They had dark lenses against the copper cogs.

Does he ever remove them?’ Cass thought. He has had them on since he arrived. She gave him a scowl to show her disgust at his presence. He smiled seeing the face.

“Same old Cassie, always quick to give out ice.” He sneered.

“Don't call me Cassie, you lost that right years ago.” She hissed. Varian scoffed at her and ordered her to get him some food. Cass rolled her eyes as she turned in a huff. She despised the way he took advantage of his power.

“Adult now my ass, he still acts like a child, full of himself. It’s so irritating!” She growled. She gathered up various foods, bread with jam and grape juice, angrily and while grumbling the entire time. She even smooshed the bread slightly as she slammed it onto the silver tray. She sharply turned from the counter and left the room, nearly causing the glass of juice to topple over onto the floor. A maid was walking through the hall while Cass was passing and made sure to not look her in the eyes, afraid of Cassandra’s famous wrath.

Rounding the corner that led to the throne room, Cass saw that the throne room’s door was open. Peeking into the large room, she saw Nigel speaking to Varian in a concerned manner.

“The people of Corona are out front rioting your current claim of the crown!” Nigel shouted. Cass gasped and looked out the window. She saw most of the kingdom outside. This might be the opportunity she needed. While he's distracted by the needs of the people she can stab him in the back, literally.  

Varian came bursting out with his staff in hand. He marched his way to the front with power to his step. Cass was awestruck. He did not look like the same kid she once knew. It gave her a slight chill down her spine seeing a difference. She kept her eyes on him trying to find the reason why he seemed more intimidating than before, but couldn’t quite place it.

The doors flew open and the people of Corona saw once again the man who claimed the throne from their beloved princess. The angry roar of the crowd grew as their eyes found Varian. The new king stood before them as the crowd called him names, threatened him, and held their fists high. He did not move nor show any sign of power, he just stood.

Then a tomato launched from the crowd. Varian caught it without moving an inch to dodge had he missed the catch. Everyone started to quiet down as he stared at the fruit, many silent from shock at his reflexes while others realized that angrily shouting over each other would solve nothing. They all may as well hear what he has to say.

“What a waste…” He said, quiet, collected, “First poison, now using perfectly good tomatoes for protest. Shame.”

Varian was calm, he did not shout. The crowd was now completely silent and waited for him to speak.

“The good people, I am going to say what is on my mind,” He looked down at the tomato again in his hand before meeting the eyes of his people, “I’m sick and tired of how things are run around here. I know you all must be rather upset at my actions, but all I ask is for your cooperation and the simple favor to please not waste food like this.” He raised the tomato high and the man who threw it grumbled,

“A single tomato doesn't matter! It’s a silly vegetable! Get out of our kingdom, you usurper!”

“Doesn't matter, huh?” Varian frowned ignoring the name calling for the larger matter at hand. He sounded clearly upset at this man’s actions, especially at his reluctance to realize exactly what he had done. “I personally know a few starving people who would think this one tomato was a gift from God...a blessing, even an act of kindness,” Varian raised the tomato higher and shook it in his hand, somewhat involuntarily, “They suffer at the loss of crops, robbed by the rich and the strong. Even a rotten tomato is food to them, and you dare say one single tomato doesn't matter?”

Everyone bit their tongues, no one said anything for they all were wondering if he was telling the truth. Cass and Nigel stood behind Varian listening in. Cass had her dagger ready behind her back. She was just waiting for the right moment.

“If you know they are hungry, why let them starve!” Shouted the same man. No one could see Varian's eyes due to his goggles, but they could all feel his eyes on that man. It sent a chill down the old man’s spine. The crowd chatter began as he remained silent. Cass knew this was the opportunity, the crowd would riot again and he would be distracted. She was ready to move forward, ready to strike. She gripped her dagger as she crept slowly towards the young criminal, aiming for his lower back.

“I help them as much as I can. They need to learn to survive on their own. ‘Give a man a fish you feed him for a day, teach a man how to fish you feed him for life,’ right?”

Cass was unwavering as she steadied her blade. She was watching, waiting, she crept closer. The towns people were silent; when Varian gets no response from anyone he lifts his head up high and spoke like the king he made himself to be. “I understand you all are furious and possibly frightened…but let me ease your minds…” He takes a deep breath and gives a warm smile. “I am here to help,” Varian spoke kindly to the crowd.

The villagers all shared in a subtle gasp as whispers began to spread, and questions arose. Cass stopped with a slight skid to her step. She was ready to launch forward, but his words halted her actions. She lowered her dagger as she stared astonished by the things Varian has said and done today. Nigel placed a hand on Cassandra`s shoulder to stop her from continuing forward. He shook his head at her intentions of killing Varian. She stood as Nigel whispered to her, “I understand your doing, but to kill so publicly and in front of the children may not sit right with anyone.”

Cass sighed knowing he was right. She stuffed the dagger back into her boot and stood back as the acting guard. Varian kept his posture and finished his thoughts. Looking out upon the mass of people he sighed.

“I will hear you all out, even if it takes all day and night. You all are welcome to meet with me one on one, or even observe me and how I work.” Varian kept a smile on as he talked with the crowd. He sounded sincere and lighthearted. Everyone grumbled hating the fact he was being negotiable and pleasant. Varian took the silence as acceptance and returned to the throne room.

Cass watched him walk back with a slight slouch, as if he was nervous to talk publicly. He did not seem to make eye contact, but as he passed her he whispered to her.

“You hesitated.”

The air went stagnant and the world seemed to submerge underwater. She could hear the echoing tap of his heavy boots walking away as she felt her world slow down. Cass never felt a shock from the words of others , but this time was different. How did he know of her moment of weakness? She is the strongest warrior in all of Corona, so how is it this unstable alchemist has become even more powerful than she?

Cass shook her head, he was most likely playing mind games with her. He could not know about her attempt. There is no way his senses could be that sharp, its inhuman. As Cass was lost in thought the crowd began to enter the castle. Some gathered in the room to witness Varian work, others had things to say.

Varian sat as the first man walked up. He looked old and worn down, like a farmer who's done a lot of hard work in his time.

“Please, reconsider your claim, my grandchildren look up to Rapunzel, they are terrified of you.” The old man sounded sorrowful and worried. Varian saw this and sighed. It gave a slight pain to his heart to see such a man reduced to begging.

“I apologize for causing such trauma on your grand kids, sadly I can not take back my actions - what’s done is done - but to ease the minds of the young ones… Rapunzel is safe, and is fine, no harm will come to her.” He smiles. The old man nodded and walked away.  Others came up begging, demanding him to leave, but each time he declined. No matter the anger the towns person had, Varian always kept his composure. It surprised a lot of people but mostly Cass and Nigel. They both expected him to be a tyrant of rage, but he is showing to be the opposite. Cass felt her wrath grow. She figured out his plan; gain trust from the towns people to remain in power. He was still the mastermind he was years ago. Tricking people into doing what he wanted.

Finally a challenge came up when a child walked up with her mother. She held a small kitten in hand.

“He’s sick… can you help?” Asked the little girl. Her mother scowled at Varian in disgust. He ignored the glare and knelt down to see the kit. He cupped his hands and the small cat was handed to him. Cass was surprised to see how small the kitten was in Varian’s hands, in fact he only needed one to hold the animal. She took a moment and looked a bit longer.

‘No, it's not the kitten… his hands… are just...bigger.’ She thought confused. She didn’t understand how his hands made him seem so different. It's the same confusion she had with him walking down the hall to the crowd earlier. It began to bother her greatly as to why Varian seemed so different when to her he wasn't. He is still the same merciless criminal from back then, or at least that what she thought.

As Varian held the small white cat in his hands, he was feeling the animals stomach and looking at its eyes, in its mouth and feeling its legs. Then he noticed the issue with the backside of the cat.

“Ohhh, he has worms!” Varian boasted finding the issue. The kid jolted at bit hearing the news.

“Worms? Is he gonna die?!” The kid whined. Varian shook his head and informed the child he would be just fine after some medicine. The kid and mother looked at him in question; most animals who had worms were dead within a few months. Varian turned and gave a soft whistle. Rudiger appeared with a head tilt. Varian gave a signal to him and the racoon took off. Cass watched confused and rather bothered by how kind Varian was being with the child, being down on their level and speaking softly as to not frighten the little girl.

Cassandra felt pure anger witnessing such a sight. Her fists were clenched so tight her knuckles turned white. Her teeth gritted, her scowl intensified. Thoughts ran through her head, ways to kill the man before her, harsh painful deaths. He is the cause for Rapunzel's imprisonment, he broke Eugene's arm with no remorse, and even threatened to do it again. He held the captain of the guards, Cassandra's father, hostage. Had she not intervened, Varian would have killed him. Yet this same man, who single handedly took over the castle and throne, is holding close a sick kitten. This boiling rage was not just toward Varian, but mostly herself. With how calm Varian was being with the townspeople, with how gently he held the kitten, how sincere he was being with the child, it showed something in him Cass forgot he had; his humanity.

It was a feeling so intense in her heart she could feel her temperature rising. She wanted to see the people retaliate, fight back, give her the chance to get rid of this problem child for good. But a part of her kept saying to breathe, wait and listen. It caused a war to form in her body, hot vs cold. Calm down and see what Varian was planning, or rally the people and fight back. The latter is what she yearned for. Brutal battle, swords clanging, those monsters dying, and Varians blood splattered across the floor as his body drops. She hated him.

Rudiger returned with a bag and handed it to Varian. He pulled out a small vial with a opaque goop inside.

“This is medicine for the kitten, give him the dosage every ten days and he will feel better soon.” Varian explained as he put the medicine back in the bag. The child took it and smiled with watery eyes. The mother also smiled seeing the considerate acts Varian demonstrated. The child held the kitten as the mother walked her out. Varian waved them off and tended to the next person.

The day came to a close late, the moon already high in the sky. When the last person left and the doors shut with an echoing click, Varian gave a sigh of relief and flopped back onto the throne. He put his hand to his head and rubbed his temples; he had a slight headache. Cass peered behind her after closing the doors. She could see Varian was worn out from the days work. She was counting but stopped after the 250th townsperson who entered, and that was at midday. She could only imagine the migraine he had after a day like today.

Cass sighed as she approached him, standing with her hand on her hip. “Quite the hard worker.” She commented. Varian gave a slight chuckle to her comment. “You never ate during the day today.” Cass pointed out. Varian groaned in annoyance. She wanted to try and get his guard down so she could get rid of him, and perhaps having food thrown at him would be a small enough distraction for her to stab him.

“Actually… I’d really appreciate a glass of water… if you don’t mind?” Varian gave a soft smile toward her. Cass jolted at what he said to her. Earlier he was demanding and using his new found power like a spoiled brat, though now he is asking her for assistance rather than ordering her too. She sighed and decided it was a small action she could do. Nodding she went back to the kitchen.

Cass was lost in thought again. She wanted to get rid of this nuisance, but the way he handled himself and the townspeople today shows he’s got what it takes. She was at war the whole time with herself. Part of her wanted to see how he would do as a king, the other wanted him dead. So far she knew which side was stronger, but each time she had the moment; the sudden energy to spring forward, her body wouldn't move. It irritated her to know she had no control over herself. As the train of thought shifted so didn’t her anger.   ‘Is he really all that bad?’ she thought thinking back on the moment with the kitten. He seemed to genuinely care for the animal and the happiness of the child. Cass shook her head, getting rid of that thought. As she did her hair tie snapped. It broke again. She sighed knowing why she kept her hair short for the longest time; it was a beast to control. She had to put the water run on hold to replace her hair tie.

She looked around her room for another one, but for some reason she couldn't find the small knitted string. She looked through her drawers and on shelves, behind bottles and even in her laundry plie. Eventually she made her way to her closet and dumped out a box of old things. She found a hair tie.

“Finally!” She smiled. She put up her hair again as she noticed something sparkling within the pile of old things. Cass grabbed it just as she realized it was a necklace. She recalled it; it was the necklace she received from Varian way back when. She remembered how short and innocent he looked, his dorky smile, the glimmer of curiosity in his eyes, how smart and kinda annoying, stubborn, immature… over all he was just a kid. Cass felt a slight pain in her heart seeing the man he's become. Such a pure soul turned dark, and there is no one to blame but them. They shouldn't have left him alone for so long. Her, Rapunzel, and Eugene could have tried to look for him. Even after Varian broke out of prison, they did nothing. They could do nothing. Varian ran off, he hid. They tried to connect with him when they returned from their journey, but Varian pushed them away; he built walls.

Cass still remembers the look on Varians face when she told him the news of his father; he didn't make it. Cass thought because of her hatred toward the boy it wouldn't affect her, but seeing his rageful eyes suddenly dull and fade into despair, and crystal clear tears flow effortlessly, made her cold heart shatter. Varian didn't say a word and slowly walked back to the corner of his cell. He slid down against the wall, curling up in the corner. Cass felt horrible and kept that to herself. She went back to her room and thought of ways she could help. But later that week he escaped, and her way of helping him, was not going after him.

She wonders if he still has that faded look in his eyes or if by chance that glimmer of curiosity he once had returned. She sighed knowing that wasn't possible, the innocence kid she once knew was no more. She looked at the necklace and chuckled. ‘even his voice has changed…’ she thought. Gripping the necklace she swallowed this feeling of regret and remorse, and decided to throw the jewelry in the box once again. The past is the past for a reason. I shouldn't linger in it.', she told herself as she stood. She packed away the box and continued getting the water Varian asked for.

Cass peeked into the throne room, wondering if he was still there. Varian was, to Cassandra's disappointment. She walked in with a scowl and a sigh, but as she got close she realized Varian was asleep. His arm was holding his head up as he was curling up in the chair. He seemed to have shifted earlier because his goggles were slightly pushed off his face by his arm.

Cass didn't move, but observed him, analyzing. His eyes were closed but she could finally see an expression. He seemed exhausted. A dark circle under the one exposed eye. He had his mouth open as he slightly snored in his sleep. Looking closer saw he still had freckles and now a little scruff on his face and chin.

She found it funny how much he's grown, and still had so much more to do. He still looked like a child in his sleep. His long hair didn't help either. He still had the same hair cut from when he was young. The way he tried to curl up on the chair shows even he doesn't know how much bigger he's gotten.

