Chapter 8 - Premonitions
The months passed quickly. Too quickly.
Elsa shut her eyes tighter and tried to lose herself in the now-familiar patterns of her meditations. But her mind refused to quiet this time.
Even as her breath slowed and her heart quieted, her thoughts kept running fast. They darted through the developments of the past few months: Dagrun and his fellow street kids gave reports once a week to Anna and occasionally Elsa from what they had gathered across the kingdom. The Queen’s stimulus to businesses, although smaller than she’d hoped, seemed to be having the desired impact and Corona had provided excess grain to help stock the coffers for the coming winter. Firewood was being shipped in from the far north provinces by the Royal Ice Master and his brethren and being sold for half the normal price. There were still a few dissatisfied whispers but that was unavoidable. Generally people seemed happy and Prince Christian had not yet done anything to draw suspicion apart from writing to his brothers back home twice a week.
Miraculously, the harvest was better than Elsa and the people of Arendelle had anticipated but still nowhere near enough to sustain them through the winter. Luckily, the trades were doing better. North Melonia had been convinced to grant Arendelle a loan in exchange for an indefinite ice trade and Corona’s generous gift had nearly made Elsa cry upon receiving it.
Thanks to that, she’d successfully put off giving Christian an answer. They had spoken once or twice more when the prince politely inquired as to why the queen had not yet made a decision. Elsa had told him it was a delicate matter that she was pursuing in her own way and he was welcome to return home while she pondered it. But the prince had not left. Instead he hovered within the kingdom, taunting Elsa from afar with his polite patience and unwavering devotion to this matter. And Elsa knew eventually, she wouldn’t be able to hold off on answering him any longer. She was going to have to say yes.
Elsa swallowed hard and pushed the thoughts of the Southern Isles’ prince away.
For the moment, things were pleasant enough in the castle, between her fears of her kingdom crumbling relenting somewhat and planning for Anna and Kristoff’s wedding.
But with everyday that brought the winter solstice closer, Elsa found it harder and harder to relax and focus.
She was still unable to sleep through the night as the same nightmares plagued her sleeping hours. Her daylight hours were haunted by reminders of a certain person. She couldn’t decide which was worse: the evocative fears of her past or the crippling anxiety about her present.
The queen let out a huff of frustration. Well, now she was really off track for ever sinking into unconsciousness. Elsa forced her thoughts away from the summer host and imagined a thick wall of ice keeping the disobedient thoughts at bay.
True to her promises to both Theo and Garret, Elsa had been meditating as often as she could but every time, without fail she found the same frustrating result.
Elsa shifted slightly on the cold floor, straightening her back. She had taken to waking up before dawn most days (not that she was asleep then anyway) and crafting a make-shift ice palace in the same dungeon where she had once been held prisoner. The meditation only seemed to work if she was surrounded by the singing ice.
But the result was always the same: singing, her flesh molding to the ice, the distinct impression that there was something deeper, if only she could will herself to fully join the ice…
But she could not. To do so would be dangerous. Already going only that far often caused a thick ice cage to form tightly around her unconsciously as she sat there. And Theo wasn’t around to pull her back if she went too far again. If she went too far, she’d be gone. Trapped.
Elsa had tried everything she could think of: screaming the spirit’s name in her mind, repeating the names of the other spirits under her breath like a mantra, singing beautiful songs, creating beautiful snow-scapes in her mind, begging even…
Isen never said a word.
She’d even had Olaf sit in the room once to see if that would somehow draw the spirit out but all it had succeeded in doing was make it impossible for her to sink into meditation with the snowman’s constant giggling and the pervasive sense of life she got from him even with her eyes open.
Although the thought had crossed her mind several times, she would not let Anna sit in the room with her. Even though the thought of Anna’s arms around her was the only thing that helped her get rid of the cages she subconsciously developed in her meditation, she did not want her sister to see her like that. Ever.
When she went too deep, when her ice became indistinguishable from the flesh on her body and the singing of it became her own voice, her creations spiraled out of control.
Sometimes she returned to consciousness finding icicles along the edges of her cage gently pressing wickedly sharp tips to her skin, other times the entire room would be encased in four feet of thick ice, effectively trapping her inside the dungeon until she could focus enough to melt it. Once, she had awoken to find herself surrounded by small snowmen, all of them in varying states of being built, none of them complete.
Elsa had cried for hours after that mediation, curled up among the snowmen, utterly helpless as wave after wave of sorrow crashed over her.
But today, today she was going to do it. She had to.
Mental wall against rouge thoughts in place, Elsa took a deep breath and let herself sink into the surrounding cold she was projecting. The cold enfolded her as always, sinking into her skin and cooling until it reached her internal temperature.
Elsa exhaled slowly. Time to try her new approach.
She thought about Anna, about the little girl who had first shown her the beauty in winter. The teenager who had reached out to her even though she knew she’d be rejected. The woman who still loved her unconditionally in spite of everything. The embrace that made the nightmares tolerable.
The cold seemed to waver for a moment, as if startled that such thoughts were occurring in her mind.
Elsa just kept them flowing, bringing to mind fond memories that the sisters had shared these past few months: the night they’d stayed up late just sipping hot chocolate and talking, the time they’d surprised Kristoff with a snowball attack, just a few days ago when they’d bickered fondly over who was the better skater (Elsa on the ice of course but Anna had years more practice on the polished floors of the east wing).
The ice and the cold slowly responded to each memory, dancing around the void in her mind with each memory, as if trying to imprint each one on a snowflake and add it to a growing storm. The whirlwind began to swirl, gradually gaining momentum.
In the small part of her that was still aware of herself, Elsa began to feel excited. This was new. Something different was happening this time. She’d never been able to control the storm before.
Eagerly, she plunged into the icy void and gazed at the winds and ice around her. So beautiful, so powerful. So mysterious.
Her flesh joined effortlessly with the cold, expanding and twisting to fill every gap and the ice responded by lifting its voice in song.
Elsa opened herself up completely, her voice joining the chorus, letting her soul whirl on the winds and…
Just herself in the ice, a dying breeze and the feeling like the storm within herself was holding its breath, waiting for something to happen…
Resigning herself to yet another failure, Elsa slowly pulled herself back to reality, her skin crying as it was separated from the ice and forced back into shape.
Upon opening her eyes, she was greeting with a terrifying sight: a pale, scared face reflected endlessly back at her in a million mirrors.
She scrambled backwards but only succeeding in hitting another ice mirror, sending a wave of fear and shock all around the room as the mirrors copied her in perfect unison.
They were everywhere, anywhere she looked, reflecting her movements. She could not escape herself.
Unable to take the sight any longer, Elsa screamed and let loose an enormous torrent of snow that nearly filled the room. She was stuck up to her neck in fluffy snow, but at least she could no longer see the mirrors. With a wave of her hand, everything vanished: snow, mirrors, ice on the floor, everything.
Elsa pulled herself to her feet, stumbling and barely managing to catch herself on the wall. She was shivering, drenched in cold sweat.
What the hell was that? Why did it scare me so much?
In the past, Elsa had had a problem with mirrors. Not that she didn’t like the way she looked, far from it. She’d inherited her mother’s beauty and her father’s royal grace and she was proud of that. Her apprehension was not about her looks. Rather, for several years, all her mirrors had been covered because of the way she looked. The fear and pain and sheer loneliness of her own gaze had made Elsa loathe every reflective surface she happened across. She’d begun to avoid them, even going so far as to remove the vanity from her room that had been a gift from her parents on her fifteenth birthday. Anything to avoid seeing the monster she had feared she was becoming. Even inside her ice palace, when the ice became reflective, she couldn’t bear to look at herself.
It was only once the Thaw ended and she’d realized that Anna loved her no matter who she was that Elsa had begun peeking into mirrors again. It was, apparently, not going as smoothly as she had thought.
