Chapter 2 - Missing in Action
The sun rose and reached its height but still no one had seen the Queen.
"Elsa!" Anna was wandering the castle grounds having already failed to locate her sister in her room, the kitchens, the library or even their secret rendezvous in the tower. None of the staff had seen her since last night.
"I'm sorry if you got upset last night." Anna called, peering down towards the open gates in hope that she would catch sight of her sister's glistening ice dress or train. She was disappointed to only see a few wandering civilians and merchants setting up shop. Anna stepped down from the fence and continued on her way. She passed a lump of misshapen ice on the secondary courtyard that was slowly dripping onto the stones.
"Wherever you went Elsa, did you really think it was wise to let all your ice sculptures melt like this?" Anna drew a finger along the melting ice, rubbing the water between her fingers as she continued her search. This was too much like a few days ago when she'd ridden after her sister, calling pointlessly across the snow.
Anna hated that she and her sister hadn't spent more time together these past two days. Sure they had both needed rest and then Anna had had to replace Kristoff's sled like she promised and Elsa had needed to clean up the crazy things that had been happening since her coronation.
Finally they could be sisters again! Not just two strangers who lived in the same castle. They were past all the ugly stuff now, the silence, the distance. They should have spent last night sitting on Elsa's bed, swapping stories from all these silent years, sipping cocoa and giggling.
But Elsa wasn't ready. Anna should have known better. Fourteen years of separation were not overcome in a single day. Especially with Elsa. Elsa was secretive and very independent, she had been even back when the girls had been best friends. Elsa did everything alone. Sure she was always there whenever Anna had asked her to play or talk but for the most part, Elsa had been a loner from the start.
Anna continued watching the statue, trying to guess what it had been before summer had started to melt it but the statue was too far gone already. She knew her sister was trying, she had proved that much yesterday when they'd skated together. Elsa had held her hands the whole time, guiding her gently across the icy courtyard, catching her every time she fell. But then later, her sister had flinched away from her entirely and Anna could see the wall struggling to come back up. To shut her out. Anna hated that stupid wall.
She knew Elsa needed her time to adjust and her space. It didn't help that Anna had been ready for years to throw herself at her sister whenever she wanted and spend hours talking about nothing in particular. And maybe one day they'd return to that, once Elsa learned that Anna had never been afraid of her, that Elsa's powers could not hurt Anna anymore.
Anna didn't know if she could handle such a carefully controlled, hot and cold relationship in the meantime.
The princess turned at her name and was surprised to see her boyfriend cantering up to the secondary courtyard on Sven.
"Kristoff!" Anna dashed forward and into his sweeping embrace as he dismounted. He'd been planning to reinstate his ice business today and break in the new sled with a trip up to the mountains. He'd asked Anna to come but she'd politely declined, hoping the day could have been spent rekindling her and Elsa's lifelong love of dropping ice balls from their balconies to the courtyards below. How quickly that plan was being ruined.
"Anna," Kristoff said as he spun her once then put her down. "Are you okay? Is Elsa alright? What's happening?"
Anna's brow furrowed in confusion. "How did you…?"
Kristoff pointed up at the tower. "The palace…it's melting."
Anna looked up and gasped in surprise. All the icy ornaments and decorations Elsa had set up around the castle the previous day, ones she had sworn would stay there forever, were slowly drooping and melting into cascades of water that ran down the castle walls.
"I could see it from up the mountain so I hurried back." Kristoff told Anna. "What's going on? I thought Elsa's sculptures would never melt?"
Anna was watching the giant snowflake her sister had hung on the steeple of the tower. "They shouldn't." She said quietly. It had dripped itself into a misshapen blob of ice just like the sculpture next to them. As she watched, a large section of the bottom broke off and crashed to the roof below, then slid slowly downwards.
The look on Kristoff's face was the one Anna imagined he'd have if he ever saw Elsa's ice palace in the mountains being smashed to pieces. "Then why are they?" He asked Anna, tearing his eyes from the dripping garlands of snowflakes hanging around the courtyard.
Anna shrugged. "I don't know but I think it has something to do with the fact that no one has seen Elsa all morning."
Kristoff was startled. "What? Where is she?"
"We don't know. She's gone." A thought struck Anna. "She couldn't have run away again could she? To her palace on the North Mountain?"
Kristoff shook his head. "Somehow I doubt it. Even the ice up in the mountains is melting."
Sven snorted in agreement as Kristoff nodded. "Yeah, that's why I hurried back. Sven and I had just reached Isen Lake. It almost never thaws completely, even in the middle of summer. But it was completely clear, not a sheet of ice in sight."
