A Tale of Two Kingdoms is now posted on archiveofourown! Check it out here!
Thanks! A Tale of Two Kingdoms was really fun to write–it just wanted to be written so badly and most of the time it was me just trying to articulate the story happening up in my brain. I’m glad you enjoyed it!
A Tale of Two Kingdoms really is a story about Carlos, more so than anyone or anything else. In the fusion of Pacific Rim x Descendants, there aren’t very many characters who will thrive so well as Carlos would, you know? It’s a bit situational because here you have these giant monsters coming from the ocean who, eventually, become immune to magic. So in order for jaegers to exist, you’d have to have 1) people who would rather fight than run, 2) people who have the scientific know-how for giant robots, and 3) the motivation of 1 to do 2.
Like, in theory, Auradon might have the knowledge to create jaegers, but they canonically deal with their problems by banishing/hiding it on an island in the middle of the ocean. Whereas, Jemma Hook and other islanders may have the aggression and willingness to fight, but that doesn’t translate into creating a means to fight. Hence, Carlos being the only one that fits both. Even if I hadn’t stranded the other three Lost kids into the world of the kaiju, it’d be much the same. Mal and Jay would be willing to fight the kaiju but they’d do it in their own way (magic and/or physically) which simply wouldn’t work. Evie might have been able to do something–like, strategic strikes against the kaiju if they approached the Isle, or arrange a mass exodus of the Isle–but not to the extent that Carlos did.
Everything else in the story really is kind of just trappings for Carlos’ coming of age/falling in love.
I’ll admit, the whole “cameras don’t work” thing was a bit of a cop out on my part. Because it has to do with the magic parents and the ritual and it was… Well, not unrelated, but tangential to the story I wanted to tell.
Basically, the kaiju masters were using the magic parents to fuel their invasion–using dragon!Maleficent’s DNA to create magic resistant kaiju, Jafar’s mind control to… well… control the kaiju, and Ursula and Grimhilde to keep the tears open and other stuff. Essentially, Carlos had the jaeger program and all the stuff from Ben while the kaiju masters had the magic villains. It’s part of the reason why Mal, Evie, and Jay were being hunted because they are three more magical batteries for the kaiju masters.
So what the Dragon Knight did was to free the magic parents from however the kaiju masters were controlling them, thus also freeing the kaiju and it kind of turned into a bloodbath on that side with everyone fighting each other and Dragon Knight preventing kaiju from going through the tears then racing to go through one themselves before all the tears collapsed/disappeared.
It’s as if all the thoughts have flown out of Carlos’ head leaving only an overwhelming sense of relief, vague confusion, that mild contrariness from before. And fear. Denial. But the part of him that is the head of the jaeger program is already moving, planning, changing up orders.
“Get more pilot suits,” he says to the technician, who startles but does as told. To Dreda he says, “Tell your crew to prep the fourth jaeger,” and though she hesitates at first to look him in the eyes, she nods and leaves as well.
He doesn’t fully understand it, but it’s as if he just suddenly knows. Knows that what Auradon says it the best course of action. He doesn’t need the drift analyst to know that the four of them would be better jaeger pilots than he and Dreda.
“Queen Cobra?” He asks Evie, she tilts her head toward Mal and Auradon and smiles, small and reserved.
“And the Dragon Knight,” she says, and something in Carlos deflates, resigned.
Carlos sighs, a long quiet exhale that drains everything but the jaeger program from him. “Let’s get to work, pilots,” he says, then turns and walks away, headed towards the control room where he belongs. The docks are his domain, here he is king.
Queen Cobra is the first to set out, towards the class five kaiju.
Mal knows that Evie and Jay will be fine, in part because of her own experience of them. Evie’s omniscience combined with Jay’s battle prowess could only be enhanced by the literal giant fighting machine Carlos has built. They’ll be fine, she knows, because she has faith in them; they are her friends, and she believes in them.
Those aren’t words she’s all that familiar with, but in the drift with Ben it’s easy to admit these things.
In the drift, she also tells Ben the complete truth of the kaiju. Thoughts bounce between Mal and Ben, pooling together their knowledge and building off of each other.
The kaiju are to that world what the jaeger are to theirs–tools for battle. But where the masters of that strange world use the kaiju for conquest, Carlos has built his for defense.
Carlos has built the jaegers out of scraps, not bioengineering like the masters. There are only four jaegers; four jaegers to defeat over a year’s worth of kaiju.
If the masters had gotten a hold on the mind behind the jaegers… It’s why Mal couldn’t let Carlos go.
The past several kaiju had not been designed to demolish everything in their path. All of the past kaiju had headed straight for the Isle, not the shores of Auradon. They had been designed to capture Carlos.
How dare they?
A wave of protective aggression crashes through their drift. It is the ferocity of Mal defending her gang and the devotion of Ben fighting for the boy he loves.
How dare they even try?
The Dragon Knight won’t let that happen.
All of the jaegers are equipped with cameras, streaming directly to the control room; all the better to keep track of the situation. The footage caught on that day tells a story. A story of survival, yes, but there’s more to it than that.
It is a story, not about heroes defeating villains, but of humanity. Of people, regardless of their past and their legacy, working together to protect each other. The Hell Jalopy and the Rebel Watcher, two jaegers built by Isle and Auradon hands, used by Isle and Auradon pilots. Both defending each other to defeat their shared enemy.
It is a story, not about villains’ kids realizing their potential for heroism, but of redemption. The Queen Cobra, Evie and Jay, defending the Isle which their parents’ greed had put at risk. Proving that magic is power, but power can be used for great acts instead of terrible.