A small whimper escaped her lips as she felt a sliver of pain shoot through her skull. Her entire body felt chilled, a feeling she could not ever remember even imagining.
Was this how ordinary people felt in the cold? It was awful. At that moment, Elsa wanted nothing more than a warm fire to curl up in front of.
Annoyed at that particular direction her thoughts had taken yet again, Elsa stalked around the dungeon, trying to decide if it was worth calming herself enough to try again or if she should just give up for another day.
Elsa hated to admit it to herself, but not being around the fire-girl was making her more and more anxious by the day. The reminders of their moment had not stilled and seemed to grow more potent each time she brought them to mind until she could have sworn Theo was in the room with her, gazing deeply into her eyes again. The dreams were only getting worse. Every meditation seemed to end with her thoughts inevitably recalling a moment she didn’t know how she felt about.
Elsa closed her eyes and drew a deep, calming breath pushing all thoughts of fire and sand from her mind. She might have been able to deal with it if her extensive research had led her anywhere except running in circles. There was no mention of a ‘temple’ anywhere near Arendelle’s properties, historical or otherwise. It was as if it simply didn’t exist. Her searches of the Arendelle birth records had not yielded a single “Theonia”, much less one the right age.
She was beginning to suspect Theonia might be an assumed name.
Shaking herself, Elsa crossed the dungeon, stripped off the now-soaking wet temple dress she had been wearing and conjuring herself a magnificent ice dress in preparation for the day’s events. Once she was presentable, she left the dungeon, slamming the door on the terrible memories contained inside.
Outside, the sun was just cresting the horizon across the fjord, lighting up the soft, natural frost that had formed in the night. It was late October and autumn was beginning to slowly take hold over the land. Rubbing her arms and trying to warm herself up (what an insane thought…) Elsa stalked down the corridor and began to ascend the stairs back to the main castle.
The failure weighed heavily on her. She’d thought that surely, today of all days…! But all she’d succeeding in doing was creating her most terrifying post-meditation scene and once again have her thoughts drawn back to Theonia.
Elsa ran a hand over the wall as she ascended the main staircase, ice crackling along her palm but thankfully not spreading.
She was running out of time. In every way.
“Hiyyyhhhaaaa! Ha! Yeeeehh! Ha!”
Elsa paused, confused at the sounds that were coming from her mother’s old parlor.
“yea! Take that! Aaannnndd that!” Now she heard the distinctive sounds of metal biting into wood accompanying Anna’s angry voice.
Noting the irony of the situation, Elsa knocked on the door.
“Anna?” She called.
The sounds stopped.
“Go away Elsa.”
The words stung Elsa more than she realized they could.
“…Alright.” She said softly. But as she began to back away, her heart clenching painfully, snow gathering in the air around her, the door behind her suddenly flew open and a barrage of Anna hit her in the back. Elsa let out an unattractive ‘ooff’ as the assault forced all the air from her chest.
Anna squeezed her tightly. “I’m sorry! Wait, Elsa! I’m sorry!”
Elsa gave the blade hanging in front of her face a wary look. “Anna, please don’t ever hug me while you’re holding that thing again.”
Anna backed away and apologized, sliding the short sword into her belt. Now that the hug was broken, she fiddled with her hands and looked away from her sister. She was dressed in breeches and a sweat-stained practice tunic. Heavy boots covered her feet. If her hair had been a bit shorter and her chest bound, Anna could have passed for a gentleman training for combat. But for all her smart attire, Anna merely resembled a child shyly playing dress-up in the hope that new clothes would give her courage she did not possess.
The Queen looked at her little sister, startled but not at all surprised by her sister’s change in character.
“What’s wrong?” She asked it even though she knew exactly what was wrong.
Anna looked up at her, swallowing hard.
Today was the day.
Anna was getting married.
Anna looked up at her big sister with desperation and an unspoken plea in her eyes, biting her lower lip between her teeth. Elsa ushered Anna back inside the parlor, deciding that whatever conversation they were about to have was probably best kept out of the hallways.
Inside, among the desks piled high with papers (Informers reports most likely) and simple chairs, the remains of an antique chair (probably the one their great, great, great grandfather had died in or something) were scattered in thick chunks around the room. Elsa raised an eyebrow at it but said nothing. Clearly, Anna was even more nervous than she was letting on.
These past few months had not been entirely easy for them. While normal things like talking and hugging had gradually become effortless, there were still far too many secrets hanging between them. Anna had accepted Elsa’s few private moments graciously but Elsa knew she was burying the hurt deep down, next to the lingering concern about her disappearance to the temple. Luckily, she’d had the wedding to distract her. Anna had also picked up sword play, a pursuit Elsa normally would have discouraged (not just because it was a manly activity you’ll understand, more because Anna had a tendency to break and impale things when she wasn’t holding a sharp weapon…) but now found herself practically pushing on her little sister.
She didn’t want Anna to be defenseless should something happen to her or Kristoff.
Surprisingly, Anna had taken to swordplay the same way she had to dancing: slowly but masterfully and with her own grace and charm that made her movements distinctly her own. In just a few short months she had bested most of the Arendelle guard and squires. The sword she was currently wielding had been a gift from her instructor, complimenting her incredible skill and Anna wore it everywhere proudly.
“Do you want to talk about specifically what made you desire to attack a piece of furniture?” Elsa asked, deciding humor was probably a good way to start.
Anna gave a painful smile. “I’m sorry but that chair had it coming.”
Elsa smiled wryly. “Is this the one papa used to make you sit in whenever you crashed into a suit of armor?”
Anna eyed the destroyed heap of wood and fabric with disdain. “Yup. The very same.”
“I’ve always hated that chair.” Elsa agreed, kicking the remains of a leg aside and wincing as the misshapen lump crashed on its side. “Glad you finally settled that score.” She turned back to Anna. “But why today?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
Elsa said nothing, waiting for Anna to tell her what she already knew.
Anna fidgeted. “I’m scared Elsa.”
Before either of them could say anything or move, there was a knock upon the door.
Kai’s voice floated through the wood. “Queen Elsa! Are you and the princess in there? The guests will be arriving shortly ma’m! The royal seamstress is waiting for Miss Anna in the room with her dress at your earliest convenience.”
“Thank you Kai.” Elsa called. “The princess will be up shortly.” She waited until she could hear his footsteps retreat down the hall before she turned back to Anna. “Why are you scared?” She asked gently.
Anna threw her hands up in the air. “What if I screw something up? You know me, I’m so clumsy, I’ll probably fall on my way down the aisle. Or I’ll tear my dress or...or I don’t know! I’ll do something no one has ever thought of to screw up a wedding…” She paused to draw breath and a whole new layer of fear cross her face. “and what if Kristoff doesn’t like today? I want it to be special for him too but I know how uncomfortable he is around palace life and other nobles…”
“Anna…” The younger girl’s voice died abruptly in her throat as Elsa’s gentle, commanding voice sliced through the air. “This whole day has been planned. You don’t need to worry about anything except the things we discussed, alright? Leave the rest to me.”
Swallowing thickly, Anna nodded. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I’m just being silly and worrying.” She crossed to the door. “I guess I’d better go change…” Her voice still sounded strained and scared. It tugged at Elsa’s heart.
“Anna, wait.” She called. She heard her sister pause by the now-open door, turning back to face her. Elsa did not turn around. “You forgot something.”
Something cold and wet hit the back of Anna’s neck, jerking her head forward. Anna yelped and spun on the spot, grabbing at the spot. A thick handful of snow greeted her.
“…a snowball? Really Elsa, you think that…” Then Anna screamed as an entire snowbank fell from the doorway onto her shoulders.
Elsa had started giggling softly, hiding her mouth behind her hand. She’d been practicing that attack from behind for weeks.
“Forget the chair!” Anna declared, scooping snow off of her shoulder and taking aim. “My real revenge will be taken on you!” She let her snowball fly and it crashed into Elsa’s shoulders. Elsa spun with a grin worthy of a cat and waved her hands. Immediately, several dozen large globs of snow appeared in the air. Anna eyed each one with a wary sort of excitement.
