"and lastly, of knowing"
Genre: Drama, Romance
Time Frame: Missing scenes
Characters: The Queen/King
Summary: For years, she has believed in the certainty that a glance was all it took.
Notes: Yep. Mira is writing for the fairy tale. But, in my defense, this was one of he best cartoons I have seen in a long, loooong time. It had that old Disney magic with that new kinda spunk - with awesome sing-alongs, and enough moments to make you laugh and cry and . . . Basically, if you haven't seen it. You should. Like . . . now.
This fic was spawned by the sheer beauty that was the King/Queen interaction during the lantern scene. But, as Mira's muse is nothing but predictable, one short expansion turned into an entire backstory. Yeeeah.
For names, since none were provided, I gave the King the name Alun – for 'rock' in Welsh. And the Queen I named Heulyn – which means 'ray of sun', in the same tongue. Or so says the name website that I gleaned them from. I thought they were pretty fitting.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words.
Their shadows were long and graceful in the warm light; spilling over the white stones from the lanterns and torches above. It was somewhat of a game for her – for them - to skip through the shadows to the stones that were lit; his hand firm in hers the whole of the time through.
Upon the eve of his seventeenth birthday, the lavish celebration that they both sought to escape was less of a birthday party and more of a marital market for the Prince. With the old king in declining health, and high spirits – eager to see his son wed and ready to take the throne before he passed on, every lovely young maiden in the kingdom of Corona was invited in order to tempt the young prince's heart.
Strong of gaze, but quiet in front of the masses, Heulyn had not minded when the Prince had preferred chasing shadows with her over mingling with the masses of young noblewoman. She, the daughter of a Count who held his riches in land holdings rather than gold, was low on the list of considerable candidates for the Prince, but as a daughter of the Court, she had spent most of her life by Alun's side. As children they had often stolen away from such gatherings, and now the years between those memories had yet to make little difference.
"Remember how we used to search the alcoves for rendezvousing couples?" she asked as she skipped from stone to stone, her hand still in his as her eyes twinkled in the lamplight – like sunlight in the spring.
"I remember you prancing from hiding place to hiding place – and I bidding you to leave the pour souls you found alone," Alun countered, his deep voice gentle.
She smiled brilliantly. "The Duchess of Morgan and her stableboy? I didn't think it was possible for them to hold an embrace for that long without coming up for air."
"If I recall correctly, that is exactly what you said to them," Alun said gently. "She turned a shade of red to match her dress."
"I did, didn't I?" she remembered with a smile. Her smile slowly faded as her mind weighed her step with more serious thoughts. "The Duchess' daughter is here tonight," she said carefully, her voice the political nothing of a Lady of the Court. "And she looks lovely."
"The Duchess' daughter is fourteen, and my cousin," Alun countered. "I believe my father would not begrudge me looking elsewhere for a bride."
"Lady Reanna then?" Heulyn continued. "She is quite the catch – and many speak of her beauty. All of that golden hair . . ."
"I have always favored brunettes myself," Alun said playfully.
"Then Lady Gwyenne for certain," she said. "She has the appearance of an Elven lady, and her voice is beyond compare in the kingdom."
"She does have a very pretty song," Alun agreed.
Heulyn felt a stab of something steal through her at that. "I have always found her high notes to be slightly off pitch – but I am no musician to judge her."
"You have a lovely voice," Alun countered. "And I see nothing wrong in your notes."
He was looking at her in such a way that made butterflies scratch their wings against her stomach. If butterfly wings could do such a thing, of course, which was just silly.
But it was a look she was coming to adore, so very well. And the thought of that look being turned on Lady Gwyenne made something in her . . . well, it just didn't sit well with her.
And apparently the look was doing all sorts of funny things to her – for, a moment later, she stepped past the indecision that had been plaguing them both for the last few weeks, and kissed him. Which was really quite a feat for her, as she both had to stand up on the tips of her toes and tug him down to her level. His lips were very warm, and his arms around her were encouraging the butterflies in her stomach to do all sorts of flips and flops.
At least, they did until he backed away from her as if she had touched him with a hot poker.
She looked at him, somewhat dazed, as he paced, his head in his hands – all the while managing to look quite put out.
"No, no, no . . . That was not how it was supposed to go," he lamented.
