By the D23 Team
The Twisted Tales anthology series of books has been putting unique spins on classic Disney tales since the first book debuted in 2015. The series has asked questions like, “What if Aladdin never found the lamp?” or “What if Anna and Elsa never knew each other?” Now, the Twisted Tales series is getting tangled up in a new story, this time asking, “What if Rapunzel’s mother drank a potion from the wrong flower?” In the film Tangled, Rapunzel’s mom uses the Sundrop flower to heal herself and deliver Rapunzel as a healthy child—albeit, a healthy child with magical healing powers! In this twist on the story, Rapunzel’s mother mistakenly uses the Moondrop flower instead. She and her child are both still healthy, but Rapunzel is born with silver hair and harmful powers—powers that lead to her being locked away for the safety of the kingdom!
Rapunzel does not leave her tower for eighteen years—until, one day, she decides to flee so she can finally see the beautiful, floating lights that appear every year on her birthday. Her escape is aided by faces both familiar and new: Flynn Rider and a would-be outlaw named Gina join her on the unexpected adventure.
The book hits shelves September 7, but you can read an exclusive excerpt of What Once Was Mine by Liz Braswell now:
“We’ll hang out here for a while,” Gina said. But her eyes glanced quickly to Flynn, to see what the more experienced adventurer would do.
He shrugged “I don’t have any pressing appointments anywhere. Though I do need to visit the local branch of my bank and make a quick withdrawal at some point.”
Ha-ha, Rapunzel thought, unconsciously grasping her bag more tightly, feeling the edges of the crown. If he only knew!
“ …And maybe you can tell me what this is all about. Why you need me, what exactly is going on.”
He sat down on a lichen-covered stone that tilted at an uneasy angle. Then he smiled and raised an eyebrow at Rapunzel… which made her feel uneasy.
His eyes were light, light brown like the dark honey that came at the end of the summer when the sumac and serious bushes bloomed. His eyebrows were heavy and expressive but didn’t overwhelm his face. His mouth kept pulling to one side in that smile… there was something a little fake about it, but also something a little endearing. Like he was trying very hard to be suave and mysterious. And didn’t realize how obvious it was.
“Hey,” Gina said loudly, interrupting Rapunzel’s train of not-really-thought. “Man wants a story.”
“Right. So.” Rapunzel cleared her head and took a deep breath. “Once upon a time, in a lonely tower in the middle of the woods, a girl…”
“Who’s this?” Flynn asked.
“Me,” Rapunzel said, exasperated.
“Wait, you lived in that freakish plague tower?”
“Yes! Are you even listening? I and my mom lived there… well, she lived there more when I was younger. Now it’s mostly me. Also, there was no plague,” she added. “Those signs were put there to keep people away, I think.”
“You lived by yourself in a tower your whole life?” It could have come out sounding sarcastic, or disbelieving… but there was a note of genuine horror in Flynn’s tone. “Like a prisoner?”
She started to say no, but stopped: she had been literally sent to the tower for her crimes. “Kind of. This is the first time I’ve ever been down. I mean—outside.”
“Whoa,” Gina said.
Rapunzel didn’t like the looks of pity on their faces. She had been happy there, mostly, and it was all for everyone’s good. There was nothing to pity her for.
“Anyway, it was all pretty much the same, same things every day, same things out the window every season, except that every year around now, beautiful golden lights float up into the sky from somewhere northwest of here.”
“You mean the lantern thing they do for the dead princess?” Gina and Flynn asked at the same time.
“Jinx!” they both immediately said.
“Buymeapint,” they shouted at the same time, pointing at each other. Then they began laughing.
“Wait,” Rapunzel said, completely mystified. She didn’t not like the way her two new friends were becoming friends. But she didn’t love it either. “Lanterns? That float?”
“Yeah, the little candles in the paper lantern make them rise up into the air,” Flynn said with a shrug. “They do it every year to commemorate the death of the queen’s only child.”
“Oh. That’s… sad.”
All those years, all the things Rapunzel imagined the floating lights to be. She knew they weren’t stars, because they didn’t stay; she knew they weren’t meteors or comets, because they went up, not down. Never did she guess it was a man-made phenomenon—well known, at that. And for such a sad reason! Not a very joyous marker of her birthday week after all.