Cass sighed. The part of her that wanted him dead seems to have gone quiet. Ever since she found that necklace her facade of ice seems to be melting. She felt slight guilt from not being able to help him, for being so cold to him. At the same time, he did almost kill her, and has done horrible things even now. Her fire still burns, and it will consume her if she doesn't listen to it. Her fist clenched as she thought of the dagger in her boot. Thinking of the hate in his eyes. That look, that glare of pure rage is what she wanted to see. That would be her proof he is still the evil mastermind he was back then. Her sight was blinded for a moment as she envisioned his death, but she snapped back when Varian snorted and shifted in his sleep. She gave a chuckle.

‘He's such a dork,’ she thought. With a heavy sigh she set the water down on a stool, placed it close to the chair and removed Varians goggles since they were falling off. She placed them next to the glass of water on the stool. With his face revealed, she could only see the young alchemist they all met years ago. The boy seemed so tired, so lost… so hurt. It made that pain return, that feeling of regret. She couldn't do it, not now… not like this. She huffed at her feelings as she walked to the side room and returned with a blanket and pillow. Carefully placing the pillow under his head and threw the blanket over him.

One last time Cass looked at him. All tucked in he looked as he once did: innocent and unaware. She jolted a bit as Rudiger suddenly appeared. He looked old and worn down as he crawled across the sleeping Varian and snuggled up under the covers. She smiled and left for the night, locking the door so no one could enter.

Chapter Text

Image may contain: one or more people and text

Chapter 4

Secret Mission

 

The morning sun shined over the horizon, giving start to the new day. Varian was folded across the chair still sound asleep. He was snoring away as the light crept its way into the hall. When the light did finally hit his eyes, he woke with a groan. Still slightly asleep he turned over in the chair, but he then sat up realizing he had dozed off. He checked to make sure he still had a pulse and hadn’t become a corpse in the night. Thankfully he had no wounds and his heart was still pumping. Rudiger shifted and looked up at the startled Varian with a head tilt.

“I’m alright.” he reassured his friend. Varian then noticed the blanket and pillow. The kind gesture put him off. Once he passed out that was it, checkmate. He could have been killed easily, but whomever tucked him in last night didn’t. Looking behind him, by the arm of the chair, he saw a glass of water.

‘Cassandra?’ He asked himself feeling perturbed that she of all people didn’t take the chance to annihilate the enemy.

“I wonder what she’s playing at?” Varian asked himself, a curious careful tone in his words. Rudiger chittered as he got up and waddled off.

“Yeah, i’m hungry too.” He smiled as he slid off the chair and ran to the door feeling starved. He opened it quickly, and was not watching where he was going as he crashed right into Cassandra. She was pushed off balance and was going to fall back, but Varian grabbed her arm right in time. Varian pulled her back onto her feet and let go. They both took a moment to gather what just happened.

‘I can't believe I caught her…’

‘How did he react so quickly?’

They both looked at each other with shock and confusion. Varian more or less about the blankets and whether or not to ask about it. Cass was lost because now she could see his eyes; given that he hasn’t put his goggles back on yet. She saw the pure blue color, almost as clear as the sky. The dark circles were gone as well. But what got her to look closer was the new gleam in his eye. They were not angry, nor did it seem like curiosity; they looked sad. Even with the surprised face he made, something about his eyes looked sorrowful. She did not understand why he would be sad about anything.

He did not move but saw the narrow glare that Cass made. He presumed it had to do with his luck in catching her.

“Sleep well?” She asked with a smirk. Varian jolted a bit.

“Y-Yeah… why… did you...were you the one who…uh?” Varian couldn't find the words this morning as waved his hands around with the garbled sentence. He was still in astonishment that he was alive after letting down his guard, and finding it hard to believe that Cassandra of all people let him live.

Cass suddenly remembered what she did last night. She forgot he would awake to the gesture and know who was behind it. She felt embarrassed and her face flushed with color.

“I…” Cass froze, she did not want to admit to a sign of weakness. She internally scrambled for an excuse.

“I… I didn't want to get blood on the throne, stains are impossible to remove,” Cass choked out as she stood with confidence. It was a mixed message to Varian, he saw her hands on her hips as she held her head high, but the gargling of her words didn't match. It was as if she was play fighting. He decided to go along with it since she didn't kill him, though it piqued his curiosity as to what stopped her, twice in fact, in the same day.

“I see… good to know.” He cleared his throat and began to walk down the hall. Cassandra gave a sigh of relief that he took the excuse.

“Hey, you coming?” Varian shouted from the end of the hall. Cass turned displeased by the call.

“Why would I follow you?” she snapped.

“I'm hungry and you need to poison test.” Varian had a distant look, calm but still distant. Cass huffed in annoyance, she forgot about that part in this whole endeavor. She stomped her way over as they both made their way to the kitchen.

Cass leaned against the doorway as she watched Varian rummage through the pantry and counter tops. He grabbed apples, crackers, cheese, chicken, tomatoes, bread, jam, a bag of peanuts, boiled eggs, and some leftover ham. It seemed like he wanted a little bit of everything. He placed it all down on the peninsula counter ready to dive in.

“Hungry much?” Cass chimed. Varian looked up in confusion to her question, implying that what he had before him was normal.

“Hurry up and taste test will ya?” He pointed. Cass rolled her eyes.

“I’m not hurrying.” She didn't want to take a bite out of everything, it bothered her greatly. Varian's stomach growled loudly. He gripped his gut and looked at Cass with a pout.

“Please...I'm really hungry…”

Cass froze again. The look she was given was not something she'd expect from him. A frown calmly placed, his head lowered, and his eyes looking desperately up at her. They seemed to shimmer with greater sorrow then before, perhaps it was the expression he held, but either way it caught Cass off guard. She wasn't prepared for the puppy dog eyes; not from Varian at least.

She sighed and started with the cheese and crackers, then went down the line. After she tried all the food, even the apples, she sat on the stool feeling full. She already had breakfast this morning and now being forced to eat more was causing an upset stomach. She looked over to Varian who was starting her down intensely, but not serious.

“It's not poisoned.” Cass sighed knowing he was waiting for the go ahead. At that he dove in, scarfing down the food. Apple juice rolling down his chin, bits flying out as he took bites in between chews. Cass found it appalling.

“Who taught you how to eat?!” Cass shouted seeing the boy make a mess. He swallowed what he had in his mouth.

“High society!” He boasted sarcastically. She didn't mean too, but Cass laughed. She caught herself half way and cleared her throat. She regained her composure. But Varian was astounded, he then smiled as he rested against the table on his forearms.

“I don't think I've ever heard you laugh.” Varian hummed. Cass did not like how he was acting, he was being too causal now. It brought back her anger. How dare he make her laugh. How dare he beg her, give her such sad eyes. He is nothing but a trickster, a manipulative fox who enjoys a game of tag. She scowled at him feeling the fire burn once again. She despised the fact she let her thoughts and pity stop her last night. She had the chance to take him down. She flicked on her ice switch and snapped at him.

“Of course you haven't. We're not friends.” That jab is all it took. Varian’s eyes widened and then his gaze lowered as he grabbed the one remaining apple and began to walk off. Her remark reminded him why he was here, and who he is to them. He had forgotten why he was here when he found out Cass let him live. It gave a bit of hope to his heart, thinking she would forgive him for what he did years ago. That comment however, pushed that last bit of light out.

As he entered the hall he heard a small giggle. He looked down and saw a young girl with long brown hair and soft doll-like features. She was with Rudiger, feeding him some blueberries. She seemed to be fond of the raccoon with the way she laughed as he took the berry with his small hands. Varian didn't mind since she was eating the berries too.

“Celestia, get away from that.” Said a voice around the corner. Eugene appeared with his arm still in a sling. He picked the little girl up onto her feet by her hand.

“But he's friendly.” the girl whined.

“No he's not…” Eugene looked up at Varian. His eyes narrowed as he pulled Celestia close. “He's not a friend.” Varian returned the scowl and walked off. He knew he was not welcome in this place, and it would be wise to remember that.

Eugene gave a sigh of relief when Varian left, he was glad that Rudiger also trotted off after him. He looked down at the little girl and smiled warmly. He did not want her associating with him or anything involving him - especially that Rudiger - But he couldn’t muster up the heart to tell her why.

“Have you heard anything from Rapunzel?” Cass asked. Eugene looked up not realizing Cass snuck up on him.

“Other than to be safe and not to get hurt,” He sighed. Rapunzel seemed to be burdening this on her own, which pissed Eugene off. She was not alone in this and everyone knew that, so why wouldn't she let them shoulder her frustrations? He especially wanted to help her, to hold her close and tell her he will fix it all. But with one arm, Rapunzel behind bars, and watching Celestia, he couldn’t fix it. Eugene felt more angry at himself than anything else.

“You get a chance to get rid of him yet?” Eugene glared at Cass, not with hate toward her, but rage at the enemy. She saw the fury growing in his eyes. If she told him the truth, he would be outraged. She sighed and kept her eyes closed.

“No, he’s too aware,” She lied. Eugene hissed at the news. As his anger boiled, a tug at his jacket turned his attention. Celestia gave a sad look up to him.

“Can I see Mommy yet?” She asked. Eugene sighed and knelt down to her. He ran his hand over her soft hair and smiled.

“No, not yet, sweetheart...soon though, I promise,” Eugene kept a smile on as to not worry her. Celestia nodded with a frown. She didn’t know what was happening but was smart enough to know it was bad, very bad.

It hurt Eugene to see such a sad face on his usually cheerful daughter, but he couldn’t bring himself to tell her that Mommy was behind bars. Of course Rapunzel did nothing wrong, but, to a five year old, hearing or knowing something like that can be terrible... even traumatic. He couldn’t put her through that. He was already scared enough for Celestia’s well-being with the beasts running around, but realizing that Varian can also roam the halls with no supervision made Eugene feel even worse. He felt a strong knot tie up his stomach and he resisted the urge to grab at it.

“We need to talk with her today. We need a plan.” Cass spoke sternly and clear. She was ready for war. The weakness she felt last night was gone, at least for now. Eugene wanted to fight too but he knew now was not the time.

“Cass, we’ll talk about this later, let me go get Celestia’s lady in waiting and I’ll meet up with you and Rapunzel.” He took hold of Celestia’s hand and made his way down the hall. Cass sighed knowing this was going to get problematic.

 

Rapunzel stood at the door of her cell talking with Cass. Eugene walked in and the brunette’s attention shifted. Rapunzel smiled toward him, but it wasn’t a strong smile, nothing like her usual demeanor. There was worry and concern just beneath the surface.

“Celestia is with her lady in waiting right now, with guards following.” Eugene reassured Rapunzel. She let out a sigh of relief knowing her family was alright.  

The room fell silent, given that no one wanting to begin talking about the elephant in the room. Cass sighed and decided to take the heat.

“We need a plan, Raps. If you don't have anything in mind I can think of something.”

Rapunzel sighed as her gaze lowered. She knew they had to fight back. Staying quiet and accepting their current situation was not something they could do. It wasn’t fair to her family, friends or her people. The Queen looked up at her husband and saw the same look in his eyes. He was sad and afraid but she saw the way he held his fist; he wanted a fight. Eugene sighed.

“I want to stop him just as much as you do Cassandra, but I'm down an arm, and I can't risk getting Celestia in danger, or Varian lashing out on Rapunzel.”

Cass didn't mean for him to fight in his condition, but he can still be part of a long term plan.

“I'm not saying to take arms, I'm saying to lay low and attack from behind.” Cass gave a bit of an attitude to Eugene.

“That would be wonderful, but you yourself said he was too aware of his surroundings.” Eugene returned the tone.

“Well what do you suggest? You’re not his personal maid and I don't want to be stuck eating food for that brat for who-knows -how long!” Cass snapped.

“Eating food isn't a big deal, I have to make sure Celestia doesn't get hurt!” Eugene defended. Rapunzel saw this argument burst, she wanted to help both her friends but they seemed to disregard her voice while they argued. She began to get irritated to the point she pushed aside her friendly aspect, and her queen half surfaced.

“Silence at once!” She hollered. Both Eugene and Cass jolted at the shout. They stood back from the other with their arms crossed.

“Both of you argue a point. However, nothing good will come from being separated. We need to stick together.”

They both sighed knowing Rapunzel was right.

“What do you suggest?” Cass asked. Rapunzel took a deep breath to relax her mind.

“Eugene needs to heal and watch Celestia. It's up to you, Cass, to find a weak spot. Which means you need to establish trust.”

Cass waved her hands in defense. “Whoa whoa, you're saying I need to become friends with Varian in order to take him down?” She was not pleased by this. Rapunzel nodded knowing this would be Cassandra's toughest and most dangerous mission yet.

“Why me?! I want to kill him for what he’s done to us!” Cass complained, feeling cornered in this. She took a deep breathe, knowing how important this was for everyone. This was not just a request, it was an order from the rightful queen herself.

“But I know I need to.” Cass regained her composer. Rapunzel showed sympathy and gratefulness.

“I know this isn’t easy, and honestly I am about to make this a bit worse… I don’t want to kill him.” Rapunzel held a sorrowful look on her face.

“What?!” Both Cass and Eugene shouted in sync. They did not understand, they questioned Rapunzel on her methods and reasoning.

“For what I did to him in the past … We left him alone guys. He was just a child. Yes he has also done wrong by us, but… I only ask for a second chance.” Rapunzel held her hands close to her heart. She wanted to apologize to Varian for what she did, but also hoping he would understand too.

“He’s not the forgiving type, Raps.” Cass huffed. Rapunzel shook her head.

“I believe he’s changed, some way somehow he has.” The brunette smiled warmly. Cass was wide eyed at the way Rapunzel thought of Varian changing. Those words reminded her of the sad eyes he held. From the time she saw them first thing in the morning to even after he left the kitchen; they held such great suffering. She began to wonder if he had changed, if that sorrow in his eyes was also regret. Cass wanted to know.

“There you go again, trying to find the good in everyone.” Eugene sighed. It was a positive aspect about her he loved, but now was not time for this. Varian needed to be stopped. Though he couldn’t argue with her, she was as stubborn as an ox.

“Cass, this is all on you.” Eugene hummed with doubt. Cass hissed at his comment.