She blinked at him. "What do you mean?"
"I was supposed to sweep you off your feet," he said softly. "I was supposed to -"
"- climb the castle tower? Proclaim your love from the battlements as you slayed the evil dragon?" she filled in the blanks for him, hesitant as she stepped towards him once again.
"Something like that," he said softly, his eyes fond as he cupped her face. She leaned into his touch as his thumb brushed back the strands of her hair that had trailed from her braids.
"Well, a girl can get tired of fighting dragons with her rolling pins and sewing needles – perhaps I will just let you deal with the next one," she said cheekily.
"I will keep in mind that you are lethal with a rolling pin next time there are dragons upon the castle walls."
She tossed her head, regal and alight in the lamplight as she beamed at him. "And don't you forget it."
This time, it was he who kissed her, soft and gentle as if he were unable to do anything else. In the innocence of the touch, the certainty and flare of right within her felt a whole lot like knowing.
"How is my son doing this evening?"
Heulyn made a face at her husband's confidence of a Prince, and tossed her head as regally as she could while bedridden, and swollen eight months far with child. Alun dared to actually grin at the look on her face, and she sniffed haughtily, holding her head up high.
"Your daughter, is quite antsy this evening," she replied, her eyes teasing as she tried to sit up straighter in greeting.
He didn't immediately contradict her in favor of helping her sit up – placing a pillow behind her back, and soothing strands of sweaty hair away from where they had escaped her messy braid. She almost forgot to be cross at his insistence of a son, seeing as how he had just returned from the palace chef – and brought with him an interesting concoction of pickled herring, spicy sausages and fruit salad – with mango juice spilled over everything.
Her stomach turned wonderfully at the thought of food, even as he grimaced at her choice.
"Not a word," she said sternly, waving her spoon at him in a most threatening manner. "Our daughter has quite the appetite."
"And quite a kick, too," Alun said fondly as he rested one large hand over the swell of her stomach. The child within her seemed to sense its father's presence, for the still life turned almost giddily against the walls of her womb, kicking with an unerring accuracy against Alun's hand. "The strength of a son," he remarked.
Heulyn raised a brow. "Of his father's strength; yes. But you of all people should know me as more than a wilting wall flower to judge a gender just from that."
"Woe to the man who is caught with you and a rolling pin," he agreed.
"So, do not be surprised, milord, if this child has all of your strength bound within the form of a daughter," she smirked.
"I will not make that mistake again," Alun backtracked, his eyes laughing at her – much of her pregnancy had been hard, and light moments like this were a welcome levity from the stress.
"I will be happy with a child of either gender, though," she said simply, her eyes gleaming with thoughts of the future. "I ask only for a healthy child."
"And a healthy wife," he included fondly, his eyes soft upon her.
She rested her head against his shoulder, and breathed a silent agreement to that. "And yet, I feel like the dear is comfortable to remain within me forever, I can't imagine getting much larger than this – my poor seamstress is ruining her poor fingers trying to keep up with me."
"Alana adores assisting you," Alun countered. "And you look lovely with this glow to your features."
"You mean the sweaty and red complexion?"
"Glow," he repeated again. "You have a glow to you, Heulyn."
"Charmer," she smiled wryly. "A son would be dangerous in your hands, it would seem."
"It is a danger I look forward to," he replied as he took her empty tray away from her. She was already tired, and within her the child seemed to have lulled off between the two of them. Eager to take advantage of the reprise, she leaned back against her nest of pillows, and let her eyes drift shut. Her husband reclined next to her, content to hold his wife and child for as long as he was able.
She smiled fondly when he fell asleep before her – the stress of her turbulent pregnancy and the weight of the kingdom pulling against him, no doubt. She traced patterns over his hands, which were still warm against her stomach, and tried out names in her mind; weighing some and finding others wanting.
"It will be a girl," she mumbled to her sleeping family. "Some things, a mother merely knows."
She has known no pain greater than that of child-birth.
She had heard stories from her ladies about the great feat of birth; her mother had told her in detail about her own first hours, and her midwife had walked her through what she was to expect. But this was so much different than expectations . . .
And from the fearful look on her midwife's face, it was much different than her expectations as well.
Something was wrong.