“Oh no…you wouldn’t. Not on my wedding day.”
Elsa just raised an eyebrow.
If anyone had been outside in the corridor, they would have thought Anna was being murdered. They would have assumed Queen Elsa had gone insane.
Elsa cackled madly as she pummeled her sister with barrage after barrage of giant snowballs. Anna shrieked and laughed as she attempted to dodge and fend off the projectiles, somehow managing to find the open doorway and sprint out of it between icy blasts.
Elsa followed her, more snowballs springing to existence at her command. The two raced down the hallway, their laughter ringing from the corridor and drifting through the stones to the other floors.
As they rounded a corner and hit the polished hardwood floors, Anna put on a sudden burst of speed, sprinting in preparation for a slide that would put her out of Elsa’s immediate range.
Elsa charged after her, icing the floor to make up for the difference in physical stamina between them.
Just as she caught up to her sister though, Anna slipped on the new ice underfoot and began to fall. Immediately, Elsa dropped and slid. Anna’s body crashed into hers and the two of them slid lazily down the icy hallway, both groaning in pain and chuckling with residual laughter.
“…you…are…awful.” Anna said between gasps of air.
Elsa was about to reply when they hit something and came to an abrupt halt. Two pairs of eyes widened as the suit of armor above them wobbled dangerously.
“oh no…” Anna muttered.
Shaken by the collision, soft as it had been, the suit quivered and its helmet slipped just enough to let gravity pull it down. Before it had fallen a foot however, it met an icy pillow and rolled to a stop.
Anna let out a sigh of relief. “Thanks for that. Based on past experience, I don’t think that would have been pleasant.”
“You also wouldn’t have had a chair to sit in.” Elsa joked as she deposited the helmet a safe distance away from them.
Anna struggled to extract herself from her devilish sister but Elsa grabbed onto her and pulled her back down. “oh ha ha.” Anna deadpanned. “I haven’t sat in that chair for years!”
The two of them chuckled as they lay wrapped up together on the floor, jitters and insecurities about the events of the day momentarily forgotten. Elsa tightened her grip on Anna’s waist and pressed a light kiss to her sister’s temple, her heart humming when Anna made an adorable, appreciative noise.
“I just hope Kristoff likes everything.” Anna said, a little of her past worry returning.
With a final squeeze, Elsa released her grip on her sister but immediately stretched out a hand and tangled it with Anna’s. “He’s going to love it Anna. Everything will be fine.”
Anna offered her a smile. “Are you sure this is okay? I know we’re making everyone wait but…”
Elsa held up her free hand. “I’ll handle it Anna, don’t worry.” She stood up, looking down at her sister with a mixture of sadness, reassurance and pride. “Are you ready?”
Her eyes shining with hope, fear and a burning gratitude, Anna nodded and let Elsa help her to her feet.
Elsa smiled and gave her sister a little push. “Then go.”
“Anna…you know I get nervous when you drive my sled.”
“You need to relax Kristoff. Besides we’re almost there.”
“Does that mean I can take this blindfold off now?”
“Nope. You promised, not until I tell you.”
Kristoff rolled his eyes even though he knew Anna would not be able to see. He heard Sven snort as he pulled them along. He could tell they were moving away from the castle, maybe headed north or east. It was hard to tell without vision. Anna could be driving them into the fjord (again) for all he knew.
“Why are we taking a secret, private journey on our wedding day, just before the ceremony?” Kristoff asked for the third time. “Wont people talk? Worry about where we are? What will Elsa say?”
“No matter how many times you ask Kristoff, I’m not going to tell you.” He grinned at the pout he could hear in her voice. “Now shush!”
The sled hit a bump and he instinctively reached for where he thought Anna’s shoulders were to make sure she wasn’t unseated. He could practically feel her grin through his touch. With a smile of his own, he dropped his hands.
The two had mutually agreed to wait for the wedding. There was no need to rush their love.
So they’d played the months out as if Kristoff hadn’t accidentally proposed to Anna two and a half weeks after meeting her: going for sled rides and having long talks in the afternoons when he wasn’t working. Going on dates around the city. Anna introducing him to all her new and old friends (although the latter were mostly of the two-dimensional sort). Getting to know one another and trusting each other with everything. Kristoff had held her when she cried so effortlessly that he had begun to sob as well.
As autumn waxed and began to fade however, Anna had confided in him that she felt there was no longer any point to taking it slow.
She knew he was the one. And he was certain of the same.
His heart had melted when she told him that whenever he left for extended ice trips, she missed him terribly. Not in a crippling sort of way, she explained but in such a way that brought to mind closed doors and lonely rooms. He knew just how deeply such things affected her.
Kisses had slowly and gently paved the way to more intimacy until both of them found they were lost in each other completely. This wasn’t just passion or infatuation, Anna knew. And Kristoff had to agree. This was love. They could talk just as openly about the weather as they could their fears and worries. They craved each other but were not dependent on each other. They knew each other intimately inside and out. All those romance novels that had defined Anna’s ideas of true love had gotten it all wrong.
This was so much better.
The sled jerked to a halt suddenly, throwing Kristoff into the front, his abdomen smashing painfully into the front of the sled. Luckily, months around Anna had accustomed him to such physical discomforts.
He chuckled as Anna hastily apologized and helped him straighten up.
“We need to work on your braking there, feisty-pants.”
She said nothing but instead gently jugged his arm, guiding him down and away from the sled and across a landscape he could not see.
“Where are we?”
She did not answer.
Kristoff inhaled deeply, trying to figure out where they were. Something smelled familiar about this place, although he found he could not quite place it…
Abruptly, Anna let go of his hand.
“Anna?” He groped about blindly, trying to find her again. “Anna, this isn’t funny, where are you?”
“Hurry up and take that thing off!”
The new voice startled Kristoff. Not just because it was unexpected but rather because it was familiar.
He ripped the blindfold off.
Her rocky eyes filled with unshed tears. “Oh, my boy!” She jumped up and into his arms, nearly dragging him down. His troll mother rained affectionate kisses all over his face, her tears splashing on his cheeks. When she finally let go of him, Kristoff got a good look at where Anna had taken him.
His family stood before him, all of them silent and beaming. The trolls were gathered in the middle of the valley, right next to a freshly dug traditional wedding-grave.
Immediately, Kristoff understood what was happening.
“Surprise.” Anna said timidly from behind him. He whirled to face her. Anna offered him a shy grin from under her troll-wedding attire: stick crown and grassy cape. He recalled the last time he’d seen her wear it: the first time he’d ever known himself to truly be in love with her. These ones were much more elaborate, clearly the trolls had had more time to plan than the last time they’d tried to marry him and Anna. “Elsa helped me plan everything.” Anna continued. “Olaf came up here last week to talk to Bulda and Grand Pabbie. Do you like it?”
He didn’t think an answer was necessary. Instead he just held out his hand for hers and led her towards the grave. As he walked by, the trolls adorned him for his wedding: his own stick crown and a regal, flowing cape of moss and the leaves of autumn. He stepped down into the hole and held his arms out for his bride. Anna let him take her by the hips and gently lower her next to him.
The trolls eagerly began to gather around, some of the older ones crying unabashedly and the younger ones looking excited. Kristoff gazed around at his friends and family. Sven pawed the ground from his new position right behind the couple, his antlers decorated with glowing crystals and a smile in his large brown eyes.
Grand Pabbie was not present but it didn’t bother Kristoff. He knew the old troll was probably just too tired to attend. But also, he still wasn’t sure he was ready to face him again after the revelations he’d discovered.
Kristoff turned to Anna as the trolls began to chant wedding songs.
“You two planned all this? For me?” He was still having trouble believing it. He’d been entirely convinced his wedding would be a royal affair, attended by nobles and lords with a banquet and ball and large ceremony. Not that he would have cared. He’d have happily married Anna in front of everyone who’d attended Elsa’s coronation wearing a dress if it had been required.
