Other Fan Fiction ❯ Retread Paths ( Chapter 2 )

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CHAPTER 2: Retread Paths

Rapunzel paced around the royal conference table. Her long loose
hair followed her around, like a snake nibbling at her heels.

Every important person in her life and the kingdom sat at the
table: the king, the queen, the five royal councilors, and
sub-department administrators.

« Dear, you’re going to wear a hole in the floor, » Queen Arianna
said.

Rapunzel stepped on a tress. The tension yanked her head back.
« Ow. I forget how heavy it was. »

« Hmm, blonde hair, one-hundred fifty thousand per head…
seventy feet long… » The administrator for science and alchemy
wrote some figures down on a piece of paper. « About ten pounds.
Wow, I never thought your neck would be that strong. »

« It used to be. » Rapunzel tilted her head. A rapport of bone
cracks emitted. Everyone cringed.

« I have another question. Hair grows at one-half inch per month.
Six inches per year times eighteen is one hundred and eight inches.
Or nine feet. Your hair should be one-seventh of what it is
currently. »

Flynn cast her a sidelong glance. « Zeekin. This is magic
hair. »

« That brings up a good question, » the queen said. « Does it still
work? Does it still have its… magic? »

« Here. » Commander Ansel took out his utility knife and cut a
gash across his forearm. « What happens now? » Ansel asked.

Flynn grabbed a handful of hair off the floor and wrapped it
around the wound. He nodded to Rapunzel who began to sing.

« Flower gleam and glow, let your power shine, make the clock
reverse… »

A bright gleam emanated from her scalp and flowed down the
threads of hair to Ansel’s arm. When the song was over, Flynn
unwrapped it. The wound was gone.

Rapunzel fought back tears at hearing herself sing that wretched
song again. « Doesn’t anyone have any ideas? » she asked.

She returned to the chalkboard and the scribbled results of
their brainstorming. Everything from divine intervention to little
pixies pulling out her follicles. The unpredictable nature of magic
turned the discussion into wild mass guessing.

« Maybe we’re asking the wrong questions, » said King Frederic.
« Instead of wondering why it grew back, maybe we should think about
what to do with it. »

« How so? » Rapunzel asked.

« This could become the key to a golden era. No soldiers need to
die during battle. Accidents from fallen mill wheels or faulty
equipment would become inconsequential. Given proper rules, things
like diseases, childbirth, and the pain of old age could be wiped
away. Corona could become even more prosperous and populous. » He
smiled, searching the table for proponents.

« I hate to disagree with you, your majesty. » Commander Ansel
said. « But I must. This isn’t the boon you think it is. »

« Ansel? What do you mean? »

« What I mean is–and correct me if my understanding is
flawed–Rapunzel had committed to stay in the tower as a slave to
her foster mother. Flynn cut off her hair, knowing it would end his
own life. But the act of sacrifice saved both of them. » Ansel
focused his cold eyes on the king and queen. « Such a sacrifice does
not return without a price. »

The table fell silent.

« When I joined the corps, the state of affairs was standard. But
now there’s a horse as the royal guard. They use frying pans as
sidearms. Our lost princess came back after spending her entire
life locked in a tower by an evil witch. And she has extremely long
magic hair that can heal wounds. I accept these are not normal
circumstances. »

Maximus turned to the king and cocked his head, as if to say « he
has a point, you know »

« But the world isn’t without order. It desires structure,
stability. A cause creates an effect. An action has a consequence.
And nature does not rescind its consequences. This didn’t happen
without a reason. And until we know the reason, we cannot trust
it. » He put his knife down. « My solution? Cut it off. Return to the
status quo. »

The table’s eyes went wide at the suggestion. Rapunzel stroked
her hair. « Well… yes, we could do that. »

« Now hold on, » Flynn said. « I mean, I was laying there, dying,
only thinking of her. I knew what it meant to cut off her hair. But
now… it’s back. »

Zeekin nodded. « That’s true. Why are we looking a gift horse in
the mouth? »

Maximus whinnied.

