AN: Another story about how Eugene became Flynn. I actually had to do some research for this one, so hopefully I got the facts right. Anyway, I hope you all like it!
Flynn Rider was five when he pulled off his first heist.
Of course, it wasn't anything big. Just a couple of overly ripe apples from the fruit stand that would have been thrown out anyway. There was no trouble, no loss of income, and really, thinking back, Flynn was convinced that he had done the town a public service, removing waste from the system that would have otherwise gone to feed the rats.
However, despite this infallible logic, it had done nothing to appease the guilt Flynn, at the time known as Eugene, had felt as he shared the fruit with his three friends. For his entire life, he had been taught by the women at the orphanage that crime of any kind, for any reason, was bad. Especially when the crime itself was pointless. The four boys hadn't needed the apples, and yet, at the same time, they had. The four boys had needed the apples, for it showed then a little bit of what life could have been like.
The orphanage had been a bad place for a young boy to grow up in, through it was through no fault of the King or Queen. It had been because of the matron, an old vile woman that took the generous sums of money allotted for the raising of the children, enough to have kept all forty of then fat and well clothed, and spent it for herself. She had hated her job, resenting every penny she had to spend on the "little slugs," as she was apt to call them. If it hadn't been for the fact that she would have been in trouble if any of them had died, she would have left every single one of them in the forest to starve as infants.
As it was, it fell to the three women that actually ran the orphanage, three kind, motherly women who actually cared about their charges, to keep them alive. Using a yearly budget that would have had trouble supporting a single family of four, the women had been able to cloth and feed the children for as long as they could remember, though nothing had ever been enough. The clothes had been little more then rags, just enough to keep them from freezing during the winter. Every meal the orphans had eaten had been a thin soup, nourishing but never filling.
So, it had been with a guilty pleasure that the four boys had eaten the time soften flesh of the apples, relishing in the feeling of food, real solid food, weighing heavily in their bellies. And it got them thinking. What would life be like if they ate like that every day, an entire apple per child? What would it be like to wear clothes that kept them warm and actually fit? What would life be life if the money that came from the royal treasury, money that was suppose to take care of them, was actually theirs?
Life, they decided, would be wonderful. No matter the weather, they would be warm, no longer afraid to stop moving for fear of freezing to the ground. No longer would their stomachs growl in hunger, knowing that there was nothing they could put in them. Life, to put it simply, would be perfect.
Of course, they all knew that would never happen. The matron had been running the orphanage for the past thirty years, and would probably still be running it when their own children were dead and gone. They would never see more then a few pennies of the money, and so had dismissed the idea to go play in the courtyard.
But for days after, when their bellies were once more complaining for food that wasn't there, when their skin turned icy to the touch and their hearts froze over as fall turned to winter, their discussion haunted them, especially Eugene. They were all good children, children that deserved good place to grow up, with full bellies and clothes on their backs that were thicker then a sheet of paper. The women that took care of them did their best, but without funds there was nothing more they could do. But the four boys could. They could do something about their situation, and they did.
At just five years old, Eugene and his friends became the kingdoms' youngest band of thieves in history.
Of course, the boys were always careful with their targets, making sure that no one would be hurt by their actions. The townspeople had always been kind to the orphans, giving them menial tasks to do in exchange for a treat or some small coins. If an outsider claimed that an orphan had wronged them, the people always came to their aid, protecting them as much as they could. The four of them felt guilty that the same people who had helped them hundreds of times would now become their victims, but there was no one else to steal from.
So, they made sure to minimize their impact. They started out small, reliving their first theft by stealing almost rotten fruits and stale bread, trash to the merchants but a feast to the orphans. Everyday they stalked the market place, stuffing their pocket as full as possible with food for the others. Occasionally they would take a few small coins, the change clinking together as they ran off before their absence was noticed.