Anna nodded in response to his question, blushing adorably.
Kristoff gazed around the valley as inexplicable happiness swept through him. Not only could he share his wedding with his old family but his new one as well. “Well that is interesting,” He began casually, fighting to keep himself from succumbing to the emotion “because, I have a surprise for you as well. Back in Arendelle.” Krsitoff chuckled at Anna’s wide-eyed astonishment. “And a bit of a bone to pick with your crafty sister…” he muttered with a smile.
By the time the newly-weds made it back to Arendelle for their wedding, they knew guests had to be growing restless.
“we’re soooo late!” Anna said with a stupid grin as Sven cantered into the open gates. The sun had passed noon and was beginning its long journey back to the horizon.
“Good thing Elsa was covering for us.” Kristoff agreed, with a seemingly permanent goofy grin of his own.
Anna giggled. “Yup. She’s good at that, particularly when some of the guests haven’t seen her powers up close.” She had never felt so happy. Now, even though their only witnesses had been trolls and a reindeer, they were married. Anna wanted so badly to kiss him right then and there.
But they’d already taken up too much time.
Hastily unhooking Sven, they hurried to the chapel, hearing a din of voices within.
Kristoff turned to her, knowing he had to leave but reluctant to do so. He rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand. “Well…I guess this is it…” He made as if to turn away but Anna tugged him back.
“Wait! What about the surprise?” She asked, her eyes shining.
He only smiled. “You’ll see soon enough.” Kristoff squeezed her hand. “I’ll see you in there.” He placed a chaste kiss to her cheek, making Anna blush then grinned and ducked through the doors into the chapel.
Anna raced into the side room, giving her clearly irritated royal seamstress a grin that was by no means apologetic.
A few minutes later, amid mutterings from the miffed old woman, Anna was clothed in her wedding dress. Incidentally, it was the same one her mother had worn. She’d demanded to wear it for this day. While being clothed in her mother’s memory, the princess had been glancing at the door every few seconds, eager for one particular person to walk through the door, bouncing on the balls of her feet, still grinning.
As the minutes passed and Elsa did not appear, Anna’s mirth began to fade.
“Do you know where my sister got to?” She asked Heline, the woman currently twisting her disobedient hair into place.
“The Queen said she was busy.” Heline replied noncommittally through a mouthful of pins.
Anna was about to demand to know exactly what the woman had meant by that but at that moment the door swung open.
Anna whirled, Heline protesting vehemently as the barely-held-together hair was torn out of her grasp. But it was only Olaf and Gerda.
“Wow Anna!” The snowman exclaimed, waddling up to her and staring with an open mouth. “You look beautiful!”
Anna smiled at him nervously and bent down for a hug. She squeezed the cold snowman tightly, trying not to cry.
“You really do look beautiful in that.” Anna released her hold on Olaf and looked up at Gerda. She stood and smoothed down the front of the dress.
Gerda beamed with pride. “it’s lucky you inherited so much of your mother’s figure.” Gently, she tucked a loose strand of hair behind the princess’s ear. Anna closed her eyes in content as the motherly gesture sent gratitude and comfort gushing through her.
“Thank you Gerda.”
“Everyone is getting restless.” The woman told Anna. “I think it’s about time, don’t you?”
Heline made an incredulous sound and pulled Anna back towards her so that she could finish pinning her hair. Anna complied but only because it kept her from leaving the room. And it gave Elsa more time to show up, where was she?
Two minutes later, her hair finally in place, Anna stood before the doors to the chapel with Olaf and Gerda. The woman had handed her a bouquet of snowdrops and lilacs that Anna fiddled with restlessly.
The doors from the outside opened. Anna beamed but quickly felt it fade.
“Are you ready Anna?” the old steward asked, his gentle eyes crinkling in happiness and pride. He moved to the Princess’s side and took her hand. “It’s time for me to give you away…”
Anna shook her head. “Wasn’t Elsa going to walk me down the aisle?” She looked around but couldn’t see her sister anywhere. All her nerves about the wedding had faded because of her concern about where Elsa was.
Kai and Gerda exchanged a look. “There was a change of plans.” The woman said.
A sudden jolt of fear shot through her. “Where is she?” She demanded of Kai. A horrible thought crossed her mind: what if she ran away again? What if she was taken again?
Kai tried to take her hand and tuck it under his arm but Anna yanked away from him.
“I’m not doing this without her!” she said stubbornly.
Kai only gently but firmly took her hand once more and tucked it under his elbow. “Trust me, Anna.” He said in such a way that she fell quiet.
They faced the chapel doors, waiting to begin.
The doors were cracked open just enough to let the snowman slip through. Olaf danced in, giggling and tossing flowers and snowflakes everywhere. The doors slid shut again behind him.
“Ready?” Kai asked.
Anna took a deep steadying breath, trying to get her apprehensions under control. “I was born ready.”
He patted her hand. “That’s my girl.” Gerda gave Anna a small, affectionate tap on her rear and Anna threw a final smile over her shoulder.
Slowly, the doors to the chapel creaked opened completely, revealing the crowded interior, the bright stained-glass murals on the windows, letting a whiff of music wash over the pair. As she was revealed, Anna saw every eye in the room turn to look at her. But she only had eyes for two.
Kristoff smiled at her from the altar, love and happiness swimming in his eyes as he prepared to wed her for the second time.
Standing next to Kristoff on the altar, holding the prayer book was…
Anna felt the name escape her lips on a gasp. “…Elsa…”
It had been Kristoff’s idea, naturally. He knew there was only one way to make their wedding impossibly special to his new wife and that was for her sister to be part of it.
Elsa had turned down his offer at first, knowing that she’d already be on edge at the thought of Anna getting married, never mind to who. But his gentle persuasion and careful, elaborate plan had eventually encouraged her to agree.
Now, seeing the look on Anna’s face as Kai led her to the altar, Elsa couldn’t understand how she’d ever doubted that this would be a good plan.
Anna looked positively radiant, beautiful and beaming with the knowledge that her sister was about to wed her and Kristoff. Elsa smiled, knowing that despite Anna’s happiness, the queen still would not be escaping the inevitable scolding that would follow the ceremony for not walking Anna down the aisle like she had promised.
The corner of Elsa’s mouth twitched. Well, she’d just have to make it up to her sister than.
Anna gasped as she suddenly realized ice was creeping along her dress, transforming it from their mother’s old wedding gown to a magnificent blend of cloth and ice. She sparkled as she ascended the stairs and Anna noted with pride that not only was Kristoff’s mouth hanging open in awe, so were all the men’s in the front row. And even a few ladies.
The only person not surprised by her beauty was of course Elsa herself. She had always considered Anna beautiful. Her gaze was one of pride.
“People of Arendelle, honored guests,” Elsa began, her quiet, powerful voice echoing from the rafters as a tearful Kai presented Anna to her husband. “we are gathered here today to witness and bless the marriage of Anna, Princess of Arendelle to Kristoff Bjorgman, Lord of the Northern Provinces.”
Anna grinned up at Kristoff as Elsa began the ceremony, a silent promise in her smile that she would give him hell for this surprise when all this was over. He just smirked right back and took her hand.
Elsa read a few prayers then had them exchange vows.
Anna promised to always stand by Kristoff and care for him with all her heart. Kristoff promised to do the same.
They turned to Elsa as they completed their vows. Anna saw her sister’s lip tremble ever so slightly. She reached towards her but a tiny shake of the head from Elsa made her stop.
The queen raised one hand and closed her eyes.
Ice began to creep around the wrists of the hands they were holding, forming two identical bangles of glowing, unmelting ice.
“By these special rings on your wrists,” Elsa proclaimed, opening her eyes again but keeping them focused only on her work “I join your lives together.”