“Raps, your fathers laws remain yes?” Cass gave a serious look to her friend, she needed to realize this is not the time for redemption, it's a time for action. Rapunzel nodded. She held strong to her father's laws and codes, ever since his passing.

“Then as you know, the law states that anyone who comments the act of treason, is sentenced to death. Furthermore, an escaped criminal is also a crime punishable by a minimum of ten years in prison. And a military assault upon the crown, or coup d’etat, is also a crime punishable by beheading, or death on sight.” Cass made her point. Both Rapunzel and Eugene were astonished she recalled the laws so well. Cass was already in line to be the next Captain of the guards. Her father himself stated she would be his successor. Being able to memorize the laws of Corona was a simple task for Cass.

“Well, I think it’s settled then…” Eugene shrugged. Cass nodded.

“Raps, if you want to stay true to your fathers laws and codes, then Varian must die.” Cass did not show even the slightest bit of remorse, her eyes stared out like a cold dead abyss. Rapunzel sighed knowing what Cassandra stated was indeed the truth. Gripping tightly to the iron bars Rapunzel tried with all her might to come to an understanding, but no matter how hard she tried she only heard the pleading cry of young Varian as he begged her for help on that cold cruel day. All she could see was him now, walking alone and begging for help internally. She wasn’t able to help him then, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to turn her back again.

“No,” Rapunzel stood with pride. “I wasn’t able to help him back then, now I can. Do not kill him, only in an act of self defense can he be killed, but only if you have no way of escape.” She placed that as an order on Cass and Eugene.  They gave each other a look knowing this was going to be difficult.

“Cass, this is your mission: Gain the trust of Varian and get him to let his guard down, then we will imprison him.” Rapunzel held her stance as she spoke, this was final. Cass nodded and kept her anger inside. She wanted to abide by Rapunzel's rules, but she also wanted to get rid of this problem child for good. Cass decided to go ahead with a plan of her own, hoping that maybe she could corner him and just say she had no way of escape when he attacked. Though it would not be easy.

Once Cass left, Eugene looked at Rapunzel with worry. He saw how stressed she was being trapped in here. He came closer to the cell and reached in to caress her cheek. Rapunzel smiled as she held his hand.

“Celestia really wants to see you.” Eugene kept a low voice, with all the yelling earlier it was needed.

“I’m sure she does… but wait a bit longer, she needs some time to adjust to the situation.”

“Alright, and don’t worry about us, nothing will happen to her or me, just take care of yourself.” Eugene smiled to her. Rapunzel was grateful and gave a hum in agreement. Eugene pulled her closer and was able to give her a kiss on the forehead.

“Stay safe sunshine, I’ll stop by in a bit.” He held on to her hand as he walked away to check on Celestia. Rapunzel didn’t want him to go, but he had too. Once the door closed Rapunzel’s tears fell. She slowly dropped to her knees. She feared for her love and child, she sent her best friend on a possible suicide mission, but most of all her kingdom was in danger. She’s never felt more helpless then now. Rapunzel wiped away her tears and stood. She needed to keep thinking on ways to help her kingdom even though she was trapped in here. Thankfully, the day she was imprisoned, Cass and Eugene brought her blankets and pillows, along with some books and drawing supplies. Going over to her bed she grabbed her notebook and began taking notes.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

A True King



The following day Cass had walked along the halls making sure all the guards were in the right places, and aware. Everything seemed to check out as she did her rounds, except one rather important thing.

Varian was gone again.

Knowing the current mission, she wanted to know where he goes, know every movement, every hiding spot, every second of the day, so she could keep an eye on him. She made her way around to the throne room, but he wasn’t there. When she tried the kitchen, she found it also empty. Finally she tried Nigel and asked him where the boy absconded to. He told her that he left the castle and was walking along the town.

“You just let him loose!” Cass hollered and then groaned in frustration. She felt her torso tensing as thoughts whirled in her head of Varian hurting the people of the kingdom. He’s been gone a long time, who knew the kind of tortures he could perform now.

She stormed off to find the brat and found the town was active with people of all kinds, merchants and marketers, artists and artisans, and townsfolk about. Her mood softened slightly at the sight of them, still going about their happy business even with a tyrant at the throne but she kept her mission in mind. Cass looked around for the dark haired boy through the crowd, standing up on the tips of her toes or ducking around wagons full of hay and other goods. But he was not near any venues or in any shops. Cass then asked Monty, but he hadn’t seen him, then asked anyone in the Snuggly Duckling. She wasn’t surprised to find out they hadn’t seen him either. She was beginning to lose hope off finding him at the usual places criminals and the like would go too.

Cass sighed having searched for some time now. She was beginning to grow tired and with the sun now in the middle of the sky, it was beginning to grow hot. She leaned against a tree by her and slid down until she was sitting on the still cool ground, protected by shadow. She wanted to make sure this unstable alchemist stayed within sight so he did not do anything drastic. Cass wondered where he could have vanished too. She then heard a familiar voice off in the distance. It was the local cobbler, Feldspar. She got up and decided to give it one more shot and see if this fellow had seen Varian.

“Hey, have you seen Varian around?” Cass asked the man. Feldspar turned, somewhat shocked that someone who be speaking to him but greeted Cass kindly all the same.

“Ya know, I have actually!” He said with enthusiasm. Cass let out a breath of relief and asked if he could point the way.

“Sure! He went to old man Widder’s Farm.” He said as he pointed to the field. Cass thanked the cobbler and headed down that path.

Walking up she could hear the sound of a hammer against wood, it sounded high up, perhaps in a hayloft or on a roof. As she got closer she could see two people sitting on the roof of the barn. Cass wondered if Varian was still here or if she had continued this wild goose chase for nothing. ‘ Perhaps I should just go back to the castle. He’s probably back there anyway if I haven’t found him out here,’ she thought with exhaustion. The sun was really beginning to beat down on the woman. Getting closer, though, she realized it was Varian on the roof. He was fixing it with an older gentlemen. Cass was befuddled by this sight as she approached the far side.

“What are you doing?” She shouted, trying to keep the breath in her voice. The shock seemed almost too much for her. Varian? Doing something good? Unspeakable.

Varian lifted his goggles and looked down.

“What do you think I’m doing?” Varian gave a snarky comment back, holding his hammer up and turning it like a baton in his hand. Cass placed her hands on her hips showing she did not appreciate the attitude, especially after having to search for him all morning with the burning sun and smelling strangers.

“Keep that up and I’ll come up there and push you off myself!” She snapped. Even though he knew the threat was real, and she probably couldn’t wait to act on it, he couldn’t help but laugh at how she said it. Cass hissed at how he found her threat laughable. She found herself tapping her foot without being fully aware of doing it.

“I was wandering the town when Mr. Widder needed some assistance fixing his

roof,” Varian explained. Cass was still at a loss as to why Varian would do such a thing.

“Why not get the town roofer to do it for you?” Cass asked. Varian sighed and shrugged.

“I was bored, so thought this would fill in some time.” Varian slid his goggles back on and continued to work.

 

The sun was starting to set by the time Varian and Mr. Widder came down from the barn roof. Mrs. Widder came out with a tray of food and water.

“Here you go, some refreshments.” She smiled. Varian thanked the kind women.

“Thank you for helping me fix my barn roof.” Mr. Widder said with a friendly pat on Varian’s shoulder.  

“No problem, glad I could help,” Varian said kindly and took another bite from the cookie Mrs. Widder had made them.

He said his farewells after finishing his drink and cookies and began to head back to the castle. Cass had been leaning against the barn in the shade, waiting for Varian to be done. When she finally saw him leaving, she ran up to him.

“What is with you?” Cass huffed. Varian looked at her with an unimpressed stare.

“I can’t help out a man with his work?” Varian asked rhetorically. Cass however took it literally and began saying that the king isn’t supposed to help the people personally, he gets the others to do it for him. Varian gave a heavy sigh to this and began walking faster.

“Hey, don’t you ignore me!” Cass hollered. She matched his pace and kept pestering him.

“If you wanted to be king so bad why are you not taking advantage of it? What is going on with you? Why are you even here?!” Cass shouted. Varian stopped, a nerve had been touched and Cass could almost feel it. He turned to face Cass directly. She felt towered over by him but tried to keep a strong stance. The dark glare she received was horrifying. She could tell he was getting irritated by her questioning and lecturing. Her breathing was heavy with a bit of fear as to what he may do, but she looked closer; his face said anger, but his eyes still had sorrow in them. The distraught look was even more confusing.

‘Why are his eyes always so sad?’ She asked herself. Relaxing a bit after making the realization, she shook her head.

“I don’t understand you” Cass whispered, somewhat to herself but that didn’t stop her king from hearing it. Varian had a slight twitch to his eyes.

“Of course you don’t. We’re not friends.” With that he turned and marched his way back to the castle. Cass stood in shock as the evening wind blew by. She gazed at his back, at him walking away. That energy he held was the same as before when he stormed out to the riot of people in the castle square. However, what struck her so deep was the words he used. They were her own words, what she had said to him yesterday. Cass took a deep breathe, she needed to focus. Her mission was getting nowhere with this attitude. Though she was rather frustrated by this, she had to put on a friendly demeanor in order to proceed with the mission. She decided to check on Rapunzel to let the heat settle between her and Varian.

 

Rapunzel had made a list of things for everyone in the castle to do. When Cassandra entered she told her the things that needed to be done.

“Please make sure that the people are tended to, and that the treasure is secure, don’t let Varian touch it.” Rapunzel strictly pointed out. Cass sighed and was lost in thought. Rapunzel saw the perplexed face on her friend and found it rather confusing.

“Are you alright?” Rapunzel asked. Cass looked up being snapped back into reality.

“Sorry, It’s just… Varian has been doing just fine with the people. He’s met all their needs and has even took time out of his day to help them himself. I haven’t seen him once use treasure.”

Rapunzel was astonished to hear such words. It caused great fear in her heart. ‘What if the people end up preferring him over me as ruler?’  The thought ran through her whole body as she felt an unfamiliar feeling; Anxiety.

“He has?” She asked with a shaky voice. Cass realized Rapunzel's change and knew it was from her previous comment. Not wanting to let her friend suffer, Cass waved her hands in panic.

“Whoa, hold on now, he’s still an ass to people, and everyone still fears him. They all trust you Raps, not him.” She reassured. Rapunzel was glad to hear this and calmed her nerves. She was pleased to hear that her people were well cared for, but still concerned for their safety.

“Has Varian threatened anyone?” Rapunzel asked with worry.

“Other than him being alive, no.” Cass responded with a snarky comment. She mentioned how Varian seemed to be acting strangely, how he is very distant and seems to push people away. They knew it was from the trauma of his past, the boy was left alone for who knows how long, and on top of that he was orphaned at the age of fourteen. He had known what the love of a family is like, and he lost it all. They knew the pain he must have felt was immense, but, even though he has had such a difficult past, it does not condone his current actions. Cass still found this behavior odd. She did not mention to Rapunzel the sad look in Varian’s eyes. She wanted to figure that part out herself.

Cass began explaining to Rapunzel how she is trying really hard not to shank Varian in the back. He is irritating and is over all annoying her to the fullest. Killing him would make this whole scenario increasingly easier, but Rapunzel still held to her word. She understood this was by far not an easy task. She praised Cass for even accepting such a job, and thanked her for doing everything in her power not to kill Varian.

“I don’t want to play nice.” Cass huffed. She hated having to put on an act. Rapunzel thought for a moment.

“I don’t think you need to,” She pointed out. “If you suddenly show kindness and compassion to him, he will know something is up. I think if you continue to be who you are - without the stabby side - Varian will not suspect.” Rapunzel shrugged. Cass also agreed, it made sense. Thankful that she didn’t have to put on an act, Cass began thinking of ways to get Varian cornered. Then door to the dungeons opened and Eugene walked in with some food. Cass thanked Rapunzel for talking and let the two of them be for a bit.

Cassandra was assigned as a personal guard to Varian, by him, but for someone who ordered this, he had quite the habit of disappearing. She was able to find him rather quickly this time thanks to the other guards. She entered the library where she found him immersed in a book. He seemed to be deep in thought with his hand on his chin and a scowl directed at the book. Cass found it odd how he held this stance. She cleared her throat but he did not stir. Walking up she looked to see what kind of tale he was reading.

“Medicinal Remedies for Health.” the book read. Cass was stumped. “You’re an Alchemist, so why bother in herbs?”

“Science takes many forms, though yes, Alchemy has its specific laws, I do tend to explore other areas.” Varian responded still reading the book.

“Why health?” She tried to read his face, but he was still in the thinking pose. He then seemed to have a moment  of realization.

“Hold this.” He said handing the book to Cass. She grabbed it before it fell and closed. She was none to pleased with how he just dropped it and didn’t bother handing. Even asking for her to hold it would have been better. Varian grabbed another book and flipped through it. Looking at the page he brought it over to the other book. It looked like he was comparing and contrasting the two. Cass held the book outward so he wouldn’t get too close to her in order to read it. Last thing she wanted was her personal space invaded. He scanned the book Cass was holding, flipped a page in the other, then Slammed it shut.

“Got it!” He shouted. He grabbed the other book and place both back on the shelf.

“Got what?” Cassandra asked. She wanted to know what he was going to do.

‘Is he making a poison?’ was her first thought. ‘A weapon?’ the thoughts kept going as she unintentionally began following Varian. The questions made her worry for the safety of her friends. If he was making a weapon, or some sort of poison, it would most likely be used on them as a test.

“Where are you going?” Cass asked as she tried to keep pace with Varian. He did not respond.

“What are you doing?” Cass wanted to get a reaction, to see if he would reveal any information. Varian rolled his eyes.

“How about instead of asking questions, you follow me and find out for yourself?” He suggested with great irritation in his voice. Cass frowned at his response. She kept her mouth closed as she followed him into town.

He stopped at a few shops, picking up some random things. Cass kept it all in a list.

‘Ginger root, lemon, cloves, honey, and water.’ She was wondering why he needed all these fresh spices. They came to a small house in town and he knocked on the door. A middle aged women answered and invited them in.

Cass looked around, they are lower class people, they are the definition of poor. Varian hastened his pace to the far side of the house. Cass peered over the shoulders of the family and saw Varian was kneeling near a bed with a sick child lying in it. The young boy looked deathly ill.

