Author's note: I know it's delayed and jumbled up. I'm trying to cram some of the episodes with the most important details in several chapters (and forcing myself to write it). That way I can advance to the 'Queen for a day' into one long chapter.
The days that followed had no further incidents involving the black rocks, however there were several anecdotes worth telling that involved Rapunzel and her friends. Such is the time, when the gelfling couple visited in Corona just in time for the annual Gopher grab festival, a Coronian tradition.
During the opening, Rapunzel is booed by a man in the crowd when she unveiled her new emblem to the people of Corona. However having lived isolated from the world for most of her life, the princess had no idea whatsoever on what the expression meant.
"I gotta hand it to you, Blondie, the people of Corona love you." Eugene had said to Rapunzel as they walked through the streets watching as the citizens new goopher grab decoration.
"You're the best!" A little girl ran up to hug Rapunzel to which she reciprocated.
"They sure do know how to make a girl feel special. I mean, I've never heard so much applause, and someone actually booed me."
Eugene quickly said, "Forget that guy. I wouldn't pay too much attention... "
"I've never even heard that cheer before. It's so exotic." Rapunzel said delightedly. "Do you think he's from overseas?"
Eugene watched her unsurely. "You don't know what 'boo' means, do you?"
"Of course I do! It's a cheer like 'hooray', and 'yippee' "yea", right?"
Eugene looked away uncomfortably. "Er…"
"No?" Rapunzel was confused. "Then what does it mean?"
In the tent where they kept the gopher for the festival, in which Cassandra was left in charge of as she conversed with the two gelfling – who'd been invited. Rapunzel took this chance to ask her first female human friend, who wasn't one to mince words.
"It means someone hates you." The handmaiden said firmly.
Rapunzel was greatly taken aback. Eugene sighed, "Way to candy coat it, Cassandra…"
"Why wouldn't someone like me? What could I have done to this person?" Rapunzel wondered aloud.
Kira pointed out. "But Lady Caine wasn't that nice to you or to anyone else during the coronation." Fizzgig gave a few barks in agreement.
"And what of the skeksis?" Jen added, "You yourself said they were… spiteful, even when you healed them."
"That was different." Rapunzel had begun to rationalize out loud, "Lady Caine misplaced the blame on me and my father for Gothel's deeds. And the skeksis were already bitter about their situation... come to think of it, I don't know if they were ever truly happy."
Jen and Kira stared at her awkwardly and Eugene fell out of his seat in shock.
"Yeah, oversized genocidal vultures don't exactly fall into my list of favorites." Cassandra said dismissively as she brushed the gopher. The skeksis were already a grim subject to her and everyone else in the kingdom.
"I'm afraid I agree." Jen nods.
That's when Eugene tries to bring back the subject at hand. "Look Rapunzel, not everyone has to like you. It's part of life."
Cassandra agreed. "Eugene's right. Someone could not like you for any number of reasons. Like for instance: maybe you have a stupid goatee that makes you look ridiculous."
"Uh, Cass, it's hard to take your insults seriously when you're holding that thing." Eugene snarked back, rather unimpressed.
Pursing her lips, Cassandra held the gopher. "This thing is important. Gregorio the Goodwill Gopher represents half a millennium of honor and tradition throughout this kingdom."
Eugene looked blankly at her. "We're still talking about the rat, right?"
"Gopher!" Cassandra firmly corrected, "For your information, the Gopher Grab is a Corona institution. I was entrusted as the mascot's caretaker because it is a mark of hallowed esteem."
"Yeah, that's special." Eugene blinked. "He just pooped on you."
Cassandra gasped, checking her robes… which were still clean, save for a few hairs belonging to the gopher. She glared at Eugene as he went to talk to Rapunzel.
"Listen, Blondie..." He was saying, "You're just gonna have to accept the fact that some people aren't gonna like you."
"Ugh! All I can hear is his gravelly, 'Boo,' over and over in my head." Rapunzel lamented.
"Rapunzel, I know your feelings are hurt. I get that. But, hey, you gotta admit, if Cassandra and I are actually agreeing on something, it's probably worth listening to. Let this one go."
