Chapter 16 – Thoughts, Deals, and Rude Awakenings
'Dragons' – Dragonese
"Hello, dear." 'Mother' greeted, who was also known as Gothel, as she took off her hood.
Pascal cowered away from the voice and blended into the log. Rapunzel stood quickly off the fallen log and stepped back, shaking her head. Gothel simply made her way around the dragons toward Rapunzel.
"B-but- how did you-" Gothel took her arms and pulled her into a hug, "How did you find me?"
Gothel hummed, smoothing her hand gently down the back of Rapunzel's head. "Oh, it was easy, really," she said easily completely ignoring Toothless and Cielo as they stood a few steps away, "I just listened to the sound of complete and utter betrayal and followed that."
Rapunzel sighed, "Mother . . . "
Gothel pulled away before she could finish.
"We're going home, Rapunzel," she said firmly and took her wrist in an iron grip. "Now." Rapunzel stumbled a few steps forward as her mother yanked her forward. She pulled her arm free and stepped back.
"N-no, mother, wait," she insisted with a light shake of her head and a weak smile. "You don't understand. I've been on this incredible journey and I've done and seen so much! I've made new friends, and-"
"Yes, yes," Gothel cut her off quickly. "The wanted thief, two adventurous boys and a couple of flying lizards, I'm so proud. Now," the woman reached for Rapunzel's wrist again and when she caught it, managed to pull her another few feet away from their small campsite. "Come on, Rapunzel."
Toothless lowered his body to the ground, lips curling back from his teeth. A low growl rumbled out of him and Cielo. Both dragons could sense that something was off, and neither liked it.
"Mother, please!" This time when Rapunzel pulled free, she used such a force that it nearly knocked Gothel off her balance.
"Just, just listen to me, please." She begged. "These are . . . they're my friends, and they're . . . they're helping me. They promised to take me to the see the lanterns and get me home safe, so you don't have to-"
Gothel's eyes narrowed slightly. "And . . . you trust them: a group of strangers?"
"I do," Rapunzel said honestly. "They . . . they wouldn't hurt me. Right, guys?" She turned to the dragons who bowed their heads in an honest nod. Gothel's scowl deepened. "Everyone's been so nice to me, mother. Hiccup, Carlos, Sharpshot, Toothless, Cielo . . . even Eugene . . . " She turned her gaze downward and her smile became shy. "Mother," she whispered. "I think . . . I think he likes me . . . "
There was a trace of hope in her voice: a hope in her eyes and in her heart that had never been there before. It blossomed more as she spent time with her new friends who were helping her achieve her dream. But Gothel was able pounced on it quick as lightning and fully intending on tearing it to shreds.
"'Likes you'?" She repeated, her voice was sarcastic and sweetly toxic. "Please, Rapunzel, that's demented!" She stepped around her daughter and rolled her eyes, laughing.
Rapunzel's shoulders lowered slightly, and she sighed in a sort of long-suffering manner. Toothless and Cielo didn't like this woman. They couldn't understand why this woman won't let Rapunzel experience a little bit of the outside world.
"Mother, I-" Rapunzel began.
"This is why you never should have left!" Gothel spoke over her daughter before she'd even fully taken the breath speak. It became clear that the woman had no interest in hearing anything that Rapunzel had to say. "Dear, this whole romance that you've invented around these strangers? It just proves that you're too naive to be here."
Rapunzel's eyes widened at her mother's argument. Despite it, however, she was ignored.
"Why would he like you, come on now, really?" Gothel asked. She caressed the side of Rapunzel's cheek upwards toward her hair, and pulled two handful of her blond mane out to shove in her face like it was an example. "Just look at you, do you think that's he's impressed?"
Gothel all but threw Rapunzel's hair at her when the girl pulled away. Toothless and Cielo were scowling at the woman who's Rapunzel's mother. They hated this woman by the second.
"Don't be a dummy," Gothel cooed. "Come, with mummy." She stepped back, toward the trail in the woods. She stood silhouetted against the white of the fog rising up around and behind her, the stark cold darkness in sharp contrast with the glowing warmth of their small campfire. "Mother . . . "
The finality in Rapunzel's voice startled them all, even herself. Everyone's attention fixed on her for several tense heartbeats, on her furrowed eyebrows and clenched fists until Gothel slowly lowered her arms.
" . . . 'no'?" Her voice drifted through the clearing dangerously low. "Oh. I see how it is."
The tall woman drifted her way over in a few short steps, her skirt swirling.
"Rapunzel knows best!
Rapunzel's so mature, now!
Such a clever grown-up miss!"
She patted Rapunzel's head while stroking her cheek as she walked away.
"Rapunzel knows best!" Gothel continued to mock.
"Fine, if you're so sure, then,
Go ahead and give him this!"
