Other Fan Fiction ❯ Chosen ( Chapter 8 )

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CHAPTER 8: Chosen

Ariel pushed the small ice floe across the coast. Elsa sat
cross-legged and cross-armed, like Ali Baba on a magic carpet. Her
face remained grim.

The witch’s words had given no comfort. She didn’t expect to
like it, but the vague words and ideas were little better than
storybook fables. And they gave no resolution. She glanced back at
Ariel, who had a similar grim smile.

Ariel flicked her tail and changed direction to a grassy knoll
on a sandbar, allowing privacy.

« Phew. » Ariel released the iceberg and shook her hands. « So
cold. »

« Ice usually is, » Elsa said.

Ariel stuck her fingers in her armpits and shivered. « Do you
still have the bottle? »

Elsa pulled out the stoppered bottle of red sludge. « You want to
drink it now? »

Ariel turned towards the horizon, where the barest kindle of sun
lightened the dark sea. « Let’s wait until sunrise. I want to make
sure it works. »

Elsa smoothed her dress and sat on the sand. Ariel pulled up
onto the sand next to her.

« So, this Ursula was a bad one? » Elsa asked, making
conversation.

Ariel nodded. « I only went to her because I was desperate. I had
this grotto where I kept all my human knick-knacks and thingamabobs
from sunken ships. One day my father found out about it and
destroyed them all. » She held up the trident in her hands. « He was
so… angry. He said ‘So help me, Ariel, I am going to get through
to you. And if this is the only way, so be it.' »

Elsa shuddered.

Ariel continued, « He just left me there, crying on a rock. I
guess, when I went to her lair, I was trying to get back at him as
much as achieve my own dream. »

« Go to your father’s enemy. Yeah, that would do it. » Elsa mused.
« My father was protective, but he was right to be. I almost killed
my sister with my powers. She was able to get better, but it meant
erasing her memory. From then on, he thought it was best just to
not ever use my powers. That meant keeping my emotions under
control. » She heaved a deep sigh. « Conceal, don’t feel. »

Elsa dug her hand into the wet, cool sand, remembering the
gloves she always used to wear. Grains like tiny fingers massaged
her skin. With a quick flash, the water within froze. Elsa held up
her hand. A craggy chunk of sand coated her upper arm. Ariel
giggled.

« Are all kings like that? Stubborn and strict and
over-protective? Or is it just fathers? »

« I don’t know. Maybe it’s both. I’m lucky to have known my
father as long as I did. He died when I was eighteen. I know others
who don’t know their fathers or didn’t grow up with them. My cousin
didn’t even know she had a father until she was eighteen. » Elsa sat
back on her elbows in the sand. « All part of being royalty, I
guess. All the families and betrothals to form alliances or combine
treasuries. »

« I haven’t met that many human kings. Eric isn’t a king yet, but
does most of the king stuff–meeting with people, doing
treaties–that kind of thing. »

« You haven’t met that many kings? And you’re a princess? What do
you do all day? »

« Um… » Ariel scratched the back of her head. « You know, I just
thought of something. I’m going to need some clothes after I drink
this. »

Elsa looked for any clothes on the beach, as if they would
magically appear. « I guess I can go into town and find something.
It’s a little early though, I don’t know if there’ll be any shops
open. » She started up the sand hill. « Don’t go anywhere. »

« I won’t, » Ariel said. She slipped back in the water to keep her
tail moisturized.

The walk to the marketplace wasn’t long. Merchants busied
themselves setting up their stands for the day–pulling out signs,
arranging baskets of fruit, hanging goods. Elsa found one pulling
out clothing from a wooden crate and asked if she were willing to
make exchange this early. The clothier produced an elegant peasant
gown with yellow fabric. It split at the waist, revealing the white
skirt underneath and Elsa especially liked the taffeta below the
neckline. She purchased it, along with some undergarments.

On the way back, she spied the town’s wharf and realized they
also needed a way back home. The harbormaster–a gruff,
barrel-bodied man with a black mustache and striped shirt–stood
near the marina’s entrance, pointing and yelling at sailors not
watching the rules. A stink-fog of salty sea garbage and dying fish
surrounded them.