It is a story, not about good versus evil and the unlikely places both can grow, but of sacrifice. The Dragon Knight’s camera works up until it crosses through the tear into the world of the kaiju. Maybe it was the signal, or maybe the strange star and it’s twisted light could not be recorded. The events that occurred there will forever be a secret, known only to Ben and Mal.
It is a story, not about a boy defying both nature and nurture to save the world, but of a boy just trying to do his best. A boy who built a ship for a heartbroken girl, a boy who let his friends fight despite the risk, a boy who asked for aid and was always surprised to receive it. A boy in love.
It has been said that every story is a love story.
The steady beeping of the heart monitor has been the soundtrack of Carlos’ life for past two weeks. It’s as easy to manage the gradual shutdown of the jaeger program from a hospital room as it is from the docks. Though he does admit, he has been delegating a lot of his duties to Harry, Jace, and Dreda.
It’s not like he’s the only visitor: Evie and Jay stop by frequently, as much to reconnect with him as it is to check on Mal–without the rush of danger, the gang can take their time. They realize that Carlos has gotten a growth spurt in the past year and is finally taller than Evie, so long as she doesn’t wear heels. He’s still no match for Jay, of course.
Chip has acted the part of a guilt ridden statue in the room everyday. When he’s not arguing on behalf of the Isle for better equipment and better supplies and a better way of life, really– “Just continuing what he would have wanted,” Chip shrugs, though with how tense he is, it’s more like a hunching of his shoulders.
But Carlos has a lot of time to himself, the metronomic beeping and his thoughts. No more kaiju, so no more jaeger program. No more head of the jaeger program, so he’s just Carlos now. Just himself–a runty, nerdy boy from the Isle.
With a prince from Auradon?
The steady beeping of the heart monitors suddenly… isn’t. Carlos startles out of his sulk to stare–the pulses on the monitors are getting faster. Away from comatose state into consciousness.
They’re waking up.
Carlos pushes the call button for a nurse who enters, startles at the long-awaited revival of her patients, and proceeds to summon practically an entire army of nurses and doctors. Most of them are from Auradon, and they crowd around their prince, but there are some who circle around Mal’s bed. At least until her hoarse, but still scathing voice forces them to make room for Carlos.
“Carlos,” she calls, voice rough from disuse, and she gestures weakly at him to come closer.
The first thing Mal does to him, after he’s within grabbing reach, is to take Carlos’ head in both of her hands and just…. stare. Even without knowing she now has magic, Carlos freezes in fear–Mal had always been more intimidating than Jay despite muscle mass, despite the fact that she’s been unconscious for two weeks.
“I don’t want to kiss you,” she says evenly to him. Which… okay?
“I don’t want to kiss you either?” He agrees uncertainly, this is a very strange conversation.
“But if you do not kiss that guy soon,” Mal says, physically turning Carlos’ head so he can see Auradon in the other bed, “I may just kiss you to put all three of us out of our misery.”
Carlos is fairly sure that doesn’t make any logical sense, but he’s not going to argue. So he nods, or nods as much as he can with his head in her grip.
She releases him, and though he straightens his back he stays by her bed. “Mal,” Carlos reaches for her hand, and she magnanimously lets him hold it, “You did good,” he says.
She shoots back, “We all did good,” and they both laugh at the irony–the baddest gang of the Isle, saving the world. Then she bats his hand away, and Carlos probably would feel hurt except she pointedly waves towards Auradon’s bed, significantly less crowded than before.
And Carlos’ empty chair next to it.
“Hey Carlos,” Auradon rasps, and smiles. “I’m back from my quest,” his fingers barely have to twitch before Carlos grabs for his hand.
“You brought my friends back to me,” Carlos responds, voice little more than a whisper.
“You asked for them,” Auradon says simply, easily, as if he would give Carlos anything he asked for without hesitation. Because… that is what he’s been doing, Carlos realizes. “I have been trying to court you for several months, Carlos,” he explains.
“Auradon–” Carlos starts, then stops, cheeks flushed red. Because even now, he doesn’t know Auradon’s actual name.
Fond amusement spreads across his face, stretching his grin wide, “Please, call me Ben.”
A/N: IT’S FINALLY DONE! WOOHOO!!!! Descendants fandom you are now also the recipient of my second ever completed multi-part story!
Just want to say thanks a lot to theotpauthor for all the encouragement during this fic! I’m so thankful to you, really, and your messages were greatly appreciated. You know how frustrated I was with this story, but you really helped me through it. So thanks again 🙂
And, yeah, it’s technically three in the morning on the 28th, buuuuuut whatever. I’m counting it as my August 27th post.
Okay, if I’m gonna be completely honest, there was more content that I was considering putting in but decided not to. Because, seriously, this was getting too long. Just little things, like–what happened to the villain parents, especially the magical ones involved with the ritual. And random stuff like–I was actually considering keeping Anthony Tremaine alive and having him be drift compatible with Doug? But then it was like… that’s totally unnecessary.
So if anyone wants to shoot me questions about various head canons I have about this story that I couldn’t include in the story itself, go for it. That sounds like fun.
Also, if anyone would be willing to beta this so I can put it up on ao3, please let me know. Because that would be really cool, and I would be extremely grateful.
“Carlos!” They call out, and he’s helpless to stop the smile that spreads across his face. He waves down at them, and perhaps his good cheer is contagious, because Dreda waves as well, even if she doesn’t really know them.