The ends of the bangles grew outwards and twisted until they joined together, forming a thin but sturdy bridge between the two bracelets such that the entire ensemble resembled the symbol for infinity.
“Just as they come together in an endless cycle, may your love and devotion to each other know no end.”
Kristoff and Anna admired the adornments with open mouths. Sure they had been planning to exchange rings but this…
As one, they both looked up at Elsa. Her mouth turned up in a mischievous smirk that only they could see.
The queen turned to the assembly, presenting the lovers before them as bound by the ice. “By the power vested in me as the 15th Queen of Arendelle, I hereby pronounce you husband and wife.”
A tear rolled down Anna’s cheek as her sister said those words.
Elsa caught her gaze and smiled expectantly.
Anna was so caught up with emotion that she couldn’t hold it back any longer.
This moment was just too perfect: Kristoff’s hand in hers, Elsa giving her away but still promising to always be there, beside her for all of time.
It was too much.
To everyone’s surprised (except perhaps Kristoff), Anna dropped Kristoff’s hand and threw herself at her sister, wrapping her arms around her neck and pressing their cheeks together. Kristoff stumbled along due to the interlocking ice bangles but chuckled the whole way. The back of his left hand ended up touching the back of Elsa’s head.
Anna kissed her surprised sister’s cheek softly. Then her lips found Elsa’s ear and in the privacy of their proximity, whispered a thick, teary: “Thank you.”
Only then did she pull away and finally kiss her new husband.
The crowd below them all stood and applauded.
“Love live Princess Anna and Prince Kristoff!” Someone yelled. And soon, the entire chapel was ringing with the mantra.
Elsa barely heard it through the happy tears streaming down her face.
After the ceremony, thanks to the tact and foresight of her amazing sister, Anna and Kristoff found themselves with a moment of complete solitude to enjoy the outcome of the day thus far.
“Can you believe it!” Anna asked him for the tenth time. “Married! Actually married! Twice!” She collapsed onto a couch in the private room Elsa had secreted them away to, laying on her back and kicking her legs up in the air like an excitable four-year-old on their birthday.
Watching her, Kristoff was unable to wipe the goofy smile from his face.
“what really amazes me is that Olaf was able to keep secrets from both of us at once.” He commented, leaning over the arm of the couch so that his face hovered over hers.
Anna nodded. “And that Elsa willingly and knowingly secretly plotted this day with both of us.”
He smirked down at her. “Oh that I have no trouble believing…”
Her head tilted to one side. “Wait, what?”
He almost laughed at the naïve incredulity in her expression “Your sister,” he began, his grin widening “is quite the devilish and diabolical planner.” He’d have to remember to thank her later.
Anna’s confusion faded into contentment “Yes, but that planner gave you the best day ever!” A thought suddenly seemed to occur to her and she sat up, looking at him in concern. “Didn’t she…?”
Kristoff let her squirm in her uncertainty for all of two seconds before he gave up trying to hide it.
In one, smooth motion, he swept her up in a tight embrace, lifting her off the couch and spinning her around effortlessly. Anna squealed in delight. “Today…has been one of the greatest days of my life.”
Anna laughed as he finally put her down. “What about the day we met?” She asked.
Kristoff adopted a very solemn face before he answered. “Well, that was the worst day of my life…”
“hey!” Anna crossed her arms, her bottom lip pulling out in an adorable pout.
Kristoff however, was not done teasing his wife “I got thrown out of a shop! Actually thrown! Then I was bitten by wolves, dragged across the snow (in the summer I may add) and nearly plummeted to my death off a cliff. To top it off, I lost all my worldly possessions. Sorry if that doesn’t crack my top ten…”
He gave her a sidelong glance. The pout had slipped slightly and her lower lip was beginning to tremble. “yes Anna, it was a terrible day.” Kristoff said in the same solemn tone.
He scooped her up again and spun her around several times until the sadness melted off her face. “But I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.”
Anna giggled as he finally put her down. “Neither would I.”
They joined hands again and the ice around their wrists immediately grew to bind together again.
Startled, Anna pulled her hand free and the binding immediately melted back into two separate bangles.
Anna gently ran a finger over her bangle. “what was that?”
“Is that supposed to happen?” Kristoff asked, examining his own bangle which was looking innocent and completely incapable of expanding on its own.
Slowly, Anna nodded. “I think so…”
Softly they joined hands again. The ice bound them together.
“Elsa did say these were special.” Anna admitted after a moment of stunned silence.
Kristoff nodded in agreement. “Clearly…”
Anna dropped his hand and the excess ice faded once more. “She made them special for us…”
Her lower lip was trembling again but Kristoff saw the undeniable happiness in her eyes this time.
“Oh!” Kristoff chuckled as Anna’s face snapped from sadness to joy so fast it would have made a normal person seem unstable. Even though he was used to it, Anna’s random outbursts whenever a new idea occurred to her still made him laugh. “You’ll still work in the ice fields, right?” Anna asked. “I don’t want you to give up your life just because we got married!”
“Of course I’ll be working!” Kristoff replied “What else would I do, be your trophy husband?” He flinched in mock hurt as she punched him on the arm. “I’m not sure I’ll like being called ‘your majesty’ by the others all the time now though…” He remarked, rubbing his arm.
“They already call you ‘your lordship’ and ‘master’.” Anna pointed out.
“yes and it took me two months to make them stop. Imagine how long it will take me to get them to stop bowing! Stop that!” He told her as Anna gave him an overdramatic, sweeping bow.
When Anna straightened up, she wrapped her arms around his neck and stood on her tiptoes.
“Don’t worry about that.” She kissed him long and hard, the bangles around their wrists shining and glinting as their arms found ways around each other. “We have the rest of our lives for that.” Anna told him as they separated.
Kristoff had never found such a cliché line more beautiful.
The royal sisters and the Ice Deliverer had mutually agreed that a small ceremony and reception would be best given the state of the economy and Kristoff’s general illiteracy and discomfort with all things related to courts and balls.
Thus, the guest list had been very short, really a bare minimum if they were quite honest with themselves. The food was sparse but delicious (Anna would hardly consider her marriage fun without chocolate and ice cream on the menu). The band was a local group Anna had found and charmed in her usual way, far from the royal affair that had set the tone for Elsa’s coronation ball. The decorations almost entirely consisted of the frozen kind as per Anna’s request.
It was simple, cheap and beautiful. Charming where it lacked elegance and stunning where it lacked formality.
Despite the overwhelming relief and happiness in her heart at the wedding, Elsa still found she could not enjoy the reception. The reason for this however, was painfully apparent.
“Don’t you agree your majesty?”
Elsa only gave a curt nod to the men before her, hoping it would be enough to hide the fact that she hadn’t really been listening. Apparently that satisfied the lord who was speaking, a certain Lord Hugo of the kingdom of Barlona and he went back to rambling about gods knew what with various accentuating gestures. Prince Ingolf of Scily nodded in agreement and the young Duke of Hadsvon thoughtfully furrowed his brow and sipped his wine.
Elsa sighed and downed her glass of water, refusing to drink at a party that in any way involved men wanting access to the royal chambers. Not that she didn’t trust herself while tipsy, she just wanted a clear head for any possible negotiations that may come up, carnal or otherwise. Elsa stifled a sigh as her companions continued to talk and argue with each other like strutting peacocks, occasionally sending confident glances her way that she acknowledged with a tilt of her head. She should have guessed that this ceremony would quickly become yet another misguided attempt at her hand by every suitor within a thousand mile radius…even a short guest list could not save her from this hell.
Elsa had been courted before of course. Her parents may have shut the gates but that didn’t mean she was safe from everything outside them. Since her thirteenth birthday, various suitors had come before her, hoping to win her favor and establish a marriage contract between nations. Thankfully, Elsa’s parents had been adamant that no marriage plans be laid until Elsa turned eighteen. That year, she’d met more suitors than she cared to count and managed to politely decline every man brought before her. Elsa’s grip tightened on the glass in her hand. And then her parents had died. Courtship had ceased in the years since and Elsa had not devoted any thought to the matter, especially not after what had been happening these past few months.
