It is not every cockcrow that a notorious thief gets to tie the knot with a beloved princess, but the first blush of August 18th is dovetailed with connubial bliss in the Chapel of Corona. Ruddy cheeks and ringlet-curled wigs swarm the ribboned pews under the arcade. The sun grins against a series of plumed helmets and bronze epaulets that wink with its reflection from the nave. Eugene Fitzherbert stands on the altar with a nutcracker's fineness, nervous yet over the moon about ending his life to begin theirs. Daughters, young and old, ginger and brunette, some wearing wealth and others wearing hardship, flap their mothers' skirts to get them to feast their eyes upon the narthex.
There, in the sunbathed entrance, smiles the equator of Eugene's world. He holds back happy tears as adoration fills his chest with love anew. His soul mate is gowned in sunlight and silk as pure as her own heart, which is a raiment he loves more than silk itself. Her brave hands hold a waterfall of Stargazer and Easter lilies under her tiny bosom. Flashing on her hazel head is the burnished fate that brought them together.
Like the tiara of sunshine she has always been in his blue sky, she curls her arm around her father's and floats down the aisle with grace, inspiriting the canaries in Eugene's rib cage to sing hymeneals. Never has she appeared more majestic than as she flowed from the vestibule and into the chapel's holy kernel, and those who ensky her are amazed to watch how her beauty shines outwards like the halo she wears. Upon her ascension to the altar, the sunflower princess turns and faces her best friend..
Eugene's heart sprouts wings. He has to readjust his grip on his wrist to stop both hands from flinging back her veil and drawing her into a kiss that says, "From the very first moment that I laid eyes on you as you enchanted a whole kingdom with your magic, I knew that I had found my best friend and my new dream. I have fallen in love with you over, and over, and over since that moment.
You're the strongest and most positive person I've ever met, if not the most noble person I've ever met. Even in the darkest times, you thrive like a magic golden flower. With you I feel appreciated and accepted for who I really am. You've shown me what living really means and what type of man I can be, as well as the type of man I want to become for myself and our little us...or us-es. Your arms aren't just my favorite place to be on earth; they're the warmest home I've never had.
You're my better half, my hero, the very sunshine that feeds me Vitamin D and serotonin, and I still can't believe that I'm actually getting to marry you, Rapunzel. I promise to be loyal to you, to uplift and support you, to guide and challenge you, to protect and pamper you, to annoy and comfort you, and to love every inch of you with every inch of me."
A smile touches the lips behind the lace veil. Tears smile behind Eugene's eyes. To keep the waterworks at bay, he rehearses the vows in his head as he pours his love into her concealed countenance.
"Dearly Beloved," the bishop hums, "we are gathered here today to celebrate the joining of Elsa and Eugene in marriage."
A dolly-zoom effect pulls the background away and homes in on Eugene's face. His small pupils gun down the bishop. "...What...?"
The bishop goes on like the script for this scene has already been rewritten, "To Your feet thy fealty brings, redeemed, reborn, and transformed―"
Eugene breathlessly looks back at his wife-to-be. "Rapunzel...?!" The hands he had been fettering are freed from their clasp to ruck up her veil. "Ra-pun-zel―...!"
Underneath the lifted lace hangs Queen Elsa's head.
"―two outlaws who have rinsed themselves of their crimes through their indentureship to Your kingdoms," the bishop finishes.
Eugene's fingers fall open, staggering back, shaking. Elsa's eyelashes, which are glued together by tears, feather cheeks that hold the same hue rosing her lips and her eyelids. The rest of her is whiter than death. Inch by inch, Rapunzel's impostor hoists her chin with the bravery of a rebel facing her guillotine in the name of honor. Then she hoists her lids at half-mast to bare her misery to Eugene.
...This isn't happening...
Oxygen stops being pipelined to Eugene's brain. The voice trapped inside the cracked eggshell of a skull tells him to breathebreathebreathe dammit youhavetobreathe, to get―the―hell out of here and find Rapunzel, but his limbs don't belong to him anymore. A power beyond his own authority in the kingdom of his bones has colonized them, and there is no escaping it.
...Th-Th-This can't actually―
Saliva is peeled off Elsa's lips by her parting them, but a shudder tumbles out of her mouth in speech's place. Her cleavage balloons against her bodice as her gaze slumps to Eugene's throat. His eyes echo the movement, finding themselves gorging on what is unmistakably a noose.
