Other Fan Fiction ❯ All Hail the Queen ( Chapter 10 )

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CHAPTER 10: All Hail the Queen

Kai approached Rapunzel. « Madame, there is a small group of
citizens clustered near the gates. They say they have urgent
business. »

Rapunzel looked away from the council minutes she had been
reading and swallowed the dry bread in her throat. « This early in
the morning? »

« They’ve been gathering throughout the night. Some of them are
Arendelle’s most prominent city leaders. Blacksmiths, innkeepers,
priests, a few barons. »

« They’re not angry, are they? »

« Not at all. All they asked for was an audience with you.
There’s only a dozen or so. »

« Okay, I’ll see what they want. »

Kai escorted Rapunzel to the boundary of the opened castle
gates. A group of about ten or so men stood milling about. True to
Kai’s word, they were well-clothed and stood righteously.

One with white bushy hair and a lean figure stepped forward.
« Princess Rapunzel? »

« Yes, » she said, a little irritated. How could anyone mistake
her at this point?

« My name is Pontus Dorathson, owner of the lumber mill. Sorry I
haven’t had a chance to make your acquaintance yet. I’m
representing a much larger group of citizens. The lot of us have
spent the last few days asking people to sign this petition. » He
held up a scroll.

« Petition for what? » Rapunzel asked.

« To make you our queen. »

Rapunzel startled. « Princess Anna is your queen. »

« She’s not queen until a proper coronation. And as I understand
it, you’ve been acting in her stead. »

« She’s in mourning for her sister. »

Another barrel-bodied man, maybe a butcher, spoke up. « We’ve had
a taste of her kind of rule and we don’t like it. It’s
disorganized, indecisive, forgetful-« 

« She makes decisions without thinking them through, » another one
piped up.

Rapunzel scowled. « You have no idea who Anna is. She’s valiant,
cheerful. She’s bold and fearless. »

« You say bold, I say stubborn, » Pontus said. « Absolutely nothing
was accomplished during her rule. In fact, Queen Elsa had to redo
much of her work to avoid certain mistakes. But you? People are
enthralled with you. They say you’re kind and generous and
efficient. »

« Everyone loves you, » the butcher piped up again.

« I’ve only been here a few days, » Rapunzel said.

« And look at how much you’ve done in a few days. Look at how
you’ve affected people around you. I’ve seen it myself. Even with
this dreary weather they’re more joyful than ever. »

« I’m not as practiced as I look. I’m klutzy, naïve. I get
distracted easily. I’m always daydreaming. Besides, it’s Anna’s
right to rule. She’s the princess of Arendelle and I have my own
kingdom–Corona. »

« Exactly. That’s what the petition says. » Pontus unfurled it.
« We’d like Corona to annex Arendelle. We’d become part of your
kingdom and you could be installed as ruler. The whole town’s
behind it. I couldn’t find anyone who wouldn’t sign. »

Pontus stepped forward, forcing her to take the petition. It had
a lot of signatures. Even on the back.

« That’s over eight-five percent of Arendelle right there, »
Pontus said. « Citizen support is not going to be a problem, I
guarantee that. »

« We’ll back you the whole way, » said the barrel-bodied man.

Rapunzel scanned the petition. Pontus and his group didn’t look
like they were going to leave until they got a response.

« Can I have some time to think about it? » Rapunzel asked.

« Of course, it’s very late, » Pontus said. « Just ask any of us if
you need some help. We’re with you all the way. »

The group of « concerned citizens » turned around and left, with
some shifting of the guards to encourage them. Even without a « no »,
they still weren’t willing to accept defeat. Rapunzel took a deep
breath as they walked away.

She returned to the castle and found Anna’s room. She was sound
asleep, no longer sprawled out on the covers, but tucked in. Olaf
lay next to her, slumped against the dresser and dozing. Rapunzel
brushed a sprig of hair from Anna’s eyes.

The proper queen looked at peace, while Rapunzel had a storm
inside her. She’d have to know about this petition. But how could
she ever tell Anna that her own people didn’t want her? That her
own cousin, who’d only arrived a few days ago, had swept the
kingdom out from under her.

She didn’t mean to do it. But denying an entire city’s desire
for change would result in some unhappy citizens. And they still
didn’t have a proper answer yet. How was she supposed to respond to
such a proposal?

And the worst part about it? Rapunzel was afraid she might say
yes.


Elsa shouted down into the galley. « Captain! Captain! We have a
big problem. » Her eyes never tore from the pirate ship.

Ariel took a different route. « We can help. Come on. » She ran
into their quarters.

« Ariel, wait! » Elsa ran after her.

Ariel reached for the canvas tarp next to her bed. Elsa grabbed
her hands. « If you bring out your trident and start doing magic,
it’ll expose us. »

Ariel stiffened. « If you would just explain-« 

« They don’t listen. They never listen. I gave them a fake name
for a reason, » Elsa said. « If they knew who I am, they’d become
afraid of me. »

« No, they wouldn’t. You could help protect the ship. »

« Don’t you remember? The last ship I was on capsized
because of my ice powers. Do you know what they call me in
my kingdom? The snow queen. »

« What’s wrong with that? Sounds kinda nice, » Ariel shrugged.