« Sorry. I mean cutting it off would be a waste. »

The king and queen looked at Rapunzel. « You’re the one with the
hair. You should make the decision. »

Rapunzel twirled her hair around her finger. It made her think
of Mother Gothel, of her small room, of the view from the one
window at the top of the tower. « I don’t think it’s such a bad
idea. »

Zeekin stood up. « Sadly, I doubt it will be so easy. » She flared
her sleeves. « Note this. Her hair has remained loose for hours and
not a spot of dirt. Not a piece of glaciated debris. There is more
to this trick than we know. And by its nature, would prevent anyone
from taking it away again. »

In a flash, Ansel whipped out a pair of scissors. Before anyone
could react, he yanked away a chunk of Rapunzel’s hair and cut. The
blades snapped like twigs, rattling on the floor.

« Her hair is even stronger now. Stronger than steel. It’s not
going anywhere. »

The table let out their collective breath. But the quizzical
expressions remained.

« All we’ve succeeded in doing is bring up more questions. »
Rapunzel flopped her head on the table. Pascal patted her shoulder
with his tiny green arm.

The conference petered out after that. Everyone was exhausted,
frustrated, and talked out. The king and queen hugged their
daughter and reassured her they’d solve this, no matter what it
took.

Later in the night, Rapunzel paced the floor of her bedroom,
brushing, and brushing, and brushing her hair. « It’s back to this
routine, I guess, » she said.

Flynn sat up in bed reading. After the meeting, everyone agreed
to divide research into different subjects to cover more ground.
The cover his book said « Historie of the Anatomie Melancholia with
Regard to Uncertaine Territories » Inside, he’d placed « The
Twinkling Blade », the second story in More Tales of Flynnigan
Ryder
.

« Can you appoint royal assistants to hair? »

« You’re the princess. » Flynn was a little distracted. He was
getting to the part where the caretaker of the mansion confessed of
the traps in his castle mansion to his guests.

Rapunzel almost tripped over another loop as she crossed the
room. « Ouch. This is going to kill me before we ever figure it
out. »

« Take it easy, Blondie. We’ll figure this out. Don’t worry. »

« I’m not worried, I’m just freaking out. It’s okay to freak out,
right? »

« What if someone’s made this happen? » Flynn asked. « What if it’s
not something that occurred? »

Rapunzel stopped. « But who could do that? I’ve never heard of
that kind of power. Even in stories. »

Flynn shrugged. « Stranger things have happened. » And if they
keep going, they probably will,
he added under his breath. « Why
don’t you come to bed? It’s not like we’re going to solve this
tonight. Come on, don’t make me give you ‘the smolder’. »

Rapunzel huffed. She gathered up her hair into a giant ball and
sat by the edge of the bed. « Um… this bed isn’t big enough for
the two of us. »

« Oh, I see. Love me, love my hair. That’s how it is, huh? » Flynn
joked.

Rapunzel heaved, aiming for the center of the bed, but missed.
The mound of golden locks landed on Flynn’s face.

« Mmf. »

Rapunzel reached end over end, pulling like naval rope, until
the coil was unraveled.

« Maybe I can just leave it on the floor tonight? » Rapunzel
asked.

« Yeah, let’s try that. »

Rapunzel arranged her hair so it cascaded over the side of the
bed. For all the tension and anxiety of the day, it was easy to
give herself over to sleep. Her nighttime void was dreamless.

Until she was suddenly broken out of it. Something was wrong but
she didn’t know what. Then a handkerchief wrapped around her mouth.
Her scream came out as a muffled lurch.

Someone with thick hands grabbed her arms. They yanked her out
of bed, then tied them behind her at the wrists.

Bound and gagged, she sang out as loud and high as she could.
The dark room lit up with shocking yellow light. Her kidnapper
turned away to shield his eyes. « Gaah! »

« Hm? » Flynn was always a light sleeper, from his years as a
thief. He stirred, then jumped up.

« No sounds, Rider. » A cold blade touched her neck. « Me and the
princess are taking the window out, nice and easy. And there’s
nothing you can do about it. »

Nothing he can do, Rapunzel thought, but me…

Rapunzel bashed her head backward, cracking his nose. Then
back-kicked him under the kneecap. Being barefoot all her life had
given her heel the toughness of a block of wood.

He yelped and his grip unfurled, giving Rapunzel the chance to
step away. His feet stood in a coil of hair.

She grabbed a handful and yanked. The hair drew trigger-taut,
wrapping around his shins. He flipped back, banging his head
against the wardrobe and knocking him out.

« Didn’t even need a frying pan for that one, » Rider said.

Rider called the guards. Soon, all the important people in the
castle were in Rapunzel’s room, most in their nightclothes.
Rapunzel ran to her mother and father. While they enveloped her in
their arms, Flynn approached the kidnapper. He was standing on his
knees, arms shackled behind him.

