Chapter 6 - Return to Arendelle
The four scrolls of the spirits were not kept in the library.
Not by choice, you’ll understand. Goren would have much preferred it if the important documents could reside somewhere easily within reach so he wouldn’t need to waste so much time and energy searching for them.
It was probably a good thing the scrolls could move; the secrets and history they contained were powerful enough to topple empires and crush the mountains to powder. Best that those never have a concrete owner.
Still, was it too much to ask that they stop turning up in inconvenient ways?
The red scroll of Branna had once had to be fished out of the fireplace with a long stick in order for Goren to read the flame-proof document. Livet’s scroll had once vanished for an entire year then suddenly popped back into existence on the entrance hall table like it had been there all along.
“…And so this here…that’s…what does that mean?”
Goren, Garret and Scara had managed to recover the Død scroll from under a flowerpot in Scara’s garden and the Isen scroll from out by the well and taken them to the library for review.
Normally, hosts and the guardians were not allowed to read the scrolls, lest they read too far into the past and learn secrets even the spirits were often kept in the dark about.
But Goren had already spent countless days sitting up with Theonia studying these very same scrolls and countless books searching for clues. So if Scara and Garret were willing to help him pour over countless possibilities of the cryptic words, he would only be happy for the help.
Goren rolled down the table and peered at the thin stretch of words Scara had indicated with her finger.
“The name of the last host for Isen, a little girl born far to the east named Mirabelle.” He told her, reading the ancient runes with ease.
Scara frowned at the symbols. “Then why was her name never engraved on the temple cornerstone?”
Goren fidgeted and glanced to Garret as the man’s head snapped up. They locked eyes but neither made any indication as to how to proceed.
“Mirabelle never made it to the temple.” Goren finally said, choosing his words with extreme care. The guardian was looking at the troll as if he couldn’t decide to be proud or upset by his choice. They both knew that for whatever reason, this story had been kept from this generation of hosts, particularly Scara’s young, innocent ears.
“Why not?” Scara asked, brow furrowed in confusion. “Was she like Elsa? Did she have a home and family?”
“She died when she was twelve.” Goren said, deciding that they were down the path already. Best not to leave Scara entirely in the dark. “Isen awoke unexpectedly on Mirabelle’s tenth birthday and the two of them did not immediately agree. Isen’s power came unhinged and poor little Mirabelle accidentally froze her homeland and several of the surrounding provinces in a never-ending winter. It took the military two years to track her down and then they publically executed her to end it.”
“She died.” Garret said simply, sparing the naive spring host the horror of the full truth.
Goren gave the Guardian a thoughtful look that the man returned evenly. He’d always been overprotective of the girls, particularly Scara. Goren couldn’t say he agreed with such treatment. “The other hosts were in their late seventies and quickly expiring.” Goren explained, turning back to Scara. “The previous guardian was old as well, even older than the hosts. When Mirabelle was killed, he returned himself to the Mother to face judgment for his failure. Within the next four years, the remaining hosts all died of various causes and the cycle began again.”
“When did the other trolls drop their support?” Garret asked, placing a large volume of scripture on the table.
Goren shrugged away the bad memories associated with that particular time. Even after all this time, it was not an easy feat. “After Mirabelle’s death. The King of the trolls decided then that they no longer wanted any part in the temple and the Mother’s Doctrine. When my family branch implored that he change his mind, he kicked us out of our homeland to live here.”
Scara’s eyes shone with pity and she laid a gentle hand on the small troll’s head. “So you tracked us down alone?”
The troll smiled, touched as he always was by the spring host’s compassion. “I hardly had to do any tracking.” Goren admitted, patting her hand and stepping gently away from Scara’s touch. “Not when the Guardian found you both first.” He and Garret exchanged a glance and the normally stoic man offered the troll a soft smile. “My father helped with some of the initial tracking.” Goren continued. “We guessed the provinces of your births. His final days were spent chasing these scrolls around the temple and making the predictions. Isen died first so we knew that her host would be the oldest. Branna died not long after Isen so they’d be about the same age. Død had died a year previously, and Livet hung on for a few more years, sitting alone in the temple with us until her time came.
“But without the help of our family, without their wisdom and insight. We did not have the resources to retrieve you. Then my father died and I was left here alone, desperately searching for the hosts we’d lost. For five years, I thought I’d caused the end of the council.”
Goren paused here, worried he might say too much or that the guilt may become too much to hold back.
Scara smiled in understanding. “I just wish we had found Elsa and Død’s hosts sooner!” She said, laying the scroll flat on the table. They all stared at the glowing name on the bottom indicating the current host of the winter goddess: Queen Elsa of Arendelle.
“Didn’t the scrolls reveal anything?” Garret asked. “I thought they displayed the names as soon as the births occurred?”
“That’s the odd thing,” Goren said, pulling the Isen scroll closer to himself. “Elsa’s name did not appear on the scroll twenty-one years ago except among the record of all births in the province. The first time I’d seen her name in the list of hosts was when it appeared four days ago during the eternal winter she cast. I have no idea why.”
Garret frowned. “And you didn’t think it odd that that happened?” He asked the troll, leaning forward so he could look over the long list of past hosts as well. “That there simply was no Winter host for 21 years?”
“We did. But there wasn’t much we could do about it.” Goren placed the scroll gently aside, knowing it would probably take the opportunity to vanish and pulled the tomb of scripture towards him. “There is an ancient section of scripture that foretells of such a thing…” He lifted the cover with difficultly and grabbed a thick handful of pages, struggling to open the book to the right section. After a second of desperate struggling, the Guardian reached over and easily peeled open the pages for the troll.
Goren nodded in thanks and jumped up on the book, furiously scanning the ancient script. “…I’m sure it’s here somewhere…Ileana is quoted to have uttered it on her deathbed on the Mother’s instruction…”
Garret and Scara were silent as they watched the troll search. Words of the first hosts had been recorded as scripture and preserved by the temple in dozens of huge scripture books like this one. In those days, the Mother spoke to all her children, especially Ileana, it was said. But by the time the next generation was born, she had ceased from speaking to all but the eldest for reasons unknown.
“’When the Mother’s voice ceases…names shall fade.’” Goren read slowly. “’No more a cycle, no more engraved.’”
“What does that mean?” Scara asked.
“Sometime in the future, the Mother will stop talking to the hosts.” Garret said, leaning back and folding his hands thoughtfully in front of him. “She’ll no longer tell us her will through the Head Councilor. The scrolls will fade and the names of hosts wont be carved on the cornerstones.”
Scara looked up at Garret, her eyes wide and confused. “But…she’s still talking to us.” She turned to Goren. “Isn’t she?”
Garret’s brow furrowed. “Unless Theo has been lying to us about listening to her…which somehow I doubt.”
They were all silent as they pondered the obvious burdens of the authoritative, temperamental Head Councilor.
“The failure in Elsa’s prediction could be any number of things.” Goren assured Scara, hopping off the scripture book. “Most likely my family did something to keep us away from her. Let us not immediately ascribe this flaw to the end of days…The cycle may be disturbed but it is in no way dying.”