« Excuse me, » Elsa said. « Are any of these ships heading to
Arendelle today? »

« Arendelle? » He plucked his ledger out from his waistband. « Aye,
there’s a fishing vessel down the way. Ask for Captain Gunhild. » He
pointed down to a ship at the end of the dock. Elsa recognized its
blue-green flag as one she’d seen in Arendelle’s port.

Elsa thanked the man and walked toward the ship as gracefully as
she could. It took all her concentration to keep her skinny legs on
the warped wooden boards.

Various workers scampered around the ship like prairie dogs,
knotting ropes and hauling crates. Elsa called to the man standing
on the ramp.

« Is this boat going to Arendelle? »

« Eventually, » he said. « Once we make a catch. Then we’ll deliver
it, sure as you’re born. Why? »

« I need passage there. »

Gunhild laughed. « This ain’t no galleon, m’lady. It’s a fishing
vessel. »

« I need to leave as soon as possible. Please. I can pay for
passage. »

Gunhild began coiling a rope. « I don’t know. They say it’s bad
luck to have a woman on board. Pretty as you are. »

« What does it say about two? » Elsa asked.

The supervisor stopped coiling. « Ummm… »

« I have another passenger coming with. And believe me, you will
have no smoother waves than with her on board. » Elsa smiled.

« Rather presumptuous for someone who hasn’t even given me her
name yet. »

« Lady… Idun, » Elsa said, thinking of her mother’s name. She
curtsied.

Gunhild stood straight. « A noblewoman? Please forgive me. I
misjudged you by your clothes. My name is Gunhild, and my ship is
yours. We’ll be ready to undock within the hour. Can you be here by
then? »

Elsa sighed. « That’s fine. I’ll go get my friend, and we’ll
arrive shortly. »

They said their goodbyes and Elsa headed back to the beach. If
she had given her real name, the captain would have accepted out of
intimidation. People fawned or groveled in her presence. But behind
her back, they feared, even when she’d hurt no one. And in numbers,
they had mob strength behind them. Being a noblewoman was
enough.

When Elsa set foot on the sand, Ariel poked her head out of the
water. « Here you go. » She handed the dress to Ariel. « There’s ship
going back to Arendelle within the hour. »

« And from there, I can find passage back to my kingdom, » Ariel
said.

Elsa nodded. « But I think you should stay–at least for a little
while–to help us figure out why this happened to us at the same
time. I was originally going to Corona to find pyramite, but
now… » Elsa looked into the distance. « I’m not sure there’s a
point anymore. »

Ariel nodded. « Looks like the sun’s risen. » A visible gap lay
between the ocean and the orange-red circle.

« Have you taken the potion yet? »

« I was waiting for you, just in case anything happened. » She
plucked off the stopper off and took a sniff. « Ugh. Well, down the
hatch. » Ariel tipped back the bottle and drained it as fast as she
could. Her eyes squinched at the taste of lard, lemon, wax, acid,
and sour candy. But still she glugged to the last.

She wiped her mouth and set the bottle back in the sand. They
waited a long moment.

« Feel anything? » Elsa asked.

« … not yet. If that woman sc- HURRRK… »

Ariel doubled over, holding her stomach. Her insides felt like a
bruised apple. Pain spread down her spine into her tail. It felt
like a hot sword slicing her from groin to tail, separating each
ligament and disc in her backbone. Hot fire spread from her midriff
to her fluke, lighting every nerve hot.

But the pain in her abdomen began to fade. And then her hips.
The sensation of agony ebbed to a stop. When she felt good enough
to open her eyes, there were two bare legs where her mermaid tail
had been.

« Phew, » Ariel sighed. « That felt like giving birth. Not that I
know what that feels like. »

Elsa took off a decorative sash around her waist and handed it
to her.

« Thanks. » Ariel hoisted herself up. « I- » Her weight fell down
her shins onto her thin feet. « Ow, I- whoa. »

She tipped and fell into Elsa’s arms. « You okay? »

« Feels like knives stabbing into my feet. It’s okay, it’s
normal. There’s no callus built up. »

« Like your foot falling asleep, » Elsa said. « Did this happen the
first time. »

Ariel nodded. « But I was having so much fun I didn’t notice. The
hard part was getting used to being vertical. I used to spend so
much time horizontal. »

Elsa smiled. She helped Ariel get her dress situated.