Varian began doing what he came here for. He pulled from his bag a mortar and pestle and grinded up the ginger root. He told the mother to heat up the water he brought. Cass watched him work with awe. He knew exactly what he was doing. She felt a bit of anger in her for thinking he was plotting the demise of everyone with the knowledge he gathered. Instead he was helping a child in need. She hated this beyond reason. These people are poor, they could barely afford clothes, let alone a doctor. Yet Varian went out of his way to study a remedy to help the sick boy, and even prepare it himself. She felt the same rage as she did before, that boiling feeling. She wanted him gone, he needed to disappear. He is the villain, the bad guy, the evil mastermind behind it all, but this... Cass clenched her fist. She was mad at herself once again for feeling that pitiful emotion of regret. His humanity shown once more and had reminded her of why she hesitated to kill him that night.

As she was self loathing, Varian had prepared a cup of tea. The boy had a cold, and his throat was swelling up. He had not eaten in over a day from pain when he swallowed. Varian helped the boy sit up as he handed him the tea. The child was afraid to consume anything with a sore throat, but the hot herbal tea went down smoothly, giving such a soothing feeling.

The boy smiled and continued to drink. Varian was glad to see the child felt better with the tea. He returned to the table full of roots and herbs he used and poured them into the jar of honey stirring it in. He screwed on the lid and handed it to the parents.

He explained how honey is a natural preservative - it never spoils- it may crystalize, but it does not go bad. The honey would keep the herbs and roots fresh for tea, and the sweet treat would also help the boy’s throat heal. He gave them strict instructions as he rummaged through his bag and pulled out a small vial with little capsule like things. They were clear, but red in color.

“This is a new thing i’ve made. I took white willow bark and was able to extract its pain relieving properties and condense it. This is a small dosage per pill, however, do not, under any circumstance give him more then two a day, or on an empty stomach!” Varian made himself very clear. He explained the boy would need to swallow the small capsule in order for it to work. The parents seemed a bit skeptical and seemed rather worried.

“As long as you follow my words exactly, there is no harm.” he reassured. They thanked him and Varian made his way out of the house. Cass followed along with anger in her eyes. She wanted to stab him in the back while he walked, to just leap forward and destroy this beast before her. As she kept forcing her anger onto him, she felt distraught. It caused the war to form again.

Back when he was young, Varian only wanted to make life better, but he was a kid and did not know much. Now, Cass is seeing all the hard work he has done to do what he’s always wanted; to help others. She sighed knowing these past six years has changed him, and perhaps even taught him how to grow. Though he still is in the wrong with his current actions, the knowledge and wisdom he’s acquired over the years is greater than Cass imagined.

‘Maybe I should hear him out?’ Cass wondered to herself. The way Varian was acting now was not like how he did when he was younger. His anger always got the best of him and he would lash out in harsh ways, but earlier when he got upset with her, he walked away. She took the opportunity to continue this mission and see if he would answer some questions on his favorite subject.

“So what was that pill thing?” Cass asked with a concerned but slightly irritated voice as to not seem like she is suddenly interested in the subject. Varian looked at her with surprised confusion.

“You want to know about that?”

“I just want to make sure your not feeding them poison.” Cass snapped. Varian scoffed at the comment.

“Trust me, even if it was, I could make sound like gold.” He bragged. Cass rolled her eyes at how he bragged at his ability to lie.

“Don’t flatter yourself, I can tell when someone is lying.” Cass pointed a finger at him. She is trained as a guard in interrogation, so she did know a lot on how people lie.

“Did you know pasta was discovered in bamboo shoots on april first nine years ago?” Varian started with a straight face. Cass tried her damnedest but what he said was outright ridiculous. she burst out in laughter.

“You’re an idiot, aren't you?!” She shouted while laughing. Varian chuckled too.

“I’m glad you caught on to that joke.” He smiled. Both him and Cass glance at each other as they realized they had shared a laugh. Varian did not know how to react. He took a deep breath feeling a bit awkward and gave a side smile as he looked away from her. Cass on the other hand felt vexation. She had truly laughed at what he said, it was not an act. She was already mad at herself for feeling regret, but now she is feeling comfort. She scowled in anger letting her inner feelings be shown outward. She was looking to the ground in rage when she heard him sigh. Looking up saw he was turned away with a smile, his long hair falling over his face, obscuring it slightly. Though he was taller now, he still looked really young. He still looked like the boy he once was six year ago. Cass sighed and regained herself. She needed to stay focused. She needed to get close in order to take him down. If she can establish trust then she wins this battle.

She cleared her throat and changed the subject. “So, how did you get all those ingredients? Where did you get the money?” Cass asked trying to see if Varian was actually taking advantage of being king and using the royal treasure.

“I didn’t.” He stated as he continued his way back into town. Cass was lost.

“Then you stole them?” She was greatly irritated now, she saw the shop keep hand him the items, what if he had threatened them, or lied to them? She stood her ground once more.  

“No, I offered my services to them. As one could say, its a form of trade.” Varian seemed to keep his cool even though Cass was heated up by her anger. He noticed she seemed more defensive and very curious lately. It kinda annoyed him, but he had to go along with it; last thing he wanted was to have to fight her.

“What?” She asked more in astonishment then confusion.  “What can you even offer?” She scoffed. Varian smiled and turned to face her as they kept walking. He held up his hands as if he was showing them off.  

“These as my tools, I can do anything I need too.”  He stated as he regained his posture while holding a prideful smile on. Cass pouted not being impressed. Though she wanted to find a counter argument, he was right. Today alone he has rebuilt a barn roof, saved a sick child from possible starvation, and is now heading into town to return the services to the merchants and shopkeepers he traded with. Cass wanted to be mad with him, to just tell him to stop or go away, the day was getting worse and worse for her. Each time he did a good deed, it only made her regretful feeling grow stronger. She didn’t know why it grew so much. She understood that the past was a jumble of wrong for everyone, but why could she not bring herself to stop this regretful feeling, especially if she knew that the past can’t be fixed.

‘Why?! Why is he being so kind and compassionate?!” Cass screams internally at the sight of this.

She followed him for the rest of the day. Seeing him work with the people of Corona. He helped the shopkeep with moving heavy bags, helped the merchant load up carts, cooked some food for the elderly women who owned the bee hives, helped some kids get home before dark, and even helped replace a window in a shop. Varian was building, helping, and without using alchemy nor the treasure. These acts of kindness and hard work had showed Cass more about who Varian has become in these few years, than anything he’s done before. That day he ran off made her question everything; was it a good thing? Was it bad? Why couldn't he just be the bad guy? Why did he have to be nice? So many questions popped into her head that she wanted to scream. Wondering if her actions of letting him get away was the best thing or the worst. Had she gone after him he wouldn’t have the chance to be here now, but had he still been a prisoner, he would have been executed. Wondering why he couldn’t just have anger in his eyes instead of sadness, why he couldn't show that anger again. To her seeing that rage he had as a child would be easier for her to understand, to twist and manipulate. This kind, caring, and empathetic Varian was not who she knew, not someone she could kill for the kingdom. She felt her whole body heat up, she felt her stomach tighten like she was on a runaway carriage. The up and down feeling was causing her mind and body to panic. She felt a lump in the back of her throat form like she was ready to puke. She walked along the path feeling this swirling concoction of emotions fester inside. Her eyes locked onto Varian’s back like he had a target painted on him. If she stared any harder, she could light him on fire.

At the end of the day Varian flopped on the throne, he was beat. Cass was ordered to bring him some food and of course did her job and tasted everything. She had tried repeatedly to calm herself, but her body would not listen. She felt so much rage and confusion in herself she was starting to shake just slightly.  

“Today was eventful.” Varian said with a full mouth. Cass remained silent as she glared at him. When no response came he looked to see what might be the issue, the glare gave him a slight jolt. He did notice she had gone quite a while back, no snarky comments, no questions or concerns, she just went mute. Varian swallowed the food in his mouth with a bit of fear.

“You okay?” He asked concerned. Cass had enough. That question, for no reason, made the emotional soup stirring inside boil over. She quickly pulled her dagger and launched at him with speed. The metal tray of food clanked to the ground as Varian barely dodged the jab. Cass ended up stabbing the throne as Varian scrambled out of the chair like a trapped dog, falling onto his back. Cassandra did not waste a moment and gripped the dagger with both hands as she came down toward his head. Varian was pinned as he held her arms back, the dagger only an inch away from his face. They were locked. Varian had to use all his strength to keep her back, and Cass the same. She wanted him gone. She looked down at his face, seeing the nervous sweat run down his cheek. His arms shaking from terror and resistance. Then his eyes, she was ready to finally see that rage, that anger he had in his eyes back then. There was no way he couldn’t be mad now. That hate he had would bring this dagger down with ease, just to see it once. Fear. In shock she began to relax, his eyes held immense distress. His bangs and hair falling wildly on his face made him look like a petrified child. Cass felt it again, that feeling of regret. It was so frustrating. She looked away and closed her eyes tightly.

Why?! Why does he have to look like the victim?!” She wanted to scream out her anger, her frustration, her sadness. She felt weaker beyond compare. Varian saw this hesitation and took advantage. He pushed her off and grabbed her arms pinning her down, the dagger slid across the floor.

“NO!” Cass cried with all her might. She kept shouting in denial, kept kicking and struggling to get loose, but he held her down.

“Damn you!” She shouted to him. Varian was breathing heavy from the shock and adrenaline. He was shaking from the whole ordeal. Cass stopped struggling but felt more like a child then ever. She was trapped and unable to get free. She wanted to cry for once.

“I’m sorry.”

Her heart skipped a beat at those words. She looked up to see such a sad face, eyes on the brink on tears. He seemed sincere.

“I’m sorry for all the pain I put you through…” An apology. A real apology from him. What she couldn’t understand was why. Why would he say it to her now of all times? why to her? What would he be sorry to her for? If anyone it should be Rapunzel he apologizes to.  All Cass is to blame for is not going to look for him, or chasing after him. Not helping him, being more compassionate when he lost his father. Cass felt horrible for delivering the news of his father passing; the way she said it. She gritted her teeth as she held back her own tears from forming. She did not like this, she did not let her emotions get out of control this easily so why now? Why is he the cause of this?

‘Why?!’ Cass shouted internally. She needed answers, but who to turn too? Everyone had their own weight to burden, especially now, so who, who can answer her questions, if not herself or Varian can? She wanted it to stop, to all go away. He apologized like a normal human with feelings. He can’t feel, he needs to be the bad guy, the one who is numb to everything. He needed to leave, Cass wanted him gone.

“If you’re sorry then leave!” She shouted. Varian swallowed the lump in his throat. It hurt to hear that. Sure he knows they are mad at his current actions, but he just apologized, and it looks like Cass doesn't even care he did. He’s held in those words for years, and finally said it to her, did she not accept it? Besides that, he was here for a reason. If he truly could just walk away, he wouldn't have done the things he did.

“I...I can’t.”

“There you go again! ‘I can’t, I must, I have no choice!’ You really haven’t changed have you!?” Cass shouted in his face, letting her distraught feeling push its way out. She was now ready to fight again. She stopped shaking with question and shook with anger.

Varian was silent for a moment as he seemed to hold back tears at the realization. “I… I guess not…” Varian sighed. He released his hold on Cassandra and got up. He casually walked over to grab the dagger. Cass shot up to her feet, ready for him to attack, but he did not. Instead he handed her the blade. Looking at the dagger she felt her inner gate close, once again locking in her emotions. Shakily she took it in question, looking up at him with great confusion. As her eyes met his, she saw the defeated, dull gaze. The same exact stare he had when he received the news years ago, when she told him the heartbreaking truth about his father. Varian staggered back, as if gravity around him had shifted. He slowly began to make his way to the exit.

Cass watched him drag his feet, holding his head down, as if she had just told a child to go to their room. She did not understand anything. She had just attacked him, but he returned the weapon and turned his back to her, as if thinking she wouldn’t try it again.

‘Did he just give up?’ She thought, was he inviting a second attempt? She held the dagger loose in her hand, her anger was gone. The eyes she saw reminded her of that day, that feeling, that boy he was before everything went down. She almost killed him, that boy from old Corona, the little alchemist they couldn’t help, she almost killed him. She needed to change her thoughts, her body was reacting negatively to her current mindset.

‘Think, think… anything!’ she screamed to herself. She recalled the villagers, the smiles they had, the sick boy who looked beyond grateful for help. Seeing the people have such a positive reaction to Varian’s assistance made her mind switch to her earlier question.

“Why…” Cass whispered. Varian stopped hearing her talk. He wanted to leave the room after what he was told, to just get away from human interaction for a bit, but his curiosity never ends as he waited for her to finish.

“Why help the people? They serve you, so why?”  Cass asked finally getting to the question she had earlier today. Asking made her shaking slightly subside, but she feared a response for some reason. Her own internal voice was screaming in anticipation. Varian gave a slight smile, not at her question, but at what she didn’t know. He sighed as he turned, showing to her once again his sad, distant eyes.

“That’s where you’re wrong. A true king has, and always will be, a servant of the people.” He turned and left. The door closed with an echo as Cass slid to the floor. Her legs unable to hold her up. She was shaking vigorously and uncontrollably for some reason and she couldn’t stop it. She hated this feeling and not knowing what it was called, why she was having it, and not knowing how to get rid of it. She saw his eyes again, that look, that painful feeling of utter despair. Her self loathing re-emerged as she gripped her arms, hoping they would stop shaking. She almost killed him, the boy they forgot about, the child they couldn’t save, a friend they lost. She was so close to getting rid of him, saving Corona, freeing Rapunzel, and forgetting about his existence once again... but yet she still shakes, she still feels regret.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

Eugene’s Nightmare

 

Giggling was echoing through the halls as Celestia trotted happily down the stone way. She was playing tag with her father, Eugene. She would turn the corner and peek around to see how close he was and then sprint off again when he got too close.

“I’m gonna get you!” Eugene shouted playfully while he jogged after her with a monkey like pose. Celestia gave a high pitched giggle and hid behind a curtain. Her excited breathing kept pushing the curtain, clearly showing that she was behind it.

“I’m gonna-!” Eugene turned the corner but didn’t see her running, though all it took was a quick glance around to see where she hid. 

