Other Fan Fiction ❯ Island in the Sun ( Chapter 18 )

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CHAPTER 18: Island in the Sun

Elsa’s decoded graph matched a small section of coast and isles.
The coordinates pointed to a volcanic island in the seas between
all three of their kingdoms.

At once, Rapunzel ordered the Barefoot Maiden be prepared
to sail. Servants went on ahead to deliver the news while the three
of them stayed to help. Rapunzel healed anyone injured. Elsa
inspected the surrounding area, making sure any stray fires were
out. Ariel helped with clean-up.

Before sunset, the girls rode back, heading to the docks. The
few remaining crewmen were loading barrels of supplies, arranging
ropes, and repairing sails.

The three of them climbed on board. Flynn stood on the deck with
Maximus.

« Ansel’s already on his way to Arendelle, » Flynn said. « Took a
scout ship. Sure was eager to get out and pound some heads. »

« Good. He’ll probably be there by the time we reach where we’re
going, » Rapunzel said.

She stopped, feeling something tickle the back of her head. « No,
Pascal, I told you, not this time. It’s too dangerous. We don’t
know what we’re getting into. » She placed him on Maximus’s saddle
and gave him a pat. He groused, crossing his arms.

« Are you sure you don’t want to wait? It’s going to be nightfall
soon, » Flynn said.

« Then it’s the perfect time for us to go, » Rapunzel said. « I
wish you could come with us. »

Flynn shook his head. « We need to figure out how that fire
started and how it got so out of control. Max insists we need to
start while the evidence is fresh. But are you sure you don’t want
to bring any soldiers? »

« Fate seems determined to keep this quest to us three, » Elsa
said before Rapunzel could reply.

Two men walked up the deck plank, carrying a giant vat of water
between them. « Princess Rapunzel, is this supposed to be on deck?
It could be dangerous if it starts sliding on deck. »

« I’m willing to take that risk, » Rapunzel said.

« What do you need it for anyway? » asked Flynn.

Rapunzel, Elsa, and Ariel met eyes with each other.

« I… like… » Ariel stammered, « to take a bath under the stars.
Yes, it’s one of my nightly rituals. It’s good luck. »

« Speaking of night, it’s time to shove off, » Elsa said after
glancing at the horizon.

The crewmen cleared the deck. Rapunzel and Flynn embraced while
Maximus looked away awkwardly. Elsa pulled down the mainsail. Ariel
took the wheel. Rapunzel hoisted the anchor and waved goodbye to
her husband.

Once the ship was clear of Corona’s ports, Ariel slipped off her
clothes and jumped into the water tank. And not a moment too soon.
The sun flashed before submerging into the ocean.

Ariel cringed as the transformation took place.

« You okay? » Rapunzel asked, coming to her side.

Ariel held up her finger, indicating to wait. Beneath the dark
water, her legs melted together from top to bottom. Ariel released
her breath. « I wonder if that’s what childbirth is like. Thank you
again for the tub, » Ariel said.

« We missed you bunches last time. I’m so glad you can stay up
here now, even if you can’t move far. »

Ariel sat back in her tub. « I don’t think it even matters. »

« What? Why would you say that? »

« Rapunzel, do you think I’m helping at all? »

« Of course! Why would you say such a thing? »

« Elsa can control ice and snow. You can heal people, plus your
hair is super strong. I can’t control my trident and I’ve got to
stay out of sight for half the day. »

« You are helping. Even if we weren’t cursed, we’d want you
along. I like the way we kind of complement each other. »

« But you both have skills to make up for your faults. You know
about art, astronomy, geology, strategy… »

« Well, when you have only a single room, you have plenty of time
to learn, » Rapunzel said.