For a second, he forgets. It’s as if the past fifteen months haven’t happened, no kaiju, no jaegers. For a second he’s just a kid again, the youngest member of the Isle’s baddest gang.
But only a second.
“Sir,” one of the technicians says, no doubt originally from the Wall–the primary way to tell technicians apart is by how polite they are–and Carlos looks up, looks away from his friends and Auradon. “Miss Dreda,” he adds, “It’s time to go.”
The jaeger is ready for its pilots.
A wave of numbness washes over him; in his peripheral vision he can see the way Dreda shudders one last time before gearing herself. They both step away from the railing, towards the cockpit entrance.
Dreda’s hand reaches towards him blindly and Carlos catches it in his own. They squeeze each other’s hands; they’re scared, but they’re ready.
“What should we name it?” Carlos asks her, not so much a distraction, but a focusing technique. The jaeger is a frightening future only because it’s an unknown. But they’ve both been a part of building it, and they’re going to be fighting in it. It’s theirs, it’s them, they should get to name it.
Dreda gives a shaky laugh, more exhale than sound. “My cousin Anthony used to call me something before… before.” Carlos vaguely recalls an Anthony Tremaine, a year or two older than himself. He had been… well, not kind–because kindness was not something done on the Isle–but he had been civil towards Carlos when he was just a runty science nerd. He can easily believe that Anthony would have been kind towards a runty, science nerd cousin.
Everyone has lost someone, Carlos is not unique in this. “I think you’ll like it Mr. De Vil,” Dreda says, pointedly using his last name.
“Oh, really?” Carlos asks, looking at her in curiosity.
“Mischief Demon,” she says, with a sly smile, and Carlos can’t help his own huff of amusement.
“That’s a good name.”
“Carlos!” They call out, and the sight of him in person instead of through a mirror, is more efficient than anything else in convincing them that they’re finally free. He smiles and waves down at them and that prompts all of them, even Mal, to smile back up at him.
Well, Ben has been smiling since first catching sight of him, so it would be more appropriate to say his smile grows even wider somehow. Until something pulls Carlos’ attention away, and Ben notices what he’s wearing.
That’s a jaeger pilot suit.
And beside Carlos is a short figure in a matching suit.
Then Carlos and his partner step away from the railing, disappearing from sight.
“No!” Evie shouts, echoing his thoughts, but the din of the docks or distance or whatever has taken Carlos away prevents her from being heard. “We have to get up there now!”
Jay pulls at one of the technicians, “How do we get up there?”
Maybe it’s surprise or fear, but it might be something else, because her eyes glaze over and she obediently says, “The elevator,” she waves toward the freight lift, but it’s already en route upwards and moving far too slowly for their tastes anyway.
“I’ve got this,” Mal says, and with a sharp arm gesture, she’s suddenly several feet above the ground. The technician, startled, moves away, as do others not even at all close. As does Chip.
But Evie and Jay step closer, familiar if not expectant, each with an arm raised up towards her.
As does Ben.
“That’s a good name,” Carlos says to Dreda, and with one last squeeze of their hands, they step towards the cockpit.
Only to be stopped by the technician, feet rooted to the walkway, unmoving; looking behind them, and turning pale.
“Almost as good as Queen Cobra,” Carlos hears from behind him, and he doesn’t know what that statement means but he knows that voice. Knows it so well, even if he hasn’t heard it in over a year.
“Evie,” he says, turning, then “Jay!” he yelps, when an arm curves around his shoulders and bodily pulls him away from the jaeger. Dreda is pulled along with him briefly, before she lets go. Smart, since Carlos is dragged into a bruising group hug. Even Mal joins in, though she extricates herself quickly enough.
She is also quick to get to the point.
“You can’t get in that,” Mal says, and no matter that Carlos had been dreading actually piloting a jaeger, no matter that she probably had a good reason and would explain, Carlos’ hackles rise.
It’s one thing to temporarily feel like that kid he once was, one thing to remember being the runt of the gang, jumping to attention whenever the others say so. But he’s not just Carlos anymore, he’s head of the jaeger program now.
“We have to,” Carlos contradicts, and steps away, towards Dreda, towards the jaeger, towards his duty. What does Mal know about the jaeger, about this new way of life on the Isle? She and Evie and Jay have been gone for over a year.
They might not have been around, they might not understand. But Auradon was, and he knows.
“Carlos,” Auradon repeats, then steps forward to stand beside Mal, “You don’t.”
Ben lets the friends reunite, stays back so he doesn’t intrude. He thinks it’s rather sweet, really, though he knows better than to say so. He averts his eyes, in part to give the gang some privacy, but also to look about.
The Isle is empty, the Hell Jalopy and the Rebel Watcher missing, the third jaeger prepped, Carlos and a young girl in pilot suits. He can read the signs: it’s either a triple event, or the kaiju have escalated to class fives and the first two jaegers are being overwhelmed.
The technician, who had paled so quickly upon spotting a group of flying teenagers–the image of a young Maleficent at the forefront–meets Ben’s eyes. Even if Ben weren’t the kind of person to remember people’s faces and names, it’s obvious that this technician is one of the engineers from the Wall, with the way he seems to be drawing comfort from seeing his king alive and unharmed, if a little messy from a dip in the waters around the Isle.
Ben silently and clumsily asks a question about the situation in the hand signs the jaeger program use around the docks when construction is too loud for speaking.
Two class fours, one class five.
So it’s both a triple event and a class escalation.
His attention snaps back to the gang when their conversation turns sour.
“We have to,” Carlos says, backing away and towards the jaeger. Towards danger.