Rapunzel gasped when Gothel had reached into her cape and pulled out the brown leather shoulder bag- Eugene's satchel. Shaking her head in disbelief, Rapunzel whispered, "H-How did you-"
"This is why he's here!" Gothel pulled the crown out of the bag, and held it up in front of Rapunzel's face.
"Don't let him deceive you!
Give it to him, watch, you'll see!"
She shoved away and tossed the crown at Rapunzel, who just barely managed to catch it. Rapunzel stood holding the crown, staring down into the crystals and jewels sparkling back at her. She swallowed and turned her eyes back up onto Gothel.
"I will!" Rapunzel declared, defiantly, and put back her shoulders.
"Trust me, my dear," Gothel snapped her fingers.
"That's how fast he'll leave you!
I won't say 'I told you so!-"
Then Gothel placed the satchel's strap around Rapunzel's shoulder and twirled with her before she let go.
"No, Rapunzel knows best!
So if he's such a dreamboat
Go and put him to the test!"
Gothel turned, and in a great sweeping arch of her cloak and skirt, she returned to the edge of their clearing.
"Mother, wait!" Rapunzel called out.
"If he's lying,
Don't come crying!
Mother knows best!"
Gothel turned on her heel with the sweep of her cloak, disappeared into the fog behind her. Rapunzel tightened her hold on the golden edges of the crown as her mother's cloaked form disappeared into the fog and darkness.
"Rapunzel?" Toothless warbled as he went over to Rapunzel and nudged her shoulder.
She looked over at him and sighed as she placed her hand on his head.
"Please don't tell them, you two." Rapunzel begged Toothless and Cielo. The two dragons looked at each other and then nodded at Rapunzel, "Thanks you guys."
Eugene's voice caused both Rapunzel and the dragons jump. Rapunzel quickly put the crown back into the satchel and hid it nearby, "Could you settle an argument for us?"
"Is there any chance that I'm going to end up with super strength in my hand?" Eugene asked them as he approached with a large bundle of large dry sticks in his hands. Hiccup and Carlos came up not far behind, rolling their eyes as they carried a smaller bunch plentiful pile of their own along with Sharpshot. "Because, I'm not going to lie, that would be stupendous."
When the four arrived at the campsite, they noticed that Rapunzel seemed quiet for some strange reason.
"Hey, you guys alright?" Eugene asked.
"Did something happen?" Hiccup asked.
"Don't worry, I'm fine," Rapunzel answered, pushing her hair back and turned towards them, "Just lost in thoughts, I guess."
Hiccup and Carlos glanced at each other and then to their dragons who shook their heads, which meant that they didn't want to talk about it.
"I mean because here's the thing!" Eugene continued, kneeling down to start putting all of their firewood into a pile. "Superhuman good looks? I always had 'em, born with it!"
"You're not that good-looking," Hiccup muttered dryly, and sat down near the fire with a wry smile playing at the corner of his lips. Toothless walked around behind him and placed his large head into the boy's lap.
"Shush." Eugene glared at him. "But superhuman strength? Can you imagine the possibilities of it!?"
"My father was able to lift all kinds of things as he got older. He can lift an entire tree without breaking a sweat." Hiccup interjected.
"I have to admit that your people able to lift anything, but what about a house?" Eugene questioned.
"We never did anything like that or a need to." Hiccup commented, shrugged, "But I've already told him that it's not going to happen."
"Excuse me!" Eugene snapped and jabbed a stick in Hiccup's direction. "You have a dragon and she has magic hair! Who knows what else is possible around here!"
"Possibly that crazy white horse who's searching endlessly for you." Cielo commented cheekily which made Hiccup, Toothless, Carlos, and Sharpshot chuckle.
"Okay, what did he say?" Eugene asked.
"You're better off not knowing." Hiccup smiled.
Eugene brow arched at that. He knew that the boys and their dragons knew something.
"Let's get some shut eye. We have a quite a walk before we reach the kingdom." Carlos advised.
"Good idea." Rapunzel agreed.
Then the group got comfortable on the ground; Rapunzel wrapped herself in her hair, Toothless wrapped his wings around Hiccup and Sharpshot, Cielo wrapped his wings around Carlos while Eugene slept on the ground with his head on a boulder for a pillow.
Morning had finally come and the group was still asleep at the moment. Eugene was slowly waking up when he felt water dripping on his face. When he opened his eyes, half lid, he saw the pure white horse with pure fury on his face that was still wet from the river dam that collapsed yesterday.
"Well I hope you're here to apologize." Eugene said before trying to go back to sleep. Then the realization finally hit him.
A scream made all the teens lurch upright and spotted the pure white horse that had one of Eugene's feet in his teeth, dragging him quickly away no matter how hard he was digging his hands into the dirt to slow the horse down.
