Epilogue - A New Order
She breathed softly, feeling the air around her sharpen with her cold. It sang along her skin and sank deep within her, to the deepest recesses of her mind that she had even now only just begun to explore.
Scenes and memories pounced on her from the darkness behind her closed eyes but she ignored them. She was searching for just one place in the chaos.
On and on the memories pounded, trying to distract her:
Ice raced across the mountaintop, freezing the summit…
The ocean pounded against the shore and she curled up on the sand, crying…
The fire was being lit…she was going to burn…
Branna gently took her hand, her outline blurry. “Come with me my love, I will write the things you See…”
When she finally found her ice palace among the torrent of thoughts, it was like finding a rock to cling to in a raging river. Elsa eagerly entered and the thrum outside quieted. For a few blissful moments, her mind was silent and empty. Crossing the entry chamber, she approached the base of the staircase, where a new door had been added in her memory.
Inside the room was Isen’s Mirror.
Reflected in it was the storm outside in all its confusing, jumbled glory.
She stood in front of her mirror again, watching these memories through the ice. After countless trials and hasty retreats from her own mind, she had found this way to be most effective for controlling the onslaught of new information her brain seemed to remember every day since she had discovered her identity.
Standing here, in this defined spot inside her mind that had such significance both in her immortal and human lives, she could sort through the memories and find new places for them, cherish old thoughts that had been lost to her when she became human, and (most importantly) she could manage herself without forgetting herself.
A particularly strong memory appeared in the mirror, capturing her attention:
A voice that was all at once soft and thunderous, gentle and angry…“My Daughters…all of you, together…you shall all be sent to the World Below. There, you shall live with the humans and learn what I could not teach you…until the time comes that you can return…”
Isen blinked hard to break from that memory and nudged it towards the room of her mental palace that contained memories from her life before this world. Elsa took another deep breath and relaxed her physical body.
Inside her mind, the memory sorting continued.
Daily meditations had become necessary for her. After a night filled with endless memories from the endless lives she could now recall, focusing on her human life became impossible without taking a few minutes to quietly sort out her thoughts. So every morning, before dawn she would come down to the throne room, sit quietly and make her way to the mental image of her ice palace in her mind to begin sorting through the new batch of memories. Host after host had offered up their memories, all 115 generations clamoring to tell her stories and recount old exploits in the days they had shared her power. On top of that, her ancient memories occasionally cracked through the rush like a flash of light, momentarily disorienting her as she saw the Mother’s Realm again.
The Mirror had simply appeared there on her first journey into her mind. As if it knew that she was going to need it. As if Ileana herself had reached out from beyond the years, smiling in that intelligent, caring way she had always possessed…
The surface of the Mirror rippled and Elsa refocused her attention on it. Something was swirling within. Something that was definitely not one of her memories.
Occasionally, she would see things in the Mirror. Not seeing but Seeing. A place that was not in her memory or a memory that was not her own. While her memories all had a certain texture to them, like snow or ice, her visions were always more foggy and less solid, like a slurry or slush.
This could only be one of those. She watched through the glass, careful not to blink and shatter the illusion.
Three children walked along a forest floor. The oldest of the three, a boy with tightly curled black hair, carried a young blonde girl on his back. Beside him, a young girl with short black hair walked stiffly, keeping her fists closed tight and her hands away from any vegetation.
“Theo?” The blonde asked sleepily, her head lolling on the boy’s back.
“Yes?” The young girl replied tersely.
The blonde yawned widely. “What’s a ridge?”
The boy glanced over his shoulder at his sleepy bundle. “A ridge?” He asked her, smiling.
She nodded into his back. “Livet says it’s just over that ridge.”
Theo looked at her oddly. “Livet?”
“The voice in my head. That’s her name.”
“You named her?”
Scara nodded. “She told me her name, just like she told me the name of the voice in your head.” She grinned. “Her name is Branna!”
Theo twitched but stayed silent.
“Did she say anything about me?” The boy asked anxiously.
Scara thought for a moment, blinking heavily. “She just said you were our Guardian.”
Garret shifted her slightly, becoming lost in his thoughts. “Your Guardian…”
The three of them crested the ridge and stopped. Before them lay an enormous stone building, rearing high into the sky. The thick wooden doors were thrown wide open, inviting them in.
“This is the place…” Garret said quietly, gently placing Scara down.
A strong, hot wind began to circle them. Theo drew in a deep breath, her skin starting to glow red with heat. Deep inside her, the voice in her head began to stir. Something settled around her shoulders like a scarf, a soft compelling voice that was ancient and familiar.
The Mother whispered gently in her ear.
Tears pricked at blazing red eyes. “This is our new home…” Theo said.
Isen reached out a hand and stroked at the glass, her heart twisting in a way it never had before. The vision faded and her mind quieted. She had seen enough and her thoughts had cleared significantly. Elsa softly began to draw herself out of her inner mind and return to her body.
Blinking several times, she opened her eyes, delighted to see a snowscape coating the floors of the throne room. The ground had iced over and snowdrifts as high as her chin had settled into soft mounds. She’d have to tell Dagrun. He and some of his Informer friends had really enjoyed the last time she’d done this.
She climbed to her feet and gently stretched, rolling out her neck and shoulders as the early morning rays of sunlight shone in through the window and caught the snow.
Elsa turned at the voice, not at all surprised to see Reba standing by the door. “Good morning Reba.” Elsa greeted her as she skirted a large pile of snow to reach her side. “Morning Agog.” She greeting the raven perched on the girl’s shoulder. The bird croaked, ruffling its feathers and Reba stroked its breast absently, still admiring the snow.
The young girl often came to find her several times a day. Elsa didn’t mind but she did wish Reba would stop staring at her snow as if it were a gift from the heavens.
“You’re getting better at that.” Reba observed. “It used to take you hours to sort through all those memories.”
Elsa smiled. “Well practice has made it easier I suppose.” It had certainly cleared up her headaches and random snowstorms. “And I’m going to run out of memories eventually, right? Someday?”
Reba gave her an odd look. “You have over a hundred lifetimes as a host and innumerable years before that as a goddess.” Was all she said, the implications heavy in her words.
Elsa sagged slightly. “Right…” The girl was often answering her like that these days.
Since the battle, the seasons had turned: the winter had melted into spring, and eventually warmed into summer once again, nearing the anniversary of Elsa’s coronation. Isen’s power again did not fade as the seasons changed, but now that she was aware of the origin of her colossal strength, Elsa had no problem keeping herself under control. After all, as Reba pointed out, she now had centuries’ worth of memories and knowledge of how her powers worked.
Reba had become a sort of guide and confidant to Elsa these past few months. It seemed that whenever Elsa had a question about her past or the nature of her being, Reba had an answer. Sometimes it seemed she knew even more than Theo had about the spirits.