Eugene quickly became the leader of their little band, partially because he had been the one to first steal the fruit that had started their gang, and partially because he was a natural thief. Every day he was the one to bring in the most food or change, his charming manner relaxing his victims until it was to late, and even them it wasn't until hours later that many people even noticed that anything was missing. He was fair too, making sure that each day's haul was split evenly amongst the children, or as evenly as it could be. He laid down the rules that they all followed, determining which villagers were off limits and which were suitable targets. He provided distractions when they were needed, allowing for each person to get away cleanly from situations that might have landed them in jail. For two years he worked to keep his friends safe and the others better fed, all under the noses of the orphanage workers.
That is until the night, two years after their band had first formed, that the royal inspector came.
Two years before hand, just days before Eugene had stolen the apples, the princess had been kidnapped from the castle, sparking a kingdom wide search for the little girl. Guards had appeared in every town and village within hours of her disappearance, searching every nook and cranny for the old woman that had robbed the King and Queen of their hard won child, though it was all for naught. The witch and the child had vanished, leaving the kingdom heartbroken.
However, the search, despite its initial failure, had provided results. Following their orders to leave no corner unchecked, guards had stormed the orphanages, figuring that the best place to hide a child was with other children. And they had been appalled. For years the King and Queen had given money out to the orphanages unchecked, too busy with running the other matter of state to put much thought into the conditions the children had been living in. Plus, the old royal investigator had been just as corrupt as the matrons, accepting substantial bribes in exchange for telling their Royal Highnesses that the children in each home were happy and healthy, perhaps even more so then those that remained with their parents. The man's reassurance had been enough for the King and Queen, and so they had let things stand as they were.
The guards, though, had seen differently. The search had barley begun when the reports came flooding in, telling of tales of malnutrition, lost limbs, terrible health, abuse, and neglect. Not every orphanage had been as lucky as theirs, run by three women that had actually cared about them. Some of them hadn't even had caretakers, the matrons leaving the older children to care for the younger. The King had become enraged at these reports, his own lost daughter influencing his attitude towards the children of his kingdom. Within days of the first reports, the royal inspector had been stripped of his titles and position, jailed for crimes of treason, and sentenced to death.
The King had then chosen a new inspector, a man he knew he could trust to make things right, and had sent him out to the farthest reaches of the kingdom with the orders to investigate every orphanage to determine the damage that had been done by the corrupt system that had so cleverly hidden itself for so long.
And finally, after two years, the inspector had reached their orphanage.
Looking back, Flynn would be the first to admit that the inspectors' visit probably came at the worst time for the matron. It had been the dead of winter, the frigid air cutting through their worn clothes and decaying walls. For some reason, the winter had been especially harsh, wearing down on them like a chisel until every single orphan, from the eldest boy, almost eighteen and free from this place, to the youngest, a little girl just a few days old, had some sort of flu. Even Eugene, who had bragged for years about having the best immune system in the town, had been struck with a running nose and watery eyes.
However, he had not been sick enough to miss how the inspector had stiffened at the sight of the mothers running from child to child in an attempt to alleviate their suffering, all the while shivering themselves from the lack of heat. Without saying a single word, his face twisted into a snarl, Eugene had watched as the inspector left, closing the door behind him so softly that no one else was aware there had been a visitor.
Within a few days, everything began to change. Mysteriously, the matron decided to retire, appointing the oldest of the mothers-a kind, sweet, caring middle aged woman that had dedicated her life to raising them-as the new matron. Leaving her jewels and silks behind, the woman disappeared, supposedly to someplace much warmer then the northern tip of the kingdom. Suddenly finding herself in possession of more money then she could keep track of, the new matron decided that it was high time to fix that which had long since been broken, including their spirits.
The first thing she did was hire a group of men from the village to come to the orphanage and, room by room, start restoring the old house to its former glory, a small but beautiful masterpiece that had been given decades ago to the kingdom as a home for unfortunate children. While the house was being fixed, each child was taken to the seamstress and bought clothes, clothes that actually fit and blocked the cruel wind. Finally, to fully mark their new beginning, she bought food. Soft white bread, firm and fresh fruits and vegetables, and even meat, a delicacy in and of itself. After years of neglect and hopelessness, the children were finally getting a new start at life.
