Chapter One

"Go with Maximus to the tower."

I turned to my Mother, confused. She preferred Maximus to guard me whenever I went to my tower.

My tower.

I had discovered the tall brick hideaway when I had been particularly having a bad day with my lessons. I had rode Maximus bare back past the palace and through the dense woods. My parents had often warned me to never leave go past the bridge, but I had been so overwhelmed with emotion that I had entered the woods without a second thought and had only told Maximus to go faster.

The tower was hidden behind a cave, and a stream wound past it. If you followed the stream, you would find a waterfall.

I eyed Maximus as he nibbled on grass close to the stream. His ears twitched and he looked up at me, brown eyes blinking.

"You know what I'm about to say," I put my hands on my hips.

Maximus tipped his head to the side.

"Don't follow the grass to the bottom of the waterfall."

Maximus started laughing. I never knew a horse could laugh, but Maximus pulled it off. He neighed loudly, tossing his head back, his lips stretching over his teeth in a grin.

I didn't know why he was laughing, he had done it once and nearly sprained his ankle.

And then he glared at me like I had pushed him down the ravine.

I disappeared inside the tower, my mind on what I could do.

I found my paint brush and immediately started painting.

I had always found something about painting enchanting. The idea that holding a paintbrush, you could draw out your memories. Your dreams, your thoughts. . .

Painting was something short of magic.

Paintings never told lies. Books never did either. Only the mouth of a man could bear false witness, and lie. Books never committed sins, nor did paintings. Only the characters in them.

I let the brush take a life of its own, though I pulled it back and dipped on my palette. The colors sometimes smiled at me with bright colors, or created shadows that hid from their own darkness.

I blinked hard, drawing myself away from the world I had delightfully jumped in.

The woman staring at me in the painting stunned me.

She had dark, maybe ink black, curly hair that stopped above her shoulder blades. Half of her face was hidden in a black cloak, while her dark brown eyes glowed like shiny almonds. In her hands that were reaching for my face, she held a gold ribbon, though it was hardly visible and seemed to be more mist than ribbon. Her hair and cloak was streaked with white light, and a moon was blotted out and shining faintly behind her cloak. Her face was mischievous in its beauty, and I took a step backward from the painting.

I put my palette and brush down on the tiny table that was always by my side when I painted, and ran my hand warily across my cheek. I turned my back on the woman who, when I had met her, was a sorceress and peeked out of the very tall window in the tower. In the dim light of sunset, I could see Maximus was still chomping away on the poor grass that had no legs to run away.

I blinked back at the sorceress, and for once, I was tempted to erase her. To chase her away from my mind.

I climbed out of the tower and patted Maximus's side. He jumped, startled, and glanced around. His brown eyes found me, and they took in my face. He was silent as I climbed on his back, and when I was settled, his tail whipped at my back.

I smiled softly and stroked his neck, "I'm fine."

He huffed, and I couldn't tell whether he believed me or not.

I gave the tower one last glance before we disappeared into the moss cave.

When we got back to the palace, I washed up quickly. I wasn't planning to eat with anyone. At dusk, I never showed again until dawn.

I hurried to the Dining Hall to grab my plate and nearly ran into my room. I locked the door, and exhaled a sign of relief.

I set the plate on the dresser and laid back on the bed, my eyes on the curtains. It wasn't yet twilight. I still had time.

I ate my food, trying to eat more than I had the room for. When I finished, I busied myself with cleaning my room though it was already tidy. I straightened the bedspread and refilled the basins. I peeked out of the curtains.

I found something else funny.

I had begun to dread night so much in the past two years, and now here I was.

Waiting for it.

Eugene's Point of View

A lot changes in two years, he told himself as he peeked around the corner.

He was about to pickpocket the same man again.

Eugene watched as the man with blond hair and brown eyes got up to walk down the hallway. The man's eyes roamed the hallway, and he seemed hesitant.

He seemed to make up his mind and started walking. Eugene took his chance and bumped into the man, seizing five coins from him seamlessly.