“The Winter Goddess is the oldest of the Mother’s Children.” Reba continued, Agog losing interest in Elsa and gently preening the girl’s hair. “She’s the heir to the Mother’s Realm.” Reba had soaked up the stories Elsa had told her about the temple, effortlessly matching them to legends from her homeland. It was almost like she had always known. “She’s the oldest season and the strongest.”
“I don’t know about that.” Elsa said quickly. “Scara could probably beat me in a fight. Or Hans…” She glanced down at her hands, feeling the cool blue light that seemed to always be just shimmering under the surface of her skin these days. “My powers are different now.” She admitted. “They still respond to my emotions but it feels…” she flexed her fingers. “Easier somehow. Smoother.” She barely had to think of what she wanted to create anymore. Sometimes it simply popped into being without a concrete thought on her part.
Raising her hand slightly, Elsa created a flawless ice slide down one of the snowdrifts with no effort whatsoever on her part. Several tiny snowmen sprung to life unintentionally, rolling and climbing through the snow.
Reba watched, her eyes bright. Agog was less impressed and flapped his wings as if to garner more attention for himself. “You were able to fully master your powers in this world by achieving human form.” Reba reflected, offering Elsa a smile. “You can now summon and dismiss the winter at will because of your mastery of your emotions and your connection to Anna. Having her has made you into what you should have been all along: a god in human form.”
She made a low sweeping bow, upsetting Agog, who croaked his displeasure as he flapped to stay balanced.
Elsa was about to demand that Reba stop worshiping her (something that was becoming rather common for the young girl) when the girl abruptly straightened up and spoke again. “Speaking of Anna….”
Elsa’s gaze tightened. “Yes?”
“Princess Anna has been requesting you, Your Majesty. I think it’s time.”
Elsa’s gaze narrowed further. “This isn’t another false alarm?”
Reba rolled her eyes humorously. “I think we should always assume that…”
Elsa laughed, her expression lightening. “I think you’ve been spending too much time with Kristoff.” She turned to go but paused before she’d taken a step. Something was stopping her. Something that had been on her mind for a long time.
“Reba,” she began, but the girl’s attention had never left her anyway. “I… I never got a chance to thank you.” Elsa told her. “Without your warning…I fear everything would have been lost. So truly, thank you.”
The quiet girl smiled. “It was my duty, my Queen.” She bowed again, less grandly this time, the raven on her shoulder copying the motion.
With a nod and a grateful smile, Elsa swept out of the room.
She walked through the hallways of her castle, her steps hurried but not frantic. Anna had had several false alarms over the past few days, most of them faked because she missed Elsa and now had a perfect excuse to make her leave whatever meeting or work she was wrapped up in. Elsa had to admit, her sister had been using this excuse a lot since the Battle. But she could hardly blame her. Some nights, she felt like sleep had just been an illusion and she’d merely daydreamed a dream while stuck in yet more meetings. There had been so much to do.
After yet another freak winter and the damage caused by Theo’s fires, Arendelle had been in bad shape. With the real winter fast approaching, it had been a race against time to rebuild, secure food, and take care of the people. For several tense days, it had seemed that Arendelle might be doomed.
But they had found solutions. With her new sensitivities to the seasons, Elsa had manipulated the temperatures ever so slightly around Arendelle, keeping the deep cold at bay for a few extra days so that everyone could be properly settled before the full winter hit. Her expanded powers had also proved very useful on the physical side of things as Elsa had crafted hundreds of ice huts for those with nowhere else to go, tiny igloos that dotted the charred landscape where she and Theo had fought.
It turned out the fight had actually done some good in the form of the enormous expanse of pure glass that Theo had left behind on the ground. Teams supervised by Kristoff had carefully sliced and excavated it, saving some for repairs, and sending the majority of it to their trading partners in exchange for much needed supplies.
Lord Wilfred had resurfaced after the ashes from the fight had cleared and come to Elsa practically on his knees, begging her not to cut ties with North Melonia as she had with Weselton. After he’d finally explained what he meant to the baffled queen (that he had been an accomplice to Prince Christian’s plot and had revealed information that may have, however indirectly, led to the rebellion) Elsa had practically cried at the opportunity being dropped in her lap. The next day, they drew up an extensive compensation contract, where North Melonia would provide enough food and wood to see Arendelle through the winter.
Lord Wilfred and Prince Leif (who had been thoroughly confused throughout the proceedings) left a few days after that. Their promised supplies arrived two weeks later, just before the first snows began. Arendelle had not only survived. It had thrived.
Thank the Mother Scara and Hans had been there.
Elsa reached her own door and gently slipped back inside.
Anna was stirring, slowly waking up and trying to get out of bed. Elsa paused, watching her silently from the doorway. Anna flailed around helplessly, trying to roll onto her side and continuing to fall flat on her back.
“Elsaaaaa…..” She moaned as yet another attempt failed.
Elsa giggled. “I’m here, Anna.”
Her sister’s head shot up, smiling brightly.
“Great! Help me up. Please?”
Elsa rolled her eyes but came to her sister’s aid, helping the younger woman sit up comfortably in bed.
“Thank you.” Anna moaned, rubbing her side. “That gets harder every day.” She rested her hands on her middle.
Anna had been growing right in time with the seasons and the huge swelling in her stomach betrayed just how close she was to her due date.
Anna had been thrilled when she learned that her child would have a birthday similar to Elsa’s. “We can celebrate them together!” She had squealed to her sister as the physician gave Elsa an understanding smile from behind Anna’s back.
It had certainly come as a relief to everyone that Anna and the baby were fine after everything that happened. Kristoff had actually wept with relief after the physician had cleared Anna (prompting Elsa to quietly remove herself from the scene to give them some much need privacy).
Elsa had just been happy that Anna was feeling more and more like her old self. Anna had been acting very disarmingly odd during the months before Elsa’s battle, something Elsa now attributed to her sister worrying about her and being frustrated with her for keeping more secrets. But ever since the crisis had been dealt with and another catastrophe narrowly avoided, the princess had cheered right up considerably. Although she was glad her sister had finally recognized her leadership potential, Elsa never wanted the youthful, charmingly awkward Anna to fade away.
“Good morning.” Elsa greeted Anna, rubbing her shoulder tenderly. “How are you feeling?”
Anna grimaced. “Awful.” She rubbed her stomach. “This little one didn’t let me sleep at all last night, what with all the kicking and squirming.”
Elsa smirked. “They’ll be just like their mother then, restless and adventurous.”
Anna made a half-hearted swat at her arm. “How was the meditation?” She asked, slowly rising to her feet and balancing on unsteady legs.
Elsa considered her answer carefully. “…Different.” She finally admitted. The Queen crossed from the bed to look out of Anna’s window. Bright summer sunshine glistened over the fjord. “I Saw again.”