Rapunzel felt guilty for not crying as much as Anna.

It was a weird feeling. But the fact was she hadn’t known her
family for long. She didn’t know her real mother and father until
four years ago, let alone any extended relatives. She sympathized
with Anna, but she had cried all the tears her body would
permit.

Anna lay spread out on her bed, crying. All Rapunzel could do
was sit next to her and rub her back. She’d hadn’t stopped since
the news. Her stomach muscles must have been sore. The pain of
crying was a strange reflection of the pain inside.

« It sure looks nice outside, » Olaf said, staring out the window.
« The sun is shining. The ice on the leaves looks nice. Ha. The
ice looks nice. I rhymed. See? Anna? »

Anna sniffled, head buried in her pillow. Rapunzel gave Olaf a
look.

Between crying jags, Anna had been able to explain why a talking
snowman lived in the palace. Now that Rapunzel was used to him, she
found him a little annoying. His naïve and dreamy optimism
never turned off.

A knock at the door interrupted.

« I’ll get it, » Olaf declared. He waddled around the bed to the
door. « Maybe it’s cookies. Cookies always cheer me up. »

Olaf wrapped his twig around the doorknob. Prime assistant Kai
stood at the door. His gray face looked like it had aged ten
years.

« Oh. He has no cookies. » Olaf’s face dropped and he walked
away.

Rapunzel stepped up to be inside the doorframe, shielding Anna
from the conversation.

« A thousand excuses, my lady. But it is time for the royal
appointment of ministers, » Kai said.

« Does it have to be now? »

« With regrets, this is a rather timely need. The administrators
of agriculture and medicine need to have their decrees signed into
law. The positions have been vacant for some time. Queen Elsa made
her decision some weeks ago. But it needs to be witnessed by a
quorum of councilmen and judges. And we couldn’t gather enough
until now. »

« This isn’t the best time. Isn’t there a sabbatical from all
royal business for a period of mourning? »

« Yes, but right now, the queen’s considered lost at sea. No one
confirmed seeing her body, and all the crew returned. So many
consider it too early to declare her dead. She may yet send word of
her survival. »

« I wish someone would tell Anna that, » Rapunzel muttered.

« After a certain amount of time, the regent may declare her
death in absentia. Until then, the government is continuing as
before. Which means, if we don’t make the appointment, we won’t be
able to pass certain charters we promised to have drafted by now.
Land allocations and agriculture implements will be delayed. And I
can’t imagine the citizens would be happy hearing that. All that
needs to happen is to make it official. »

Rapunzel bit her lip. Anna’s back shakily rose and fell with
each breath.

« I guess I can do it. For now. »

She followed Kai through the hall and into the throne room. A
set of nine old men and women were milling around, talking in
groups of two or three. They turned their heads to the opening
door.

« Councilors. Acting queen regent, Princess Rapunzel of
Corona. »

Rapunzel leaned out from behind him. She waved.

« Hi. I hope no one minds. Anna’s not here, but she and I are
cousins, so I think I can still authorize important documents. It
just needs to be signed, right? »

One of the judges nodded. « I heard you were helping the princess
while the queen’s away. And… » His eyes locked on the trail of
hair leading into the hallway.

Rapunzel shook hands with everyone. « Yes, I didn’t know about
the disaster until I got here, but I’m trying to help where I
can. »

« If you have time, do you think you could formalize some of the
other decrees that have been waiting? »

« I think I’d rather let Anna do that. She’s the rightful ruler
of the kingdom now. »

« I’m not asking you to blindly sign them, of course. But some of
have been sitting for months. »

« I’m really just here for this one thing. Kai told me it
couldn’t wait. »

She found the ministers of agriculture and medicine that she was
about to appoint and shook their hands. The minister of agriculture
was a kind woman with puffy, gray hair and thick glasses. The
minister of medicine had a lean and hungry look, with small eyes
and a thin goatee.