Mal has told Ben what lies on the other side of the tears, the world of the kaiju and their masters. The whole point behind the kaiju. If the masters get a hold of Carlos…
“Carlos,” Ben doesn’t even want to consider that possibility. “Carlos. You don’t,” he steps forward, closer, “You don’t have to. Because we’ll go instead.”
A/N: Ugh, okay fine. This has to be two separate parts because I need to get out of this double POV scene thing that’s going on and also this is a decent enough length already. Hopefully I will have the actual final part up later today.
There’s something almost electrifying in the air, and it has nothing to do with cauldron’s inert energy. Ben stares, letting his eyes adjust: purple-haired Mal, blue-haired Evie, and Jay whose biceps probably are the size of his head. Carlos’ friends.
None of them move, a sense of astonishment on all sides making them pause and take it in. Mal, Evie, and Jay reveling in the fact of finally being home, Ben in the success of having completed his quest.
Then Evie hisses sharply, a gloved hand rising to her temple, “Carlos,” she breathes, as if in pain. “He needs us now.”
“Time to go,” Mal says brusquely, stepping towards the shore.
Ben–unaware of what exactly is going on, but reacting to both Mal’s order and the thought of Carlos needing help–follows her, Chip trailing behind him.
“Lagan! Derelict!” Jay calls out, and the eels sway in the water almost playfully at their names, before disappearing.
They come back, moments later, with a rickety but water-worthy dinghy. The girls climb in first, Jay keeping it steady before he climbs in as well. Ben and Chip join them, though not without a mild complaint from the latter, “There was a boat this entire time?”
Some force, whether magic or eels, begins pushing the dinghy through the water, back towards the inhabited part of the Isle.
“None of us can swim,” Jay says with a casual shrug, almost challenging someone to say anything about it, before his face twists and he adds, “Well–”
“Uri could,” Evie sighs, hand still against her temple, “He was teaching Jemma before the… before.”
Before the ritual. Before the kaiju. Before his death.
“What happened?” Ben asks, before realizing how that might be misconstrued, “I mean, it’s been over a year since you disappeared. Where were you?”
The other three teenagers look at each other, a silent conversation passing between them through facial expressions alone.
Mal is the one to look him in the eye and answer.
The pilot suits are strangely comfortable, Carlos thinks. Not that they’re designed to be uncomfortable, just that he would have expected the weight of the armored plates and sensors to be heavier. If anything, he feels free.
There are no crossbones on his suit.
“We have a match,” the drift analyst says solemnly. But everything about this situation would instill solemnity, so Carlos doesn’t take offense.
Some of the techs, the ones not up in the control room, the ones on the ground prepping the third jaeger–Carlos’ soon to be jaeger–hiss and murmur to each other. Relieved, but uncertain.
“Who is it?” he asks, when nothing else seems to be forthcoming.
“Dreda Tremaine,” the analyst states, so carefully, so hesitantly, that Carlos knows something is up even before the other techs burst into loud denials.
“Quiet,” the head of the jaeger program demands forcefully, “Who is Dreda Tremaine?” Carlos asks, concerned.
She’s one of the ground crew, mostly works on the fourth jaeger. She’s fairly skilled with wire work and but especially talented with firmware.
“Why do we even have her scan?” Carlos asks, honestly baffled; the head of the jaeger program asks, a little irritated.
“Everyone who joins the jaeger program gets tested. We… we weren’t sure how long the kaiju would keep coming,” the analyst explains haltingly. For all they knew, the jaeger program would last years longer. They weren’t expecting someone so young to be needed so soon.
“Where is she?” he asks, resigned, both parts of himself in unison.
Around him voices speak up and protest, She’d be over by the fourth jaeger now. You can’t seriously consider it. She’s too young.
“I’m here,” a small thin voice says, and the crowd of technicians part for her. She’s a short girl, dressed in an overly large shapeless technician’s coveralls, grease on her cheeks and her upturned nose. She’s shaking, and her hands are fisted into her pockets, shoulders hunched up to her ears, but she still walks forward and says, “I’m Dreda Tremaine.”
The past is the past; nothing can change that. Mal talks about the ritual, about the world of the kaiju, but only in the bare minimum. The past should be remembered, yes, should be learned from, but there is a time for reminiscing and that is not now. What they need to talk about is what they’re going to do next.
They know how to stop the kaiju for good. They need the jaegers, they need Carlos.
They need to stop Carlos from getting into the jaeger.
Once back onto solid ground, it’s Ben who leads the way. The Isle has changed over year they’ve been gone and while the jaegers are easily spotted from a distance, Ben is the one who knows how best to get to where they need to go.
The streets and alleys are deserted, as if the people had simply vanished mid-activity. Or as if a warning siren had gone off, alerting people to go to the safe zones. Even as they run, Ben can see that the Hell Jalopy and the Rebel Watcher are gone, only their nameless comrades remaining.
But Ben has also been on the Isle for months now, and there’s something else he notices. He can recognize the difference between a prepped jaeger and a jaeger in sleep mode. One of the nameless jaegers have been powered up.
There isn’t a pilot suit Dreda’s size, but they modify the smallest they do have to fit her. She changed with no complaint, but Carlos can see they way her tied up hair is swaying, an echo of her bodies’ trembling.
She’s only twelve.
“Hey, Dreda,” Carlos says, and even though he’s not one for comforting people he tries his best, and lays a hand on her shoulder, “I’m Carlos.”
She looks at him almost incredulously, “I know who you are,” she says, and her voice is still soft and thin but at least its not panicked.
