A/N: After this chapter this story will be put on hold due to lack of inspiration on my part. There is a small chance it will be discontinued, but most likely I will eventually finish it, just not anytime soon. For anyone who was following this story, I do sincerely apologize.

Chapter 8

Unexpected Help

BAM!

Gothel stumbled to the ground as the back of her sister's hand slammed across her face. Sitting back up, Gothel rubbed the part of her cheek where the bulky silver ring on Rengonda's hand hit.

"How could you, Gothel?" Rengonda stammered, throwing her hands in the air. "How could conceal from me the one thing I have been seeking for seventeen years?"

"She is not a thing," Gothel said sharply. "She is a girl."

"Fine." Rengonda rolled her eyes. "But she is the daughter of a thief, a nobody."

Gothel lost control of her tone. "She is not a nobody!"

Rengonda looked down at her sibling curiously and then spoke with feign sweetness. "Gothel dear, exactly how long did you hide this girl?"

Gothel's heart started pounding heavily as she gazed down to the ground, knowing her response would not contrive a good reaction. "I have had her since she was a baby. Her parents brought her to me, knowing I would be able to keep her safe."

"So let me get this straight," Ren concluded, the sweetness in her tone draining away. "You purposely hid this girl, the key to the grapes I so desire, for the past seventeen years?"

Remaining silent, Gothel merely nodded, keeping her eyes to the ground. When she looked back up, she could have sworn she saw fire spark up in her sister's eyes.

"Ren, you have to understand," Gothel pleaded in desperation. "She is more than just a key to me. She is my…"

Rengonda kicked the table, already on its side, across the room and raised her hand for magic. "Give me one good reason I shoulder burst you into flames at this very moment."

Gothel starred up at her own sister in horror. Was she actually planning to kill her?

"Rengonda, stop!" a voice came from the side as the door burst open. "What are you doing?"

Gothel turned her head to see Frederick dash forward between her and Rengonda.

"She betrayed me, Frederick," the sorceress explained in a surprisingly mild tone. "Now, I have to punish her because of it." She dangerously raised her hand, flames sparking from her fingernails. "Get out of my way or I will burn you along with her."

"Rengonda, please," Frederick pleaded. "She is your sister. I am sure she did not intend to wrong you. Please, give her a chance to make it right."

Rengonda let out a huff, but did lower her hand. "Fine, but I want her locked up this instant." When Frederick remained still, the witch raised her eyebrow and slammed her hands on her hips. "Frederick! Do it now!"

"You want me to do it?" Frederick asked uncertainly, taking a step back.

She took a dangerous step closer to him. "Is there a reason you cannot?" Rengonda then sighed, forcing her tone to soften. "Frederick, you do understand, right? She is the one you betrayed me, her own sister." She placed her hand on his shoulder. "If anyone is the victim, it is I. Please, Frederick, help me."

Frederick took one look into her eyes and let out a doleful sigh. "I am sorry, Gothel."

As he knelt forward to pick her up, Gothel closed her eyes and prepared to conjure up her own magic. Rengonda, however, immediately caught sight of this and deflated it.

"Do not even bother, Gothel," Rengonda snapped. "You know my powers are stronger than yours."

"That is because you spent more time practicing dark magic than I," Gothel shot back as Frederick began to take her away.

Frederick led her down the steps to the cold damp dungeon. The rats scattered, sensing human presence. The moment they entered, Gothel could feel her powers drain from her. That was just the way her sister designed her prison.

"Frederick, please," Gothel begged as he gently pushed her into the cell. "Do not do this. You know what Rengonda is doing is wrong."

For a moment, he appeared as though he might just do as she so desperately pleaded. Yet sadly, Frederick took a step back and shook his head, keeping his eyes down.

"I am truly sorry, Gothel, but I cannot." He forcefully kept his eyes downward, not wanting to risk meeting hers as regret filled his tone. "Rengonda is right. You did betray her by concealing something you knew she wanted."

"But Frederick…"

But before Gothel could finish, he had already walked back up the steps, the door shutting behind him, leaving her alone.

xXx

Rapunzel, trotted through the woods alone, hugging a cloth of various stolen possessions of a nearby village. She knew it was risky to steal during the day, but with Ronald out hunting she grew bored lingering alone at their setup camp. Also, Rapunzel figured that over a week has passed and nothing has happened. Ronald had insisted on learning to hunt so they would no longer have to steal, but she disagreed with him. To her, the idea of slaughtering innocent animals sounded worse than stealing. She just wished she had the self-control to steal only the necessities such as food. Rapunzel lowered her cloth to examine the rusty forks, frayed designed fabrics, and broken little jewelry boxes, wondering what to do with it. She supposed she could start a collection. She always did like that.