Flynn pulled back his bangs. « What’s your name? »

« Omis Ravir. The terrible and powerful, » he said.

« More like Omis Ravir, the moron who thought he could kidnap the
lost princess. Her parents finally found her after eighteen years
and you try to take her again. Did you think they weren’t going to
send the entire Corona military after you? »

« I won’t be the last to try, » Ravir said. « Everyone knows the
princess’s hair is back. They’re talking about it how much it’s
worth. Who could pay. And I don’t mean gold, I’m talking eternal
life. » Ravir looked at Rapunzel. « And they might decide they don’t
need your whole body, just your scalp. »

Rapunzel gulped. Her mother tightened her arms around her.

« Take him to the dungeons, » King Frederic commanded. The guards
dragged him out of Rapunzel’s bedroom by his shackled hands.

Flynn rubbed the back of his head. « He’s got a point, you know.
If I was still a thief… well, I know she’s worth more to me than
the entire kingdom. But now she’s worth that to everybody
else. »

« Everyone wanted to know what happened to me, so I told them. I
thought it wouldn’t matter. The hair was gone. It was over with, »
Rapunzel said.

« It’s not your fault, » the queen said, rubbing her daughter’s
back.

Flynn said, « How are we going to do this? We’d have to lock her
in a room away from the world to keep her safe. »

Rapunzel frowned at Flynn.

« Then what do we do? » the king asked.

« We could send her somewhere, » the queen said. « Just for a while
so we can figure this out. If they don’t know where she is, they
can’t take her. »

Rapunzel and Flynn gave each other agreeing glances. « I can go
to Arendelle, with my cousins. We were at Elsa’s coronation a year
ago, remember? »

« Oh, yes, with the whole… winter thing. »

The king and queen agreed. It was far away, it was safe, it had
allies to welcome her, and no one there knew about her powers.

« I’ll make arrangements right away. A ship will sail before
dawn’s light, » King Frederic said. He left with the queen and a
bevy of stewards to make arrangements.

« We’d better start packing, » Flynn said.

« No, not you, » Rapunzel said. « We need to pretend nothing’s
wrong, so no one knows where I am. That means you stay. Plus
Maximus will need your help to figure out how this break-in
happened. »

« Goody. More time with apple-breath. I can’t wait, » Flynn
deadpanned.

« I’m going to miss you, » Rapunzel said. She hugged him. « Take
care of my library. »

« Don’t worry. You’ll be back in two weeks. By then I’ll have
gotten through all the new Flynnigan Rider books. »

« Okay, but don’t get moody when you get to Book Two, Chapter
Five. »

« Why? You know what happens? »

« You think you’re the only one who reads those books? » she
smiled.


Eric ordered every scholar and professional who knew Ariel’s
secret origin to be woken at once. He gathered them into his
chambers around the bathtub–the commandants of royal affairs, the
royal doctors.

Meanwhile, Ariel lay half-submerged in the bathtub, a towel over
her top, looking up at them. She felt like a little girl being
punished.

The bathroom doors became a revolving door as physickers passed
in and out. They performed examinations and consultations, held
discussions with each other outside the doorway. One doubted the
veracity of it all, saying it was clearly a costume. Ariel answered
by curling her tail over her head, something no human knees could
manage. The doctor left white-faced and mumbling to himself.

« Did this happen as soon as you touched the water? » one
asked.

Ariel shook her head. « I was already in the bath, talking to
Eric. And then my legs… just… this! » She pointed at her
tail.

« Any odd sensations in memory? » another asked. « Dark magic?
Recent experience with strange persons? »

« I didn’t know anything was happening until I heard her shriek, »
Eric said. « What are we supposed to do? »

« Wrap her in parchment? » the doctor shrugged.

Hours into the night, no one had a better explanation than
« magic » And certainly no ideas on how to solve it. Ariel felt hot
tears forming at the corners of her eyes.

« Let’s hold off on finding a solution for now, » he said. « We’re
not going to solve this tonight. Let’s talk about what we’re going
to do for the morning. » Eric shut the door behind him.

He always kept a calm head when things got out of hand. It was
one of the reasons she loved him. She was a runaway carriage of
emotion, galloping up and down hills, careening out of control.
Eric said he admired her hotheadedness and passion, but she cursed
herself for them now.