Eugene can neither articulate his terror nor move his body to do away with the nemesis. The only muscles he can command are the six in his eyeballs that pilot his panic to the hand holding the end of the rope.
"Let's get this over with, Rider."
The arm of the Captain of the Guard tugs while his other hand pushes up the slip knot, snapping the rope straight.
"Mmrph!" Eugene's throat pushes back against the noose's bite, bobbing with trapped oxygen like a balloon with a metal ring around it. "H-Hmph...!" Tears that had once been born from happiness now blind his vision with fear.
Wh-Why is this...h-happen'ning...?
Double images float together and drift apart in a distorted dance, seesawing.
Rap-pun...zel....Rapunzel, where...where are you, Rapunzel?!
Elsa's reaction to Eugene's strangulation is terror.
Elsa...El-Elsa, please...! I'm begging you! Y-You hafta help me!
There is no objection, no rescue, no succor provided by her at all, just some powerless display of submission to the macabre that renders her even more useless to him than he.
Wh-Why aren't you h-helping me...?! Why aren't any of you helping me?!
The bishop appeals the brutally silent audience with a breezy smile, "Who giveth this monster to be married to this thief?"
"I," baaes a character Eugene has never heard before.
He searches, stretching the blood vessels in his eyes as he does, and lands on King Agnarr's face. The skin of a seabound corpse enfleshes the monarch, his lips so blue as to be purple, and his fingertips so purple as to be red. Sea foam bubbles up from his pruney throat and runs down his chin, pitter-patting against his toes in sudsy ropes of spit. Eugene screams against his own teeth, but much like the bishop, the king is bespelled by the ceremony and little else.
"After a drumfire of untoward events," the bishop croons, "the Kingdom of Corona was ravaged by the Great Famine and the Bovi Fever in 1847."
―Eighteen...?! Wh-What're you―
"The blood of those who died at the talons of the Southern Isles during the famine will forever stain our soil."
―Are you out of your mind?! Everyone's right here !
"Since there is no duer debt than His Majesty's promise to compensate Arendelle for having delivered us from bane, our delegations severally agreed and resolved to concur in measures as might best strengthen and secure the internal interests of Arendelle and Corona."
Dammit, I...I can't keep my eyes open much longer...
Eugene weepingly looks for deliverance in Rapunzel's parents, for answers, for help. The sternness that anneals their visages augurs a wicked fate. Corona's once fine people, whom are no longer healthy or merry neither in body nor heart, look upon his suffering without care. All they project is the callosity of bystanders who are inured to public executions. Eugene's eyelids clamp shut, pressing more tears against the hoods until they're able to escape down his goatee.
"In 1846, Queen Rapunzel closed her eyes for the very last time."
Bloodshot eyes jump open. Lungs shrink. Grey matter erodes. Dies.
"Her Late Majesty suffered one miscarriage and one stillbirth during her season as Crown Princess."
―No, th-that's...that's a l-lie!
"In 1846, pregnancy complications compromised her last expectancy to a degree in correspondence with her late mother's―"
―You're LYING! That never happened! We're not even MARRIED yet―
"―but it was blood loss that ultimately took her life."
―She wouldn't―...she'd n-never....
He's sobbing now, sobbing even though he is the only one who can hear it.
Rapunzel wouldn't leave me here all alone...
"Although such laws have been amended by our polities because the subject is eld, the societies of Arendelle and Corona covenant that if a woman dies having no children in her marriage, her kinswoman must marry the widower and let him go inside her to raise up offspring for her."
Air turns into arsine with each evil verse that gores whatever is left of the organ behind Eugene's sternum. His chest feels hard, as if it is filling up with grout and tar calcified together. He doesn't expect or want to respond and keep the topic flowing into this smutty direction. He wants to escape the responsibility of living. He wants his wife
According to the damp, fluttering eyelashes of Queen Elsa, who all but keeps her head forward like a celestial priestess, the supporting actress in this nightmare is fighting the exact same desire, if not the very iceberg in her throat.
"This conjugality between Queen Elsa of Arendelle and King Eugene of Corona will reward the contract between Rapunzel and Eugene Fitzherbert with preservation, prosperity, and posterity."
