"Rapunzel, is that you?" Cassandra questioned only to find herself in a blinding white light. When the brightness stopped, she finds herself in a forest with white mist fading away.
"Cassandra… Cassandra…" the girlish voice continued calling.
She drew her sword, ready for anything, however the last thing she expected was for a mysterious, deep echoing call to fill the air around her. Then everything began to shake in response to the sound. Owl was fluttering around in alarm and Cassandra nearly lost her balance, forcing her to grab onto the door. She never heard anything like it, and crazy as it seemed, it was as though she could literally feel the reverberating sound. But what was causing it?
When the sound finally stopped, Cassandra could've sworn she'd heard something else. A ghastly shriek of some sort in the distance, it sounded so angry it made her shiver.
Unnerved, she picked up her sword and held it up, prepared to fight off whatever might attack her any moment.
"You should not be here. I ought to know, I learned that the hard way. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time and all that." A voice spoke. It was youthful, female and had a soft accent. Yet it sounded nothing like the voice that had called to her.
Cassandra turned around and found herself face to face with a disembodied spirit… of a gelfling. She had three braids, two on her shoulders and longer one behind her with a splash of freckles across her nose and cheeks.
The gelfling maiden replied evenly. "You read my story. I come from days long past."
"That's no answer."
"Regardless, you shouldn't be here. You've got to get back with the others and take the moonstone before the-"
Behind Cassandra and Owl, the door suddenly vanished leaving only a wall. The gelfling spirit looked shocked then her face fell. "Oh no…" she groaned.
"Oh perfect." Cassandra grumbled then cast her irritated gaze on the spirit.
"I told you. You had somewhere else you need to be." the cryptic spirit insisted.
"Except it doesn't look like I'll be going through that door anytime too soon." Cassandra retorted darkly.
She didn't expect Owl to linger near the gelfling spirit. Hmm he's not that friendly towards strangers unless they mean no harm.
"You still need to find the others and hurry I don't know how long the others can keep that awful thing away." the spirit said looking behind her worriedly.
"What awful thing? And where is Rapunzel? How am I supposed to know this isn't a trap?"
The gelfling replied. "It was meant to be trap from that horrible thing by using a long-forgotten memory of yours to turn you against Rapunzel and the others."
"What are you talking about? You're not making any sense." Cassandra stated, growing more confused by the minute.
"That horrible thing lured you here to trick here, but my friends and I stopped him for the time being." the gelfling said with relief. "That echoing sound you heard was their chant."
"What's this about a memory? If it involves my past, I have a right to know." Cassandra demanded.
The gelfling sighed. "It's...I can't really stop you, but you're not going to like it." she slowly walked to the edge of the forest obviously very reluctant to lead Cassandra to the past vision.
"Wherever you're going better have a blonde princess." the human woman grumbled.
"It does. But maybe not in the way you're expecting." the gelfling remarked as they walked. She then looked as though she took a decision. "You're a soldier like me, tell me have you ever seen cases of neglected children?"
"Yes." Cassandra replied then narrowed her eyes. "Why?"
The gelfling had led Cassandra to a cottage in the woods, a place that felt familiar. There Cassandra learned that she was the biological daughter of Mother Gothel.
Back then, Cassandra was a dear little toddler who innocently believed that her mother loved her, even if she was too busy to show it. She believed with all her caring little heart that all she had to do was keep waiting before her mother showered her with love. The grown Cassandra was so engrossed in watching her younger-self endure it all, the neglect, Gothel's criticism, the loneliness…that she didn't see other gelfling spirits slowly approach and share the same forlorn sympathy as the one accompanying the human woman observing this vision.
It was revealed that it was not only the very same evening Gothel had kidnapped Rapunzel from Corona, but that SkekUng the Garthim-Master and SkekArra the Sentry been sent out to retrieve the Sundrop's vessel by orders of the Emperor. However, as Cassandra soon discovered, the Garthim surrounded a fleeing Gothel on horseback, SkekUng took the infant Rapunzel from her and ordered the Garthim to eliminate Gothel. The scream she'd heard that night had been Gothel's shriek before her demise.
SkekArra had surveyed the area then spotted the cottage and knocked down the front door, intending to do away with any other human witnesses. But then she spotted the four-year-old child alone, opting to steal her away and hand the little girl over to her mourning sister as a proverbial replacement.
The Coronian guards reached the area a few minutes late, the Captain catching a brief glimpse of the Sentry pick up little Cassandra (his eyes and the child's met for a moment) and leap out of sight before he alerted the soldiers. Now the present Cassandra watches in shock as both the Garthim-Master and the Sentry vanished into the carriage with the two children.
No, no, no. She hurried to try and catch up as the carriage began to move towards Thra. But the carriage was too fast. It quickly outpaced her and left her behind. Within minutes, they had disappeared into the night.
Cassandra fell to her knees, overwhelmed with emotion at this terrible truth. That same night, SkekUng had roared in her face that her mother was dead. She didn't want to believe him anymore than she wanted to believe the transparent spirits revealing what Gothel truly felt about her biological child.
"Who are you, really?!" the human woman angrily grabs onto the shoulder of the first ghostly gelfling she met, who only closed her eyes gravely.
And like a fast-moving current, a flow of memories that didn't belong to Cassandra involuntarily flashed through her mind.
"Look do you know what this is?" That was SkekTek.
Right before her was the Crystal itself, but a violet color… just like it was in the past. The gelfling girl gasped in amazement. "Is that the Crystal of truth?"
Just as quickly the vision sped towards a terrifying memory. Cassandra could feel everything: the pull of the cracked Crystal, the heat of the fire and the skeksis presence as though they were standing right behind her.
"Here is the answer we seek! HERE IS LIFE EVERLASTING!" The Skeksis Scientist laughed madly.
