Chapter 17 Duels
After Vladimir broke the door open, Hook Hand charged down the hall after the Stabbington Brothers. The delay put him too far behind to see them, but he could still hear their running echo through the hall.
He rounded a corridor just in time to see the brothers pull a door open. He charged down the hall just as they ducked into a room. He threw his sword at the door frame, stopping them from shutting or locking the door.
Hook Hand burst into the room… and found himself alone. He wheeled around for any sign of them, when he noticed, to his surprise, a darkened passage near a bent candelabrum.
"A secret passage! Clever sons of-." Hook Hand muttered.
He ran through the passage way and down the stairway. He squinted in the torch lit darkness, his sword tightly gripped and ready if the brothers appeared. He finally reached the end of the stairway and found himself in a cavern decorated with a witch in mind.
He crept down the last few steps, eyes shifting through the dark room. Stalactites, stalagmites, shelves, statues; too many places to hide. He took a step further into the room and paused, waiting for any hint of sound or movement.
He took another step, but there was still no sign of anything.
"COME ON OUT, YOU COWA-" He never finished his thought as a grey blur filled his vision, and sent him into darkness.
With a roar, Prince Walter swung his sword at Eugene, who blocked it and parried. The prince struck again and again, forcing Eugene away from the door. The former dread pirate backed away as the strikes came faster and harder with each clang of their swords.
"What did you do to her?!" Eugene hissed as he parried.
"It's not what I did to her, you thieving blaggard!" Walter shouted back, swinging for Eugene's neck. "It's because of you this happened!"
Eugene blocked the swing and thrust his sword at Walter's shoulder. The prince parried and returned the gesture. The pirate dodged, the blade impaling the side of the desk.
"Oh, you can't have her SO YOU KILL HER?!" Eugene roared, swinging his sword upwards.
"I DIDN'T KILL HER! SHE POISONED HERSELF!" Walter roared back.
They parried several times as they moved across the room. The swish and clang of the swords echoed off the walls as both men poured all their fury and grief into each strike.
"LIAR!" Eugene shouted, swinging at Walter's wrist. "SHE'D NEVER…"
"SHE WOULD AFTER WHAT YOU'VE DONE!" Walter deflected the swing, slashing a large hole through the balcony curtains. "You broke her heart, leaving her forced into a loveless marriage, and now you have the gall to show up here?"
"I'm not the one who broke her heart! And you're the one who made her marry you, you stupid puppet!" Eugene snarled, swinging his sword, chopping the curtain completely in two.
A look of shame mixed in with his rage as he swung at Eugene's head. The enraged pirate parried, sending both their swords crashing into a pane of glass in the balcony doors.
Pascal skittered on the bed ad lay on Rapunzel's head, trying to give some fleeting protection from the ensuing fight. He saw murder in the two men's eyes and had a sinking feeling one or both of them might not leave the room alive.
Hook Hand tumbled down, falling backwards onto the ground with a heavy thump.
Chris Stabbington grinned as he and Tyrone stepped out of the shadows tossed the now-broken idol of Chernabog to the floor.
"The countess might get mad about leadin' him into the lair, but it won't matter in a minute." Tyrone Stabbington shrugged.
Chris nodded, looking back at Hook Hand's prone body. The smile slipped from his face as a memory stirred. He'd seen this man before, but he could not remember where. He felt he should remember someone with a grudge against them and a hook for a hand.
Then, his eye fell on the sword clasped in the unconscious man's hand. It looked exactly like his brother's sword. He wondered if it could have been made by the same sword maker. He gasped as he realized the connection. He idly reached to his face, his fingers tracing the eye patch that now adorned his face. He whipped around to his brother and pointed to the sword and the man's hook intently.
"So, looks like a decent sword. So what? Sure, it looks almost as good as mi…" Tyrone's eyes widened in shock. "No way! That's your sword! But that worthless sword maker's son took… Ohhhhh. That's him! I took his hand off after we did in his folks! And he's… Oh man, he's been chasing us all this time? And when he finally caught up, he went down before the fight even started! That may be the saddest thing I've ever heard." The brothers shared a sadistic chuckle. Tyrone drew his sword and grinned evilly at the unconscious swordsman. "How's about we just send 'im over to meet Ma and Pa then?"
Tyrone aimed his sword for Hook Hand's heart. At the last second, Hook Hand's sword parried and sent it uselessly into his shoulder pad.
"Huh?" The Stabbingtons gasped. He pulled the sword back and swung down at the prone man's throat. It was blocked again as Hook Hand's eyes popped open.
"Hello." He jumped to his feet, sending the brothers reeling back. "My name is Hook Hand Garrett. You killed my parents. Prepare to die."