Anna raised an interested eyebrow. “Hmmmm?”
Elsa nodded, watching the waves on the fjord. “It was a vision of the others…”
Anna had come to know that ‘the others’ was usually in regard to one particular person. “What was it this time?” She asked softly.
Elsa gazed out of the window. “The day they found the temple…”
Anna slowly waddled her way across the floor until she could stand next to Elsa at the window. She placed a gentle hand on her sister’s shoulder.
“You see so much now…a life I could never imagine…”
Elsa turned to Anna, fear sending the temperature of the room down a few degrees. “But I’m still me? Right?” She asked, desperate. No matter how many times she asked, it was never easy.
Anna’s smiled held no room for doubt. She took Elsa’s hands in hers. “Of course.”
She had turned from the large triangular window in her room, where she’d been silently watching the lights in the sky. Since the battle, they had seemed softer, slower. Like they were waiting. “Yes?”
Anna was standing in her doorway, her hands folded over her middle, her face carefully neutral. “We…need to talk.”
Elsa stepped away from the window, her heart tightening. “I know.”
It had only been three days since the Battle of the Seasons, as the people were starting to call it. But between resting, healing, resettling the refugees, and imprisoning the rebels, the sisters had had very little time to do more together than fall asleep in each others’ arms each night.
But they both knew they would need to talk about this. About everything.
Anna stepped into Elsa’s bedroom, closing the door softly behind her. Elsa had been expecting her to start babbling, but instead, her sister practically ran across the room and threw herself into her arms.
That was all it took to make Elsa relax. If she was grateful for one thing that had come out of these past few days, it was the fact that her sister treated her no different than she had before the battle.
Anna held her close, murmuring gently in her ear. “Please…don’t ever scare me like that again.”
Elsa winced, burying her face in her sister’s hair. “Anna, I’m so sorry.”
“I don’t want to lose you Elsa…” Anna confessed, tightening her grip. “When you left, that first time I felt like you never completely came back. And then you left again and pushed me away again and I just…!”
Elsa couldn’t hear any more of this, it was breaking her heart to know how much she’d hurt her sister again. “I’m back, Anna.” She interjected, interrupting her sister’s tirade. Her arms tightened their hold. “I promise. And I don’t think I’ll ever be leaving again.”
Anna took a deep shuddering breath, as if a great weight had just lifted from her. Then she gazed up at Elsa, her eyes wide. “Are you going to tell me what happened in the street?” She asked softly.
Elsa felt her heart tighten with fear and the temperature drop slightly. But she pressed on. She would not allow fear to control her again. Slowly, she detangled herself from the embrace and faced the window again. “I did…I’m the winter goddess, Isen…” She began. Every time she said her true name, it felt like a little piece of her past returned, her mind expanding ever so slightly to accommodate it. She winced as a headache began in her right temple.
“I get that.” Anna said slowly, keeping a good distance between them. “But how are you…here? I mean, what made you become…who you are now?”
Elsa closed her eyes, feeling the ancient power swirl within her. “I have no idea how I did it,” she admitted. “That part of my memory is blocked off somehow, hidden from me by some higher force. But I somehow discovered something that even the Mother could not do.” Her head pounded, the forbidden memory taunting her from beyond its gate. “I achieved human form…and I cant even remember how!”
She opened her eyes and turned to face her sister. “Everything is so confusing…” She continued, her voice shaking. “I know I am human…but I remember being a spirit, being a goddess…it’s all too much to fit in my tiny head.” She gripped her eyes as another painful migraine ripped through her, this one carrying visions of her 55th host Kelandry talking to inanimate snowmen…she had been the lonely type, preferring to speak to her and the snow rather than other humans…
Warm hands took hers and gently pulled them away from her eyes. The memory faded, retreating back into her subconscious and alleviating the pain she was feeling slightly. Anna gently stroked Elsa’s cheek, feeling the flush there. “I think it’s time you told me the secrets you’ve been keeping since the Thaw…” she said gently.
And so Elsa told her. She told her about the kidnapping, and the temple, and the council, and the spirits, and her meditations, and how everything had been out of balance.
“So…” Anna finally said, after Elsa had been talking for a long time. Her brow was furrowed in thought, trying to make sense of everything Elsa had told her. “Hans and Scara are also hosts…but who was the last one?”
Elsa glanced out of the window, ice gathering in her palms. “…the summer host…her name…” she swallowed hard and had to try again. “her name was Theonia.”
Usually, whenever she thought of a past host, either one of hers or one of the other spirits’, it brought an onslaught of memories from her past lives, her corresponding host yelling out of her subconscious to share facts and stories about her time in this world…
But thinking about Theo gave her no such twinge. If anything, it quieted all the others down.
Anna smiled gently at her sister. “What is she like?” She asked, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder.
“She was…” Elsa struggled to come up with the proper word, and then smiled fondly. “She was strong. So strong. She put up with so much, sacrificed so much, all without ever thinking of herself. And she…” She choked, tears stinging her eyes. “She didn’t deserve her fate…”
“She’s...” Elsa swallowed hard, trying her hardest to fight back tears. “She’s the one who tried to burn Arendelle…because she thought it would save us all. And now…now she’s gone…”
Anna’s gentle smile slipped slightly, anger filling her expression as she learned this new fact. But she was intuitive enough to notice the impact thinking about this girl was having on her sister so she did not voice any of her grievances about the identity of Arendelle’s aggressor or her motives.
The princess touched her sister softly, bringing the queen out of her tortured thoughts. “So why didn’t you tell me all of this?”
Even though the statement had not been challenging, Elsa whirled around, immediately defensive. Ice dripped from the ceiling and several snowflakes filled the air but the princess ignored them. “Anna…I know I should have told you…”Elsa stuttered, backing away as much as the window would allow. She took a deep breath to compose herself. “But…but I didn’t want you to look at me differently. You have always been the only one who has never seen me as a monster. I didn’t want that to change.”
Anna waited a moment, seeing if her sister had anything else to add. “And now?” She prompted after several silent seconds.
Elsa shrugged helplessly. “Now? Now we both know the truth.” She stretched her hands out before her, ice dancing on the whorls of her fingertips. “I am different Anna. So different. I’m a goddess in human form, I possess and control a power that was never meant for this world. But I am your sister. And somehow, that...saved me. Saved us all.
“But I don’t want this to come between us. If being this way is going to make you look at me differently…if it’s going to change anything…I’ll give it all up, I’ll find some way to get rid of it or…have the trolls remove my memories…” She trailed off, seeing Anna shaking her head increasingly violently as she spoke.
“Elsa, I could never see you as anything but you.” Anna declared. She surged forwards and captured Elsa’s hands in a tight squeeze. Ice crackled pleasantly along her fingers, melting against her warm skin. “Because that’s who you have always been. And that’s who you will always be to me. Elsa: my big sister, my best friend, my wonderful, magical, amazing Ice Queen.”