“I wonder where Celestia went?” He said in a playful tone, continuing to eye the shuttering curtain. Celestia thought he was being serious and giggled to herself. I found the best spot! She thought to herself with such glee. She decided to sneak a look out from behind the curtain and watched as her father checked under the table, even going as far as to lift up the vase on it and check underneath. Then, he turned, causing Celestia to quickly fling the curtain back over.

Eugene tiptoed forward to the curtain, a hand extended outward. Then he grabbed the curtain, flung it open and shouted, “Found you!” He gently grabbed a hold of his daughter, or at least as best as he could with one broken arm and gave her many, many kisses.  

Celestia laughed, “Your beard tickles!”.

“Oh really?” Eugene chuckled as he then rubbed his chin on her face tickling her again. She was laughing and trying to get away. 

“Stop tickles!” She giggled. Eugene let go, but held her hand so she didn’t dart off. Even with only one good arm, he was glad to still be able to play games with his little girl. Celestia had a lot of energy and wanted to play constantly. Recently with his injury Eugene has been very tired and in a good amount of pain. He rests when he can, but having to watch Celestia all day now is taking its toll. 

The little one knew something was wrong, and that her father was hurt, but being only five, she didn’t understand the danger of what was going on. Eugene wanted to keep that hidden from his little girl...for as long as he was able. She had a smile on most of the time, having that disappear would crush both him and Rapunzel. He did his absolute best to keep her entertained and happy.

“Kenn we play owside?” Celestia asked. Eugene looked and saw the sun was getting low, but it wasn't quite dusk yet. 

“Not today.” Eugene sighed. Celestia looked down with a pout. She wanted to play in the dirt and run around with the other kids of the town. Eugene squeezed Celestia’s hand and gave her a loving smile. 

“I need to rest for a bit, so let's take a nap.” He explained. Celestia didn’t want to, but followed along.

When the pair arrived to Eugene’s room, Celestia climbed onto the bed, followed by Eugene. He sat down then spun himself so that once he laid down, his head would hit right on the pillows. Celestia laid down next to him and waited. She wasn’t tired but, since she knew her Dad was, all she had to do was wait. It didn’t take long for snores to escape her father’s mouth and finally Celestia would be able to roam on her own. And she first thing she wanted to do with her adventure, was to get a snack. As she made her way to the kitchen, she skipped down the halls and played in her imagination.

She twirled around pretending to be a ballerina, the best of the best, on stage performing. She imagined the curtains opening wide and rows upon rows of people all looking at her, waiting for the show to begin. The budding performer began to dance and stride and jump and twirl down the hallway, much to the amaze of all her adoring fans. Then, as the final move approached, she readied her stance to give her fans a big finish when the stage faded away and she found herself in front of a portrait of her mother. The little girl missed her so much. Celestia could feel a slight tear welling up in her eye and her lips began to quiver. She had no clue where her mommy was, or why she had gone. Ever since her father was injured and the strange man appeared, her mother vanished.

Then, while thinking about her mother, Celestia remembered her Mom’s favorite cookies and decided that she would make mommy’s favorite cookies. Then maybe she would appear at the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. She took off for the kitchen excited and ready to get started. She was running so fast and so thrilled to bake she was not watching where she was going. The small girl crashed into someone as she fell back on her butt. Looking up she saw the strange man towering over her. His face had goggles on. They scared her as the cogs turned on their own. His long dark hair over his face gave him a demonic look to the child. The scowl on his face showed he was displeased with her. He took a step toward her and the thud of his heavy boot made Celestia wince in fear. 

Meanwhile, Eugene woke from his nap, still exhausted and in pain. His arm was throbbing, causing pressure and irritation. Moving at all would often cause a sharp stab coursing through him. He swallowed the pain down as he looked to his side ready to see a sleeping child, but the spot he last saw her was empty. He felt his chest tighten as his heart picked up in pace. ‘Where did she go?’ without a second thought, he leaped out of the bed and began looking around the room for her. She did not answer his calls, nor did he see her. He checked her room, she wasn’t there. Eugene swallowed the lump in his throat as he turned to the door, and began sprinting down the halls to find Celestia. 

Eugene felt the world around stretch on into infinity as he looked down each hall. He called for her, yelled her name, but no response came. He checked the library, he checked the dining room, he checked each closet and bedroom, and every hiding spot she ever used. He still had yet to find her. His breathing escalated to the point he was hyperventilating. His heart was pumping faster and faster. His eyes darted around hoping to find her safe and unharmed. 

Rounding another corner his body was beginning to shake, his legs began to buckle. He was in agony from running so much. His arm was pulsing from being tense. He had run just about everywhere. Then, he heard her. As if she had fallen down; that little ‘oof’ sound she makes. Eugene took off and found her shaking at the foot of Varian. 

Eugene kept still, as if seeing a wild tiger with its fangs bared, claws out, and ready to pounce at its kill. He stood with wide worried eyes, hoping Varian didn't try anything. Eugene felt his stomach in his throat as he waited for a reaction, but when Varian remained still, eyes on him, he moved forward. He quickly knelt down to his daughter to see if she was alright. The scared girl wrapped her arms around her father, thankful he came to her aid. Varian then moved by shifting his staff, and looking away.

“Choose to listen or not, but don't let the little ones run around at dusk alone. My chimeras are patrolling.” Varian spoke clearly and bold. Eugene hissed under his breath. 

“You have no control over your own creations, you never have.” Eugene pointed out with a bit of confidence. Varian didn't appreciate the jab to his pride, but he swallowed his irritation and began to walk on.

“Though loyal to me, they still are wild animals; nothing is more thrilling to them than a hunt.” Varian waved, as he was soon out of sight. Eugene was glad Celestia was alright. He looked at her tear stained face and held her close. 

“Don't worry I won't let anything or anyone hurt you.”

“Pawmis?” Celestia asked with a sniff. 

“I promise.” Eugene smiled. He made this promise ages ago, but this is the first time he’s saying it outloud to Celestia. He wished he could pick her up and carry her to the room, but with only one arm it wasn't possible. She was getting bigger, and things were already starting to change with her. Eugene noticed how she's starting to get an attitude recently, she's able to pick up on things rather quickly, and already knows how to read on her own. He’s amazed by her development already.  Even though she had gotten bigger, she is still small, and very young. Hearing what Varian said to him just now made his worst fears a reality. 

Getting back to the room, he placed Celestia in her bed this time, and pulled the covers up. 

“Stay in bed this time, don’t ever leave without me.” Eugene held a calm, but serious face. Celestia nodded.

“Okay.”  

Eugene gave her a kiss on the forehead and gave one final tuck in before heading out. He quietly closed the door and tiptoed to the exit. Once in the hallway he relaxed. He was sneaking away to go see Rapunzel, and didn't want Celestia to follow. 

Rapunzel was looking up at her window seeing the sky darken and the stars starting to show. She wanted to be able to see the sun set and the beauty of the night sky drape across the horizon, as far as the eye can see. The small section of the window was not enough. She closed her sketchbook and looked around her cell. She decided to read the new book she just received.   

She then heard the door to the dungeons open as she saw a very exhausted Eugene. He greeted Rapunzel and they talked for a bit about Celestia and the mission assigned to basically everyone, but more so Cassandra. The brunette was glad to hear her family is still safe, she worried for them each day. Eugene in particular, with his injury it would be difficult to handle a child alone. Especially one as young as Celestia. Eugene hid his agony from Rapunzel the best he could. A stabbing feeling coursed through his arm and whole body. It felt as though all his nerves were attacking him. It’s what he gets for running like he did, but no matter the pain he felt, he’d do it again if it meant keeping his family safe. 

 Eugene then saw Rapunzel had a new book. At the mention of it Rapunzel perked up.

“Oh right! Varian came here not to long before you.”  Rapunzel pointed out. Eugene however felt the air leave his lungs. He didn’t think Varian would ever come down here. He saw the kid not to long ago, and seemed rather upset. Perhaps just at Celestia wandering alone, or perhaps something else happened.

“What did he do?” Eugene asked keeping as calm as he can. Rapunzel gave a shrug as she told Eugene how Varian only came down with a new book for her. Eugene was beyond confused.

“He walked in, said ‘thought you might be bored’ and walked out.” Rapunzel kept a surprised but confused look on as Eugene was still processing the information. 

“Why-?” Eugene couldn’t finish his thought. They both did not understand this kid at all. It frustrated Eugene, but it made Rapunzel a bit distraught. She thought Varian as a friend before everything went to hell in a handbasket, but they did not know anything about each other. Now that he has returned, and is older, the knowledge they had of him then, is no longer relevant. He has become a stranger once again. 

They both sigh feeling distraught. Eugene looks to her with concern, seeing her sad and stressed expressions. He wanted to cheer her up, to take all her burdens and put them on him, all the weight she is carrying thrown on his shoulders instead. He hates seeing her suffer so much. He takes a deep breath and knows she won’t do something like that, all he can do is help lighten the load a bit. He got closer to the cell door and reaches in cupping Rapunzel's cheek. He wanted to kiss her so bad, but the cell bars made it awkward. He pushed his forehead against the bars and looked at her eyes. The feeling that rushed through him was strong. Looking deep into her eyes, seeing every little detail, looking at her lips, seeing the tint of color and soft skin, her cheeks blushed with a natural color, her brown hair falling perfectly on her face. With a deep breath he smiled; he loved her very much. 

Rapunzel felt the warmth of his hand, the gentle touch he had with her, and the way his eyes showed what he was thinking made her smile with pure joy. He was always by her side when she needed him most. She was grateful to Eugene for everything. The loving look he gave her now told her all the things in his heart. He wanted her to feel safe and loved, to know he is here for her and anything she may need. She placed her hand over his and took the moment in. She missed him, being able to hold him close, to feel his warmth and strength. Looking back up to him she could see he did as well. 

“Get some rest sunshine, and please be safe.” Eugene spoke low, as to not let the moment fade. Rapunzel nodded.

“You too. Thank you, Eugene.” 

    Leaving was always the hardest thing to do, but he needed to get back to Celestia. As Eugene walked through the halls he thought long and hard about how Varian justs waltz into the dungeons for the simple act of dropping off a book. It bothered him how he did this without anyone noticing. If he really wanted to he could take Rapunzel away and no one would have noticed until it was too late. Eugene shook his head. That was a lie. He would hear her being terrorized by him or the beasts. Cass would stop him too, it is her responsibility to keep an eye on him, well his too, but mainly his focus is on Celestia. 

    Rounding the corner Eugene suddenly looked up to see movement ahead. He saw the lion monster once again. This time however, its mouth was covered in blood. It made eye contact with Eugene as it licked its mouth, revealing its long sharp fang. It was unsettling, but even more frightening when Eugene realized the beast was walking away from the hall where the door to Celestia’s room is. His heart skipped a beat as he ran to his room and bursts through the connecting door to Celestia's room. He ran to her bed and saw she wasn’t there. 

    Eugene tried to gasp for air but the pain and fear he felt was so great. He started to shake, fearing the worst. His eyes began to water as he turned to see if the door had been opened. When he did, relief swept over him. Celestia had fallen asleep at her tea set table. Eugene could feel his weakened legs as the shaking settled. He walked over and tried to think of a way to get her in bed. Giving a chuckle all he could do was carry her like a football. He got her back into bed, tucked her in, and gave her another kiss goodnight. 

    He was still slightly shaking from the scare as he crawled into bed and laid back. Looking up at the ceiling, he tried to calm his breathing, and closing his eyes to sleep. All he could feel was what he couldn’t; he missed feeling Rapunzel next to him, having her snuggle up at night and fall asleep so soundly. Feeling her touch, her warmth. Looking over to her side of the bed he envisioned her there, smiling, wrapped up in the soft blankets. The thought of her there made him tired. 

    A scream sounded as Eugene snapped awake. He shot up looking around wondering where the cry came from. He then heard an echoing roar coming from Celestia's room. That monster, that beast was after his daughter. Eugene grabbed the sword he had by the night stand and burst through the doors, finding the beast running out the room with Celestia in its jaws. Eugene looked down and saw the blood trails. His worst fears were becoming reality.  As his eyes began to water his body began to heat up, boiling his blood. All he could see was the color red. That beast took his daughter, his child; that monster will die. He then heard her scream again. Eugene ran after that monster, sword clenched in his fist, ready to slice its throat. He found it ready to deliver the final blow to Celestia, as he ran up ready to strike the beast down, Eugene felt a force push him down, stopped by none other then Varian himself. 

    “I told you not to leave her alone.” He smiled like the demon he is. Eugene panicked as he looked at the beast. Seeing Celestia struggling to free herself from its jaws. She called for her father, reaching for him, yelling, crying. Her small face redden by her tears, her eyes wide with fear, and her trembling little hands desperately reached for help. 

Eugene felt his throat tense up as he chocked on his breath, he felt the tears well up in his eyes seeing such a sight before him. He let go of the sword and reached out to his daughter, he struggled to move, pushed and crawled to get free, but nothing worked, he was pinned to the ground. He slammed his fist into the ground, shaking he cried. 

“Please, let my little girl go!” He begged, he pleaded to Varian. All he got was a dark evil glare and a sinister laugh. Eugene turned seeing the monster bite down, Celestia reaching for her father as her screaming stopped. Eugene felt his heart shatter as blood poured from her wound. He reached for her with shaky hands, recalling his promise to her. He looked away as the tears felt like sandpaper rolling down his face. He turned in anger to the boy who caused his pain and misfortune. He saw Varian holding the staff as he twirled it in hand and struck down aiming for Eugene’s head. Eugene saw the sharp black rock rushing toward him, as the shock ran through his body. 

Eugene jumped awake with a scream. He sat up from the shock of such a nightmare. It was the middle of the night as he could feel the cold air around him, barely reaching his lungs. He couldn’t breathe as he struggled to take a deep breath. He tried to look around his room to gather his surroundings, but he couldn't see anything but in front of him. His body was not listening to him, he had no control, he began to panic wondering if he’d been poisoned in his sleep. But that thought then got him, where was his daughter? That panicked from his dream made him regain control over his body, as he tried to put weight on his unstable legs. He was shaking vigorously as he held himself up leaning on the bed and wall. Peeking into Celestia’s room, he saw her sound asleep sprawled out on her bed. He tried to keep his heavy rapid breathing down as to not wake her. Closing the door, he returned to his bed. 

