“Where’s Rider?” the captain of the guards barked. “Where is he? I know he’s in here somewhere.” The captain surveyed the mangy crowd in the tavern. “Find him,” he said to the other guards. “Turn this place upside down if you have to!”
Flynn grabbed Rapunzel, with Pascal still clinging to her hair, and ducked behind the counter. Peeking over the top, Flynn saw the palace guards bring in the Stabbington brothers. Their hands were in shackles. Then he saw Maximus clomp into the tavern and begin sniffing around. That horse! How does that horse keep finding me? Flynn wondered.
Someone reached down and grabbed Flynn and Rapunzel. Flynn cringed, thinking he was done for. But the thug lifted a hidden door in the floor, revealing a secret passageway.
“Go live your dream,” the thug said sweetly.
“I will,” Flynn told him, finding this turn of events bizarre but good. Really good!
“Your dream stinks,” the thug bluntly told Flynn. Then he nodded at Rapunzel. “I was talking to her.” Rapunzel smiled at the thug as Flynn entered the secret passageway.
“Are you coming, Blondie?” Flynn asked her.
Rapunzel looked into the dank tunnel and, after an encouraging smile from Pascal, followed Flynn. The door closed behind them, and Flynn and Rapunzel were suddenly gazing into a long, dimly lit passageway.
Inside the tavern, the royal guards continued their search.
Nobody paid attention to Maximus. The horse was used to it. But Maximus had picked up that scoundrel’s scent, and he followed it until he saw a slight irregularity in the floorboards. He also saw Flynn’s puny footprint. Maximus knocked his hoof against the floor, and a door swung open. Aha!
“A passage?” the captain said, coming up behind Maximus. “Come on, men. Let’s go!” The horse charged into the passage, followed by the palace guards.
Before the captain entered the tunnel, he turned toward the Stabbington brothers.
“Conli, make sure those boys don’t get away,” the captain said to one of his guards. The guard nodded, and the captain disappeared into the tunnel.
“Does that hurt?” one of the Stabbingtons asked the man guarding them. The brothers were a full foot taller than he was. And they looked mean — meaner than any other prisoner that guard had seen.
“Does what hurt?” the guard replied nervously.
BAM! The brothers head-butted the guard so hard that he was slammed to the floor, unconscious. Grabbing a spear, the brothers used their brute strength to break their shackles.
“Play it safe?” one brother asked, pointing to the tavern door. “Or go get the crown?” Smiling evilly, they headed toward the tunnel.
They didn’t care about safety. They wanted the precious crown.
Outside the tavern, Mother Gothel was still watching. If there was one thing Mother Gothel did well, it was watch. She knew that patience would always bring her the greatest reward. So she watched ... and waited.