Rapunzel & Casimer

Chapter One

King Gabriel Henri was near the end of his days. He had recently became very ill and knew he wouldn’t be living much longer. As hard as the best healers in the land worked they couldn’t make Gabriel better. It was time to choose which of his nine children would be his successor. In this world it didn’t simply go to the eldest but it did however typically get passed down to a male descendant. Gabriel hated to say it but none of his boys were fit to guide his kingdom. He didn’t trust them to run his kingdom for a day, let alone forever. He wanted his second youngest daughter Rapunzel to lead the kingdom. She was his bright, Skilled with a bow and sword, was very fair with a sound head on her shoulders.

There wasn’t anyone he knew that he would trust more at the lead of his kingdom. He knew his male subjects might not respect his decision of naming Rapunzel the new Queen to rule on her own until she chose to get married so he wanted to prove her skill so all the subjects would know she was fit to be queen. He came up with seven trials for Rapunzel to complete that would more than prove she was a fit queen.

When a new ruler took the throne they chose two head knights. He knew Rapunzel would pick Casimer and Bernadette since they were very close friends so he decided it fit to send them along on her journey since when she would rule they would accompany her on all journeys anyway. She could prove herself and her two chosen head knights could prove themselves. This was the perfect solution and he was going to send Jeremy, a local book writer on the journey so he could write down the entire story and publish it so the kingdom could read of her feats and know how amazing she was. 

He hoped Rapunzels mother, queen Cantaly wasn’t angry with him from heaven for sending their daughter on such dangerous trials but he knew this had to be done so her kingdom would listen to her. Nothing was more dangerous than subjects not wanting their ruler. It could cause another kingdom to take over because some may rebel. He sighed “please understand why I’m sending her on these trials my dearest love. She’s the only one I trust to rule and I need the kingdom to trust her. She will come home, I know it”

Everything was now arranged so all that needed to be done was to call her into his chambers and explain what was going on and explain to her, Casimer and Bernadette where all they would need to travel for these seven trials and what needed to be done. Each place would provide her a trophy. Some places she would have to sever a beasts head and bring it back and others she would just need to collect an item that beast protected. Gabriel also hoped that Casimer wouldn’t be too cross with him over sending Rapunzel on such a dangerous journey. It was very clear he loved Rapunzel so she would have to replace one of her head knights soon in her rule when he became king since he knew the feelings he had were mutual.

Rapunzel stood in the middle of the circle the three knights had made. She held her sword in front of her, eyes blindfolded. She listened and heard the sound of feet shuffling forward. She raised her sword, blocking and kicking out, making contact and pivoting her foot to block the next attack. She shoved this person back and ducked under the third person’s swing. She kicked their feet out from under them then held her sword out. She ripped the blindfold off and smiled down at Casimer.

“I beat you again.” She said as he got to his feet and dusted himself off. “I was even blindfolded this time.”

“I’m proud of you Rapunzel, very proud. You’ve gotten a lot faster and are learning to use your senses very well.” He replied and sheathed his sword. “How about you two, what do you think?”

Bernadette and Malachai were still picking themselves up. “She is definitely a lot quicker.” Bernadette said with a happy smile.

“I’ve took some pretty hard hits while jousting, but that kick really knocked the wind out of me.” Malachai said.

“Rapunzel,” a male voice said, making them all turn. It was another one of the guards. “your father requests you, Casimer, and Bernadette go to his chambers. He has something important to talk to you about.”

“Thank you, we go immediately.” Rapunzel said and sheathed her sword. She grabbed Casimer’s hand and pulled him. “I will see you later Malachai.” He waved with one hand while he rubbed his ribs with the other. Bernadette followed them and they went into the castle and headed upstairs. Casimer admired Rapunzel’s beautiful face as they made their way to see her father. He wanted very badly to tell her how he felt, but was afraid to be honest with her. He didn’t want to ruin their friendship by professing his undying love. Rapunzel tapped lightly on her father’s door and they heard him say come in.

Rapunzel frowned when she saw how much sicker her dad looked. “you wanted us?”

“Don’t sound so crestfallen, I hate how you look at me”

“I’m sorry dad” Rapunzel said as she forced the best smile she could. It was hard to look happy around her father when she knew he only had weeks, maybe months more to live. It left her in a state of almost constant dejection. “Come sit on the bed Rapunzel. Casimer and Bernadette, come closer and stand by the bed.” They all did as they were told and Gabriel sat up. He cupped his daughters cheek. “Out of all my children I am most proud of you Rapunzel. You are so smart, so talented in many ways. You keep a good head on your shoulders and are always kind and fair to those around you. I love all nine of my children equally but when I pass only you are suited to rule this kingdom.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying when I die I want to give the kingdom to you my sweet Rapunzel. I know it is always passed down to a male descendant but I would be an ignorant, dull-witted fool to do so. You are most suited to rule and would guide this kingdom into prosperity. I have absolute faith in you but as I said, it’s always a male heir. I do not wish to die and have our subjects or another kingdom overthrow you because they don’t see your worth. I have arranged seven trials for you. If you complete them all nobody can question if you are suited to be queen.” Gabriel then motioned his hand and a servant left, bringing back with him a young writer named Jeremy Vries. He bowed and Gabriel spoke again “He, Casimer and Bernadette will accompany you as you complete each task. Jeremy is going to write about your adventure for the whole kingdom to read about. He has a list of every place you must go and what you are to collect as proof you completed the task. He has traveled most of his twenty five years of life so can easily guide you and your knights where you need to go.”

“I look forward to traveling with you princess” Jeremy said softly as he bowed again. Rapunzel was in shock, she had always expected the throne to be given to one of her brothers. Rapunzel hadn’t thought for a second that Gabriel would pass the kingdom down to her. She hugged him tightly “thank you for having faith in me daddy. I’m not going to let you down”

“I know you wont. Please be careful. Some of the tasks are very dangerous but I want to be sure in the fact you are approved of as queen. They need to see that you have a tactical mind, sound judgment and can make smart, split second choices.” Rapunzel nodded and kissed her fathers cheek “I can do anything, especially with the company of Casimer and Bernadette. Are they the only ones that can go?” Rapunzel asked, thinking that Casimer might not want to be away from Sandra for too long. She doubted these trials would be expeditiously.

“You may choose anyone you wish, but I believe Casimer and Bernadette to be the best suited for the tasks at hand. Perhaps you should ask them what they think.”

Rapunzel turned to two of her closest friends. “You can stay if you want to. I won’t be disappointed.” She said it to both of them, but looked at Casimer. He wondered why she would think he would stay behind.

“I wish to go with you.” Bernadette said, her face a mask of seriousness.

“As do I, I would not dream of staying behind.” Casimer replied.

Rapunzel just nodded then turned and gave her father another hug. She would miss him when he was gone and planned on completing each task as fast as she could so she could be back home with him. “When are we leaving?” She asked.

“Early in the morning, the horses will be prepared for you so all you need to do is get dressed and eat breakfast.”

“I promise I will make you and mother both proud to call me queen.”

“You should make sure that your your weapons are prepared, have your sword sharpened and your arrows checked.” Gabriel said with a warm smile. “I must talk to Casimer and Bernadette alone, so go on.”

“Yes sir.” She kissed his cheek and left. She was a little curious as to what he wanted to speak with them about, but she was not one to eavesdrop.

Casimer hoped he had done nothing wrong. He had never been rebellious or impolite in any way or overstepped his bounds with Rapunzel. He gave her her space when she needed it and never hounded her for affection. He took what she was willing to give and cherished it. “What is it sir?” He asked, standing at attention.

“Enough with the sir, you are more that a guard here. Same with you Bernadette, at ease both of you.” They relaxed and he cleared his throat. “I am surprised neither of you are mad about me sending her on such a dangerous journey. Especially you Casimer.”

“We both have faith in her abilities. She has grown into a very formidable opponent. She will strike fear into the hearts of her enemies.” Casimer said confidently. Gabriel nodded, Casimer’s words pleasing him.

“Good, then I must ask a favor of each of you. Casimer, my last order to you as your king will be for you to tell my daughter how you feel. I don’t have long in this world, but I refuse to leave until you tell her. You don’t have to do it now, but think about doing it on this quest. Bernadette, my last order to you is to make sure he does as he’s told. Give him a good pop for me every time he wastes an opportunity, but don’t do it while Rapunzel is watching.”

Bernadette smiled “that won’t be a job, I hit him frequently. I’m glad to have the kings blessing to do so, I will make sure he gets all the whacks he needs. It really is ridiculous you don’t tell her Casimer. I’ve never asked Rapunzel myself but I can see her feelings are returned. Don’t you think she loves him too King Gabriel?” Gabriel nodded “If I didn’t I wouldn’t be commanding him to tell her. I want you to be the king at her side. I know you’ll make my daughter happy, your eyes are always burning with love when you look at her. I’ve watched you two many times and it warms my heart. Time is precious, enjoy her while you can and stop wasting time. I would give anything for more time with my beautiful and amazing wife.” Casimer nodded “I will tell her sir, I will atleast try. As a knight I know it is a shameful thing but your daughter scares me. She will destroy me if she tells me no Gabriel”

“she wont, do you not think I know my Rapunzel?”

“I wasn’t trying to imply that sir” Casimers voice grew panicked. Gabriel laughed “Calm down boy, I understand. Women can be very scary creatures. Bernadette here just needs to make sure to scare you more than your fear of rejection. I trust she’ll complete her task and as such, you’ll complete yours.” Bernadette suddenly smacked the back of his head ‘what was that for?”

“Practice” Bernadette smiled and Gabriel laughed again. “I’m going to get some rest now. Meet with your princess to make sure your weapons are prepared for the journey. I’m sure she’s not too far from the room. Jeremy will meet you at breakfast in the morning.” Casimer looked over to where the man had previously been standing and noticed he was gone. Casimer didn’t even notice him leave. Gabriel smiled “i told him to leave when i dismissed Rapunzel” Casimer nodded “Thank you for your blessing Gabriel. I love your daughter very deeply. I will keep her safe on this journey.”

“I know, you wouldn’t have my blessing to be with her if I didn’t know you loved her.” They left and met Rapunzel a little ways down the hall. “what did my father want?”

‘Just to grind into our heads to keep you safe” Rapunzle smiled “figures, I just can’t believe he wants to hand the kingdom to me…it means so much..”

“You deserve it. You really are an amazing woman. The kingdom will be lucky to have you as queen” Casimer said looking Rapunzel in the eyes. Rapunzel hugged him “You’re always so sweet. Lets get going to ready our equipment”

Rapunzel hummed as she waited for the blacksmith to finish with her sword, now and arrows. She was excited to get going and couldn’t wait until morning. She had never been asked to do something so big in her life. Even though she could easily keep up with the men, there were those who still treated her like porcelain. She couldn’t wait to show everyone just how strong and intelligent she really was. The blacksmith finished with her things and she took them with a polite smile. She waited for Casimer and Bernadette then headed to her room. She put her things next to her bed and hurried back downstairs for dinner. She was joined by Casimer, Bernadette and even Sandra and Jerry. Sandra sat to Casimer’s right and chatted with him. She couldn’t help but feel a little sad.

Casimer stood when he saw Rapunzel and offered him the empty seat to his left with a warm smile. He pulled it out for her and pushed it in as she sat down. He plopped back down in his seat, happy to be enjoying another meal with her. He knew Sandra was a bit jealous, but he had made it clear from the beginning that there was only one woman he loved and would ever love. From the moment he had seen her, he had fallen hard. Their food was brought out to them, a delicious meal of steak and mashed potatoes with salad. Sandra continued her conversation with him and he politely listened, smiling a nodding as he ate. Bernadette talked animatedly with Jerry, telling him a funny story about a small expedition she had gone on with some rookies. All four of them had fallen into a very foul smelling swamp and Bernadette had had to pull them all out.

“So how long will you be gone?” Sandra asked.

“We don’t know. Awhile, I would guess.” Casimer answered.

“What exactly will you be doing?”

“This and that, protecting Rapunzel and helping her out when she needs it.”

“That sounds dangerous. Please be careful. It would make me very sad if anything happened to you.”

He smiled. “I will have two of the best warriors in the kingdom by my side. The three of us can take anything that comes our way. Right Rapunzel?”

“Yes, that’s true. We three have always been in perfect sync when fighting together.” Rapunzel answered.

When they finished their dinner Casimer, Jerry and Bernadette hugged Rapunzel before they retreated to their barracks for the night. Sandra also gave Rapunzel a hug, despite the jealousy they both had for eachother they were good friends because they both wanted Casimer to be happy. Sandra and her family lived in a house a short ways away from the castle. Only single knights stayed in the barracks of the castle. When knights got married the king would set them up in a house but if their children decided to follow their parents footsteps and be a knight they had to move into the barracks as soon as they became adults. This way the castle would always be protected if anything or anyone suddenly attacked. Casimer was happy when he could move into the barracks because it meant being closer to Rapunzel.

When Rapunzel got to her room she took a long, very hot shower since she knew this would be her last in awhile. Not being able to shower was the only thing she wasn’t looking forward to. She hoped they would stay busy enough that Casimer wouldn’t miss Sandra too much. She was a little surprised he wanted to come but knew how much he loved adventure. Rapunzel was also planning on choosing Casimer as one of her head knights when she was crowned queen so Sandra would have to get used to him being busy a lot. She frowned, wondering if it would be selfish to make him head knight. She wondered if she should give the job to Malachai since he coudln’t keep a girl very long. There wouldn’t be a wife missing him when he was busy. She would discuss it with with Bernadette and Casimer to see if they wanted the job. It was considered a great honor but it did take a toll on family life when wars would arise. During war or threat to the castle the head knights were to be near the king and queen at all times.

Rapunzel stepped out of the shower and dried before crawling under her covers and letting out a sigh. Her mind was so busy but she needed rest. Before Casimer could go to his room Jerry grabbed Casimer by the shoulder “So you’re going to be off with princess Rapunzel for awhile huh?”

“Yes, we discussed it at dinner”

“You better man up and tell her how you feel”

“I’ve already planned on it. The king gave me his blessings.” Jerry smiled and gave a teasing bow “Looks like my baby bro is going to be king. You better not expect anything to change between us. You’re still the little brother”

“I know” Casimer said with a smile then entered his room. He stripped then laid in bed with a sigh. His mind busy trying to figure out how to tell Rapunzel how much he loved her. He didn’t know if he could put it into words. He also didn’t know if he could find the courage in him to actually say anything to her. She was so beautiful and perfect in everyway. Casimer knew he was strong and talented but he wasn’t sure if Rapunzel saw him that way. True the king and Bernadette thought Rapunzel did but he was still afraid.