“So why can’t we find the autumn host?” Scara asked, still sounding unconvinced. Garret patted her shoulder reassuringly.
“My father predicted the birth. It was the last one he did.” Goren tugged the Død scroll out from under the thick volume of the Mother’s scripture, immensely glad it had not taken the opportunity of the past few minutes he had not been looking at it to vanish again. “We estimated the province to be somewhere south of here but before we could pinpoint it…” He paused, as if unsure if he was allowed to continue.
“What happened?” Scara asked gently.
Goren looked up at them, his eyes hard. “One day, the new name just vanished.”
Garret crossed over to stand behind the troll and peered at the curling script on the scroll. Because he was merely human, he’d never be able to easily read the words of the spirits and the Mother. But it was easier for him, the Mother’s chosen one than it would be for anyone else.
Sure enough, on the brown scroll, there was a conspicuous blank spot.
“Død’s hosts are often the hardest to retrieve.” The troll said sadly. “My father always told me that many of them died upon the awakening of the spirit. Død is too powerful for some. It takes a truly powerful person to confine Death to their form. Those that do survive often go mad or try to take their own life when they realize their touch means death. A great many young girls have been killed under the suspicion of them being witches when they accidentally curse their homelands with Død’s breath.”
Garret and Scara shared a look and for once, Goren found it impossible to know what the young girl was thinking. He knew just how much she had struggled to contain Livet when it had awakened. He knew that even though Life was a gift, confining it to human form was a terrible burden. Livet’s hosts were often no better off than Død’s.
“And a new name never appeared to you?”
Goren shook himself out of his musings when Scara asked the question. “There is another name that appeared sometime later, but it doesn’t make any sense. And we couldn’t get any idea of where to start looking.” He snapped the scroll open further so that he could see the very bottom of it. As always, the sight gave him chills. “For another, the name was of a child born several days too early…and look at it.” Goren flicked his wrist towards the humans and the Død scroll unfurled completely, its curling edge snapping against the table.
Scara and Garret leaned forward and peered at the tiny name at the very end of the scroll.
Scara was the first to speak. “But…isn’t that…?”
Garret shook his head. “That’s not possible.” He said quietly.
“It must be a mistake…” Goren agreed. “we have to keep looking. These scrolls have been wrong in the past but to have two of them wrong at the same time…”
He let his unfinished statement hang uneasily in the air. No more words were said as the three of them returned to their searches, pulling open large history tomes and books of scripture, Goren occasionally rolling between the human and the host to clarify a word or make a calculation. None of them noticed when the Isen scroll disappeared into thin air, probably to balance itself on the highest tower or back teetering on the edge of the well.
Off to the side however, the brown scroll remained present and open, the handful of letters arranged at the very bottom spelling out the impossible name.
Although sunset was fast approaching, Kristoff did not take them directly back to Arendelle.
“What are you doing?” Elsa asked as he pulled the sled to a stop in a stand of tall trees. They were still pretty high up in the mountains, with snow littering the ground in every direction. The North Mountain was still visible in the distance.
“I just need to check something.” Kristoff said as he adjusted Sven’s leads and harness. “wont take long, you can just sit in the sled if you want.”
“Where are we?” Elsa asked, looking around. They were not in Arendelle lands, of that she was certain. She knew all the lands in her kingdom like the patterns on the back of her door.
“Arendelle’s North border with the wilderness.” Kristoff said as he helped Olaf down from the sled. “This is one of my prime spots for ice. I just wanted to check if it has refrozen yet.”
Elsa stepped down from sled before Kristoff could offer her a hand. He seemed a little flustered but brushed it off.
“Follow me then.”
They left Olaf and Sven with a small bag of carrots: Olaf giggling and trying out different “noses” and Sven licking his lips and plotting his chances to lunge forward. A short walk later, the trees broke into a large clearing. Opposite them, the peaks of two small mountains formed a bowl with the forest ground, shrouded by purple shadows of the peaks. Resting in the graceful cup was an enormous lake, its surface eerily still and reflective.
“What is this place?” Elsa’s voice felt far too loud for the secluded spot. She swore just her voice had made ripples on the distant water.
“Isen lake.” Kristoff replied, the name sending a shiver through the snow queen. “usually it’s frozen…but it melted when they took you away. Everything melted…”
Elsa took a few steps forward but suddenly felt overwhelmingly dizzy. She quickly lowered herself to the ground as gracefully as possible before Kristoff could notice.
“Was Olaf okay?” She asked as her vision briefly went black. Talking seemed to help and her vision quickly cleared.
If he noticed her momentary discomfort, Kristoff did not show it. “Fine. He melted a bit the first day but we kept him cold and he held up. Never lost his good spirits.”
Elsa smiled, grateful that her momentary lapse hadn’t cost them the heart-warming, hug-loving snowman. She had grown quite fond of him and she knew Anna was deeply attached to the little guy. How must she have felt when he was melting?
“Anna was worried sick.” Kristoff continued as if he had read her thoughts. “About him and you.”
Startled, Elsa turned to face him. “I didn’t…”
Kristoff smiled at her. “I know you didn’t ask but I also know you want to know. It’s written all over your face.”
Elsa knew she had a very good court face. After all she’d been practicing for years. In the past few days, with the winter and being in the company of the others, she’d let it fade away somewhat but it was still there, tucked away like a mask and she used it often. For him to have seen through that… “How the hell did you get so good at reading people?” There was no spite in the question, only bewilderment.
Kristoff shrugged. “I pay attention. With my profession, I’m invisible to most. And don’t worry,” he said to Elsa’s still amazed look. “You’re one of the most difficult people I’ve ever had to read.”
They were silent for a moment, watching the wind chase tiny waves across the otherwise mirror-still surface of the lake. Elsa was wondering just how much about her the mountain man knew from ‘paying attention.’
“How do you know Theonia?” She finally asked, her curiosity getting the better of her. She’d been thinking about the summer host the whole way down here, focusing desperately on how she could have possibly known Kristoff so her thoughts did not turn to the color of her eyes or how close they’d come to…
Thankfully, Kristoff sighed loudly at that moment, breaking Elsa’s thoughts. He leaned against a tree thoughtfully. “So that’s her name…” He adjusted his cap and tugged off his mittens before continuing. “Well, it was years ago. We were both kids. She was always hanging around the ice fields with one of the ice men. I thought she was his daughter.” He tucked the mittens away into his satchel. “I never got her name.”
Elsa had a hard time imagining Theo as anything except a tense, angry woman prone to playing with fire, let alone a quiet, obscure child collecting ice. “So what happened? Why did you think she was dead?”
Kristoff’s face fell. “She fell through thin ice one day, we all thought she had drowned.”
Elsa had a sinking suspicion she knew why Theo had fallen through the ice and it had to do with her tendency to set her own hands on fire.
“What was she doing with you?” Kristoff asked.
“It’s…complicated.” For all her regal training, that was the best way Elsa could think to describe it.