Rapunzel sighed. "You know what? You're right. Thank you."
Kira was the one who asked the obvious. "She's not going to forget about this so easily, is she?"
"Yeah, no, she's not."
"Nope, not letting it go."
A little later that afternoon, Rapunzel returned to the tent not long after Eugene, who was eating the bim-berries which were supposed to be eaten by the gopher. Jen, Kira and Fizzgig were still accompanying Cassandra. As it turns out, Rapunzel had discovered her booer was none other than Monty, the beloved sweet shop owner and her attempts at befriending him were far from successful. So she walked in and promptly face-planted onto the cushioned chaise.
"He hates me." Her depressed voice was muffled by the cushion.
"Okay. Come on, Raps. Give it up." Cassandra turned to face her usually upbeat friend, "Clearly, this jerk's got serious problems."
"But if Monty could just see that I was..."
"Monty is the guy who hates you?!" Even Cassandra is taken aback.
Rapunzel looked up with a frustrated scoff and batted her eyes sarcastically. "Let me guess. You love him."
Eugene waved his hands frantically from his spot.
"No! Me? Love him? No. I hate that guy." Cassandra chuckled nervously.
The gelflings' ears pricked up questioningly. "Monty? Isn't the name of the old human man with a sweet shop?" inquired Jen.
"When we first stepped inside, he almost didn't see us because of the counter." Kira commented. "Once he did, Monty apologized and offered to let us try out any of the sweets he had. He even offered have someone to deliver some to where my village lay – and that's nearly an afternoon's journey into Thra!"
Fizzgig whined uncertainly. The comparison of the man's attitude towards them and Rapunzel was noticeable. Jen shrugged. "But we insisted to pay for anything we ate."
"Well…" Rapunzel was a little put off.
"It could be he feels sorry for us." Jen added a little quickly.
Cassandra sat down next to Rapunzel. "Look, you'll just have to accept that Uncle Monty..."
"Monty doesn't like you, and there's nothing you can do to change it." Eugene finished.
Rapunzel seemed to agree. "You're right. There is nothing..." then she stood up emphatically. "I can do."
Two hours before the event, while Jen and Kira left to find seats, Cassandra notices that the bimberries are gone. "Eugene, did you eat all the bimberries? "
Eugene denied it. "No! No, of course not. Okay, so I ate some. I offered to split. Is that really such a big problem?" Except his teeth were stained from the berry juice.
"Okay, well, let's think. If Gregorio doesn't get his bimberries before the race, he'll be lethargic, and if he's lethargic, he won't want to run, and if he doesn't want to run, the Gopher Grab will be ruined." Cassandra has begun wryly then began shouting. "And I can't have that!"
"So I'm gonna go with big problem?"
Cassandra grabbed Eugene by the front of his vest and hissed, "Find me some bimberries... now."
There was no arguing with her. Except minutes later, Eugene got dim-berries for the gopher and Cassandra is too busy to notice that the berries Eugene brought weren't the ones she'd ordered.
"Ladies and gentlemen, it is nearly time for this year's Gopher Grab!" the announcer called.
Eugene hurried to stand on a box in the middle of the stage to give Cassandra time to prepare Gregorio.
"Attention, ladies and gentlemen. I know we're all anxious to see Gregorio the gopher do his thing. I know I am." He laughed. "But before we get started, I'd like to say a few words about the true meaning of goodwill."
The crowd muttering disapprovingly.
"Okay, Gregorio, time to, um, get ready." Cassandra had managed to feed the gopher some of the berries, and she gently tries to take away the berries' bowl, Gregorio lazily tries to stop her. "Wow. You are a little hungry guy, aren't you?"
Cassandra puts Gregorio inside his cage, his eyes look strange. From the stands, Jen and Kira watch with Fizzgig the festivities. Then Kira recognized someone in the center stage amongst the competitors. "I think that's Rapunzel down there!"
It was Rapunzel in glasses and a long orange cloak hiding her hair, standing next to the candy shop owner, Monty.
Eugene and everyone else was oblivious to the fact. "I mean, you gotta ask yourself, 'Am I spreading goodwill, or am I spreading good won't?'