With everyone out of the room, Ariel was able to calm down
again. Now she had a chance to think to herself, but drew no
conclusions. Like she told everyone, she had laid down in the
water, felt her legs sealing together, and suddenly, her tail was
back. No flourish, no explanation, no grandeur.

From the discussions beyond the door, Ariel picked out words
like « sorcery » and « biology » But always more questions than
answers.

She cupped some water in her hands and drizzled it over her
fluke. Her body felt alien–she was used to smooth skin there, not
the fish tail. It made her feel like she didn’t belong this
country.

The voices petered out, until Ariel could only hear her husband.
The door opened. He sat on the edge of the tub and cupped his hand
behind her neck. She hunched into him like a kitten.

« Well, at least you can talk this time, » Eric said. Ariel
snickered.

« I’ll guess I’ll have to sleep here tonight, » she sighed. « Can
you have Carlotta bring up some fresh water? »

« Is that all you need? »

Ariel nodded. « As long as there’s some moisture, my tail won’t
dry out. It has a… a mucus to keep it protected. »

« Ahem, » said Sir Grimsby from behind the door. « Eric, may I
speak with you for a moment. »

Eric lifted himself off the edge of the tub. He shut the door
behind him, but not all the way. Ariel could hear what they were
saying distinctly.

« I fear that things did not go so well? » Grimsby asked.

« No one has any answers. Not even a guess. »

« I saw it in the look on your face. Then this may be an ongoing
problem. »

« Looks that way. »

« I hate to bring this up, but have you considered what to do for
the long term? »

« Long term? Grim, this only happened a few hours ago. No, I
haven’t given much thought to long-term. We can say she’s sick. Or
visiting relatives. » Eric said.

« But for how long will that last? A week? A month? »

« However long it takes, » Eric said.

« The longer it goes on, the more people will talk. The more
rumors there will be. You don’t hear the things I hear. »

« Like what? »

Grimsby sighed. « Make no mistake, she is well-loved by the
people. But a woman appears out of nowhere, from no known kingdom,
and the prince marries her three days later. Most people blamed it
on the ‘witch’ that enchanted you during the ‘first wedding’. But
if people stop seeing her by your side in public, they may become
confused. Even suspicious. »

« Are you saying we should tell people the truth? About her
origins? »

« That’s one solution, » Grimsby said. « Not the best, I admit.
It’s the furthest thing I want. We must also consider that her
absence will do nothing for the endorsement of the people. In
fact…. » Grimsby paused, as if saying the next would hurt him.
« There are some that would be happy to have her removed from
power. »

« What? »

« They blame her for the recent changes regarding fishing and
trade. »

« That’s preposterous. I’m the one who initiated those
changes. I signed those into effect. By my own will, not hers. »

Grimsby paused. « True. But many are still unconvinced from the
justifications you gave. Plus, you made them after you were
married. »

Eric sighed. Long and low and heavy. « I understand. But… it’s
late, and I’m sleep deprived. Could we talk about this
tomorrow? »

« Of course. I didn’t mean to worry you, Eric. Just to make you
aware of the issue. »

« No, no, it’s fine. You’re right. »

Eric reentered the bathroom. Ariel shifted, trying to be
nonchalant about eavesdropping. A little water splashed over the
side.

« Hi, sweetie, » Eric said tiredly.

« I was thinking, » Ariel interrupted, « that maybe this might not
be the best place for me. We might have better luck finding answers
if I return to the sea. It’s not like people on dry land know a lot
about mermaids. Plus the castle’s kinda designed for people with
feet. Stairs and all. »

« Are you sure? I’m sure we’ll come up with something. »

« No, no. I’ll feel better if I can help, instead of hiding here.
I mean, I can’t just stay here. It’s too easy for someone to
accidentally find me. I’ll need water constantly, like a plant. I
won’t have anything to do but read. Even Max doesn’t come near the
bathtub. »

« I guess you’ve got a point. But hate the idea of you being on
your own. »

« I won’t be on my own. I’ve been a mermaid before. » Ariel
giggled. « They know me there. »

Eric smiled and massaged her hand. « You’re right. Maybe your
father can help. His trident turned you back into a human once
before. It should work again. »

Ariel smiled and nodded. « Now the big question is, how am I
going to get out of here? »

Eric ran his fingers through his hair. « I have no idea. »

There was a knock at the door. « Eric, » Carlotta called in her
sing-song voice. « I have the water you asked for. »

At least here was a friendly face. Not another doctor. Eric
opened the door. The robust Carlotta stood there, carrying a big
cauldron between them.