« Pleasure to meet you, » he said. « Your hair is amazing. I didn’t
even know hair could get that long. How do you get it like
that? »

« Oh, time and care, » Rapunzel said.

« Is this a fashion in your kingdom? Does everyone wear their
hair like that in Corona? »

« No, just me. » She coughed. « Is there something I’m supposed to
sign? »

Kai handed her the document, stating the date and name of the
appointees with a long passage of legal boilerplate.

« It’s already been looked over and approved by the judges. » He
pointed to the wax emblem in the lower left corner.

Rapunzel took the quill from Kai. « By the power invested in me
by the queen regent, I, Rapunzel, princess of Corona, ordain this
law binding to the people and state of Arendelle. »

Rapunzel searched for where to make her mark and chewed her lip.
Each signature was labeled with the signer’s role–judge,
councilman. If it said « queen » she didn’t know what to do. But the
label said « royal administrator » She guessed she could be that.

The people in the chamber politely clapped when she lifted her
pen. While Kai rolled up the scroll, the new minister of medicine
said, « To tell the truth, I’m not terribly sad to see you
here. »

Rapunzel raised her eyebrows. « Why? »

His eyes listed away. « Anna’s never been seen as a great leader.
Taking responsibilities from her would prove well for us all. »

Kai interjected. « Her parents focused on grooming Queen Elsa,
since she would be the one to take the crown. She took her lessons
in Latin, history, mathematics. Meanwhile, Anna would be getting
into some mischief or riding her pony or taking picnic near the
coast. »

Rapunzel guessed that since they had Elsa doing the work, they
didn’t put up much of a fuss to get Anna to study.

A judge said, « Last year, Elsa got the flu, so Anna had to take
the throne for a few days. She even said ‘how hard could it be’? »
The judge chuckled to himself.

Seems like something Anna would say, Rapunzel thought.
« What happened? »

« Not much. She declared war on all dandelions, for one. »

The group burst into laughter.

« That afternoon, » said another councilor, « was the knighting the
captain of the guard. In the dubbing, she cut his ear. »

« Her assistants had to ‘school’ her in proper terminology on the
spot. She accidentally impeached the bed sheets. Then she appointed
her pony as minister of finance. She had to excuse herself to the
bathroom before it ended. »

« I don’t think there was one thing she didn’t bungle one way or
another, » said a third councilor. « We started calling her ‘her
accidency’ behind her back. »

Rapunzel laughed along with the others, mostly to be polite.
Were they treating her as a joke, or laughing in good humor? Did
other citizens feel this way? As funny as it was to imagine, what
would happen when Anna did come to the throne? « Maybe I will have a
look at some of those documents. »

Since the councilors had all gathered together, examining
proposals didn’t take long. In fact, it was kind of fun. The
legalese didn’t bother her, since she’d read all those law books.
In fact, it was kind of fun finding where holes needed to be
plugged in the constitutionality.

But then she remembered Anna and excused herself when a fair
chunk of the work was done. At least she had saved the poor girl
from some tedious labor.

Back in the Anna’s room, Olaf was trying to tell a joke. « Okay,
here’s one I just came up with. Why do snowmen have such cold feet?
Because they’re brrrr-footed. Get it? I thought of that after
seeing you and Rapunzel walking around. You two are like sisters…
oh. »

Anna’s cries reached a new level of intensity.

« Maybe we should try giving Anna some time alone, » Rapunzel
whispered. She needed a break from mourning and Olaf needed a break
from trying to cheer Anna up.

« Oh, sure, » Olaf said. « I love walks. You get to see the sun,
and all the flowers. Oh, well, not now. But the ice is nice too.
Hey, that rhymed. »

Rapunzel put on some cleated boots. Olaf’s little feet fluttered
while the other globes of his body remained still.

« It’s a beautiful kingdom, » Rapunzel said. « I wish I could have
seen it when it was green. »

« Pfft, Rapunzel, kingdom’s aren’t green. The grass is green. And
leaves. And trees. And that thing on your shoulder. »

Rapunzel noticed Pascal coming out of the warmth of her hair. He
shivered. She patted his head. « Sorry, Pascal. This isn’t the kind
of weather you’re used to. »

Pascal croaked and gave a firm nod.

