It is said in stories and legends that magic once existed in every corner of the world, as natural as rain. Those known as mythics — rare beings with mystical properties, practitioners of sorcery, and those born with unexplainable abilities — lived alongside ordinary humans in complementary synergy. Masters of the occult craft freely shared their knowledge with curious acolytes, while human engineers did not hesitate to consult magical solutions to mundane dilemmas. Sea naiads weaved through the surf to guide fishermen to shore through misty waters, and human communities made efforts to protect ancient woodlands and the faeries that dwelled in them from wildfires and logging. But if there ever truly was such a time of magnificent harmony in the Seven Kingdoms, there remains no one alive who can remember it.
The growth of humankind and their technological prowess fed the maw of the great beast of their greed. Whatever bastions were in place to protect the scarcer population of mythics from the encroaching dynasty crumbled brick by brick over the centuries until only rubble remained. The mass of wealth that the great nation of Corona generated over the previous decades had grown so bloated that its holders began to fear of its being drained from them. The king had seen the escalating unrest of the mythic people in his realm as they fought off the teeth of the greedy beast, and became convinced that it was only a matter of time before they formed a united front to rise up and retaliate against the crown. The mysterious and powerful magic wielded by mythics poisoned anxiety into fear, and fear into hatred. Before long, the king announced that something had to be done about these people in order to protect Corona.
The land that had gifted the kingdom with its prosperity — its fertile farmland, the richness of precious metals and stones in the underlying rock, and the fortuitous situation of its trading port with waters from abroad — suddenly became unwelcome to mythics that had been settled there for generations. While the population was forced out in droves, Corona drafted an agreement with other kingdoms describing the threat that mythics posed to humanity and urging all human civilizations to bar mythic citizens and occupants. The leaders of other nations saw the misled paranoia underlying this agreement for what it was and were hesitant to concede to it, but those that relied on Corona for trade feared making a powerful enemy out of its king and felt they had little other choice.
The one exception was the dark kingdom of Diadem, a strong nation known for its fierce warriors and self-sustaining economy. Its proud queen refused to sign the agreement, seeing no reason why she should bow to the whims of a fearful king and banish her people to the wilderness. Corona was enraged by their obstinance and attempted to place sanctions on trade between Diadem and the other kingdoms, but the renowned strength of Diadem’s warriors guarding the trade routes made enforcing them too challenging. Over the years, the two kingdoms settled into a stagnant hostility, with neither side willing to risk war between their peoples, while maintaining openly unfriendly relations, fostering sentiments of hatred and opposition to one another in the youth of each kingdom.
Mythics from all over the Seven Kingdoms sought refuge in Diadem, including powerful families and individuals who offered to add their strength to the royal service. In Corona, mythics and magic became tall tales to frighten children with, and the topic of their very existence soured into taboo. So when Queen Arianna of Corona fell ghastly ill during her pregnancy, her husband, King Frederic, put his faith in science and medicine to save her.
For a few months, Corona celebrated the queen’s miraculous recovery and birth of the princess Rapunzel, but the details of this miracle were never shared with the public. Palace staff who had seen how close to the edge of death Queen Arianna had crept during her pregnancy spread rumors that the king, in his desperation, had sought the aid of a sorcerer who could cure her when all else had failed. But no evidence ever surfaced in support of this claim, and the crown never addressed it.
The joy of the royal family was soon perverted into despair weeks later when the infant princess mysteriously disappeared from her crib in the night. Some believe that this misfortune was actually fate punishing the royal family for forcing mythics into the shadows, and some suspected an act of war by Diadem, but most saw it as an ordinary tragedy. Each year that passed without Rapunzel’s return hardened the king’s heart a little more, and his rule became steadily harsher to reflect his despair. Despite the pain of the kingdom and its rulers, the king and queen sent out hundreds of paper lanterns into the night sky every year on Rapunzel’s birthday to remind her, wherever she was, that they hadn’t given up hope for her homecoming.
It was eighteen long years before that hope culminated in their daughter standing barefoot on the great balcony of the palace beside a scruffy young man who gave the distinct impression of being out of place. The lost princess explained how she’d escaped from the tower she’d been held captive in all her life and met up with the rogue — Eugene — along the way, who had instantly recognized her name and brought her home. Kingdom soldiers were dispatched to the location of the tower according to Rapunzel’s description in hopes of apprehending the kidnapper, but no trace of her was ever found and her fate remains a mystery.
The crimes of Eugene’s past and those of the crew of pub thugs who assisted in Rapunzel’s safe voyage home were pardoned by the crown in gratitude, and Eugene was given his own room at the palace, as he and Rapunzel had become good friends and were loath to part from one another. The king and queen were so overjoyed to have their daughter safely home that they planned to host a week of festivities in celebration, inviting the Coronan public and nobility from each of the Seven Kingdoms to attend.
And although there was little expectation of their participation, King Frederic was moved by grace enough to even extend an invitation to the estranged dark kingdom of Diadem.