Dipper sighed heavily. He was very nervous for his first kidnapping, but he was sure he'd succeed; he had planned it well enough and played a thousand different scenarios in his head. He was ready for anything that might cross his path. Even though he had been a pirate for only two years, he was well trained and confident in his abilities.
The pirate captain and Dipper jumped out of the ship as soon as it had ported at a distant, and safe, place at the docks. Both headed to the King's palace. The Ball had yet to start and they decided it would be the best possible time. They could get the princess as soon as she was ready and arriving at the Ball to receive the guests. When everyone notices she's missing, they'd already be far away.
But Captain Roderick was no fool; he had a backup plan as well. If they couldn't reach her before the party, then they would get her by midnight, when she retreated to her chambers after partying. And then people would only notice her absence the next morning. Though he'd rather get in, get her and get out in a blink of an eye.
"... So don't worry about me. I know my way out of the castle. You just get the princess and get out as soon as you can. Am I clear?" His father told him as they walked through the docks.
"Aye, Captain. Crystal clear."
"Great. And what are you doing?"
Dipper looked to the side as if he was a bit embarrassed. "I'm just going through my checklist... for the third time..."
"Pirates don't do checklists, Son. And we don't check them three times. We just go and do stuff. Sometimes you need to improvise, you know? And it won't be on a plot or scheme you went over in your head."
"Relax, Dad, I planned everything."
"Planned? Tell me you didn't do one of those over complicated list-y-things…"
"Hum… What do you think I'm checking here?"
"Maybe I should go back and ask for someone a bit more experienced to do this… Maybe Wendy or Robbie would manage better." Roderick said, worried for his son, running a nervous hand through his dark blond hair.
"Hey, Dad, chill. I can do this, okay? I've wanted to do something like it for long while. And even though my first ransom is going to be over an annoying, royal little brat who's probably going to nag the whole way, I want to do this. You can trust me."
His father sighed, rubbing his badly shaved beard as he wondered. He wanted his son to do this, but he wanted to know he was really able to.
"Okay then, Son. But if something goes wrong, just get out of there, with or without her. Do you hear me?"
"Aye, Captain!" Dipper said, excited, following his leader.
It didn't take long before they exited the village area around the docks and entered the forest that surrounded the enormous walls of the castle. Getting closer, Dipper gulped, realizing just how big it was.
"Dad, how are we going to find that girl in that place? The walls are probably like 400 meters wide…"
"Actually it is more like 300. And that's great, it will be easier to hide once we're inside." Roderick said matter-of-factly. His left arm was holding the lamp ahead to light their way inside the forest. "Now follow me into the woods. We need to find the entrance to the secret passage and the sun is already setting."
"Right. About that, how do you know where to find it? And how did you manage to get the maps you showed me?"
"I already told you a billion times. From someone I met in this bloody city."
"Do you come here a lot, Dad?"
Captain Roderick laughed ironically as he raised his lamp in front of him in order to look for the entrance of the hidden tunnel that would lead inside of the castle walls.
"Of course, Son. Stealing from the King right under his nose is my favorite sport, you know that. Here! We're here!" His father announced, kneeling on the floor, moving lots of dry leaves and large stones from the way. He found a plain circle of wood and removed it from its place, revealing tunnels beneath the floor. He jumped down and his son followed, landing gracefully.
"I know you told me someone gave you the maps, what I meant was how did you meet that person? Who is he? And how did you know about it in the first place?"
Roderick sighed, annoyed, lifting the lamp and starting to walk the narrow path. The tunnels were so slim; they had to walk in a line instead of side by side.
"Geez, you're just so curious! Asking too many questions for your own good. You got that from your Grunkle Stan, you know? Though you're more of a bookworm than he ever was…"
"Will you answer me or not? I think we do have a lot of walking to do and I'd like to know."
"Fine. From the beginning, the ancient King that built this castle was obsessed with getaways. He wanted a majestic castle with lots of secret passages that only he would know about, so if his enemies ever entered the gates, he'd already have escaped."