The man blinked, "Sorry, Eugene."

"Sorry, Price." He said, trying to keep a smile off of his face. Price shrugged, and continued walking down the hall.

Eugene sat down on one of the chairs, looking up at the man who temporarily owned him.

"How much would that be?" Eugene couldn't help but ask.

The man blinked, and his blue eyes narrowed. "How many coins did you get?"

"Five." Eugene put them on the table. "Ten coins for each one."

Darius nodded, and added his coins to the table. His eyes watched Eugene put them in his pocket quickly, and he spoke, "Come on, surely you still don't want your kingdom-"

Eugene's hand slapped the table and the tavern grew quiet. "Of course I still want my kingdom!" Eugene snarled in a whisper, aware of the silence he caused.

"I. . . I only mean you try so hard to make riches out of. . . rags and . . . ." Darius floundered, and Eugene leaned back, breathing deeply to chase the fire out of his veins.

"Everything that is worthy of your time is hard-won," Eugene hissed to him, and Darius nodded. "Chal was mine first, and I have to take it back."

"But you were banished-"

"Unfairly banished!" Eugene tried to keep his voice down. "I was framed, and because I was not betrothed, I was banished. Mother and Father would have let me stay, but they were too sick to make a decision themselves. I don't know why he didn't wait for them to get better, but I never liked him."

Darius cut Eugene's rant. "Why would he banish you by himself? He had to get their permission."

Eugene narrowed his eyes in hate at the thought of the man. "He said he had their permission."

"Why didn't you go tell your parents?"

Eugene was quiet, and Darius took the clue.

But then Eugene spoke, "When I made it back, they chased me to the border, you know. . . My parents were dead."

Darius blinked and his blue eyes squinted.

"That doesn't make sense."

Eugene blinked. "Of course it does. They were both sick."

"But for them to die at the same time. . ."

Eugene felt anger and thought stir the blood in his veins again but he shook it away. "I'm getting Chal back. Soon. I'll question Devin when I get to him."

They went quiet again, and listened to the normal sounds of the tavern.

"That's one thing I'll never get tired of hearing," Darius smiled.

"And what is that?"

"The chatter. The noise. Everyone else has such a normal life, you know?"

Eugene grinned. "So you're saying you are strange as well?"

"I wouldn't be a wanted thief for nothing."

Darius was a thief like Eugene, but had been doing it for much longer. He gave Eugene most of his share because Eugene needed it to have enough money to get back to Chal, and they had both been banished from the same kingdom. Eugene never learned what Darius had done, and he didn't want to ask. Some things were better off never let out of their cages, brought into light.

"I'm not on the list yet." Eugene almost grinned.

Darius smiled. "You will be soon. And they'll get your nose wrong."

"Did they get your nose wrong?"

"No. They made one eye too big. But your nose is so straight, they'll make it crooked just to irritate you. It's a strategy."

Eugene arched one eyebrow. "Are you sure you're not an undercover Warden or something?"

"No. I just know a guy."

Who knows a guy, who knows a guy. . .

"A lot changes in two years," Darius eyed the door almost like he expected guards to come bursting in.

"A lot changes in one."

"But in two years, everything's different."

Nothing stays the same. That's why it's called change.

Rapunzel's Point of View

My vision blurred and I hurtled myself back onto my bed. I grabbed a hand mirror and jumped back up to open the window. The cool breeze rolled in and gently pushed the curtains to the sides.

I climbed back on my bed and blinked away the blurs.

I grabbed a lock of my blond hair and held the mirror up to my face.

I watched almond brown sink into my hair, starting from my roots and flowing down my head like water.

The brown-headed Rapunzel looked different.

She looked sad, sometimes, and the blond-headed Rapunzel knew why.

The sorceress had put a curse on me, and I didn't want to remember that day right now.

She had cursed me, and my hair was brown at night and blond at day.

I didn't know why, and I only knew how she did it because magic was real.

Nothing was ever a fairytale.