“Well,” she said aloud. “I want to see them. And I want you to guide me there,” she added, to Flynn.
“I could totally take you to see the lanterns!” Gina protested. “You don’t need this guy.”
“Absolutely true,” Flynn agreed. “You don’t. This girl can take you. Afraid I’m not on good terms with the kingdom at this moment.”
“What’d you steal this time?” Gina asked interestedly.
“A crown. Nice one, too. Anyway, I’m not going anywhere near that place. And also, there’s a lot of other things on my plate right now. The Stabbingtons are after me… I have to line up a buyer… Really, it’s not a good time.”
“You haven’t even asked what I’ll pay you,” Rapunzel said innocently.
“You don’t have enough,” Flynn promised. Then he turned to Gina and said in a theatrical whisper, “This is where she offers her necklace, or a bracelet, or some other rich girl trinket I couldn’t pawn even if I wanted…”
“How about a crown?” Rapunzel suggested.
Flynn grew very, very still.
“Uh-oh,” Gina said with a wicked grin.
“What, um—what crown?” Flynn asked casually.
“The one that you stole. The one that the Stabbingtons want back. The one that you hid, rather obviously, in a tree hollow,” Rapunzel said smugly, crossing her arms. “Diamonds, pearls, about my size… You know, that crown?”
“That’s my crown! Give it back! I stole it fair and square!” Flynn cried, leaping up.
“You mean you stole it from the castle, or you stole it from the Stabbingtons?” Gina asked interestedly.
“Doesn’t matter,” Flynn said, crossing his arms and setting his jaw childishly. “It’s mine now.”
“Well, no, it’s mine,” Rapunzel said. “At least until you take me to see the lanterns, and home again. Then it’s yours.”
“You must have seen me hide it! In the tree!”
“Déduction très brillante,” Rapunzel said archly.
“Really??” Gina asked, throwing her hands in the air—a lot like Mother Gothel when she was playacting exasperated anger. “You’re paying him a whole crown to take you to see
the stupid lights?”
“Well, you knew I didn’t have anything to pay you with,” Rapunzel protested.
“You have a crown,” Gina shouted.
“But it’s not yours,” Rapunzel said.
“See?” Flynn nodded his head. “You do get it.”
“I mean,” Rapunzel added, “I figured this crown would be worth a lot more to the guy who originally stole it and is being chased, than, you know, just anyone.”
Gina gave her a look.
“It’s a crown,” she pointed out. “Apparently one with diamonds and pearls. You could hire everyone at the Snuggly Duckling ten times over for that.”
“But the wanted posters implied that he’s dangerous, and a fugitive, and wily, and just the sort of antihero I need to protect people from my h—I mean, me.” Rapunzel dug into her satchel—being very careful not to make any clinking noises around the crown—and pulled out the now very folded poster. “Sorry, Gina. I just didn’t know about you.”
“No one does,” Gina mumbled, kicking a stone.
“No way,” Flynn swore, tearing the poster from Rapunzel’s hand. “They got my nose wrong again. This is like the fifth time. What do I have to do, pose for the royal guard?”
He held it up to his face and tried to copy the expression.
“Stop complaining,” Gina snapped. “‘Aw, I’m soooo famous that they print up soooo many different pictures of my face, getting them wrong.’ Geez, tough life.”
“All right, all right, I’ll do it,” Flynn said with a forced, world-weary sigh, ignoring Gina completely. “But only because my life is in danger and I really need that crown.”
“And I get a share,” Gina said.
“Why do you get anything?” Flynn demanded. “You’re not taking the lady to see the lanterns.”
“I led her to you. And I saved your life.”
Gina and Flynn glared at each other.
Rapunzel now found herself wishing that her new friends were where they’d been five minutes ago, when they had been full of nothing but compliments and congratulations for each other.
“All right,” Flynn said, rolling his eyes. “A share. I’m such a softie.”
“Yes!” Gina whispered a little too loudly, pumping her fist in victory.
Rapunzel wanted to ask exactly what a share of a solid crown meant exactly (a single diamond? A broken-off flourish?) but decided that since the two were now working together to get her to where she wanted to go, she wasn’t going to complicate things by bringing it up.
She was finally going to get to see the lanterns, and nothing could possibly go wrong.