Light It Up (Burn It Down), 1/? (2016-01-25)

A little over four years into Ben’s reign, the Isle of the Lost goes dark.

In a literal sense, it’s always been dark: the island never lent itself well to development, and so only a small area was installed with power lines; the sun, too, was almost constantly obscured by fog. But now it’s also figuratively dark.

It takes two weeks for Ben to be informed that the cameras monitoring the most populated part of the Isle have stopped broadcasting. That the last barge of supplies has yet to come back.

The Isle of the Lost is still a part of his kingdom, even if it’s residents are not necessarily his people. He has a responsibility.

And then, news of burglaries and thefts come in. Small things at first–some food, some blankets, clothes. It’s disheartening, but not necessarily bewildering–even a prosperous kingdom like Auradon has homeless people.

Ben doesn’t think it’s related at first.

Except it keeps happening. More frequently and in greater quantities. And it spreads to other stores–a pharmacy, an electronics store, hardware store, a plant nursery–to the point where finally the police must admit to their king that they cannot stop it.

This series of crimes are the work of a well organized and strategic mind, these thefts are pointed and specific. It is no longer the actions of a single, desperate person trying to survive, but rather a group of people. A group whose motivations and background are completely unknown. A group who has yet to leave any evidence beyond the lack of clues.

Then a jewelry store is broken into.

While this particular burglary still has a distinct lack of mistakes on the thieves’ parts, it does bring up a lead. Two actually.

The jewelry store heist finally pushes the case up from minor crime to grand larceny, meaning that an actual detective is put in charge. The detective is an old man, more prone to talking about past cases than current ones–the old days when things were actually exciting–but that tendency proves to be beneficial. And worrying.

“If I didn’t know she was trapped on that rock, I’d think this was de Vil.”

Of course, that information isn’t nearly as worrying as the other lead. Because the actual jewels stolen? They weren’t the most expensive or the prettiest or even, in contrast, the easiest to grab and pawn off.

No, the gems stolen were done so for a specific reason, the Fairy Godmother says solemnly, those gems are ingredients for certain, powerful, magic spells.

Or curses.

After a month of seemingly random thefts and silence from the Isle, a message is sent to Ben.

Technically? All of the glass in the castle shatters except for one lone mirror. The hand mirror Ben’s mother received as a gift from his father–one of the few magical items in the castle.

Though the household is spooked, nobody is injured, which gives Ben a tentative sense of optimism when he finally sees the message:

“Where is Mr. Smee?” The mirror asked in stark letters on gray stone. No matter what Ben said, it would show him nothing else.

But what a strange message: unlike the rest of Captain Hook’s crew, Mr. Smee had not been banished to the Isle despite being the Jolly Roger’s boatswain and thus fairly high ranking amongst the pirates. The Darling family’s defense of him as an individual made it so that he could have lived a completely new life in Auradon. But Smee’s deep loyalty, even to a man as evil and cruel as James Hook, led to him working on supply barges to the Isle of the Lost.

… such as the last one that had yet to return. Did he defect? Was Mr. Smee somehow in charge of the radio silence from the Isle? Is that what the message is trying to convey?

Running a kingdom is not easy, and while Ben has many responsibilities as king, many matters he has to delegate–to his councilors, to the other royal families in charge of their regions–but he thinks he ought to check into this matter himself.

The nearest point to the Isle of the Lost is the resort town of Charmington. As the name implies, it’s under the rule of House Charming. One of the kingdom’s less… cooperative royal families. Ben remembers not being keen on Chad Charming during their Auradon Prep days, and his father certainly never enjoyed interacting with Charles Charming.

Of course, while that worked well for his father’s “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy in regards to the Isle of the Lost, it’s making this investigation rather… tedious for Ben.

Oh, he’s still going to be inspecting the warehouses in charge of shipping supplies to the Isle–he’s king, there’s not much he can’t do in Auradon–but apparently Chad is going to be dogging his every step. As a “guide,” of course.

This does backfire when Ben actually sees the warehouses though, “We’re sending them garbage?” He asks, his outraged question bouncing off the walls. The stench of the so-called supplies is disgusting, but not as much as what it means.

Ben knows that the Isle depends entirely on the barges–there’s a limited amount of arable land and useable resources, even if they had the tools to do anything–and it’s frankly nauseating that they’ve been living off of Auradon’s scraps. No, not even: Auradon’s waste.

Has this been happening all along?

Chad’s face is pinched, brow furrowed almost in irritation at being caught. But it completely shutters in fear, going pale, when Ben asks the question he came to Charmington for:

“Where is Mr. Smee?”

The Knights of Auradon is a law enforcement agency beholden to the greater good of the kingdom, not royalty. Ben is relieved when Captain de Châteaupers arrives because he knows the matter will be in good hands. The Charmington police department cannot be trusted for this: as it is, he’s pretty sure an innocent man will be sent to prison in Chad’s place anyway. The Charming family can certainly afford the best lawyers, given how much they made by shipping trash instead of supplies and pocketing the money for themselves.

Ben leaves the town, a sour taste in his mouth, and he channels his anger into reassigning the Isle of the Lost supply route. The House Atlantica is fair, and though their region is farther from the Isle, they have a stronger ocean presence. Negotiations with Princess Melody go well–at least one thing in this situation is.

The Knights find the body four days after they begin their investigation, wrapped in tarp and weighed down by cement blocks beneath the pier. It’s bloated and decayed, a horrifying thing on which the coroner can only give estimates. Over a month, for sure, but more exact is impossible.

It’s enough, though. Enough to connect the burglaries and the message. He doesn’t know how to control his mother’s mirror–it’s still displaying the same question–but he takes time out of his busy day to read the Knights’ reports out loud, hoping it will appease whoever is on the other end. Whoever is demanding justice for a man that would have been forgotten otherwise.

When Princess Melody sends word of her House’s first successful supply run to the Isle, she also sends news that the missing Charmington barge was sent back as well–the captain unharmed but, somehow, missing his memories of the past two months. She also includes the encounter her House’s captain had with the lone islander who greeted him on the docks.

The captain pointedly remarked on how foggy it had been, how only the docks jutting into the ocean was visible, the rest of the Isle hidden from sight. He described a young woman, purple hair and green eyes, and her brief message.

“The supplies are appreciated, but we are not appeased.”

An alarming statement, Ben thinks, upon hearing it. He shoots a look at his mother’s mirror, never far from him these days. Nothing changes, it still asks after Mr. Smee, even though Ben continues to read aloud to it updates on the case.

For a few weeks, he doesn’t quite forget it, but he is no longer so actively concerned. The burglaries have stopped completely–likely because they already have what they need–and the justice system chugs along, the case switching hands from Knights to lawyers.

Yet again, Ben is reminded of how imperfect his kingdom is, when Chad Charming walks free and an Andrew Baker is thrown into jail instead. Something is rotten in Auradon, and something must be done about it.

From the corner of his eye, Ben spots the mirror’s image changing. When Ben gives it his full attention, he sees the question disappear and, in its place, a blue rose appears, floating upright. A single petal wilts and falls off, drifting slowly, ominously, and downwards out of view.

~

A/N: I’ll be honest, @walker2702, your prompt spawned an absolutely fascinating AU in my head which kind of blindsided me as I was writing it.

Like–I had no idea Mr. Smee was going to be mentioned, much less murdered by Chad Charming. I had no idea there was going to be a rose curse. I had no idea Carlos wasn’t even going to appear in this even though I kept writing with the hope that he would appear.

So I guess this means I’ll be writing a part two for this?

😀 I’m excited, I missed writing Descendants. So thanks, walker2702!