Cassandra then enters the scene causing the crowd to cheer and applaud. Eugene finishes quickly, "So, in conclusion, spread goodwill. Thank you for your time. Bye."
To begin the celebration, Cassandra raises the cage above her head. Trumpets played fanfare. The crowd applauding and cheering as Cassandra puts the cage on the ground. A music box starts playing revealing the cage had all sorts of little doll blowing trumpets and spreading out little stair steps before opening as Cassandra joins Eugene on the side. The announcer blows a whistle.
Nothing happens. Where was the gopher? The crowd and competitors murmur in confusion. Cassandra goes back to glances inside the cage.
Abruptly, the gopher with wild eyes growls and jumps out of the cage, knocking Cassandra right off her feet!
The challengers are approaching as the Gopher runs around wildly. For a supposedly lazy, older rodent, Gregorio was quite sprightly. Monty and Rapunzel manage to grab him but the Gopher escapes. The crowd had started chanting, "Grab the gopher! Grab the gopher!"
Eugene whistled. "Oh, boy! You guys really undersold this whole Gopher Grab thing."
Cassandra was confused. "I just don't understand it. Why would Gregorio react to bimberries like this?"
Eugene was eating another bowl of berries. "You mean dimberries?"
"Dim-what? No. Bimberries."
They talk over each other.
Eugene began, "I thought you said..."
"You mean... What do you mean?"
"Wait. You've been talking about..."
They avoid the Gopher running wildly.
Cassandra emphasized, "These were supposed to be bimberries."
"You know, for someone who was careless enough to leave... "
They avoid the Gopher again.
"Don't you know dimberries cause hyperactivity in rodents?" Cassandra rebuked.
"Uh, yeah. Who doesn't?"
The Gopher runs around as the challengers try to catch him. But it's simply too fast and knocks everyone over. Since it was fed the wrong berries it gets so hyperactive that it digs a tunnel beneath the borders of the arena, surprising the guards.
"I…don't think it was supposed to do that." Jen said awkwardly.
Monty opens the door with a determined look with a disguised Rapunzel close behind. Exchanging worried looks, the gelflings decide to follow seeing as Eugene and Cassandra were still arguing with each other.
In the meantime, Monty and a disguised Rapunzel find the animal on a rock in a river. Monty wants to get to it by jumping over the rocks while Rapunzel suggests catching him on the other side by walking over a bridge. The proud man doesn't listen, trips while trying to get the gopher and falls into the river which leads to a huge waterfall. Rapunzel tries to save him by getting him from the bridge mentioned before but as she stands on it, it starts breaking. As she gets Monty's hand the bridge gets even more unstable and is close to breaking leading her to lose her partner's hand.
The bridge starts cracking. Monty lets go of Rapunzel's hand and falls down the waterfall. Rapunzel jumps down the bridge. Monty gets caught by a small tree growing on the cliff side but the tree breaks and Monty falls again. Rapunzel uses her hair and catches Monty mid-air. They nearly swung off balance back to the waterfall, before something started pulled them back onto the bank of the woods with some effort.
Monty lifted the hair to see, "Princess Rapunzel?"
Rapunzel laughed nervously. "Surprise."
Before any of them could wonder what pulled them they looked to see Kira and Jen plop down on the grass, panting.
A little later they were under a tree talking.
"Your Majesty, you went through all of this just to win my favor?" Monty wondered.
Rapunzel acknowledged, removing her disguise. "I know, I know. It's a little crazy, but just had to know why you booed me."
Monty huffed. "Fine. You wanna know why I booed?"
Rapunzel nods eagerly. "Uh huh, uh huh!"
Jen, Kira and even Fizzgig leaned in to listen closely. Monty replied. "The seal."
"Wait, the Goodwill seal?"
"To see if I understand: you booed Rapunzel because she redesigned your seal?" Jen asked.
There was a pause. "I think hers looks good." Jen replied artlessly.
Monty protested. "But the thing is she redesigned a perfectly good seal."
"I'm sorry?" Rapunzel questioned.