"I supposed he killed the ones who planned the passages, right? Since he wanted to be the only one to know…"
"Very observant, but he didn't need to, he was already very old and was dying anyway when the castle was finished."
"Anyhow, that man I knew worked in the palace since he was very young, just a stable boy at the time, and he heard some stories about the hidden passages, so he used to look around all over the place for them. And he ended up finding some. One is the one we're using right now. Today he's an old man, and over the years, he mapped the ones he got to know and I met him at the village one time I came here. Turns out he also hates the King and he said he'd help me if I gave him and his family some money from the ransom. I also had to pay some things in advance as well, because he's obviously not stupid and he wouldn't give me the maps without receiving anything…"
"That's obvious. And of course he hates the King. Everyone hates the King. He lets people starve in his stupid kingdom and he just doesn't do anything about it!" Dipper said, annoyed. "So, where is this tunnel leading anyway?"
"The dungeons. There's another tunnel on the north side of the castle, but that leads to the Storage Room, and I think that might be crowded because of the ball. But just search for the kitchen if you need another way out. Behind the kitchen there are the storerooms, the pantry, the larder and the buttery. The passage is somewhere around the floor of the last one."
"Okay, but what if I can't go there either? What if there are too many guards around the dungeons and too many people in the way of the kitchen? See, that's the reason I told you it'd be better to get her after the bloody ball…"
"It has to be before it, Dipper. The longer the ship stays at the docks, the more likely it is to be spotted and recognized, even if it's in disguise. I'm not stupid to leave it docked for long every time I come here, too many guards for our own good. But it is the quickest way to leave town, and we're gonna need it."
"Okay, but is there another passage?" The boy asked shamelessly, rubbing the back of his neck in a nervous gesture. He hated to show any kind of weakness, but he needed to know. Sometimes, the wisest thing to do was admit your ignorance.
"You saw the maps too, Son, didn't you?"
"Yeah, for hours, just like you did and just like you told me, but apparently I didn't understand it half as well as you did…"
"Well, there's another one, hidden under the ground of the dovecote, which is a rounded building between the south and middle ward. I advise you to be careful and to avoid that passage since you'd have to get out of the palace to reach it. You'll have to be very stealthy for it to work. But if you do, the tunnels that come from the dovecote lead into this one so you'll come out the same way we came in through."
"Okay. Got it." Dipper said, nodding, full of confidence, resisting the urge to note everything down. The young man also realized that they passed through another passage inside the tunnels and that it was probably what led to the dovecote, so he didn't even have to ask his father about it.
"We're here." His father announced putting the lamp in the corner of the narrow tunnel before touching the wall in front of him. It looked like a dead end, but he was sure he was in the right place. "Okay, Son, this is it. Remember what I told you, if we get in trouble, you leave even without her or me, okay? And try to be invisible, it's better not to waste your strength in futile battles and get away than just let your abilities get you in over your head."
"I always am."
Indeed, Dipper was probably one of the most careful guys Roderick had ever met, but it was a father's job to worry about his offspring and tell them to be careful. Even so, the experienced captain smiled.
"Great. Now help me push it out of the way."
Dipper nodded and helped his father push the wall in front of them. It took a while and the teenager was about to question if he was certain they were in the right place when it suddenly started to open with a creaking sound. The wall turned out to be a hidden door he could open by pulling one edge, and instead of opening from the side, it was from a central axis, so both sides would rotate around it; like a revolving door.
"It's a rotating door!" Dipper realized in amazement as they walked through it. Then, they pulled it from the other side to close it again, Dipper noticed that the irregular pattern of the stones on the wall helped in hiding the rotating door, since its shape was not square, it was very irregular. "So, really almost no one knows about these passages?"
"Of course not, Son. That's why they're called 'secret passages'. Now go, you get the princess, I'll be around to try and create some distraction, but only if I notice some commotion between the guards."
Dipper nodded and complied, though he'd never admit he was indeed a bit apprehensive about his mission. Not that he wouldn't manage, but that he might bring the wrong girl, after all, he'd never seen the princess before. In fact, until that day, he had never laid a foot before in his life and as far as he knew, the princess was so spoiled, so pampered that she'd never even left the castle grounds. His father knew what she looked like though, and had described her to him. Dipper hoped his depiction would be enough to find the correct girl.