She could feel it – her body burned, and within her her child turned in confusion, as if unsure what to do. She could feel blood on her legs, and the sweat on her brow poured even when her maid wiped it away again and again. The pain ripping through her was unholy, but she tried to tell herself that it was normal . . . it was all normal . . .
At her side, refusing to retire from her side, Alun held her hand as desperately as she held his. His look was pained, as if he could he would bear this burden for her, and she could read the fear in his eyes as clear as she could feel it from those around her.
"Something is wrong," she breathed out on a hiccuped breath. "I can't . . . I can't . . ."
"You are the strongest woman I know," he breathed into her ear, his voice stable and steady – a rock to her hands slipping in the maelstrom around her. "Stronger than any of my knights; and wicked with kitchen utensils – you can do this."
The old in-joke would have calmed her normally; but fear for the baby within her was something more painful than anything physical her body could have experienced.
Around the twentieth candle mark, her people banded together at her husband's request to look for a miracle.
There were stories of a piece of sun that had fallen from the sky to make the most glorious of golden flowers bloom. The gift of the sun was rumored to have magical healing properties; and many were those in her Kingdom who swore by its power.
She did not know yet if she believed in miracles – but she knows of the strength of her people, and of her loved one. She trusted them; and she trusted the fates to see her through this whole, or to see her people and Lord on if the worst should befall her.
Later, there was steel and flint in her husband's eyes; sunshine and healing at her lips, and the golden blaze of her child at the core of her.
And as she dug her nails into his skin with the force of her pain, she knew that they'd all come out of this whole.
She was not strong enough to hold her daughter until twilight fell the next day.
She was more tired than she would have wanted to admit, and her arms trembled with the small task of holding her child to her for the first time.
"Hello, my daughter," she breathed, nuzzling the child's skin and holding the small bundle close as her husband held her in turn. "You are already so very loved."
The child cooed against her skin, her impossible large eyes blinking up at them in delight.
"If I didn't know any better," Alun whispered in her ear. "I'd say she knows."
The memory was a precious one to her; bright and cherished, that carried her past many a dark hour.
She had thought that she had known pain in bringing her daughter into the world . . . but that was nothing as compared to the pain of having Rapunzel taken from her.
Snatched in the middle of the night by a faceless phantom who didn't have the decency to face them in a proper fight, her daughter disappeared in a seemingly puff of smoke – lost to the emptiness of the air, and the hollow shine of the stars.
They searched the Kingdom high and low for her, and yet her child was nowhere to be found.
Nowhere . . .
On most evenings, she would find her husband sitting dejectedly in their daughter's nursery, his large hands lost under the weight of that book of stories he had read to her every night – silly tales about rogues and adventures and damsels in distress. Flynn Ryder, she remembered the tales fondly from when she had been a child herself. . . how happy they had been to pass such a small piece of themselves on to their girl . . .
And now . . .
"We'll get her back," she vowed in a low, steely tone; desperate to be a rock to her husband where he was so often for her. Frantically, she tried to will the knowing she held dear into the whole of her. She willed her heart and lungs to sing and breathe with the knowledge – her daughter will return.
The words echoed hollowly in her ears, caught in the shallow places of her as they were reflected in her husband's wartorn eyes.
"She would have said her first word by now," she said softly into the air of her chamber. Her hands shook as she tried to clasp on her necklace, unable to support the simple command from her mind into trembling fingers. "Perhaps even dozens of words . . ."
"She would have been clever," her husband agreed with her. He came over to assist her upon seeing her troubles, and she leaned into the feeling of his fingers against her neck as he did the clasps of her necklace.
"What do you think her first word would have been?" she wondered as she turned from her mirror. Alun was silent as to her questions, as he was every year on this day. Beyond the windows, the sun was starting to set, welcoming their more earthen form of flame to light the sky in a heartfelt supplication to an unknown force.
"I bet she would have learned to walk quickly . . . her hair would have turned brown now; I know my own did as I grew older. Or maybe it stayed golden."
Such thoughts killed everything bright inside of her, even as they gave her hope. It was that hope she clung to as she walked out to the balcony with her husband. Below them, in a sea of silent flames, their people waited for their leaders to light their lantern first.
