Some men say an army of horse and some men say an army on foot
and some men say an army of ships is the most beautiful thing
on the black earth. But I say it is
what you love.
Pairing: Mulan/Elsa, preslash/first meeting
Rating: PG, some nongraphic violence
Prompt: sappho prompt 2 from femslashficlets
Notes: Princesses post-apocalyptic AU. The beginning of the end, Mulan POV. While most of the princesses are high school age at this point in the timeline, Mulan, Elsa, and others are in their twenties. I've given Mulan a younger brother (Ty), based loosely on non-Disney variations on the story, and maybe with a touch of Mushu.
The world doesn't change with a storm in the sky, nor with monsters. No. It's a crack as loud as thunder, loud enough to halt fear, and a galloping chill in the middle of spring.
Mulan breathes in frost and looks to the sky. She sees blood and ice and beauty.
Life, she thinks, has always been scraping boulders and earthquakes that change the land. When the sky billows wrong colors and dragons appear, screaming and twisted, Mulan swallows, clenches her fists, and hits the gas.
She lives alone here. Her mom and dad and grandmother are in Portland. But her little brother, still in high school, is visiting. She went to pick him up from the train station.
"Holy shit!" he says next to her. "Are you seeing that? Tell me it's not just me seeing that."
It is massive, the creature that claws and writhes across the road, not a hundred feet ahead of them. Red light plays in eerie ripples over its bruise-purple hide; it moves fast as a whip. It thankfully clears the road.
"Yeah." She checks; his seatbelt is still on. "I see at least five." That leviathan was not alone. Some of them seem very small, dots in the sky. She swerves around an idling car.
"Hang in there, Ty. Where are we going..." She says the second part mostly to herself. "Out of the city." They're barely off the highway. It should be doable.
"Or we could get inside?" Ty says, edging on panic.
Mulan dodges another crawling car and speeds her way onto the merge ramp.
"Everything's centered in the city. Look, can you see?" She hits eighty miles an hour and weaves.
Ty cranes his neck in her periphery; after a beat he says, "What?" He's practically twisting himself into the back seat for a better look. "It's like a storm or something. What is it?!"
"I don't know, but I think away is definitely the right direction to go."
A few minutes of tense and confused silence later, her brother speaks up again.
"I think it's getting bigger."
"What is?" The monster? The swirling red storm?
"The storm...thing. I think it might catch up with us?"
Mulan clenches her teeth.
"Alright, Ty. We're finding somewhere to hole up. Ideas: go."
They end up in a Costco off the highway, a big rectangular building made largely of cinderblock. They survive there for three weeks, them and a couple dozen other people. At least they have food and water, and when the power goes down sometime during the first night, they have lots of flashlights and candles.
As soon as they're inside, she and Ty try to text warnings to and call their mom and dad and grandmother—just in case this keeps going, spreads out that far. They finally get through just once before they lose cell service, and Grandmother takes their warnings seriously. If anyone can bring their family through safe, she tells Ty, it's Grandmother.
The sky stays wrong for a little over a week, and monsters lurk constantly.
Week two is when daylight returns, and with it, quiet and stillness. It's too much to hope that it's all over—but the monsters seem to come out only when it gets dark, now. They must be afraid of sunlight, or have eyes like cave dwellers.
"Maybe they turn to stone," Ty suggests.
Mulan scrunches up her face. "How would that even work?"
Ty shrugs. "They are monsters."
"Well, still, they're probably just nocturnal."
Ty gives her that.
"Turning to stone is more of a fantasy magic thing." Mulan does not believe in magic.
She and her brother have set up camp in the aisle next to the big boxes of granola bars. Everyone takes what privacy they can get, splitting up polyester fleece blankets, dragging crates to the openings of aisles to block them from view. Mulan is extremely grateful when one of the younger workers suggests this, because while Mulan needs privacy desperately, she doesn't want to be the first to ask for it.
There's a normalcy in the walls and boxes and bright brand labels around them, and Mulan is tempted to cling to it. But they all hear the eerie shrieks and warbles that resonate through the walls.
Each night, Mulan makes sure Ty is asleep before she settles herself. She hasn't had enough of a chance to be his big sister and she holds tight to it now.
She sleeps as well as any of them can be expected to sleep, which is to say, not well. Some hours she kicks awake from dreams of the beasts she's seen, of Ty swept away, disappearing behind their teeth. Other times her dreams buzz low with unease. She is home, in her small, yellow kitchen, and she can't find her Spiro—and now she can't find her estrogen pills, wasn't she just holding them? She can feel her body, her skin distorting by the second–
She wakes with dread in her core like she's swallowed a weight. It's pitch black and she can hear Ty snoring quietly next to her. She knows where she is, and the nightmare isn't over.
Day twenty-three: the daylight fades. A monster screams like a bullhorn and rips off part of the Costco roof.
And that's the first day Mulan believes in magic.
She is breathtaking. A pillar of ice lifts her into the air and she seems to fly, shining as if with starlight, hair streaming in a white braid behind her. A blade grows from her hand, and grows, and she plunges it through the monster's throat. The monster, a strange dark shape, groans massively before going still.
Mulan shivers where she's standing, hands clutched on the handle of the shovel she'd grabbed. She uses it now to keep herself upright.
The silver woman alights on the floor; the linoleum crackles beneath her in protest.
Mulan finds her breath, her words.
"Are there more coming?"