Anna was the only one who could say that title without hurting her.
Elsa closed her eyes in relief and leaned her head forward. Their foreheads pressed together. “Thank you Anna.” The queen whispered, her powers and her mind quieting for the first time since the Battle.
Anna grinned up at her. “You have to promise me that there are no more secrets.” She insisted.
Elsa chuckled. “I promise Anna. You reminded me of who I was at the moment when it mattered most. I’ll never push you away again.”
Anna was quiet for a moment, fidgeting in the unsettling way that Elsa knew meant she was up to something. Elsa pulled back and raised a questioning eyebrow at her sister.
“Okay then, please answer me this…” Anna began, looking her sister square in the eye.
Elsa said nothing, giving Anna freedom to finish her thought.
“Are you in love with Prince Leif?” Anna burst out suddenly.
Elsa blinked, confused. “Who?”
Anna looked at her funny. “The Prince of Melonia? From my wedding party?”
Elsa was still drawing a blank. With all her new goddess memories, these days it was hard to recall some of her old human ones, except those in which her sister featured.
She shook her head again and Anna visibly relaxed.
“Oh good. I was worried…”
“You were worried that I might be in love…?”
“Anyway!” Anna said loudly, drowning out Elsa’s reply. “Now we can move on and solve our next problem! Together!”
Elsa shook her head at her sister’s antics, secretly thrilled that things were moving forward so normally after such a revelation. She took her sister’s hands in hers.
“I get the feeling our troubles are over.” She told Anna, smiling wider than she had in months. “At least as far as my powers are concerned. I feel in better control, more confident about everything. It all seems so simple now that we know what was causing the imbalance wasn’t a problem but rather, a whole new order.”
Her sister bit her lip, suddenly unable to meet her gaze. “Well… all our troubles might not be over…”
Elsa’s gaze narrowed. “Anna?”
Anna looked at her sideways. “What do we do about Hans?”
But in the end, they’d had to do very little with Hans.
After Elsa had found him in her father’s ruined study, he’d seemed like a different person entirely. With his arm around Scara, he’d seemed very calm and controlled, content even. He’d even bowed to her, calling her both “Your Majesty” and “Sister” in turns. As they gathered the people together and arrested the rebels, Hans had assisted without needing to be goaded. He sent the navy ship home, along with all the Southern Isles soldiers who had escaped his curse, telling them only that Arendelle was no longer considered an enemy. The body of Prince Christian was sent home with it.
After that, he’d stuck by Elsa’s side as several of the rebels hurled insults at her, even going so far as to reprimand a man who had tried to spit in her face. Such a display of loyalty from the man who had started the rebellion was enough to quiet the others and they headed off to prison without another word. Elsa had found that her fight with Theo had convinced a significant portion of the population that she was not only incredibly powerful, but that she had Arendelle’s best intentions at heart and was the only one capable of protecting them in this new, uncertain age of magic and seasons. Several of the rebels had even publicly apologized to her before they were arrested. Other villagers had started to hail her as a savior, embellishing the story of her arriving on an icy tornado into her riding in on some kind of icy apparition in the shape of an enormous eagle and striking the fire witch down with a single blast of ice. Elsa had not enjoyed any revelations or gossip about the fight. In fact, she much preferred everyone to stop talking about it.
As the days went on and Elsa did not perform anymore god-like feats with her powers, the people eventually stopped hailing her and actually listened to what she was trying to say. Here, Hans had been integral as well, speaking to the people on her behalf whenever her memories were too much to handle or they were clamoring too much for her to get a word in. He had seemed far more accepting of her and confident in her judgments since the end of the fight. Perhaps because he’d briefly seen inside her mind and realized she was just as human as he was.
He’d been on the forefront of helping to schedule the Arendelle repairs, guiding the people back into Arendelle and reconnecting lost ones with their families. Whenever he brought up a suggestion in their meetings (which Elsa could not have kept him out of if she tried because he followed Scara around like a puppy), he was polite and gracious in his delivery, without a hint of malice or underhanded play.
Elsa suspected all his sudden changes of heart had something to do with Scara but there was no way to prove it. Unless she was supposed to count the fact that their hands hardly ever left each other’s grip during those crucial days.
Now that he had reconciled with Død, it seemed his hatred of Elsa and Arendelle had crumbled like leaves and flown away in the wind. He had seemed more at ease with himself, less like he was constantly hiding behind a mask. His deceitfully charming exterior had slipped away revealing a personality that, while rough and occasionally sly, could be likable if given the chance.
He’d grown more open and frankly, more intimate with people now that his powers had been calmed. He often made excuses to offer a friendly pat or touch to whomever he was speaking with nowadays (a habit that Kristoff couldn’t seem to stand). Elsa knew he was just trying to make up for years of missing that sensation and she allowed him to respectfully kiss her hand upon greeting her.
Hans had proven most useful when planning for relocating the displaced people. It had been his idea to construct ice huts for those without shelter and he’d led the effort to clear out the market district with the help of the Informers.
The children had been another critical driving force behind Arendelle’s survival. The Ice Informers had changed entirely, renaming themselves the Arendelle Youth Sentries and falling under the independent, collective leadership of Dagrun and a boy named Nyle. They mostly operated separate from the palace these days, choosing instead to be a force for the people that not only provided education for the young and distributed materials, but also served as a two-way connection between the citizens and the royal family. They had been an instrumental force and monumental help during Reconstruction, identifying groups in need of aid that Elsa would have completely overlooked otherwise. She’d publically recognized them for their commendable actions during the Battle, bestowing larger snowflakes upon Dagrun and Reba, and placing one as a memorial for Ichataca just outside the gates. Dagrun had wept silently upon its creation and vanished among the crowd without a sound.
Elsa hardly saw Dagrun these days. He’d been avoiding the palace since the battle but he’d still visit Anna occasionally. Reba was a much more constant presence nowadays. She’d left the Informers entirely and instead seemed devoted to providing whatever service Elsa required of her. Acolyte, Elsa’s mind told her, even as she shuddered at the thought.
But Reba was always helpful and considerate, never pushing Elsa too far towards discomfort and never overstepping her place. An Agog had turned out to be very useful for relaying messages.
All of them had settled in for a long winter, secure in the knowledge that it was entirely normal and that Arendelle would emerge from it once more.
As soon as the paths opened for spring, Hans and Scara had left the castle; Hans knowing Anna wanted him around just about as much as she wanted Arendelle to no longer import chocolate and Scara anxious to return to the only home she’d ever known after several long months away from it.
Elsa didn’t know if they were staying but somehow she doubted it. Everything was different now. The Mother no longer spoke to them, Goren was all by himself in the library, and somewhere out there was probably a young guardian searching for his four charges.