“I just wanted you to know that I’m sorry,” because he is, he really really is, “These jaegers are supposed to protect the people of the Isle, and I’m sorry that just because we’re drift compatible you aren’t one of those people.”
It’s one thing to volunteer yourself for the jaeger, it’s another to drag someone else down with you, Carlos thinks to himself, but still there are no crossbones on his back.
“I… I’m scared,” Dreda admits, but she looks Carlos in the eye as she does so, and that gives him the courage to say back:
“I’m scared, too.” Maybe this is what makes them drift compatible, a willingness to do something terrifying because it needs to be done and they’re the only ones who can.
Their moment is cut short when shouts ring out; the ground crew heralding someone’s arrival. Carlos and Dreda look down from their spot up in the catwalks, just outside the jaeger cockpit entrance.
Five figures, not in the jaeger technicians’ jumpsuits.
Carlos recognizes the tops of those heads.
“No way,” Dreda breathes beside him, saying what he’s thinking.
It’s impossible for them to have heard her from so high up, but the group looks up, one by one. Carlos knows those faces, too.
Auradon actually did it.
A/N: ARGH! Okay, okay, what?! Why is this not done yet?! OMG. Okay. NEXT PART, FOR SURE.
The eels lead them to a cove. It is somehow both shadowy and glowing strangely, ominously. Ben shakes himself out to dry, drops of water flying everywhere, and normally Chip would says something about that tendency but not now. Not here.
Chip waves his fingers and stomps his feet, not in an effort to get dry, but because he can feel the creeping sensation of magic. His skin feels like it’s hardening, turning back into brittle porcelain, his limbs disappearing, and soon he’ll be nothing more than a teacup again.
It’s not happening, of course, it’s not. But that’s always what evil magic feels like to him. And this place has the residual energy of something definitely bad.
The eels, being aquatic creatures, cannot follow them onto the shore, but they wait in the water. Patiently.
“Over here,” Ben calls, and he is standing disturbingly close to what appears to be a large cauldron.
Chip shudders, but joins him.
The cauldron, much like the cove, is insidiously luminous, the contents unable to be looked at directly. And yet, despite the light radiating from within it, the cauldron seems dormant somehow.
Then Ben touches it, and the light grows and spreads and becomes absolutely blinding.
Part of the jaeger program involves an array of sensors attached to buoys in the water, ready to alert the Isle when and where kaiju surface. It’s not a particularly precise method, implemented early on before Auradon’s contributions, but it’s good enough to tell when–
“Double event!” One of the technicians yell, and it starts and echo throughout the docks, triggering a launch sequence. The jaeger pilots are found and prepped, any repairs or modifications being done on the Hell Jalopy and the Rebel Watcher finished as efficiently as possible, and both jaegers are sent out.
“What do we have?” Carlos asks, from his place at the center of the control room. Arrayed in a circle around him are technicians, eyes glued to monitors displaying the sensor array, the readings from the jaegers, the readings from the pilots’ suits, everything.
“Two class fours, three miles west” someone calls out, already starting up the warning sirens for the Isle. Others are speaking into their headsets, talking to the other technicians on the ground, to the pilots in their cockpits already marching towards battle.
They haven’t had double class fours yet, but they’ve been expecting it. The level of the kaiju appearing have been increasing, as have the frequency. And the quantity. So it’s with dread, but not surprise, that Carlos hears,
It’s said in a low voice, but around the control room the roar of action has silenced. It’s said in disbelief, in fear.
“Triple event,” the technician repeats, “There’s a class five kaiju, two miles. Northeast.”
A prince touches a cauldron and sets three magicians free. Phrased like that, it really does sound like something out of a fairy tale. But this isn’t that kind of story, not truly, and there was a bit more to it than that.
The prince touches a cauldron, a small tear between worlds, one of many such tears surrounding the Isle. But this one is different; this one is the first.
In that other monster-filled world, three young magicians move quickly, silently, carefully. This is their one chance to go back home, they cannot afford to be stopped now.
With the prince acting as an anchor, a beacon, they know where the cauldron entrance is on this side. The landscape of this world is strange and twisted, the light of whatever scorching star playing tricks on their eyes so used sunlight.
But magic doesn’t need sight, or maybe it grants a different kind of sight, because suddenly Evie can see the exit. A tear too small for the kaiju and their masters to take advantage of, but just the right size for them to escape.
A prince touches a cauldron and sets three magicians free.
After that announcement, the control room erupts into a burst of sound, panicked, distressed. A technician pulls up the sensor array onto a larger screen so everyone can see the two symbols representing the jaegers, the two symbols for the class fours, and the symbol of the class five. In a completely different direction, closer to the Isle and incoming.
There are discussions as they weigh their options, the a dozen voices simultaneously speaking. Do they call back the jaegers to fight the class five? But they are already en route to the class fours, they might not make it in time before all three are at the Isle. But if they go after the class fours, the Isle is undefended.
Maybe only one should turn back, split the jaegers, split the defense. But neither of the jaegers can handle a dual event on their own, certainly untested against a dual event of class fours. They’ve never had a class five before, either, they don’t know if a single jaeger will be enough.
There are two more jaegers; empty, but functional. They just need to be filled.
“Have HJ and RW continue towards the class fours,” Carlos says, twice when conversations keep happening after the first time. The control room silences once more, “Prep one of the remaining jaegers, and get two pilot suits,” there is a pause, the silence continues. “Now!” Carlos shouts, no longer himself, completely the head of the jaeger program. The techs scramble into action.