Eugene sat on the edge of the bed trying to calm his panic. He knew it was just a nightmare, it was only a dream. Though he looked back to his daughters room with a hand over his mouth and sighed. 

`I guess that's the difference between kids and Adults. Kids have nightmares when they are asleep, but us adults wake up to them.’ Eugene thought as he knew fully that his nightmare could be a reality if he is not careful. Laying back down he tried for a second time to get some rest, but no matter how hard he tried, sleep was unattainable. 

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

Words Can Hurt

 

Varian was walking about the halls looking at the doors of the castle. He would look in some of the ones he didn’t know where it led to, but sometimes that led to issues. One of the maids was a foreign woman. Accidentally entering her room, she threw a shoe at him while yelling at him in her native language. Varian had ducked out quickly in fear of her coming after him. As he continued to look around, it did not go unnoticed. Cass finally found the kid again. He kept doing this thing of getting up and leaving without telling anyone where he is going. Cass found it very irritating, and though she called him out on it the other day, he still continued to do it.

“Would you stop moving.” Cass huffed trying to keep pace. Varian ignored her and kept walking. Cass groaned in annoyance. She asked what in God’s name he was searching for, but he only gave vague answers or no answer at all.

“What gotten into you?” Cass asked as she stopped following him. He sighed and turned.

“Nothing,” Varian responded. Cass chuckled knowing that was a lie. Something was up with him. She was right about that, Varian had something lingering on him. A few days ago Cass had launched at him with her dagger. To him, it scared him greatly. It made him nervous each time she was around. Though what really rang in his head is what she said,

“You really haven’t changed, have you?!” That hit him hard. It hurt him actually. To him he has changed quite a bit, but as he assumed, to them he hasn’t. Cass kept following him but remained silent. They explored most of the castle, it took nearly all day. Cassandra’s feet were humming form this, she bet they had walked more than five miles in one day. Eventually Varian asked if she had a map of the castle. Internally she flipped on him, growling at how he asks this now and not four hours ago, but verbally she denied she did; not wanting him to have access to such information.

“Well I guess we’ll keep walking the halls.” He shrugged. Cass gave in with a tired groan, she was done with this and told him to follow her. She had enough of wandering the castle, time for this kid to find a spot and park it. They entered her room as she pulled from her book shelf a rolled up map. Varian took it and opened it on the table. Looking around he pointed.

“What’s this place?” He asked. Cass told him it was an old room, its use is unknown, it was lost to the ages. He rolled up the map and took off for that unused room. Cass has learned by now not to ask questions and to just follow along. She wondered why he needed such a thing. An old worn down room probably covered in cobwebs and dead things. What use could it hold now?
Varian and Cass made their way down the north east stairwell, It spiraled down far below the surface. Once they reached the bottom, they opened the door, only to be greeted by a storage room full of materials. Varian looked at the map, they came the right way, but for some reason, the hall they needed was not behind this door. Cass saw him struggling and looked on the map too.

“There… its…” Cass pointed behind the stairs. There was only a wall, no hallway, no door, nothing but stone. Varian narrowed his stare as he got closer to the wall. Cass was beyond lost, but then she too saw what he was staring at. The wall was a doorway, sealed off by someone. Varian ran his hand against the top stone, removing the dust and growth on it.

“Stonemasons sealed it.” He said as he turned looking for something to open this passage. Cass was amazed by the craftsmanship, there was no hole or gap in the structure. Who ever wanted this closed off wanted it to stay that way. Varian then reappeared with a hammer.

“Where'd you get that?” Cass asked really confused.

“Got it from the storage room.” He pointed to the door behind them. Cass felt a bit irritated with herself she didn’t think of that. He got close to the wall as Cass moved out of the way. The hammer tinged against the stone, after a few hard hits the stone piece fell into the closed hallway. They then heard what sounded like a howling, or a faded moan. Neither one believed in the supernatural so they shared a glance. Varian put his arm up to the hole and felt a current of wind.

“Looks like this hall has ventilation.” He pointed out. The howl they heard was the wind blowing through the small hole in the wall. Varian saw how the rocks held together at a certain point, he needed to hit the right spot and the whole thing would come down. Looking he found the right stone and one hit was all it took. As the wall crumbled both Varian and Cass backed out of the way of the dust and falling rocks.
The hallway was dark, no light, but the wind was very apparent. They shared a glance feeling perturbed by this new found hallway.

“I’m surprised none of you went looking for this room…” Varian whispered not wanting to shout into the mysterious hall.

“Was never on the to do list.” Cass kept the same tone. Varian then pulled out two vials, with a quick shake they began to glow. He handed the blue one to Cass while he held the Green one as they wandered into the hall. With the makeshift glow sticks all they could see was a few feet in front of them. The hall was full of cobwebs, puddles of water, and walls that smelled of mold. Varian was leading the way as he was taking the cobwebs down, but he didn’t account for a functional spider web. Cass was not watching as a huge, ginormous, spider crept its way down after its home was wiped away. Turning she saw its long legs and huge body right in her face. She kept as quiet as she could but she backed up so suddenly she tripped on an unlevel stone. Varian heard a small squeak behind him and a thud. Turning saw Cassandra covering her mouth with a freaked out face. He finally saw what she was so petrified of. He couldn’t help but chuckle.

“To think something so trivial could freak you out.” Varian had a big grin on. Cass shot up embarrassed by the fact he caught her in the act. Her secret fear was insects. She couldn’t deal with any kind of bug being on her. That spider nearly found itself on her face or in her hair. At that point it was survival to her. She didn’t mind them being in the same vicinity, but the second the little freaks of nature ended up on her it was game over.

“Keep quiet.” She snapped. Varian gave a side smile with a confused look at how she stormed on down the hall of more bugs and unknown things.

“Too bad you don’t have a sword to kill those pesky buggy wuggies” Varian began to make fun of her newly revealed fear. Cass turned with the eyes of a devil. She locked on to his eyes directly, as if knowing where her target was just by instinct. They seemed to burn with a slight red tint. She did not say a word, it was not needed.
Varian was frozen in his tracks. It was as if she had the eyes of medusa, she turned him to stone in a second. He didn’t make any sudden movements in fear of being succumb to a fate worse than death. He put his hands up slowly. “S-sorry…” He choked out. When she turned around and kept walking he felt a sigh of relief flow through him as if he had just escaped the jaws of a dragon. ‘Damn she terrifying…’ he thought.
They finally came to the door they have been looking for. It was old and worn down, the wood was rotten and the metal handle had rust. Trying the door it was locked.

“Great, came all this way for nothing.” Cass huffed feeling completely done with the day; Between walking around, nearly getting jumped by a spider, and being constantly trapped by Varian’s side, she wanted to just go to bed. Varian looked at the door and saw the hinges were beyond repair.

“Stand back,” He said as he took a stance, and with full force kicked the door. The wood shattered and the metal lock broke. Cass was surprised he was able to kick the door down with such ease.

“How?” She asked knowing Varian to be the more book type then athletic.

“The door was already rotted, and the lock and hinges were rusted. Honestly a kid could have knocked it down.” Varian shrugged as he walked through. Cass was a bit shocked on how modist he was. Any guy she had come to know in town, had done something anyone could do, they bragged about it for days; especially Eugene.
Cass walked into the old room, it was quite spacious. It had old rotted tables, shelving with dusty jars, and mold covered bags of possible feed. Varian looked around and stood with a bit of pride.

“This’ll do.” He said with a smile. Cass rolled her eyes, she was done asking questions, if he was going to tell her he would have.

“Good luck cleaning this place.” she waved as she turned to leave. Varian didn’t stop her and let her walk back on her own. He didn’t mind the company all day today, yes he ordered her to be his personal guard, but that did not mean she needed to be his shadow. He looked around and decided what needed to be done.

“First things first, lets get some light.”

*

The next day Cass entered the kitchen knowing the false king would request food. Though she had to figure out where he was each day. She thought about how it would be easier if he had a room, that way he would be asleep and she could find him rather quickly. At that thought it just occurred to her.

‘Where does he sleep?’ she pondered that thought for some time as she traveled to the throne room. It was empty. She then decided to go to the last place she saw him; the abandoned room. Getting to the stairs she saw what looked like a cloud of dust. Rather not wanting to get covered in dirt she shouted for him instead.
Varian was in the tunnel clearing out the hall with a broom. He had to get all the cobwebs out before he used any kind of alchemical solutions to rid the mold. Last thing he needed are wet spider webs everywhere. Plus it would draw out all the pesky critters so he could throw them out before they all died from the chemicals. He was near the entrance when he then heard someone shout his name from the top of the stairs. He put the web covered broom down and made his way to the top.
Cass was standing there less impressed than ever. She held the plate of food as Varian lifted his goggles up to reveal how much dust was on his face.

“Why are you cleaning? Didn’t Nigel give you any notice on your priorities today?” Cass snapped. Varian shrugged.

“Honestly been avoiding him.”
Cass could not believe what she just heard. She flipped out.

“Excuse me?” She started as she set the plate of food down on a small stand in the hall. Varian did not like the tone she used and was rather afraid of her getting mad again.
“How dare you say that, you have the responsibilities as the current king to tend to the need of not just the people, but all of Corona!” Cass walked closer pointing her finger right at him. Varian backed up till he was at the edge of the stairs. If he took another step, or even pushed, he may lose his balance and that's the end. He felt greatly threatened and did not like being backed into a corner.
“If you don't want this then give the crown back to Rapunzel, if not then get your ass to the throne room immediately or so help me I’ll drag you there myself!” Varian didn’t want to argue with her, mainly because she was right. He was the one to come here and take the crown, and that meant all the burdens with it. With a sigh he nodded.

“Mind if I eat first?” He asked. Cass crossed her arms. She liked this. He was acting more submissive with her recently, by fearing her glare, startling at her presence, and backing off from her anger. He has even begun asking her for permission. She could deal with this secret mission of hers better if this was the case from here on out. If he is going to continue to be more submissive toward her, then any order Rapunzel has, Cass could make a reality with just a bit of anger. She had to tell Rapunzel right away.
Varian grabbed the food after not receiving a response and turned to face Cass. Even though he was being more tentative around her, he still needed her to poison check. Cass huffed. She wanted to see what her limits were as she turned away from the food.

“I don't want to, I've already eaten.” She pouted like a child, in her mind she was giving Varian a taste of his own medicine, but in reality, she was only making him upset.
Varian was not about to continue this game. He let her vent out her thoughts, and he did not retaliate do to the truth her words held. However refusing to do her assigned task was not acceptable. He informed her she would taste test or he would assume the food to be poisoned, and thus there would be consequences. Cass glared at him, but this time he glared right back. Her hopes of him remaining in fear of her were gone, but her attitude was not.
“Oh really? You’ve already hurt Eugene, locked Rapunzel away, and took over the kingdom. What more could you do?” She wanted to see what would come next if anyone should make him mad. Varian was indeed getting cross with her, but by no means angry.

“How about I restrict anyone from going to see Rapunzel? I’ll put my Chimeras on guard to the dungeons, and the only one to be able to get by is me.” Varian spoke with a low tone to show he was not joking around anymore. Cass jolted at his words.

“You wouldn't dare!” She shouted. Varian moved closer looking down on Cass with a glare.

“Try me.” He growled as he handed her the plate. Cass took it with great reluctance as she took a bite of each item. Varian was still skeptical about it being safe to eat. He wanted to keep an eye on her to make sure it wasn’t poisoned.
“Walk in front of me, and make your way to the throne room.” He stated taking the plate and stepping aside for her to start moving. Cass placed her hands on her hips, she was not impressed. The food was not poisoned and was fine to be consumed, but he still would not eat it without being 100% sure. She rolled her eyes and began to make way to the throne room. She was still greatly upset with him, the way he wanted to reject all the king's responsibilities like a child, or to even think of taking away the ability for anyone to see Rapunzel is down right evil to her. She only got one response from him on what would happen, she was sure there were other motives he could do or threaten.

She hated having him behind her, she couldn’t see what he was doing or planning. If he were to attack her right now he would have the advantage. She glanced behind her and saw him looking forward, but met her gaze when she moved.
“Keep going,” He said. Cass felt her fire burn with rage. She was still walking and yet just by checking her surroundings, he demanded her to ‘keep going.’ It infuriated her at the tone he was using, the glare he was giving her, the amount of disrespect and lack of human decency. Cass clenched her fist wanting to fight him, wanting to attack him. She spent the whole day yesterday with him in the castle, only once did this amount of anger flow through her. Right now she wanted to kick him down and make him beg for death. She wanted answers so badly she could taste it. With her blood boiling from her anger she could not hold down her questions or thoughts any longer. Her internal frustrations were about to become outward.

“Why are you even here, you don’t want to be king, I can tell by how you ignore the responsibilities, so why come here and do this?” Cass snapped. Varian remained silent. She hissed at the lack of response. “Why come back here at all?” she started to yell as she turned to face him. Varian stopped and looked down at her again with the same displeased face from earlier. “It's not like you have any friends or family here, you have nothing, so why bother coming back?!” Cass shouted without thinking. Varian’s eyes widen in shock. At first he felt anger, but that faded when a pain to his heart grew stronger.

“Do you delight in reminding me?” Varian asked with a slight scratch to his voice, as if he was trying not to cry. “Yes, I know I'm alone, but you are wrong about one thing.” He swallowed that sadness and replaced it with pride as much as he could, he held his head high as he got right up into Cassandra’s face. “I don’t have nothing, I got one thing I can call my own.”
Cass held her stance and did not waver.

“Oh yeah, what's that your alchemy?” She said with a snooty tone. Varian took a deep breath and looked her directly in the eye.

“My soul.” Varian backed off and handed Cass the plate of food. She took it while in astonishment. She didn’t realize she had stopped breathing for a moment. Its as if his voice, with what he said, had sucked the air from her lungs. She couldn’t even recall what she said to get him so irritated with her. The hall was quiet, no footsteps, no voices, not even wind. All Cassandra could hear was her heart pounding in frustration.
‘What did I say?’

Varian stomped through the halls, still upset with what he was told today. Glancing out the window he saw the moon high in the sky. With a sigh, he stopped to stare out the window; looking up to the stars.

