“Daughter! Please stop this!”
“NO! It is my birthright!”
A large, black army watched from the outskirts as three figures fought. Or was it two figures? A gold figure, a blue figure, against a black figure. Though the gold and blue figures melded as one figure too much to know whether they were really separate beings.
The clash of magic shook the terrain to its core. The sky was slowly cracking as if it were glass, and the normally tranquil water beneath them churned and raged like a violent tempest. The magic each figure tossed at the other was a breathtaking spectacle in and of themselves.
“You have ignored us for too long! I will rule our land better than you ever did! I will NEVER ignore our people as you have!”
The blue and gold figure(s) dodged more large tentacle-like vines furiously whipping and whirling around to slash at them. They knew that after fighting the large army they would eventually lose the battle to the black figure. It would be better to live to fight another day, to be wiser about their opponent for next time.
They began to form a portal back to the world they had just come from. The black figure saw this and shot themself like a bolt of lightning at the retreating figure(s). They did not hope to dodge in time, before the most blinding flash happened. The figure(s) were fused no longer.
And Varian could only watch through the fog, hopelessly confused.
Quirin had been weary and sore, but well enough to go to the festival in Corona. They were celebrating the Princesses return from her... journey? He wasn’t sure what all went down at this point, but apparently it had something to do with the rocks. The Kingdom of Corona certainly knew how to celebrate. So much so that he couldn’t even question the oddness of the sight that was a guard horse and a frog chasing a tiara, though Varian seemed to have questions judging by the look on his face.
He had noticed that Varian had changed since the blizzard. He was a little taller, more filled out, more reserved. How long had he been stuck in the amber? It was winter last he checked but now it was summer? He must have missed at least a few months!
He also didn’t like the looks people were giving them. The people who knew who he was looked at Quirin like they were seeing a ghost. But what surprised him more was the sheer venom in the gazes aimed towards his son. Hatred and sometimes fear interrupted almost every celebration they passed, and even people that Quirin didn’t know seemed to have a loathing or even terror of his son.
Varian didn’t seem too surprised by this treatment somehow, or if he was he didn’t show it. It was like he was expecting it, or felt he deserved it like when the village would sometimes give him a hard time after a failed experiment. Shrugging it off, giving space when he felt it was needed, chuckling nervously, even avoiding people altogether.
His son stuck close to him the whole time, a sign often indicating that he was anxious. This clinginess was new as well, though given the fact that he had been stuck in rocks for a while, he would have been more surprised if Varian wasn’t desperate to be close. His sons eyes wandered the market, but they always came back to look at him, as if assuring himself that his dad was still there.
“Varian! You’re here!”
The Princess of Corona and her boyfriend were coming over. Varian seemed to open up a little more at their presence. He turned to them fully, dropped the arms that were holding each other, and became less tense.
“Hi Rapunzel! Hi Eugene! I saw you guys doing some insane flips and tricks there while you were singing! That was cool.”
“Thanks Varian!” Rapunzel replied enthusiastically while Eugene chuckled nervously when he thought more carefully about all the stunts they had just pulled.
“We’re so glad the two of you could make it out here for the festival! Atilla has some sweet pastry that he’s giving away, do you want to come and try some?”
Quirin saw Varians eyes go back to his own in a slight hesitation before shaking it off with a smile towards the other two.
“S-sure! Sure, of course! Um, I’ll be right back Dad.”
With a nod to his son, Quirin watched as Varian was led away by an excited Princess, leaving him with the boyfriend. Varian called him Eugene? The younger man looked at him for the first time since he was freed, and he too, seemed daunted at the sight of him.
“How long has it been?”
Eugene seemed thrown off by the question.
“How long was I in that amber?”
Quirin needed to know, but with the strange way Varian had been acting, he thought it better to give his son a bit of time before he started asking questions.
Eugenes eyes widened.
“So he didn’t... it has been a year and a half.”
Quirin did a double take. Eyes wide as his head jerked down a bit. Did he hear that correct? A YEAR and a HALF?? His little fourteen year old boy would almost be sixteen by now! Had he missed all that? What has Varian been doing this whole time??
He voiced his last question to Eugene who pursed his lips in nervous and uncertain thought.