What had started as a thanksgiving for the gift of her child was now a plea for her to return someday . . . to remember. Rapunzel was born by the grace of sunlight; and perhaps, by that same light she could be returned . . .
Alun was silent, but he took her hand within his own in a wordless support as they let their lantern lift into the night sky with the hands that weren't entwined.
The flame was symbolic of her hope . . . their hope. Her knowing that even after all this time, her daughter was somewhere in the world, and watching the night sky fill out of love for her.
And her hope echoed with the hope of her Kingdom, as everyone who could lit a lantern and launched their wishes and dreams into the sky for what was taken from the rulers they adored . . .
Eighteen years passed.
And hope had yet to completely fade, but dim with a sort of grief that never really – truly - disappeared.
She took a deep breath against the pain, and tried to focus on the hope. The hope was what kept her going through these years; and hope was what lifted her people forward enough to follow their leaders through their pain.
This year, her pain felt different. A knowing rattled in her bones even as her heart thundered in her chest. This year . . . this year was different.
It was this inexplicable knowledge; this mother's knowing that kept her hands steady as she reached up to wipe away from the tear that fell from Alun's eyes. She smiled past the weight of her grief as she whispered:
"This will be the year, my love. You will see."
And as the lanterns erupt onto the sky – brighter than the stars, and stronger than the tides of the moon, she knows somewhere deep down inside that she was right.
The morning after the Festival of Lanterns, they receive a bewildered Captain of the Guard with the most astounding news.
Her daughter . . . her Rapunzel . . . had returned.
The words filled her with a joy that she could not explain. In turns, she both floated like the lanterns that had led her daughter home, and felt horror at her upcoming reunion. After so much time . . . time apart and never to have for her own once again . . . What ifs', to fast to be named and understood stole through her past her ability to control.
What if she didn't rememberlovelike them; or care to get to know them again? What if she called another woman mother, and did not seek to know this one? What if too much time had passed? What if, what if, what if . . .
How was it, that after all of her years of wishing for – anticipating – this miracle of a moment, that she was now so afraid of seeing it come to fruition?
She was so, incredibly afraid.
She fretted over her appearance, trying on a dozen different gowns before arranging her hair in multiple different styles until her husband noticed her odd antics and simply let her hair fall from the elaborate coil she was trying to rope it into.
"What if she doesn't like us?" she lamented to Alun's quiet shadow behind her.
"What is not to like?" he asked her gently, coming to stand before her. Her arms wrapped around him out of habit so much as out of a quest for reassurance; and he tilted her chin up gently in order to look her in the eye. "You; slayer of dragons with rolling pins, and savior of this Kingdom by your gentle touch, time and time again."
She smiled wryly at the old joke between them, before returning, "She will know none of that about me."
"Then we shall have to tell her," he said, making it sound so simple in the eager lilt to his voice.
"Do you think she will recognize us?" she asked, letting her greatest fear come to life as a breath passing through her lips.
"I think, my dear, that you are impossible to forget," he said, pulling her gently to him.
"You have to say that," she mumbled into his chest, her small hands tightening around his neck as she pressed closer to him. "You're my husband."
"That doesn't make it any less true."
"Cheeky charmer," she breathed affectionately.
"You have called me worse before."
"All true," she jested, and she could feel herself relaxing in response to his easy humor.
"Perhaps, my dear, we should put your worries at ease. I believe that eighteen years is long enough to wait," he said, breathing a kiss against her hair affectionately.
Heulyn nodded, and let her arms fall away from him. Gently, as she had done for him, he reached over to wipe away her tears, and then together they turned to meet their daughter,
Their daughter . . .
Rapunzel . . . just a room away from her. A room away, and eighteen years of wishing and waiting and hopes and lanterns as pleas and memories in the night sky . . .
Would she see her baby's face in the young woman before her? Would this young woman remember her from a child's eyes? Their life had been filed and defined by magic in so many ways, and now she asked for just one more ray of it to shine down on her small and broken family.
Just let her . . .
And then, she met her daughter's eyes . . . verdant as spring, and bright as her own in the mirror; smiling hesitantly at her from beneath a frill of earthen brown bangs.
And she knew.
When she pulled her daughter to her for the first time, it did not feel like pulling close a stranger . . . but welcoming home her family.