Monty continued, "Since you've returned, everything's changed. I mean, come on! A royal in bare feet? Pub Thugs in the castle? The list goes on. It's like you and your free spirit have a total disregard for tradition!" He then paused thoughtfully and said with a shrug, "Well, I admit gelfling returning to the kingdom is a positive twist. After all they were here before anyone else. Back in the day, my great-great-grandpappy used to trade with the clans, they'd even showed where to find the best fruits and berries for the confectioneries made today… before it all went downhill no thanks to the skeksis. A tradition of friendship forged in making candy together lost to genocide." Monty grumbled.
His words prompted Rapunzel and her friends to look at each other.
"Yes, we understand. There's a lot of that going around." Jen replied.
Monty then added to Rapunzel, "And then I realized that, well, maybe that spirit and to-heck-with-it attitude aren't so bad after all. I mean, you did inspire me to achieve my life's dream."
He opened the large frontal pocket in his apron to show that he managed to catch Gregorio the gopher, who'd finally calmed down.
Rapunzel began. "See? I told you that-"
Monty interrupted her. "But then, you put on this deceitful charade and made a complete fool of me!"
"Wait, so are we friends again?" Rapunzel questioned.
"Of course not! And we never will be because I don't like you. Not everyone has to like everyone, Your Majesty." Monty replied, although it did sound a little lukewarm.
Rapunzel seems to actually take this in stride, "You know what? Now that I'm thinking of it, I don't think I like you so much either. No, wait, wait! I know I don't like you. Not friends?"
The gelfling looked at each other in confusion, this was the strangest argument they'd seen. Monty is looking surprised as Rapunzel extends her hand in a handshake gesture.
"Not friends." He agrees.
Rapunzel and Monty then turn away from each other and began to walk off sneaking furtive glances before nodding – Monty waving a goodbye to the gelfling before he and the princess go their separate ways.
Back at the race stage, Monty wins the seal, as he gets it, Rapunzel playfully booes him.
Eugene and Cassandra are looking at Rapunzel, shocked. "What? Not everybody has to like everyone, you know?" she responded brightly.
"That was odd." Kira comments, prompting a nod from the others.
The next few seasons in Corona were quite eventful needless to say.
There was the time, Eugene trained to be a royal guard. Unfortunately, the Captain of the Guards, who happens to be Cassandra's father, shares Cassandra's loathing of him. Meanwhile, Rapunzel prepares for her royal portrait to be painted by revered painter The Giovanni. However, something is fishy about Giovanni. Suspicions of him being a fraud are later confirmed when Eugene realizes that one of the castle's portraits have been stolen from the gallery and replaced with a fake. Although the Captain does not believe him, Cassandra does. They go to the docks to head off the thief, while the Captain finds out that Eugene was right when the real The Giovanni arrives. With some help from Cassandra, Jen, Fidella, Shorty, and Maximus, Eugene captures the fake Giovanni and the Captain apologizes for doubting him. While Eugene is clearly not meant for the Royal Guard, he does get a shot at being an instructor to help the guardsmen "think like a thief". As for Rapunzel's portrait, she had decided to paint her own which represents the bond between her and her mother.
A couple days later, the Challenge of Brave, a tournament where all the kingdom's fiercest warriors compete was held.
This would've been Cassandra's chance to prove herself as a loyal warrior and earn recognition from the kingdom. The princess wanted to take part in the competition hoping to participate together. Fearing Rapunzel taking part would again overshadow her dreams and her hard work put towards accomplishing them, Cassandra lies by claiming that taking part is by invitation only.
However Rapunzel later learns through Eugene that anyone can enter. They both make it to the final battle and Rapunzel wins because Cassandra accidentally steps out of the ring. Cassandra accepts this and introduces the audience to the winner, but realizing her friend's true feelings, Rapunzel gives the trophy to Cassandra.
After that, Rapunzel had attempted to stop Cassandra and Eugene from arguing a lot by tricking both into a dungeon cell from which they must settle their differences to escape by solving a series of quizzes. It nearly backfired when the Stabbington brothers broke out that same night.