Eric’s eye fell on the big bowl, sloshing back and forth as it
went by.

« Carlotta, do you know anything about dresses? »

Her chubby head nodded. « Well… of course. Why? »


In the middle of the abyssal night, Eric and Ariel walked out of
their bedchambers. A nearby guard, standing as straight as his
pike, noticed them. His eyes bulged with curiosity.

The princess was wearing a bright pink, fantastically large
dress. It had giant shoulder puffs, a skinny taffeta torso, and a
skirt that looked like half a balloon, not unlike a pastry. It
seemed more appropriate for a wedding than going out at night.

Prince Eric was not formally dressed, but escorted her as if
they were. They walked arm in arm, one step at a time, as if
floating across the floor to a most elegant ball.

« Prince Eric, » the guard saluted. « Do you need any
assistance? »

« No. Thank you, » Eric said. « The princess is merely leaving the
castle for a while. She needs to visit some relatives. »

The guard nodded. Prince Eric turned toward the staircase.
Princess Ariel revolved around him as if he were a pivot point.

« Oh, dear. Stairs. » Ariel muttered.

The two of them stood as if they didn’t know what how to go down
stairs.

« Oh, actually, » Eric called. « I could use your help. Could you
take the princess’s other hand and help lead her down. »

« Certainly, sir. » The guard leaned his pike against the wall.
« Is anything the matter? »

« The princess has… injured her foot. Her feet. Her legs.
Walking’s very delicate for her. Please make sure she doesn’t fall
down the stairs. »

The guard took her other hand. The princess’s feet bumped
against each step oddly, as if she was sliding down. He would have
liked to see what was going on, but the skirt covered her legs like
a curtain.

« Is, uh… is this what the doctors were coming in and out
for? »

« Yes, » Ariel said. « It’s an unusual condition. But my family
should have a cure. »

« Has a carriage been fetched? I can call for-« 

« No need, » Ariel said. « I don’t want any fuss. »

« Right, » Eric said. « Discretion. Understand? »

« Yes, sir. »

At the bottom, Ariel let out a long sigh.

« Thank you. You can return to your post, » Eric said.

« Yes, sir. » The guard climbed back up the stairs. For hurt feet,
the princess walked as if gliding on a cloud. He shrugged, picked
up his pike, and returned to his post.

The prince and princess turned and moved toward the back of the
castle. They took the tighter, servants’ hallways and didn’t pass
anyone else. No stairs either. Eric peeked out the rear door.
Nothing but the ocean surf pounding against the rocks.

« All clear, » Eric said.

« Unh, » Ariel said. She slipped her arms out of the poofy sleeves
and mangled the eighteen layers of fabric to get it off. Her old
seashell bra long discarded, she had to wear an off-white chemise
to stay modest. Luckily she could craft one with two bay scallops
and a band of rope. She tossed the dress aside, revealing the giant
cauldron of water she lay in. It rested on a wooden board with
wheels.

Eric lifted her out. She draped her tail over his arms.

« I hope I’m not too heavy. »

« Who? You? Never. I could carry you across the shore and back. »
Eric walked down a path that zig-zagged down to the beachline.
Crumbly dirt transformed to gravel, which transformed to
white-brown sand.

Eric bent down to a tide pool and slipped her into the water.
The icy shock felt strangely homey to her.

« I’ll be back as soon as I can, » she said.

« It shouldn’t take long. » He bent down and gave her a kiss. « One
zap with the trident and you’ll be back to yourself. Right? »

« Right, » she said, looking down.

« What, you don’t think it’ll work? »

« Oh, no. I’m sure it’ll work. There might just be some family
stuff I need to take care of first. » She flipped back and dove into
the water, disappearing under the murky waves.

Transitioning from land to sea was like learning to read again.
Mermaids spent their lives traveling in three dimensions. But one
year as a human, and she was swimming straight across as if the
ocean were a plain. She corrected her course with a flick of her
strong tail, and submerged further.

The sea was much emptier than she remembered, but she was still
close to shore. Soon she would see the golden palace of Atlantica,
the flashing turquoise and lilac lights of Eel-lectric City, the
whirlpools and tide reefs full of motion and vibrancy. But before
all that–before seeing her friends or family–there was one place
she had to go.

