Chapter 1

Two Thieves and a Baby

As she did on any ordinary day, Gothel tended her garden, watering her rampion and tearing out any unnecessary weeds. Gothel did not mind the routine, but the loneliness crept up on her, every so often. People in the nearby kingdom of Tiare were always quite wary of her, as she was a sorceress, even though Gothel herself never attempted to harm or threaten any innocent civilians. She wished her younger sister would act the same way.

Rubbing the beads of sweat off her forehead and brushing her radiant red hair from her face, Gothel gazed up at her tower, tall and grey, surrounded by her garden of rampion. She was not entirely sure why she only grew this particular vegetable. Perhaps it was because it happened to be the only vegetable she was good at growing. Now, it seemed as though her rampion had became her sole company. She used to see her sister, Rengonda, more often but lately she seemed to have found better ways of spending her time than coming for a visit. Gothel had no idea what her younger sibling was even up to these days. Part of her did not even want to know. On her last visit to Rengonda's manor, she found her sister torturing some poor fellow for information on ways to stay youthful, her most recent obsession. Gothel desperately hoped she was past this by now.

As Gothel gazed about her work she figured there was nothing else to be done today. If she watered her plants any more they would drown. She let out a sigh once she saw that the sun still blazed well above the horizon, as she knew she would have to find some other way to occupy her time until the moment came for sleep. She assumed she would have another peaceful dull night alone in her tower.

Just as Gothel started to walk around her around to the back door, she heard a loud stumble. Turning her head, she found a slender man with short blonde hair and blue eyes wearing ragged clothing had fallen into her garden, wrecking some of her vegetables.

As he rose to his feet and brushed the dirt off, Gothel rushed over to him, demanding, "Are you alright?"

"Oh yeah… just a fall." The man grinned and turned his head around. "Oh good. I lost them."

"Lost who?" Gothel asked, trying to conceal her annoyance of him ruining her garden. "Is someone after you?"

"Ah, its nothing big." He casually waved his hand, and then put it on his hip as he tried to catch his breath. "Just a little misunderstanding. These men seem to think I stole something."

Gothel raised her eyebrow. "What do they think you stole?"

He shrugged and dug around in his pocket. "Oh, just this loaf of bread and this key."

"I see." Gothel took a couple steps back. "So you are a thief."

The man placed the items back in his pocket, and put both hands up shaking his head furiously. "No, no! You must understand, my wife and I can barely afford a decent meal for just the two of us, and now we have a baby to feed as well. Me must steal to survive."

Gothel folded her arms. "And what of the key? Why did you take that?"

Once again, the man shrugged. "I don't know. It was just sitting there by the bread. I'm not even sure what it opens."

"Then why did you take it?" she inquired once again, confused.

Ignoring her last question, the strange thief began to have a look around the garden and asked her, "Do you live here alone?"

Gothel sighed as she replied, "Yes."

The man placed his hands on his hips and commented, "That is quite a lot of vegetables for one person. Do you sell them?"

She shook her head. "No. People rarely come around here."

"Really now?" The man gazed up as though he had a sudden idea.

Gothel starred past him as something caught her eye. "Well, usually not but now…"

Her voice trailed off and the man turned his head to what she spotted. Three men who appeared to be armed guards rode up towards her tower.

The man threw his arms up in a panic. "Oh no, they found me!" He turned his head desperately to Gothel. "You have to hide me!"

"What?" Gothel took a step back, startled by his sudden demand and then looked down avoiding his eyes. "I am sorry, but I cannot aid a thief."

"Please," he persisted with desperation. "Do you know what they do to thieves in this kingdom? Look, if you hide me now, I'll make it up to you. What do you say?"

Gothel let out a reluctant sigh and briefly motioned her hand. "Go hide in those bushes in front of the tower."

Just as he dove into the bushes the three guards rode up and demounted their horses. They approached Gothel with caution as though if they stepped too close they may burst into flames. The guards still appeared determined, especially the leader, who had a gruff face with a short messy beard.

"Dame Gothel," the front guard began. "We are sorry to disturb you, but we are currently trying to hunt down a thief. Have you seen anyone unusual in these parts of the lands?"

"Um…" Gothel could feel her heart pounding heavily as she turned her head briefly to the bushes and saw the thief desperately hold his hands up in prayer position. She then quickly shook her head. "No. I have not seen anyone around here."

The guard let out a sigh as he pulled out a piece of parchment from his pocket. He extended it out to Gothel and the moment she took it, he rapidly pulled back keeping his distance.

Despite his fear, the guard continued to keep his tone confident. "Well, if you see this man please send word back to the royal court of Tiare. We would really like to catch this man. Oh…" He pulled out more parchment, handing it to Gothel. "This is his wife. We would like to catch her as well."

Gothel quickly nodded, looking at the pictured. "Yes, of course I will send word to the kingdom."

The guard nodded, thanking her, and then made no hesitation to summon his men back to their horses and then they quickly rode off. Gothel took a moment to look at the female thief. She was portrayed with dark thick hair in tight ringlets. This woman wore a hard cold expression on her face, though Gothel assumed they would not draw a wanted criminal smiling.

"Wow, those men seemed quite nervous around you," the man commented as he stepped out of the bushes.

Gothel let out a doleful breath. "Yeah, most people are."