"Well, Chris, looks like we're gonna have a fight after all." Tyrone grinned as his brother unsheathed his own sword.
"Hello. My name is Hook Hand Garrett. You killed my parents. Prepare to die." The one handed fighter repeated as he advanced on the brothers.
The brothers swung their swords at his head, but Hook Hand blocked the strikes and swung at them. The brothers' had learned a coordinated fighting style to perfectly mirror each other's moves.
Tyrone came at Hook Hand from his right, Chris came from the left, both with their swords drawn and ready to swing. Hook Hand turned in place as they got within striking distance. He swung his sword back and parried Tyrone, then swung forward and deflected a stab from Chris. It went on for almost three minutes, the brothers getting more and more frustrated at the inability to land even one strike.
Before he could react, the bald man gave Tyrone a kick to the gut, sending him flying backwards. The footman crashed into a shelf full of potion bottles, most of which shattered on the floor.
"Since when do you kick people in duels?" Tyrone groaned as he stood back up.
"Well, I figured that I'd be fighting two underhanded, murderin' crooks, so why not learn every technique in the book and fight dirty?" Hook Hand grinned, parrying with Chris Stabbington. "Oh, and did I mention my name is Hook Hand Garrett?"
"Shut up!" Tyrone growled as he charged Hook Hand.
"You killed my parents! Prepare to die!" He yelled back,
Hook blocked a swing and snagged the silent brother by the collar with his hook. With one quick throw, he sent Chris flying onto a table full of scrolls and books. The impact knocked over a candle and a bottle of lamp oil, setting fire to the ancient magical tomes. The fire spread as the oil spilled across the floor towards another shelf of scrolls.
"I'll kill you, Rider!" Walter growled, stabbing down at Eugene's knee.
"Not fighting like this, you aren't!" Eugene sneered, blocking the sword and swinging for Walter's stomach.
The prince jumped back to avoid the swing.
Their swords crossed, prompting Walter to shove him into the wall. The prince swung, at his prone enemy, but Eugene blocked it and threw a punch. Walter ducked, Eugene's hand barely brushing past his ear.
They crossed swords, and began parrying across the room. Eugene forced Walter back towards the wall. The prince thumped against a door frame as Eugene swung again. Walter twirled out of the way, swinging his sword around to parry. The point of the pirate's sword went to the wall, leaving a gash across a flock of birds in Rapunzel's mural.
Eugene pulled back, but Walter struck him in the forearm, leaving him open for a quick stab in the shoulder. Eugene yelped in shock more than pain. It wasn't a deep cut, but it still left him with an exposed weak spot. "Lucky shot."
Eugene swung again, but Walter ducked and came up elbowing him in the face. The pirate stumbled back towards the bed. Walter lunged at Eugene from the left. Eugene saw it and quickly parried.
The two fighters gasped. Their veins filled with ice as they saw that the last strike left them with both their swords now hovering just above Rapunzel's sleeping form. Pascal had turned ghost white and had thrown himself across her chest as a chameleon shield from the strike. If the strike had stopped an inch lower, it would have gone right through the lizard and pierced the princess right in the chest, which would have been tragic for both of them to kill the woman they cared so much for, her pet and oldest friend, and adding to the already critical shortage of perfect breasts in the world.
"Yeah, let's take this fight somewhere els-WHOA!" Eugene ducked as Walter swung for his head.
"I spared your life for her sake, Rider!" Walter growled. He swung again at his opponent's neck. "If only she could see you now!"
"SHUT UP!" Eugene shouted furiously. He blocked the swing and charged the prince.
The duel raged in Gothel's lair.
Tyrone Stabbington had all he could take from this. It was time to end it. He signaled to his brother for the final attack.
"Hello, my name is Hook Hand Garrett!" He yelled as he parried against Tyrone. "You killed my parents! Prepare to-"
Before he could finish, Chris threw a knife at Hook's hand. The knife didn't cut him, but it made him lose his grip just enough for Tyrone to knock the sword out of his grip. The blade flew several yards away, leaving Hook Hand without a weapon while both brothers were still armed..
"Die?" Tyrone grinned as he raised his sword to Hook Hand's chest. "It's been fun, pal, but it's over. Say 'hi' to mom and pop for us."
Both brothers pulled back and lunged forward with their swords.
At the last second, something shielded Hook Hand's chest from the swords. The brothers fell back in shock at the sudden block and metallic sound. Hook Hand grinned as he held a frying pan at the ready.
"Really? A frying pan?" Tyrone raised an eyebrow.