“He might want to be the one to talk to you about that. I wasn’t there for most of it.”
He paused before continuing.
“Whatever you hear, take it carefully. Varian has been through a lot, and people will see what they want to see.”
Quirin blinked in bewilderment at the young man, who was called over by a large, darker skinned man. What did he mean? Was this why his son was getting cruel looks?
He stood where he was left, looking around at the festivities. Life had gone on without him, Varian had gone on without him, things had changed, and still his subconscious brain couldn’t stop from feeling like it was still two years ago...
“Quirin! Is that you?”
Quirin turned to see his old friend Phil approaching him. The tall, well built man had a look of shocked relief on his face.
“It is you! Wow, it’s so good to see you doing alright again!”
“You as well Phil. Though it’ll probably take a while to catch up on everything I’ve missed I’m sure. How are you and your family?”
It was nice to see a familiar face that hadn’t changed since last he had checked.
“My family is... good. Especially since the Princess stopped the... Saporians. But tell me, how is your son?”
Quirin pauses at the mans cautious answer and question.
“I haven’t spoken a lot to Varian since I got out. He seemed rather shocked and emotional by my return, so I thought I’d give him a day to maybe calm down.”
Phil gave him an odd look.
“Yes, I’m sure... But what I meant was, is he alright... in the head?”
Quirins eyebrows raised at the question again. Why was everyone talking to him about Varian like this? Why was everyone treating Quirin like he was made of glass?
“Of course he’s alright! Sure he’s always been into alchemy and engineering, but his head has always been in the right place.”
“Just wanting to make sure. I know the Princess has pardoned him, but if you ever feel uncomfortable with him you can stay with my family for awhile. He did nearly kill you.”
“What do you mean pardoned? He didn’t mean to encase me, I pushed him out of the way! It was an accident!”
“Given what he was doing while you were gone, him killing you wouldn’t have been a surprise.”
Quirin was in shock at Phils words. Everything and everyone was pointing to Varian doing terrible things while Quirin was gone. It wasn’t- no, it couldn’t have been that... Quirin would get to the bottom of this. Now.
“What happened while I was gone?”
Varian munched on his pastry. Soft and sweet. Wonderful.
People had gone from casting him dirty looks to simply ignoring him once the Princess was around. She wouldn’t stop talking either. He tried to listen to her, but stuff about weather, the sights of the celebration, some reminders of her journey, it went through one ear and out the other.
He was too consumed by his thoughts. Everything had been happening too quickly. Just yesterday he had been helping Andrew, and now he was sitting with Rapunzel on a bench watching the lanterns. He felt overwhelmed, and that was one reason he had not told his Dad about his time without him yet. Another reason was that he had wanted to savour the pride that had appeared in his fathers eyes. He knew it wouldn’t last, but it was nice while he could see it.
He blinked. Oh right, Princess talking.
She had that concerned look again. Gah, will she ever stop looking at him like a chipping porcelain doll?
He waved off her concern with a hand gesture to the side and what he hoped was a smile.
“Oh yeah, yeah. Just lost in thought. Things have happened rather fast.”
“Oh yeah. You’ll have to have some time to relax with your dad and stuff.”
Rapunzel smiles as bright as the sun she embodied.
“Uh huh. Once I get some new gloves, I’ll work more on getting your parents memories back.”
He felt incomplete without something covering his hands. Rapunzel looked down at his hands in surprise.
“Oh right! Sorry about your gloves. I can get you some new ones. In fact, how about I make you some new clothes too?”
Rapunzel seemed to get brighter and brighter as her idea formed.
“What? No no, you don’t have to do that! These are fine.”
“Why not? Those look a little small now, I burned your gloves, and what better way to openly show your fresh start than with a new look?.”
“But you’ll be busy with the kingdom and your duties, there’s no need for me to take up more of your time!”
Rapunzel looked... fondly exasperated with him?
“If I just do Queen duties day in day out I’ll go insane. I would welcome having something else to do, and what better thing to do than spend time with a friend?”
Varian opened his mouth to argue again, but stopped. She had called him a friend. Were they friends now? It was what he had wanted, and she was perhaps one of the only people in the Kingdom forgiving enough to be friends with him. He softened and relented.