The next morning they were all woke with a knock on their doors. Rapunzel was full of energy and quickly dressed for the day. She made sure her sword was strapped securely to her hip and her bow and quiver full of arrows was slung comfortable lacrosse her chest. She braided her hair then hurried out of her room and downstairs. Breakfast was waiting for her along with Casimer and Bernadette who were already eating. She ate quickly and bounced her leg as she waited for them. Her father was brought downstairs and she jumped up and hugged him.

“Thank you for coming to see us off daddy.” She said and smiled as happily as she could.

“I could do nothing else my beautiful princess. Please be careful and remember not to take unnecessary risks.” Gabriel replied and kissed her forehead before pulling her into a tight hug.

“I promise daddy.”

Casimer and Bernadette told their king goodbye and once again promised to watch over Rapunzel. Casimer shook his hand and hoped this would not be the last time he would see Gabriel. He loved the man like he loved his own father. They walked confidently out the front doors and climbed into the saddles of the waiting horses. Rapunzel gave the castle one more look and silently promised to return. She kicked her horse and the animal took off.

Jeremy Vries was so silent that Rapunzel had barely noticed him until he moved his horse so he was closer to her. “I guess I should go ahead and tell you where we are going first. Your first trial is in the TumniverkaMountain Pass. You must go and see Stallina the riddler. Your father thought it kind to start you with somthing easier than the rest to build your confidence. She asks the hardest of riddles, he wants to show how sharp your mind is at figuring out things. Don’t worry, there is much more exciting things to come and this I promise wont be a cake walk. I’ve gone to see her many times and have never answered one correctly. She has a sharp mind but Gabriel knows you are smarter than her. In this trial Casimer and Bernadette are not allowed to help you.”

“Sounds good, that’s only a two hour ride away right?”

“Yes mam”

“why are you so quiet?”

“I was instructed to be a fly on the wall. I am only to speak when spoken to unless you give me permission to do otherwise. He thinks the quieter I am the more writing I’ll get done. He wants me to write out the book as fast as I can. He wishes to read it before he dies if it’s possible.”

“You can speak as you wish. You are spectacular at being a fly on the wall though. I didn’t notice you this morning” Jeremy smiled “Normally it would wound me to go unnoticed by such a fair creature. I witnessed yesterday that it is as the village says, you are truly the most beautiful of the princesses.” Rapunzel cracked a small smile as Bernadette and Casimer rolled their eyes. “How will I get proof I answered correctly?”

“To anybody who can answer five riddles correctly she gives the healing touch to”

“woah! Are you serious!”

“Yes princess, it’s why I’ve tried so many times.” Jeremy and Rapunzel chatted as the horses went on their steady pace to the mountains. Casimer was quickly becoming annoyed with Jeremy. He didn’t even know how he was expected to tell Rapunzel how he felt if Jeremy was in the way. Casimer wanted the man to go back to being a fly. When they got to the bottom of the mountain they all jumped off their horses because the mountain pass wasn’t suited for horses to be walking up and through it. They didn’t tie them because Rapunzel was carrying the royal whistle. It was enchanted for Rapunzels great great great great grandpa for helping a fairy. All you had to do was think of the horses you wanted to summon then blow and they would come running. Rapunzel was grateful for it. She wouldn’t feel right tieing them up and leaving them defenseless if somthing attacked while they hiked up.

“How far will it be?”

“We will reach her a little after lunch”

“Thank you, What will you, Casimer and Bernadette do while I answer?”

“Wait outside, she lives in a small cabin. You will enter while we wait.”

“Shouldn’t you come so you know what she asks?” Jeremy shook his head “No, Stallina would go into a fury if one of her riddles and the answer was ever written down. She holds a lot of power so you don’t want to piss her off. You’ll have proof of doing this when you receive the healing touch so no worries”

“alright, I’m sorry if it takes me a long time”

“We are all at your service your majesty”

“I like to be called Rapunzel” Jeremy bowed “Rapunzel it is then”

They sat and ate before noon, Jeremy still talking the whole time. Rapunzel was fascinated with all the places he had traveled. She couldn’t believe how far out he had been. Casimer became more and more jealous of the mans flirtations and wanted to hit him with his apple core, but chose not to for fear of disappointing Rapunzel. He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned his gaze to Bernadette. He gave an apologetic look and she smiled in understanding. They stood and continued up, spotting the small cabin nestled into the mountain side.

“I guess I’ll be back.” Rapunzel said with a smile and walked slowly to the cabin’s front door. She wanted to give Stallina enough time to spot her. The front door opened and a woman of about forty gestured for her to enter. She had expected some old woman, but Stallina was actually very beautiful. “I am Rapunzel Henri ma’am.” She said.

“Such a polite child. You are just like your father.” Stallina said softly.

“Thank you ma’am.”

“So you are here because you believe you can best me at my own riddles yes?” Rapunzel nodded and Stallina smiled. “It has been a long time since one approached me so confidently. The last one was a bit of an idiot, Jeremy is his name. He visits me every few months. He can write, but other than that he lack intelligence.” Rapunzel had to stifle a laugh. “First riddle: I can run, but not walk. Wherever I go, thought follows close behind. What am I?”

Rapunzel thought for a moment then said, “A nose.”

“Very good.”

“Alan, Bertrad and Cecil were caught stealing so the king sent them to the dungeon. The king decided to give them a second chance. He made them stand in a line and put hats on their heads. He told them that if they answer a riddle they could go free. Here is the riddle the king gave them: Each of you has a hat on your head. You don’t know what color the hat is and you’re not allowed to look up at it. If one of you can guess the color of your hat I will let you free. Before you answer, you must stay standing in this line and you can’t turn around. Atleast one is black and atleast one is white. There are only white and black hats. Alan couldn’t see any hats, Bertrad could only see Alans hat  Cecil could see Bertrads and Alans hat. At first they were all silent but then a short while later one of them solved the riddle. Who was it and how did he know?” Rapunzel paused for only a short time and said “Bertrad knew the answer because Cecil didn’t say anything. Bertrad knew that if his hat color was the same as Alans, Cecil would have known right away.”

“I knew you were intelligent. You ready for my next one?”

“Yes mam”

“Emily was sitting at her study table, home alone, on a cold and stormy night. Her parents had taken a flight earlier in the morning to Australia as her grandmother had passed away. She had wanted to follow her parents but she had an important English examination the next day which she could not miss. The storm was getting heavier by the minute and the wind was howling outside. All this noise made it very hard for her to concentrate. She was on the verge of dozing off when she was shaken alert by a sudden “THUD!” She dismissed it as a window which had been slammed shut by the wind. She tried to concentrate on her books when she heard faint footsteps. Emily got out of her room and looked around when suddenly, without warning, she was grabbed by the neck. She tried to scream but it came out as a mere whimper as the intruder was pressing hard against her throat with his arm. She tried to free herself from his grip but to no avail. “Give me all your money!” growled the man who had grabbed her from behind. “Th-there is none h-here! Please ll-let me go!” cried Emily. “Don’t LIE TO ME!” screamed the increasingly agitated man. She felt the man strengthen his grip around her neck. She said nothing and a few seconds passed by in silence. Suddenly the phone rang which alerted both of them. “People will get suspicious if I don’t answer the phone,” said Emily, with a controlled voice. The intruder let her go. “Alright, but NO funny business, or ELSE!” said the nervous intruder. Emily walked toward the phone. She took a deep breath and calmed herself. She picked up the phone. “Hey Em! How’s the revision going?” said the caller. “Hey Anna. Thanks for the call. Hey you know those Science notes I lent you last week? Well I really need them back. It would be a great help to me. It’s an emergency, so if you could give me them tomorrow it would be great. Please hurry in finding the notes. I need to get back to my books now. Bye,” Emily said. She hung up the phone. “It was wise of you not to say anything,” said the intruder, although he was more than a bit confused by her conversation. “Now TELL ME WHERE THE MONEY IS KEPT!” screamed the thief. “It…it’s…in my dad’s room. The first room on the right. Third drawer,” said Emily. “SHOW me!” said the man, and removed his grip around her neck. She took a big gulp of air and nearly fell. She swallowed hard and said a silent prayer. She walked slowly, in silence, toward her father’s room. All of a sudden, they heard police sirens. The intruder froze in his footsteps. He ran to the nearest window and jumped out of it. Emily ran outside in time to see the intruder being escorted into the car. She saw Anna and she ran toward her and hugged her. “Smart kids,” said the policeman. What happened?” This one perplexed the princess a little more but she gave her answer after a few minuets. “Emil had used the mute button during her conversation. That way all Anna heard was call…help…emergency…please hurry”

“No one has ever gotten that one. Very clever girl. Ready for the next one? You’ve gotten three correct and only need to do two more.”

“I’m ready”

“One morning a man is leaving on business trip and finds he left some paperwork at his office. He runs into his office to get it and the night watchman stops him and says ‘Sir don’t get on the plane. I had a dream last night that the plane would crash and everyone would die!’ The man takes his word and cancels his trip. Sure enough the plane crashes and everyone dies. The next morning the man gives the watchman a $1000 reward for saving his life and then fires him. Why did he fire the watchman that saved his life?”

“He was fired for sleeping on the job?” Rapunzel said with a lack of confidence that wasn’t there in her first three answers. She didn’t think there was any reason to fire someone who had saved your life. “Correct, here is my last one. You sure you don’t wish for a break before I ask?”

“I want to complete this journey as fast as I can”

“very well, Pirate Pete had been captured by a Spanish general and sentenced to death by his 50-man firing squad.Pete cringed, as he knew their reputation for being the worst firing squad in the Spanish military. They were such bad shots that they would often all miss their targets and simply maim their victims, leaving them to bleed to death, as the general’s tradition was to only allow one shot per man to save on ammunition. The thought of a slow painful death made Pete beg for mercy. “Very well, I have some compassion. You may choose where the men stand when they shoot you and I will add 50 extra men to the squad to ensure someone will at least hit you. Perhaps if they stand closer they will kill you quicker, if you’re lucky,” snickered the general. “Oh, and just so you don’t get any funny ideas, they can’t stand more than 20 ft away, they must be facing you, and you must remain tied to the post in the middle of the yard. And to show I’m not totally heartless, if you aren’t dead by sundown I’ll release you so you can die peacefully outside the compound. I must go now but will return tomorrow and see to it that you are buried in a nice spot, though with 100 men, I doubt there will be much left of you to bury.” After giving his instructions the general left. Upon his return the next day, he found that Pete had been set free alive and well. “How could this be?” demanded the general. “It was where Pete had us stand,” explained the captain of the squad.Where did Pete tell them to stand?”

“In a circle around him, that way not a man would be brave enough to shoot” Stellina smiled “It makes me so happy to see another few who can answer five of my riddles in a row. This time I will give you the gift of healing. It will shut any wound but mind you it takes a lot of energy. You need to build your stamina for it” Stallina grabbed Rapunzels hands. Soon Rapunzel felt tingling sensation rushing through her and then a warmth the reminded her of laying in a hot, bubbly bath tub. Stallina let go and cut herself making Rapunzels eyes grow wide. “heal me” Rapunzels held her hand on the wound and was amazed when it started to shut. Rapunzel hugged Stallina when the wound shut “thank you so much”

“Come back anytime so I can bestow more gifts unto you.”

“I will, maybe not soon but I will”

Chapter Two

Rapunzel ran excitedly back out to her companions, practically leaping into Casimer’s arms. “I did it.” She exclaimed.

“Good job, you are so smart.” He replied and she kissed his cheek. She blushed and quickly wiggled out of his arms. Casimer found himself disappointed, but kept it to himself. “So, where to next?” He asked Jeremy as they made their way down the mountain.

“To the river Aima. There an elderly man they call the boatman waits, but instead of shepherding souls he takes would be heroes down the river to a cave where a giant tentacled monster guards her treasure. Your job will be to make your way inside, get past the monster without killing her and steal a piece of her treasure. It must be something of great value and you will be diving for it so I hope you can hold your breath.” Jeremy explained.

“Our Rapunzel is a very strong swimmer.” Bernadette replied.

“She even beat my time of four minutes.” Casimer chimed in.

“That’s an awful long time to hold your breath. Are you sure it was four minutes?”

Rapunzel found herself not liking the way Jeremy spoke to Casimer. He was being very passive aggressive and she wondered why. “I timed him myself.” She said with a small smile. “He is an amazing swimmer and knight. We grew up together so when he says he can do something then he can do it.”

“Of course Rapunzel, if you vouch for him then it must be true.” Jeremy scrambled to save himself.

They finally made it to the bottom and Rapunzel blew her whistle. The horses came running, whinnying happily. They climbed into their saddles and Rapunzel spent the next hour explaining what had gone on with Stallina. He laughed and smiled as he wrote, obviously flirting with her. She wondered if he thought she was oblivious to it. She was immune to his charm even though she found his life interesting. When she was done recounting her story she turned her attention to Casimer who looked angry.

“Are you ready to face a giant monster my friend?” She asked.

“Hopefully we can sneak by, but if not then yes I am ready. I will defend you with my life.” He answered, his eyes warming as he looked at her. “Perhaps we should rest for the night since the River Amia is still a few hours away.”

“Okay, Bernadette and I can cook.” They found a nice place just off the road and Casimer hopped down and started collecting firewood. Jeremy did the same, trying not to look useless in front of Rapunzel. They made a fire and the women made a delicious rabbit stew while Casimer and Jeremy sat there in silence.

“It’s going to be a cold night, perhaps you should cuddle with Casimer.” Bernadette said under her breath so the men would not hear. Rapunzel blushed.

“I guess I could. Do you think he would mind?” Bernadette shrugged then told the men dinner was ready. They ate without saying a word. After dinner Rapunzel went over to Casimer and asked, “Can I cuddle with you tonight?” He looked confused for a second.

“Of course.” He finally said.

He tried to contain the wide smile that tugged at his lips. He was surprised Rapunzel would ask but was very happy. He had so often dreamt of holding her through the night. When the fire was out and they were ready to rest for the night Casimer asked “How would you like to sleep?” Rapunzel blushed again but Casimer didn’t notice because it was so feint and it was dark outside. “I’d like to sleep with my head on your chest while you hold me if that would be fine” Casimer laid down “Sounds good to me” Rapunzels heart pounded as she laid her head on his chest and he gently wrapped his arms around her. She could hear his heart thundering too and smiled but only briefly when she thought it may be beating like that because he was uncomfortable. She decided in the morning she would assure Casimer that she wouldn’t say anything to Sandra. Rapunzel would hate if Sandra got angry at him because of her.