One of them, trying not to undermine his authority but needing to speak out, says, “We don’t have another set of pilots. No one is drift compatible, we’ve tested everyone.”
Carlos stares–not at the technicians, still at work, but listening desperately. Not at the sensor array, symbols blinking furiously. Not at the giant figures of the remaining two jaegers, standing, waiting, empty–He stares, right at that damned painted skull and crossbones.
“Not everyone,” he says, because it’s true. “Not me.”
Chip pulls Ben away from the cauldron almost immediately, fearful of what the sudden surge of energy, this sudden awakening of the cauldron means. His insides feel scooped out, body too fragile to stand up against what the wave of magic means. But still he pulls Ben away from the cauldron, pulls Ben behind him, stands ready to fight.
Clambering out of the cauldron are three silhouettes, the only breaks of shadow in the odd distorted beam of light. One of them touches cauldron and suddenly it’s as if the world has gone dark, the difference too sudden and too drastic for their eyes to adjust.
“You certainly took your time,” one of them says, a girl’s voice, flat and unimpressed.
“You’re the prince Carlos sent,” a different girl’s voice says, “The one he calls Auradon,” and the statement piques Ben’s interest, causes him to circle around Chip.
He hears a shuffling sound, a footfall on sand; Ben squints to see, the tall, buff burgundy figure step protectively in front of the other two.
“Yes,” Ben says, empty hands raised as a show of good faith, “That’s me.”
“Well congratulations,” the first girl says, “you’ve found us.”
A/N: Ugh, I thought this would be the last part, but apparently not. Mostly because it’s already midnight and my head hurts so I ought to post what I have now.
Preeeeeetty sure next part will be the last. Pretty sure.
The islanders are reluctant to share their knowledge of what exactly happened, not because they’re distrustful of Ben, but because it involves magic. The only ones who really understood magic were the ones involved, and they’re the ones missing.
“Good riddance,” one woman mutters, face hidden by dirty blonde hair and a grungy scarf.
The woman next to her jostles her sharply, hissing a warning, “If the captain heard you, you’d walk the plank.”
“Well the captain’s dead, she’s not here to protect her damned pet squid. It’s because of him that the kaiju are around.” The woman spits back, before shuffling away when the expression on her conversation partner’s face clearly doesn’t agree.
The remaining woman glares at her retreating back, before turning expectantly to Ben and Chip. Her back is hunched and her clothes are dirty, but the set of crossbones stitched onto her beanie are a bright clean white. “You’ve got questions, then?”
“Yes,” Ben says politely, “I’m trying to figure out–”
“What happened to the other magic kids, eh?” She interrupts, eyebrow raised slyly, “You think the entire Isle don’t know about your mission? And I’m not talking about finding those three.”
Ben tries desperately not to blush.
He obviously fails from the way the woman laughs raucously.
“If you could please–” Chip starts, only to be interrupted as well.
“You’re a bit too clean for my own tastes,” the woman says to Chip appraisingly, “but that can be fixed easily.” She winks, and now Chip is also flustered. Great.
“Ma’am, we need to know what happened.” Ben says, bringing them back on topic, “How is it that Uri’s death is confirmed, but no one knows what happened to the others?”
“That’s easy,” she scoffs, “How else?”
Ben waits for her to explain, but Chip is the one to answer.
“There was a body.”
It’s not like Carlos is just waiting for Auradon to come back. He has a lot to do around the docks; it comes with the territory of being the head of the jaeger program. That being said, he has no idea why Jane and Lonnie keep following him around.
He’s still a bit suspicious of them, ever since they tricked him into talking to Auradon. So it’s not his fault his face automatically turns into a squinty eyed stare in their presence, especially Jane’s.
“It worked out for the best,” Lonnie says, absolutely steady from her perch on the catwalk railings.
Carlos only grumbles back at her, combing through some basic wire work on the fourth jaeger. Jane, at least, has the decency to sit on the actual walkway, safe from tipping over. Not that her being in Carlos’ peripheral vision is making him any less nervous.
“I think it’s absolutely romantic,” Jane sighs, head propped in her hand, and Carlos is not fooled at all.
But he still asks, “What is?” and ignores the feverish sensation on the tips of his ears.
“A knight on a quest to prove his love,” Jane responds wistfully. Carlos wonders if this is what she was like before coming to the Isle, if she would have been just a daydreaming teenage girl, instead of a jaeger pilot capable of destroying giant monsters. Well, now he gets to deal with both.
Lonnie hums in agreement–correction, now Carlos gets to deal with both twice over–before adding, “Usually the prince ends up with the rescued princess, but traditional stories are so two decades ago.”
Jane barks out a laugh, “It’s not like your parents were very traditional,” she reminds teasingly.
“I like to think they were trendsetters,” Lonnie shoots back.
Their easy banter washes over him, familiar at least, if not soothing, after weeks of it; but Carlos is still stuck on something in particular.
“Auradon is a prince?”
Finding where Jemma Hook is buried is easy. Finding where Jemma Hook buried Uri? Not so much.
“Captain was real torn up about his death,” a man nearly two feet taller than Chip says morosely, casually shrugging a crate of potatoes onto one shoulder, “She would’ve buried him wherever she hid her treasure.”
“Good luck finding that,” someone else snorts, unashamedly interjecting himself into their conversation, “She kept that a secret to her own grave.”
“It’s true,” the first man says, “Any decent pirate would have a hidden stash, Captain Hook’s would be particularly hard to find.”