"Okay. And I suppose you're not gonna leave empty handed, right?"
Captain Roderick grinned, closing the revolving door. The dungeon was dark and with no one to be seen. A simply perfect scenario for the two pirates. "Oh, Son, you know I'd never leave empty handed from a castle."
Princess Mabel walked through the corridors of the palace, going back to her chambers. The palace seemed to be very quiet and empty, but that was just because most of the servants and the guards were downstairs, at the Great Hall to serve and welcome the guests. A lot of the servants were also in the kitchen, preparing the food for the night's feast.
Mabel sighed. She kinda liked the balls, but not the blisters on her feet that she ended up with after a long night. She also didn't like the false smiles people gave her just because she was the princess and the fact that she was never allowed to dress or act the way she wanted to. She always found the parties beautiful and it was fun to dance and all, but the reason for tonight's festivities was no reason for her to celebrate.
Passing by a mirror, she stopped to stare at her reflection; her chestnut hair was in a half ponytail, though the tail part was up into a bun. It was a bit messier than her father would accept, but for her it was just fine. The princess took a deep breath and smiled at her reflection. No one was gonna ruin her day. Or night. Because she was Mabel, and Mabel was always cheerfully positive, as her friends used to tell her.
"I have a great feeling about tonight!"
Then Mabel turned to walk back to her room when she found one of her best friends and lady in waiting, Candy. Her long black hair was swinging at her back as she walked with quick steps.
"Princess, I found you at last. Your father asked me to bring you downstairs to the ball. He said half of the guests are already there."
"So I've heard. I just forgot something in my room and then I'll go down. You can wait for me there with Grenda and tell my father I'll be down in five minutes."
"Sure. I'm going. And don't worry, Mabel." Candy said letting the formality go, she and Grenda usually did that since they were more of friends than subjects to Mabel, but they at least tried to call her 'princess' once in a while in front of people. Candy grabbed her hands in a reassuring gesture. "Don't worry about tonight. Grenda and I will always be by your side, no matter what. Everything will be fine."
"I know. Thanks." She replied, glad for her friend's support as she hugged her. "Well, we shall go now. Go tell my father, I'll be down fairly soon."
"Yes, Mabel." Candy said, walking away. The princess watched her leave and continued on her path to her room, without noticing she was being watched by someone hidden behind the curtains.
Dipper was glad he was there at that moment, now he was sure whom he was going to kidnap. Mentally, he was reviewing his checklist. Find a way upstairs to the rooms without calling attention. Check. Hide around and not be spotted. Check. Discover who the princess is. Check. Dipper grinned. Now he had to wait until she was close enough. So he could check the 'get the princess' off his mental checklist.
Luckily for him, her path was right in his direction and as soon as she passed him, he discretely left his hiding spot and approaches her. And that's what he methodically did, grabbing her from behind and being very quickly to cover her mouth so she wouldn't scream. She was startled and scared and obviously tried to fight back, but he was stronger. Yet, somehow his grip was almost gentle.
"Stop moving or you'll only get hurt." He told her in a fierce tone and she noticed her captor was young just by the soft yet strict voice. "I'm kidnapping you and I don't want to hurt you, but I will if I have to." He said and then mumbled under his breath for himself, not even noticing he was saying it out loud, and she probably only heard him because she was so close. "Get the princess. Check. Get the ropes. Check. Bind the princess…" and then he complained, "Gross! You licked my hand!"
"And you're lucky I'm not yelling!" She said, almost screaming and using the moment of her captor's distraction to turn around to face him with furrowed eyebrows. When she started hearing his checklist she actually thought this was some kind of joke, but looking at him, she realized it wasn't.