« It’s not nice. It means they think I’m cold and emotionless.
Well, I’m not. I’m deathly scared right now. It’s taking all my
concentration not to start growing icicles. »

Gunhild emerged from the below deck and spotted the problem
right away. « Pirates. » The captain pounded one fist into the other.
« Men! »

Gunhild’s men crowded out through the hatch. « Ridley
Havenstock’s ship, I think. Blast, I thought they’d left these
waters. »

« Maybe they’re after you two? » Gunhild suggested.

« I don’t see how. No one knows where we are. That’s why we had
to get back to Arendelle, » Elsa said. « What do we do? »

« Prepare to be boarded. The wind speed is theirs. They’re
approaching at ten times the knots this ship can muster. If they
don’t know you’re here, all they’re after is wealth or supplies, »
Gunhild said.

« We need to hide. Do you have any secret compartments? » Ariel
asked.

« The hold, captain, » Cookie said.

« Right. They won’t look there. Follow me. » Gunhild walked across
deck to a large square door. Cookie and Hagar untwisted a lock,
revealing a ladder into a cavernous cargo hold. The pungence of
salt and blood smacked their noses.

« Apologies for the smell, » Gunhild said.

« At least no one will look for us here, » Elsa said, wrinkling
her nose. « No one would want to. »

They descended fast, Ariel still holding her wrapped trident. It
felt like a crypt–a mausoleum for dead fish.

« Tuck yourselves into the bow. Try to stay out of sight. »
Gunhild shut the door with little light except for what trickled in
from the slats above.

Elsa paced back and forth, taking deep breaths. At times like
this, she missed the constricting feel of her gloves. Her worst
fear was that someone would look inside and see the hold coated in
thick crusty frost like a freezer.

Ariel’s eyes adjusted to the dim light, inviting a wealth of
horror: a fish’s gouged out eye, a disembodied lobster claw in the
middle of the floor, glistening scales and shredded fins, the top
half of a crab’s carapace. Ariel’s breath quickened.

« Elsa… » Ariel mouthed.

Three heavy foot stomps interrupted them. A warning. This was
followed by snapping ropes and shouts.

Something metal banged against the side of the ship. A
cannonball? No. Something had jammed itself into the railing. A
wide shadow passed over them–the pirate’s ship sail.

Elsa and Ariel backed further into the hold, to the cramped bow
where the walls convexed around them. It was their best chance, to
stay hidden in the dark.

« It’s right next to us. » Ariel and Elsa slid down to the floor,
arms wrapped around each other.

Silhouettes suddenly appeared above them, swung over on ropes.
The hold boomed as their heavy boots landed on deck.

« This, » someone announced with a dramatic flair, « is what we
call a raiding party. Everyone cooperates, no one gets hurt. » His
boots were thin and black with pronounced heels.

« This is a fishing boat. We’ve got nothing, » Gunhild’s voice
said.

« We’ll be the judge of that, » the pirate captain said. « Every
ship’s got its secrets. »

« We don’t even have a catch yet. We’ve got less than nothing.
Most expensive stuff is in our larders. »

« Then that’s what we’ll be taking. It’s good to pillage the
small ships every once in a while. Keeps the big ships confused and
guessing. Keeps the fear in you folk. »

They heard people walking around on deck, opening doors, making
threats. The pirates had started their search. Footsteps descended
into the cabins.

Ariel started trembling. Elsa touched her cheek. Was her cold
spreading? No, it was from fear.

« Shh, it’s okay, » Elsa whispered. She had to forget about
controlling herself right now and help someone else.

« There’s nothing here for you, » Gunhild announced. « Just hurry
up and search so you can go. »

A pause. « That’s the sort of thing someone hiding something
would say, » Ridley said. He began patrolling the deck, as if
waiting for something to appear.

Ariel began to whimper. Tears formed in her eyes.

« Shh, stay quiet,. » Elsa said.

« I can’t, » Ariel said. « There’s so much death here. »

« Just close your eyes. »

« It doesn’t work. I can still smell it. My hand. » She jerked her
hand from the floor. « It’s like the floor’s coated in blood. I can
still feel it. »

Elsa held her close. She hadn’t held her sister this close when
she was upset. But now she did to protect their lives. Ariel
whimpered in sobs.

Ridley’s boot steps stopped. Elsa’s breath seized. He traipsed
to the other side and halted. Something clicked. Nothing happened
for a span that seemed to last forever.

The hatch opened. Elsa held Ariel back, trying to shrink further
into the darkness.

A pirate lackey bent in, holding a lantern.

« S’two girls down here. Hiding. »

« All ships have their secrets, » Ridley said to Gunhild. To his
lackey, « Bring them out, Charlie. »

« Come on, you two, » Charlie said.

Elsa and Ariel didn’t move.

« Ladies, we already seen ye, » he said in a voice raspy with
years of shouting over sea water. « We can do this the easy way or
the hard way. »

Elsa’s first instinct was to remain still. Maybe pretending that
nothing happened would confuse him. Then she became aware of her
quick heartbeat, her trembling fingertips. Much more and she’d lose
it. Maybe the seat below was already tinged with fractals of
frost.