After a few more moments Rapunzel decided to stop fretting and just enjoy how amazing it felt when he held her. Nobody had ever held her like this before. She couldn’t tell how it was different but this was a much softer, caring embrace than she had ever recieved. Once she relaxed sleep came quickly. Casimer smiled when he felt her fade to sleep. He almost kissed her head but refrained. His mind kept him awake for hours with what he would say to Rapunzel until his heavy eyes got the better of him. Bernadette was the first riser in the morning. She woke Rapunzel to start the fire while she went off and gathered some eggs to cook for breakfast. Casimer was sad to let her go but did it wordlessly. He went over to help her after he stretched. “what can I do?” Jeremy asked “Just sit there. You are only here to write.”

Jeremy opened his book and began writing again. The fire started and Casimer looked over at Rapunzel “Did you sleep well last night?”

“Yes, you kept me very warm” Casimer smiled “I’m glad, we could sleep like that everynight while we travel.”

“You want to?”

“I’m not a fan of being cold” Rapunzel smiled “we don’t have to tell Sandra either. I wouldn’t want her to be upset”Casimer was left confused again but couldn’t ask her why that mattered before Bernadette was coming back. Rapunzel ran over to her, wanting to leave the awkwardness she felt after saying she wouldn’t tell Sandra. Bernadette cooked breakfast alone since Rapunzel couldn’t really help. After they ate they gathered their things and set off again. Bernadette and Casime got to either side of Rapunzel so that Jeremy coudln’t ride by her today.

They made it to the river in good time. An kind looking old man with a pipe in his mouth and leaning on a paddle by the river. They dismounted and approached the man. He smiled at them, his mustache twitching up a little bit. “Well hello princess. You made it just in time. My name is Egrain and I will be your guide.” He said as he snuffed out his pipe and knocked the ashes out. “If you will please follow me.” They went a few feet away to a canoe resting on the bank. Everyone got in but Casimer who pushed it into the water then pulled himself in. Egrain allowed the current to carry them downriver, using his paddle to guide them around sharp rocks.

“Have you been told much about the monster you’ll face?” Egrain asked.

“Not really.” Rapunzel answered.

“She was brought from the ocean as a baby by a sorcerer. When she began to grow to large to keep in a tank the sorcerer brought her here and ordered her to protect his treasure. She’s been around for fifty years now. It is said the sorcerer died, but no one knows for sure if he did. Anyway, you must not kill the creature. She keeps a tentacle curled around the sorcerers most valuable possession.”

“How do you know that?” Casimer asked.

“Just a guess.” He smiled again as they came to the large cave. He paddled up to the small beach inside and they hopped out. Casimer helped him pull the canoe out of the water then Egrain packed fresh tobacco into his pipe and used a match to light it. “I will be right here waiting. Take your time.”

“Thank you Egrain.” Rapunzel said and kissed his cheek. He chuckled even as a light blush covered his face. They moved silently into the cave, listening closely to every little sound. The air had a cold bite to it and had Rapunzel and Jeremy shivering. The river lead to a large blue pool that seemed to go on forever. Bernadette was suddenly lifted off the ground by her ankle and tossed into the cold water. She came up with a gasp and scrambled out of the water. A giant octopus appeared out of the water, swatting wildly at the intruders.

“Dive now, we’ll distract this beast.” Casimer yelled as he ducked a tentacle. Rapunzel pulled her sword, bow, and quiver off and laid them on the ground. She took a deep breath and dove into the icy water. She could see the monsters tentacle and followed it. It was curled around a small black box. Its grip had loosened since it was fighting. She grabbed the box and was immediately seized. She was hauled out of the water and found herself dangling in the air. She held tightly to the box as it threw her. She hit the water, the air knocked out of her lungs. She felt herself being scooped up and then being carried back to the cave mouth. Bernadette had her weapons and Casimer held tightly to her. Egrain smiled when he saw them and they showed him the box.

“Open it.” He said and Rapunzel flipped it open, her eyes jumping to his grinning face when she saw the beautifully crafted pipe. “Take it, I don’t need it anymore. Besides, I have this one.”

“Thank you so much”

“I hardly need to be thanked. I’m glad to be a part of you coronation. You will be a queen I will happily follow.” Rapunzel smiled and they all got back into the canoe. This time Bernadette pushed it off since Casimer still had a tight hold on Rapunzel. She laid her head on his shoulder, just enjoying it. She barely felt the cold due to how warm Casimer made her feel. Jeremy sat behind them writing everything that occurred since the last time he put his pencil to paper. When they were back on land they bid farewell to Egrain then they climbed back on their horses to move on. “where to now Jeremy?”

“You don’t need to rest Rapunzel?”

“It would be nice but my father is waiting on me. I must get back to the castle before he dies” Casimer was finally relaxing after seeing Rapunzel hit the water. It could have easily slammed her against the cave or ground and done serious damage. He panicked and dove right in after her to make sure it didn’t lift Rapunzel again. He was happy she let him hold her when they rode back on the canoe. Bernadette gave a demanding look to Casimer, her eyes telling him to confess his love. Casimer looked away and Bernadette wanted to hit him but it would have to wait. Jeremy responded to Rapunzle ” Your third trial you will have to tame and get a Licroal to let you ride it. As long as you can mount it without it throwing you off you will succeed. Your proof will be cutting off a small piece of it’s antler. They will let people they trust have any of their feathers or some of their antler. He chose the antler so nobody coudl say you just picked a feather off the ground”

“Ok, together we can do that too” Rapunzels attention turned to Casimer “Thank you for jumping in and getting me out so quickly” Casimer smiled lovingly “I will always protect you the best I can” She looked back at Jeremy “How long will it take us to get to a heard of them?”

“We will get there this evening. Just keep following me” Rapunzel sighed sadly, she was hoping the next task was closer than that. Casimer drew his horse nearer and grabbed Rapunzels hand reassuringly. “we’ll get back in plenty of time Rapunzel. We’ll ride through lunch and only stop if our horses need to rest.” Rapunzel smiled at him. Their eyes locked for a time, they only broke contact when Jeremy vexingly said “you can’t trust your horses to drive. Look where you’re going” Rapunzel let Casimers hand go and grabbed her reigns again. Casimer once again found himself angry at Jeremy. The horses could follow his lead horse without them looking and he knew it.

Casimer stayed close to Rapunzel the entire ride. Their close had finally started to dry and her lips were getting their pink color back. He reached over and tucked a still wet strand of hair behind her ear and she smiled. He was terrified of losing her to these tasks. It wasn’t that he doubted her strength, speed, or intelligence it was that he was starting to doubt himself. He had come close to breaking his promise to her father. He had to get her home alive. Their horses slowed on their own and tried backing up as they came to a valley. The moon light illuminated the small herd of the dangerous winged animals. Rapunzel gasped, thinking them beautiful. She hopped off her horse and everyone else followed. She grabbed her bow and quiver then a piece of rope. She tied the rope to the end of one of the arrows and started across the valley.

“Stay here Jeremy.” Bernadette said, her tone saying she would not be argued with. The writer sat down with a disappointed look on his face. Casimer stayed close to Rapunzel as they moved across the valley, their eyes never leaving the Licroal. These animals could easily crush them if they allowed themselves to become distracted. Rapunzel pointed to one that was wandering from the herd. They circled around the others, watching them out of their peripherals. The lone Licroal noticed them coming and started making squawking and growling noises.

“You two go left and I’ll go right.” Rapunzel said as she started to move. Casimer and Bernadette did as they were told, drawing their swords and waving them to draw the animal’s attention. It was hard since it had five heads and could look anywhere it wished. Casimer rushed in, skidding to a halt a couple of feet away. All heads turned to him and he back pedaled quickly as Rapunzel shot her arrow in an arch. It went up then came down on the other side of the Licroal. Casimer grabbed one end of the rope while Bernadette grabbed the other and pulled down on it. Rapunzel ran and climbed quickly onto the thing’s back. “Easy, easy I’m not here to hurt you.” She said as she clung on to the bucking animal.

It eventually calmed down. Rapunzel lifted her head “see, I wont hurt you. I just want to be your friend. I need an important favor” Casimer and Bernadette cautiously took the rope from around the animal. Knowing it wouldn’t be able to be fully comfortable with Rapunzel if it was still tied. Casimers heart was frozen as he waited for the creatures response. It didn’t move so Rapunzel pet the lion and the wolf head. She then gently stroked the deers neck “I have a big favor and i will be forever grateful if you grant me this. I would really like a small piece of your antler. I beg of you to let me use my sword to take off a small portion. Is that ok?” It made some noises then the deer head pushed air through its nose. She didn’t know if it was saying yes or no so she slowly moved her hand, knowing the wolf or lion could easily bite it off if the beautiful animal didn’t agree with what she was doing.

It didn’t move so she took out her dagger. The antlers on the deer of a Licroal were soft, not like a regular deers atall so it wasn’t hard to take some off. She slowly pulled her hands away once she had some and thanked the beast. “You don’t know how much I appreciate this. Thank you very much” It made more noises with all of its heads then she climbed off. The beautiful Licroal flew away just as Casimer pulled Rapunzel into a tight hug. He kissed her cheek then buried his face in her neck. Bernadette smiled and stood there silently. When he released her from the hug he wanted to give her a real kiss but now wasn’t the time for that conversation. It was late and he was sure Rapunzel was tired. They crossed back over to Jeremy and she showed him the piece of antler “very good, lets rest and we’ll do more tomorrow”

Rapunzel nodded even though she wanted to keep going. The only thing that made her stay was knowing the horses needed their rest. While Jeremy was having Rapunzel recount everything Bernadette gave Casimer a hard hit on teh back on the head. She had expected him to tell Rapunzel while he embraced her that he loved her but he had failed to tell her his feelings yet again. Casimer just rubbed his head and looked away. When Bernadette was ready to cook she said “Don’t help me tonight Rapunzel, go walk around with Casimer so that we can be sure this area is safe to sleep in”

“Do you want to Casimer” Casimer stood and held out his hand for Rapunzel to take it. She smiled at him and he smiled back as they walked away. “why are you pushing those two together?” Jeremy asked when Rapunzel and Casimer were out of sight. “They love eachother, I pray you’ve had no dumb thoughts that you could possibly be with Rapunzel.”

“I actually was and it’s not stupid. I’m very attractive”

“Pft”

“Says the single girl. I bet you don’t have a man”

“What does that have to do with how attractive you are Jeremy?”

‘whatever, just cook”

“Keep that attitude and I’ll quit feeding you”

“Ok, ok, I’m sorry. Seriously”

Rapunzel and Casimer walked in awkward silence. Neither of them looked at each other, but examined their surroundings. Casimer rubbed his neck and sighed as he ran his fingers frustratedly through his hair. “This is a very beautiful place.” He finally said and felt like hitting himself in the back of the head.

“Yes it is. I really love it. You should bring Sandra here.” Rapunzel replied and he grabbed her hand, pulling her to a stop.

“Why to you keep saying things like that?”

“I just thought you would like to bring your girlfriend to a special place.”

His lips twitched into a smile and he started laughing. She felt a little angry that one of her best friends was laughing at her thoughtfulness. She shoved him and he grabbed her, pulling her into a hug. She struggled against him and he only held her tighter as he laughed until he was out of breath.

“We are not a couple, we’re just friends.” He finally said and pulled back to look at her.

She blushed, embarrassed. “I’m sorry, it’s just that you two are always hanging out.”

“She wants to be with me, but I don’t want to be with her. I’ve made it clear that. I am only interested in being friends. I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.” She couldn’t believe how relieved she felt. “The truth is there is only one woman I want and if I don’t tell her how I feel I might get smacked again. Bernadette has a really strong arm. I think I have a lump.” He rubbed the back of his head with feigned pain.

“Who is this woman?”

“Have I really made myself so unclear? I thought for sure you knew. Rapunzel Henri, I love you with all my heart and soul.” She stared at him in shock and he waited patiently for her reply.

“You love me?”

“Yes, I love you and only you. You are my everything, the woman of my dreams. I think of only you. I fight for you and burn for you. You are what gets me out of bed in the morning.”

Rapunzel jumped into Casimers arms and found his lips with hers. They stood there kissing happily until Rapunzel pulled back to say “I love you too” in a soft but gleeful voice. She was bursting with how happy she was to learn that Casimer loved her and had never been interested in Sandra. They kept a tight hold on eachother, just enjoying finally being in eachothers arms. Casimer pulled back a little and then met their lips again. He had to have more of her sweet, gentle kiss. Rapunzel smiled against his lips and pushed him back “we need to get back. They will worry if we take too long”

“Let them worry, I’ve been waiting to kiss you for so long, far too long. Your kiss is the best thing I ever felt. I could swear there was an earthquake when our lips first touched.” Rapunzel giggled happily “You’re adorable” She placed a hand on his cheek and gave him one more kiss “we need our rest. I have to get back to my father. I have forever with you but only fleeting time with my dad” Casimer kissed her forehead “when you put it that way I guess we’ll go back. It would be selfish to keep kissing you out here.”

“I understand now why Jeremy was making you so angry.”

“You noticed?” Casimer said with a slight blush. “Of course I did, jealous before you’re even my boyfriend. I don’t know what I’ll do with you.”

“I’m used to all your guy friends. He was just blatantly flirting with you and being a dick to me”

“Yeah, I’ll be glad to be rid of him when we return to the castle.”

“speaking of which, I have another question to ask you when we get back. It’s another one that’s been waiting for years”

“Why not ask me now?”

“Because, I need somthing to ask you and I bought it three years ago. It’s waited for this a long time too so I can’t leave it out. Right now I just am going to enjoy the elation of you finally being mine. I don’t see how you didn’t notice my admiration of you”

“I guess because I always thought you liked Sandra and wanted to be with her” Casimer kissed her again “silly girl” He swept her off her feet and started walking back to Bernadette and Jeremy. Rapunzel held tightly to him as she listened to his hearts joyous rythm. She felt foolish now for thinking Casimers affection was for Sandra. She started to wonder on what he needed to ask and why it would require somthing but almost as soon as she pondered it Rapunzel realized that he might be wanting to ask her to marry him. She blushed and wondered if he had really been that serious about her for three years now

Casimer couldn’t help but feel satisfied at the look of disappointment on Jeremy’s face. He brushed a kiss over Rapunzel’s lips to drive the point home. He wouldn’t take Jeremy openly flirting with Rapunzel anymore. “I take it the surrounding area is safe.” Bernadette said as she finished seasoning their food.