“Elsa,” She paused at the gentle tone in the mountain man’s voice. “the trolls told me the whole story of the hosts. How they…need to live in isolation, how they are stolen from their families.” He didn’t look at her but instead shoved his hands deep into his pockets.
“Theo was forcing me to stay,” Elsa finally admitted, “She’s the summer host.”
“Well that explains the fire.” His nonchalance about the whole control of the elements he’d witnessed was unreal. Elsa was grateful for it nonetheless. It was part of what had made her newfound friendship with him so easy.
“She’s also the Head Counselor.” Elsa told him. He nodded like he understood which really should not have surprised the queen at all. The trolls were practically gods themselves.
“So why did she let you leave now then?”
Elsa shrugged. “No idea. I guess maybe she realized just how in control I really was.” But even as she said it, Elsa knew that couldn’t be it. Something else had to have impacted this decision. She’d displayed her control multiple times and had gotten nothing but fury and envy from the summer host. But the way Theo had reacted to the words my little sister…For a split second, Elsa thought that maybe the girl had done it out of confusion and affection for the moment they had shared. But she quickly brushed that away. No use dwelling on that.
“Actually…” Elsa turned back to the mountain man as a hint of nervousness crept into his voice. Kristoff shuffled his feet and pushed away from the tree he was leaning on. His cap was off and he was twisting it in his hands. “Your majesty…I have a very important question for you.”
Elsa was quiet, letting the mountain man speak, not even bothering to insist he call her by name. She knew it was a reassuring action for him when he was nervous. “Look I just wanted to ask because well…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Anna told me what happened after Hans asked you…and I…not that I think you’ll…obviously not but…just in case…”
He looked at Elsa as if expecting her to finish the sentence for him and put him out of his misery. She just raised an eyebrow in silent question.
“I want to ask Anna to marry me!” Kristoff blurted out suddenly. His face reddened and he looked down.
Elsa waited for the echo in the grove to fade before she attempted a response.
“Give it some time before you ask her.”
His head snapped up in surprise at her calm, blunt answer and their gazes locked. Kristoff looked like he was fighting a hopeful smile. Elsa felt the same way only she knew she hid it better.
“Kristoff, you’re good to Anna.” She began. “You protect her selflessly and I know how much you care about her. But you haven’t known her that long.” Elsa turned away from him and looked out over the water again. It had stilled again, reflecting the bright swirling twilight clouds above. A surprisingly good comparison to Elsa’s current inner storm. “After what happened with Hans, I don’t want her to get hurt again.” Anna deserved so much after the hell Hans had put her through. Elsa very much doubted Kristoff would ever do anything even remotely similar but she couldn’t bear it if Anna got hurt again.
“I know…I know! Believe me, that is the last thing I want. I just…for the future…”His voice fell slightly. “I…I wanted to ask you here in case you…you…”
“I’m fine Kristoff.” Elsa said with a touch of humor. “I’m not going to freeze the kingdom again just because you want to marry my sister.”
The relief from him was so palpable, Elsa could feel it on the back of her neck. “Oh good….I…I mean, not that I was worried you would! Just…”
Elsa turned back to face him with a genuine, brilliant smile on her face. “I already consider you part of our family Kristoff.”
Her words made him blush again. Kristoff finally seemed to notice that he’d practically made his cap unravel with the violent way he’d been twisting it. Meekly, he dropped his head and tried to force the cap back into its proper shape.
Elsa chuckled. “I see why my sister loves you.”
Kristoff looked up again. “She…she’s said that?”
Elsa smiled warmly. “She doesn’t have to.” She stood up. “Now, I think the least I can do to thank you for everything these past few days is ensure that your business remains intact.” A simple flick of her wrist was all it took for the lake to become locked up in a foot of beautiful ice.
“Elsa…” She turned to him as he spoke up again in a stronger voice. He’d put the lopsided cap back on his head. “I…I know it’s not fair to Anna but…if you want, I won’t tell Anna about…this.” He gave her a sideways glance. “About…you.”
This time, Elsa knew her mask had slipped off completely. She felt the emotions flicker across her face in quick succession: surprise, anger, relief.
Kristoff just watched her, gauging her reaction in that level-headed way of his. Elsa had found herself liking the man even more with everything she found out about him. He was thoughtful and kind and very capable of dealing with people. He had even brought her all the way out here in case she got upset about his question. He planned ahead carefully, meticulously and sensitively.
He was effectively giving her complete control over her sister’s perception of her. Letting her decide just how they were going to handle this new revelation about their lives. Elsa felt her lower lip tremble and desperately fought back tears. It was the first time she’d felt in control of the circumstances since she’d woken up in the temple.
She walked up to the mountain man and stared up into his eyes. Gently, she placed her bare hand on top of his.
“Thank you Kristoff….” She was so glad Anna had found this wonderful man. She was even happier that he had decided he was ready to devote himself to her sister. She couldn’t have asked for anything more for her beloved little Anna.
Kristoff gave her a warm smile. “Just out of curiosity…” He said, treading gently. “are you…? I mean have you considered…?”
“I haven’t decided.”
Elsa dropped her hand and turned back towards the sled. “Let’s get back before it gets too dark. I am anxious to see my kingdom.”
But they both knew Elsa wasn’t just referring to the town and the palace walls.
The sun set as the sled made its way down from the mountains towards the kingdom on the fjord.
Anna was now fast approaching two days without sleep. But she had never felt more compelled to stay awake.
She turned another page, the hot chocolate by her elbow long forgotten and unappealingly cold. She was in the library at last, taking full advantage of the silence it offered to delve deep into her sister’s book.
Anna didn’t come yesterday. The silence was stifling and it kept trying to peak out from under the gloves. But she came back today, knocked and told me about the visiting dignitaries. She knew I’d be at the meeting anyway but seemed to think I would have liked to have gone to the gates with her to greet them. I would have. I really wished I had been there. But it was too strong today.
I made my way over to the balcony while the dignitaries were leaving, watching from afar as father wished them well and sent them on their way, shutting the gates again behind them. He is so afraid of exposing me, of letting anything else in. I worry about what is happening to Anna. She needs friends to play with, people to talk to who aren’t in paintings or behind doors. And she cant have that because of me.
I was sitting on the balcony when I heard Anna’s voice below me. She was in the garden below, talking to the ducks, asking them why she couldn’t swim with them to cool off on this impossibly hot day.
The idea came to me suddenly and I couldn’t not follow through on it. After all, Anna wanted to cool off right?
There was a bucket on the balcony, filled with water in preparation for watering the plants most likely. It was just begging to fall, perched so near the ledge like that. All I had to do was nudge it.
The bucket fell, the water spilling out of it. My aim was perfect, Anna got soaked.
“Oh my god…” Ann a muttered, leaning back in her chair. A chuckle rumbled in the back of her throat. “the bucket!” She had always wondered how that had gotten there. She had assumed it had just been kicked over accidentally by the cleaning staff at an unfortunate time.