She sighed and stood, trying to act regal. Ariel followed her to
the ladder.

« Well, look at these lovely two, » the pirate captain said as
they emerged into the sunlight. He wore a crimson coat with gold
lining and black boots. One hand rested on the rapier in his
belt.

« Quite a catch, eh? » Charlie said in a cockney accent. « Be a
hell of a fish story, in’it? »

Daddy always said I’d wind up on some fish-eater’s hook,
Ariel thought. I don’t think this is what he meant
though.

« Entertainment for the crew? » Ridley asked Gunhild.

« Passengers, » Gunhild replied.

Ridley laughed. « You take on passengers and the best you can
give them is the hold? With the stink of fish guts? » Ridley threw
back his head and laughed. His crew copied.

« They were staying in my quarters, » Gunhild said,
emphasizing each word.

Ridley pulled Elsa’s right hand up. « Soft as silk. Nobility, me
lads. Take off your caps. » He took off his large tricorne hat and
bowed his head. « If you’ll accompany me onto my humble vessel, I
can assure you much better accommodations. And if you didn’t
understand the implication, this is not an offer you can
refuse. »

« I’ll not have it. » Gunhild stepped closer to Ridley, who was
taller and leaner. « Take whatever you want from the ship. Take me.
But leave them alone. »

« No. » Elsa put a gentle hand on Gunhild’s shoulder. To Ridley,
« If you leave them alone, we’ll come without a fight. »

Ridley’s eyes softened.

« Come on, captain, they got nothing for us, » Charlie
whispered.

Ridley raised his hand. « I know a sound deal when I see it.
Don’t need you to point it out. » To Elsa, « Fine. Agreed. Grab your
things and we’ll be off. »

Ariel hefted the wrapped trident, pretending it was luggage. Two
men seized their arms, crooking them into their sweaty elbows. They
crossed a plank between the two ships as the remaining crew swung
back across. Once aboard, the pirates shoved them forward. They
dropped to hands and knees on the scabby, waterlogged wood.

« Easy, easy, lads, » Captain Ridley said. « No one pays for
damaged merchandise. »

The pirates detached their grappling hooks from Gunhild’s
vessel. Across the gap, Elsa nodded back to the captain, indicating
not to worry. In few minutes time, the pirate ship was cruising
toward open sea.

« You should know, it’s bad luck to have a woman on board, » Ariel
said.

« I’ll take my chances, » Ridley said.

« It’s true, » Elsa said as she rose. « The last ship I was on
capsized. That’s why I was taking passage with them. »

Ridley threw back his head and laughed, as did the crew. He
pinched Elsa’s chin, raising her eyes to his. « What’s your name,
lass? »

« Lady Idun. »

« Of what house? We’re looking for someone who’d pay a pretty
ransom for you. »

« House? I… I don’t know. It’s complicated. »

« No heirs? No lands? Titles? Come on, don’t take me for a
fool. »

« No one I know would pay for my return. And even if there was, »
Elsa gritted her teeth. « I wouldn’t let them do business with the
likes of you. »

« You better think of something. Because if there’s no one who’ll
pay for your safe return, you’re just an extra mouth to feed. I’ll
maroon you on the first spit of rock I see. Let the gulls pick your
bones. »

« Then you wouldn’t get your ransom, would you? »

« Hey, get a load of this, » said a crewman with dark skin and
tattoos. With one quick tug, he took Ariel’s precious treasure out
of her grasp. It began to unwrap.

Ridley’s eyes lit up at the first glint of gold. « Ooh, what have
we here? »

« Don’t touch that, it’s mine, » Ariel said.

Ridley held the trident up, tested its heft. « This is quite a
big fork for a little lady. » The crew laughed. « Though something
tells me you’re no fisherwoman. »

« That is a family heirloom. And it is not yours, » Ariel
said.

« Everything’s mine, » Ridley answered. « I just haven’t picked up
all of it yet. »

« You look good with it, Cap’n, » a crewman said.

« Don’t I though? Like a right proper deity. » Ridley paraded up
and down the deck like a king having just conquered a nation. The
crew bowed and chanted « your majesty » in jest.

Elsa leaned into Ariel. « He can’t use the trident, can he? » she
whispered.

« Um… no. Except… he can still shoot lightning. »

« But he’d have to know how, right? » Elsa asked.

Ariel didn’t respond with words, but pointed. « Elsa, look. »

The sun had sunk halfway under the water. Elsa’s heart raced so
hard her chest was starting to hurt.

Ridley stood in front of the two of them, still holding the
trident.

« Ladies, welcome aboard. If you can’t already tell, whatever
title you previously held is now defunct and gone. I am your sole
judge, king, and emperor. » He swept the trident at them. « Now
answer the question or there’ll be consequences. And need I remind
you, one ransom’s as good as two. »

Elsa ‘s fingers trembled and her knees shook. Her throat
tightened.

And nothing helped when she glimpsed a furrow of frost creeping
out from her feet, heading toward Ridley.

When You Fish Upon a Star
The Gloves Come Off