“Alright, you win. When would be a good time to come?”
Rapunzel grinned and wiggled a bit in victory.
“Anytime you’re ready! You can come tomorrow or the next day if you like!”
“I’ll have to see how my dad feels tomorrow, or the next day.”
Varian gave her a warm smile, touched by her effort. It had used to be him giving all the effort into making friendships, and now here was someone finally doing the same back. The thought of trusting her completely was not in the picture yet, but if Rapunzel would put in such effort to make things better then he would too.
It was his dad coming over with a swift pace. Varian felt cold dread at the strange expression he had as he strode up to them with firm resolve. He felt himself begin to shake as he had to remind himself that this was Dad and not another large man coming to get him.
Brunt. Firm. To the point.
Quirin spoke with no room for argument.
Varians dread did not waver as he observed his fathers tight expression that barely graced him with a glance. Rapunzel seemed more confused than anything else.
“Is something wrong Quirin? Varian and I were jus-“
The response was automatic and immediate. Varian rose from his seat beside the princess, thanked her once again for her kindness and the nice visit, and followed his father. Rapunzel looked as though she wanted him to stay, but she wished him a good evening without protest.
As they walked away, he couldn’t help but look back at her. He looked at her and wondered how she could be so willing to reconcile with him. How she could be so ready to spend time with, and hopeful for a wreak like him.
He hunched over and sat on his bed. He could hear the heart thumping violently in his chest.
He was starting to hate his own name now. People had been saying it out of fear and hate his whole alchemy career, but to hear the voice of his father say it in such a dangerous tone was more than he could take at that moment.
Dad had taken him to his room and stood before him with a large frown on his face. It was like when Varian would mess up and was told to go to his room before Dad comes to punish him. It was painfully familiar, even after all this time without him.
“Varian, I heard some news about what happened while I was... not here. I really don’t want to believe a word of what was said to me, but I don’t have any way to know what’s true without you telling me.”
Varian began to shake a little, he couldn’t hold still.
Dad knew. His dad knew. He had heard, of course he had heard, who wouldn’t be talking about everything he did at this point. He knew that nobody was happy that he was roaming free right now.
His eyes carefully moved to meet his fathers. Dad looked serious and expecting. This felt terribly like an interrogation. While he had learned from his time in prison how to be careful of his words and verbally spar better, his dads gaze was always enough to destroy his defences and render his offences useless. With his focus zeroed in on nothing but Quirirns face, Varian knew that once he was finished his story, his father would never look at him the same again.
He sat on his bed, numb, trying to process what had just taken place.
Of course Varian knew he had to tell his Dad what he had done the year and a half he’d been in the amber. Of course it came out all at once when it was time to tell. A complete mess of words and feelings that had been bottled up for so long spewing out like a broken dam once again. Varian had felt like he had tunnel vision the whole time, nothing but them had existed in Varians mind in those moments. Just like when he spoke to Rapunzel. He hoped that this would be the last time he would ever have to talk about these events.
His Dad had stared at him at first with that disappointed look that he always gave him when he was explaining his mistakes, but as the story went on a different look developed.
It was difficult to describe, but Varian would say it was... Harder? Resigned? Hurt? Angry? It was hard to figure out the core emotions of someone who always kept his feelings to himself.
He knew he had basically just confirmed what Quirin had already heard, just from his own perspective and experience. But he felt ashamed now that he couldn’t have refuted such terrible tales. Tales that he wished he could have told his dad first.
After finishing his story, Dad had not said anything. Part of Varian did not want him to.
Dad had gotten up and left with neither word nor glance to Varian. He had shut the door behind him leaving Varian to just sit there, empty and numb after crying his way through the tale that he’d had to tell.
What now? What does Dad think of me? What should I do? Does Dad hate me?
Varians thoughts were running wildly around his head. His body though, was limp and slightly hunched over, he felt like he was bearing a large invisible weight that made him want to never move again.
When Dad has said that he was proud of him, Varian had known that it wouldn’t last. He just wanted to relish it for as long as he could manage.
Now? Now his fathers words of pride were like a poison to his soul. Every time he thought of them he would feel terribly sick.