Before they had left, Elsa had approached the Spring host alone to talk with her about the future of the Council. She’d barely begun when Scara interrupted her: “No questions, I think the human form of a goddess far outranks a host…you do what you think is best.”
She clearly had no interest in accepting the role of Head Councilor, assuming they even still needed one. Elsa had remained in Arendelle.
The trolls had remained very quiet throughout this whole period. Elsa suspected they were hiding in shame but wasn’t about to ask Kristoff to take her up there to talk to them. She wasn’t ready to face them yet and she doubted he was either. But she knew she would have to eventually if she ever wanted to know what had truly happened that day the seasons had fought.
A gentle touch on her shoulder rose Elsa from her thoughts. Anna smiled at her. “Elsa, I know you’re worried but…don’t give up on her. I never gave up on you and look where it brought us.”
Elsa nodded, discreetly wiping away a tear before turning to face her sister. “I know Anna…and I’m so grateful for that. Truly I am. But…with each day that goes by, I feel a little more confidence slipping away.”
Anna took her hands, giving them a gentle squeeze. “Elsa…you’ll find her. Or, when the time is right, she’ll find you.”
Elsa looked away, unable to cling to the hope her sister placed in those words.
Theonia had not been seen since the battle. As soon as Elsa had quieted down her newfound powers enough to think clearly again and not like a goddess on Earth, she had searched high and low for the black-haired former host. But Theo had vanished like smoke, leaving nothing behind but scorch marks on Arendelle’s stones.
Scara missed the black-haired girl furiously, Elsa had seen her gazing sadly into a roaring fireplace several times over the winter, tiny seeds opening and closing in her palm until Hans gently stopped her. But they had not held a funeral. None of them were ready to accept that she was truly gone.
But where the fate of Theo was unknown, that of her spirit, not so much. Branna was gone, or at least sleeping once more. Isen had tried to reach out to her but it always felt like there was something in the way. A thick wall of sand and heat that was too dense to be penetrated. It was as if the summer spirit had encased herself in a cocoon and hidden herself far away from them all, determined not to be disturbed. Elsa’s memories of what had happened just after her Song were foggy at best, clouded by smoke, choked by pollen and leaves, and dwarfed by the memory of her sister’s voice redefining her identity. She could not remember where Branna had gone after that moment when they had all been one.
For now, there was no summer host. And for all Elsa knew, the summer spirit had taken Theo’s life when she forced her way out of her body in the heat of battle. And as assuredly as the seasons turned, Branna was finding herself a new host, her old one forgotten and lost in the past.
“I know you cant forgive her for what she did Anna…” Elsa said quietly. “But thank you for understanding.”
Anna’s jaw was set, trying to hide her hatred of the girl who had almost destroyed Arendelle from her sister. “I understand how much she means to you as your sister host. But…after everything…after losing Olaf like that…I…” She shuddered and took a deep breath. “It’s hard for me to see her as anything but a destroyer.”
Elsa nodded, her heart split painfully. One the one hand, she wished she could have articulated exactly how much Theo meant to her, even if Anna still could not accept her. But she couldn’t deny that there was a small part of her that would never accept what Theonia had done and would resent her for it for a long time. When she’d discovered that Olaf was missing, it felt like a piece of her heart had been ripped out. But Arendelle was in chaos and she’d needed to put her concern about him out of her mind for awhile until she could get her kingdom stabilized.
Several days later, when she’d been walking along the beach, she’d found a shriveled carrot, next to a small oval of thick glass. It wasn’t too hard to guess what fate or rather, person Olaf had met.
Telling Anna had by far been the worst part.
“She…she melted him…” Her sister’s hands had trembled terribly as she held the carrot. Elsa feared she would shatter and hurried to embrace her. Anna fell against her, crying hard. “You did always warn him about the heat…” She choked out, wiping her eyes on the icy handkerchief Elsa had fashioned for her.
“I can try to make him again.” Elsa had offered, snow already swirling at her fingers.
“Elsa.” Anna had said quietly and her powers stilled. Anna didn’t have to say anything else. Elsa already understood. She knew that even if she succeeded in somehow reviving the animated snowman, they would never look at him the same. Their relationship was different now, more mature and deeper than it had been when she’d accidentally created life. Olaf was a part of their past, a piece they had to move on from, rather than cling to. They would always look upon his memory with fondness and love at his role in bringing them back together. But it was time to accept that he was gone.
In the present, Elsa squeezed her sister’s hands. “Summer was his favorite season.” She remarked, feeling tears well up in her eyes again.
Anna winced. “I still miss him.”
They stood in silence for a moment, enjoying the comfort the other was offering and marveling at just how much the past year had changed between them. A year ago, sharing something this painful would have been a fantasy for both of them. Even nine months ago, something as deep and powerful a pain as this was unimaginable in their newfound happiness together. But it made them stronger. Strong enough that nothing would come between them again.
Elsa blinked, giving her sister’s hands a squeeze. “Hmmm?”
Anna had paled and her grip on Elsa’s hands had tightened until it was a vice. “I don’t mean to ruin the moment here but…” She glanced down. “I…I think my water just broke.”
Listening to Anna in pain was torturous. Being unable to stop the pain was maddening.
“OH MY GOOOOOODSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!”
Anna writhed on the bed, panting as another contraction ripped through her body.
“No one told me it would hurt this much!” Anna shouted as Gerda bustled around laying out towels and a basin of warm water.
The time since Anna had gone into labor had all passed by Elsa in a blur. One moment they were talking at the window, the next her sister was doubled-over in pain, clutching to Elsa like she was a lifeline in a storm and crying for Kristoff.
Gerda had been summoned and the princess’ bedroom had been converted into the midwife’s office in less time then it took Elsa to get her sister back into bed and conjure up a small bit of ice to calm Anna down.
The contractions had progressed at an unbelievable pace, leaving Anna moaning and clutching at her sheets with every new ripple of pain. Kristoff had appeared briefly but he’d hovered so much that Gerda had flatly told him to get out, shooing him out the door with flicks of her towel and promising she’d send Kai to fetch him if anything happened.
Elsa stroked her sister’s hair, her arm trembling. “It’s alright Anna, you…you’re doing great just…”
Memories of thousands of lifetimes of pain flashed through Elsa’s consciousness and she furiously beat them back, determined not to lose her humanity now when her sister needed her most.
Anna’s legs spasmed as another contraction overtook her. “Oh gods I feel like I’m burning up!” She cried.
Sweat was pouring off of her and her eyes had rolled back in her head as if she had a high fever. Panicked, Elsa turned to Gerda, who was casually rolling up her sleeves.