For a second, I was afraid the prank had not been taken well. Anna laughed though. It made me wish I could be there, beside her, that the two of us would be the ones soaking someone else and laughing. But she looked up, searching for the source of her fortunate waterfall and I found myself unable to hold it back. I ran away. Again. I barely made it through the door before it came pouring out of me.
The entry ended there. Anna lowered the book to her lap and sat back, closing her aching eyes, exhaustion finally catching up to her and reminding her just how much had happened these past two days. All day, after sending her new friend Dagrun off on his mission, she’d been discovering more and more about those years of silence.
In particular, she was finding out the answer to a lot of the unsolved mysteries of her childhood.
In retrospect, she supposed she should have realized that every time something was placed a little too conveniently or no one had claimed ownership to a particularly mischievous prank that her sister had been the culprit.
But could she really? Her sister had been distant and cold to her for years, never once letting that warm heart peek out from under that stupid door. At least never to Anna’s face. Except at the coronation ball when she’d made her dance with the Duke and had shamelessly giggled the whole time. Now, Anna was discovering, for all those years, Elsa had been letting it show.
Every single entry in this book was about her.
Anna gently rubbed her eyes, trying to coax them back open. They would not be persuaded.
It was all here, right from the very first day the door had been shut. That conversation, the first one they’d had through that stupid door was here, recorded word for word like a prayer. Every day after that was there too, but only the days where Anna had knocked. The others were conspicuously ignored the same way Anna always ignored cabbage on her plate. But there was nothing at all about why Elsa had shut the door.
Anna sighed and sprawled out in her chair, draping her legs over the arm rest, narrowly missing the cocoa. After discovering her sister’s secret, Anna had figured that the separation had begun the moment Elsa discovered her powers. The book offered no indication of how that had happened though. It simply began, a record of her visits to see her sister all those years the door had been closed, a narrative of a young girl’s worries about herself and her little sister as they grew up together but apart.
Oh Elsa… Anna thought, her heavy mind beginning to drift through various half-formed dreams. If only you’d told me sooner…
A sudden, loud knock on the door jolted her awake. “Princess Anna!” She quickly sat up, the book falling into her lap as Kai stumbled into the room panting heavily like he’d just raced up the main staircase.
Anna was about to gently remind Kai that she’d asked not to be disturbed but something in the man’s face gave her pause.
“What is it?”
Kai took a deep breath, steadying his voice and firming up his stance. “Queen Elsa has returned.”
The first thing Elsa noticed was the complete lack of ice around the castle. Even in the fading post-sunset light it was painfully apparent.
“So it really did all melt…”
Kristoff grimaced, slowing the sled as they reached the edge of town. Sven snorted, glad to be done running and pulled them steadily along the outermost row of houses, huffing and panting. He practically sprinted back from the mountains.
“I can put it all right back, no problem…” But Elsa made no move to do so. Her focus was entirely on the open gates of the castle up ahead.
“Queen Elsa?” Everyone in the sled turned in surprise at the voice. A small girl stood in the doorway of one of the houses, a bucket in her hand. Clearly, she was about to go collect water for the evening. Kristoff snapped the reins, trying to urge Sven to go faster but the poor reindeer was already far too tired to do anything but walk.
“Mama!” The girl shouted, turning back into the house. “Mama! The Snow Queen is outside! She’s back!”
“I was hoping to avoid this…” Kristoff muttered to Elsa as people began to flock to their doorways, drawn by the child’s shouting. “I guess you cant exactly travel subtly when everyone knows what you can do…”
Elsa paid them no mind, not even when the people began to cheer and several children ran after the sled shouting “snow! snow!”. She had turned back to the castle and had her hands clasped in front of her. Small icicles were growing in the bottom of the sled then abruptly melting as the queen wrung her hands.
She’s nervous. The Ice Master realized. He’d never quite understood the relationship the two sisters of Arendelle had but perhaps it was better that way. The two defied explanation already. They loved each other, that much was obvious but the love often appeared to be so strong it caused them both physical pain.
Kristoff reached out to pat Elsa’s hand reassuringly but was startled when the queen pulled her hand away.
“I’m sorry…” She said to him, folding her fingers defensively. “I just…I can’t right now.”
Kristoff looked down, saw the inch of rime coating the bottom of his sled and nodded in understanding. They were silent until they reached the gates.
The surprise and cheering continued with the smattering of people still in the castle courtyard as well as from the small crowd they’d picked up while crossing town. The guards were clearing the courtyard in preparation for closing the castle gates for the night but people seemed reluctant to leave, especially now that Queen Elsa was back. Olaf eagerly waved and giggled, enjoying the attention. But Elsa continued to ignore them all beyond the occasional distracted smile. All her attention was on the secondary courtyard, her eyes sweeping back and forth. There was no sign of the statue.
Kristoff pulled the sled to a halt just in front of the main doors and helped Elsa down from the sled. Gerda was waiting at the doorway, her expression somewhere between relieved and angry. Elsa barely noticed her.
Gerda smiled at Kristoff and Elsa as the mountain man began to unhook Sven’s harness and rub the tired reindeer down. “We thought you’d run away again.” She said gently to Elsa. She reached for the queen’s hands but pulled back when Elsa flinched. “We’re glad your back.”
There was suddenly the sound of a door being thrown open and crashing against stone. Elsa whipped around and her heart stopped as an ungainly mess of limbs and strawberry-blonde hair tumbled out the main doors and into the courtyard a mere ten feet from the sled.
“Anna…” The name that had been first in her thoughts these past few days leapt from her tongue.
Anna looked up, barely able to get her feet back under her in time. She locked eyes with her sister.
“Elsa.” It was more breath than speech.
The two of them just stared at each other for a few still seconds. It had only been two days since Elsa had been taken away. It felt like months.
The entire courtyard seemed to have stopped functioning, watching the sisters watch each other. Elsa didn’t care. She was hardly aware of them.
At that moment, all Elsa wanted was to throw her arms open, pull her sister close and never let go. From the look in her sister’s eyes she knew she wanted to do the same.
Elsa’s hands twitched but she couldn’t bring herself to reach out. The walls were still there, the fear of losing control. Anna would not reach out to her, not after how she’d reacted last time. They were stuck.
“Elsa…” Olaf whined, breaking the silence but not the tension. “My heart hurts again…” He scratched at his chest with one twiggy finger but it did not appear to ease his pain.
Anna’s eyes darted briefly to the snowman and Elsa saw a flicker of relief cross her face as she saw the flurry had reappeared.
“Come on, Olaf…” Kristoff said, taking the snowman’s hand and starting to lead him away. “Let’s go brush Sven and get him settled for the night…” He shot a hopeful, meaningful glance at Anna but she only had eyes for Elsa at that moment.
Olaf allowed himself to be pulled away but never took his eyes off of the two sisters he loved.
Elsa took a deep, ragged breath and licked her lips, trying to force herself to say something. This was her sister! They should have been embracing, crying hysterically by this point not…this.
Elsa took a half-step closer, scrutinizing Anna’s face. Now Elsa saw the heavy rings under Anna’s eyes, her bedraggled braids that meant she hadn’t slept the previous night. Anna looked tired. And older. Much older. Elsa wondered if Anna was thinking the same thing looking back at her. She felt older, as if sinking into her deep meditation in the ice palace had added several more years to her memories and lined her face more deeply.