Her father’s grave.


The crowd looked ugly.

After Elsa returned to Arendelle, she ordered the interior
entrance reconfigured into a platform where she could make
speeches, execute royal decrees, and address the people. The castle
gates would act as a symbol of keeping communication open. Right
now, Elsa was thinking twice about this decision.

When she appeared, the crowd erupted into a mix of cheers and
jeers. She didn’t expect them to grab torches, but they wanted
answers.

Elsa raised her hands over her head. « Calm down, calm down,
please. »

A servant who was chipping away ice from the platform with a
metal stick passed behind her. Elsa grimaced–this wasn’t helping
her situation. Anyone not woken by the storm woke up to houses,
roads, and plants glazed in an inch of thick frozen water.

Anna stood off to the side, a forlorn expression on her face.
She took a step back to let the ice-chipper by and fell against a
pot of crocuses. It tipped and fell off the platform. The pot
shattered, but the plant remained unharmed, encased in ice.

The crowd quieted as Anna sheepishly cleaned up the mess. At
least her awkwardness did some good from time to time.

« Listen, please, » Elsa said. « First, I want to assure you that
this is not my doing. Princess Anna can attest to that. She was
with me when it started. »

« That’s right. She was just as confused as me. We sat inside
watching all night. She never lifted a finger, » Anna said.

Elsa gave her a « stop-talking » look. « I know everything’s
covered in ice, but at least the storm is stopped. Again, this is
not my doing. It’s something else. »

« Or someone else? » a man in the crowd shouted. « This
ain’t no natural storm. »

« You’re right, » Elsa said, maintaining composure. « My advisors
tell me there are records of unusual phenomena. But nothing like
this. Not only that, but the ice isn’t melting. There are no
clouds, and the air is warm. »

« So get rid of it! » an old woman said. « You have magic. »

« I can’t take it back. It’s not my ice. » She patted her hands in
the air. « I assure you we’re doing everything we can. We’re better
prepared this time-« 

The people didn’t want to hear that. They didn’t want to know
about the stocks of surplus food and wood or the shelters or the
blankets and coats that clothiers had spent extra hours weaving
from scraps of wool and yarn. They wanted action. They wanted
someone to blame.

They’re getting too unruly. Close the gates…

Anna stepped forward. « Hey, she’s telling the truth. Something
else caused this. I mean, this isn’t even like last time. There’s
no clouds, there’s no snow monsters… »

Elsa rolled her eyes.

« I mean… there’sss… noooo… monsters coming to get us. So
we should all calm down. »

They didn’t. The crowd stepped forward.

« What are you going to do about my crops? They’re ruined.
Again! »

« My farm is going to go bankrupt. »

« I can’t get out of my house. The door is stuck. I had to climb
out the window. »

Close the gates, close the gates…

« Why don’t you just leave and take your ice with you! »

« Take it back! » a woman shouted. Others around her picked up the
cry. « Take it back! Take it back! Take it back! »

Elsa scanned the crowd, eyes wide. Flashbacks from a year
ago–mouths open wide, backing away, the rough noise, the shaking
hands. In the ruckus, Anna’s voice pierced.

« Elsa? Elsa! »

But it was too overwhelming. Elsa turned and fled into the
castle. Anna started to follow, but slipped on the ice.

The guards opened the door for the queen. Elsa looked back once.
The crowd stood pumping their fists in the air, blocked by the
intimidation of the guards. Anna reached out her hand. « Elsa? »

Elsa looked away and darted into the castle. Anna just couldn’t
understand. People like her couldn’t know what it was like to have
your time constantly demanded. How draining it was. All she wanted
was to get to her chambers. At every door, someone poked a head
out.

« Queen Elsa, the viceroy from Eldora is waiting in your
conference room. »

« Queen Elsa, your approval on tonight’s dinner? »

« The ice storm’s damaged the stables. The stablehands want to
know what to do with the… »

No, no, not now. If she didn’t get away she was going to lose
control. But she was the queen, she couldn’t get away. Instead, she
ignored them. She just needed some time.

Like a war veteran crawling towards shelter, she shut the door
to her chambers. The echo of the slam reverberated around the tall
walls.

Blessed silence. All sound muted, save the noise in her
head.

A knock at the door. « Elsa? Elsa? » Anna sounded panicked. « Elsa,
please, please don’t do this again. Don’t leave me behind. I can’t
take this again… »

Elsa seized. Anna thought she was abandoning her again.