Mabel realized his clothes were weird; close to the description she heard pirates used. He had messy brown hair, long black boots, gray pants, a dark blue and red vest over a black shirt and a leather belt that held a beautiful sword. Though he was young, very young, probably around her age, and maybe he hadn't even reached majority yet, just like her. She also noticed he was handsome, and she didn't even curse herself for noting something like that in this kind of situation. After all, she was Mabel and she always had some time to check out cute boys.
But the most amazing thing she found about him were his chestnut brown irises. His eyes were fierce, angry and bold; however, she could see kindness in them too. Not very noticeable because it was buried beneath all the toughness, but it was already a lot more than some of the false people she knew at the ball. The princess could tell by the way he was holding her that he didn't really mean to harm her. And those thoughts eased her heart.
"Are you a pirate?" Mabel questioned and one of his eyebrows instantly rose in confusion. He was sure she'd try to pull away from him and run, desperately calling for help; which wouldn't work because he was already holding a piece of clean cloth and rope he would use to gag her. And then he'd get another rope to bind her wrists behind her back so he could take her away.
"Yeah… I am…" Dipper answered, not really knowing how to react to that. He had everything planned out. Everything. And she was ruining it by not doing what she was supposed to do.
"And you're kidnapping me?" She questioned, but she knew the answer. He looked to the sides as if he couldn't believe his eyes and ears.
"Yeah… Wasn't it obvious?"
"And we're going on a ship out of the town? Are we going on an adventure?" The last question came with a thrilling smile from her and he almost gasped at her crazy next statement, "That seems so nice!"
"You're kidding me, right?" He couldn't resist saying.
"No way! I've always wanted to travel by ship and go on adventures. It's like a dream come true! But without the kidnapping part… If I go willingly can't you just forget that?"
"But that's not in the plans. You're supposed to resist and I'm supposed to tie you up. That's how things in a kidnapping work."
"Well, I'm changing the rules now. Deal with it." Her voice was between matter-of-fact and demanding as she waved a hand with her index finger high up, pointing at the sky and then at him.
"Okay, then. Come with me." Dipper said grabbing her right arm and pushing her, he had to do at least that.
"Wait! I have to get something first!"
"My room is just a few doors down; I need something from there first."
"Really?" He asked, unbelieving, his situation.
"Really!" She answered and he sighed.
"Fine. Let's go. But quickly."
Rapidly they reached her room and she entered, going directly to her dressing table. He followed her and then closed the door; he didn't want to be caught by surprise by any unwelcome person entering the room.
Mabel took off her very fancy necklace full of diamonds and other precious stones on the dressing table and got another one, a simple golden one with a rectangular pendant. Dipper looked at the fancy necklace on the table and, being the pirate he was, he couldn't help but sneak his hand to grab it and put it in his pocket. As she finished putting the golden necklace in place, she said she was ready to leave.
Both exited the room in a hurry and he started to run ahead, holding her arm lightly, to the same place where they came from. But alas, they heard footsteps coming.
"We're gonna need another way." Mabel whispered. "What is the plan, are we going to jump off the walls? Or is there another way that leads outside?"
"No, we need to get to the dungeons."
"Then come with me." She turned to enter another corridor before the person walking by could see them and they ran into the direction she pointed. Living there, she obviously knew her way around. Even so, Dipper was a bit angry for not being able to do this whole thing the way he planned.
They descended the stairs and started walking to the dungeons, she was curious to know why, but knew she'd have to ask later, for now, both had to concentrate. Unfortunately, in the middle of the way they found guards, so they quickly hid behind a pillar.
"Is there another way?" He found himself asking.
"No… By the way, why the dungeons?"
"There's a secret passage that leads outside."
"Really? I thought it was a myth. I never found any hidden passage around here…" She said looking at the guards from behind the pillar. "Do you know any other passages?"
"Hum... There's one in the kitchen."
"We can't go, there are a lot of people in that place now. Any other?"
"The one in the dovecote."
"Great! The coast will be clear to get there."
He gulped. Dipper was way out of his comfort zone, he had everything planned and it was all blown to pieces. He was feeling a bit lost and confused, but he reminded himself to pull together and hold on. He was a pirate after all. Though he was indeed impressed by the girl's spontaneity.