Dad would never be proud of him.
Varian just had to accept that fact.
Dad would always be ashamed of his son.
All his efforts to please his father was for nothing.
He got up and started walking circles in his room.
No, Varian had never accepted this before! It was what always drove him to do the things he did! To invent! To experiment! To make the lives of the people around him better, so that his Dad would look at him and see that Varian, and everything he had done had accounted for something!
That his mistakes, in the end, were worth the trouble when they made way for his successes.
Though now, he had to admit that making up for his crimes was a great motivation to invent and help. He knew he would need to help and serve Rapunzel and the Kingdom for years before he had paid for everything, but that wouldn’t stop him from trying.
Maybe his dad wouldn’t be proud of him, but perhaps, someday, he could forgive him.
He wondered if the Kingdom would ever forgive him.
He sighed and rubbed his face, which was probably still red from breaking down. He needed some air. He slowly opened his door and listened around. When he heard nothing he shut the door behind him and tip toed down the stairs and to the front door. His father was nowhere to be seen. Varian counted that as a good thing for now. He was able to go outside without any interruptions.
Once outside he breathed in the cool and sharp night air. Nighttime was always a nice time to go out for him. No people with their looks, no responsibilities that needed him until the next day, no sounds but that of the rustling of leaves in the wind and the humming of bugs... Just himself. Himself and the dark that hid him and the stars that lit his way.
It was a time he could relax. It was a time he had used against the guards that had been hanging around when he was alone. The thing about those masks they wore, it was hard to see out of them. Seeing a darkly clothed, black haired little boy hiding amongst black rocks at night with those masks? Forget about it.
He walked. Not knowing where he was going. Not thinking, no more thinking. Just walking and letting his mind drift with the silence around him.
His peace was broken the moment he heard a bush rustle. He slowly began to back away.
Oh yeah, he had almost forgotten. After the black rocks left, surely the animals came back. Against them, he was the one at a disadvantage at night.
The creature that came from the bush was small though. Varian stopped and stared eyes wide. The creature stared back with a mirrored expression.
It was a raccoon.
No, it can’t be him.
And yet, Varian was desperately hoping that it was. He had missed his friend. He missed the friend that had never left even during his darkest hours.
He crouched slowly onto the ground.
• • • • •
One of the last things that Varian had said to Ruddiger before the boy had become terribly angry, had stuck with the raccoon to this very night.
“Never give up Ruddiger.”
It was those words that had carried him through all the pain of being the only one there for Varian. His good, happy, determined boy had told him to never give up. Never give up Ruddiger. And he hadn’t. He hadn’t given up the hope that his boy could let his anger go, could be helped, could be happy again.
Even when Varian was alone for months, even when he wouldn’t eat or sleep, even when he started having terrible ideas, even when Varian turned him into a monster, even after everything leading up to his arrest, the raccoon did not give up on his boy, nor his goal to help him.
Yes, he had assisted in Pascals escape which in turn saved the Royal Family, but that was to make sure that Varian didn’t cross a line Ruddiger knew he would regret and could never come back from.
Ruddiger was there for his boy because he knew nobody else would.
Even when they were in that scary place. The prison.
Those prisoners were terrifying, angry, and willing to hurt people for sheer enjoyment. Like that Andrew character who thought it would be fun to twist his broken boys mind more.
How he had wished he could talk to Varian. To refute all the things this man said to him. To correct all the wrong thoughts in Varians mind.
But no, he had been caught. All he had wanted was to get more food for his malnourished boy, but apparently if he could smuggle food, he could smuggle other things that could assist in escape. He wouldn’t have put it past Andrew to have suggest that next. He was caught and taken away from his boy.
He remembered Varians screams for him. Screams that the guard not hurt his friend, let him stay,
“No, stop! Please! I’ll do anything, just please don’t hurt him!! I need him please no!! RUDDIGER!!!”
Ruddiger had not been hurt, but rather sent to the forest. He had tried to get back, but all his tricks and sneaking were for nothing. He couldn’t break into that castle. Into that prison.
“Never give up Ruddiger.”
He had failed.
His friend was now alone. Alone with monsters who would encourage the terrible feelings Ruddiger had sought to chase away from his mind all this time.