The gelfling maiden panted as her life-force was forcefully stripped from her. She turned her head, but it felt as though she were looking into Cassandra's very eyes and whispering a single word.
Then without warning, the female gelfling rose, glowing and cracking, before vanishing in a shower of white sparks leaving only her pained wails echoing in Cassandra's ears.
At once, Cassandra pulled back with a gasp. The gelfling's name came to her mind without even being spoken.
Mira… the very first victim of the skeksis draining. The first gelfling to die.
"You! What are-how did you even get here?" Cassandra asked, utterly shocked now. She backed up, staring wildly at the crowd of spirits. "No. Y-you're dead!"
The deceased gelfling crowd stared sadly back at her.
"I- That's to say we still are." The gelfling - Mira- replied morosely.
"But Jen healed the crystal-" The human woman sputtered, but even the words sounded untenable to her ears.
"He has, but the Darkening still lingers in Thra and the neighboring kingdoms." A matronly gelfling spirit in robes with a long braid explained gravely. "We gelfling return to Thra when we die, that is the natural order. However without a proper burial or when the skeksis fully drained us of our essence, we could not find our way home."
Cassandra looked round at them, at a loss. "Then, what do you want me to do about it?"
"I'll tell you!" someone else spoke. Another spirit, this one had Cassandra tense up. For it was a skeksis.. except this one didn't remotely look like any of the ones she knew. Even Owl cocked his head curiously.
This one was dressed in raggedy robes and woolly finger-less gloves. What's more a closer look revealed he had a nail on his head. "This would've been a simpler solution had there been more flowers of the sun but Rapunzel's the only one within miles of Thra with the sun's power." He'd rambled thoughtfully for a moment before explaining. "If Rapunzel touches the moon opal… the uniting force of both powers will unleash a burst of energy that could fatally wound those in close proximity. However in a few days' time there will be an eclipse that cause the power of the Sundrop flower to form into a single gem."
"If the two powers can be safely united, the healing incantation can restore much of the land affected by the Darkening and the crystal's vitality, thus enabling us to pass on to the Hereafter."
"But, shouldn't that be greater reason to let Rapunzel get the Moonstone?" Cassandra asked, a little confused by this.
"There's the rub." one of the gelfling – one of guards that must've been slaughtered by the skeksis during a failed uprising- spoke. "They need to be reunited, but the process of putting them together in such close proximity would be dangerous."
"Then what are you asking of me?" Cassandra asked. Although, she had a suspicion that she knew what they were going to say.
"The moonstone must be contained..." another new spirit arrived to speak. This one was a mystic, but he carried a bow and a quiver on his back. UrVa, the Archer. "Until the eclipse, so that you and your friends can safely unite them."
Cassandra looked at him. "How do I do that?"
"You know in your heart what we ask. You may not understand why at first, but it is for the greater good." UrVa answered her.
Cassandra looked at them and her hands. "So if the powers of both the moonstone and the Sundrop are united, there could be a guarantee that with the healing incantation that not only would the darkening be extinguished, but help you all cross over?"
"Yes." The matronly gelfling nodded.
"How do - better asking, how do we do that?"
"We know you'll find a way, you always do." Mira said kindly.
Cassandra was both astonished and dare she say it? Moved. True, she learned much about her past which was terrible but these disembodied spirits of the past were looking to her for help. Not Rapunzel, nor Eugene, her.
She took a deep breath and became filled with resolve. "Alright. If it will help you, I'll do what I can for you." Cassandra promised them. She stood up, Owl landed on her shoulder with a confident little hoot. The gelfling spirits thanked her for agreeing. The Heretic and the two mystics bowed their heads solemnly.
A few paces away was the door. However as she was walking towards it, a horrible thought struck her. "Wait, if both the Heretic and the Wanderer are here with the Archer, then where is...?"
The spirits of gelfling, mystics and the lone skeksis shared her look of horror. They'd nearly forgotten. Then Owl hooted.
"The Hunter..." Cassandra finished, the name coming out in a whisper. As if her thoughts had called to him, the dark looking Skeksis appeared almost from nowhere.
"Live prey..." SkekMal growled lowly.
Whether he could still harm her or not, was something she did not intend to find out and if the other spirits' reactions were anything to go by, it was best if she didn't.
"Go!" The matronly gelfling cried, her voice laced with motherly concern.
Cassandra backed up a few steps, to get herself going. Then she quickly turned and ran as fast as her legs could carry her. She headed straight for the door, never once looking back.
"Keep going! We're with you!" Mira's voice called.
With the Hunter racing after them, Cassandra and Owl reached the door handle.
"And beware of Zha-" SkekGra's voice cut off as Casandra pulled the door open for her and Owl to pass through.
Rapunzel, Jen and the others were both surprised and relived to see their missing friends emerge from the lone door. Quickly, Cassandra slammed it shut, gasping for breath.
"Cass, thank goodness you're safe!"
Rapunzel's sudden embrace made her jump.
"Cass, it's me!"
Casandra panted, doing silent head count seeing her living friends both human and gelfling there, relieved to see them all in one piece.
"Just...just glad to see you all here. I just had a...really weird day." Cassandra said, still shaken up.
"C'mon, let's get moving."
Rapunzel noted how unnerved Cassandra looked but didn't want to pressure her nor did the others. "O-ok then, time to hit the road. Destiny calls."
The rest of their group followed Rapunzel, Cassandra nodding and falling behind a little. Warily she glanced behind at the door, then back up ahead. They had all had a quest to complete.
Six feet away the remaining door to the House of Yesterday's tomorrows was pushed open letting out what seemed to be a breeze which then stopped. A low growling was heard before the door crumbled to dust.