Seizuring and crying without sound, Eugene transfers his waterlogged attention to Elsa's hands. The infamous death-dealers are sealed inside iron gibbets that strike him with stomach-sickness. Where the lilies have gone alongside his true love are foregrounded on his catalog of concerns when he notices the hand holding Elsa's chains.
"Elsa is preferable, of course."
...But it can't be...
The arm of Prince Hans tugs, snapping the chains straight.
Elsa's side hits his chest with an―"Oof!"―following the impact.
Hans wrestles her face still by hollowing her cheeks with his pointer and his thumb. He leers at the sound of her grunts. His nose wanders down the path that trails from Elsa's temple vein to her throbbing eyelid. The smirk on his mouth tickles the quivering corner of her lips as he purrs, "Wouldn't you agree, Flynn Rider?" When the moment comes for him to smile at Eugene, Hans's face takes on the features of every last one of his demented brothers.
A familiar feeling harpoons Eugene right in the throat―a feeling that he has always hated this family and would sooner see them jugulated than redeemed in the nave of any church, because this is all their doing. Eugene wriggles madly inside the dungeon of his skeleton, but his ivory bars refuse to rattle. With the docility of a circus animal, Elsa does nothing except hide inside the refuge behind her eyelids until Hans unhands her for good. With the blissfulness of a blind officiant, the bishop does nothing to acknowledge the carnival of perversions except continue forth in his own morbid little way:
"No matter what challenges you face, you will now face them together, and no matter how much you suffer, you will now suffer together."
Hans and King Agnarr share the duty of unclasping Elsa's gibbets, both removing each with the polite smiles of relatives meeting each other for the first time. The latter's, reveals itself to be full of green algae and pea crabs.
The bishop's bible closes with the sound of a death knell. "You may kiss the bride."
Funeral music wails from a rather ominous organ. The player isn't facing Eugene, but Eugene knows by memory that the melody is not one of Hook Hand's études. Elsa, who is also crying without sound, steps forward in her lace bridal gown to deliver the coup de grâce. She pushes the noose up and over Eugene's head, making his hair point at the ceiling. His legs shake as the rope slithers into a pile on the floor.
Don't do this...
Eugene can't tell if he's gazing into her eyes; the canvas they peer out of is fuzzy and misshapen behind the pall of tears soaking his beard, but he can feel her icy fingernails stripping his wet forelock off his cheek like dried glue from a patch of skin.
You don't have to do this...!
He can feel her cupping his jaw and smearing away the tears under his eyelids with her thumbs.
He can feel the mucus that cottons his nostrils skating down the groove of his mouth and settling inside its cleft. Elsa inches closer, holding his eyes like a breath. He tics his head, lips bobbing in an attempt to beg. Her consciousness rolls shut as her mouth presses against his the way snow presses against soil. Frost percolates through her kiss and penetrates his tonsils with the sting of one hundred needles heated by fire at the tips.
The atmosphere around Eugene bends into an altar of icicles jutting from the belly of Elsa's ice castle. He weeps louder, feeling the air in his lungs crystallize into ice floes.
Elsa pries her lips off Eugene's pucker with such obscene sensuality that the queen does not seem to be the queen anymore. "Once to numb you from the cold," she whispers, breath pluming out of her mouth in a chilly fog that curls under Eugene's tongue. Her center finger reaches up and traces the vein pulsating on his eyebrow. "Another to make you forget..."
Eugene sobs from the pressure of her jaws bearing down on him again. He can feel every sharp blade of rime on her tongue, every fang of ice that chandeliers the roof of her mouth, and every drop of salt leaving his eye to disappear between their mouths. Elsa's hands squeeze his face as she inhales both his soul and his identity, infiltrating the frozen lobes of his brain with horrifying hunger. Cold palms drop from his face to his torso before pressing flat against the land above his groin, but he doesn't have the sobriety to be alarmed. The painful sensation of rime growing on his arteries is numbing his bloodstream at lightning speed.
And then his sense of self slips.
He doesn't have a name, or past. The letters of Rapunzel's grow foggier, the pronunciation of it unfathomable. The R goes first; then the a and the p, the u and the n, the z, the e...until there's nothing else. Nothing but a snowflake blinking in the dark like a star, where a quasar of its sisters awaits him. The quasar opens under his feet, widening from the center to reveal the mouth of a black hole.
"Can you hear me, Your Majesty?!"
"Your Majesty, please open your eyes!"