- Chapter 5
Author's Notes: I don't have enough time before Christmas to put these in their own chapters, so they are all together here. The first chapter is how Margaret is feeling about the Lost Princess as she is getting the broth. Then how the lantern ceremony went down this time and finally the King and Eugene have a little talk.
~ To Save the Feral Princess
Margaret the Lock Maid was running down the cream-colored corridor as fast as she could. She couldn't cry yet. She had to get to the kitchen, the doctor needed broth for the Lost Princess. They were depending on her to save the princess.
She slid through the corners. She threw all propriety to the wind and slid down the banister. She had pledged her life to protect the princess, but right now the princess just needed broth to live.
The Worst Case Scenario was that the princess returned as an evil apprentice to Maleficent with the intent of ruling the world, not that it would be that obvious, of course. Most everything that would they would have to do in that case was hair-raising, and only somewhat likely to save the world, even when they lost the royal family and Corona.
The Best Case Scenario was that the princess was found by someone and raised as their own.
The Most Likely Scenario assumed she wasn't dead, but would have been abused. The Lock Captain had done extensive research into kidnappings and child abuse. He had created a plan that combined together what he had found in cases where the children lived, so often they died.
The reality of the princess was so much worse than the descriptions in the plan.
Margaret slammed through kitchen doors, the minimal night shift spun as she slid to a stop.
"The Lost Princess has returned. The doctor says she needs broth." Margaret panted. The kitchen workers just turned back to their duties.
The hulking night chef waddled his rotund bulk over to her, his big wooden spoon loose in his grasp. "Broth, huh? Yeah, yeah. Last time it was Cherries Jubilee. We've been pranked before."
With a growl, Margaret leapt up at the heavy-set man. Roaring in frustration she flipped him to the ground, smoothly disarming him of his spoon in the process. "The doctor needs broth to save the actual Lost Princess! She has been abused and broken and we are trying to keep her alive! GET ME BROTH! Or I will debone you with your own spoon and cook you into broth myself!" the Lock Maid snarled.
"Yes, ma'am." He choked out as her knee was on his diaphragm and his spoon at his throat.
A pot clanged behind her. Margaret spun, teeth bared, as she heard clanking, but it was just the panicked-looking soup chef splashing broth into a tureen on a small cart. He slapped the lid on the tureen as Margaret scrambled toward it. The Lock Maid hugged to her bosom, splashing and burning her chest a little, clamped the lid on with her hand and took off running. The cart would be too slow and the Testing Chamber had a full tea setting. The princess could drink from a teacup or something.
The princess had to live, she just had too!
~ To the Lantern Ceremony
"I see a beautiful, good young lady," said Queen Rebecca to her daughter princess Solara. As they were looking in the big mirror in the princess' room. They were almost ready for the lantern ceremony. It was the princess' birthday, the kidnapper was dead, the Lost Princess was home and they were going to celebrate it. The Lost Princess Returned smiled back tentatively, unsure of what to make of all the attention.
The queen had bathed her baby this morning before the trial, it was something she had missed doing for nearly eighteen years. They had not cleaned the hair as it had too full of tangles, dirt and stuff from the forest. The queen had set several maids to brush it and untangle it while she went to the trial. She had left strict orders not to bring knives or scissors near the princess, while she left to testify. It had been remarkably easy to brush and untangle the hair. It was still dirty, but they got the worst of it out and could begin to see the golden blonde hair under the dirt.
There were just too many things going on, for all what they wanted for the princess. The headmistress of the orphanage and the royal doctor were supervising the care of the princess as they took turned testifying. They let her drink broth and cream with honey, but she was doing so well they were feeling confident that the princess could have a small piece of her birthday cake after the sky lantern launch in the evening.
The princess was fitted for a dress while the queen executed the kidnapper. The seamstresses had altered one of the queen's dresses to fit the princess. A pretty lavender dress that looked so nice on her.
The queen led her baby to the doors to the plaza balcony, where they met the king and Eugene. Solara dashed over to Eugene as she saw him and hugged him close. Then she hugged her papa who began to cry from happiness. The doors opened and they could see the glowing sky lantern held down by its ribbons.
"Remember, do what I do," whispered Rebecca to her baby. Solara nodded.
The plaza was crowded with quietly waiting people. They knew from what had been revealed at the trial that the kidnapper had abused and broken the princess. They didn't want to spook her.