“You have no friends or family!”
Varian’s hands started to shake. He thought of back then, the day his father was encased in the amber. The way he felt after hearing the news that his father died.

“You have no family!”
He thought of the picture hanging on the wall of his old home, one of his mom and dad, holding little baby him so close with smiles on their faces. He closed his eyes and recalled the gentle, warm voice of his mother; the faded image in his head of her long orange hair as she held him close.

“You have nothing!”
He held back the tears as best he could. Varian has known how alone he is, ever since the day he left Corona.
‘I still have my soul… but yet I feel so empty inside…’ He thought as he took a deep breath trying to calm himself. He then felt a nudge on his leg and looked to see Rudiger nuzzle up to him. He smiled warmly to the raccoon as he picked him up and held him close.

“I guess I do have one friend, you’ve been with me all this time buddy.” Varian tried to keep his voice low so no one could hear the itch of pain in his words. He wanted to let his sorrows overflow, but he needed to keep a strong facade. He gave one last big squeeze and set Rudiger down on the windowsill. He saw the white fur on the racoons face and knew his friend had only a few years remaining. At that realization, Varian looked away. He could not bear the thought of losing the only thing he’s got left. Rudiger is not just his friend, to him, the racoon is family; the only family he’s got. If he lost him too, Varian would lose all hope to ever see the light of happiness again.
Rudiger then yawned, feeling tired. Varian gave a slight chuckle,

“Me too, buddy, me too.” He hasn’t slept all that great recently, though he did that one day he passed out on the throne, but that was after nearly three days without sleep. He sighed knowing this would be another long night of no sleep.

“Hey.” Said a voice from down the hall. Varian and Rudiger turn to see Cass standing at the end of the hallway not making eye contact.
“Follow me please.” She said. Varian was still upset with her, but was rather shocked by how she said please. He gave a weary sigh and followed her lead. She led them to an empty bedroom.

“No one owns this room, bed is dressed with sheets and blankets, do with it what you will.” Cass motioned him to enter the room as she walked away without another word or making eye contact. Varian was a bit unsettled by the kind gesture and wondered if the room was booby-trapped. Opening the door him and Rudiger slowly entered, the room was well lit with a candle on the side table, and the whole place was clean of any possible traps. Varian was greatly confused but appreciative.

‘I guess this is her way of apologizing.’ Varian smiled to himself. Rudiger jumped up on the bed and curled up in a ball with his tail over his nose.
“Oh really?” Varian chuckled. He then made his way around and sat on the bed. It was beyond comfy. Kicking off his boots, throwing off his gloves and vest, he climbed into the bed, he wrapped up in the soft blankets and rolled over onto his stomach to hug the pillow in his arms. He sighed with a smile feeling so relaxed and comfortable. “Apology accepted.” Varian hummed feeling at peace. It didn’t take too long before he was sound asleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

Cold Weather Cookies



The northern wind blew harshly today, as the towns people prepared for cold weather to set in. Fall was here and the nights were getting very cold, very quickly. Varian was sound asleep in the room he was given. It has been a while since Cass gave him the room, and has also made amends to what she said to him that day. This morning was chilly and he could feel that the second he tried to get up. Varian shivered and pulled the covers back over. 

    Meanwhile Cass and Nigel were in the throne room going over some of the documents while Varian slept. When he wasn’t around they were able to have Rapunzel's distant command continue to work, but when Varian was awake they had to hide that fact incase he became angered. Though around nine in the morning the townspeople wondered where the handyman-of-a-king was; they had required his assistance. Cass knew he was still sound asleep and had to get him up in order to tend to the needs of the people. She made her way down the hall as she recalled the day she had said those mean things out loud. She felt horrible after saying that to him knowing full well that it was very rude even for her. The boy had lost his only family ages ago, and pointing that out, is the worst thing anyone could do. Though he did accept the vague apology she gave - offering the room - He did not seem to yell or harsy order her around after the fact. 

    Reaching the door she knocked and waited, no response, she did it again, not even a sound came from the room. She rolled her eyes and opened the door. 

    “Hey, get up. The people need you.” She snapped from the doorway. Varian did not move an inch, he was nice and warm under the blankets and did not want to leave his cocoon. Cass stomped in and stood over him.

“Get up!” She yelled. Varian groaned in annoyance. Cass then flew open the curtains to let the sun in, but it didn’t help since Varian was already under the covers completely.  

“Get up, I won’t say it again.” Cass snapped. Varian gave a loud huff.

“It’s too cold…” He whined. Cass shook her head, she couldn’t believe how childish he was acting. She stomped over and pulled off the blankets so they were on the floor. Varian curled up and shivered. 

“Now, you have no choice.” Cass said as she walked off. Varian sat up with a very grumpy face. He did not like being woken so early, nor so harshly. With a sigh he got up and got ready. 

    The towns people waited in the throne room until they saw the sleepy false king enter with a yawn. They crossed their arms appalled that he would show such indecency. Varian didn’t care what they thought of him this early in the morning, they needed his help, not the other way around. He then stood waiting for the few people there to say what they needed.

    An older woman walked up, rather displeased. “The cold weather is coming, and my crops will die if not properly covered tonight, I’d like your assistance in covering the fields with sheets.” 

Then a middle aged gentleman stepped forward. “my son insists on wanting to be a castle guard, what should I do?” 

Then the last villager “I fear the sickness of cold weather, you treated a young boy from a horrible cold, can you prevent it?” 

Varian sighed, he pointed to the middle aged man first. 

“Not my jurisdiction, talk to the captain of the guards.” Then to the fearful villager. “Though curing is something I can attempt, I am no doctor. So no. I can't prevent your future sickness.” And finally to the older lady. “I'll assist you in a bit. I'll meet you at your place of residence.” And with that all villagers nodded and carried on. Cass was rather upset with how he was able to handle the villagers well with only being awake for a few minutes, she had hoped he would fail and have the villagers riot again. Varian stretched with another groan, still trying to wake up. Cass rolled her eyes still remembering the way he acted when she tired to get him up. Not even Eugene acted that way when he needed to wake. 

“Lazy.” Cass huffed. Varian heard the comment and frowned.

“Bossy.” He huffed back still feeling mildly irritated by the wake up call this morning. Cass whipped her head around not expecting a remark back as she shot a glare. 

“Arrogant boy.” She jabbed. Cass thought if he wanted to start name calling she would win this fight. She's had enough training with Eugene with this subject for sure. Though they both were tired and not in a happy mood at all today. Varian especially did not want today to even happen. 

“Grouchy girl.” Varian continued as he crossed his arms, stuck his tongue out, and acted like the kid she claimed him to be.

“Over sensitive child!” Cass shouted, she made the remark as a jab to his ego. She has seen various emotions with him, as if he has two separate personalities. Either way, he is a very sensitive person when it comes to emotions; from what Cassandra has seen. Varian hissed at that name call and looked at her directly in the eye. He felt called out and that was not something he was pleased with. With a slight blush of embarrassment and childish mindset he spat out something he didn’t think would hurt. 

“Heartless crone .” They both became quite as they seemed to want to fight for some reason today. Nigel watched this play out with worry. Last thing he wanted to do was witness a fight between these two. If it did break out, no one could stop that. 

Cass looked at Varian directly in the eyes as she heard that last name call. To her it was a low blow. She knew that she can be heartless at times, but she had to be, even if she didn’t want to. She turned away in a huff, storming out of the throne room. 

“You can guard yourself today.” She snapped. Varian was still irritated and now shocked at her comment.

“Good, now I don’t have to see your face for the rest of the day!” He shouted as Cass slammed the door shut. Varian growled in frustration, Cass did so as well. Nigel was at a loss for words and did not wish to provoke Varian seeing that the boy was already agitated as it were. He decided to clean up the documents and wait for a better time. Varian marched his way down to the old room he had been cleaning out for a while now before heading out to the villagers. 

Meanwhile Cass stormed down to the dungeons and slammed open the door. Rapunzel was startled by the sudden sound and looked to see a very upset Cass walk in. Cass began pacing back and forth complaining about how immature, disrespectful, and down right annoying Varian was being. Rapunzel knew this was one of Cassandra’s outbursts of rage and all she needed was to vent it out. The brunette stood and listened to the whole story of this morning, taking in all the information in order to help her frustrated friend. When Cass finished and finally took a breath, Rapunzel was able to calmly talk with her.  

“You are both still human, and the cold can make people irritable and distraught at times, its brings the sign that winter is on its way.” Rapunzel had a feeling that the weather played a part since it seemed to be on everyone's mind. She herself was freezing this morning. The cells have open windows to the outside. Had Eugene not come down with her winter coat and extra wool blankets she would have caught her death. 

“I just don’t get why he is acting this way, mainly to me?!” Cass shouted. She alone felt like she had to babysit this kid all over again. It bothered her greatly that he has been taking his emotions out on her.

“Well… You are the closest person to him right now, not in the sense of a friend, but as another human. Perhaps leaving him alone for a day or two?” Rapunzel suggested.

“I did…” Cass sighed. The day she said those mean words all she did was keep her distance after offering the room. Only stopped by to give him food or remained at a distance in the same room. She had felt horrible for saying the things she did. He seemed to have forgiven her, but this morning says otherwise. 

“Like I said Cass, you both are human, and perhaps he just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. You being the closest person just got the end result.” Rapunzel kept calm and tried to find a reasonable solution to this. Cass had every right to be irritated, but so didn’t Varian. Rapunzel felt that people need to have off days, days where everything is just bothersome, or annoying, otherwise life is boring. Having those days brings people closer together, because in a time of need, those who care will help you through it. She is here for Cass, and Cass for her, but the pain in her heart was pity to Varian, who had no one to turn to. 

Cass didn’t think about that in her rage, and only thought of her issues. Rapunzel didn’t say anything on the matter for two reasons: one, Cass is here for her problems, not Varians. Two, Cass needed to see this on her own, otherwise it would not hold the same weight as it does with Rapunzel. She feels it when he walks in, the energy around him says he is in pain. She wants to help him this time. The only way she can do that though, is through Cass. That is the biggest struggle yet. So far, it seemed near impossible, but when Cass gets like this it usually means she cares enough about the other person's mood - mainly because it affects her - but she still cares nonetheless. 

Cass was able to breathe and relax after venting out her frustration. She needed to keep a level head with this situation. After calming down she informed Rapunzel of the documents she and Nigel went over. Rapunzel was thankful for the report, but was more concerned over the sudden subject change. Either way, She went along with it and discussed the process for Cass and Nigel to follow.

In the halls of the castle Eugene was with Celestia. The little girl jumped around with a bunch of energy, meanwhile Eugene was exhausted from having a horrible nights sleep. His arm was causing him great pain. That had kept him up all night as it twinged and twitched the nerves in his arm. Celestia had not a care in the world as she danced around. 

“Daddy, when can I see Mommy?” She asked. Eugene gave a yawn and smiled. 

“Soon, don’t worry.” He made sure to keep a smile on for her, even though he wanted to show his worry and his regrets. Eugene felt responsible for not being able to defend his family, or his home. He felt weak, and weak was not something he wanted to be. He wanted to get stronger and hopefully one day soon, able to kick Varian down from his high horse and show him who's boss. 

As Eugene day dreamed about the future, Celestia wanted to play. She was beyond board with having little freedom to wonder like she used too. Her lady in waiting was unable to take her into town, and her father wouldn’t allow it without him or a few guards following. The little one missed the days of sunshine and dance with her mommy. Even more so now that she is remembering it. No matter how hard he kept a smile on, Celestia always seemed to frown at being unable to see Rapunzel. He wanted to let her run around once again, to be the free soul she is, but ever since he was warned about the monsters running around he became paranoid. At the reaction though, he pushed his sleepiness aside and began a game of tag. It made Celestia giggle and smile the whole game. 

It didn’t last long till the pain in his arm was to much. Eugene had to stop and relax, but Celestia wanted to continue. He apologized and said they needed to take a nap for a bit. The little one huffed, she had just woken a few hours ago and was not any bit sleepy. Eugene didn’t care at the moment, he played, and now he needed rest. He took her hand and began walking back to the room. The whole way she shouted and cried not wanting to sleep. The whole castle heard her tantrum. When she got to her room she pouted and sat on the floor. 

“Stop this now. I’m not in the mood.” Eugene held a very serious face. He was not happy with her right now, and being in pain made this situation worse. He did not get mad at Celestia often, but when he did, it was scary. He told her to stay put, if she left her room or moved she would be put in time out for the rest of the day. Celestia screamed in frustration, she was not tired, she wanted to keep playing, she wanted her mommy. Eugene slammed the door closed muffling the screaming tantrum slightly. He laid in bed and felt a headache forming. He loved his daughter dearly, and wouldn't trade her for the world, but days like this makes him wish kids had an off switch. 

Celestia eventually stopped screaming and stared crying instead. She shouted saying she wanted her mommy instead. After nearly half an hour of crying she calmed down when no one came to her tantrum. She looked around her room trying to find something to do. Sadly nothing seemed to strike her interest. She got up and looked out her window. She could see the leaves changing already as fall was right around the corner. The little one wanted to go outside and climb a tree or two, go to the pumpkin farm and pick the biggest pumpkin, drink warm apple cider fresh from the kitchen, to bake the best fall chocolate chip cookies with her mommy, and run in the fields of golden grass; playing hide and seek, like she has before. All these fun times came back to her at once. She sighed thinking on where her mother could have gone off to. It had been a few weeks since this whole thing started. All Celestia knew was she had less free time, monsters were real, her mommy vanished, and the man with the scary goggles was a bad person. Not hearing a sound come from her parents room she decided to see if her room door would open. With delight it wasn’t locked. She ran out her door and twirled around the halls feeling free once again. 

As she roamed around looking for some adventure she saw the wind blow around a few leaves from the window. She smiled and began making her way outside. She jumped with pure enthusiasm of being able to go out and play. With all her excitement she was not watching where she was going. Rounding the corner with great speed she crashed into someone, the sudden stop knocked the girl off her feet. Rubbing her head after knocking it on what felt like a metal pole. She looked up and saw the man who wore the scary goggles. He seemed rather irritated with her being near him. He was really tall in her eyes, and the dark hair made his eyes seem sinister as he towered over her. He huffed as his scowl increased.