“Perfectly safe, not a predator or bad guy in sight. With those Licroal around I’m not surprised though.” Casimer replied with a happy smile. He was absolutely elated and sat down next to Rapunzel and laced his fingers through hers. She blushed and smiled shyly. Bernadette dished out food and they all relaxed as they ate. When they were finished they used some of their water to rinse their dishes then settled down for the night. Rapunzel snuggled in close to Casimer, enjoying the steady beat of his heart. She drifted off, excited about the next day and what it might hold for them.

Casimer kissed Rapunzel awake the following morning. He had managed to slide himself out from under her so he could cook breakfast. He didn’t want Bernadette to have to do it the whole time so he gave her a break. “Time to get up and eat my love.” He said softly and she pushed herself into a setting position. She stretched and undid her hair then re-braided it. Casimer handed her a plate and she scarfed down the delicious food like she was starving. Jumping onto a Licroal and swimming in deep water then being manhandled by an octopus had given her quite the appetite. She took a few drinks of water to wash it down then rinsed her dishes.

“So what are we doing today?” She asked excitedly.

“You have to retrieve a flag from a griffin’s nest a few hours from here. It nests in the very top of a very tall sycamore tree.”

“No problem, I can climb with the best of them.”

“You have such courage and enthusiasm, it’s admirable.”

“That’s because I have two of the most amazing knights by my side. They give me courage and hope.”

Casimer smiled and kissed Rapunzel again. They got on their horses and set off to Rapunzels fourth task. Jeremy seemed to have suddenly run out of things to talk about now that she was Casimers girlfriend. Casimer was grateful for it and rode close to Rapunzel. Casimer was unable to look over at Rapunzel without smiling. Bernadette ending up laughing “who knew a knight could wear such a silly grin,” Casimer laughed “don’t make me talk about your face when my brother comes around” Casimer threatened and Bernadette went quite. Rapunzel laughed, a beautiful, musical sound to Casimers ears.

When they arrived they dismounted the horses. “Rapunzel is to go up alone. We can fight off anything that comes but she must go up and collect the flag” Jeremy said as he pulled out his book to write more. Rapunzel did a few stretches then went to climb. Casimer grabbed her before she could start and pulled her into a kiss “You need a good luck kiss before you do these things.” He whispered.  Rapunzel kissed Casimer again then started up the tree. Bernadette readied an arrow just incase a griffin came after Rapunzel. Casimer wasn’t skilled when it came to the bow and arrow so he didn’t ready one. It wasn’t worth the risk of accidentally hitting his love.

Rapunzel climbed up as fast as she could until she heard an angry screech from a mother Griffin. It dove at her from the sky but got distracted when Bernadettes arrow hit its wing. It’s attention shifted and Rapunzel climbed even faster, her adrenaline helping her move. She quickly grabbed the flag and started going down when another dove at her. She tried to move too quickly and ended up slipping halfway down. Casimer yelled up “let go and I’ll catch you Rapunzel” Raunzel took a deep breath then let go. Just as Casimer promised he caught her and they all rode off quickly, knowing the griffins would leave them alone if they backed away from their home.

Chapter Three

They stopped to catch their breath once they were out of sight. Rapunzel laughed even though she was shaking. She attributed it to the adrenaline. “Next test please.” She said as she tucked the flag into her saddle bag.

“Next you must run the labyrinth of the Bull King. He’s not actually a king mind you, but a very wealthy cattle baron. He set up this labyrinth with a prize at the center. No one knows what it is, but if you get it then it’s yours. You must also beat the time of his youngest son Louis. It’s supposed to be full of danger and you are allowed to take one person with you.” Jeremy replied.

“Well while Casimer and I do that you and Bernadette can take a breather and you can write about our little run in with the griffin.”

“The Bull King lives a day away and his trial is very hard. Some have even died trying.”

They kicked their horses back into motion, eating lunch on the go. They finally stopped when the sun began to fall and made camp near a small lake. Rapunzel lay on her back, mentally assessing her body. She had so many cramped muscles and knew by the time she got home she wasn’t going to be doing much but sleeping. She ached in places she didn’t even know she had. Bernadette made dinner and Casimer sat next to Rapunzel, staring up at the star filled sky.

“Casimer, would you please rub me?” She finally asked.

He gave a soft laugh. “You sound so miserable my love.” He smiled down at her, his beautiful sunset eyes shining with love.

“I ache. Not even a workout with you two had me in this much pain.”

He kept smiling and began to work her cramped muscles. He wasn’t happy she was in pain but happy to be the one she would ask for help, that he would always be the one she went to. He couldn’t wait to give Rapunzel the ring he bought her. Even though he hadn’t even worked up the nerve to ask her out when he saw it he had to have it. It was a beautiful silverband with one of the prettiest diamonds he had ever seen. Casimer didn’t want for much else in the world aside from Rapunzel and he made good money as a knight so he had more than enough to buy it for her. Her reaction when he told her how he felt made him confident that if he asked, she would accept and marry him. He kept rubbing her until she told him thank you. He wrapped his arms around her in a warm hug then kissed Rapunzels cheek.

Casimer didn’t let her go until Bernadette finished cooking. They ate then settled down to get some rest. Casimer held Rapunzel tightly, worry filling him about tomorrow. This would be a very dangerous task, one he wished her father wouldn’t have selected for her but Casimer understood why. With even just tomorrows task, the subjects would have no choice but to see her as a fit queen. Casimer wanted them to accept her and see how amazing she was. If they got married she wouldn’t have problems but he wanted them to trust just her, not only trust her because she had a man at her side. Rapunzel was a perfect fit for queen and deserved the peoples respect. This was just her fathers way of making sure Rapunzel got the respect she deserves.

Casimer then had horrible thoughts of what the kingdom would be like if one of her brothers took rule. They were all kind men but none of them had the wit to be king. Theo wasn’t dumb like his brothers but he still wasn’t capable of running a kingdom. Casimer was glad that Gabriel had the mind to know that there was no better choice than Rapunzel. It would have been bad if he decided to give the kingdom to Snow. She was smart but she was easily angry and a very jealous woman. She would probably have every beautiful girl in the land stoned the second she took rule. Belle and Ariel weren’t serious enough to be queen and Cinderella already had a kingdom to rule when her husband took over for his father.

Casimer cleared all of those thoughts out of his head and just enjoyed holding Rapunzel. He felt one with her when they laid together. The feeling had him in knots the first night but now that she was his it had him in a state of bliss. He didn’t feel like he had rested long when Jeremy shook Rapunzel “we shoudl get going princess.” Rapunzel rubbed her eyes and they all mounted there horses and ate an apple on the way. She was excited to be on her fith task. This one was very dangerous but she knew with Casimer at her side she could complete it. She also couldn’t let her father down. He trusted she could do all these things and she wouldn’t dissapoint him. It warmed her heart every time she thought of the fact Gabriel trusted her to be queen.

She was the eight out of nine children. He picked her not only over her brothers but over Snow & Belle aswell since they were older than her and had more of a right to the throne. Casimer could see how much more serious Rapunzel was today but he was glad for it. She would need to be at the top of her game for the Labyrinth. A little before lunch they made it to the Labyrinth. Casimer and Rapunzel ate a few pears since they didn’t want to waste the time waiting for meat to be cooked. Bernadette hugged Rapunzel “keep your wits about you.”

“I will” She then hit Casimer in the head “You keep her safe! Understand?”

“Yes, jeez” Casimer said rubbing his head.

The Bull King whose name was actually Gregor met them at the front door. He was a big bear of a man with a shaggy red beard and a head full of red hair that he kept in a braid that hung down his back. He had an amused twinkle in his eye when he looked upon her as if he could not believe a woman so young would dare run his labyrinth. “Welcome princess and friends. Please follow me.” He said with a big smile. “So you wish to run something so dangerous to prove your worth. I have to say that I am skeptical of your abilities, but if you should win then I will pledge my allegiance to you and you alone.” He gestured to a young man about the same age as Casimer. “This is my son Louis, the champion. Beat his time and get the prize by any means necessary and you win. You may take one person with you.”

“I will not disappoint you sir. I will be taking Casimer here with me.” She put a hand on Casimer’s shoulder to indicate who he was. “Jeremy and Bernadette will be watching with you.”

“Very well, please follow me.” He took them to the back of the house and then down a flight of stairs. He opened the door, allowing them to enter first. There was a metal door set in the wall with bars covering a small hole. Rapunzel looked out and was amazed that the labyrinth had been built into the ground and was open to the sky. Gregor unlocked the door and let her and Casimer step in. “We will be along the east wall.” He pointed to a tall building. “We can see everything from there.” She nodded and he shut and locked the door.

“Remember, left hand on the wall and stay to the left. That’s always been the trick with mazes.” Casimer said as he unsheathed his sword.

“Yes, but I am sure this Bull King has thought of that. I have a better plan. I want you on top of the wall to make sure I don’t hit any dead ends.”

“I am sure he has thought of that as well. He probably has some creature to attack someone who runs along the wall.”

“I have faith in you my love.” She smiled warmly and he leaned in and kissed her for good luck.

“Give me a boost then.” She leaned against the wall in a half squat and cupped her hands. He took off at a run towards her, stepping into her hands and she pushed him up. She unsheathed her sword and pulled the dagger out of her boot. “Ready when you are.” He said from above and she took a deep breath as she started through the stone maze.

They steadily went through until the wall in front of Casimer started to shake. A golem like creature that stood at 5′, made of the same stone as the wall formed infront of Casimer. It punched at Casimer making him jump back. Rapunzel paused, wanting to help but knowing her arrows would do her no good. Casimer was only dodging, waiting for an opportunity to flip over the creature to take it off guard. He finally had the chance and flipped over it. Casimer quickly put his arms under the stone golems and flipped him off the opposite side of Rapunzel. The golem screeched and hit the wall but Gregor made it too strong to break. Gregor smiled as he watched, liking Casimers solution to fighting somthing he couldn’t cut with his sword.

They went on, Casimer making sure to warn Rapunzel when she needed to turn. They were stopped again when three lions about the size of their horses roared and ran at Rapunzel. Casimer quickly jumped down to help as Rapunzel engaged in combat with them. Despite their size, Casimer and Rapunzel took them down quickly and without injury. Casimer held up his hand with a smile to prompt Rapunzel into a high five. She gave him one and he pulled her into a kiss. “we’ll need to get me back up there.” Rapunzel crouched against the wall again and Casimer got up the same way he had the first time. “I think they just may win” Gregor said in an astonished tone to his son who also seemed baffled by their performance.

When Casimer was ready they ran again. A few more golems tried to stop casimer but he defeated them with ease after he took care of the first one. Suddenly Rapunzel hit the ground, a strong vine coming from a woman whose hair and arms were nothing but vines. Casimer jumped down again but just as he hit the ground another woman who looked like a copy of the first grabbed Casimer and started trying to squueze all the air out of him. Rapunzel had kept her dagger in hand so started cutting and stabbing the one that had her.

Casimer struggled against the vines. He couldn’t inhale enough air and was starting to lose consciousness. He had dropped his sword, but he still had a dagger hidden in his boot and a piece of flint in his pocket. He always kept it in case he ever got lost in a strange place. He wanted to always be able to make a fire. He lifted his leg and pulled the dagger free then managed to get the flint out of his pocket. He struck the dagger against the flint, making it spark and ignite the vine. The creature screamed as fire crawled up its hair to its head and body. He ran over to the one that was assaulting Rapunzel and struck the flint again. The creature swatted at him and he jumped over the vine.

“Let her go or I will kill you like I did your sister.” He ordered angrily. It hissed at him and swatted at him again. Rapunzel finally manged to cut herself loose and fell to the ground with a loud thud. She gasped as the wind was knocked from her lungs, but jumped to her feet and grabbed her bow and an arrow. She fired at the monster, catching it in its shoulder. Casimer set it aflame while it was distracted then grabbed his sword and Rapunzel’s hand and ran. They stayed along the left wall, only turning when they had to. They finally stopped for a moment and caught their breath.

“That was insane.” She said as she wiped the dirt from her face.

“Absolutely.” He cleared his throat. “Okay, back up.” She hoisted him onto the wall and they continued on. There were more golems and a pack of wild dogs, but they finally managed to make it to the center where a box of dark wood was setting on a pedastal. She moved cautiously towards it and flipped it open. She lifted out the silver crown with the purple stone in the center and sat it atop her head. Gregor called an end to the test and said she had beat Louis’ time by quite a bit. He sent men in to escort them out and gave her a big hug when she came back in the house.

“Truly a queen worth following. Please stay and eat and bathe. You deserve it.”

“Thank you, this is a beautiful”

“I guess you were meant to win this. Let me send someone to get your friends while you and Casimer go get clean. A maid came up and asked them to follow. She guided them to a shower “I’ll be waiting outside if you need me” Rapunzel nervously nodded while Casimer said ok with a smile. He smiled wider when he saw how nervous Rapunzel seemed. He grabbed her chin “you are always so brave my beautiful Rapunzel. We aren’t going to make love, just get clean. You are far too stunning of a woman to fear me seeing you naked. I’ll get naked first if it helps, or I could help you get your clothes off” Rapunzel blushed more so Casimer spoke again “can I help you? I’ll let you shower alone first if you’re all that uncomfortable.”

“No, I want to. I think you better help me start getting undressed though” Casimer smiled then kissed her before he started to remove her clothes. He took a sharp intake when her bare skin was showing. HIs heart raced and he took his clothes off. He stroked Rapunzels wamr cheek “You are radiant Rapunzel. Much better looking than me” Rapunzel smiled “I don’t think it would be possible to be better looking than you” Casimers eyes lit up making all the nervousness leave Rapunzel. They cleaned themselves off then dried. Casimer called out to the maid “could you get us clothes from our friends” The maid slightly opened the door and handed Casimer the clothes “they already brought some”

“Thank you” He shut the door again then gave Rapunzel her clothes “It’s a shame I wont be able to gaze upon you any longer. We should have taken a longer shower” Rapunzel smiled with another blush as they both dressed. Rapunzel hugged Casimer, he relaxed into it happily. Rapunzel pulled back “we should go show everyone else my beautiful crown” Casimer smiled again “It does suit you perfectly.” Casimer was glad the crown at the cneter matched the wedding ring he bought her. That ring was even more perfect for her than he thought.