"Hello!" With a swift swing of the pan, he knocked Chris Stabbington's sword from his hand and then clocked him right in the face. Tyrone gaped as his brother fell to the ground.
"Cute trick." Tyrone sneered. He swung his sword, only for Hook Hand to begin fighting back with the frying pan.
"My name is Hook Hand Garrett! You killed my parents! Prepare to die!" The swordsman grinned savagely. He pushed the fight towards where his sword lay.
Stabbington tried to swing his sword, but the frying pan blocked every strike. When they finally moved to where Hook Hand's sword laid, the one handed man threw the pan straight at Stabbington's face.
He ducked, but the pan caught the edge of his head as it flew past him. He wasn't knocked out, but it stunned him enough to break his and concentration and give Hook Hand the opportunity to toss the pan aside and grab his sword from the ground.
With his own sword in hand, Hook Hand pressed his advantage. Stabbington was fighting alone, his head was ringing from where the pan clipped him, and the increasingly harder hits from his opponent were backing him into a corner of the room.
"Whoa! Whoa! Wait! Wait a minute!" Tyrone was fighting a losing battle and he knew it.
"HELLO! MY NAME IS HOOK HAND GARRETT! YOU KILLED MY PARENTS!" He roared as he drove Tyrone Stabbington back against the wall. The mercenary gawked in fear as the furious swordsman backed him into a corner. "PREPARE TO DIE!"
Hook Hand a twirled hid blade, leaving Stabbington's sword hand exposed. With a roar and a final hard swing, he sliced the killer's hand off at the wrist.
"AAAARRRRGGGHH!" Tyrone Stabbington screamed in pain as he fell to his knees and clutched the stump that seconds before was his right hand. He gasped as he felt cold steel against his neck.
"Offer me money to let you live." Hook Hand glared down at him, his voice eerily calm. He pressed the tip of his sword into the disarmed man's neck, just inches away from his jugular.
"YES! YES! I'LL GET THE COUNTESS TO GIVE YOU ANYTHING!" The injured man howled.
"Power too, promise me that!" Hook Hand hissed, lowering his sword ever so slightly.
"YES! PLEASE!" Tyrone pleaded. He noticed that his brother Chris had recovered, and was sneaking up on Hook Hand with the discarded frying pan. He just starred at Hook Hand, trying to distract him. "WHEN THE COUNTESS TAKES OVER, YOU'LL ALL THAT I'LL HAVE AND MORE!"
"Offer me everything I ask for." Hook Hand took a step away from the downed Stabbington as the other brother raised the pan to knock him out again.
"Anything you want..." Tyrone hissed in pain as he tried to stand. "Sucker."
Chris Stabbington swung the pan down. Unfortunately for him, Hook Hand had heard him trying to sneak up and stepped aside just before the pan made contact. He jumped stepped out of the way and threw Chris Stabbington forward, sending the frying pan straight into Tyrone's face.
Tyrone yelled in shock and pain as the pan slammed against his nose. Chris wheeled around to attack, only to turn right into Hook Hand's sword. With one quick thrust, the blade went straight through Chris' chest, all the way through his torso, out his back and into his brother's chest.
"I want my mom and dad back, you sons of bitches." Hook Hand whispered in cold rage at the gasping killers. With a final thrust and twist of his sword, Hook Hand threw his parents' murders hard against the wall. The Stabbington Brothers fell to the floor, their black hearts struck clean through with the sword made by Hook Hand's father.
Hook Hand starred down at them for almost two minutes, unable to process what had just happened. The destroyed chamber was silent, save the swordsman's heavy breathing and the dripping of blood from his blade. After twenty years of searching, hoping and training, he had finally avenged his family. All the years of obsession fell away, leaving him unsure of what to do. It felt wonderful and horrible at the same time.
He suddenly took in his surroundings. They had destroyed almost everything in the room during the fight. Bottles of potions were shattered across the room, spell books and scrolls lay burned, torn or dissolving in spilled potions, talismans and amulets lay in pieces; Queen Narissa's painstakingly compiled collection of dark arts, a treasure trove of magic secrets that most witches and wizards would kill for was lost as collateral damage to the fight between two ruthless mercenaries and a vengeful swordsman. He vaguely remembered one of the Stabbingtons saying Gothel had a plan to take over, and he idly guessed that this much damage probably put a dent in that plan.
"Well… I guess me and Vlad and … THE WEDDING! THE PRINCESS! THE GUYS!" He turned to the stairs, stopping only to grab the second Stabbington's sword off the floor. He never broke his stride, even as he removed his hook to install the second sword on his arm. With both his father's swords in hand (or as-hand in one case), he charged back up the stairs. "HOLD ON, GUYS! I'M COMING!"