"Rapunzel?"

Startled, she quickly hugged the cloth back to her chest. "Ronald! Hi, um… you are back from your hunt early."

"Where did you go?" he asked, bending over by the campsite to pull a piece of parchment out of his bag.

Rapunzel shrugged awkwardly, her stolen items rattling in her arms. "Oh, just for a walk. I like to do that sometimes."

Ronald took in a deep breath. "Rapunzel, there is something I need to show you."

He unrolled the parchment revealing the wanted picture of his female companion.

Rapunzel gasped. "Oh no, they are on to us!"

"Well, not exactly," Ronald explained scratching his head. "There was no wanted sign for me." He eyed her curiously. "Just you."

"That is weird," Rapunzel muttered, slowing edging to the camp while Ronald continued to ponder this.

"Yes," Ronald went on in bewilderment. "I really do not understand how this happened. I mean, we have been so careful to only steal at night when everyone is in slumber and to only take leftovers that people would not even notice. How did one of us get caught?"

"I don't know," she muttered, bending over to hide her cloth of stolen goods.

"Rapunzel?" Ronald eyed her curiously. "What is that in your hands?"

"Nothing!" Rapunzel jumped back, hugging the cloth to her chest, rapidly as a few items dropped out.

Ronald took a step closer to her. "What do you have in that?"

He reached for the cloth, but Rapunzel jerked it away. Unfortunately, she did it too fast and everything she had stolen slipped out, shattering in front of her feet.

"You stole that, did you not?" Ronald accused as his hand flew to his mouth. "You are a real thief, are you not? All this time I have been traveling with a thief! My father might have me flogged just for that!"

"I am not a thief!" Rapunzel stammered, shaking her head.

"Then why did you steal all that?" Ronald demanded, pointing to the ground. "Most of it has no use to us anyway. It is of no value!"

"I do not know," Rapunzel replied, looking downward. "It is just something I… I could not help myself, I suppose."

"You could not help yourself?" Ronald repeated in disbelief, and then shook his head. "My stepmother did suggest once that was something wrong in the head of a thief."

Rapunzel stomped her foot, hotheadedly. "There is nothing wrong is my head!"

Ronald shook his head ignoring that comment. "Look, I am sorry but I cannot travel with a thief. Goodbye, Rapunzel."

"You are just going to leave?" she demanded, taken back.

"Clearly, we are of two different worlds," Ronald explained calmly, picking up some of the stolen food for travel. "I'll leave the rest for you, though with your skills, it should not be hard for you to swipe more food scraps. Best of luck."

"You too," Rapunzel muttered in a tone hardly above a whisper.

The next thing she knew, the prince was gone and she had been left alone. Rapunzel wondered what to do now. Should she continue her hunt for the thief or just return home? She had a feeling her mother was currently out looking for her in desperation and worry. What would Gothel say if she found out about her daughter's latest hobby? Rapunzel did not even want to think about it.

Rapunzel wondered the woods, still debating her options. At the sound of sticks cracking, she turned her head. A small group of three hunters emerged towards her.

"Why, hello there young lady," the tallest one in the middle greeted. "Why are you all by yourself in the woods?"

Rapunzel shrugged and muttered, "I was just taking a walk."

"Would you care to join us on our hunt?" he then asked. "We could share some of the meal with you. Perhaps you could think of a way to pay us back later."

"No thanks. I am fine." Rapunzel turned her body and began to walk away. As she moved, she heard gasps behind her.

"Did you see that?" one man asked in an awed breath. "That's her. She is the one!"

Rapunzel stopped cold, wondering what they were talking about. This gave her quite an uncomfortable feeling.

"The one with the hair that shimmers gold!"

Rapunzel grabbed a few strands of hair and saw that it indeed had a golden streak. She took in a sharp breath.

"What should we do?" the shortest man asked.

"We will take her with us," the tallest answered. "We could make ourselves a fortune with her."

Rapunzel did not need to hear any more before making up her mind. She broke out into a sprint, desperate to get away, having no idea what would happen to her if she were to get caught. She most definitely did not wish to find out. Rapunzel tripped over a log and stumbled back up. Looking behind her, she did not see the men, but could still make out the voices. She took a step back, prepared to dash, but then two arms grabbed her, one hand over her mouth, the other gently around her stomach pulling her back.

"Shh, shh," a man's voice consoled. "It is okay now. They are not going to get you. I am going to get you out of this. Please, just do not scream, okay?"

Rapunzel slowly nodded as he lowered his hand. When she turned her head to see whom her rescuer was, she found herself looking into the eyes of the very man she had been tracking, the thief, Carlos.