Rapunzel placed the crown back on her head then let the maid guide them to where they would be eating. “wow” Jeremy said when Casimer and Rapunzel walked in. Bernadette got up and hugged them both at the same time. “that crown is perfect!” Bernadette said, knowing what Casimers ring looked like. Gregor smiled “sit, the food will be here shortly”

“You are a very generous host.” Rapunzel smiled at Gregor.

“It is our way princess. We have always opened our home to friends and those in need.” The food was brought out and set on the table. “Please eat your fill. We will pack the leftovers so you have something to eat on the rest of your journey.”

They ate and talked happily with their host. His son Louis didn’t say much. “Hey you’re name’s Louis right.” His eyes jumped to Rapunzel’s face and she gave him a warm smile.

“Yes ma’am.” He said shyly, a blush touching his cheeks.

“Did you enjoy watching me run the labyrinth?”

“Yes, it was quite exciting. Especially the part with the vine women. The way your knight sat them on fire was incredible. You were so much faster and a lot more clever than me.”

“I bet you are very clever and I was only fast because I had help. I bet you could easily beat me in a race.” Louis smiled, a look of pride in his eyes. He was happy the princess was talking to him directly and complimenting him. Usually high born people ignored him and spoke only to Gregor.

“I don’t think I could now, but I will practice every day and maybe you could come back and race me.”

“I would love to. I also look forward to becoming your friend. Gregor, you and Louis must visit the castle some time.”

“We would love to princess. Thank you for the invitation.” They finished dinner and Jeremy pulled her aside to make sure he had written down everything perfectly. She looked his writing over and nodded. He smiled and then went to the room he had been given for the night. Bernadette talked with Louis and Gregor, the latter who was interested in becoming a knight. Rapunzel would love if Louis decided to be knighted. He would have Bernadette as a teacher and she was one of the best.

“Are you ready for bed?” Casimer whispered in her ear.

“Yes, I’m so exhausted. I didn’t even get to ask Jeremy what we’re doing tomorrow.” She answered and stood then yawned. He lifted her in his arms and carried her upstairs to their room.

When they were inside he set her gently down “we are inside now and can sleep in our underwear if you would be fine with that Rapunzel.” Rapunzel gave him a gentle kiss “you’ve already seen me naked, I may aswell sleep comfortably. They both stripped to their underwear as Casimers eyes were once again awestruck. It made her blush again. She saw his eyes moving hungrily over her. “are your plans really for sleep?” Rapunzel asked and Casimer chuckled “You are in a hurry to return to your father. You would be very sore in the morning if I had my way with you tonight. I doubt I could stop after just once and I wont be so selfish. There will be time for lovemaking at home, that is, if you would like to.”

“why wouldn’t I?” Casimer smiled “I just want you so badly, I fear I’ll pressure you so I’m staying as passive as possible. You are so…gorgeous..that word doesn’t even do you justice but I’m having trouble finding any word that would. I have craved you for so long. It hasn’t only been sexual I promise. I’ll be over the moon just getting to hold you again tonight so ignore the hunger in my eyes. We will just cuddle” Rapunzel closed the small bit of distance between them and kissed Casimer again “you are so sweet”

“I’m just very much in love. It’s not a challenge to be sweet when you love someone as much as I love you. You truly are why I get up every morning. I leave my quarters hoping to see you as soon as possible. I hope we will be sharing a room when we return so I can see you every morning when I wake.”

“Of course we will. You can move into mine” Casimer smiled “good, yours is much better than mine” Casimer picked Rapunzel up again then got under the covers with her. He held Rapunzel tightly against him. Every now and then he would place a kiss on her head, hoping she felt how much he loved her. He was kicking himself a bit for his long spiel about craving her sexually. He felt it might dampen in her eyes how much he loved her. He just couldn’t help but want her in that way. It wasn’t fair how perfect she was. He relaxed, Rapunzel had known him since they were children so he was sure he understood precisely what he was saying before. Nothing hurts relationships quite like over worrying so he wouldn’t allow himself to. He also was aware that Rapunzel would quickly tell him if he ever did or said anything that displeased her.

Morning came and Casimer wasn’t very interested in letting Rapunzel go for whatever dangers laid ahead but he did anyway. They both put their clothes on then met their companions at the breakfast table. After breakfast they hurried out to complete their final two tasks. Rapunzel put her crown in a bag then mounted her horse. When they were on the road Rapunzel asked Jeremy “where to now?”

“Easops Course, your father had to complete it when he was fourteen. It’s a combination of an obstacle course and battle field. You must get over whatever obstacles you face while monsters and demons try and thwart your efforts. This is one you must do alone. Bernadette, Casimer and I will only be watching you complete your sixth task.”

“How far”

“Only a half hour from here”

The ride was a peaceful one, but as the ruins of what would be the obstacle course came into view Casimer became more fearful. They could not see or hear the demons and monsters, but there was a feeling of forboding in the air. He wanted to pull her away and take her home. He wanted to marry her and dare any man or woman to challenge her, but he knew he couldn’t do that. He took a deep breath as Rapunzel dismounted and sent up a silent prayer for her protection.

“We will be waiting for you on the other side.” Jeremy said and pointed to the end of the course.

Rapunzel handed her reigns off to Casimer and he leaned down to kiss her. She pulled back with a smile and headed for the obstacle course, sword and dagger drawn. The minute she stepped into one of the old buildings she heard a bone chilling howl fill the air. She ran and could hear loud footsteps behind her. She glanced back, seeing she was being followed by a pack of hellhounds. Their glowing red eyes blazed at her like fire and they gave off a sulfury smell. They were so close she could actually hear their teeth click together as they snapped at her heels. She jumped over an old wall and spun around as they cleared it, killing the two lead hounds and injury two others before racing off. Something followed her from above. She caught glimpses of it as it jumped from building to building. Grey feathers and gree scales on a humanoid form. It dove down with a loud screech, slamming into her and sending her rolling. She swore she felt her ribs break, but she forced herself to her feet. She spun, slashed and kicked at the creature, finally killing it by taking off its head. She pressed her palm into her side, using the healing magic Stallina had bestowed upon her.

Casimer waited impatiently at the end. He could see Rapunzel running and then suddenly she was out of sight. His heart beat fearfully in his chest and he fought the urge to go to her. “What is the last trial? Is it more dangerous than this?” He asked.

“She is going to have to face the dragon Irim. He can shape shift into a human because he is a High Dragon. He uses psychological warfare so to speak. He gets into your head and uses you worst fears against you. If you beg him to stop even once he will devour you. I hear the prize for winning is a bracelet made from his scales that allows you to call him in your time of need. He will remain loyal to his defeator for life. It is another task she alone must face.” Jeremy answered.

“what’s the point in us coming if we can barely help her” Casimer said frustratedly. Bernadette put a hand on his shoulder. “we’ve been able to help her some and we keep her safe on the journey between trials. She’s doing fine. Rapunzel is strong, you and I have seen to that. She can get through this course. What will her proof be for this Jeremy?”

“I guess she’ll have to take a piece of a demon she kills. King Gabriel did not know the course was taken over by demons. This makes the trial harder though so she will be higher respected for this than if it were the regular course. Regardless I am the impartial witness. I am not her friend so have no reason to lie about her completing a trial. I also gain nothing if she becomes queen so more reason that my word that she did this would be trusted.”

“The king isn’t giving you any reward for this?” Bernadette asked. “Nope, I get to write another book while accompany Gabriels most beautiful daughter. I had never seen her before this so I didn’t know if what i heard was true but…it really is” Jeremy got a little afraid as he finished because it looked like Casimer may kill him. Bernadette slapped the back of Casimers head “he’s just saying why he came Casimer. Calm down.”

“I’m just worried. I want to help her”

“don’t you’ll ruin everything. She needs to do this alone” Rapunzels side hurt worse everytime she fought with a demon. They kept trying to drag her off course and further from the goal but she wouldn’t let them. She kept going right back to her path. She was almost to her friends when a demon who looked both human and snake grabbed her ankle and jerked her down. When he opened his mouth to bite her with his poison fangs she briskly shoved her sword through his mouth making him hobble backward. She pulled the blade out and swung her sword through his body twice. The demon collapsed in a mess of his bodyparts, organs and blood. She ran into Casimers arms where he held her tightly. She could hear that his heart was pounding almost as hard as hers was. “what proof can I have when there’s nobody else here Jeremy?”

Jeremy fished out a small bag. “Take your dagger and remove some of the demons skin. Anybody knows a snake demons skin and I’ll explain the course is in ruin and taken over by demons. I’ll make sure they know you still ran through and fought even more treacherous things than you would have in the real course. Rapunzel hugged Casimer a few moments longer then went down with her bag and dagger to collect skin. She removed a good portion and put it in the bag. Bernadette took it from her as Casimer lifted Rapunzel in his arms to carry her back to the horses.

Chapter Four

“Are you okay?” Casimer asked as he sat her on her feet.

“I broke my ribs, but the healing magic I was given helped. I think they’re just bruised now, but it still hurts when I breathe.” He pulled her shirt up a little and let out a hiss.

“I think if you use your power once more the bruises will go away.” He dropped her shirt and pulled her into another hug. “I’m so glad you’re alive.”

“I would never let myself die. So what’s next?”

“The High Dragon Irim. He can shape shift into human for and has the ability to slip into your mind and use your worst fears against you. He will be merciless in his assault, but you must not waver. If you do he will eat you. If you win then you get a bracelet made from his scales and he will pledge his loyalty to you. A dragon never goes back on their word.” Jeremy explained.

“How far away?”

“A day. He lives near the top of that mountain.” He pointed and they looked at the large triangle shaped mountain in the distance.

“Isn’t that a volcano?” Bernadette asked as they climbed onto their horses.

“Volcano, mountain. They’re both the same except one can explode.”

Rapunzel couldn’t help but laugh and kicked her horse into motion. They decided the would ride as hard as they could until the horses needed rest. She was never one for pushing her animals into exhaustion, but she wanted to get the last task over with and get home to her father. She wanted to be there when he passed if it was a couple of days from now or a year. She had to be there for the rest of his time. She had promised and she wasn’t going to break it.

Around three in the afternoon the horses were obviously tired and desperate for a break so they found a pond they could drink from and stopped. Jeremy got some food out for the horses while Bernadette began to portion out some of the good Gregor sent with them. “so what did Luis decide?” Rapunzel asked. “He’s going to become a knight but he’ll do it after your coronation”

“I’m so excited he wants to be” Casimer sat down beside Rapunzel and took her hand. He brought it to his lips and gave her a gentle kiss. “How does your side feel?”

“Alright, it’s tolerable. Let me try to heal it again.” Rapunzel put her hands on her side and used more of her energy to heal her ribs. She instantly felt relief. She wanted to push more in but stopped before she drained all her energy. “Why don’t you nap while the horses are resting?” Bernadette suggested. “I will after we eat” Rapunzel replied. “I’ll nap with you” Casimer added in and Bernadette smiled “Of course you will, any reason to hold her. He’s been dreaming of it you know. Once when I went to wake him he was holding a pillow, when I took it he grumbled, stop bothering Rapunzel. We’re sleeping” Rapunzel laughed and Casimer blushed. When Rapunzel was done easting she kissed Casimers cheek “lets rest so I can meet Irim as soon as we get there.”

“Can I hold you or will your side hurt?”

“Lets try” Casimer got on his side and drapped an arm around her as gently as possible. “is that ok?”

“Yes” Casimer smiled and gave her a brief kiss. They drifted off to sleep. They woke about two hours later and they all ate again before getting back on the horses and driving them hard once again to the volcano. They made it to the volcano around nine pm and let the horses free near another watering hole with some food. “I’m so sorry I asked so much of you guys” Rapunzel whispered to the horses. “you can all travel up with me can’t you?”

“Yes, just once you get to where Irim is you have to see him alone.”

“well then lets not waste time”

They walked up as fast as they could until they came to a large cave opening with steam rolling out of it. Casimer pulled Rapunzel into his arms and hugged her tightly. He didn’t want to let her go. “I’ll be okay.” She said and pulled back to look at him. She brushed her fingers over his cheek then kissed him. She hurried into the cave, immediately starting to sweat from the heat. She wiped her forehead and squinted through the thick cloud of white.

“Who has entered my home?” A deep voice asked.

“Rapunzel, daughter of King Henri.” She answered. The ground began to shake and she nearly lost her balance. Two gold orbs peered out of the fog. They grew smaller and smaller until she could barely make them out.

“The princess, I have been expecting you.” The voice was different, human. When he stepped out of the fog she was surprised that someone like him could be a great dragon. He had bright gold eyes and long jet black hair. He wore all black save for the red ribbon at the end of his long braid. She blinked in confusion and he laughed. “Would you prefer me in my true form?” She didn’t know what to say so he just laughed again.

“I have come to test myself against you.” She finally managed and he grinned, revealing sharp canines.

“Have you now?” He circled her, leaned in and sniffed her. “Are you scared princess?”

“Terrified, I’m shaking.” She held up her hand to show him. He grabbed her shoulders and spun her around to face him. He stared deep into her eyes and he began to slowly fade away. She shoved him away and shook her head, but the darkness took her despite her efforts. She squeezed her eyes shut and when she opened them she was standing in a cemetary. She heard crying and turned around. Her siblings were standing over a grave, mourning. She walked around the headstone and was horrified to see her father’s name there. She shook her head. He couldn’t be gone already.

“Why did you leave?” Snow said angrily. “He called for you again and again. This is your fault.” She felt tears in her eyes and fell to her knees, squeezing her eyes shut and telling herself it wasn’t real. When she opened them again she was on a battlefield. Laying before her, dead and bloodied were Casimer and Bernadette. She crawled over to the love of her life and pulled him into her arms.

“You failed princess and they died for your failure. They fought for you while you cowered and cried. You killed them princess.” A voice whispered.

She once again told herself this wasn’t real, that Casimer & Bernadette were not laying before her dead on a battle field. She stayed strong, not willing to fail. She would deal with anything Irim threw at her. The next thing he showed her was Belle and Ariel dieing in the courtyard. Both girls were crying as they begged Rapunzel to help them. It was heart wrenching to watch but Rapunzel stayed silent. Suddenly it all faded and she was back in Irims cave. He smiled at her “You have passed princess” Irim walked away and came back with a bracelet that he slid onto Rapunzels wrist. “You can call me whenever you need me princess. I will always come as quickly as I can. From what I understand this is your last trial. Let me start me service by flying you and your friends home.”