« Elsa knows about queen things. Laws and government and national
relations. »

« You will too. It just takes experience. »

Ariel looked into the burgeoning night sky. « I had six older
sisters. I was so far down the chain of succession I never thought
I’d be ruling anything. So I just played and explored and did what
interested me. I never dressed up, hated putting things in my hair.
My sisters got so mad when I got away with stuff. They yelled at me
when I was daydreaming in lessons. One time I was late for the ball
in my honor, and then left early anyway. »

« You’ll have your time to shine, » Rapunzel said. « Believe me,
it’s not exciting dealing with all these politics either. »

Ariel wondered if Eric felt the same way. He always got a
certain look when he tried to explain something or the problem he
was facing. Now, she knew it was because she always drifted away
somewhere.

Rapunzel stood up. « I’m going to get some sleep before I take
over for Elsa. »

« I will too, » Ariel said. « Good night. » Her red hair swirled as
she submerged. Above her, the sky wavered and wobbled through the
water.


Ariel woke up in terror. She couldn’t breathe. Vision blacked in
and out. Her chest was about to explode. She flailed her arms until
she found purchase beneath her and pushed.

Water sputtered out of her mouth. She took a great big gasp,
still blind by wet hair over her eyes. Hacking, she pulled it
away.

It was daylight. She was in the water vat, on the boat.

Elsa ran up to her, tipping with the motion of the boat. « Ariel?
Are you okay? »

Ariel felt beneath her torso. She had transformed from mermaid
to human in her sleep. The pain didn’t even wake her up, if there
had been any.

« I’m fine, » she said. « Overslept. Do you think you could get me
some clothes? »

Ariel dried off, got dressed, and joined the other two at the
forecastle. Rapunzel’s hands steered the wheel.

« There it is, » she said, nodding forward. The island they were
seeking lay straight ahead.

Ariel looked through the spyglass. The only flat land lay near
the coast, where lush greenery garnished the beach. A mountainous
volcanic peak in the center occupied the rest, belching obsidian
ash into the atmosphere.

« Hmm, » Ariel said.

« What? » Elsa asked.

« Nothing. It’s just… I think this place is over the Abyss.
It’s an awful place. A dark chasm near Atlantica. Full of creatures
I’d never seen before. The pit monsters are always feeding. They
make huge undercurrents with their mouths. Makes it almost
impossible to escape from. »

« Good thing we’re not going swimming, » Elsa said.

The women anchored the ship, then took the longboat to the
coast. Each wave crashed with the labored breath of a hunted
animal.

The girls pulled the boat up past the tide. « Now what? » Elsa
said. « Do we wait for someone? »

« Didn’t the map have anything to say? » Ariel asked.

« No, it was just an outline of the island. »

The girls kicked at the dirt, waiting for something to happen.
No one felt comfortable moving on until they knew where they were
moving on to.

Tired of standing, Elsa sat in the sand. Maybe this was all just
a loss. She couldn’t believe they had gotten all this way just to
be stopped. What was the point of a map that only took you part of
the way?

« Ohhhh. Now I get it, » Rapunzel said.

« Get what? » Elsa asked. Rapunzel dug in her knapsack.

« The magician’s gaze. That’s what it was talking about. Look. »
She pointed in the distance to a jagged rock formation. « It’s the
rocks. It looks like a magician. See his pointy hat? And his
nose? »

« Oh, I see it! » Ariel gasped. « That long thing is his arm doing
a spell! »

Elsa didn’t see it, but stood up. It was as good a place to
start as any. They hiked up through the trees, approaching the rock
site until they spotted an unusual clearing. Rapunzel burst
through.

« Look! » She pointed up to the magician. « See his eye? We’re
under his gaze. That must be what the sonnet is. It’s a way for us
to navigate the island. ‘I haply dote on thine magician’s gaze /
Command me spell bound my heart to find thine’. »

« Like a treasure map, » Ariel added. « So where do we go
next? »

Rapunzel consulted. « The sun beweeps red tears of flame from
rays / Doth brightest cans’t to match thou brilliant shine.' »

« The sun’s path… we follow the sun? » Elsa asked.

« Go west until we meet whatever the next thing is, » Ariel
finished.