Unbeknownst to the queen, all that was going through Anna’s mind was what she had read earlier and how she could possibly bring it up without scaring Elsa away. All she was feeling was an outpouring of sisterly affection and regret that those years had had to be that way. All she wanted was a hug but she feared rejection.
“Where have you been?” Anna finally managed to ask. “Are you okay?”
Something like relief flickered across Elsa’s face. Then her gaze dropped and the relief was instantly replaced with fear.
Too late, Anna realized she was still clutching the book.
An all too familiar look crossed Elsa’s face and she darted past Anna, heading for the darkness and silence of the castle.
“Elsa! No! Wait!” Anna turned to follow. Gerda called after them but they both ignored her. Anna darted into the darkness, calling Elsa’s name desperately. She heard hurried footsteps on the main staircase and suddenly realized where her sister was going.
No…not again. You promised.
Anna took the stairs three at a time, running as fast as she could, her ears pricked for the sound she never wanted to hear again. The sound of the door closing again.
“Elsa!!” Anna shouted desperately, feeling like she was trapped in a nightmare. She rounded the corner at top speed, nearly losing her balance.
Anna stopped. The door was open. Wide open. Waiting for her, inviting her in.
Finally (for the first time ever, Anna realized) she crossed the threshold and entered Elsa’s room.
Elsa was standing in the center of the room, looking out the window, her hands folded in front of her. Waiting for Anna.
Anna stepped quietly into the room. “You’re not…? Shutting me out…?”
Elsa turned her head on her shoulders, enough that she could look at her sister out of the corner of her eye. “There were too many people out there…I just...” She took a deep breath. “I needed to be somewhere comforting.”
Anna scoffed. “Comforting? How is this room in any way comforting?” It was large but very sparsely decorated. Elsa’s four-poster bed was in the corner nearest the window, the Arendelle colors guarding it on either side. Elsa’s desk was in the corner opposite, piled high with impeccably organized books and files nearly as completely as the desk in her office was. There was little else in the room except the subtle signs of ice damage from the fourteen years Elsa had confined herself to this room. Anna ran her finger over a thin icicle scar on one of the bed posts, wondering how old Elsa had been when that had happened.
Elsa turned around completely and walked past her sister, shutting the door tightly.
“It’s like the gloves.” She told the door. “They became a habit. It gives me a semblance of control when I feel uneasy.” She turned around to face her sister. Now Anna saw the thin rime coating Elsa’s hands.
Anna found she had to swallow before she could reply. “Why…why do you feel uneasy?”
Elsa didn’t answer but her eyes dropped to the book in Anna’s hands.
“Oh! Oh…I…I’m sorry Elsa I just…I found it in your trade notes and…I thought it was just trade calculations or something…”
“How much did you read?” Elsa asked quietly, interrupting Anna’s stuttering apology.
Anna paused. “Most of it.” She admitted. Her fingers traced the spine absently.
Elsa only nodded, her lips sealed tight, sadness shining in her eyes.
“Elsa…all those years…why did you force yourself to stay away from me?” Despite asking the question that had plagued her entire childhood, Anna felt surprisingly calm about it.
“I couldn’t let you know about me, Anna.” Elsa whispered. She was massaging the thumb of her left hand with her right palm, the same way she had when they’d discussed her engagement to Hans at the coronation. Anna saw the moisture gathering on her sister’s palms and realized the gesture’s importance.
“Why not? I could have handled it, I could have been there for you Elsa!”Anna put the book down on Elsa’s bed and stepped closer to her sister. “Think about how different our childhood could have been if I’d known what you could do? So many snowmen built and snowballs dropped on people, you could have taught me to ice stake…”
Elsa was shaking her head. “Stop Anna. Please.” Anna could feel the temperature drop slightly but paid it no mind. She had to prove to Elsa that she was not afraid.
“Elsa…” Anna said gently. “You wanted that so much. Every single entry, every one, was about me and how much you worried about me and wanted to be with me. Why didn’t you just tell me? We could have avoided all this.” She gently brushed Elsa’s forearm.
Elsa’s gaze clouded with fear. “Don’t touch me!” She shouted, flinching away. Before she even finished moving, the fear had melted away. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry…” She apologized hurriedly. Even after everything, it was still too much. Touching Anna was still the most difficult thing she’d had to do.
Elsa hid her face in her hands, trying to bring the temperature back up to normal. “I’m sorry Anna…”
“Why are you sorry?” Anna asked gently, her breath clouding in the air.
“I…I cant…touch you.” Anna had never heard her sister’s voice sound so broken and wretched. “I…I want to but I can’t!” Elsa gulped thickly, barely holding back tears. “I’m too afraid it will hurt you again.”
“Alright.” Anna took a step back, trying to give Elsa some kind of semblance of space. “Where did you go?” She asked in an effort to change the subject and receive an answer to her initial question.
Elsa swallowed hard again, forcing her mask into place. “It…it’s difficult to say.”
Anna saw the mask but forced down the feeling of spite she had always felt towards it. “Who took you?” Elsa didn’t answer that.
Anna wasn’t deterred. “Why did they take you?”
“Because of my powers.”
She had guessed as much. “How did you escape?”
The queen rubbed her eyes and straightened her spine. “I didn’t. They let me go.”
Elsa looked up and their gazes locked. Anna waited but it appeared her sister had nothing more to say. Her face had closed off in a way Anna was far too familiar with.
She shook her head in disbelief. “Don’t do this again Elsa. Don’t shut me out. Not after everything we’ve been through. I died for you Elsa. You froze me, I became a statue. You wont hurt me again.”
She saw the hurt in Elsa’s face, her desperation to overcome that boundary, her helplessness at being unable to scale it.
Anna stepped around her sister and began to walk towards the door. She saw a brief flicker, just a flicker of pain cross her sister’s face, as if she wanted to tell Anna not to go. It was enough for her to pause. “You know what the hardest part about these past few days was?” She asked softly. Elsa shook her head. “Thinking I’d lost you.” A barely audible moan escaped Elsa’s lips. “I didn’t know if Kristoff would find you.” Anna continued. “I didn’t know if you’d be okay or safe or…or dead.” Anna took a shaking breath. “I’m glad your back. But I can’t wait fourteen more years for you to come back to me.”
Anna turned to go, leaving the book where it was. If Elsa really wanted them to heal, she shouldn’t need to read their relationship out of the past.
But as she tried to open the door, the queen suddenly lunged out. “Anna.” Elsa gripped her arm tightly, startling her sister. Elsa was never this aggressive. “I never want to shut you out.” She said, in a voice like iron. “I never wanted too. I had to. It was something I had to do to keep you safe when my powers were out of my control.” She looked down and suddenly seemed startled to find Anna’s arm in her grip. She let go but didn’t back away. “Trust me when I say that when I can’t tell you, it is for your own protection.”