“I told Eugene not to let you wander alone.” He said. Celestia shook not noting what to do. She was far from her room, and her father was asleep, so shouting for help was out of the question. The panicked child staying still hoping maybe someone would come to her aid. 

“Where is your father?” asked the scary man. Celestia squeaked as she shut her eyes; his heavy voice frightened her. He saw this and realized Eugene had taught her to fear him. She is having a normal response to danger. With a sigh he set the staff against the wall and knelt down to her level.

“Don’t be afraid little one, I won’t hurt you. Can you tell me your name?” He said as softly as possible. Celestia opened her eyes a bit confused as to why she's not getting yelled at or being taken away. The voice the man had just before, now faded with this question. He seemed less intimidating at her level. 

“C-Celestia…” She stuttered. 

“Nice to meet you, my name is Varian.” The man smiled. Celestia relaxed a bit more after being introduced. Her father said this was a bad man, and he is not friendly, but right now says otherwise. Varian smiled to the young girl in hopes she would not be too frightened to walk with him. He needed to get her back to Eugene so both he and this little one don’t get in trouble. Celestia smiled back feeling better about this Varian person than before. When he saw her relax a bit more he stood. 

“Why don’t we go find your father?” Varian suggested. He kept a calm smile on in hopes it would keep Celestia calm. The little girl frowned and looked away.

“I don’t wanna see daddy… I want my mommy.” She whined. Varian heard it in her voice, the slight hint of her ready to cry. Last thing he wanted was to deal with a tantrum. 

“Why not go see her then?” He suggested. If she wanted to see her mom so badly why hadn’t she wandered there herself? Varian had wondered this but when the little one looked up with surprise it shocked him. 

“You know where mommy is?!” She shouted. Varian then realized no one told her where Rapunzel was. They left this child in complete darkness as to what is happening. 

‘I get not telling her everything, but keeping her from visiting Rapunzel is mean…’ Varian thought, but he quickly realized he was the cause of her imprisonment, so in all its really his fault Celestia hasn’t seen her mom. He looked to the young one and sighed. 

“Your mom is in the dungeons.” He tried to be soft in his voice, but he couldn’t figure out how to sugarcoat the situation. The news hit her like a ton of bricks. Celestia had thought her mommy left forever, but this whole time she was in jail. She felt a mix of emotions wave over her, relife her mommy is alright, but sadness she's been imprisoned. Not understanding how to cope with this mix of feelings she began to cry. 

Varian jolted at the sign of tears. He didn’t really know what to do, it wasn’t his kid so he didn’t want to start parenting her, but as of right now he is the only adult around to watch her. Celestia began to cry as she made her sorrows vocal. Varian quickly knelt back down and tried to get her to stop.

“Hay don’t cry please its ok, your mommy is ok!” He kept a weary smile on, hoping no one would run around the corner thinking he hurt the small child. She didn’t seem to calm down or relax, in fact her crying got louder. Varian panicked. 

‘What do I do?!’ he screams internally. He tried to think of something to help her.

“Do you want to go see your mommy?” He asked. Celestia nodded still crying. “Okay, but you gotta stop crying first.” Varian had a calm smile and a concerned look. He felt kinda bad for making her cry, but what he said helped, she began to calm down. 

“O-Okay…” Celestia sniffed. Varian gave a sigh of relief. He stood up and held out his hand. 

“Come on, lets go.” He waited for Celestia to wipe away her tears and grab hold of his hand. They both began walking down the hall, the little girl wanted to keep crying, but didn’t want to make the bad man mad at her. She looked up at him and saw he kept a smile on, he was not upset with her if he smiled. As they rounded the corner Celestia got a whiff of a warming oven. The wood stove was in the works. It reminded her of the cookies she and mommy made all the time. With a sudden spark of energy she beamed brightly. 

“Can we make mommy’s favorite cookies?” She asked looking up. Varian was surprised she wanted to do anything besides see Rapunzel, but he also didn’t want her to cry again so he went along with it. 

“Alright, I don’t see why not.” 

Celestia ran up to the stool that was next to the bar counter; It divided the area of walking and the stove, But the little one had a bit of a height issue with the stool, and couldn't quite climb up on the tall seat. Varian saw her struggle and helped her up. 

    “Better?” He asked with a slight chuckle. She nodded. 

    “You know how to make cookies?” She asked. Varian went around the counter and gave a prideful smile. 

    “Of course!” 

    Celestia giggled and told him that mommy’s favorite is chocolate chip. Varian rolled his eyes. ‘Of course that's her favorite cookie.’ Varian took off his gloves and washed his hands. He then grabbed the flour, eggs, baking soda, sugar, butter, salt, and his special ingredient; vanilla extract. Digging out a bowl and spoon he placed everything in front of Celestia. The little one was so excited and reached for the bowl, grabbing the flour. Varian was busy looking for chocolate chips when Celestia opened the flour and a puff of white powder went everywhere. She loved it and took a hand full. Varian turned to see her turning into a snow child. He gave a wry smile at the sight of the mess. ‘Kids…’ He thought. He grabbed a towel and told her to wipe her hands. 

    Celestia was having a great time measuring and mixing things. It wasn’t the same as it was with mommy, but it was still better than not baking at all. When Varian set the bowl down to grab the choco. Chips Celestia dipped her finger into the mix and stole some dough. He saw this out of the corner of his eye. 

    “Oh really?” Varian said seeing her look guilty with a grin. “You wanna steal cookie dough behind my back, hu?” he gave a small sneer. Turning back with the chips in hand he took a swipe of some dough. 

“Hay!” Celestia pointed. 

“Hay nothing! I get some too!” Varian pointed back. Celestia pouted with a scowl. 

“Cookies are for mommy.” She said still pointing. 

“Sharing is caring.” Varian said as he took another swipe of the dough but this time booped Celestia’s nose with it. The little one jolted and wiped away the treat, but still ate it. Varian laughed at the face she made. 

He handed her the bag of chocolate chips and held the bowl as she poured them in. Varian handed the wooden spoon to her as she put her knees on the table to get a better sense of balance as she stirred the mix. Varian held the bowl in place for her, and once she was tired he finished the mixing. 

The stone oven was the perfect temperature as they finished placing the dough on the sheet and pushed it in to bake. Varian dusted off his hands of flour and dough. 

“Alright, I’d say we did a great job.” He turned to the little one but instead of seeing a smile like he has all this time it was a confused look on her face. “You okay, Celestia?” Varian asked as he walked over. She pouted in thought for a moment as she looked up to the concerned face of her current babysitter. 

“Daddy says you’re the bad guy, but… you’re not bad.” She sounded distraught in her voice, as if she wanted to cry again. Varian caught that itch of pain in her words. He knew she wanted to believe her father, but what she sees before her was different. Varian gave a heavy sigh. 

“Your father is right, I am the bad guy.” Varian kept a smile on. Celestia’s gaze shot up in surprise. 

“But… you baked cookies, bad guys don’t bake cookies.” She did a head tilt like a dog would with a confused scoule on. Varian chuckled as he pulled out a new spoon, he dipped it into the leftover dough.

“Now that is a lie.” He said as he leaned onto the counter top. “Bad guys love cookies.” He grinned as he ate the spoonful of dough. 

“Really?” Celestia asked finding out something new. Varian nodded. 

“Here’s the difference,” he stated, taking another spoonful of mix. “You make chocolate chip cookies and tell the truth. I make oatmeal raisin cookies and say they are chocolate chip.” He smirked as he ate the dough again. Celestia perked up in shock. She made a funny pouting face as she scowled at Varian.

“Ooo, you are a bad guy.” They both laugh at the fact. Varian took a deep breath as he watched Celestia pick the chocolate chips out of the remaining dough. It's only been an hour at most, but he hasn’t felt this whole in a while. He didn’t understand how, but he felt a warmth in his heart. He enjoyed the laughs, teaching Celestia fun things with baking, helping her, and making her laugh and smile. 

‘Is this what it's like to be a parent?’ he asked himself. He recalled all the times he and his father had moments like this, both good and bad days. Varian never thought about it, as he wondered if he would ever become a parent some day. Varian had a small hit of hope that tugged at his smile, but that had quickly faded away. ‘Yeah right… who would love a monster like me?’ he thought as he looked away. He turned his attention to the oven and checked on the cookies. 

“Looks like they are done!” He boasted to get his mood up. Celestia shouted in joy as they were set out to cool off. 

“They smell great!” She shouted looking over them. 

“They sure do, and I'm sure your mom will love them too.” Varian grinned. Celestia did too and hopped off the stool. Varian grabbed a plate and put the cooled off cookies on. They were still warm enough that the chocolate was gooey, but that is what makes a chocolate chip cookie the best.  Celestia had the plate and was ready to walk out.

“Hold on your missing something.” Varian staited. The little one turned around confused. He held up a glass of milk. 

“Can’t forget this.” He said as he walked up and held out his hand. She held onto the plate and grabbed hold of Varian’s hand. He wanted to make sure she didn’t start running with the plate.  With smiles across their faces, they both made their way to see Rapunzel. 

 

The brunette was wrapped up in her blankets reading the book she received a bit ago. She was cozy even though the air was getting colder by the day. She perked up to the sound of the door opening, looking to see who entered she was struck with fear to the sight of her daughter walking with Varian. She knelt down to Celestia's level as her daughter ran up screaming with joy. 

Rapunzel was touched she was missed but beyond worried about why Varian had Celestia and not Eugene. She tried to remain calm, but with each step Varian made, getting closer and closer, she pulled Celestia near her and held on as tight as she could through the bars. Varian stood seeing Rapunzel hold her daughter close with fear in her eyes. He knew she was concerned for her child's safety. 

“I’d never hurt her.” he reassured. Rapunzel was surprised Varian showed such compassion and mercy. She smiled and stood. 

“Thank you for keeping her safe.” Rapunzel was glad Varian had shown he still has a heart. This was a small step forward for her, to being able to help him. To her, he seemed sad, but that was only the surface, perhaps he is mad, still angry about something. Maybe spending time with the free spirit of a child would help smooth out that anger, and help that sadness find a way out for joy to set in. 

“we made cookies for you mommy!” Celestia shouted with enthusiasm as she held out the plate. 

“oh my gosh, my favorite too!” she beamed brightly at the kind gesture. They sat and enjoyed the cookies, Varian leaned up against the wall on the other side to give Rapunzel and Celestia a moment. 

Meanwhile back in the rooms of the castle, Eugene was waking from his rest. He sat up feeling groggy. He hated servier injuries, they make the body beyond fatigued. Getting up he walked over to Celestia’s room. He wanted to apologize for getting upset. Being well rested now help calm him down. He opened the door and peeked in.

“Hey sweetheart, I’m awake now, I’m-” Eugene stopped when he realized she wasn’t there. His eyes darted around the room looking for any sign she was just hiding. Sadly that wasn’t the case. Swallowing the lump in his throat, Eugene burst through the doors and down the halls calling for his daughter. 

He calls and calls but no reply came, he asked the guards and said they saw her about an hour ago prancing the halls. 

“And you didn’t think to accompany her?!” He spat in rage. The guards jolted at the anger, they didn’t know they had to. Eugene stormed off continuing his search. He kept looking down the halls calling for her, looking under tables and chairs, behind the curtains, he then went outside and began shouting for her. 

“Eugene!” Shouted a familiar voice down the path. Cass was running up with a concerned look. 

“What's wrong, why are you shouting?” Cass asked a bit out of breath. 

“Celestia sneaked out, I can’t find her!” He shouted. Though he slightly calmed down a bit knowing Cass had to follow Varian around, so if she was running up from town then he mustn’t be in the castle. 

“Have you checked the fields?” Cass asked, knowing lots of the village children like to play in the tall grassy fields 

“No, but headed there next. You’ve kept your eye on Varian today right?” Eugene wanted to confirm it, just to be safe. Cass crossed her arms and huffed.

“That ass pissed me off this morning, so no, I haven’t seen him at all today.” 

“What.” Eugene froze. Every muscle told him to run, to find this false king and make sure he did not do harm to Celestia. He took off for the castle as he told Cass to check the fields. Cass had not a clue what Eugene’s panic was over, Celestia wandered off many times before, so why does he scare so much now? She didn’t ask him, and began looking for the child. 

Finding Varian was hard to do since he never talked with anyone here. Eugene started from square one and ran up and down the castle. As he began to come to where the kitchen would be he smelled cookies. He stopped and peered into the room, seeing flower and baking sheets layed out. A finished bowl of cookie dough and an empty sack of chocolate chips. Then it hit him. Varian found Celestia, she must have found out where Rapunzel was. As quick as a hare, Eugene rushed down to the dungeons. He burst open the door making the three people who were quietly enjoying themself, jolt. 

Varian stood in defense, not knowing what was crashing in. Rapunzel held Celestia’s arm as the little one wiped her head around. When they all saw it was Eugene, two out of the three relaxed. Varian however, did not. It was a stare down. Varian knew Eugene was going to be upset, but the look he was receiving was a look of death. 

“Eugene, everything is fine, come have a cookie, Celestia made them.” Rapunzel smiled hoping to calm her panicked husband. Eugene looked to her and saw they were both alright.

“I will in a second. But first,” His eyes darted back to Varian. “I want to speak with him… Alone.” Eugene turned to the hall outside the dungeons. Varian sighed and followed. Rapunzel then felt worry, she saw the new power Varian had, even without his staff. 

Once in the hall Varian could see Eugene waiting at the end, resting on the wall. He matched the stance on the wall across. They both had an angry face on, Eugene for his reason, Varian for intimidation. 

“You stay away from my family. Got it.” Eugene snapped. He was not in a friendly mood any more. 

“I’m not going to hurt-” Varian was going to explain but was cut off.

“No excuses, no if’s and’s or’s or but’s. Do not go near them.” He was in protective mode, it was a side Varian never saw, in fact he never seen Eugene upset before. It was a face and emotion Varian had to process with him. Varian sighed and relaxed his face. 

“Alright.” He complied. Eugene was rather shocked he just agreed and moved on from it, he was prepared to fight it out if needed. Varian knew he could not explain himself to Eugene right now, he nodded to the man and began to walk off. Eugene just watched. It was rather odd.

‘Is he still the same kid who broke my arm?’ with that thought Eugene made his way back to his family.