“Does she need more ice? I can refill her glass. Or surround her with ice. Or I can just place my hands on her sides and…”
“I have a strong inclination to kick you out too, young lady.” Gerda snapped at her from her position at the end of the bed. “You’re worse than Master Kristoff. I know what I’m doing, I delivered both of you, didn’t I?”
Elsa’s face contorted but she had no response. She settled instead for placing her cool hand on her sister’s forehead, which seemed to calm both of them down a bit. Steam rose from her sister’s warm skin where she touched it.
“It’s time.” Gerda remarked. “Hold still, Anna!”
Anna’s legs were thrashing about, Anna herself too delirious to listen. Leaping up from her position, Gerda grabbed hold of Anna’s legs, her plump little frame somehow managing to pin them to the bed and hold them open.
“Get over here and catch this baby, Elsa!” She barked at the Queen.
Elsa stuttered in confusion. “What…I…I…Me??”
“I don’t care what supernatural powers you have, you’re a woman first and the queen second, now get down here and help me deliver your sister’s child!” Gerda was using her nanny voice, the voice that had always compelled the sisters to obey. Elsa could not have disobeyed her if she tried.
She hurried down to the end of the bed and positioned herself where Gerda had been.
“Right,” Gerda instructed her. “Hold your hands out, no, closer! And for gods’ sakes, don’t drop the little one when they come out.”
Swallowing hard, Elsa glanced up and caught sight of a raven perched on the open window, watching the scene with its head cocked to one side. She ignored it in favor of her sister.
“Ready now your Highness, push! Push Anna! Push!” Gerda coached her.
Anna strained then fell back on the bed, panting heavily.
A warm, wet thing slid into Elsa’s arms and squirmed. Frantically, she tried to get a good hold on it before it slipped right out of her hands. After a few breathless seconds, she finally managed to steady it with one hand under its neck and the other cradling its rear end. She heard it take a gasping breath and then let out a howl.
“You’ve got a set of lungs on you…” Elsa murmured to the child as it continued to wail. “Just like your mother…” She held the newborn closer to her, shushing it softly.
Gerda handed the Queen a towel and Elsa set to work gently wiping the child clean. The baby opposed the wet cloth at first, squirming and squawking its displeasure. But as Elsa gently and patiently cleaned away the birth fluids, the child’s vocalizations died down to contented murmurings and gurgles.
When Elsa finished, she had to bite her lip to stop from crying. She turned to Anna, who was slowly returning to full awareness and was watching her carefully.
Elsa smiled at her sister. “It’s a girl…”
Anna’s whole face lit up, despite how tired she was. “Bring…her here…”
Elsa obliged, showing her sister the tiny new human in her arms that continued to wiggle and squirm. Anna drew a shaking breath, new tears of joy gathering in her eyes.
“She…she’s perfect.” Anna stroked her child’s head, still too tired to sit up and take the child from Elsa. Elsa didn’t mind at all. The little girl was warm and soft, and as incredibly delicate as freshly-blown glass. She could hold her all day.
Gerda left them, crossing to the door and poking her head out.
“Kai,” She called to the man waiting outside. “would you go and inform the Ice Master he may see his wife and daughter now?”
Kai beamed and hurried off. Elsa glanced at the raven and it flapped mightily, diving off the window to return to its mistress. Reba would know even before the father did.
Gerda began picking up her equipment and very soon had hurried off to the nearby washroom, leaving the royal family alone for a few moments.
Elsa and Anna waited there together in awed silence, Elsa still holding the warm body of her new niece close to her. They examined the newborn as she nestled closer to Elsa’s chest.
The child had soft hair the color of sand and skin that was just a shade darker than Anna’s, as if the child had been in the summer sun for a few days before her birth. She had delicately shaped face with a strong chin and high brows that obviously came from her father. Her tiny hands and fingers were restless, and seemed desperate to grasp at whatever they could reach.
Anna caught one of her baby’s hands, smiling brightly as the newborn wrapped strong, warm fingers around her pinky.
“She’s so beautiful…”
“She has a great set of parents.” Elsa replied.
Anna gently stroked her daughter’s cheek, brushing a tiny curl of hair away from her daughter’s forehead.
“What are you going to name her?” Elsa asked.
Anna didn’t think very hard before she answered. “Sophie.”
The Queen’s heart swelled. “after Mom…”
Anna nodded. “it only seemed right…plus, she looks like a Sophie, doesn’t she?”
Elsa couldn’t agree with her more. She stood up, gently rocking the baby in her arms. “Hello, Sophie…” She whispered to the child. “Welcome to our world.”
Then the newborn opened her eyes. Eyes the rich amber-red color of a dancing flame.
Elsa froze. Deep inside, she felt the ancient part of her shiver in recognition.
The baby girl cooed and a small lick of fire burst from between her lips.
“Oh no…” Elsa’s first instinct was to shield the child from Anna’s view, to keep the startling discovery a secret. But, she reasoned, Anna was going to find out soon enough.
She turned to face her sister. Anna was sitting bolt upright in bed, staring at the two of them. “Elsa,” She said slowly. “is my baby the goddess of fire?”
Elsa hugged the tiny girl closer and breathed a soft flurry of snowflakes over her. The girl cooed again and stretched out a hand into the flurry, causing it to melt mid-air. Steam tickled Elsa’s face. Elsa’s heart pounded loudly in her ears. “Yes dear sister, I’m afraid she is.”
There was a moment of complete silence between them.
Elsa nodded slowly. “I must have…but I have no memory of it.”
Suddenly realizing just how long she had been holding the child, Elsa passed her to Anna. Little Sophie squirmed and wailed at the loss of contact but as soon as Anna’s arms closed around her, she seemed content to close her eyes and curl into her mother’s warmth.
Anna rocked her gently, making tiny happy sounds to her. She looked up at Elsa and her expression immediately morphed to fear.
“Elsa…how can I…I mean…what do we do? Is she going to need special food? Or a special room or some kind of lava palace? Can you even build a palace out of lava? Does the goddess of fire like black or is that coincidental?”
Despite her misgivings and shock, Elsa found herself smiling and then laughing with complete abandon.
“What?” Anna demanded. “What’s so funny?”
Elsa composed herself, still smiling wide. “Anna, look at her.”
The child was curled comfortably against her mother, her tiny fist grabbing and clenching wads of Anna’s nightgown without so much as a puff of smoke coming from her.
“She already has everything she needs.” Elsa remarked, her heart swelling. “I can’t think of a better mother for the fire spirit than you Anna.”
And truly she couldn’t. Here her sister had just been handed the biggest conundrum imaginable: her baby was a volatile fire goddess with a historically fragile grip on her powers, and she worrying about making the child comfortable.
Sophie gurgled, a small spit bubble popping in her mouth. Anna immediately wiped it away.
“Oh Sophie…” Anna moaned, bringing the child up to her face. She nuzzled the girl’s nose with her own. “My little fireball, what are we going to do with you?”