Anna glanced back at the melting sculpture. "But…it's no warmer than it has been since the thaw." This was starting to scare her. Where was Elsa? Why were her creations melting? They hadn't the last time she ran away! The icicles she'd accidentally cast in the ballroom had had to be chipped from the floor piece by piece. Why was everything melting now? Was this somehow her fault again?
As always, the mountain man could tell she was upset. Kristoff wrapped a comforting arm around Anna's shoulders. "So what's going on?" He asked.
Anna shook her head, fighting back tears. "I don't know but we need to find my sister, fast!"
Both Anna and Kristoff whirled on the spot as if they had been caught kissing but it was only Olaf, toddling unsteadily up to them.
"Is it warmer today or is that just me?" Olaf asked them, then giggled. "Summer is fun, isn't it?"
"Olaf, have you seen Elsa recently?" Anna asked. The snowman seemed to regard Elsa as a mother and had been seen following the Queen around the previous day jumping at her heels like an excitable five-year old.
Olaf shook his head back and forth. "No. I haven't." Sven let out a groan and bent his head to get a scratch from Olaf's stick hands.
"Oh wait!" Olaf suddenly shouted, making the others all jump. "I don't know if this helps, but I saw her here last night. She made this." He gestured at the misshapen blob of ice. "And she gave me some great advice about feeling better."
Anna was about to ask Olaf what the sculpture had been but suddenly noticed something very disturbing. "Olaf…where's your flurry?"
Olaf looked up, clearly noticing for the first time that his life-sustaining personal flurry Elsa had gifted him with had evaporated. "Oh that's odd. I thought it was a little too warm out here…" His nose began to slide out of his face. He absentmindedly pushed it back into place. "Elsa warned me about being places where it was too hot…"
"Come on Olaf," Anna said quickly, trying not to let her panic show as more water ran down Olaf's face. "we need to get you somewhere cold." She took Olaf's hand and pulled him towards the castle, thinking that the dungeons or cellars might still be cold enough from the freeze that Olaf would be okay down there.
Kristoff was going to follow Anna and Olaf down to the cellars but Sven caught the end of his tunic and pulled.
"What is it buddy?"
Sven pulled Kristoff towards the melting ice statue, huffing and snorting at something on the ground next to it.
"What do you mean 'something smells funny?'" Kristoff asked the reindeer. "That's just you buddy…"
Sven snorted again, only this time sounding a bit more indignant. He nudged something near the base of the statue with his nose and pawed the ground anxiously.
Kristoff picked up the tiny barb that had caught his friend's attention. It was covered in dried blood.
"Where did this come from?"
"An act of true love will thaw a frozen heart…"
"Love will thaw…" I repeated slowly. "Love." Of course.
It all seemed so simple now. I loved my sister, I could never hurt her. She loved me, she'd just thrown herself in front of a sword to save me. I loved this kingdom.
"Elsa?" She asked as I dropped her hands.
"Love!" I said again. I threw my arms out to my side.
The power rippled from me softly, the natural worm breeze flowing in to the snow around us, gently swirling it into the air. The ice on the fjord cracked and melted. My sister gasped as the snow under our feet began to rise into the air. I moved with the wind, the ice around us melting and flowing upward to follow the motion of my arms.
Icicles melted, snow rushed upwards, warmth poured back into the fjord.
I lifted the veil from my heart. And summer returned to the kingdom.
Elsa awoke with a gasp.
"Calm down, you're not in danger."
Elsa's eyes snapped to the voice, her vision clearing slowly. The black-haired woman from the courtyard was sitting next to her bed on a small wooden stool, her hands gently folded in front of her.
"Sleeper's Potion, an ancient troll spell." The woman explained to Elsa's unasked question. "It can be used as a temporary suppressant of your powers. Don't even try, you're still under its influence." She said drily as Elsa raised her palm.
Elsa ignored her and tried to send ice her way. A single snowflake fluttered feebly from her fingers and melted instantly. The effort alone made her head swim again. Elsa gripped her head and found her braid had come undone. Her long white hair cascaded around her shoulders.
Looking around, Elsa saw she was in a small, simple but comfortable room. There was a single window high on the wall along which her bed lay. A pitcher and glass rested on the table beside her alongside a potted plant that swayed softly. The room was devoid of any other decoration besides the stool her companion was currently occupying.
The woman was silent, her gaze focused on the wall opposite them, where there was a small door. It was almost as if she were contemplating how quickly she could leave.
Her head clearing, Elsa tried to get up, only to realize that to her horror, she was wearing nothing but a slip that barely covered her breasts.
"What did you do to me?" She shouted, hastily covering herself up with the blanket. This was no way for a queen to be dressed, no matter where she was!
"Sorry." The woman shrugged, still not looking as Elsa hastily tried to pull the blanket further up around herself. "How were we to know most of your clothing was made of ice?" She waved a hand blindly towards the blanket. "Don't worry, it's just us girls here except for Garret. Well, and Goren. But he'd a doctor and Garret knows if he so much as thinks about stealing a glance, he'd find himself roasted, whipped and frozen solid in the blink of an eye."