Olaf gasped. « Oh, look at him. He’s so cute, he’s like a tiny,
green reindeer. »

Guards opened the large double doors to the village proper. The
aroma of smoke accompanied the crisp frost in the air. They
followed their noses to the town square.

Townspeople stood around a campfire. They patted their sides and
stayed close together.

« Ooh, fire’s not so good for me. Even with my personal flurry, »
Olaf said.

But Rapunzel wasn’t listening. She approached cautiously,
figuring out what was going on.

« My fishes are fine, but everything else is almost gone. My
berries, the sweet cream. I won’t have any yeast for bread, » said a
townsperson in a baker’s outfit.

« It’s an insidious cold, » his partner said. « Not enough to
freeze, but not warm enough for comfort. »

« Doesn’t help that others are pinching their pennies. They know
what happened last year. »

Rapunzel interjected. « If there’s food going bad, maybe we can
get others to come. There’s a warm fire here, and we can make it…
sort of a party. »

The two looked at each other and shrugged. « Might as well, » one
citizen said. « Going to waste in the larder anyway. »

Olaf and Rapunzel split up and went door-to-door asking people
to join them. Many declined, but Rapunzel mentioned how important
it was to keep spirits high when everything looked drab and gray.
Each citizen took what wood and food they had and contributed at
the town’s square.

Soon the bonfire was two persons high, and an assortment of
strange but diverse food had been laid out. Pascal sat on a barrel,
changing colors while boys and girls watched and laughed. He didn’t
mind, as they kept dropping chunks of bread and cream. The darting
of his tongue delighted the children even more.

Olaf walked around the outskirts of the crowd, waving his twig
at everyone. « Hi, hi there, how you doing? Liking the fire? Don’t
get too close. Very hot. First-hand experience. »

Many wanted to talk to Rapunzel. They had seen her with Princess
Anna and had questions for the girl with seventy feet of hair. And
it gave Rapunzel a chance to listen to their sentiments.

« As far as I know, the treasury’s got enough for a while. There
aren’t any big debts. The ground isn’t frozen. »

« There’s no point to soft ground if there’s no sun. » The crowd
grumbled affirmative.

« I’m sure we can find a way to get back in business. Maybe
there’s an advantage we haven’t figured out. Mushrooms don’t need
sun to grow, » Rapunzel grinned.

« Hmm, that’s a good point, » someone said.

« It’s depressing though. Who wants to live in a world where it’s
always cloudy? »

« Further north, it’s often night for months at a time, » Rapunzel
said, « And people live up there just fine. But I believe we’ll
think of a solution. These clouds are still lower than the
mountains. »

« What? Are you suggesting we climb to the mountain and kick the
clouds away? »

« Maybe. Nothing’s impossible, » Rapunzel said. « We just need to
think about it. With some hard work and enough people looking at
the problem, I’m sure we’ll come up with a solution. »

« Maybe giant mirrors can reflect the sunlight, » someone
said.

« There you go. If we can’t get past the clouds, we’ll find a way
to around them. »

That got the pleasant, optimistic laugh she’d been hoping for.
She left out that the kingdom’s smartest people couldn’t figure
anything out.

Olaf turned his head backwards to the noise. Not looking where
he was going, he collided with the barrel. It teetered back and
forth until Pascal landed in Olaf’s torso.

Pascal burrowed in his body, trying to find a way out, as Olaf
squiggled around. « Ooh, that’s an interesting sensation. Ah, ooh,
ah, hey. Oh, that feels weird. » The snowman held his torso, as if
having stomach pains. Pascal burst out his head through his chest.
Olaf pressed his hands to his temples and screamed. « Aaaaaah… oh,
there you are. »

Confident Pascal was okay, Rapunzel moved through the crowd,
spreading her new attitude. First she talked to the bakers.