“We’ll do our best.” Elsa assured her, still a little afraid herself. “You and me and Kristoff, we’ll all do our best to love her and protect her.”
Anna’s face fell. She tucked Sophie back into her arms, rocking her gently. “Oh gods, what do we tell Kristoff?”
At that very moment, Kristoff pounded into the room, Sven hot on his heels. Summoned by the commotion, Gerda burst back into the room.
What followed was a shouting match between Gerda and Kristoff as to what was allowed near a newborn baby and what wasn’t. Sven, excited by all the commotion, moaned and brayed loudly, summoning Kai once again, who unsuccessfully tried to wrangle the reindeer out of the nursery.
Elsa just stood there in the middle of the room, still very shocked. In her mother’s arms, Branna/Sophie made happy little mewing noises and curled up to sleep as the chaos went on around her.
“I just…WOW.” For the first time in memory, Kristoff was at a loss for words. The Ice Master and the Queen were walking outside in the cool night air, taking a much-needed breather from the newborn. Both she and Anna were fast asleep, presuming Anna was not obsessively fire-proofing the nursery. She had already had to be talked down to sleep by both Elsa and Kristoff after she’d started composing a list of everything that would now present a danger to Sophie.
Kristoff paused at the balcony of the courtyard, staring blankly down at the castle square.
“I’m the summer spirit’s father…”
All things considered, he was taking it rather well.
“I wish I could have given you some warning.” Elsa said tentatively, joining him at the balcony. “But I had no idea Branna was going to do that…”
Kristoff glanced at her. “You really don’t remember doing that? Putting the fire spirit…there?”
Elsa shook her head. “I guess my mind is too human to be all-knowing…” The meditations helped but they could not help her recall everything. She delicately stretched her hands out in front of her on the balcony. “There are plenty of things I seem to be incapable of remembering from my own manifestation. I don’t remember how I figured out how to take human form…I don’t remember choosing a mother to carry me…”
Kristoff shook his head in disbelief. “I cannot get used to you talking like that…”
Elsa blushed slightly, wincing. “Sorry. I’m trying to do better.”
“I mean…” Kristoff continued, straightening up and beginning to pace. “how do I…? How do we even go about raising her?”
“I’m afraid that’s something we’ll all have to figure out together…” Elsa admitted, her gaze tightening. “As much as I loved my parents, they didn’t know how to raise me and we all suffered for it.”
Kristoff paused in his mad pacing, gnawing on his lip. “Yes but you…” He seemed to be struggling to find the right words. “Ice isn’t as dangerous as fire. What if she sneezes and sets fire to the palace? Or burns herself? What if she has as much trouble controlling her powers as you did? How can we make sure that she’s safe? That she’s happy? And when people find out, what if they…?”
Elsa laid a gentle hand on his arm, cutting off his hysterical tirade.
“Kristoff,” She began softly. “I will be there for her, the whole way. We will balance each other out, I will teach her control and teach her how love calms the blazing flame and thaws the frozen ice. That is how it has always been and how it will continue to be as she and I live our human lives.”
“I…I know Elsa….I’m sorry.” He ran nervous fingers through his hair, his blonde locks staying stiffly where he’d brushed them. “This whole thing is just…a lot to take in…” The ice master glanced at the queen. “You’re sure she’s not just a host?”
“I recognized her.” Elsa replied, a tremor of her ancient voice leaking through. “She is the soul from the Mother’s Realm, born in human form, as I was…” her hands shook and she glanced up at the palace. “I don’t think she’ll ever need a host again.” She murmured, more to herself than to him.
“It seems that by becoming human, we develop greater strength and control over our powers, once we master our emotions. Reba keeps telling me that Anna was the key to my gaining control. Perhaps Sophie needs someone like that too.”
“She’ll have you.” Kristoff immediately replied. “And us. We will love her, all of us.”
Elsa gnawed her lip. “I know.”
The two of them were silent for a moment, leaning on the balcony to watch the empty square.
“So if she’s the spirit,” Kristoff began after a long pause. “just like you are…I guess that means that there wont be anymore summer hosts?”
She sighed heavily. “No…” Elsa examined her hands, rubbing the faint scars on them from the battle. “There wont be…” She gazed up at the sky, where the lights were starting to appear. “I do have to wonder where Theonia went after Branna left her though.” She admitted, ashamed of voicing her desire.
Kristoff paused, glancing at her sideways. “You…loved her…didn’t you?”
She supposed out of anyone, Kristoff would have been the one to figure that out.
Ice crackled at her feet as her heart clenched. Elsa found herself hesitating and choosing her words with extreme care before finally answering him. “We never quite got that far. Maybe I would have, if circumstances had been different. But as we were…with everything that happened…I could never quite let myself love her…” her lip trembled, “especially after she…”
Kristoff nodded in understanding. Elsa loved that he was able to understand and accept her twisted, confusing relationship with Theonia, a feat she hadn’t even been able to achieve. “And now…” She sighed. “Now I just don’t know. I want to know what happened to her but…”
“But you’re afraid of what seeing her again will be like.”
Elsa nodded. “Exactly.”
“I’m sure she’s feeling the same way.” Kristoff said wisely. “After all, she has done some terrible things to you, I’m sure she’s torn up and confused, just like you are.”
Elsa stared up at him hopefully. “You don’t think she’s dead, do you?”
Kristoff gave a non-committal shrug. “She’ll turn up eventually I’m sure. After all, she inadvertently faked her death once before…”
The two of them smiled quietly for a moment, recalling the odd circumstances that had brought the former host into their lives and the huge role she had played in both of them.
“As I’m sure Anna’s already told you,” Kristoff said, “Don’t give up on her. You never know what might happen.”
He clapped her shoulder once then went back inside to his wife and newborn daughter.
Elsa stayed out a moment longer, inhaling the thick, warm summer air and feeling herself breathe easy for the first time in forever.
It had been an interesting year. Her powers had been revealed, tamed and accepted. Arendelle was safe once again. Trade would flourish with Corona’s generosity, Melonia’s new partnership and compensation from the Southern Isles. Winter had come and gone without ailment and the seasons were finally turning in balance. Arendelle’s coffers were healthily full and the harvest looked promising after a little help from Scara. Elsa had been up to see her ice palace once more and had still found it to be a place of solitude and deep connection to herself despite the bad memories there and the new revelation of its meaning.
She had a kingdom to take care of. She was back with her sister and her new family with no threat of vanishing again.
She had a niece to mentor, a brother-in-law to keep sane, and a sister to make mischief with. She was a god that had achieved near perfect human form.
All was well.
Elsa/Isen exhaled softly, unable to stop the small flurry of snowflakes that accompanied the action and the twinge of pain in her heart. It was in quiet, solitary moments like this that she allowed herself to admit her deepest want.