Elsa didn't particularly care about who those two were but this last comment caught her attention.
"What do you want with me?" She asked. She'd already guessed that her captors had powers similar to her own but she still hadn't quite figured out the extent of them.
The woman turned and glared at Elsa. "We've been looking for you for a long time." She said softly.
Elsa shivered. Her eyes were an unsettling deep ruby-red.
As she looked into them, a sudden overwhelming fear seized the queen like a flame beginning to spread.
Elsa grabbed for the pitcher next to her bed and threw it as hard as she could at the black-haired woman. It smashed into her nose with a sickening crack, water spilling everywhere.
The red-eyed woman gripped her nose in pain, her eyes flashing like embers. Undeterred, Elsa flicked her fingers at the spilled water which, to her delight, froze, coating the woman's black clothes in thick rime.
As she watched however, the rime evaporated into steam and drifted lazily to the ceiling.
Elsa wasn't sticking around to question her weakened powers and strange captor. She jumped to her feet, dragging the blanket with her for modesty.
Still pinching her now bleeding nose, the other woman waved her hand and a thick ring of smoke engulfed Elsa. The queen fell to the floor, tangled in the sheet, choking as heavy smoke filled her lungs.
"Stop that." The woman commanded as Elsa gasped for breath. "It wont do for us to fight, we need to work together." Her voice sounded very odd because she was still pinching her broken nose but the smoke did not let up.
Just as Elsa was beginning to see spots, a warm breeze suddenly rushed through the room, clearing the smoke instantly.
"Goodness! I can't leave you two alone for more than a minute can I?" Eyes watering, Elsa looked up at her savior.
The blonde woman from the courtyard danced into the room and immediately enveloped Elsa in a tight hug.
"You'll be alright here your majesty, we're not going to hurt you." She said in a light, happy voice as Elsa tensed against the unexpected and entirely unwelcome human contact.
The blonde released Elsa and helped wrap the blanket more securely over her half-naked form.
"I never thought Isen would be the rash one…" She commented to the black-haired woman as she helped Elsa stand and sit back down on the bed. "always assumed that would be you…" As soon as Elsa was settled, the blonde turned to the potted plant and stroked it softly.
The black-haired woman settled herself back on the stool, still pinching her bleeding nose. "Scara…" She said quietly in a voice that held a hint of threat.
"Oh sorry, let me get that…" The blonde drifted over to the other woman and gently pinched her bleeding nose. The injured woman let out a little moan as her nose righted itself and stopped bleeding.
The woman named Scara gently removed her fingers to reveal a small wooden splint holding the woman's nose in the proper place. "Need some ice for that?" She asked with a wink at Elsa. "I'm sure her majesty wouldn't mind."
This comment earned her glares from both of them.
"Sorry about the rude awakening." The blonde apologized to Elsa, completely ignoring Elsa's icy look. "We still haven't quite got the dosage right, so you might experience some dizziness, loss of your strength and ice powers and quite possibly, hot flashes and sudden flaring anger." She laughed lightly as if this were some kind of personal joke. "But don't worry," She assured Elsa. "your power is growing with the coming winter so you'll probably get over it in no time."
When Elsa didn't answer her or even break her icy glare, the blonde woman named Scara turned to the black-haired woman. "I thought royals were supposed to be very polite?" She asked in a loud whisper, sounding confused.
"They're also not usually dragged from their homes in the middle of the night." Elsa said sharply.
This dimmed the smile on Scara's face slightly. "I take back what I said Theo," She said over her shoulder in the same volume as before. "she's got more bite than you do."
"Who are you?" Elsa asked, her patience wearing out. "Why have you brought me here?"
The black-haired woman rolled her eyes. "Haven't you figured it out yet? Did you really think you were the only one?" She asked.
Elsa just stared at her blankly.
The black-haired woman heaved a
heavy sigh, like a teacher who was explaining something to a particularly dull
pupil. "Nature is always in balance. So," She gestured around the
room with her arm. "Meet other weights on the scale."
Elsa looked from Scara to the other woman, slowly starting to put it together.
The black-haired woman snapped her fingers and a tiny flame sprung to life on her index finger. She tossed it from finger to finger, never taking her eyes from it. "There are four of us," The black-haired woman continued. "each of the four seasons. I am Summer, my birth name is Theonia." She closed her fist around the flame, snuffing it out. Elsa realized she was staring and hastily closed her mouth.
The yellow-blonde woman spoke up then. "You already know what I can do! I'm Spring! But call me Scara."Her eyes were a brilliant emerald and glowed with soft, earthy warmth. She pointed at Theonia. "We all just call her Theo!" This brought an exasperated sigh from the aforementioned.