"Are you sure?" he asked, distrustfully. "There won't be any place for us to hide outside the palace."
"No, but we won't really need it. The path will be quite empty now."
Part of him screamed to be careful, that it could be a trap. The other part just believed the crazy girl and said to go with it. He ended up listening to the second one. Dipper nodded and they left, sprinting, looking for any guards that might be on the way. Finally, they reached the dovecote. By then, Dipper's heart was pounding hard against his chest, fearing he might fail.
Mabel entered first, not even bothering to raise her pink dress so it wouldn't tug around the dirty floor. Dipper came right behind her and closed the door, it was a bit dark and the doves and pigeons inside seemed scared by their presence.
"Okay, let's hurry because someone might hear the birds. Where is the passage?"
"I don't know, I guess it's somewhere on the floor. Look for a trapdoor."
Both looked down, searching for something, but all they saw was perfect and dirty wooden floor. There was nothing that could be used as a handle to pull it. Then, Dipper realized it probably didn't have anything to help being opened. Just like the rotating door, it was very well hidden. So it probably didn't have a handle to help to open it like a normal trapdoor.
Thankfully, a lamp was forgotten inside it and Dipper lit it, in fact, he actually remembered to bring a candle and matches, but the lamp was way better than a candle. With the light and a lot of attention to the ground, both spotted a square on the wooden boards. That was it.
Dipper lowered down with his dagger in hand and by placing the thin blade on the very tiny slit, he managed to use it as a lever to incline the trapdoor just enough to open it.
"Yes! Now go first."
"You're kidding me? How am I going to hold on to go down?"
"With your hands?" His sarcasm was irritating.
"No way, you go down first and then catch me. I can barely lift my arms with this stupid dress!" She said trying to lift them, but her elbows wouldn't go higher than her shoulders.
Dipper sighed, exasperated."I'm not stupid, you'll go away when I'm down."
"Don't be silly, oh paranoid one. I already willingly came all the way here. If I wanted to run from you and not with you, I'd already have had the chance of getting you arrested."
"Fine. I'll go first. Pass me the lamp and then come down."
"Okay." She replied watching him descend gracefully and then wondered if he had already done stuff like that. She guessed so. She passed him the lamp and he put it down on the floor near him, then he raised his arms.
"Now, come. I'll catch you."
Mabel took a deep breath, pulled her fancy dress out of the way and jumped down, glad that he did indeed grab her waist so she wouldn't fall against the ground of the hidden tunnel. And he was glad she managed to help support herself by putting her hands on his shoulders.
"Thanks." The princess whispered the moment she felt her feet touch the ground and she found herself staring at his beautiful chestnut eyes again. In the dim light, they seemed even deeper than she found at first. They were only centimeters apart and then he gently pushed her away so he could close the trapdoor as if it was never opened.
"Now follow me." Dipper announced, pulling her by the hand and holding the lantern with his free one. And so they started walking the long path of the tunnels. Turned out it was a Y shaped tunnel, the exit outside the castle was the only one, where both pirates had come from, while the inside exits led to the dovecote and the dungeons.
As they went further, one behind the other, they started hearing quick footsteps echoing through the narrow corridors. She gripped his sleeves and asked if that could be the guards.
"No way. Almost no one knows about this. It's just the person that came in with me." Dipper clarified.
"And who would that be?" The footsteps grew louder; the person was probably very close.
"My captain, of course."
"So you were talking about me?" Roderick asked, finding them at last. Deep down, he was very worried about his son not escaping alive, but on the way, he was glad that he didn't find his boy inside the dungeon or that he hadn't heard any guards speaking of an intrusion.
"Aye, Captain. I told you I could do this." Dipper said with a very pleased and proud grin. "We shall go now."
"Indeed. Never doubt you once. Though I thought you'd gag and tie her up."
"That was the plan, but no time to explain now. We have to move. It won't be long until they notice her absence."
The captain nodded and the three of them traversed the path almost sprinting. Roderick didn't even get to ask how they had a lamp if they were coming from the dovecote way, he just assumed they got it somehow and ignored that simple detail.