But it also meant the end of their old ones.
It had always been an unspoken agreement between the boys that they were only stealing to improve their lots in life, to make sure that every child in the orphanage had at least something solid to eat. So, with the sudden and permanent improvement to their lives, the band of thieves once more became a band of friends, of boys who only hung out because they enjoyed each others' company, not because they had to in order to survive. Instead of haunting the market place, they returned to playing in the forest, glad to be free of their burden.
Except for Eugene. For the past two years, unlike the other boys that had made up the gang, he had actually liked stealing. His quick fingers had made him the best thief of them all, while his even quicker mind had helped to keep his people safe. It turned out that he had the eyes for thieving too. With just a glance, he was able to determine how much something was worth, whether an apple was rotten enough to steal or if the trinkets displayed in the windows were priced much higher then they were worth. Eugene was good at what he had been doing, and, truly, he didn't want to stop.
However, out of love for the new matron, the only mother he had ever know, and his friends, brothers in everything except blood and name, Eugene took his first hiatus from stealing and tried to find a new hobby or ten to occupy his suddenly free time. At first he spent a lot of time outside with his friends, running through the forest, climbing the cliffs that had formed from an ancient riverbed, and generally having a good time. They would leave at first light and not return until long after dark, disgusting and exhausted, but happy.
But it was never enough. Days would pass, spent happily in the forest, lost amongst the endless sea of trees, without a single thought given to stealing. Then, thinking that he was finally back to normal, the way he had been before those apples, Eugene would venture into the marketplace, testing himself to see if he was finally cured. And he never was. The moment he entered the village square, his fingers would start twitching, his mind taking in every adult and escape route, memorizing their positions and possessions. His eyes would evaluate the merchandise, mental calculations quickly figuring out its true worth, not that which was posted on the price board. He wanted to steal, and he knew that, with his skills, he could have anything he wanted.
So he would run. Without giving himself a chance he would run back to the safety of the forest or the orphanage, where there was nothing left to steal. After the first few months and dozens of failures, Eugene finally gave up on the idea of ever being completely cured and started to look for a new pastime that would help keep him away from temptation.
And that's how he found the book.
It was a simple little thing, poorly bound in old goat skin, the pages yellowed and brittle. The matron had gotten it from a traveling peddler who had been more then happy to part with it. It had been written by his grandfather, a collection of tales that, even during the time of their creation, had been unpopular amongst the public, due to the fact that they 'advertised adventures,' filling young men with dreams of riches when they should have been worrying about the harvest. A series of tales about a hero, at least a hero to him. Many probably would have considered him lawless, though he never stole a thing, except for the heart of a few willing women. He was Flynnigan Rider, professional adventurer, the richest man in the world. He was the man Eugene wanted to be.
For weeks he studied the book, absorbing the words like they were food before a starving man. His mind filled with ideas, replacing himself with Rider in the adventures, free of his compulsion to steal. He was free from everything in fact. Free from fear, free from sorrows, and even free from the law.
It was bliss, spending time with his book. Bliss that expanded to fill the rest of his hours.
Splitting his time between the book and his friends, for the next two years Eugene was happy. During the day, the five of them terrorized the forest, reenacting their favorite scenes from the book, falling into their roles without the slightest hesitation. When night came, it was back to the orphanage, where the children gathered around Eugene as he read, making each tale more interesting then the last. And finally, after the book was done and beds were tucked, his dreams overflowed with new tales, adventures that he always stared in with Flynn, often times gaining the respect of the rich man. During this time he never once thought of stealing.
That is, he didn't until he was nine years old and Fate herself decided to intervene.