Especially since she’d starting having her thoughts plagued by someone who was definitely not a man.
A mention of the wedding thankfully brought Elsa out of her thoughts.
“I must say, a queen leading a ceremony is a nice change of pace from stuffy old bishops…” This statement was directed at her by the charming, if a bit gruff Prince Ingolf. He beamed at her in a way that was clearly supposed to be charming and seductive. Elsa found it rather rude.
“I shall not be doing such a thing again if that’s what you’re implying.” Elsa replied with the tiniest hints of a smirk when the men seemed surprised she was actually joining the conversation. “Today was for my sister. I don’t plan on granting anyone else the same benefit.”
The Duke of Hadsvon spoke up then, breaking his silence for the first time in minutes. “Perhaps we can expect another marriage in Arendelle soon.” He said conversationally. He paused to take a swig from his glass then wipe his lips with a handkerchief he whipped from his pocket. “One that makes it impossible for you to officiate.” It was impossible to miss what he had been implying, even the dense as rocks Lord Hugo stiffened in response to his remark.
Elsa fought to keep the ice from her voice and the surrounding air. “My sister is getting married. I have no intention of immediately following suit.” She said in a clipped, polite voice.
“Queen Elsa,” the duke replied, now sounding mildly chastising because he had succeeded in capturing her interest “surely even you realize how odd this is? The heir marrying first? To a commoner?”
The disdain filling that last part of that sentence made her want to freeze his gloves off of his hands. “I see nothing wrong with love.” Elsa replied coolly. “I see nothing wrong with waiting for it.”
“Oh yes, by all means, marry for love.” Lord Hugo cut in, waving his hand and nearly knocking over the poor serving boy who had come to collect their empty glasses. “Just don’t be turned off to the possibility of that love surfacing after marriage! Rather, marry someone you could see yourself learning to love.” She didn’t like the way he was looking at her as he said that.
Elsa could feel yet another uncomfortable argument beginning, only this one involving herself as a spokesperson for her sex. But luck was on her side tonight. At that precise moment, the serving boy stumbled or perhaps the duke had simply put his foot down in the wrong place. Nothing fell off the tray thankfully, but several glasses did topple over, their contents sloshing over the edge of the platter and splashing to the floor dangerously close to the noblemen’s feet.
As the men around her stumbled backwards to avoid stains and soiled socks, Elsa took the opportunity to end discussion on their topic of conversation. “I thank you very much for your advice gentlemen.” Elsa said coolly as if they were discussing finances. “I will keep it in mind when the time comes for it to prove useful.” She delicately placed her empty glass on the serving-boy’s tray, somehow managing to hide her surprise when she realized it was Dagrun holding the platter. So luck had a name…
“Now if you’ll excuse me…” She swept away, not even bothering to offer an explanation for her departure or acknowledge their hurried respectful bows. She was a queen in her own kingdom, for all they knew she had business to attend to or a servant to fire.
She really didn’t care what they thought.
Elsa circled the room once, avoiding conversations and offers to dance with distant, polite nods before managing to cross paths with the spy again.
“A fine party tonight.” She commented casually to him as she took a fresh glass of water from his tray. Her gaze however, clearly said what are you doing here?
Dagrun gave her a devilish smile and a wink. “See what I told ‘ya Elsa?” He whispered to her. One finger briefly brushed his lapel and she caught sight of a glinting snowflake hidden under it. “Invisible.” He watched her swallow half the glass in one go and place the beverage back on the tray. “Princess Anna informed me that your Highness may be in need of some assistance.” He said, sounding no different from any other serving boy addressing his queen. “So I volunteered.”
Elsa glanced up and caught sight of her sister’s grin as she danced with Kristoff in the middle of the ballroom. Her first genuine smile of the night tugged at her lips. “Well do please inform the Princess her concern is much appreciated. And impeccably timed.” She winked at the boy then gave a slight jerk of her head, indicating that he should go.
Dagrun gave her an adorable grin then melted back into the crowd, handling the tray like he had years of experience. Elsa caught Anna’s eye once more and they shared a smile across the room.
Still always looking out for you…
As Elsa began to circle the room again, yet another new face rushed up to greet her.
“Queen Elsa.” The slightly rounded man huffed, bowing deeply and trying to catch his breath. Elsa nodded to him, recalling his name from the guest list.
“Lord Wilfred of North Melonia.” She acknowledged him, holding out her hand for him to take. “A pleasure that you could make it. I trust our trade agreement was satisfactory?”
His sweaty hand gripped her hand firmly. “Oh yes, your majesty!” The few wispy hairs on his head drifted lazily up and down as he nodded enthusiastically. “More than satisfactory! Superb! It is amazing just how long your ice lasted even after its arrival.”
Elsa smiled and dropped his hand. “I am glad. I do hope our partnership may continue into the future.”
“Of course, of course.” He waved a hand carelessly. His eyes lit up. “But I did not come all this way tonight to discuss trade agreements, no. Far too much of that talk recently. There is someone very important here I would like you to meet…” He turned and beckoned to someone who was apparently waiting for his signal.
A young man left the crowd around the refreshment table and made his way over to the pair. When he reached them, he completely ignored Lord Wilfred and smiled pleasantly at Elsa.
Elsa inclined her head and forced herself to remain politely interested. Where were all these suitors popping up from? Surely she’d met them all already?
“Prince Leif,” The young man said by way of introduction. “3rd Prince of North Melonia” Elsa extended her hand and he bowed to kiss it.
He had rather short black hair, chopped to almost exactly the same length as…
“The third prince?” Elsa inquired as he straightened up. “I was not aware Melonia had such a large royal family.”
A gentle smile tinged his opaque blue eyes. He couldn’t have been older than 24 but he carried himself both with the dignity of an old man and the easy confidence of a bachelor. “Well, we’re no Southern Isles,” He joked lightly, completely missing Elsa’s twitch of discomfort. “but we have our fair amount of princes and princesses.” He chuckled, clearly already at ease in her presence. “My youngest brother is convinced he’s going to be king, never mind the four elders standing in his way.”
“Ambitious though.” Elsa commented, trying to keep spite from her tone. “You’ll want to watch out for that. It can get ugly.” She placed one hand on her stomach as a sudden wave of nausea passed through her. It swiftly faded.
“Oh he’s only five.” The prince said with a good-natured chuckle, not noticing Elsa’s momentary discomfort. “He’ll grow out of it. His ambitions change day by day. He only threatens to be king on Tuesdays.”
Elsa suddenly noticed that Lord Wilfred had melted back into the crowd while they had been talking. The sneaky little… another wave of vertigo, this one stronger than the last, washed through her and she fought to keep herself from swooning. What was happening to her?
“The weather here is much warmer than I expected it to be…” The prince commented casually, looking out of the window nearest to them. “I was told usually by this time of year snow has begun to fall. I was looking forward to it.”
Elsa found herself staring. Was he actually, casually, comfortably discussing the weather with her? And of all weather, winter weather? All the others had been crafty enough to limit their comments to the decorations at most. “We’ve been lucky so far,” Elsa replied, her hand now resting casually across her middle as if it could lessen the resurfacing discomfort. “they are still collecting the harvest.”
“I cant imagine a better lucky charm than you for holding back the winter.” Prince Leif said with a wink.
Elsa shrugged. “Well I do my best.”
He chuckled, the corners of his eyes and mouth crinkling pleasantly. Elsa was somewhat shocked. What was she doing? Was she actually flirting with him?
The strange, woozy feeling in her stomach had not lessened. Her head felt like a small headache was coming on. A cold feeling had lodged itself in her lower abdomen. Her fingers were beginning to tingle.