"You've got more of a death wish than I thought, Rider!" Walter sneered as they crossed swords. "But if you're so eager for a fight to the death-"
"No!" Eugene roared, pushing the prince back and swinging for his neck. "Not to the death, to the pain!"
"What the devil is that supposed to mean?" Walter demanded, slightly confused at the term.
"It means, you warthog faced, over-stuffed idiot, that the first thing you lose will be your feet below the ankles and the hands at the wrists!" Eugene snarled, the strikes of his sword coming faster and faster. "Then your nose, your tongue, and both eyes!"
"What, you miss my ears?!" Walter ground out, finding it difficult to parry as the pirate's sword
"Oh no, you keep those! I want you to hear every scream of someone going 'what in God's name is that mutilated thing?' with your perfect ears! THAT'S what 'to the pain' means! I'm going to leave you a deformed freak forever!" Eugene snarled
"You won't live long enough to carry that threat out!" Walter snarled in return.
Walter swung his sword, but Eugene was ready. He ducked out of the way, causing Walter to swing straight into the floor. Before he could pull the blade free, Eugene swung the frying pan in his face.
The prince fell to the floor, grasping the side of his head. He looked up and found Eugene standing over him with his sword held under his chin.
"You dishonorable…" Walter hissed at Eugene.
"Pirate. It goes with the job." Eugene replied in a voice cold and hard as the steel in his sword.
"Well? Aren't you going to finish this 'to the pain,' Rider?" Walter spat in disgust at being defeated by this degenerate thief.
"Not yet." Eugene calmly answered. The sword pressed slightly at Walter's neck. "Tell me what happened to her."
"I already told you, pirate scum, she poisoned herself! She somehow got ahold of a bottle of Sleeping Death" Walter glared at him, shaking in rage and grief. "She couldn't bear being trapped in this marriage. She still… even after all you did, she still loved you."
Eugene withdrew his sword a fraction of an inch. He shook as he cast a quick glance at Rapunzel's prone form on the bed. He tried to keep the hope in his voice in check. "She did?"
"She deserved better than…" Walter's angry scowl faded, a look of shame replacing it. "She deserved better than a pair of selfish fools like us."
Eugene stared at the prince for a moment in thought before asking, "You still love her?"
"No, that's the strangest part! I did! Less than more than an hour ago, I did! And now, nothing!" Walter shook his head ruefully. "She was my friend! She was my friend and I did this to her and I can't even help her."
"Broke the spell." Eugene mumbled.
"Spell? What spell?" Walter asked.
"The spell that made you fall for Rapunzel in the first place." Eugene explained, lowering his sword.
"The spell that…what on earth are you talking about?" The confused prince demanded.
"I'll give you the details in a minute. For what it's worth, I'm sorry I said it was your fault when you were used as much as she was." The pirate sheathed his sword and turned away from the downed prince.
"Used? What… Wait, what are you doing?" Walter asked, unsure of whether to get his sword and continue the fight.
"I'm going to wake her up." Eugene stated obviously without breaking his stride towards the bed.
"You can't, you idiot." Walter groaned. "Only True Love's Kiss can wake her now."
"Good thing I'm here then, isn't it?" Eugene smirked. He set the frying pan on the night stand and knelt by the bed.
A fiery red Pascal hissed and chirped lividly at him from the bed. He had taken a protective stance in front of Rapunzel as a makeshift guard dog/chameleon, ready to tear the man to shreds…or stick his tongue in his ear, whichever was easier.
"Look, froggy, just let me wake her up first, okay?" Eugene rolled his eyes. He picked up Pascal and set him on the nightstand, getting a few bites on his fingers for his trouble.
He leaned down to the sleeping princess and-
"Great, more kissing…"
"Shut up and let Grandpa read, Zach." Rose grumbled. Pascal hissed in annoyance at yet another interruption.
-And kissed her. A moment passed, and Rapunzel's eyes fluttered open. She blinked in confusion as she slowly awoke. Prince Walter stared in astonishment. The kiss had worked, which meant the pirate was telling the truth.
"What? What happened?" She asked, as she sat up.
"Hey there, gorgeous." She looked up and her eyes widened at the sight of Eugene standing before her. She tried to form words, but anything that came to mind died in her throat. All she could comprehend was that Eugene was there, smiling at her.
He never saw the frying pan coming.
Eugene groaned as the impact sent him flying halfway across the room. "Ow!"
"YOU!" Rapunzel roared as she jumped up from the bed. Pascal jumped on her shoulder as she stood, ready as she was for revenge.
"Rapunzel, wait!" Eugene scooted backwards as she stood. "Just let me explain!"
