Rapunzel's Broken Crown
Rapunzel woke up first, with her head resting on Eugene's muscled chest, with her left arm gently draped over his shoulder. She felt the slow, strong beat of his heart and her head rose and fell with each breath he took. She opened her eyes, extended her left arm, spread her fingers and admired the glint of the ring that now adorned her hand – the same ring that Pascal and Maximus had tried so hard to almost lose at their wedding yesterday. She smirked and shook her head a bit, wondering if the ring was one of Eugene's 'jobs' when he was the kingdom's resident scoundrel, but she wasn't ever going to ask.
She looked at the peaceful sleeping face of Eugene, and smiled. She loved the thought, "Eugene is my husband."
For a man who had for so many years lived alone as an orphan in shadows and without crowds or any kind of luxury, he had been so wonderful the entire day of the huge public wedding crowds and even more incredible in private last night. "Mother" Gothel never told her about boys, since she was forbidden to meet anyone, and so her real mother had to give her a crash course on what to expect and what to do. Eugene had been very understanding and gentle with her, and she couldn't believe how he made her feel.
This was the first day of an exciting new lifetime together that she could not even imagine just a few months before.
She put her head back on his chest, and stroked him. It was enough to cause Eugene to stir, stretch, yawn, and wrap his arms around his bride.
"Good morning, Sunshine," Eugene said softly and kissed her forehead. He knew the entire story now, and chose that as his pet name for her. She loved it, and so did her mother.
She smushed his nose with her slender finger, and kissed him full on the lips. "'Morning..."
"I smell something delicious. Besides you," he kidded.
"My mother's sister has the best cooking staff in her kingdom. We should probably start to get ready for breakfast soon," she urged, and he nodded.
He took her ringed hand in his and said, "Purchased. With the reward money your father insisted I take."
She raised an eyebrow and lighted slapped his cheek, "You faker, you were awake already!"
Eugene instructed, "A good thief never lets a would-be assailant know that he isn't sleeping. Besides I have a much better jewel to hold than is on your finger."
She kissed him again, and they snuggled closer. She was amazed how strong he was, and he was equally amazed how anyone's skin could be as soft as hers.
They were honeymooning at her aunt's peninsular kingdom near to her parents on the opposite side of the massive forest adjacent to her home. They were well protected from any possible unexpected magical return of Gothel or any thugs who wanted to 'get even' with Eugene from his dark days.
Eugene wasn't ready to get up, and started tickling Rapunzel in places that even she didn't know were ticklish until last night. They started laughing, but quickly got very quiet, as tickling turned into kissing and a lot more.
Pascal covered his eyes, his skin flashed red, and he turned around for the second time since last night. It was going to take some time for him to get used to this odd new human activity they liked, apparently a lot.
Needless to say they were late to breakfast. When they sat and exchanged morning greetings with Rapunzel's aunt and uncle, they looked elegant in their royal garments, but couldn't help but look a bit rumpled in their rush to dress.
Seeing the pair and knowing exactly what had transpired before breakfast, the King bit his lip to suppress the grin that was forming, and Rapunzel's aunt looked a bit embarrassed, but she ordered the servants to start breakfast without further delay.
The Queen complimented the young princess in her conversation, "Rapunzel, dear, you are such the spitting image of your mother. Even your brunette hair. You are as beautiful as she was at 18."
"Thank you Auntie," Rapunzel blushed.
The Queen continued her praise, "Your mother told us all about the incredible bravery of Sir Eugene in saving you. We are very impressed, young man, that you found and rescued our niece. The extended family of two kingdoms is forever in your debt."
"Thank you Highnesses," bowed Eugene sincerely. He knew there was a 'but' coming, and so did Rapunzel.
The Queen began to second guess them, "However, I can't help but wonder if there hadn't been some way to save your beautiful golden hair, Rapunzel. You were so darling as an infant with those golden locks. Your short brown hair is pretty, but it will be forever so...common."
Rapunzel and Eugene sat awkwardly at that statement.
"Don't go there, dear," warned the King.
"It's all right, Uncle," Rapunzel said politely, but grabbed Eugene's hand under the table for strength.
Her aunt started to go on about something that was more insulting, but Rapunzel steeled herself and interrupted more angrily than she had planned, "With all due respect, Auntie, when Eugene saved me - with his dying breath - from a loveless life of abusive slavery, with complete isolation and daily demands from an evil, murderous woman who kidnapped me and posed falsely as my real mother for my entire life, I would have gladly been baldall the rest of my life."
The Queen was taken aback, but she immediately realized how callous she had been to both of them. The King sighed relief. She bowed, and apologized, the rest of the conversation together was pleasant and light.
With that matter settled, the newlyweds did enjoy their day in the castle, but frankly both of them felt a little caged in, knowing there was an army of guards keeping them safe. Rapunzel felt that by being protected by her parents and aunt and uncle, she was just as imprisoned as when Mother Gothel had her locked high in the tower. Rapunzel was really no more used to being royalty than Eugene was as a reformed thief. Eugene could see that trapped look in her eyes.
Walking along an idyllic courtyard garden stone path that reminded them both of being in the deep woods, Eugene suggested, "Let's just go out in the forest for the rest of our honeymoon. Just the two of us. I can take care of us. You can go barefoot again, and stash your tiara for a few days."