The man nodded, though he did not seem to be listening, and then announced, "Well, I should be off, now. Thank you for your help." He turned back and extended his hand. "My name is Carlos."

"Gothel," she replied taking it, briefly and then recalled, "Wait, you said you would owe me if I helped you."

Carlos turned back, lifting his hand up. "Indeed I did." His hand moved to his chin as he gazed about the garden. "Let's see. This is quite a large amount of vegetables for just one person. I am going to do you a huge favor by taking some of these off your hands."

Gothel put her hand up and muttered, "Wait… "

As he gathered he looked up to her with a bold grin. "I insist. It's the least I can do."

Gothel huffed at a loss of words as Carlos continued plucking her rampion and thought, I really need to learn to stand up for myself. You would think as a sorceress that would be easy.

She then decided to let it slide remembering this man had an infant child, or at least he claimed to. Gothel also remembered she could be pretty gullible at times.

"Alright then." Carlos stood up with his arms full. "That should do it. I better be on my way now."

"Good bye," Gothel answered and then turned to go inside for the rest of the day.

"Wait." Carlos turned back. "Actually, there is one more favor I need from you. It will really help both my wife and me a great deal. Will you help us?"

"I suppose as long as you take some more of my rampion," Gothel mumbled sarcastically.

Not picking up on her tone, Carlos beamed. "You got it! Thank you so much! We will be here tonight."

As he took off, Gothel let out another sigh, realizing she probably should have asked what exactly this favor would be before agreeing to it. She hoped that once she finished helping this thief that would be the last she would see of him.

xXx

The sun had been down for a couple hours now. Gothel glanced out her window upstairs, but still no sign of the thief or his wife. Perhaps he forgot, at least she hoped so.

After several moments passed, she gazed out again, this time spotting a couple from a distanced, walking towards her home. With the moonlight shining she could barely make out the blonde hair of the thief she met earlier. The wife's hair appeared even thicker than her picture portrayed though with the same tight curls. In her arms, she carried a bundle. Gothel saw that Carlos was indeed telling the truth about having a child.

Gothel went downstairs and out the back door. As she walked around to the front of her tower she could hear their voices.

"Are you sure about this, Carlos?" the wife demanded.

"Trust me, Lillian. This place is perfect," Carlos assured, putting his arm around her. "The witch said herself, no one ever comes around here."

Once Gothel came into sight, the thief greeted her as though she were his best friend. "Hey! We came, just as I said we would."

"Great," Gothel mumbled, already dreading this favor. "So what is it you need me to do?"

"Well, my wife and I still have those guards on our tails," Carlos explained. "We are going to try to lead them off in a different direction so we can make our escape." He turned his head back to his wife and child and added, "In the meantime, we would greatly appreciate it if you would look after our daughter."

This is worse than I thought, Gothel thought to herself and then began to shake her head. "Oh, I don't know. I have never really taken care of a child before. I'm not sure this will be a good idea."

"Not to worry. It is only one night," Carlos reassured her. "We will be back to pick her up first thing in the morning. Besides, she has already been fed and bathed so now all she needs to do is sleep."

"I'm not sure," Gothel muttered, trying to think of a way out of this.

"Oh, come on. Look at her." Carlos held his hand out to his child, and then turned back to Gothel. "We uh… named her Rapunzel. You know, like your vegetables."

Lillian looked at her husband with horrified eyes and began frantically shaking her head. Carlos only gave a fake grin showing all his teeth and nodded desperately to convince her.

Gothel raised her brow. "You named your daughter after my rampion?"

"Yes." Carlos nodded as he put his arms around his wife's shoulder and urged her forward. "I promise you will like her. She is a delight. Look at little Rapunzel."

"Fine," Gothel agreed, reluctantly. "I suppose it is just one night."

"Oh, thank you so much!" Carlos exclaimed gratefully. "This means a great deal to us." He turned his head to Lillian and nodded towards Gothel. "Okay, well we best get going now."

Despite this woman's hard look, Gothel noticed her dark brown eyes soften as she planted a kiss on her daughter's cheek and unwillingly handed the baby to Gothel.

"Mother loves you… Rapunzel," Lillian gritted the name through her teeth as she shot her husband an irritated glance.

"We'll be right back," Carlos assured as he placed his arm around his emotional wife. "First thing tomorrow morning."

Gothel sighed as she figured at least she would not be alone tonight. She gazed down at the little girl in her arms. Within moments, the infant began to cry.

I really need to be careful what I wish for, Gothel thought to herself.

xXx

The next morning, Gothel yawned as she picked the child up from the large woven basket layered with blankets. The thieving couple did not care to mention that their child only actually spent a few hours asleep and the rest crying. She suppose she should be glad that the night was over and after this morning everything would be back to normal.

Gothel then pulled a chair outside and sat with Rapunzel, waiting for her parents to return. The child had finally fallen asleep. Gothel felt tempted to close her eyes and doze off just for a moment but knew she must stay alert to ensure this child be returned to Carlos and Lillian, whenever they should arrive back here. Gothel gazed up to see that the sun now stood about midway to directly overhead.

Her eyes then caught sight of someone moving towards her. Just as she began to stand up with the child, Gothel saw that it was only a deer. She sighed wondering what took them so long.

Hours soon past and now when Gothel gazed up she saw the sun hovered directly above her meaning it was no longer morning. She finally came to the conclusion, Rapunzel's parents would not return.