Anna watched her for a moment, trying to see past the reemerging wall to the hidden sister underneath. She remembered the bucket, the cocoa on the banister, her tutor’s vanishing pencils. All the mysteries that had been solved by the same answer. “Alright Elsa.” She finally said. “If you don’t want to tell me what happened, that’s fine.” She turned around completely and grabbed her big sister by the shoulders, ignoring the way ice rime licked at her fingers. “But if you think for one second that I am going to let you suffer through it alone, then you are in for a big surprise.” She reached down and took Elsa’s hand in her own, ignoring the flicker of discomfort that crossed Elsa’s face. “I don’t need to be protected. I am here for you. Don’t push me away.”
Elsa felt like her heart was swelling even while it was being punctured.
How in the world had she been so blessed with a sister like Anna?
Anna just stood there, no expectations in her gaze. Only absolute, unwavering devotion. “Don’t make me cry Anna.” Elsa begged, tears defiantly escaping. “Crying is not going to…oh dammit.” Snow had started to fall from the ceiling.
Anna pulled her sister close and cradled her as she sniffled. Elsa hated the way her whole body tensed at all the contact, she hated that the steady beating of her sister’s heart was more a reminder of how she’d almost killed her than a comforting rhythm. She knew Anna could feel how stiff she was but her sister did nothing except gently stroke her hair.
“You’re okay Elsa…” Anna whispered softly in her ear. “I’ve got you.”
That was all it took. Like ice shattering, every muscle in her body unclenched as the wall came down. Cold air shot from her lungs in a desperate gasp of relief. Elsa broke down and finally, finally cried in her sister’s arms.
They sank to the floor, Elsa practically sitting in Anna’s lap, her head buried in Anna’s neck. She sobbed and wailed and let the snow pile up and the temperature in the room drop dangerously as she just let it all go.
And Anna sat there the whole time, stroking her hair, holding her tightly, whispering soothing words and trying not to shiver.
Sometime later, Elsa finally cried herself out. “I’ve been thrust into a whole new world.” She mumbled into Anna’s neck. “I don’t know the rules, I’m not in charge, not in control. I don’t even know who I am anymore.”
Anna’s fingers lightly stroked the back of Elsa’s neck, carefully considering her answer. “You cant keep me in the dark Elsa.” She said. “It’s better if I know what we’re up against. I can help you.”
If anything, crying had given Elsa more resolve to do just the opposite. It had also made her realize just how little she had told Anna since the coronation. Perhaps it was time she knew. Time she knew just why she should be afraid of her and how dangerous being around her could be. After all, she’d just opened up to Anna for the first time in years and nearly frozen the entire room. Elsa sat up, gently extracting herself from Anna’s grip. With a wave of her hand, the snow vanished. “Let me tell you something.” She said, suddenly very serious. “Something mama and papa made me swear never to tell you.”
Anna was quiet. Elsa reached up and plucked the book off of the bed. She fiddled with it anxiously for a second before looking up again. Anna was puzzled by the haunted look in the queen’s watery eyes.
“You remember that white streak you had in your hair before the thaw?” Elsa asked.
Anna nodded. She kind of missed that. It had always been a great conversation starter.
“I put it there.”
It took Anna several seconds to grasp the full meaning of Elsa’ s words.
“So…so you…struck me before? When?”
Elsa’s gaze fell. She knew that the little book had not contained a recollection of that night, only a vague description of its consequences. For a seven-year-old girl who had just realized how dangerous she really was, such memories were too painful and adult to put into words.
“When we were very young. It was just a chance accident and it drove us apart for years to keep you safe. That’s why I wrote the book. I didn’t want to forget how it used to be. How I wish it could have always been.”
Anna watched Elsa stand and place the book on her bedside table, like how one would place a candle to ward off the darkness of night. “Why don’t I remember it?” She asked.
“The trolls had to remove the memories. To save you. And I had to keep my distance. To protect you.”
Anna was quiet, partially because she was processing this new knowledge but also because she sensed there was more Elsa wanted to say, if only she could find the words.
After several minutes of intense silence, Elsa finally spoke again. “Anna, you taught me that my powers were beautiful.” She was facing away from Anna, looking towards the door. That stupid door. “Long before I even realized it, every time you made me crawl out of bed in the middle of the night to build a snowman with you…you taught me there was nothing to be afraid of.” A broken smile turned up the corners of Elsa’s mouth. “Everything I did, I did to make you happy. To keep you believing that I was your wonderful older sister with a beautiful, fun gift, not a dangerous power.”
Anna was still quiet, taking advantage of the unusually talkative moment to listen as her sister bared her heart. Elsa swallowed. “But it was so hard. All those years you knocked on my door…forcing me to feel that pain of separation. Every word you spoke made the ice harder to contain each time.” She drew a deep, shaking breath and finally turned to look at Anna. “But I understand now. You were trying to tell me that it was okay to let it go. That my powers were not something to conceal but something to celebrate.”
The queen knelt next to Anna on the floor, never breaking eye contact. Slowly, Elsa stretched out a trembling hand. Anna didn’t move as the cool hand brushed her face in the gentlest way imaginable. “Everyday you tried to tell me that Anna…I just regret that it took me so long to hear you. That I’m still afraid of hurting you. That I still can’t protect you.”
Anna’s mouth twitched up in a smile. “It can be like that again Elsa.” Anna leaned into the touch, letting the hand make full contact with her cheek. Elsa did not pull away. “I may not remember, but subconsciously, I think I always knew. That’s why I was never afraid of you. Your powers are beautiful Elsa. Just like you are, inside and out.” She pulled Elsa close again and kissed her hairline. “You’re in control now. We’ll get there again.”
Elsa trembled and placed her other hand on Anna’s shoulder. “I don’t deserve a sister like you…”
Anna just held her tighter. “Tough, cause I’m the only one you’ve got.”
Elsa chuckled then coughed to expel the sudden onslaught of emotion that had taken up residence in her throat.
“So what have you been up to?” She asked Anna, sitting back so she could look her sister in the eyes. She raised an eyebrow at what she saw. “Apart from not sleeping and stealing my private property?”
Anna pouted, the action causing utter joy to race through her at its lightness. “Next time don’t hide it somewhere I’m going to look.”
Elsa giggled. “I had no idea you’d be reviewing trade agreements!”
They laughed for a moment, both of them recalling Anna’s terrible record with finances. “I was doing that for awhile…” Anna hesitated, unsure if she should bring up the next bit. “And I may have also started a little project of my own.”
Elsa’s brow creased. “What kind of…project?”
Anna quickly recounted meeting the beggar boy in the kitchens and how she had befriended him.
“So I sent him off on a little mission to gather some information for me.”
All mirth slipped off the queen’s face. “Gather information…? What kind of information? What are you doing?”
Anna hadn’t really known how Elsa was going to react to her new idea. But this worry definitely hadn’t even crossed her mind. “They are called the Ice Informers.” She assured Elsa. “Well, they call themselves that. I prefer to think of them as Princess Anna’s Secret Street Urchin Spy Network.”