“we came on horses, we can’t leave them here. True I could go home and blow my whistle but it would be dangerous for them to travel that far by themselves. A monster or demon could kill them if they were traveling alone.”

“such a thoughtful princess. I have a friend I could ask to escort your horses if you’d wish.”

“If sombody would take them home Casimer, Jeremy, Bernadette and I would be very grateful for a flight home.”

“go to your friends and I will fetch mine.” They both walked out of the cave. Irim turned while Rapunzel ran to Casimer. He started running to when he saw her. They slammed into eachother and locked one another in a tight hug. Casimer grabbed Rapunzels face and gave her a fervent kiss that made Rapunzels legs weak. “we ready to go?” Jeremy called and Casimer broke the kiss. Rapunzel answered “Irim is going to fly us. He’s getting a friend to escort the horses home.”

“thank god” Jeremy said excitedly. Jeremy wrote again until Irim came back with his friend Andreas. “this is the man who will take your horses home. I promise they will arrive safely. Are you and your friends ready?”

“Yes”

“Back up a little please” Rapunzel and Casimer obeyed then Irim shifted.After they grabbed their bags they all climbed on while Andreas waved goodbye. Bernadette laughed at how afraid Jeremy looked. Casimer held tightly to Rapunzel, only afraid of her falling. It was amazing how fast the trip home was when you could just fly straight over everything. It was early morning when they landed. Irim spoke again “I will be honored to serve you when you’re queen. If anybody doesn’t respect you just tell them the dragon Irim will devour them” Rapunzel laughed then kissed Irims nose “Thank you so much”

“You earned my allegiance. No need to thank me. Go to your father, make him proud and tell him all you’ve accomplished. You are a daughter that any man would be lucky to have.” Irim took off into the sky as Rapunzel grabbed Casimers hand and ran to her fathers quarters. Bernadette and Jeremy followed. Rapunzel burst in her fathers doors without knocking due to her excitement to see Gabriel. He was sleeping but her entrance woke him “Rapunzel!” He exclaimed happily. Rapunzel ran over and hugged him “You’ve done it” Gabriel said sounding a little choked up. “Of course I did dad. Don’t sound near tears”

“I couldn’t help but worry sweetheart. I know you are strong but some worry still hung in my heart. I love all of you children so much.” Rapunzel pulled out her crown “This is one of my prizes”

“Oh magnificent”

“I love it. I want this one to be the one I get placed on my head at coronation” Gabriel smiled “it will be done then. They sat there chatting as Rapunzel showed her father each prize and explained how she got it. Bernadette and Jeremy eventually left but Casimer just stayed and watched her. He finally decide to go get her ring and let her father see him propose. Casimer cleared his throat “I’ll be right back” Rapunzel stood and hugged him “ok” Casimer kissed her then quickly left to retrieve the ring. He ran back once he had it in his hands and entered the room. Gabriel had a knowing smile in his eyes when Casimer walked in, no doubt his father had told the king when he bought the ring. Rapunzel got up to hug him again. When she ended the hug Casimer quickly got down on one knee. Rapunzel stood there with a confused look until he pulled out the ring. “As I told you when I first confessed my love. You are why I get up in the mornings, you’re why I do anything I do Rapunzel. I love you from the deepest reaches of my heart and I would consider myself the luckiest man in the kingdom if you would agree to be my wife”

Rapunzels lip quivered “Yes, I would love to marry you” Was all she said before kissing him. When they looked back at Gabriel he had damp eyes “This makes me so happy. Thank you for not waiting until my passing to tell my daughter how much you love her and to ask her hand. I do however have one more favor to ask of you children.”

“anything dad”

“A few months ago Zane came to me and asked if he could have Belles hand in marriage. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen our fearless assasin nervous. It was very touching, his words were I know I am not a prince, a knight or of any sort of nobility though I serve the nobles. I know I could never be worthy to marry Belle but I love her so much your majesty. I do my best to make sure she’s happy and as my wife I would continue to do so. I want forever with her and I beg you to bless a union between us.”

“aw” Rapunzel said “yeah, it was very sweet. I gave him my permission but he’s yet to ask Belle. I would die happy if you would get him to propose and you guys have a double wedding wedding the day after tomorrow. I know our beloved servants and knights could manage to get everything ready in that time. Would you please go to Zane and get him to ask and agree to a double wedding. That is if you two would be fine with that” Rapunzel kissed her fathers head “anything for you dad. Would you walk m down the aisle if we do it the day after tomorrow?”

“I will be walking you both.”

“We will go to Zane then. Rest and I will come back after we get that man in gear” Gabriel laughed “I love you Rapunzel”

“I love you too”

They knew he was probably out practicing somewhere which meant they wouldn’t see him at first. He was good at being sneaky and had almost earned an arrow from Rapunzel more than once. He was always in shock that she knew where he was. They walked out to the practice area where they blacksmith and archery range were. He often scaled the sides of the castle as practice for scaling other large buildings. Rapunzel turned and looked up the side of the castle, catching a quick glimpse of him.

“Zane, get down here.” She yelled and she saw him stick his head into view. He came down at an alarmingly fast rate, dropping and swinging until he was standing on the ground. A black mask covered most of his face, leaving only his intense blue eyes in view. He pulled the mask down and his hood back then smiled at them.

“Hey Rapunzel, what brings you out here?”

“Daddy told me you are being a chicken and not asking Belle to marry you.”

He blushed and looked nervous. “Yeah that’s true, but hey Casimer was a chicken too.”

“He just asked me.” She showed him her ring. “Look, dad really wants to see all of us get married together. He’s sick. Please just ask her, I know she’ll say yes. She really loves you and since you have daddy’s blessing you should do it.”

“I know, I know. Alright, I’ll do it now. I’ve been carrying the ring around anyway, just waiting.” He chuckled nervously. “I think she’s in her room right now so back up I go.” They watched him start back up the side of the castle and stayed until he got to Belle’s window. If he didn’t ask, Rapunzel was going to fire a flaming arrow at him the minute he came out the window.

“Should we tell Gabriel? Casimer asked.

“Yeah, I have a feeling he’ll ask or else.” She smiled and he lifted her into his arms and carried her back inside. He was excited for the double wedding.

Belle had become accustomed to her boyfriend just flying into the widow so she wasn’t very startled. Her cat Kisa jumped out of her lap as she stood to hug him. “I thought we weren’t seeing eachother until after lunch. You said you needed to practice” She pulled back as she spoke and Zane gave her a sweet kiss that made her smile. He loved how she’d smile every time he kissed her softly. “well I’ve been wanting to ask you somthing and I just got the nerve to do it” Belle giggled “you’re never afriad of anything. I find it hard to believe you’ve been scared to ask me somthing. What is it?” Zane took a deep breath in and out “You, my beautiful princess are my only weakness it seems.” Belle smiled and kissed his cheek. “ask me” Zane, almost shakily went for the small box in his pocket. It was a silverband with a pink diamond since she loved pink so much.

He dropped down on one knee “when I first saw you Belle I thought I might collapse. You are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I loe those dazzling green eyes and soft blonde hair. I love how you’re always so happy and carefree. I’ve also never seen anything so adorable. You always make me smile no matter the mood I’m in. I used to come home in the foulest mood after I was sent on jobs but now that I have you I can go right back to being happy when I’m home. You’re my first thought when I wake up and my last when I sleep. When I’m away on a job I think about you constantly unless I need a clear head while I’m hunting. I try so hard to make sure that you are always happpy and I promise to spend my life showing you how adored you are if you’ll marry me.”

That delighted squeal Zane loved so much filled her room and she threw her arms around him “of course I’ll marry you! It’s silly you were afraid to ask me. Don’t you know how crazy I am about you” He pulled back enough to kiss her. Zane pushed the ring on her finger then kissed it “thank you Belle. I was afraid because my heart would have shattered if you said no. It was scary enough to ask your fathers permission. You deserve so much and I’m far below you”

“You are not Zane. You’re amazing. Not that I like your work but your family has been serving our kingdoms royals for generations. Regardless you know my father doesn’t believe we are any better than any of the non royals. We are all just people, just born into different families”

“You have made me incredibly happy. We should let your father know, I’m sure he’ll be delighted.” He took her hand and they raced to Gabriel’s room. They were so excited they didn’t even knock. Casimer and Rapunzel were setting there talking to him and all three were happy that he had done what Rapunzel told him to. Gabriel asked them about the double wedding and they happily agreed.

He reached up and tugged on a rope, making a bell ring somewhere in the castle. A few minutes later his steward came in. “Yes sir?” He said.

“My children and their finaces are wanting to get married the day after tomorrow. The whole thing needs to be put together by then if you can manage it. Make sure it’s full of purple and pink for my beautiful daughters. Make sure their siblings know.”

“Yes sir.” He bowed and headed out to alert the rest of the staff that they would be very busy.

“This is so exciting.” Belle said with a happy bounce. “A double wedding, it’s going to be so much fun sister.”

“I am very happy we get to walk down the isle together with daddy.” Rapunzel replied. “I think I’ll invite Irim. He was gracious enough to fly us home even though he didn’t have to. He’s actually a really nice dragon.”

“He had always been a little on the grumpy side. He and I became friends after I broke my leg near the volcano. He could have eaten me, but he didn’t. Said it wouldn’t be fair. He’s actually very compassionate and despite rumors he has never eaten anyone that didn’t deserve it.”

They talked the king into exhaustion then left the room. They went down to the dining hall to have some lunch where they saw Snow, Sandra, Malachai, Ariel, Candy, Laura, Theo, Bernadette, Zac, Talia, and Jerry were all there to congratulate them. Talia wanted to be the flower girl. Belle and Rapunzel thought that would be a wonderful idea. Jerry teased Casimer and rubbed his fist into Casimers hair. Rapunzel and Bernadette laughed. They all ate lunch happily and spent the day helping the servants and knights put together the wedding. They stayed up late but eventually all had to go to bed. Casimer went with Rapunzel to her room while Zane went with Belle to hers. Each couple slept snug together for the night. Zane was excited for Belle to move out of the castle and in with him.

He looked forward to being with her every night. Early in the morning maids pried Rapunzel and Belle from their fiances to be put into wedding dresses. Even though they were just made quickly through the night both girls loved them. Belle had her normal childlike glee which made Rapunzel even happier. There wasn’t anyone that Belle couldn’t lighten the mood of. She could make the happiest person happier. They placed Rapunzels crown on her head. Belle wondered if she was getting one until their father entered. He had Cantalys tiara in his hands. “Daddy!” Belle and Rapunzel exclaimed. Gabriel smiled “Your mother wanted me to pass this down to the queen that succeeded her but Rapunzel has found her own tiara on the journey. I’m giving your mothers tiara to you Belle for you to get married in and to keep in your home with Zane when you move in. I’m sure Rapunzel doesn’t mind”

“Of course I don’t. That’s a sweet idea daddy”

“Thank you dad” Belle added. Gabriel placed it on Belles head “gorgeous, both of you. I was hoping my soon to be girls would join me for breakfast outside once you’re changed into your regular clothes”

“we’ll meet you there” Belle and Rapunzel responded cheerfully. The maids quickly helped them change and took their tiaras. Rapunzel and Belle ran out the castle to meet their father who was already sitting out there with one of the servants that had stayed by his side the whole time he had been ill. Gabriel treated everyone that served him with respect and in return he had their full devotion.

“My beautiful girls. I am so proud of both of you. Your mother would have loved to see you get married.” He smiled at the memory of his beautiful wife. Breakfast was brought out to them and they ate as Gabriel talked about Cantaly. Rapunzel loved hearing about her mother, about how beautiful and amazing she was. She had made her father truly happy. “I hope you two plan on having a lot of children. I know you probably think having as many as your mother and I did is crazy, but it was worth it.”

“I want a house full.” Belle said, her mind already filled with the joyous little giggles of babies. “How about you sister dear?”

“Yes, I want many children. I don’t care if they are male or female, want to rule the kingdom or not. I just want them to be happy and healthy. I want to raise them like you raised us daddy with the freedom to choose their own destinies.”

“Good and make sure they respect each and every person they come across no matter who they were born to or where they wee born.”

“Both of us will.” She reached over and grabbed Belle’s hand and they just smiled at each other. “I will be a queen for you and mom to be proud of.”

“And I will give her my full support.” Belle said, making Gabriel smile.

“Good and keep your siblings out of trouble.” They both laughed and promised.

They finished breakfast and Gabriel was taken back to his room to rest. Rapunzel and Belle went and found their soon to be husbands, both of them excited about the next day. Casimer and Zane were talking to each other in the courtyard about what they should say at the wedding.

Snow watched jealously through a window. She had congratulated them as her siblings did but she wasn’t happy. Rapunzel was getting the throne and Belle was getting their mothers tiara. It only made things worse that Cinderella was a queen in waiting. All of her younger sisters were always outdoing her. They were better looking and had many skills. Snow hated her hair and the fact she wasn’t good at anything. She resented her sisters for succeeding in life. Snow was going to make it a point to keep Ariel from out doing her as her other younger sisters had. As the oldest snow felt she should be married, be queen and have their mothers tiara. She just sat there brooding and hating her sisters.

The rest of the day was filed with more preparations. Rapunzel, Casimer, Belle and Zane were far too excited to be tired but they went up to bed anyways after dinner. Zane just looked down at Belle with a smile as he laid with her while using a hand to prop up his head and using his other hand to rub her stomach and sides. “How am I expected to sleep?” She said in a tone that was clearly not tired in the least. Zane leaned down and kissed her “just let me relax you sweetheart. We can stay up late tomorrow” Zane said suggestively. Belle let out a small laugh then pulled him in for another kiss. “I’m so happy you want to marry me” Belle said when they stopped kissing.

“How could I not want to marry such an amazing woman. You are my light, the warmth I like to wrap myself in. You still make my heart race as it did the first day you became my girlfriend.”

“It’s still hard to imagine you were so afraid to ask me to marry you. You’re never scared.”

“As adorable as you are you have been very scary, the scariest thing I’ve encountered. I fell in love so deeply and so fast. I’m lost in you. You have me wrapped around your finger and I don’t know what I would have done if you refused me. My parents never had much luck in love. Always in and out of relationships. I worried that whatever is wrong with them is wrong with me too and that you would leave me someday.”