“You know, if anyone could find it,” The second man suggests, “It would be that damn thief; or maybe the princess, if there were enough gems.”
“You think this boy would be bothering with the Captain’s treasure if he already had Carlos’ gang?” The first man scoffs, reaching out to cuff the other on the back of the head.
It nearly bowls him over, but he keeps to his feet, “Just saying,” he scowls.
“No wait,” a third person says, bodily inserting herself into their discussion by ducking under the first man’s arm, “He’s onto something. The ones who would best be able to find the captain’s treasure would be Jay and Evie.”
“Neither of whom we have,” Chip reminds.
“So the closest thing you have to that is their parrot.” The girl says, a mischievous grin on her face.
“A parrot,” Ben finally says, leaning forward in interest, “Tell me more.”
“Don’t you dare hurt Othello,” Evie warns, even as she brings up his image onto her mirror and passes it over to Jay.
“You think I’m going to risk our one chance by purposefully messing with that bird?” he asks, hands on the mirror, eyes beginning to glow.
“There’s a reason he likes me better,” Evie says, before turning silent, focusing on her precognitive abilities. She needs to keep an eye out for any of their hunters, especially now that Jay is occupied with possessing Othello and Mal has brought down their shield. They’re not actually sure if it will work, which is why Mal is using her magic to amplify Jay’s.
“This is ridiculous,” Mal murmurs. It sounds like one of those fairy tales, she thinks, a prince following a bird to one secret area. Then following another set of animals to a different secret area. All as part of a quest to rescue a princess. So what if that bird is a parrot being magically possessed, and the next set of guides are eels, and there’s an evil fairy’s daughter and an evil sorcerer’s son being rescued alongside the princess? “So ridiculous,” she repeats.
“This is great!” Ben enthuses as he and Chip pick their way along the trash-strewn shore, following after the blue and yellow parrot. “It’s really like a proper quest.”
Chip, done with absolutely everything–especially the parrot who not only scratched and bit him, but also pooped on his shoulder–is distinctly less impressed.
“Mystery, a hidden treasure, an animal guide,” Ben lists off, before the parrot screeches– “Hurry up!” – and they both pour on the speed.
They wouldn’t want to lose the bird for a second time. At least it seems to be intelligent enough to not only get the gist of what they need, but also to circle back and find them. Suspiciously intelligent, Chip thinks to himself, but that may just be his newly found bias against birds speaking.
The parrot brings them to a rocky outcropping, a small five foot cliff of sorts. Looking around, neither of them can see a place where something can be buried.
“Did this thing take us on a wild goose chase?” Chip asks belligerently, before flinching when the parrot lands on his shoulder.
Ben laughs, out of breath, but his hands clench into fists with irritation as well.
“Lagan! Derelict!” The parrot screeches, disastrously loud right next to Chip’s ear.
It takes a few moments, but soon enough, in the water below them, the long sinuous bodies of two eels appear.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Chip says in disbelief.
“Multiple animal guides,” Ben amends, before steeling himself and jumping into the water. “Come on!” he calls up to Chip.
Chip stares balefully down at him instead, looks at the parrot on his shoulder in commiseration, realizes he’s doing so, and decides to flee from the feathered pest by jumping down after Ben.
The water is cold and kind of slimy feeling and Chip hates everything about this. He says as much.
Ben just grins obnoxiously back, “It’s not over yet.”
A/N: Yes, that’s how I’m ending it because I can’t believe it’s not over yet. AAAAAGH. We will get there soon. Hopefully.
Thanks to theotpauthor for letting me know that the eels are not just a strange fluke. Hence, Othello the parrot, who is technically Evie’s but is descended from Iago so… yet another timeshare pet?
And jalencolbert, in case you didn’t see my edit on the last post. Lagan and Derelict are the book canon names for the eels, I didn’t come up with it. But I think Uri as Ursula’s son’s name is my creation? Not sure, there are only so many U names. Feel free to use that as well, though.
There is really only one thing that Carlos–Carlos the boy, not Carlos the head of the jaeger program–wants.
He wants his friends.
It’s not something that’s easy to admit. The Isle has been critical of such soft, positive emotions–you have minions or a gang or, if you’re particularly lucky, partners in crime–but friends are for the weak. Friendship just means admitting a person is your weak spot.
But that was before. There’s a new world order on the Isle; in the face of kaiju, posturing as a tough, heartless loner is not only useless, but detrimental. Survival means cooperation now. The strongest of them, the jaeger pilots, are only such because they are drift compatible. To protect one’s family, for the love of lost friends, to contribute to the community–that’s what the Isle now holds above all else.
But it’s a lifetime of conditioning to work against, so it’s still difficult to admit. And, truth be told, Carlos is scared.
It’s a selfish request, to risk their source of, well, everything, just to try and figure out what happened to three people who may or may not be…
Carlos doesn’t know what happened to them; the mystery is as much a source of hope as it is despair. If he doesn’t know, then their deaths can’t be confirmed, they could still be alive. But surely, if they were still alive, they would have come back by now?
And what use would it be to know now, after over a year? What if its dangerous, what if it’s pointless, what if…
But Auradon asks, and that’s the only thing Carlos wants.
“You don’t have to,” Carlos says, fingers tugging nervously with the ends of his gloves. He’s said the same thing dozens of times already, voice conflicted, eyes filled with both hope and fear, “You don’t have to, really.”
“Auradon,” Ben says, just to get Carlos to look at him. At Ben. Not a resource, not a king, just Ben.