During his time reading the book, Eugene had realized three things about his hero. The first, and most obvious, was that Flynnigan Rider, despite the prologue that claimed all of his adventures were true, had never existed. He had never charmed the ladies or fought off a hoard of trolls. He had never held the crown jewels in his hands, never discovered his own islands. He had never done anything outside the confines of his book. He was made up.
The second thing was that, besides Eugene and the other orphans, no one in the world knew about him. The book that the peddler had been so keen to part with had been the only copy, the only record of the stories his grandfather had dreamt. No one else knew the story of Flynnigan Rider, the tale of his life lost from society along with the book.
The third revelation came after his life had already ended.
It had been a sweltering summer day, one that Eugene and his friends had spent once more in the forest, playing their favorite games along the dried up riverbed. As the sun reached its peak, lying under in the shade of a willow tree, almost without conscious thought, the topic of their days as thieves came up. Normally a taboo discussion, whether it was because their minds had been addled by the summer's heat or because a small part of them still longed for those days of adventure, their lives constantly at risk from being caught by the guards, they didn't shy away from the mention of their shared past, instead welcoming it eagerly with open arms. Laughing, they recounted their exploits, wondering if they had really been as successful as they remembered or if the townspeople had instead just turned a blind eye to their activities.
Agreeing that they had probably been so good because of the villager's generosity, for really, there is no way a bunch of five year olds could be that good at stealing, they had quickly fallen into a content silence. While they knew they would never become the gang again, it was fun at least to remember. And in the middle of the woods, they were safe, safe from anyone who would want to hurt them because of their past deeds.
For a while they had stayed like that, each lost in their thoughts and memories of their young glory days. Eugene had just been about to speak, to suggest that they all get back to their game to get their minds off of their past, when the youngest of them, a boy named Thomas, spoke up, once again wondering if they had been any good. Brushing off the other's protests that they had all been horrible thieves, that it was only because the towns people had hated the old matron that they were allowed to get away with anything, he claimed that, as he remembered it, they had been excellent crooks, stealing their targets dry before moving on to the next unsuspecting victim.
And, in a bold move driven by anger as the rest of them refuted his claims, he dared them to prove him wrong.
Although it was going against everything he's been working at for the past two years, ever since the gang had split in the first place, Eugene had accepted Tom's challenge, his mind quickly seeing the possibilities of the game.
If he succeeded, then in reality he would fail. If he was unable to resist stealing for the few minutes he would need for the test, then he was incurable. He would forever be haunted by the urge to steal, his fingers itching to grab and his legs twitching to run. If he was successful in stealing something, then it would be better off if he turned himself in to the guards, accepting his punishment without complain. If he won the dare, then he was a criminal. A thief.
But if he failed, then he would be free. If at nine years old he couldn't do what he had at five, then there was no way he had ever been a thief. He had just been a desperate young orphanage that the people had taken pity on and let steal their trash. If he could fail this test, then Eugene was sure that, no matter what, he would be cured of his want to steal. His mind would finally relax at the sight of a guard, not immediately start searching for the nearest escape route. He would be able to walk through the village like a normal child without the worrying about how a spare loaf of bread ended up in his sleeve or an apple in his pocket. If he could fail this test, this dare, Eugene had been sure that he would finally be healed.
It hadn't been until they reached the market that he realized they had all been played.
Thomas had always been a greedy one, his large eyes and fair hair often times playing to his advantage in his quest for more. When they had been a gang, it had been a full time job making sure he hadn't been taking anything that could have hurt people, stealing only what they had needed and nothing else. The one thing Eugene hadn't missed was having to watch him the entire time, for once they had stopped thieving, he had also fallen into place as an average child.
But over the years, Thomas's greed had grown, twisting into a monster that haunted his soul, his ever increasing desire to obtain what wasn't his planting this plan into his mind.
If he could get rid of Eugene, the only one to ever be able to control him, he could have whatever he wanted.