She wanted Theo to come back. Even just for a moment, just to know that Theo was still alive, that she didn’t think any less of her for what had happened that day. Was it too much to ask the Mother that the two of them get some closure on the raging, swirling feelings that had engulfed them, overtaken them and finally torn them apart?
Elsa waved her hand and the ground iced over for several feet around her, a perfect plane of clear ice. With a gentle leap, she hopped on it, skating as effortlessly in her heels as if she were wearing a fine pair of skates.
She darted across the ground, calling upon the winter within her. Her powers flexed around her: each breath of cold was an extension of her body, each snowflake a cell in her being. Taking a deep breath, Elsa began to dance.
She spun and glided on the ice, twirling like one of her many snowflakes. A breeze carried her effortlessly in a high, wide arc. With only a thought, her powers crept all around her, transforming the courtyard into a winter paradise: elaborate statues sprang to life, shapes from the Mother’s Realm and scenes from her human life. Icicles dripped from every available surface, snow drifts forming in wind-tossed shapes the mountains would be proud of. A small flurry of snowflakes followed her every move.
When she tired so much she could hardly lift her arms, Elsa stopped dancing, her dress settling gracefully around her.
In the center of the courtyard rose a magnificent sculpture, a centerpiece of this whole spectacle: a wave of ice curled into the shape of a flame that twisted and licked towards the sky. Standing in the center of it was a woman with short hair and intense eyes.
The courtyard was silent. Empty but for her statues.
Elsa had to laugh at herself.
Stupid. Foolish to think that just because she repeated her actions the night they met it would somehow coax Theo out of hiding. If she knew Theo at all, she wasn’t just going to come waltzing back into Arendelle. She’d be as far away as possible, keeping her distance in the belief that it would be the best course of action.
Elsa gazed up at the stars, the summer constellations blazing down on her through the cosmos. Perhaps it would be worth sending out Reba, or Dagrun and some of the Arendelle youth now that the passes were clear to scour the land for a hint of her. If she could get away, maybe she could go herself. Anything was better than nothing.
Then again, maybe the mystery of Theo’s fate was a stone better left unturned. Elsa didn’t know how she’d react if Theo showed up in Arendelle proclaiming her love. Or if she showed up merely to turn her down entirely. Or if she said nothing at all.
She didn’t know if knowing for sure that Theonia was dead would ease her or tear her apart. Garrett’s death had been difficult enough and she had barely known him. Theo was entirely different. Elsa didn’t know what to feel about her death if that was even the case. Garrett’s had been straightforward: he had died to save her and she never forgot it. But Theo…Theo had infuriated her, attacked her, nearly destroyed her kingdom and murdered her sister…but despite all of that, the deepest part of her that she had come to know as her immortal soul, still longed to know.
Would she ever know?
She stood alone in the dark for a long time, contemplating this confusing emotional hunger inside of her for a woman who had done her such wrongs. Finally, her concern for Anna and Sophie roused her from her thoughts and she headed back towards the castle. Elsa was about to turn to go back inside the castle when something caught her eye. She stopped again, staring.
The northern lights had finally flared to life in the nighttime sky. They rippled endlessly across the black expanse in blues and greens and very rarely, a flash of red.
But the breathtaking display overhead was not what had distracted the ice queen. Her gaze was drawn to a much smaller, perfectly reflected and rendered light show on the ground in the hollow between two stones.
Her entire body shaking, Elsa stretched out her hand to pick the thing up, her heart daring to beat a little faster.
It was a glass ball.
From a perch high in the mountains above the castle walls, a warrior knelt on the rocks, watching Arendelle. Her hair had grown out these past few months, it now hung down around her shoulders in raven waves. She had long ago abandoned her temple dress for the tunic and pants of her best friend.
Months of solitary training in the Mother’s sacred grove had melted any excess fat from her body. Bands of taut muscle showed in her arms, legs and stomach. She had only what she had taken from the Hall beneath the Temple: a thick dark cloak, a long staff, the pouch, and of course, the sword.
The ancient blade lay carefully in its sheath, resting on her palms as she watched the kingdom below. The kingdom that, less than a year ago, she had tried to destroy. The kingdom where she had nearly died.
Instead, it had become a final test, and a rite of passage into her new life. Her new position.
The blade was calling her, the voices of its former masters stretching out across a thick void to touch her mind. And at the forefront was him. He’d come back to her. When she had most needed him, he’d returned to save her. Just like he’d promised.
“The era of the Council is over. The Sorcerer has completed his work in this world. It is time for the daughters to have a new Guardian.”
The sword shone, the entire plinth in which it rested glowing with particles of the purest light. The choice was hers…she could walk away, leave it all behind for an uncertain fate and unknown future. Or she could seize the mantle and carry it herself.
Slowly, she stood, the knife clattering to the floor.
Garrett’s encouraging smile reflected back at her from the blade in the stone, not pushing her. Just accepting her, whatever she chose.
She had always known her place. She was the one who worried about everything: big and little. She saw what was most important and always fought towards it. Her heart encompassed all she cared about with fierce bands of love and loyalty. She was the one who kept them safe.
Her role was set. It always had been.
The ancient sword slid from the stone plinth as if it were a knife through butter. As it came free, a burst of white light filled the chamber.
She almost laughed with how easy this was. The pain, this final transformation into what she was to become was effortless compared to being a host. It was like slipping into a coat ready-made for her.
Holding the sword before her, she nicked her thumb on the edge, tracing her blood up and down the length of the blade. It accepted the offering eagerly, throwing its light around her until she was encased in a cocoon of warmth and knowledge.
The sword became hers and she became the sword: the power of a spirit was now hers to wield.
She lifted the sword high and became the Guardian.
She had walked the path ingrained in her mind from the memories of dozens of her reincarnations. The path that only the Guardian could walk to the Mother’s Sacred Grove. There she had learned and trained as all her predecessors had. And when she was ready, she left to begin her new life…
Theonia gazed up at the glowing tendrils of the Mother’s hair overhead, watching them softly twist and fall with purpose and beauty. The delicate beauty reflected in her opaque eyes.
Stay close to my daughters…protect them…guide them into this new age…Theonia, your purpose has only just begun.
The Mother’s Final Command. Change.
No longer would she be the host of the fire goddess. No longer would a spirit share her body. No longer would she carry the weight of the legends or the mantle of the Head Councilor.
Her head was blissfully silent. Her hands were the perfect temperature.
She had passed through her trials and found her peace at last.
The Council was no more, the world was back in balance.
After a moment, the new guardian rose from her vigil and strapped the sword to her hip with a smile.
She had four spirits to find. And she knew exactly where one of them was.
Her heart pounding, she looked towards Arendelle.
“Time to do my duty.”