Tracking the sun was difficult amid the trees, but they petered
out as a smell of brimstone pervaded. Each of the girls were
continually wiping their brows and drinking from the canteen.

« This island didn’t look that big from the ocean, » Ariel
said.

« Do you hear that rumbling? Or rushing? » Rapunzel asked.

Elsa pulled back some bushes and a wave of noxious sulfur hit
her nose. A rivulet of lava seeped out of the mountain, slogging
down to the ocean, creating a steamy geyser.

« Oh, the red tears of flame. The sun is hot, so lava would be a
river of sun’s tears, » Ariel said, delighted.

« So how do we cross it? » Elsa looked for a bridge, but could
find none. She could make a bridge of ice, but was worried about it
melting too fast. The library fire had shown her what happened if
she didn’t concentrate enough.

Ariel sidled along the bank toward the mountain. « Hey, there’s a
rope bridge here, » she said. Ash and soot had so so blackened the
rope, they hadn’t initially seen it. Ariel stepped on, feet on the
bottom rope, hands clutching the top.

« Be careful, » Rapunzel called. « That rope looks a little-« 

SNAP

« flimsy. »

The bottom rope snapped. Ariel’s feet dangled before the sharp
tug broke the upper rope as well. Ariel screamed as she tumbled
toward the lava. The rope arced, swinging like a pendulum towards
the other side.

« Hold on! » Elsa said.

Ariel slammed against the cliff face, spinning like a child’s
toy, but kept her grip. Not far from the top, she climbed the rest
of the way.

« All you all right? » Rapunzel called out.

Ariel took a few moments to catch her breath after heaving
herself over the edge. « Just fine, » she called out. « But how are
you going to get across? »

Rapunzel tied the end of her hair into a knot and threw it over
the chasm. « Tie it around that tree, » she said.

Ariel tied it around the thickest tree she could find, smudging
her body with soot in the process.

« Is this going to hurt you? » Elsa asked Rapunzel.

Rapunzel wound herself three times around another tree. « Not a
problem. »

Elsa shimmied along Rapunzel’s hair, hanging like a sloth. She
willed herself not to look at the river of lava, instead focusing
on upside-down Ariel beckoning her across. Her shining red hair was
like a beacon.

Ariel helped her up and over. « Now how are you going to get
across? » Ariel called out to Rapunzel.

« Untie me! » she shouted.

Rapunzel’s unwound herself while Ariel and Elsa loosed her. She
shimmied up the tree to the top, then gathered her hair into a
coil. Like before, she lassoed a barren tree branch on the other
side. With its inertia, the knot wrapped around tight. Rapunzel
gave it a few tugs, then took a breath. She had done this before
after all.

She leapt off the tree branch and swung over the lava bed. The
branch held–she was going to make it-

-she thought, until the hair unwrapped itself. Neither leaves
nor dirt would cling to the magic hair. Rapunzel careened toward
her friends, no longer arcing up.

Ariel and Elsa reached out for her. They grabbed her arms as she
slammed into the cliffside.

« Phew, thanks, » she said. Rapunzel smoothed out her hair and
undid the knot at the end. They continued into the forest, away
from the sun’s river of tears.

« What’s the next line? » Ariel asked.

« ‘Time’s tyranny of tide calls forth impart / But tread most
feather-light across its flow / E’er contra the raucous tow of mine
heart / And bid us route to wedding’s altar glow.' »

« Water. We’re looking for water. » They continued through the
dense brush, whacking at palm fronds that got too friendly.

Another rushing sound met their ears. But unlike the last, this
came from a cool frothing waterfall, ending in a torrential river
out to sea. One misstep and the current would trip them, carrying
them to be crushed or drowned by the rapids.

« Okay, so we’re not wading, » Elsa said. « And the water’s moving
too fast for me to freeze. »

« Look at those rocks, » Ariel said. « Do you think they’re close
enough for us to jump? »

A collection of stiff monoliths lay in the river, having avoided
erosion or removal. Each had a flat surface and were spaced close
enough to step to.