Her eyes went wide and sparkled, and she hugged him around the neck.
"Oh yes! Let's!" and they twirled around together.
Before dawn the next morning, they drafted a note, and left it on the King's giant study desk. She warned her relatives not to come looking for them, and that as an accomplished woodsman, Eugene would protect them expertly. They packed lightly, mounted Maximus and took off with Pascal hugging her collar to hang on, and paid off the palace guard who let them out quietly.
They felt so free riding in the woodlands, far away from all the pomp and circumstance of royal life for awhile. They found a beautiful clearing to spend their second day of marriage. They ran hand in hand through fields of clover, and Eugene picked wild flowers for her hair. They climbed on rocks, and swung from vines. Rapunzel climbed a tree and threw nuts at Eugene. They watched the birds and investigated small animals' burrows. They hung their clothes on a tree limb and swam together in a hillside stream for a long time, but it wasn't long before they held each other very still and close under a waterfall, much to Pascal's continued chagrin.
After that, Eugene insisted on his favorite game of keep-the-crown-away-from-the-princess, and she laughed happily, with all the hugging and tickling. Eugene tossed her tiara too far though, and although it tried to run it down, it dropped over the edge of a steep hill and it rolled faster toward a rocky creek below.
Rapunzel for a moment had a look of horror in her eyes as the tiara disappeared.
"It's all right. I'll go get it," and he rushed off down the hill at a dead run.
"OK," she said shakily, and stood on the top of the hill with her hands clutched.
Maximus was grazing lazily in the lush grass near the creek, with Pascal perched on his head, sunning himself. He'd had enough of all the lovey-dovey human stuff, and needed a break from them. He only imagined, and rightly so, the pair was only going to get worse doing that. Whenever she was alone with Pascal, Rapunzel could only talk to him about Eugene constantly and dreamily. It was enough for Pascal to make him almost hurl a horsefly.
Maximus didn't see that Rapunzel's tiara had come to rest directly behind him on the rocky creek bed.
Eugene's sudden rush startled Maximus, so he spun his head around to pull his frying pan out of the saddle bag to protect himself from the unseen attacker. He lost his balance. Pascal fell unceremoniously into the creek water, and the full weight of Maximus' hindquarters crushed the delicate crown. Not knowing what he had done, Maximus assumed an attack stance, then realized it was only Eugene and relaxed, but he whinnied his annoyance at being startled.
Eugene yelled, "Maximus! Look what you've done!"
The horse and chameleon turned around in a panic, and saw that Rapunzel's tiara was twisted and broken into a million pieces. Pascal turned completely white in fear.
Frantically, the trio tried to find all the pieces. Pascal picked a few up of the jewels delicately in his mouth and brought them to Eugene.
Eugene was in total panic, as he tried to jam and bend all the jewels and metals back into some kind of order. The animals watched expectantly.
Unknown to Eugene, Pascal, and Maximus, Rapunzel had walked down the hill to the creek.
"Eugene? What's going on? You were taking so long," She inquired.
The animals had looks of complete terror. Eugene stammered and grinned sheepishly as he hid the horribly damaged tiara in his pouch, "Um. Nothing. Ev-everything's all right, Rapunzel."
"Soooo...where's my tiara, husband dearest?" she asked in a sing-song tone.
"It's...it's right here in the pouch," he said nervously, patted the side of the leather container, but she could sense he was only telling part of the truth.
"Then, let's see it. I want to wear it now. I feel very 'royal' right now," and she spun around, which flared her dress, baring her pretty legs for him to see for an instant. She knew that would distract him.
Eugene sputtered, "Right now? You want to wear it now? It might get dirty or lost again. Let's just keep it right where it's safe."
She put her hands on her hips, pouted, stomped her bare feet, and demanded, "I want my tiara and I want it now!"
Slowly he reached into the pouch as Maximus and Pascal swallowed hard. Pascal turned brilliant yellow in fear.
He held out the mangled and misshapen tiara with several missing jewels in his shaking hand. Rapunzel gazed at it with a horrified look, but she decided her prank had gone on long enough. Eugene's guilty, sad eyes said it all - how sorry he was.
She started laughing, puzzling all of them, "Silly boys, that wasn't the real tiara. That's back at my Aunt and Uncle's palace. I would never take anything that valuable out here with us. Too many thievesout here... In ten days when we go home, I'll get it then!"
She smirked to let the impact of what she said sink in.
"You are all so sweet to have wanted to fix it though. I love allof you boys!" and she proceeded to hold their heads in her hands kiss all of them.
Eugene, Maximus, and Pascal were dumbfounded, but a mischievous grin crept over Eugene's face in his relief that it was a faux tiara. But it was 'get even time'.
"Why, you little tease!" Eugene started chasing and tickling the barefoot beauty that was his bride.
Pascal and Maximus watched as the newlyweds took off after each other into the deep woods. The forest was filled with their laughter, until from afar, Pascal and Maximus could hear Rapunzel shriek with delight, and it suddenly got very quiet. The animal friends looked at each other, and while they couldn't speak, each knew the other's thought, "Humans..."
It wasn't the last time over the next week and half they would have that look.