“That’s what you call me. And, you know, there’s a bit of a tradition in my kingdom,” Curiosity makes Carlos quiet, waiting for more. It’s better than him being worried, so Ben continues, “A boy goes on a quest to prove that he’s worthy.”
“Worthy of what?” Carlos asks, confused.
“I don’t know yet,” Ben says with a laugh. Carlos wrinkles his nose, to which Ben shrugs helplessly, “I’ll bring them back to you,” he says seriously, grasping both of Carlos’ hands to stop his fidgeting. And because he wants to, “One way or another, I’ll find them and I’ll bring them back to you,” Ben vows.
This vow is more crucial than bringing back cars and boats and planes and engineers and pilots. Because this isn’t a promise between a king and the head of the jaeger program. This is a promise from one boy to another, from a boy in love to the one he loves.
“And when I succeed,” Ben says, squeezing Carlos hands between his own, “I’d like it if you used my real name.” And he brings them up to his lips, brushing a kiss against bare knuckles.
Carlos tugs his hands away, a flush high on his cheeks, and Ben thinks he’s screwed up. But Carlos says, “You’ll have to come back and tell me what it is, then,” before he stomps away, no doubt back to the jaeger docks.
Ben smiles goofily after him, until Chip cuts in with a not so subtle cough. “Very smooth,” he says, completely straight faced.
Ben squints at him suspiciously, unsure if Chip is being sarcastic or not.
“It’s better than your dad at least,” Chip says reassuringly which, considering the story behind his parents’ get together, is not really all that of a consolation.
“Are you sure you want to come with me?” Ben asks, echoing a conversation they had months before.
And like before, Chip says, “I’m not letting you go alone.”
There is something strange about magic on this side of the tear. Or maybe, on this side of the ritual, on this side of Uri’s death.
The barrier being taken down was just a side affect, the tear between worlds an unintended consequence. The ritual was meant only to use son of a witch as fuel to revive the power of four magicians. Except there weren’t just four magicians–there were seven; even if three of them were young and unknowing.
Rituals are delicate things, everything must be done precisely or else it’ll end up a mess. The magical backlash, along with tearing down the barrier and tearing open a path between worlds, caused enough chaos for the three of them–back up sacrifices and accidental vessels–to escape.
But they didn’t know then which way they were escaping. Instead of going back, to warn the rest of the Isle, they went forward; into the world of the kaiju.
In this world, magic comes easily to them, thankfully. Otherwise how would they have survived without Mal’s constant shield. Without Evie’s precognitive warnings. And how would they have figured out the truth behind the kaiju without Jay’s mind magics pulling the truth out of one.
If only magic could bring them back.
But they’ve learned in the past couple of days–weeks–months–that magic doesn’t always need to be the solution. Not with Carlos.
“He’s sending us a prince,” Evie says, voice elated in a way Mal and Jay haven’t heard since they’ve been trapped on the wrong side of the tear.
“How will that help us?” Jay asks, disbelief blatant in his voice, even as he stares eagerly at Evie’s mirror.
“If he can find the ritual site, he can act as an anchor for us on that side,” Evie explains, excited grip causing the mirror’s frame to dig into her palm.
“We’d be able to find an opening that isn’t where the kaiju are being sent through,” Jay says in understanding.
“However we came through in the first place,” Mal agrees, “If there were some way we could lead him there…” she trails off, unsure. The ritual site had been Ursula’s choice, a cove that she had kept secret from the rest of the island.
“The eels,” Evie suggests, at the same time Jay says, “Lagan and Derelict.”
Mal looks at both of them skeptically before shrugging, “I suppose if anything can get him to Ursula’s secret lair, it’d be Uri’s pets.” And how poetic it would be, if creatures that Uri cared for were to help expose his murder.
A/N: Okay, so according to Jay’s wiki page, he’s the one with pet eels which I find kind of odd since it’s clearly a reference to Ursula’s Flotsam and Jetsam… unless that means Jay’s mother is Ursula?!?! Uh… well, let’s just say not since I have Uri in this story. Maybe in this universe Jay and Uri have a timeshare on the eels or something, I dunno.
Uh, yeah, strange ending. Sorry about that.
EDIT: (Because I don’t know how to reply to replies). jalencolbert, I just pulled the names for the eels off Jay’s wiki page so I don’t own them. As far as I know, Uri isn’t a canon name for Ursula’s kid (if she even has one) so that is sort of mine, but feel free to use that as well.
(Hope you don’t mind me posting it, so I can keep a record)
Thanks! I was also a little surprised Carlos freaked out, too, but it felt right as I was writing–like, sure he’s matured and sure he’s head of the jaeger program, but he’s still a teenaged boy who has no idea how to deal with love and his only (overt) example of it was two dead teenagers. It’s like expecting someone who has just witnessed a car crash to start learning how to drive.
I am also surprised by how prevalent in this story Jemma Hook is, considering she’s an OC. I knew I wanted her to be important–and help explain why Carlos’ symbol is crossbones–but I guess they had a deeper connection than even I could have predicted because she just keeps popping up. I’ve grown fond of her, and I kinda wish I hadn’t killed Uri off just to see how the two of them would interact. Who knows? Maybe there’ll be an interlude for that.
A Tale of Two Kingdoms… hm… I like it; but I also misread it at first and thought you suggested A Tale of Two Kings which I am also considering. Because on the one hand, Kingdoms could mean Auradon vs the Isle, or it could mean Humanity vs Kaiju. But Kings would mean Ben and Carlos which goes with the back and forth writing POVs… and the inevitable shipping. What do you think?