“I will never leave you, ever”

Chapter Five

Casimer kissed Rapunzel’s neck and ran his nose along her ear, making her giggle. “Casimer, stop or we’ll never get to sleep.”

“How terrible.” He came up on hands and knees above her, nibbling at her neck and down to her shoulder. “You taste so yummy.”

She blushed and felt him smile against her shoulder. “I wonder how long you have been waiting to say that.”

“A really long time.” He pulled back to look into her eyes. “You are truly the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I keep thinking I will wake up back in the barracks and this will have all been a dream.”

“I assure you this is real and I’m not going anywhere.” She reached up and took his face in her hands and pulled him down to kiss him. He groaned and broke the kiss then pressed his forehead against her, his eyes closed.

“You have no idea how much I want you.” He sighed and opened his eyes, giving her his warmest smile. “That kiss will have to do. We both need our rest. It has been an insane week and I want you to be able to walk down the isle tomorrow.”

She laughed as he lay down and pulled her into his arms. “Someone is definitely confident in his abilities. What makes you think I won’t be able to walk?” She teased.

“I plan on making you very tired.” She kissed his chin and settled her head on his chest. She focused on the sound of his heart beating and reminded herself to call Irim to her in the morning before she finally dozed off.

The girls woke again to maids wanting to dress them. They went happily while the men got their suits on. They all ate muffins as they readied themselves for their big day. Ariel, Candy & Laura and were in the room watching the maids get Belle and Rapunzel ready while Theo and Richard took the opportunity to try and make Zane as nervous as possible while he got ready. They ended up just laughing at how nervous they made him. Theo patted him on the shoulder “we’re just messing with you. You make Belle very happy and we know you will continue to.” Richard patted the other shoulder “and we can also sleep soundly knowing you can protect her. If anybody can keep her from harm it’s you. You’ve killed some pretty vicious people. Some jobs you’ve went on for father I’m surprised you came back, especially unharmed.” Theo chimed in again ” Yeah, I think I’ve only ever seen you come back with a wound once and that was because the guy caught on you were following and you were ganged up on”

“did your father tell you guys about every job? More importantly does Belle know all the details?” Richard laughed and responded “well dad liked to tell us stories about you. You have always impressed him. Snow and Rapunzel know it all but Belle never liked to listen. You know how sensitive she is when it comes to killing” Theo let out a small laugh “yeah, with how girly she is we were honestly shocked when you two started dating. Especially since she knows what you do for the nobles”

“she doesn’t mind, as long as I know they are evil people. It’s why jobs take me longer now. I watch awhile to be sure they are bad. I promised her I would”

“aw” Theo said with a smile. Zane gave a small smile then finished getting ready. Jerry was tieing Casimers tie. “look at you. You look good baby brother.”

“Thanks”

“Makes me jealous, maybe I should start considering finding a girl to be serious with”

“What do you think of Bernadette?” Casimer asked and Jerry smiled “she’s cute, why?”

“She likes you”

“Does she now? I thought she might.”

“Would you consider her to be serious with?” Jerry shrugged and Casimer shook his head making Jerry laugh “Who you marry you’re with forever. I’ll consider my options and get back with you on that”

“Just don’t get with her unless you’re sure. Bernadette is a really nice person” Jerry laughed “alright, I wont break your friends heart. I’ll be sure”

Casimer and Zane headed out to stand at the end of the isle, Casimer on the left and Zane on the right. Both Rapunzel and Belle were jittery, but excited. They held their bouquets and waited patiently for Gabriel. When he came in he looked almost like his old self. He was standing with back straight, wearing his best clothes, and walking on his own. His silver crown sat a top his head, polished and shining. She had not seen him like this in a long time.

“My beautiful girls.” He kissed their foreheads. “These crowns suit you. Are you nervous?” They both nodded and he gave a light hearted laugh. “So was I the day I married your mother. The future is so uncertain and you never know what is going to happen so you get scared, but as long as you stay close to the ones you love everything will be just fine.”

“I love you so much daddy.” Rapunzel said and hugged him.

“Me too.” Belle chimed in and did the same. They stood there holding each other for a few moments then the music started.

“Come on, let’s get you two married.” They each held one of his arms and started out of the dressing room. They made it to the isle and both of them smiled when they saw Casimer and Zane. They looked so handsome and were grinning right back. When they made it to the end of the isle Gabriel handed them off then did something that surprised the room. He stood in front of Casimer, took off his crown and put it on Casimer’s head. He gave him a pat on the shoulder then went and sat down with everyone else. The priest was so shocked that he just stood there for a moment saying nothing. He blinked then started talking. Casimer hardly heard a thing the priest said. He was completely lost in the fact he was getting married and Gabriel had just passed the crown on to him.

They recited their vows and kissed causing the room to clap. Irim and Gabriel seemed to be clapping the loudest. Everybody went into the dining hall where a large buffet had been prepared for everyone. They ate and chattered happily. Rapunzel and Belle felt especially loved today. They knew their father must be tired but he still hadn’t retreated to his room. He was obviously planning on staying with everybody during this time. He seemed more spirited than ever though. Rapunzel and Belle were glad that they could do this so fast so their dad could be there to walk them down the aisle. Rapunzel noticed Ariel had dissapeared and got up to find her “where you going?” Casimer asked. “to find Ariel, she’s no longer here” Casimer scanned the room. “you’re right, want me to come?”

“No, I’ll be right back” Rapunzel kissed Casimers cheek and then her fathers before leaving to head up to Ariels room. When Rapunzel approached she could hear Ariel crying. Rapunzel quickly went in “what’s wrong Ariel?” Ariel quickly wiped her face “don’t let me ruin your day any more than I have. Please go enjoy your new husband and your first day as queen”

“My day has been perfect Ariel, what nonsense are you saying?” Ariels lip quivered and Rapunzel realized precisely what was wrong. She quickly went over and hugged her sister “You didn’t kill our mother. There was a complication in your birth and mother bled out. It was an accident and it’s not your fault. Mom wouldn’t want you to blame yourself Ariel. I’ve told you so many times.” Ariel cried harder “but mom isn’t here to see you get married..if I hadn’t been born”

“stop that right now or you will ruin my day. Moms always with us as long as we have her in our hearts. You may have never known her and I only knew her a short time but she is in our hearts and the best thing we can do for her is be happy. Stop carrying the weight of her death. Nobody holds you responsible and you shouldn’t hold yourself responsible. Mom wanted lots of children and with childbirth comes great risk. She risked her life with every one of us. Didn’t dad tell you that she died smiling. She died holding you with a huge grin on her face. She loved you very much Ariel. Don’t cry, she was happy to give you life” Ariel nodded “Thanks Rapunzel. Go downstairs. I promise that I’m just going to clean myself up. I’m done crying.” Rapunzel kissed her sisters head “if you aren’t down there in a half hour I’m coming back and I’ll slap sense into you” Ariel giggled then Rapunzel left the room to return to her husband.

“Is she okay?” Casimer asked when she came back down.

“Yes, she just needed a bit of a pep talk. She was sad about mom again.”

“You’re a good sister you know that?” She just smiled and let him pull her back into the group of people who had showed up for their wedding. Belle was dancing with Gabriel and Zane was standing to the side, smiling happily at them. Ariel finally came back down and Rapunzel grabbed her hand.

“Come on, I want to introduce you to Irim.”

“The dragon?” She sounded very nervous and unsure.

“He’s not all that bad, a bit grumpy, but he’s actually really nice.” Irim was off by himself, not really liking all the smells. He stayed up on a mountain and this was the first time he had been invited to a wedding. He turned and looked at Rapunzel as she approached with Casimer and a woman younger than herself. He stood and bowed. “Oh stop that.” She said and he straightened back up.

“Congratulations to both you and your husband. Who is this?”

“This is Ariel, my baby sister. I wanted her to meet a real dragon.”

“He’s really a dragon?” Ariel asked.

“Yes and a High Dragon at that. This is his human form. He’s actually a really big black dragon with big gold eyes. Who I think is immune to heat and can maybe breathe fire.”

“Yes to both of those things. I am also your sister’s loyal servant. The bracelet she is wearing is made from my scales. It can never be destroyed.” Rapunzel felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up at her dad.

“Time for me to dance, have fun with Irim.”

Ariel was nervous for her sister to leave but tried not to show it “It’s nice to meet you” Irim smiled “It’s very nice to meet you. I am not a very skilled dancer but we can dance if you would like” Ariel smiled making Irim smile instantly “I’m not very good either so we’ll be a perfect fit on the dancefloor. Maybe we could inspire a few laughs” Irims smile grew a little wider then he guided her over to the dancefloor. Irim had watched the others dance enough to know the jist of it. Since he had never been to a party he had never danced. Rapunzel saw Irim and Ariel start dancing and smiled. Gabriel chuckled “I’m glad to know that you will keep trying for me to get Ariel to live when I’m gone. I just wish we could really get it in her head that Cantalys death was nobodies fault. If anything I blame the physicians in charge of delivering Ariel, but I would never blame her.”

“I think Snow is the reason why we can’t. I thought I saw Snow and Ariel sitting near eachother when we were getting married. No doubt she said somthing to upset Ariel” Gabriel sighed “like I said, I’m glad to see you will push Ariel into the light. Please, never let her shut herself up in her room. You mind Snow aswell, I don’t know what happened with her but she seems to get the most joy out of causing her siblings pain.”

“I know that well dad, I wont let her torment Ariel.”

“Maybe you could keep trying to find her a husband too, someone who can deal with that temper” Rapunzel giggled ‘you really think I’m that skilled?” Gabriel laughed and kissed his daughters cheek “I am so proud of you Rapunzel. I can rest in peace knowing the kingdom is well taken care of. You chose a fine husband too.”

“I agree, he’s so sweet to me”

“as any husband should be” Casimer was watching his wife dance with her father when he felt a tapping on his shoulder. He turned to see Sandra “Could we dance?” Casimer offered his hand and they went out to the dancefloor. Casimer could see how sad Sandra was but it coudln’t be helped. He loved Rapunzel, always had and that would never change. Bernadette leaned against a wall talking to some other knights when Jerry approached her “May I have a dance?” He asked with a slight bow. Bernadette forced the blsuh back that tried to appear “sure” she said wanting to sound like she wasn’t excited he asked. Bernadette was happy when she actually managed to seem like it didn’t matter he asked.

Jerry held her close and she tried not to notice how well they fit together. “You look beautiful. I don’t think I have ever seen you in a dress before tonight.”

“I don’t usually wear them, but it’s Rapunzel and Belle’s wedding day so I wanted to look nice. Even if the material is irritating.” She hoped she sounded polite and uneffected.

“You are a bit of a tomboy, always rolling around in the dirt with the men. They really like trying to best you.”

She cracked a smile. “None of them can and none of them ever will.”

He chuckled then leaned in and whispered, “Someday you might come across a man who is very determined to get what he wants and will not accept defeat.”

“Then that man better be ready for a fight because I won’t back down.” He pulled back to look into her eyes, making her blush. He grinned, liking that he had such an effect on her, the tough Bernadette.

Gabriel finally let Rapunzel go back to Casimer who twirled her around the dance floor, making her laugh. He kissed her softly and she smiled against his lips. “Your father looks like he got back a few years tonight.”

“This wedding has given him strength. I am very happy to see him so full of energy and glowing. He was like this every day before he got sick. I will miss him so much.” She felt herself choking up and Casimer pulled her head against his chest so no one could see the tears forming in her eyes. She took a deep breath and fought them back. She wasn’t going to cry today, not when her father was so happy.

The day came to it’s end as all days do and the castle began to empty. Belle hugged all her siblings, friends and her father before Zane picked her up to take her to his home. Richard, Zac, Tali, Theo, Sandra, Candy, Laura,& Theo Jr all said by before returning home. When Bernadette said goodnight to Jerry so she could return to her room in the barracks Jerry quickly kissed her cheek “thanks for a wonderful evening.” He said in the most charming way possible. Bernadette once again couldn’t control her blush. “Goodnight” Bernadette said quickly then went to the barracks. Casimer was just about to go upstairs with Rapunzel when Jerry stopped him “Thank you little brother for telling me about Bernadette. I really could be serious with her.”

“as long as you’re sure” Jerry smiled “I am, goodnight you too. Try not to be too rough with our new queen” Jerry said with a wink and Rapunzel giggled. Gabriel gave a happy sigh then went to his room to rest for the evening. When he was in his sleeping clothes and under the covers Gabriel whispered “weren’t your girls beautiful tonight Cantaly. I’m so glad I made it to see Rapunzel and Belle get married. It was such a happy night” Gabriel shut his eyes and drifted into a deep sleep. Irim chose to stay in a guest room in the castle. He had claimed not wanting to fly home after the long day but truly he wanted to spend more time with Ariel tomorrow. He couldn’t remember enjoying anyones company, especially not as much as he had enjoyed hers.

He was excited to take Ariel into the air tomorrow.He promised that after breakfast, he would go outside with her and shift. It was somting she seemed both excited about and afraid of. That is also why he was anxious for tomorrow. He wanted to show her that there was nothing about him to be feared, by her anyway. He hoped she would enjoy the sky. Casimer began to undress his new bride in there bedroom. His hands moving fast like it was a race to undress her. When she was naked Rapunzel took off Casimers clothes, nearing the same speed in which he undressed her.

“I will never get over how beautiful you are.” He said softly as he slowly explored her. She was incredibly soft and warm. He kissed her softly, cupping her breast and tugging at her nipple so she moaned. He kissed his way down her, sucking and biting at her breasts. He moved lower, dipping his tongue in her belly button and pushing her legs open. He held tightly to her hips as he ate her. She cried out his name, surprised at how hungry he was for her. It was almost to intense, but his grip on her made it impossible to move away. Her back arched off the bed as an orgasm tore through her and she covered her mouth to muffle her loud cries.

“Casimer please, no more.” She whispered and he kissed his way back up her. He pulled her legs around his waist and thrust into her hard and fast. She bit onto his shoulder, tears springing to her eyes. He moved slowly, making her forget about the pain. He laced his fingers through hers and kissed her softly, pushing himself as deep as he could.

“I love you my beautiful queen, so very much.” She felt her heart swelling with joy and clung tightly to him as she orgasmed again. He pressed his forehead against hers as he found his own release. He had never been so happy in his life. He moved to lay beside her and pulled her into his arms. “Are you okay?”