Prince Leif was still not noticing her distress. That, or he was very politely ignoring it. He leaned closer, his breath tickling her ear. “I must say Queen Elsa, you are not at all what the others make you out to be.” He whispered to her.
Elsa found she could no longer listen to him. She saw barely even aware of him. There was a strange ringing in her ears. She felt like she needed something to hold on to, like a huge dizzy spell was about to overcome her.
She took a sudden step away from him, blinking rapidly as her vision swam. A sharp pain shot through her middle and she fought the urge to double over.
“Queen Elsa? Are you alright?” Her companion sounded startled. So he had finally realized something was wrong.
She wanted to answer him but her voice was dead in her throat. Stumbling, Elsa’s hands hit the window, keeping her from sliding to the ground. She took a few deep breaths, trying to calm herself. But her heart wasn’t racing. This wasn’t some kind of panic attack. What was going on?
A cracking sound made her head shoot up and she ripped her hands away from the window as spider-web cracks began to crawl across it from her power.
Her hands had gone ice cold, a tingling sensation rushing to all her extremities and dancing out across her limbs. Her breath felt like it was freezing in her lungs.
A glance at her hands confirmed her fears. The ice was leaking out, coating the backs of her hands in delicate snowflakes…snow had begun to fall from the ceiling.
Something was wrong…she couldn’t make it stop.
“Excuse me please…” She barreled past the confused prince without another word, darted through the crowd as quickly as humanly possible without actually running, heading for the door. A swirling flurry of snowflakes accompanied her. To the slightly inebriated guests, the display appeared to be more of a show than an escape and their attention was drawn to the fresh, glowing snow falling from the ceiling and piling up in the punch bowl and along the curtains.
But three pairs of eyes followed Elsa’s escape: two with growing concern and one with barely concealed excitement.
Elsa somehow managed to make it to the second story courtyard before her legs gave out. Why she went there, she had no idea. She had just walked and her feet had led her here. She fell to her knees, hardly feeling the air on her skin. Her entire center was churning and writhing as if some kind of demon inside of her was struggling to get out. Every single bit of her, even her heart felt cold. Every breath that left her body was as icy as a winter’s gale.
Elsa clutched at her chest, trying desperately to breathe normally. Several icicles sprung up around her. Snow was swirling thickly. She still couldn’t make it stop.
What is going on? Is it Isen? Is she finally awake?
Somehow, Elsa didn’t think so. This felt foreign, different from when her powers had spiraled out of control to cause the Great Freeze. It almost felt as if something else were controlling her body and her powers from far away, forcing them to react. But what could it be?
Deep inside, Elsa felt a great shudder.
Her eyes snapped open in realization.
I’ve felt this before…
A long time ago, when she was still just a child…the ice had escaped, overpowering her even through the gloves, driving her away from human touch lest she lose control like that again…
I felt something within me shudder. I dropped my book and clenched my hands tightly inside my gloves, hastily pulling them into my chest as the cold came.
“Conceal…don’t feel. Conceal, don’t feel..conceal…” The mantra was never comforting but it worked. Most of the time.
A sudden pain ripped through me, making me cry out. It had never hurt before. My ice never hurt me…
I stumbled out of my chair and ran blindly, slamming shoulder-first into the wall. Crying out, I turned, slamming my back into it instead.
The cold swirled strongly within me, threatening to burst free of my fragile frame and engulf the entire castle…the power was so much larger than this tiny vessel…
There was a pounding on my door. My eyes flew open.
“Elsa! Elsa, we’re coming in!”
I tried to yell to my father, to tell him to stay away. But a great tremor overtook me, snapping my tiny body against the wall and my vision went white. Far away…there was a powerful voice…like a raging fire…roaring in my mind triumphantly…
…It is time…the cycle begins again…
By the time my vision returned, my parents had made it into my room. My mother opened her arms too me, a question in her eyes but I couldn’t run to her. What if I hurt her? I cowered against the wall, shivering. Slowly, her eyes widened and her arms fell.
Now I saw what I had done.
My parents only watched in concern as I slowly unfolded myself and stepped away from the corner, clenching my fists painfully.
I was trembling, my gloves were soaked and clinging feebly to my hands, utterly ruined.
“I’m scared!” I told them, my voice shaking. “It’s getting stronger!”
While I’d lost consciousness, the ice had burst from me in a great wave, climbing up the walls, almost leaking out the door. I couldn’t stop it, nothing had worked…it was stronger than me…
The memory stopped there. Elsa trembled as the pain inside her doubled and bit her lip to keep from crying out.
Why is it returning now?
A warm hand was at her back. “Elsa? Elsa what’s wrong?”
Instinctively, or perhaps fearfully, Elsa jerked away from the contact.
“Stay away!” She shouted, fighting the discomfort enough to try to drag herself away from the other person. If she lost control and hurt someone…
Strawberry-blonde hair entered her vision, followed quickly by fearless, warm arms around her. Fear as she had not known in months surged through her.
“Anna no!” She struggled fiercely but her sister’s iron grip quickly killed her resolve.
“I’m not letting you go Elsa. What’s going on? What’s wrong?”
Elsa swallowed hard and bit back a whimper as a deep pulsating pain took root both in her head and her heart. “I…I can’t hold it back Anna!” Tears poured down her face. “I’m going to hurt you!” She tried to turn her head, tried to look at her sister, to silently plead with her to let her go.
Anna did not move.
Helpless, Elsa could do nothing but tremble and attempt to breathe as the pain inside her pulsated and grew. When it reached a level of excruciation such as she had never known existed, all at once, like a wave breaking, the power overwhelmed Elsa. A great cry escaped her lips as her body snapped back, pain flowing out of every pore, the cold exploding from her in all directions.
Her vision went white. She lost all sense of place, of feeling, of being. It was nothing but the blankness around her and the cold. It was so cold.
There was a voice hiding deep within the wave, something far away screaming in pain and fear and the wretched sting of loneliness…it cracked across her consciousness like a bolt of lightning…
…Why, Mother? WHY? Why have you forsaken me to this fate…?
Elsa felt its sorrow, she shared its pain, the utter misery of its loneliness. She let out a great cry of longing, wishing only to reach out to the voice…to help the misguided soul of her sister…
Hearing the heart-wrenching cry, Anna held Elsa even tighter, ignoring the way her dress became coated in a thick layer of ice and the shudder her heart gave as it remembered the dire consequences of the last time Elsa had let loose an ice burst like this.
Fortunately, this one did not freeze her heart.
“Oh Elsa…” Anna muttered as her sister whimpered and trembled in her grip. “What happened to you when they took you away?
Unbeknownst to Anna, Elsa had no idea of what had just happened. She was currently wrapped up in yet another painful memory of her powers spiraling out of her control…
It was my own sorrow that set it free. This burst was far larger than the one I’d created involuntarily as a child. I’d been sitting in it for days, ever since the sorrow took hold of me. It had come upon me suddenly, like a storm, like a great wave. I hadn’t fought it. It was too strong and the sadness accompanying it was too crippling for me to do anything but struggle not to break down completely.
I knew even before Kai came to deliver the news.
Our parents were gone. The ocean had claimed them. In one moment, one single breath of the great waters, their ship had vanished. Gone to sleep beneath the waves.
As odd as it sounded, I knew I’d felt the moment the ocean took our parents. Something inside of me had shivered and I had jolted awake with tears streaming down my face. Then the cold sorrow had come. I hadn’t been able to sleep or even move for days after that. Not until the day when news finally reached us that our parents were dead.
I heard her sit against my door, softly, tearfully begging me to come out. To be there for her now, when there was no one else.
“…we only have each other…it’s just you and me…what are we gonna do?”
I knew I had to be alone. I had to keep Anna as far away from me as possible. While I might burst like this at any moment, Anna had to be protected. The door had to remain closed.
A quiet sniffle that nearly broke me completely. Then, the words that finally did.
“Do you wanna build a snowman?”
So much. Always.
And now…the sorrow was too much.