"No! No! No! Put me down!" Eugene yelled.
The three teens quickly scrambled to their feet and gave chase. Rapunzel was the first to reach him and grabbed his wrists, pulling with all her might. Then Hiccup wrapped his arms around her waist while Carlos brought up the rear.
"Give . . . me . . . him!" Rapunzel grunted out from between her teeth.
Toothless and Cielo decided to join in. Toothless wrapped his arms around Carlos and Cielo wrapped his wings around Toothless's shoulders. They gave one last sharp yank which made Eugene's foot pop out from inside his boot and made the horse fall on his butt. The four humans immediately went flying backwards and landed in a pile at the base of a tree while Carlos landed on Toothless's stomach.
"Thanks, Cielo." Carlos thanked.
"You're welcome." Cielo warbled.
"Thanks, bud." Hiccup thanked.
"Not a problem." Toothless warbled.
The horse shook off his surprise, tossing his mane and whinnying with disapproval. He got back up onto his feet and charged at them, both ears back in fury. Rapunzel quickly got up and went in front of the horse with her arms spread out.
"Woah!" She shouted, hands up to ward the horse away, "Woah woah! Easy, boy, easy! Settle down!"
She kept herself between the horse and her friends. He weaved left and right and tried to get past her, "Easy, boy! Easy…"
The horse stopped moving, staring at Rapunzel or what was directly behind her. Toothless and Cielo, easily twice the horse's size, were looming over Rapunzel's shoulders and gave their best dragon stare. The horse stared at the dragons, and found he had no urge to try and get past the girl any more.
"That's it." Rapunzel praised him cheerfully while Pascal was on top of her head and gesturing the horse to stand down.
"Now sit!" She ordered.
The horse refused.
"Sit!" Rapunzel repeated, and this time, the horse obeyed. He folded his back legs and sat, looking not at all pleased at the situation.
"What?" Eugene exclaimed from the back, dropping on the ground near the tree.
"Now drop the boot!" Rapunzel ordered. The horse gave her an annoyed glare. "Drop it," she repeated warningly.
The horse gave another grunt of annoyance, but eventually gave in to Rapunzel's orders and dropped Eugene's boot on the ground.
"Aw," Rapunzel cooed, cupping the horse's face and rubbing his brow. "You're such a good boy!" She praised. "Ooh, yes you are!"
"Do I even want to know what's going on?" Carlos asked.
"I'm sure that I want to either." Hiccup commented.
"Are you all tired from chasing the bad man all over the place?" Rapunzel pouted.
"Excuse me?" Eugene snapped, offended. Rapunzel chose to ignore him.
"Nobody appreciates you, do they?" She asked the horse, hugging him around the neck as far as she could reach. "Do they?" The horse shook his head and hugged her back to the best of his ability.
"Oh come on!" Eugene complained. "He's a bad horse!"
"Oh he's nothing but a big sweet heart," Rapunzel rolled her eyes as she scratched the horse under his chin, "Isn't t right?" She lowered her gaze and noticed a clasp on his saddle straps. The clasp was decorated with the star burst symbol of the kingdom, as well as the name "Maximus", written in shining gold letters. "Maximus," She repeated, the horse neighed happily in response.
"You've got to be kidding me." Eugene huffed, crossing his arms and legs and pouted.
"Look," Rapunzel began, tilting her body around to hang upside down and look the horse in the eye, "Today is kind of the biggest day of my life," She walked over to Eugene as the two boys helped him up, "And the thing is…I need you not to get him arrested."
The horse neighed in disapproval.
"Just for twenty-four hours and then you can chase each other to your heart's content, okay?" Rapunzel suggested.
She stepped back and grabbed Eugene's arm, pulling him next to her. The man brushed off his pants and turned to the horse with an expression clearly said 'I can't believe I'm doing this'. He held out his hand for a handshake.
Maximus the horse glared at the offered hand and turned his head away. Rapunzel bit her lip and leaned forward a little. "And it's . . . also my birthday . . . just so you know."
The horse huffed again, before he blew his lip and grunted, accepting the deal. He turned back to Eugene and held up one of his front hooves to shake.
A bell chimed in the distance. The sound echoed through the trees and no one really paid attention to it until they noticed Rapunzel's smile go slack. Her eyes were wide with wonder at the sound she'd never heard, slowly moving past Maximus and Eugene as she parted their hands and walked towards the trees. Maximus used this distraction to kick Eugene in the stomach which made him fall to the ground holding his stomach in pain. The boys and their dragons couldn't help but chuckle with the horse.
"Nice one, Maximus." Hiccup complimented, holding his fist out. Maximus returned the gesture but he bumped Hiccup's fist with his hoof.
I learned to be with myself rather than avoiding myself with limiting habits; I started to be aware of my feelings more, rather than numb them. — Judith Wright