“Yes, more than okay. I feel amazing. You must have massive amounts of self control.” She looked up at him with a smile. “You didn’t have to hold back.”

“I wanted your first time to be amazing and I don’t mind taking my time with you.”

“Thank you Casimer, that really was amazing” Casimer gave her a soft kiss on the forehead “lets rest” They settled in close together and just enjoyed eachoters warmth until they were blissfully sleeping. Morning came and they got out of bed to get dressed. Casimer could tell Rapunzel was sore so he picked her up and carried her to breakfast. It was odd for Raunzel not seeing Belle at the table but she was happy that her sister also had an amazing night and was probably having a wonderful breakfast with Zane. He made the absolute best strudel that Rapunzel had been meaning to make him teach her how to make. Irim hadn’t been social enough to realize that it wasn’t polite to stare and was holding his gaze on Ariel as she finished her food.

It made Ariels heart race as she tried to eat quickly. She was excited to see their kingdom from so high but was worried she may get scared up there. It would be embarrassing for her to have to ask him to take her back to the ground. When she finished Irim stood along with Ariel and they went outside. “I really think you’ll enjoy the view Ariel. You were so excited yesterday”

“I still am, I’ve just never been very high, especially that high”

“Just know that I would never let you fall. Even if you somhow managed to fall off of me I would catch you”

“how?”

“I’m very nimble in the air. You will not fall, I can promise that” Ariel smiled “well lets go then” Irim shifted before her eyes. If she hadn’t known Irims human form first and spent time with him last night she probably would have been scared but knowing him and seeing this she just thought he looked cool. He could see the amazement in her eyes and felt happy. Ariel climbed on and Irim took to the sky. Ariel wasn’t very fond of the feeling it gave her stomach when they first took off but once they were up and she looked down she became wide eyed. Everything looked so much smaller than when she was on the ground. Ariel could see so many colors and tiny looking creatures all over the place. This was absolutely thrilling. She even loved the feeling of the wind blowing through her hair.

“Thank you Irim! I love this! Even more than I thought last night!” Ariel leaned down and kissed his back where she was sitting then hugged him. Irim wanted to show her more things he thought she would like so flew over every beautiful place that he could think of that wasn’t too far from her home. Atleast in the concept of flying time. Walking or horseback he was taking her very far from home. He finally decided he should put her down before the thrill wore off and she did become scared or tired of the sky.

Chapter Six

Ariel was a little diappointed when he started to spiral slowly back to earth. He landed and shifted into his human form so she was riding him piggy back. He squatted down and she stepped off, her face red. “That was a lot of fun. Can we do it again some time?”

“We can go up as much as you like. I serve your sister now so I will be making frequent visits.”

“Oh…um…maybe you could stay here permanently. We have a lot of room.” She looked at her feet and twisted her fingers nervously. He grabbed her chin and tipped her head up, smiling at how shy she was.

“Don’t you think that would be something to ask your sister?” He asked and she turned a deeper shade of red as she nodded.

Rapunzel wanted to see her father and thank him again for everything. She hurried happily up the stairs to him room and burst through the door. He didn’t even raise his head and that worried her. “Daddy?” She approached his bed and gently shook him. He opened his eyes and smiled up at her.

“My little princess. How beautiful you are.”

“Daddy, are you okay?”

“I’m perfect, I feel lighter.” She grabbed his hand between hers and held it tightly. Her heart skipped a beat.

“Are you going to leave me?” She asked sadly, feeling tears in her eyes.

“Rapunzel, I would never dream of leaving you. Nothing could take me away. I will always be here.”

She turned to Casimer. “Please call for the steward and have him gather my siblings.” He nodded and pulled the rope next to the bed. The steward came as quickly as he could and Casimer explained what was going on. The man went pale, a look of pain crossing his face as he hurried off. Casimer stood next to Rapunzel, his hand on her shoulder. “You have to hang on okay daddy? You have to say goodbye to everyone.” She held his hand to her face and he brushed her tears away with his thumbs. She knew the entire kingdom would be devastated. There was no other man like him, no one more generous or more honest and loving.

A servant ran over to Ariel and Irim “Princess Ariel! Your father.” That was all Ariel needed to hear and she took off running with the servant and Irim. Soon all the siblings aside from John and Cinderella who lived too far away to be brought quickly were in the room. They all said their painful goodbyes and I love you. The girls bawled and even the men cried though they tried not to. The tears only multiplied when Gabriels chest went still. He had taken his final breath and died with Snow, Belle, Rapunzel and Ariel on the bed with him.Eventually the men knew they had to pull them away. Malachai went for Snow since he knew she didn’t have a man there that would. Irim and Zane just picked Belle and Ariel up while Casimer slowly tugged Rapunzel off the bed and into him so she could cry in his chest.

They slowly, with hearts wrenching cleared the room for their fathers four best friends and most trusted knights to get him ready for burial. He had made it clear that he wanted his four best friends to get him ready, not his children. He had even written it out and signed it to make sure it was his last will as king to be carried out. He didn’t want his passing to be more painful for them than it had to be. Everybody sat in the dining hall, the siblings gathered together again in what was somwhat a group hug. Even Snow who normally showed no affection for her siblings was in need of their comfort now. The knights had come in aswell. Their expressions also showing how much they were grieving. Rapunzel tried to compose herself once they came in, knowing the people of their kingdom would be coming to. They would forgive a few tears but she knew as queen she had to stand tall no matter how much she hurt.

She removed herself from her siblings and stood with Casimer. He wiped her face then kissed her before holding her close. Eventually King Gabriel was ready for burial and countless people had shown up. The servants had gone as far as possible to let as many subjects as they could know of the kings passing. There wasn’t a soul in the crowd that didn’t look like they had experienced a great loss. Gabriels children all stood around the grave as their father was lowered in. The tears of Belle, Rapunzel and Ariel were enough to kill Zane, Casimer and Irim.

Irim shifted shape and used one hand to push dirt into the hole and cover the casket. He shifted back and held Ariel to him as she cried hard. The double headstone that had been made for him and Cantaly was put back in place and everyone said their final farewells, some placing flowers on the fresh grave. Casimer carried Rapunzel back inside and up to their room, only then did she let the entirety of her sorrow show. Hard sobs made her body jerk against his and he cried silently with her. He knew he could never be half the king Gabriel was, but he was willing to try and be just as honorable and noble. Rapunzel cried herself into exhaustion and fell asleep clinging to him. He managed to get her in bed and pull both of their boots off and setting their crowns to the side. He crawled in next to her and pulled her against him. He stared at the ceiling, knowing that sleep would not find him that night.

Irim stayed with Ariel long after she had fallen asleep. She was laying on top of him and he feared waking her. He also could not force himself to leave her alone. He stroked her hair and whispered to her, telling her happy stories about his childhood in hopes that they would reach her and comfort her in her sleep. She had come to matter to him a great deal in such a short period of time and he wanted nothing but her happiness. He decided he would stay as she mourned and knew Rapunzel would have no issue with it.

Belle was still crying when she and Zane got home. She tried her best to dry her tears, but was unable to stem the flow. Zane carried her inside and straigh to bed, wanting her to rest after so much sadness. He removed her shoes and his boots then climbed in next to her and pulled her into his arms. She rested her head on his chest and he softly shushed her. His heart broke more and more with every tear that slipped down her beautiful face. He tilted her head up and gave her a soft kis, feeling her lips tremble against his.

“I’m sorry.” She said and buried her face in his shirt.

“For what?”

“For getting you all wet.” He couldn’t help but smile and kiss the top of her head.

“It’s okay, I have many shirts and tears dry. Just rest okay.”

“Okay.” He pulled the covers over them and rubbed her back until she fell asleep.

Ariels head throbbed when she woke from how hard she had cried before she slept. Irim had felt so sad seeing Ariel unhappy that he couldn’t sleep so when Ariel lifted her head her eyes met his. She quickly got off of him “I’m sorry, you didn’t have to stay” She said as she looked down at the bed. Irim grabbed her chin and kissed her head then cheek. “I wanted to stay, I couldn’t leave you. It’s a great burden to my heart to see you so sad. I’m going to go ahead and stay here while the castle mourns. I know queen Rapunzel wont mind. I’ll ask her for permanent residence when things are a little brighter around here. I do not want to leave you. You are already important to me” Ariel threw her arms around him and they tightly embraced. Irim kissed her head again as she cried for her father. Rapunzel also woke with a headache. Casimer had woken early and gotten somthing for her to take for it.

When she had it down Casimer pulled Rapunzel into a hug as she lightly cried again. “You should make sure Ariel and Snow have gotten somthing for their heads, no doubt theirs are throbbing too.” Casimer kissed her “always thinking of others”

“It’s now my job as queen” She said in a somber tone. Casimer got up “I’ll be quick” Casimer got enough for both girls then went to tend to Ariel first. He knocked and she let go of Irim “come in” Ariel said softly. Casimer entered and actually smiled for a brief second when he saw Irim with her. He walked over and handed Ariel a drink and somthing for her headache “your sister wanted me to give that to you so your head doesn’t hurt”

“Thank you” Casimer gave her a brief hug then left to find Snow. Casimer knocked and Snow yelled “what!”

“It’s Casimer, I’ve come to bring you some headache medicine” Snow laughed and flung open the door “I’m glad the mighty new king can do such things.” She snatched the medicine and drink then slammed the door. Casimer sighed and walked away, he saw that Snow was going to grieve really angrily but it wasn’t shocking since anger was her normal way of things. This was one of the times Malachai wished he was good with relationships. It would be nice to have a girlfriend or wife for comfort right now but he was alone. Theo had offered for him to go home with his family but Malachai didn’t feel like he should do that.

The steward came to her and let her know that she and Casimer needed to be officially made king and queen for the record. “We don’t have to make it a big deal. All I need is a notary and a witness. The rest of the kingdom will understand.”

“No, please call all those who attended the funeral. I have something to say to them.” Rapunzel replied and he bowed then left. She got up and went to take a bath. Casimer followed and filled the tub while she undressed. He became distracted by her and his hand slipped off the edge of the tub. He would have fallen in if he had not been fast enough to grab the wall. He straightened up and Rapunzel giggled.

“While I hoped you had not seen that, it is nice to hear you laughing again.” He said with a smile.

“Are you going to join me?”

“If that’s what you want then yes.” He pulled off his clothes and got in then handed her in. She sat between his legs and he wrapped his arms around her. They sat there for awhile insilence, enjoying the warmth of the water. Casimer grabbed the soap and rubbed it over her. He made her stand so he could get her lower body then she sat back down and he helped rinse her. He then washed and rinsed himself and they got out.

“I wonder how long it will take everyone to get here.” She said as they dried.

“I would think everyone who came would still be close.” They went into their room and pulled on clean clothes, putting their crowns on last before heading downstairs to get something to eat. A couple of hours later just about everyone who had attended Gabriel’s funeral was waiting in the throne room. Casimer and Rapunzel walked hand in hand into the large, very quiet room. Everyone watched them, some with fresh tears in their eyes. She sat down in the seat that was her mother’s and Casimer took Gabriel’s chair. He couldn’t help but feel the weight of responsibility. The steward explained to everyone that they had been called as witnesses to see the document signed that would put Rapunzel and Casimer’s rule on record. He had them both sign and then stamped it with the king’s seal.

“The queen also has a few things she would like to say to you all.”

Rapunzel stood and cleared her throat. “Yesterday we lost a great man, a man who had touched all of our hearts in one way or another. He was generous, kind, loyal, and full of more love and devotion than anyone. I wanted to thank you all for attending his funeral and I know if he could have seen all of you that he would have been very happy. I want you to know that Casimer and I will do our best to follow in his footsteps. I know we can never be him or my mother, but we will do whatever it takes to be as kind and as devoted as he was to all of you. Tonight I would like to hold a dinner in his honor and you are all invited to eat with us because you are all family. Once again thank you for everything.”

Rapunzel saw a majority of the people tear up again. An elderly man stood “Your father was the best king on record. He was so kind and treated us all with such love. I’ve been around long enough to see you grow. I frequented the castle because your mother loved the honey my bees make and even after her passing the king still bought it in her memory. I have already heard of the trials your father sent you on to prove you’d be a good queen but I myself don’t even need that to know you and Casimer will lead us well. Just from what I know of you, you are very much their daughter and he was very proud. We will be proud to follow you, I guess I can’t speak for everybody but I can speak for my wife and I.” Rapunzel teared up despite her efforts not to “thank you Liam. I too have enjoyed your honey and will continue buying it as my father did” Everyone else stood and bowed, more giving words of support for Casimer and Rapunzel while some telling of things that made Gabriel grand and how they hope to see more of the same from them.

As soon as everyone had emptied out Rapunzel ran into Casimers arms to cry as he held her. Casimer was a little surprised by how much support they got but he guessed they knew if Gabriel trusted them that they shoudl since his judgement had never lead the kingdom astray. The servants got busy preparing the dining hall and the meal for the dinner tonight in honor of Gabriels rule. They knew there wasn’t a soul in the kingdom that wouldn’t show up so they prepared places to eat outside aswell and in a few of the larger rooms in the castle. Ariel and Belle helped make some of the dessert. The servants tried to get the girls to just rest since they were in mourning but they both insisted that the distraction would be nice.

Rapunzel and Casimer were helping see to thigns outside when Cinderella, Geroge, John, Anna, & Scarlette arrived. They all embraced tightly with more tears. Cinderella was especially heavy hearted that she lived too far away to be able to attend their fathers funeral. Even John, who was always stone had wet eyes. George was the only one not seeming incredibly sad but Rapunzel couldn’t remember the man showing any emotion when it came to anything but Cinderella. They entered the castle so the five could see their other siblings. They all greeted eachother sadly though Scarlette couldn’t help but smile at her younger sisters in law because they were covered in flour and other ingredients. Her husband John had always told her about how messy those two got when they cooked but this was the first she had seen of it.

The dinner came around and they all joined the town in the remembrance of a truly great king. They had a stand set up so people could get up for everybody to hear what stories they had of Gabriel. It touched Rapunzel further that so many had so many kind words about him and how they looked forward to what she and Casimer would do in their rule. The happy stories made the night lighter and smiles spread across everyones faces. They went from somber to celebrating the life of Gabriel and Cantaly. Rapunzel hoped her parents were somhow seeing this night so that they would know how much they meant to their people. She felt truly blessed that she was born to such amazing people and hoped she and her husband could be even half the rulers Gabriel and Cantaly were.

~ The End ~

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