« I think so, » Elsa said. « Who wants to go first? »

The first rock stuck out where the rushing water met the river
bank. Ariel stepped on.

« Are you sure? Out of all of us, you’ve got the least experience
on your feet, » Rapunzel said.

« I’ll be fine, » Ariel said.

Her next target was the rock nearest the opposite river bank. As
soon as she placed her first foot on it, the stone cracked
lengthwise and began to sink. Ariel frantically waved her arms,
straddling the rushing river. She was about to fall forward when
Elsa grabbed her hand, the other holding onto Rapunzel’s hair. They
swung back to the bank where all three collapsed on each other.

« Okay, so that wasn’t a good idea, » Ariel said. « There’s got to
be some way across. »

« Wait, read the sonnet again, » Elsa asked. Rapunzel did. « Maybe
that thing about time is a clue. ‘Tread most feather-light across
its flow’. »

« But how do you fight against ‘time’s tyranny of tide’ with a
bunch of rocks? »

If the nearest rock wouldn’t fall, then the key was to know
which rocks would collapse and which wouldn’t.

« Wait, I see it, » Elsa said. « It’s a clock. See how those rocks
in the middle are the hands? »

Rapunzel nodded. « So we just need to trace the clock’s
face. »

« Right. » Elsa hiked up her leg and prepared to step onto the
nearest rock on her left. « No… wait. It said ‘contra its raucous
flow’. That means… » She stepped on the right rock instead. It
held her weight. « Go backwards. Counter-clockwise. » The third rock
held. Elsa took the lead as they all rock hopped along the
semi-circle. Once on the other bank, they all sighed with relief
and hugged.

« What sort of person lives here? » Elsa stuttered. « Whoever it is
really didn’t want to be found. »

« Or wanted to be found by the right person, » Rapunzel added.

The riverbank had a path to follow, so they took it. They were
getting tired and sweaty from all this traveling. « At least when I
turn back into a mermaid, I’ll be able to wash this off, » Ariel
said. It felt like they had gone around the island twice now.

The path ended at an odd structure made of yellow granite. It
was about twenty feet high, topped with a spire. No entrance, but
inside was an archway. Through it, the main path branched into
seven.

« ‘That, lo, the nupt of fruits bloom ripe thereof / By lost and
lonely gods of yore. Let past / And future both attend the vow. For
love / Bear guard through eyes of patience none outlast.’, »
Rapunzel read. The three looked at each other and shrugged.

« I’m assuming if we take the wrong path we’ll get lost, » Elsa
said. They explored the area, but found no clues to the riddle’s
answer. Rapunzel sat in the shadowy shelter, but nothing happened.
The eight paths lay before her, none distinguishable from
another.

Ariel brushed away dust and moss from the shrine. There may have
been an embossed engraving at one time, but weather had smoothed it
away.

« Hey, there’s a hole here. » Sand fell out of a hole no bigger
than her pinky. Ariel stuck the end of the trident inside. Dozens
of tiny black spiders skittered out in all directions.

« Yarrgh! » Ariel jumped back, climbing into Rapunzel’s arms. Her
face grew hot. « I was not expecting that. »

Elsa inserted a thin stick in. It went all the way through and
poked out the other side. « Looks like it’s just a hole. I was
hoping it would be a button or something. »

Rapunzel, cautiously, put her eye up to it. « All I can see is
the other side. »

Ariel walked around and looked into the hole’s other side,
facing where they had come from. She could see the path leading
back to the river and nothing else. Elsa passed by. Ariel stood up
and sighed.

« Anything? » Elsa asked. She was right behind her.

« Jeez! » Ariel said. « How’d you get here so fast? »

« Huh? »

Ariel scowled in confusion. She looked through the hole. Nothing
but the original path. « Wait, do that again. »

« What did I do? » Elsa asked.