The moment they had reached the town square, his body had once more fallen into its old routine, immediately searching out targets to hit and threats to avoid. Luckily for him, it had turned out to be a busy day, full of shoppers that were browsing through the market place to obtain whatever knick knacks and babuls they were in need of for the up coming week. Although there were more guards then usual, guards that would have no problem with throwing a child into jail or chopping off his hand for making off with that which wasn't his, the increased number of patrons would work to his advantage, concealing him and his exploits from sight.
It didn't take long for him to chose his victim, a young woman, probably the daughter or mistress of one of the lords that lived near by, who flaunted her wealth almost as much as she showed her skin, the plunging neckline and short cut of her dress drawing the eye of those who were looking for that kind of entertainment. But it was on the purse that hung unguarded from her belt that Eugene was focused on, thankful for the crowd of eager young men that had formed around her in hopes of gaining her attention that masked his approach.
Reaching the inner most section of the circle, Eugene's hand flashed out like a snake, unknowingly lifting the clasp of the girl's purse and emptying it of its contents, his fingers tightening around the few bronze coins with an overwhelming sense of dread. Turning around, he nonchalantly wiggled his way out of the cluster of males even as heavy weight fell over his heart, dampening his joy at a successful job. While he had won the bet, he had overall failed, for had he not just proved that once a thief, always a thief? And the only thing a thief could look forward to was a short fall cut off by an even shorter rope around the neck.
Reaching the edge, Eugene quickly made his way away from the group back towards his own, his head hanging in dejection as he pondered his fate. Perhaps, if he turned himself in to the authorities, they would only put him in jail for a few years rather then hang him, a much more preferable fate to the one that would await him if he was captured. If he could gain the pity of the guards, they might just grant him mercy. Pausing to give a determined nod, Eugene finally made up his mind, taking into his own hands what his future would be.
What that decision might have been, no one else would ever know, for half way back to his friend, Thomas, his already wide eyes bugging out of their socks, raised his hand, pointed it straight at his chest, and screamed that dreaded word that sealed Eugene's future.
Immediately his instincts took over as he started running, his heart pounding out a permanent tattoo against his chest as he struggled to put enough distance between him and the guards to make a difference, one that might just spell life or death for him. Racing through the narrow alleyways, his keen ears picking up the clattering sounds of the guard's heavy chain mail as they chased after him, blind panic began to overtake him like it possesses a rabbit that's trying to out run the fox, it's only thoughts to reach the safety of its burrow. To reach the relative safety of the orphanage, his home for the past nine years. But the moment he reached the familiar creaky doors, the squeal of the hinges not enough to cover the sounds of pursuit, Eugene knew it would be useless, that he would never be able to stay. The orphanage would be the first place for them to look, and if they found him there, it would hurt not only him, but also everyone else who had been part of his family for as long as he could remember.
He would have to leave.
His third revelation took place after his life as Eugene had ended, as he was packing his bag, haphazardly throwing his few possessions he wanted to take with him as he ran from the guards into it. Cramming his last shirt in, forcing the ties to clasp shut, his eyes fell upon the book, the book that had, for the past two years, been his source of dreams. His fingers twitching, his heart demanding that he grab it and run, he turned away, quickly clambering out the window into the bushes below. There was no place for a book in a thief's world, no place for stories and dreams. But even as he ran, a plan began to form in the back of his mind, a plan that, as he huddled in a cave in the forest, would become revelation number three.
Flynnigan Rider had never existed, had been forgotten by the uncaring world. So, the name was open for whoever wanted to use it.
Shivering as the night temperatures dropped, Eugene Fitzherbert would close his eyes for the final time, this sleep becoming his last. When the boy awoke the next morning to the sound of dogs baying for his blood, he would instead be Flynn Rider.
AN: Sorry if the whole chase scene doesn't seem good, this is actually the third time I've had to write this story. It kept getting erased off my computer. Also, the whole reason the chase scene was there was that, in the medieval ages, which is when I think the movie takes place, even a child would be persecuted harshly under the laws, especially for theft. Anyway, I hope you liked the story. Thanks for reading it!