« I can’t… I can’t go through this, talking through the wall.
Please, don’t shut yourself out again. Don’t-« 

Elsa yanked open the door and pulled Anna in. She embraced her
sister with a panicked fervor. Anna patted her back with mittened
hands.

Anna stuttered. « I thought you were… »

« Never, » Elsa said. « Never again. »

They stayed that way for a long time. Elsa basked in the other
body next to hers. Someone who didn’t need support or validation or
approval or answers. Just her sister, who would never leave her.
Not even when she had turned into a beast.

When the moment had passed, Elsa released her grip. « I just… I
needed a second to breathe. I felt like a balloon about to
pop. »

« You ran out so suddenly, » Anna said.

« I know. » Elsa turned around and sat on the bed. « I was ready to
close the gates, but I promised I would never do that again. »

« I’m glad you didn’t. This isn’t your fault, » Anna said.

« I know. Father said there would be times like this. Where they
blame you for everything, even if it’s not your fault. When things
are fine, no one cares. But if things are bad, they start thinking
about guillotines. And you still have to put on a smile and tell
them everything will be all right. » She examined a corner of the
floor.

Anna brightened. « Maybe the trolls know? »

« The trolls? » Elsa rubbed a hand through her head. « I don’t
know. I thought they were supposed to be healers… or ‘love
experts’. » Elsa made quote marks with her fingers.

« But they know magic. They knew about your power. »

Elsa rubbed the bridge of her nose. « I’m not even sure if this
is magic. Besides, the last thing I want to do is involve more
people. »

« Here she is. » Olaf walked into the open door. « I knew this is
where she’d be. After the throne room. And the kitchen. And the
bathroom. »

Kai, the castle’s chief attendant, stood behind him, but did not
enter. He politely knocked on the door. « Queen Elsa? Is everything
all right? »

« Yes. Please come in. »

Kai was one of the servants Elsa and Anna’s parents had kept on
when they had to isolate themselves.

« The crowd has been subdued. Princess Anna said a few kind
words, then the ministers took over. They are engaging the citizens
for ideas what do for the short-term. The rabble left after
that. »

« That’s good, » Elsa said.

Kai coughed. « I think you should know, I heard some of them
discussing ‘pyramite’ before they dispersed. »

« What’s pyramite? » Elsa and Anna asked.

Kai acted startled. « I thought you knew. Your father
investigated whether or not it could control your powers, but it
was too rare to be feasible. I’ve only heard of it being sold in
small quantities. »

« Is it like pie? I love pie, » Olaf said.

« It’s a metal that’s incapable of freezing. Or prevents ice from
forming, or repels ice, I’m not sure. People have been talking
about using it against you… your powers, should the need
arise. »

« Someone with pyramite would be invincible against you, » Anna
said.

Elsa’s eyes opened wide. « Kai… that’s brilliant. »

Anna cocked her eyebrow. « Brilliant? Um, Elsa, did you hear what
he said? They want to use it against you. »

« It’s a way to fight against ice. And what’s Arendelle
covered in right now? »

Anna nodded. « Ohhhhh… right. But where are we going to find
it? »

Kai said, « If I recall what your father said, it could only be
found in one mine, created long ago, in Corona. »

« Corona, » Elsa said. « It makes sense. That island was formed
from a volcano and drifted closer to mainland. » She turned to Kai.
« Get a ship ready. I’ll sail there at once. »

« But what about Arendelle? Why can’t you send someone else to
get it and bring it back? » Anna said.

« It would be quicker if I went. Then I’d know whether it can
stop my powers or not. And if the ice leaves with me, then it
is me causing it all, and so much the better. »

Anna touched Elsa’s shoulder. « Elsa, our parents died sailing to
Corona. Remember? And they left in a hurry, without planning for
the weather. »

« That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to me. A ship is faster.
I’ll take Olaf with me. »

« Oh boy! » Olaf shouted. He jumped out into the center of the
room, his little feet wiggling in the air. « I can’t wait to see
Bologna. »

Elsa bent down to Olaf. « Co-ro-na. It’s called the land of the
sun, so it’s kind of like a town of summer. »

Olaf’s jaw dropped. « A whole town just for summer? I can’t
believe it. »

Anna smirked. « I don’t think they’ll be able to believe it
either. »

The Sun, the Ice, and the Ocean
Anchor to the Past