"EXPLAIN?!" She screamed incredulously. She gripped the frying pan so tight that it looked like the iron would snap. "You broke my heart! You told me that what we had meant nothing! And you want to EXPLAIN?!"
"It's… um… it's a really good explanation?" Eugene grinned nervously.
"I'M GOING TO PULVERIZE YOU!" Rapunzel roared. Pascal scampered under a desk for fear that she might start breathing fire.
"Princey! Little help here!" Eugene shrieked as he backed away from the furious princess.
"No, I think I'm fine right here, thank you." Walter gave a satisfied grin.
"Thanks a heap." Eugene groaned, as the livid princess stood over him. "Rapunzel! Wait, please! It's not what you think!"
"Really? See, I thought you were saying you hated me and never wanted to see me again! Did you mean that in a nice way and I just misinterpreted it?" Rapunzel seethed.
"Rapunzel, that wasn't me!" Eugene cried as he backed up into a wall. "I'd never do that to you, I love you!"
"LIAR!" She screamed as angry tears blurred her vision.
"Then how did you wake up?!" Eugene desperately blurted out.
Rapunzel froze. "What…?"
"The prince… he said that you bit a poison apple, and since Sleeping Death can only be undone by True Love's Kiss, how are you awake right now?" Eugene pressed the question.
"He's right, Rapunzel." Walter conceded. "I tried the same thing and it didn't work. But when he tried…"
Rapunzel turned to Eugene, not knowing what to think. "Then, what was all that 'what we had was nothing' stuff earlier about?"
"It was a trick! Gothel's been lying to you and the prince and everybody since this whole mess started!" Eugene explained regretfully.
"What?" Rapunzel turned to Pascal
"Blondie… she's not your mother!" Rapunzel gaped in stunned silence at Eugene's pronouncement. "She took you away from your real parents because of your hair."
Rapunzel couldn't comprehend what he was saying, and Walter was just confused. "But, that doesn't… then who… How did…"
"Rapunzel, I think you'll get your answers if you look a little closer at that." He pointed to the desk.
She walked back to the desk and gazed down. The Coronan flag still lay spread out, its little sun shining. Pascal scampered to the desk and inspected the flag for himself.
"What does this have to do with anything?" Rapunzel asked as she picked up the flag.
"Just look closer." Eugene encouraged.
Rapunzel scoffed in frustration. She had no idea what was she supposed to be looking for. All she saw was the same little sun on the purple field she had seen on her birthday. She stared at it and, suddenly, a bell rang. She did not know what it was, but something sparked in her mind.
She looked up at Eugene, but before she could ask what to look for, something caught her eye. She gazed at the mural she painted for Walter all those weeks ago, as if it called to her somehow. She looked back at the flag. The circle of the sun and the golden rays coming off of it looked back at her. She looked up at the wall, focusing on a woman dancing among some flowers.
"The flowers here… it almost looks like…" She trailed off as the picture seemed to fade into the sun symbol from the flag.
She gasped and turned to another part of the mural. She saw a nest of birds turn into the sun as well. A splash in the water suddenly became the sun. She gasped as she looked at the sun she painted in the mural's sky; it was identical.
She looked up at the sun and a flash of memory hit her of seeing the sun above her when she was young. She remembered it as a mobile over her crib. She saw a pair of blurry figures in her mind's eye, but they vanished. In their place was the mural she had seen on her birthday that showed the King and Queen of Corona and their Lost Princess. She saw that picture of the baby clear as day. Green eyes, blonde hair, and a few tiny freckles.
She had seen it on her birthday, just as she had seen the lanterns. The floating lanterns were released every year on her birthday, for the Lost Princess on her birthday.
Rapunzel gasped and fell back to the desk. Eugene and Walter jumped to their feet and ran to her.
"Rapunzel, it's okay." Eugene said, patting her hand.
"Milady, what's going on?" Walter asked, bewildered by her reaction.
She gasped for breath, her eyes wide in shock. It all made sense. There were things she didn't fully understand yet, but the message was clear. She knew it in her gut and her heart the way that any person knows the deepest, abiding truth.
"I'm the Lost Princess of Corona!" Rapunzel gasped.
"Ha! Knew it." The twins said in unison as they high-fived each other.
Author's note. Yeah, this was one of the big parts of the climax. I hope it lived up to the hype.
I know it's diverging from the original to have Eugene and Walter fight, but between the Captain and Eugene's animosity and the way the story has gone, I just had to let them duke it out. Besides, it's fun.
We're in the home stretch, folks! Be sure to tune in next time, cause if you thought the fights here were something, just wait…