Under the cover of the night, they exited the secret passage and started to go to the village, more specifically, the docks.
"Come on, Princess, faster." Dipper complained pulling her by the hand.
"Try to run in high heels and a tight corset. I can barely breathe in this stupid thing. If I faint, I'll blame you. We just can't go walking all the way down there."
"Relax. We won't. We just didn't want our ride so close to the secret passage because someone might have spotted it." The captain explained. "Just ahead there are two horses I borrowed." The princess wondered if by 'borrowed' he meant 'stole', though she didn't say anything.
"But we're three." Mabel pointed out, panting a lot more than them.
"You two are the lighter ones, so you'll go on one."
"I know how to ride a horse, just so you know…" She told the captain with an annoyed look and slightly offended tone.
It was kinda funny the way she wasn't scared of them, they were pirates, after all. She had heard terrible stories about them, about pirates, yet she didn't feel threatened by them. How could it be? She guessed it was because she knew nothing is what it seemed and sometimes, the best books had a stupid cover. Or maybe it could be because she felt as she was being saved from her fate of living in that palace full of rules that held her down like a caged bird.
Finally, they found the horses and mounted them to run back to the docks. Dipper was first and then Roderick helped Mabel up, the girl actually wanted to do it by herself, but her dress prevented a lot of movements. She was placed in front of Dipper and let him guide the way with a very bored expression. She liked to ride horses, and she wanted to hold the reins, yet, they treated her like a damsel in distress. Okay, so her dress didn't really help her at all, but it wasn't fair. If she had known she'd be going on an adventure she would have put on proper attire for the occasion.
Since it was very dark, almost no one would see them, they just had to be careful so the horses' hoofs wouldn't wake up the entire village as they sprinted back to the ship. Luckily for them, though, loud thunders covered the sound of the horses running through the streets. It didn't take long before raindrops started falling on them.
When they were close enough, they dismounted only to run the not so long path of the docks. It was empty and quite silent, apart from their noise and the sound of the rain getting stronger. As they got near their destination, Dipper noticed something.
"Captain, where is the ramp to enter the ship?" The vessel wasn't so far apart and it wasn't so high, but it would be impossible to jump it. Especially, when they were already preparing the sails to leave the docks; in a matter of minutes, the ship would be moving towards the ocean.
"Kid, I wanted it to be faster, we might lose time with the ramp. Why did you think I told you to bring this?" Roderick asked showing something that caught the girl's attention.
"Is it a grappling hook? I always wanted to throw one of these. May I? Please!"
"I don't know… it requires some time and experience…" The captain said, they were still running to get there, but they were finally almost at the end of the dock. Mabel ignored him and took it from his hands, surprising both pirates. And then, she threw it over the taffrail perfectly. Roderick grinned. "It was like you were born for it, Girl."
"Thanks. But how are we going up? It's not like I can go up with in stupid dress…"
"Don't worry about that. Just hold on very tight." He answered making a signal for the people inside the ship and then a chubby looking man with a gentle expression started pulling it with the help of another man, a skinny young one with a very unfriendly face and dark hair over his eyes. In no time, she was standing on the deck; Dipper and Roderick came seconds later.
"Come on, guys. We're setting sail! Let's get our butts out of here before anyone finds out the princess is missing." The captain commanded and the crew obeyed quickly.
Mabel felt the ship starting to move, and she put her hands over the taffrail to look at the city and the shape of the castle walls where she lived her whole life. Part of her was sad to leave, but another part was so excited to go on an adventure as she always dreamed to do just like the ones she read in books from the castle's library.
Roderick saw the princess gripping something around her neck, a golden necklace, and he assumed she probably did this often when nervous or anxious before he went upstairs to position himself behind the helm.
As she watching the shape of the palace and the village get further and further away, she had a calm, yet sad, expression on her face. However it didn't last long, Dipper crossed his arms and inclined his head towards her with a cocky expression in his face.
"So, have you already regretted coming, Princess?"
She turned to look at him and to his surprise; she made a small but truthful smile.