Elsa was shaking her head. “Anna…why did you…? Why?”
Anna fixed her sister with a regal stare she had once seen their mother use on their father. “Your absences have rocked the kingdom. There is much to be done.” Elsa said nothing, her lips closed very tightly.
“The freeze was tough on everyone.” Anna continued, somberly. “Almost every report we received back spoke of devastation. People were scared and cold, there was almost a riot in the southern villages on the last day. The Thaw helped but the memories are still too raw, too terrifying. And some are not entirely convinced that you are fit to be Queen. You’ve spent more time away from the throne than on it this past week. People are starting to talk, doubting your fitness to rule.”
Anna let this sink in, burying her own feelings about just how unfair it was that Elsa would have to suffer this way.
Elsa stared at the wall for a long time, collecting her thoughts. “How do you know this?” Elsa finally asked.
Anna smiled. “Little ears hear more than you think.” She shifted so she was leaning against the back of the bed. She let her head rest against the wood. “Dagrun is in charge.” She said casually.
Elsa raised an eyebrow. “Dagrun?” She had Anna had used to share storybooks in their childhood.
“I gave them all names.” Anna said, stifling a yawn. “Better that way, if even I don’t know their real names, no one can ever connect us.”
“All of them? How many are there?”
“Only a few right now…” Anna mumbled, blinking heavily. “But they’re gathering more…”
Elsa sat back, struggling to accept this new reality. Anna was clearly growing up fast. Gone was the fragile, overly-optimistic girl who had tried to marry Hans and set off into the wilderness on a wild chase after her runaway sister.
I keep missing the important things.
“Anna…” Elsa began softly, trying to fathom how her sister knew so much at spying. “When you were little…did you…did you listen at doors a lot?”
Anna’s eyes snapped open and made contact with hers. But she didn’t answer. It took Elsa several seconds to realize why that had been a stupid question. She’d more meant it as a query into Anna’s history with gathering classified information. She supposed it should have been obvious.
“Why are the Southern Isles here?” Anna asked, sparing Elsa from making an awkward apology for her last question.
Elsa had honestly forgotten her brief communication with Prince Christian after the Thaw. It had been one of a thousand requests that day. Plus, being kidnapped had driven all thoughts of the letter and how she was going to tell Anna from her mind. “Haven’t your Informers already told you?” She asked Anna, fighting to keep the disproval out of her voice.
“No. I was waiting for you to tell me.” Anna said coolly. She sat up slightly but her head still sagged against the bed frame. “And don’t tell me to disband them, Elsa. They could be very useful.”
“Anna, I will not spy on my own people.” Elsa said in a hard voice. “That is a tactic of a tyrant or a lunatic and I am neither of those.”
“They are not spying.” Anna insisted, rubbing her eye with one hand. “They are listening. I am not planning on using this information for cruel, political purposes Elsa. I just want us to know what struggles the people have that they may not be able to voice before us.”
“Are you also hoping they will report on foreign visitors?”
“The Informers can help.” Anna said, not at all surprised that her sister had picked up on her plan. “I don’t think we should trust the Isles. Having more information can only help us better handle their visit. And if such information prevents them from trying anything like what Hans did, I will feel no shame.”
Anna stifled another huge yawn as Elsa stared at her in amazement. “You’ve always been the one to run the kingdom Elsa.” Anna mumbled, her eyes starting to droop. “You were always the perfect one…you could do it all. But I’m good with people…listening to people and helping people. This is something I can do to help you and…Arendelle.” Her eyes closed completely. “Let me do it…”
Elsa couldn’t help it. All her exasperation with Anna melted away as she watched her little sister lose the battle to sleep. They were both exhausted. Clearly being separated from each other only drove them to neglect their basic human needs like sleep and food. The emotional storm they’d just weathered certainly hadn’t helped either.
Elsa stood up, gently pulling Anna’s limp form with her and stumbled over to the bed. She pulled off Anna’s shoes, untied her hair and tucked her in, her fingers lingering on her sister’s cheek just because she was there. Her precious sister.
Anna gave her a sleepy smile before she slipped into unconsciousness. Elsa remained upright, staring at her baby sister. Anna thought she was perfect. Anna truly believed that she was just a great human with inexplicable ice powers.
I can’t tell her about the temple, the others…she’d be in danger. Someone could hurt her to get to me.
She recalled Kristoff’s changes in demeanor around her, Theo’s bitterness towards the outside world, Scara’s innocent naivety.
She’d never look at me the same.
Elsa waved her hand to make her ice dress vanish and found she was still wearing the temple dress underneath. It hadn’t vanished like her clothes normally did. Quickly, she shed it and conjured up an icy nightdress, tossing the black fabric unceremoniously towards her wardrobe.
Do I really want her to see me like that? Elsa wondered as she slid into bed next to her sister. Like how I see Theo or Scara? Like how humanity sees the hosts? Like goddesses?
Anna had accepted the powers, could she accept that her big sister, her idol, was actually harboring a powerful and dangerous spirit inside of her? Elsa didn’t want anything else to come between them ever again. This definitely could. She didn’t want Anna to worship her any more than she already did. Not after how many times she’d nearly killed her. She didn’t deserve that.
Elsa couldn’t lose Anna again. She wanted nothing to threaten their newfound chance at sisterly love.
But what if they take me away again? It would kill Anna for me to vanish again.
Anna shifted in her sleep, her head coming to rest on Elsa’s shoulder. A gush of heat ran into Elsa’s stomach and she gently placed her chin on top of Anna’s head. She had some sense that Anna should be kept as far away from the other hosts as possible. They were dangerous and unpredictable. Especially Theo.
Theo seems to think we’re not at all human…
Thoughts of Theo were not at all welcome at this time. Elsa’s eyelids were beginning to feel impossibly heavy. She hadn’t really slept since being kidnapped and the meditation had left her feeling drained and exhausted. Sleep would be a welcome change of pace.
Anna will only worry. Elsa decided as blissful sleep began to claim her. And there’s nothing she can do. There’s nothing I can do…except what Theo said: try to find Isen. It’s better for Anna and for me that I handle this, whatever it ends up being, alone. And once it is done… I’ll tell her…
And as much as she hated the decision that contradicted everything she’d just promised Anna, Elsa knew it was the only way to keep her safe.
“More than you,” my sister replied, almost defensively, not loosening her grip on the Prince Hans’ arm. “All you know is how to shut people out.”
I felt the abrupt change in my expression so deeply that it felt like a thin layer of ice had formed around my heart and suddenly split. “You asked for my blessing, but my answer is no.” I said firmly. I was all Anna had left for family now. I was not going to let her run away first chance she got. Not like this and definitely not with him. Not my baby sister. “Now…” I said, struggling to regain my composure and not sound like my throat was closing up. “excuse me.” I began to walk away.
“Your majesty,” Hans began smoothly, stepping forward as if to stop me. “if I may ease your…”
“No you may not.” I interrupted. “and I think you should go.” There was something about him, something that set me on edge. Being around him just made me feel like something wasn’t right.
It had been a long day, this party was getting to be too long.