Next, an old childhood friend and partner-in-crime of Eugene's, Lance Strongbow arrived to Corona. Cassandra, naturally, does not trust Strongbow. Eugene reluctantly decides to aid his childhood accomplice, but learns that they have broken into the basement of "the Baron", an old enemy of theirs. They manage to escape with his treasure, but find a ring with Corona's crest in it; Eugene suddenly recalls that the ring he had stolen eight years ago had belonged to Queen Arianna. Rapunzel and Cassandra find out and Lance apologizes for all his trespasses against Eugene, promising to change. Eugene confesses all his past actions to Arianna, who forgives him. Eugene gives Rapunzel a jeweled flower and apologizes for having lied to her. Later, Lance had secretly donated the treasure he'd taken from the Baron to the Corona orphanage.
When Corona is pranked by a rival kingdom, King Frederic sets off to prank it back, accompanied by Eugene who wants to gain Rapunzel's father's respect.
Now came the day where Rapunzel and her friends would need to research more on the mysterious rocks… it happened when a science exposition was being held. Cassandra would get a chance for guard duty, but she had to finish her Lady-in-waiting obligations first. Varian made a deal with Cassandra that he would help finish her chores if she agreed to assist him in his demonstration. However, Cassandra accepted the assignment to guard the famous scientist who is judging the contest and thus is unavailable to help. When things went wrong, though, she chose friendship over duty.
"I believe this was meant for you." Cassandra fastened the blue ribbon onto Varian's vest.
Varian smiled softly then held out the necklace with the component he dubbed Cassandrium. "And, um, this was meant for you."
Cassandra took the necklace and placed it around her neck. "Thanks. And, Varian, about putting my own ambition in front of our friendship, I'm sorry."
"It's- it's okay, Cassandra."
"Hey, call me Cassie."
Varian smiled brightly. "Well, I guess I should start cleaning this mess up." He walked away.
The Captain of the guards then approached his daughter. "Cassandra, you helped prevent what could've been a disaster for all of us. Well done. And I have another assignment for you."
"You know what, Dad? I'm gonna set this aside for now." Cassandra removed her helmet, handing it to her father. "I think my friend needs my help."
"Well, as Captain of the Guard, turning down an assignment doesn't bode well." The Captain softened, "But as your dad, I'm proud of you." And he walked away.
When Cassandra turned back around, she found Varian with Jen and Kira.
"Wow. You turned down your dad? For me?" Varian inquired.
Cassandra smiled. "I'll find a way to make it up to him. Besides, it's not every day you get an element named after you."
"I actually got the idea after discovering a cluster of these strange black rocks by my village." Varian admittedly proudly.
Rapunzel, who was walking right up to them, gasped. She, Cassandra and Jen exchanged shocked looks.
Could it be the same ones they saw that one night?
That same afternoon, Varian led them to a field just bordering Old Corona. There on a small hill, they saw the same mysterious black rocks Cassandra had shown Rapunzel. This time, Kira got a good at these mysterious sharp components. Her reflection, Jen's and that of their human friends were reflected on the surface like some dark mirror.
"I've never seen anything like this…"
Varian was explaining, "It was amazing. They just kind of sprouted up here a couple weeks ago. I never seen anything like it."
Just then, Rapunzel's hair glows bright gold, at the same time the rock spikes suddenly shimmered a pale blue.
"Fascinating." Varian walked right up to the rocks to get a closer look. "The rocks are demonstrating an actual physical response...to you." He pointed to Rapunzel.
Everyone looked to Rapunzel then back to Varian.
"Shh. Varian, I need you to promise to keep this between you and me, okay?" Rapunzel pleaded then glanced at her friends, "And them."
Varian blinked. "Why?"
"Because my dad has forbidden me from talking about these rocks to anyone. We collectively are going to figure it out." Rapunzel responds, "But I need to know that I can trust you."
Varian smiled. "You can count on me."
It was agreed that they'd work on the mystery of the black rocks. Little did they know that in a few months' time, they would soon begin to unravel the secrets behind relating to Thra and Corona's intertwined history and an important discovery.
To be continued…