Elsa looked around the room again, taking a moment to truly look at her captors. Her assessment in the courtyard had not been incorrect: Theo was probably about her age, maybe a few months older or younger and Scara looked to be about a year younger than Anna. Both of them were dressed in simple black dresses; Theonia's enhanced only by red trim on the short sleeves but Scara's long dress dancing with the greens and yellows one typically associated with spring flowers. "And…where's Autumn?" Elsa asked, looking from Theonia to Scara.
Theonia's gaze darkened at this but it was Scara who answered.
"Well that's why you're here El!" She said, trying to sound optimistic but her worried glance at Theo severely crippled her effort. "Sorry, would you prefer a nickname like Theo?" Scara suddenly asked Elsa, seeming worried that she had offended the girl. "Or do you prefer Elsa? Or your majesty? Or Isen? Do you go by Isen at all? Ever?"
"Unfortunately, Autumn could not be retrieved." Theonia said, interrupting Scara's rambling.
Elsa turned to Theo. "Retrieved?"
"Like how we retrieved you." Theo said.
"Kidnapped." Elsa pointed out.
"Retrieved." Theonia replied coolly. She stood and turned to gaze out the small, high-set window. "What we did was entirely necessary."
Elsa was about to have a word with her about the definition of 'necessary' but paused when Scara violently shook her head, her lips tight.
"Spring and Summer are strong but not nearly as potent as Winter." Theo continued, still looking out the window. "With three of us, we can overcome anything keeping us from finding Autumn and restore the balance of the seasons."
"Why am I required?" Elsa asked.
Theo turned to her then and Elsa fought not to cave under those eyes. "We were able to transport you using plants." She told Elsa. Scara offered Elsa an apologetic smile. "We can't do that with Autumn." Theo continued. "Whatever she touches will die upon contact with her skin." Theo glanced down at Elsa's hand, which was stretched out on her thigh. "Ice isn't alive, it makes the perfect cage."
Elsa snatched her hand away. "What makes you think you'll need a cage? Did you ever consider trying just talking to her?"
Theo ignored Elsa's suggestion. "Autumn can be stubborn." She eyed Elsa. "Very much like you."
"So why not just stick her with some of those poison barbs?"
Theo bristled instantly and sparks snapped at her fingers. Scara noticed and immediately spoke up. "That's not the best idea…"
"Are you crazy?" Theo hissed, ignoring Scara completely and advancing on Elsa. "Has your royal education taught you everything except common sense? Can you imagine what would happen if death went down for even a day?" She towered over Elsa's seated form, clearly trying to intimidate her. But Elsa was a queen and was not so easily subjugated. "Do you have any idea what is happening right now because we had to use it on you?" Theo continued, her eyes flashing. A thin wisp of smoke escaped from between her lips but she seemed not to notice. "Cold has lost its power for the last few hours. Any spells you have cast have come undone and the snow-packs on the mountains are melting. It could take years for those to recover!"
Elsa's thoughts immediately jumped to Arendelle and the new decorations she had hung. Then she remembered Olaf and the statue she had made Anna. She hoped Anna had seen it. She hoped Olaf had stayed out of the forge today.
"And what about now?" She asked, imagining her ice palace melting and falling into the valley. "Is it still…?"
"Once your powers start to return, everything should be back to normal." Scara assured her. "The potion just knocked you out for a few hours so cold's power over the land vanished too. Don't worry, the mountains will refreeze with time."
Theo rounded on Scara, making the younger girl flinch. "Will they?" She asked. Her voice was trembling. "How can we be sure?"
Elsa noticed a thin trial of smoke rising from one of the woman's fingers but didn't feel inclined to point it out.
Scara offered Theo a gentle smile and gently gripped her arm. Tiny roots and vines began to snake up the fire-girls arm. To Elsa's surprise, Theo watched the plants move with a small smile on her face. Slowly, the smoke dissipating from her fingers vanished.
"We will figure this out." Scara told Theo gently. Theo gave the tiniest of nods, watching the plants on her arm grow.
Sensing the others were having some kind of moment, Elsa nodded then stood, pleased that her legs seemed to have regained enough strength to support her again. She wrapped the blanket tightly around herself, still not feeling strong enough to try to make herself a new dress. "Very sorry Scara and... Theo, but I can't help you." She told the girls politely, neither of which spared her a glance. "I have to get back to my kingdom." Back to Anna…
Elsa turned to leave. She was stopped by a gentle hand on her upper arm. Her icy-blue eyes met the flame-red ones of the woman of summer.
"You can't leave here Elsa." Theonia said in a surprisingly gentle voice, her other arm still in Scara's grip and covered in delicate vines. "None of us can. We all have to stay here."