“The party is over, close the gates.” I told the guard as I walked past him, heading for the door, for solitude at last.
“What? Elsa no! No, please.” I heard Anna’s pleading voice behind me but I forcefully ignored it. But it was impossible to ignore her hand on mine and the slipping sensation of silk leaving flesh. .
I whirled, jerking my arm away only succeeding in letting the glove slip off entirely, exposing my frigid, pale hand to the air. “Give me my glove!” I shouted at Anna as I tried to snatch it back, panicking as cold rushed through me. She held it out of reach. She would not be coerced this time.
“Elsa please, please.” She begged, clutching my glove tightly. “I can’t live like this anymore!”
And there, just like that the ice that was my heart shattered completely. “Then leave.” I told her with as much force as I could muster.
She took a step back, surprised and hurt but whether from my words or the tears welling in my eyes I couldn’t tell.
We stood there for a second in the middle of a ballroom where we had once played, years of isolation and in my case, regret and sorrow filling the time and space between us. So many things I wished I could say. So many things I wish I could have done to stop this day.
Then I turned away, tucking my exposed hand under my arm.
My sister was leaving. There was nothing left. Not even the false memories were enough to save our sisterly bond in the end. At least she would be safe and happy, away from me. She would be free from my cage at last.
“What did I ever do to you?” Anna shouted after me, piercing though the self-pity haze enveloping my mind.
I flinched and didn’t stop. “Enough Anna.” People were listening, watching us fight.
“No why?”Anna continued, determined to finally have her answer. I just kept walking, increasing the distance. The cold inside me was rising, filling me, threatening to spill over. I had to be alone. “Why do you shut me out?” Anna was saying. “Why do you shut the world out? What are you so afraid of?”
I’d dealt with the eyes of hundreds for the ceremony and managed to keep my nerves calm and cool. Why were a few words from my sister cracking my composure? Fury raced through me at her shout, sour with an undercurrent of fear. “I said ENOUGH!” I swung my hand out. The flash illuminated the room, casting my shadow in sharp relief on the wall behind me. The ice burst free.
A thick barricade of icicles sprung from the gesture, racing outwards towards them all. My desire for solitude and protection manifested. And my secret painfully, obviously apparent.
Everyone backed away, startled, afraid. Silence descended in the ballroom broken only by terrified gasps and mutters. I clutched my hand to my chest, my breathing shallow and fast.
Wide-eyed, Hans looked from my ice creation to me, his expression unreadable and utterly unfathomable. I found I could not look away. Was he…perhaps under the shock…relieved about this?
“Sorcery!” The quiet voice of the Duke broke my concentration on Hans. The Duke ducked behind one of his men. “I knew there was something dubious going on here…” He muttered giving me a glare that made me feel like a rabbit facing a dog.
My gaze shifted to Anna. Her eyes were wide with realization. “Elsa…” She breathed.
And with that, I knew it was hopeless. We could never be close again. She would always be afraid of me, always in danger. Anna was the only thing in this world that could force me to lose control.
I’m so sorry Anna…
My gloved hand found the door handle and I ran, my cape billowing behind me. I sprinted through the dark halls, forcefully restraining the cold that tried to leak free and ice the walls as I passed. I had to get away, I had maybe a few minutes head start before anyone could escape the ballroom to chase me or spill my secret.
But where could I go? What was I doing?
I threw myself against the doors to the courtyard, but they sprang open before I’d even touched them due to the gust of icy wind preceding me. I stumbled outside.
“There she is!”
I froze as I took in the enormous crowd blocking my escape. Of course, the gates were still open, the townspeople were inside. Everyone was cheering and clapping upon finally seeing me. A Queen that was a complete stranger but still they were so proud of me…so happy I was their ruler. Why was that? They knew nothing about me. The stupor finally broke as I thought I heard footsteps in the hall. I dove into the crowd, desperate to run.
People just kept appearing in front of me, shouting out praises and calling my name. I was panicking worse than ever, charging through the crowd, trying desperately not to touch anyone…why couldn’t they just move? Give me space, get away from me?!
“Your majesty,” A young woman holding a child asked me gently, cutting off my escape route. “Are you alright?”Concern in her eyes. Her baby giggled happily, stretching out its tiny arms towards me.
I backed up, unable to form words. There were too many people…too close…something was going to give…I stumbled and my hands shot out to steady me as my back collided with the fountain. It happened too quickly for me to stop.
The ice shot across the water, cracking its flaccid surface and racing up the geyser in the center. There it twisted and curled, forcing the water into a horrifying, sharp, jagged shape.
The shocked silence in the courtyard was the worst sound I’d ever heard. Everyone had wondered and guessed about why I’d been in isolation since childhood.
Well, now they know.
“There she is! Stop her!” I turned to see the Duke and his men at the doorway. They’d gotten around my icicles. I was out of time anyway.
My hands came up in front of me, desperate to keep them away from me.
“Please,” I begged. “Just…stay away from me…stay away!”
It happened before I could even think of stopping it; the ice burst free and exploded around the stairs. Several of the townspeople were able to jump out of the way but the Duke and his men were caught in it. They slipped and fell on the ice-encrusted stairs, their clothes covered in rime.
The power was literally burst from me. I couldn’t keep it in anymore. My frame was too weak to hold the full force of winter.
The Duke sat up, looking stunned. “Monster…” He stammered, scrambling backwards from me. “Monster!” He shouted, pointing accusingly.
I stared down at the betraying hand and pulled it tight against me as the cold swirled again. No one else…I will not hurt anyone else.
I looked around. Everyone backed away, pulling their children close, their eyes laced with fear. There were a few more shouts of ‘monster!’ from the crowd. It was happening…fear was spreading. The troll’s words from so long ago echoed in my mind: fear will be your enemy…
I searched desperately for a friendly face, anyone who would accept this. Anyone who would remember the simple truth that I was their Queen that they had all loved mere seconds ago.
There was no one.
Because to them, I was nothing more than a monster.
Elsa jolted awake with a small sob, experiencing a moment of confusion that her movement was restrained by another person cuddled against her. The foreign feeling made her tense and she felt frigid air leak from between her lips.
Elsa tried to stop wriggling and breathe more quietly as she realized it was Anna was next to her, sound asleep curled up against her. Just like she had so often when they were little. It was snowing in the room and several icicles had formed around the bed which could not be anywhere near warm enough to sleep in. Although she knew she could make them vanish, Elsa found that at the moment, she couldn’t focus enough to do so. Instead she just laid there as snow gathered on the blanket, trying desperately to breathe and remember that what had happened was the past. Things were different now. The dream was nothing more than a dark memory. She was in control…she was…
As if she could feel Elsa’s mental torment through her grip, Anna shifted in her sleep and wrapped her arms more tightly around her sister. After a second, Elsa let her muscles unclench and buried her face in her sister’s neck, sobbing quietly. When the tears finally ceased, she found the steady, strong pulse of Anna’s heartbeat and desperately listened.
And for the first time in forever, Elsa found she was able to sleep after her nightmares.