The royal family reached out and lifted the glowing lantern free of its ribbons and let the signal of joy fly into the night. Everyone else lit their lanterns and signaled to the world that the Lost Princess was finally home.
"Oooo. Good," said the Lost Princess Returned as she put her arms around Eugene and her head on his chest as she watched the lanterns fill the night sky.
They stood and watched until the sky lanterns had flown far away then the royal family went inside and had a little bit of the princess' birthday cake and then went to bed. It had been a very big day.
~ What about Eugene?
"So Eugene what are we going to do with you?" asked King Leonard from behind his big heavy desk in his study. This question has been hanging over them the past few days. The kingdom was holding a quiet and subdued celebration for the Lost Princess Returned.
Things were calming down and Princess Solara was making some good progress growing up.
"Please, sir. Let me stay." Eugene said simply. His worst fear right now was being sent away from Solara.
"I have no intention of sending you away. Solara needs you as much as she needs us. She goes to you every time she sees you. No, why are you still here? I would have gladly emptied the vaults to reward you. Flynn Rider would have taken the reward and ran ages ago. Why not you?" The king leaned back and steepled his fingers in front of him.
"Because I'm not Flynn Rider anymore. He wanted an island and lots of money to be alone with, so he didn't need to be around people anymore. I'm Eugene Fitzherbert, and I just need to be near your daughter." Eugene was trying not to plead, but wasn't being very successful at it.
"You are in love with my daughter. That much is painfully obvious to anyone with eyes. How did that happen? From what you said you didn't spend all that much time with her before bringing her home," asked the father of the Broken Princess.
Eugene reddened, it hadn't been much time, but it had been enough. "Okay, I did sorta gloss over a few minor things when I told you what happened at the tower."
The king raised an eyebrow at him. Eugene looked around. "Fine, not so minor, but after how the queen reacted to the kidnapper, do you blame me?"
The king let out a breath and shook his head. He had known what his wife wanted to do to the kidnapper, but the reality had been even worse than he had imagined. "Fine, what really happened?"
"Well, after escaping from Max, I fell through a curtain of vines and found the tower. I climbed the tower for the thrill of it and it looked like it might have something valuable inside. I found that hair and followed it to the door under the stairs and found a chained girl inside. I knew immediately that something was very wrong. She was being kept like an animal. That was wrong. There had been a few kids like that in the orphanage and we were extra kind to them, they were so ...broken." He wanted to use a different word, but it was the only real word to use.
"She kept running from me and she upset the bucket, then we heard the kidnapper coming up the stairs. I dove under the bed to hide. The kidnapper saw the spill and made her lick it up. Every time her head came up she looked at me, but didn't give me away. Then she was punished. In the orphanage we were lashed if we were really bad, but usually only five or so. Someone would look in the window where we could see to give us hope and strength. But it still hurt. She prostrated herself between the kidnapper's legs, her hands were stretched out toward me." Eugene laid his hands on the desk, he wasn't seeing himself in the king's study anymore.
"I laid my hands in front of hers, in the shadow, but close enough I could feel the warmth of her on my fingertips. Solara was looking right at me. The kidnapper didn't stop at five or ten or even forty. I can't remember how long it took, but it felt like an eternity, she was being punished because of me. I gave her something then to help her through the punishment."
"What?" the king asked quietly.
"My heart," whispered Eugene.
The king got up and dragged a chair next to Eugene's. "Yes, you did. But I don't think she knows what to do with it, yet."
"No, not really." Solara was a good girl, but while her body was about 18 years old, they weren't exactly sure since the magic had done some odd things, she looked so much older than when he had found her. Her mind was much younger, and everyone was hoping she would be able to make progress, though so many of the abused children in the orphanage had problems the rest of their lives. With the help of the headmistress of the orphanage she was making good progress.
"But I do. When she is ready, you will get my blessing to marry her."
Eugene's head snapped up, this was completely unexpected, he didn't know if she would ever be ready to marry him.
"This not just for altruistic reasons. I won't live forever. She is not fit to rule. We need an heir for this kingdom." Eugene nodded at the sadness in the king's voice.
"We can arrange a council of Regents and a Steward to care for the kingdom until a child of hers is ready to take the throne. I've seen how you've cared for her and supported her in her lessons and daily life. I know you will make a good husband and father. You are a good man. Thank you."
"You're welcome, Your Majesty. And thank you."
"Call me Leonard."
Leonard rolled his eyes.