He had failed his boy, his friend, his Varian. Varian was lost to him now.
Then one night, everything had changed. His face had whirled around towards the castle as he heard a resounding explosion. The sight of bright green and the loud noise was familiar to the raccoon, and there was only one thought in Ruddigers mind at that very moment.
Ruddiger knew it was him. Only one person could illuminate the sky so extravagantly. And these thoughts are what kept the raccoon running all night. He booked it towards that castle, because if Varian was there, that meant there was hope.
He couldn’t give up.
He had looked all over for his boy, and yes he was pretty sure he passed out from exhaustion at one point, but he kept looking. He was not in the town, and neither was he in one of the places he could sneak peeks into at the castle.
That left one place Ruddiger could think of. He made his way to Old Corona at a quick, but more even pace. On his way there, he began to worry. What if Varian has changed? Would he still want him around? Was he still angry and in pain? Did he listen to that bad mans words?
“Never give up Ruddiger.”
The raccoon shook his head to get rid of those thoughts. It would be enough for him to see Varian happy once again.
It was nighttime when he arrived at the village. It had changed since last they had been here.
Ruddiger heard somebody coming, and crouched in his hiding spot, hoping to keep away from trouble.
That’s when he saw him.
His friend was right there in front of him!
He looked to be doing nothing more than one of his evening walks he liked to do every now and then to clear his head. He remembered fondly that it was how he had come up with the invention he made for the Science Expo. He had stumbled upon those first blasted rocks during that walk.
Varian seemed peaceful, as he usually did when going for his stroll. But Ruddiger could see the red on his face telling of recent crying, and the hunched way he walked.
His boy was still in pain, but he was no longer angry. And his boy still needed his Ruddiger to be with him.
Hoping not to startle Varian, Ruddiger shook the bush he was hiding under. Varian was wary and backed away from it until he saw his raccoon come out.
Varian looked like he couldn’t believe it was him, and to be honest, Ruddiger could hardly believe that he had found his boy after all this time. His eyes were as wide as Varians.
They were frozen, staring at each other, until Varian crouched down and broke the spell with a single word.
And that was all it took before the raccoon couldn’t stop himself from launching at his boy, who fell back on his rear laughing and crying at the same time.
Ruddiger felt his friends arms wrap around him once again, and shove his face into his fur. He nuzzled Varian in return, and in those moments everything felt right. Everything was fine now that they were back together again.
After several minutes of holding each other, Varian pulled away slightly and Ruddiger wished once again to be gifted with the speech necessary to tell him how much he missed him. He wished he could ask Varian if he was ok, what had happened after he had been taken away, tell him how much Varian clearly needs to eat and sleep more...
Instead, he could only place his paws on his boys cheeks and touch his nose to Varians. He could only chitter and purr his happiest to try and convey all he could to Varians intelligent mind.
Tears still rolling down his face, Varian let out a few sporadic, stuttering laughs before calming down enough to speak.
“I missed you! I missed you so much every day! I’m so sorry Ruddiger!”
Ruddiger whimpered his disagreement to the last statement and leaned forward once again to snuggle against Varian.
Varian still continued though.
“I’m sorry! I was so angry and hurt and I put you through so much and you didn’t deserve that and I’m so sorry! I should have been more grateful to you, you stayed when there was nothing for you to stay for.”
Ruddiger whined louder from his spot against Varians chest.
You were more than enough reason to stay.
Even if he could talk he knew Varian wouldn’t understand that, given the fact that Ruddiger was the only one who stayed. But Ruddiger continued to have hope. He would stay with Varian no matter what. One part of the hope he held had already come. Varian was no longer angry. And Ruddiger would never give up until Varian was happy again.
He gave Varian a nuzzle on the face, which Varian returned, before he couldn’t stop a yawn.
Ruddiger had spent at least a whole day on an adrenaline rush, and now that they were together, he realized how utterly drained he was.
Varian stood up, still cradling his Ruddiger, and started walking back home. The raccoon was joyed to see a truly happy smile on Varíans face looking down at him.
Ruddiger snuggled into his boys chest and arms. His boy. His Varian. Who he would never give up on.