The Adventures of Aro Island.
.. Near the edge of the ocean, passed the mountains, valleys, and rivers of the world, sitting at the tip of the horizon, barely visible to the human eye, is Aro Island. Aro Island is no ordinary island at least not since the day an old man name Manuk found the end of a rainbow on it. There was no pot of gold, but a rather an iridescent liquid that seemed to bubble from both fire and ice. When Manuk bent down to touch the colorful liquid, it filled up his body, lifted him high into the air, and spun him in circles. It was the most amazing thrill Manuk had ever felt. It was almost like the colors came to life. He could taste them on his tongue, sweet as candy, and hear them like choirs. With each passing second Manuk’s body filled with rays of light, and each ray of color elevated him into a higher level of euphoria. He spun faster and faster filling with more and more joyous energy.
Without jolt or discomfort, the clouds shifted, the rainbow passed, and the old man was eased back down to the ground.
Manuk was left with extraordinary levels of happiness. It was as though youth had grown inside of him and it allowed him to do things he never dreamed possible. When his emotions were positive, all of his senses were magnified. He could taste, hear, and see better. He could jump farther, run faster, fly higher than ever before.
Before long, Manuk began to understand circular movements helped him control and understand this energy. Maybe it was the fact that a circle has no beginning and no end, or maybe Manuk could remember the colors when he spun in circles, but he understood the circle would be his tool. Manuk began to use a hoop grown from a Bambusa tree, a tree said to grow only from the puddle of a rainbow.
Manuk shared his knowledge and understanding with friends and loved ones, and before long, creatures across the kingdom started using hoops to harvest their happiness. Manuk became known as King and for generations and generations Aros lived in joy. Those who followed in King Manuk’s footsteps lived many years with ease and bliss.
But with every story of happiness and love, comes one of doom and despair. As Manuk stepped into one end of a rainbow and was lifted into euphoria, the other end of the rainbow landed just on the other end of the island. This end of a rainbow also left an iridescent liquid that a young girl named Sahar stepped into. This liquid did not lift her like it did Manuk. The weight of colors left her spinning in a mass of wretched heartache, anguish and torment, like all the world’s sadness cracked her chest open. But something in that heartache made Sahar understand power. As Manuk learned to harness his happiness and joy, Sahar learned to magnify her power by harvesting sorrow, pain, and despair. To do so, she used a staff made from the strong cattails called Citadels near the North River.
Some believe that when the balance of the world is one, the hoop and the staff can spin together. But moments of balance became few and the two sides were left with no other choice than to divide into two kingdoms. Those who harvested happiness lived on Aro Island, and those who harvested despair lived in Scalia. For centuries the two countries constantly lived in fear of the other.
Long after Manuk and Sahar had died, The Big War started. No one knows exactly how the Big War started, but The War of Greed and Joy destroyed incredible amounts of the island. It was the reign of a young princess, a descendant of Manuk, who was responsible for picking up the pieces of Aro Island. She was only fifteen years old when she was handed the crown after her father was killed in the war. Her reign over Aro Island lasted longer than any other Queen or King, besides Manuk himself. For nearly a hundred years, Aros lived in peace thanks to the alliances, treaties, spells and enchantments that this young queen placed. Aros would lovingly come to know her as Grandma Queen.
Scalia was led by Sahar’s descendant, King Bernard II. It was a young Grandma Queen and young King Bernard who decided to divide the two kingdoms with a ravine that ran the borders of both lands. In the belly of the Gulch’s Ravine, Grandma Queen and King Bernard spun together. The two spun a spell that created a combination of arrogance and self-doubt which has only been described as the birth of mediocracy. Unpalatable for both Aros and Scalians, the magnitude of indifference bubbles in the crevices of the Ravine, and most avoid it entirely.
After the Treaty of the Ravine, the two countries had lived in peace for decades. Together King Bernard II and Grandma Queen kept their lands free of war. And time passed on, and the good King Bernard II would be laid to rest ten years before Grandma Queen who died at the age of 111.
As the crown is passed down to the first born of the first born and so on and so on, Aro Island had yet again been left to the guidance of a young princess, the granddaughter of Grandma Queen, Princess Louisa Majesta Maravilla Aro, who the Aros referred to as Queen Lou.
Queen Lou thought about her grandmother as she dug her heels into her hoop and guided herself to a flat red rock that stretched out like an island in the middle of two rivers. Gently, she lowered herself closer to the shimmering surface and stepped down onto Granite Rock. She dismounted and with one quick motion flipped her hoop into the air where it stayed suspended and spun over itself creating a ball of light.
It had been fifteen years since Queen had visited Granite Rock. The color of the water was the same mix of oranges, blues and fuschia she saw in her memories. She was seven the last time she had been there. It was the summer Randalla, an old river mermaid who Grandma Queen appointed as the Ambassador of the Riverfolk, taught Queen Lou how to use her hoop as a fin.