« No, really, I’ve done it before, » she said. « It’s six teaspoons
of cornmeal, two of flour, a cup of scalded milk and a quarter
teaspoon of baking soda. »

« But there’s no yeast. How does it rise? »

« It’s the bacteria in the cornmeal and flour. It’s denser and
more crumb-y than regular bread. And it takes longer. But once you
get the starter going… »

« Amazing, » the baker said. « If it sells, we could double our
production once the sun comes back! »

« Wow. A queen who bakes, » an old lady said. Some of the elders
who whiled away the hours had also joined in.

« Oh, I’m not a queen. Not yet. And not here, » Rapunzel said.

« Maybe you should apply for an apprenticeship, » the old lady
joked.

Rapunzel shirked away, smiling. But the people around her
expected a response. She didn’t know what to say. They wanted to
hear something she wasn’t ready to deliver.

She didn’t have to. At that moment, the whinny of a horse
sounded streets away, followed by a blood-curdling crash of
splintered wood.

The crowd ran toward the sound in a mass, filtering between
alleyways until they came to the accident. A cart had overturned.
Two horses rushed down the street, their reins flapping behind
them. Behind them lay a broken cart, with a man pinned under.

« Cursed beasts, » he shouted. « A tiny slip startles you?! You-
ERGH! »

Rapunzel slipped through the mob. She gasped. « Are you
hurt? »

« I’ve got a cart laying on me! » He coughed, sputtering something
in his mouth. Rapunzel hoped it wasn’t what she thought it was.

« Roll it off him, » someone shouted.

« You fool, that will break his ribs for sure. A wrong shake
might kill him. »

« They’re already broken. Someone find a jack. »

« That’ll take forever. »

« Do something! » The man coughed again. « Feels like I’m
drowning. »

Rapunzel’s eyes darted around the environment. She pulled her
hair into a pile at her feet. One end, she handed it to a
bystander. « Tie this around the shafts. Make it tight! »

Before he could say « wha? », Rapunzel ran off and shimmied up a
lamppost.

« What is she doing? » someone murmured.

Bounding like a cat across the roof, she found two chimneys in
adjacent houses. She tied a swath of hair around each, creating a
pulley. With the remaining slack, she leaned over the roof.
« Ready? »

The man tying the hair around the cart’s axle gave a firm yank.
« Ready! » He turned and saluted.

Rapunzel rappelled off the roof to the gasps of her audience.
Her clean, smooth hair traveled with her. The cart trembled, but
its front lifted only slightly. The man underneath groaned.

Rapunzel the hair as taut as it could get. « Little help! »

Townspeople rushed over and grabbed a handful, pulling like a
tug-of-war. The cart’s nose lifted into the sky, the front wheels
spinning. Those who remained dragged the pinned man from
underneath.

Rapunzel sighed. Someone untied the hair from around the cart.
With a few whips, she unsnarled the rest from the roof, where it
dropped into a neat coil beside her.

« He’s not breathing, » someone said.

Rapunzel’s heart beat like a drum. The crowd rushed closer. « Is
there a doctor anywhere? Can anyone heal him? »

A little boy in the crowd pointed at Rapunzel. « She can. »

Rapunzel swallowed.

« I’ve seen it. It’s her hair. It’s magic. »

The townspeople stopped. She could almost read their minds–« Is
that true? » « Can she do that? » « If she can, she better do it quick,
before he dies. »

Rapunzel knelt down and wrapped her hair once around the man’s
chest. She took a breath and closed her eyes.

« Flower, gleam and glow. Let your power shine. Make the clock
reverse. Bring back what once was mine. »

Behind her eyelids, the bright amber glow began. The hair under
her hands grew warm like the sun.

« Heal what has been hurt. Change the fates’ design. Save what
has been lost. Bring back what once was mine… »

The man’s throat rattled. He took a huge gulp of air.

Rapunzel opened her eyes to see the townspeople gaping at her.
Olaf’s jaw was practically on the ground. Rapunzel’s body tensed as
she remembered how the townspeople treated Elsa when they learned
about her powers. A long moment past as she waited for their
reaction.

One man clapped. Others followed, until it sounded like the
whole town was applauding. Rapunzel stood up, while those around
her clapped her on the back, hugged her, shook her hand.

No going back now, she thought.

Strangled
When You Fish Upon a Star