« Walk behind me. »

Ariel returned to the peephole. Elsa walked past.

« I can see you… somehow… looking through it this way. »

Rapunzel came around and tried. Ariel walked across the
branching paths behind her. « I do see you! » she said. « I don’t know
how, but I do. Magic? »

« Mirrors? » Elsa suggested.

« Do you see me now? » Ariel asked, strafing across.

« Not yet… now I do, » Rapunzel said.

« Look where I’m standing. »

The two turned. She was standing on one of the routes, feet
squarely on the path.

« Oh, I get it. ‘Let past and future both attend the vow. For
love bear guard through eyes of patience.’ Look to the past to
guide the future, » Elsa said.

« You have to look where you’ve been to see where you’re going, »
Ariel finished.

Feeling optimistic, they hurried down the dirt road. Now they
realized their path was spiraling up the mountain, further from
shore. Finally they ended at the cliff face of the volcano. It
appeared to be a solid wall.

Ariel knocked. « Hello? »

The three of them ran their hands along the rockface, hoping for
a seam or trigger. « It can’t just end here. » Elsa banged her
shoulder against the wall. She was tired, thirsty, dirty, and just
wanted to go home.

« Look. » Ariel pointed to a tiny panel, almost too small to be
noticed without close scrutiny. Three pinholes in a column, next to
three gems.

Rapunzel squinted one eye and pressed her nose up. « Let’s see…
that yellow one’s a topaz, a diamond, and a red zircon. Does that
have any meaning to anybody? »

Ariel and Elsa shook their heads. « There’s holes. So something
needs to be inserted, » Elsa said.

« Is there any more to the sonnet? » Ariel asked.

« The last two lines are ‘At nocturne sweet rends mine and thou
to we / Whence put sweet Iris lock in pair’ed key’, » Rapunzel said.
« What does that mean? How can you put a lock in the
key? »

« Do we have to find those gemstones? Are they rare? » Elsa
asked.

« Pretty rare. Maybe they’re around the island? » Rapunzel
said.

Ariel toed the ground while muttering to herself. « Lock and key,
key and lock…a lock that’s a key… lock that’s the key… » She
crossed her arms and played with an idle tress of hair.

Elsa scratched her head. « Ohhhhhhhh… a lock! A lock of
hair. »

« Three of us. Three holes, » Rapunzel said.

« Yellow, white, and red! » Ariel finished.

Rapunzel sorted through her hair until she reached an end, then
wedged it into the hole with the topaz. Ariel did her own. Elsa
stuck the end of her braid in as far as it would go.

Rock cracked and groaned as dust poured from the cliff face. The
stone melted away to a doorway-sized hole. A sweet smell of perfume
wafted out.

« I guess we go in, » Elsa said. The floor had an ornately
decorated platform, lacquered in gold trim and wisteria velvet that
felt pleasant on their worn feet. As soon all three had stepped on
it, the platform jerked to life and rose at a slant.

« What’s happening? » Ariel asked.

« Just hold on, » Elsa said. The three of them interlocked arms so
no one would fall. « I think we must be going to the top of the
mountain. »

The darkness was unnerving without anything to gauge their
progress. Then at the top, light reflected off some kind of gold
frame. The platform stopped short, ending at a lavish room worthy
of a sultan. Purple and blue body-size pillows lay scattered on the
floor, next to glossy tables filled with fruit. Sapphire and
emerald tapestries hung between thin violet curtains. The room
smelled of lavender and vanilla.

The three stepped out. All three were hungry and tired, but too
nervous and polite to simply start partaking.

Then a door at the north end of the room opened. A young, blond
man came through, wearing a gold-trimmed white robe with wide
triangular shoulder pads. His outfit reeked of old magic, but his
face was that of a twenty-year-old, not an experienced wizard. He
walked in confidently, a boyish smile on his face.

« Welcome, » he said. « My name is Arcius Cansteth. »

Omis Ravir