Queen Lou laughed to herself as she stood on Granite Rock remembering. She felt a twitch of sadness as she bent down to touch the water.
Grandma Queen loved Granite Rock because she had met Randalla there. She had wanted to teach herself how to swim with her hoop and had gone there because she thought she could avoid the Riverfolk there.
“It is very difficult,” Queen remembered her grandmother saying, “For Riverfolk to swim up to here. But Randalla is one of the oldest and strongest. When I was a little, I would swim here with my hoop. I wanted to avoid the Riverfolk because every time I tried swimming anywhere else, they made fun of me. They really aren’t the nicest creatures in the world. So when I saw Randalla here, I thought for sure she’d give me a hard time. But turns out, she’s isn’t so bad,” Grandma Queen said. “Don’t tell her I said that though,” Grandma Queen whispered to a young Lou. “And anyway, who wouldn’t love swimming in these colors? Aren’t they beautiful?” The way Grandma Queen said, “beautiful” just made everything so.
Remembering her grandmother’s voice, Queen Lou cupped the river water in her hands and took a big drink. She tightened her purple cape around her neck as Moonbeam landed. His black cape engulfed him as he came to a running stop. He flipped his hoop off him and pointed it towards Queen. “When I tell you to slow down,” he gruffed, “You should do it.” Moonbeam flicked his hoop and it floated up and suspended next to Queen’s. She reached out and touched the old man’s shoulder.
He gripped his gloved hand around Queen’s forearm. “You must be careful,” he said, his grey eyes full of worry.
Moonbeam had a rough exterior but he was like a grandfather to her. He was not a threatening or aggressive Aro, but he understood night. Some say he was born at the climax of a lunar eclipse and his first breath of air was complete darkness. But like most gifts, no one could really explain Moonbeam’s talent.
Queen nodded as Blue Maiden landed and flipped her hoop up. She watched Moonbeam walk away then nudged Queen with her elbow. Maiden had a way of talking out the side of her mouth when she was being playful. “Someone’s in trouble,” she whispered.
She was a short, portly woman with dark skin and short, thick hair. She was a no-nonsense, levelheaded firecracker who barely stood five feet. Queen had to lower her eyes to look at her.
They both stood quiet for a second until Queen said, “I was just thinking about the night Grandma Queen’s mood streak changed. I have never seen her so mad.”
“That rotten no good cousin of yours left me to take the heat. She would not stop talking to that jinx,” Maiden said. Only one creature ever survived living in the Ravine, and that was the jinx. With the ability to wipe memories clean, jinxes were not to be trusted, but the Duchess had befriended Evergreen, a jinx who had been around longer than Grandma Queen.
The same day Queen had learned to swim, was the night Maiden and Duchess, Queen’s cousin, had left the family’s campsite.
“When we got back to the campground, Duchess went straight to bed and left me to take the heat. Every single Aro had something to say to me that night. Every single one of them.” Maiden let out a big exhale. “Every single one except Grandma Queen.”
“I know it,” said Queen Lou. “Her mood streak had turned completely red. I’d never seen it be so red for so long.”
Queen thought about her own mood streak in the center of her bangs. Hers was just like Grandma Queen’s. No one really knows how Aros got their mood streaks. Some people think it happened to Manuk when he touched the rainbow, but every Aro developed a mood streak somewhere in their hair that would change depending how they felt.
A slight breeze tickled the tops of Queen and Maiden’s head. “Whatchaya guys doing?” Lady sweetly called as she laid across her hovering hoop, her arms and legs dangling.
Queen looked up to Lady. “Come on down,” she waved. “We need to take a look at the map again.”
Lady was ten years younger than Queen, and although Lady could get carried away with her mischievous nature, Queen had come to greatly rely on her. Lady was a compass. She had the ability of direction, and as long as she kept her concentration, Lady could unfold a precise, up-to-date map of any place within her hoop. Only one other Aro had the same power.
Granite Rock was their pitstop before taking off to ride through Ira Falls. Although each of them had ridden through the Falls before, they wouldn’t have traveled through the falls in the winter. Many of the best Aros never traveled through Ira Falls no matter what time of year, but it was the quickest route to Smoky’s, and there was no time to be wasted.
“I’ve gotta talk to Moony,” Queen said.
Lady continued to hover above Maiden as Queen walked towards Moony.
“Come on,” Lady said again as she pulled on Maiden’s hood. “Smoky’s isn’t that much farther. I know where it is. I’ll lead the way.”
Even with dark riding goggles on, Lady’s green eyes twinkled.
“I promise, I will give the best directions possible,” she said holding up her hand as if taking an oath.
“Get down Lady,” Maiden said through her clenched teeth. “Moonbeam is already mad. Quit making so much noise, and get down,” Maiden inhaled deeply, puffed out her chest and put her hands on her hips. “Don’t make me come up there.”
Lady twisted herself up into her hoop so she was riding it like a surfboard. She began to tap dance on her hoop.
“La,La,La,La,” Lady sang out as she jigged.
“I said get down,” Maiden said as she pulled Lady’s hoop out from beneath her.
Queen could hear the thump of Lady as she hit the rock.
“Geez, Maiden!” Lady whined rubbing her hip, “Why’d you do that?”
Queen didn’t turn around to watch the two squabble. She climbed up the perch Moonbeam was standing on, his nose high in the air. “I don’t have a good feeling about any of this, Lou-Lou.” He said without opening his eyes to look at her.
Moonbeam was one of three Aros who occasionally called her Lou-Lou. Hearing that name gave her a sense of comfort. So many times, it was still hard to hear herself be called Queen. It had only been two months since she had been given that title.
Moonbeam cleared his throat. “We have to talk to Lady.” He turned to look at Queen.
“I know Moony,” Queen said. “Something inside of me is telling me to wait. I’m a little afraid if we tell her she’ll lose her head. She already rides so reckless.” Queen immediately wanted to change her words. She could tell Moonbeam wanted to lecture her about being reckless. “Look,” Queen comforted, “Let’s get through the falls and when we land at Smoky’s and we will all tell her.” Queen looked into Moonbeam’s eyes. “Let’s just please get there safely.”
Moonbeam shook his head, “I suppose there is no right answer to this chaos.” Queen looked to Moonbeam. He started to say something and seemed to change his mind. “I put my trust in you, Lou-Lou. It’s not always easy for me,” Moonbeam rubbed his beard, “but I believe your grandmother taught you well.”
Queen cleared her throat and patted Moonbeam on the back. “We can only hope,” she smiled and put her arm around Moonbeam. “Come on, old man. You got to keep us youngins in line.”
Both Maiden and Lady were bent over Lady’s hoop that was spinning in front of them.
“That fall is usually frozen up solid, but we should cross before it,” Lady said pointing at an exact replica of Ira Falls.
Maiden snapped her head up at Lady. “You are telling me this from memory, aren’t you?”
Lady grinned a bit. Maiden shook her head, “Child. I swear. We have told you a million times not to take joyrides in the falls.”
Queen stepped up to the hoop and put her hand on Maiden. She looked over at Lady. “How many times have you been through the falls in the winter?”
Lady looked at Queen with a cringe. “A few times,” she answered.
Queen looked at the young Aro and back down to the map. She took a breath, “Well, alright then, Lady. Tell us what you think.”
Lady pointed to the first and second fall, “These two falls are falling fast. They should be clear without ice, but the water is going to be really cold. So remember that when we cross through the second fall,” Lady slowly moved her hand along the map, “ride at the edge of the granite and get behind the third fall. It’s frozen solid, but if you’re behind it, you’ll be fine. We’ll need to enter here,” she pointed to the fourth tunnel.
Maiden shifted her weight, “Wait a sec, the fourth tunnel? I thought it was the eighth.”
Moonbeam cleared his throat, “If we take the fourth tunnel we can ride in the Caverns and come out at the edge of Fern Canyon.”
Lady looked at them, “Don’t get mad,” she said as swirled her hoop and a beautiful quiet cave opened in front of her. “I can get us around pretty easily.”
The more times Lady had visited a place, the more details would appear in her hoop. By the looks of the graphic map, Lady had visited the Caverns often. Queen shook her head, “A few times, uh?”
Lady shrugged. “They are easy to navigate. Once we get through the fourth tunnel, the cave will open up into a huge ballroom and where the lights of the water are so amazing. You’ll love them,” Lady looked up confirming. “Anyway,” she cleared her throat. “Just follow along this ridge and we will come out right here, just on the edge of Fern Canyon. You can just follow me.”
From there, it would a short ride the edge of Smoky’s property.
Queen raised her eyebrows. “Anybody else have a better idea?” Nobody spoke. “Well, alright then. I’ll follow behind Lady. Maiden after me and Moonbeam can follow. Remember, tight body, soft hands. It’s loud and will get confusing. Fly together. Fly as one. I’ll see you at Fern Canyon.”
They all started to reach for their hoops when Lady raised her hands.
“Wait. There is one more thing,” she said, a tremble in her words. “There’s a flock of Tawnies that stay there.”
Queen, Maiden and Moonbeam turned to Lady.
“What do you mean a ‘flock of Tawnies’ stay there?” Maiden said. “I knew there was something wrong with the fourth tunnel.”
“Well, I don’t know if it’s a whole flock, but they live there most the time in the winter. They like it there because no one ever bothers them,” Lady’s voice moved in pitch with her nerves. “But they usually let me come fly around.” Lady paused and Queen could tell there was more she wanted to say.
“Lady,” Queen whispered as her mood streak quickly changed from it’s natural white to a light blue. “Pull out your map again.”