I buried my face in my knees to muffle my cries.
In the air around me, the snowflakes held perfectly still.
Anna sat outside my door. Waiting.
I couldn’t be there for her…I couldn’t do anything.
Anna was gently stroking her hair, bring her back from her relapse into the crippling sorrow of the past. “I thought you were okay…what happened?”
“I was fine. This was…it was…” Elsa struggled to find words as she lay limply in her sister’s arms. “Something else, something other than me forced me to lose control for a moment.”
There were shouts and laughter from the courtyard below. Anna and herself had organized a commoners’ party inside the castle gates to celebrate the marriage, complete with ice rink and decorations. Elsa had thought it a great idea at the time. Now, she was regretting that decision.
Anna shushed her gently. “I think it all stayed in this courtyard Elsa.” She replied. “They may have gotten some flurries down below but not much else.”
Somehow, the statement brought the queen little relief. She could see the ice dripping from her sister’s clothes (their mother’s dress…), the violent splatters of snowy streaks on the courtyard statues and walls, the icicles poking out of great snow heaps surrounding them, the few icy mirrors that reflected their kneeling forms.
Elsa recoiled at that last sight. “How can I lead these people?” She whimpered in a quiet voice. “I’m dangerous.”
After so many months of perfect control, she was still a loose cannon who could be rendered dangerous at any moment, even without emotional triggers. Her thoughts were consumed with meditations and elusive ice spirits instead of political alliances and economic advancement. Her heart was stubbornly focused on a fiery woman rather than any of the suitors practically throwing themselves at her.
“I’ll bring ruin on this kingdom one way or another…”
Anna’s arms squeezed her tightly but made no response.
Suddenly, her sister’s embrace fell away from her. But before she could even whimper in protest, strong arms lifted her up.
“Hold on there Elsa.” Kristoff’s gentle voice rumbled against her cheek. “We’ve got you.”
Exhausted, Elsa could do little else but go limp in his arms and let him carry her inside.
It was late. But Prince Christian was in the stables.
He paced silently among the scurrying stable lads and neighing horses. The hand gripping the pommel of his sword was white-knuckled.
Everything was falling into place. The whispers had done their work thus far. So why did he feel so uneasy?
He scratched at the scruffy beard he’d acquired in the months he’d spent here. All night he’d been trying to reach her but Queen Elsa had suddenly vanished from the party several hours ago, Princess Anna and her new husband graciously and vaguely explaining that the young queen had retired for the evening, ill from her duties and planning the ceremony.
The princess and new prince had vanished shortly after that, undoubtedly to consummate their appalling disregard for class and status.
But he cared little about that. Elsa was the one he cared about. The woman with the powers of winter.
The woman who could help him.
“Your majesty.” The cold voice made him abruptly stop pacing, his feet snapping together. He turned to face his new companion.
“My dear Lord Wilfred. So good to see you.” The prince’s voice was far calmer than his conscious. He clasped the man’s shoulder and pulled him over towards the far end of the stable, away from the ears of the stable boys. “Glad our history has not prevented us from forming this little partnership.”
The older man shrugged out of his grip and regarded him uneasily. “I came. That was all I agreed to. Now what do you want from me?”
Prince Christian kept a desperate hold on his cordiality, it would not benefit him to lose his manners so early in the discussion. “You know what I want. Why would you hesitate to agree when your part is so simple?” He spoke in a quiet voice, so as not to alert the stable boys around them to what they were discussing.
“My first priority is and always will be the prince’s safety.” The lord replied in a fiercely loyal voice. He mopped his sweating bald spot with a handkerchief. “That is my duty. I cannot risk his safety for a mere fantasy you are pursuing.”
Christian fixed him with a piercing but not unkind gaze. “You were the one who convinced me this was not a fantasy.” He reminded him.
The scholar shrugged. “Not on purpose. All the same, I will not drag Prince Leif into this. He has a good chance with the queen and a family name that cannot take any more tarnishing after his oldest brother’s…decisions.” He was referring of course, to the tendency of the crown prince of North Melonia to meet other young men in the stables after dark.
“I do not care what your charge or his siblings do,” Prince Christian said, not entirely honestly. “my concern is the one he pursues. The one who ignores me.” He’d been here for months, whiling away his time writing letters, researching and plotting. And still he was no closer to the icy Queen Elsa.
“I have no information on Queen Elsa.” Lord Wilfred said, sounding exasperated. The few hairs on his head were sticking up slightly from his continued sweating and mopping. “I have told you as much the last time we spoke. As for her powers, I have found myths of others but that’s all they are. Myths. Young girls pop up every few decades then vanish, all of them before they turn ten. Several have had and I quote: ‘a distinct chill surrounding their actions and movements…’” He scoffed. “hardly definitive.”
“But what of Arendelle itself?” Prince Christian asked, lowering his voice even further as a stable boy hurried past, holding tackle. “You do have information on that.”
“I told you everything I know.” Lord Wilfred said, like a teacher explaining why the earth was not flat, “It is up to you to interpret what you will from it.”
An anxious hand tickled the hilt of his sword. “If your information is to be trusted, Arendelle is far richer than we are being led to believe.” This was the hope he was desperately clinging to. The one thing he needed from this tiny excuse for a kingdom.
If Lord Wilfred noticed the desperateness in his voice, he gave no inclination of it. “If the scriptures of the sages of old are to be trusted, this very well could be the land they speak of.”
The prince drew a deep breath. “You found a new passage. Quote it to me.” He commanded.
Glancing around to be sure they wouldn’t be heard, Lord Wilfred softly began to recite the ancient words. Words that lived only in the libraries of North Melonia, where the old lord had spent many of his younger days. Words that danced on his tongue just as assuredly as hymns: “’In the land of ice, where the water meets the stones of old, the night comes alive with lights and power. There, it begins. There, all their dreams be found. A treasure greater than knowledge and wealth. Winter-Summer, Life-Death. All are there, in perfect balance, not a one alone. The daughters have come.’”
His soft words faded into the bustle of the stables, their implications masked by the sounds of animals and menial labor.
“Are we sure this land is the one?” Lord Wilfred asked after a moment. “The words are vague, they could refer to many places.”
“Queen Elsa is all the proof we need.” The prince said with conviction. The words had left him with an overwhelming sense of excitement.
“Look at her. A woman with the powers of winter. ‘In the land of ice’?” A gleeful chuckle escaped his lips. “Where there is one, there must be others.”
“Others? You really think there are other women with these powers in existence? And of all places, here?”
“The passage speaks of four, does it not? What if they are here? We must find them.”
Lord Wilfred toyed with one of his gloves. “Well, then what do you want from me? The scriptures say nothing more. I have no idea where these ‘others’ could be.”
“Oh my dear man, you’re looking at this all wrong.” Christian clapped his companion heartily on the shoulder. “They are not necessarily here. Elsa obviously knows where they are. All we need to do is convince her to ally with us in uncovering them. Your relations with Elsa are strong. Perhaps they could be even stronger. Or more beneficial.”
Lord Wilfred took a step back, trying to passive-aggressively assert his age over the younger man. “Beneficial? To you, you mean?”
“You, me, our kingdoms, sure.”
The prince’s nonchalance was not appreciated by the Lord of North Melonia.
“This is nothing more than a foolish young man’s fantasy.” He scolded Christian. He was shaking one of his gloves at the prince, as if contemplating smacking him across the face with it to reprimand him further. “You are wasting your time chasing a story, gambling all your hopes on an ancient myth made to scare children to behave!”
“Is Elsa not proof of that ancient story?”
Lord Wilfred was silent.
“She has a unique…gift.” Christian figured that was the best way to phrase Elsa’s circumstance. “One I simply plan to benefit from. For the sake of my family and my people.”
“She froze her entire kingdom.” Lord Wilfred reminded him. “Hardly beneficial. Unless you’re planning to start exporting ice.”
Christian actually laughed. “But that was months ago. She can control the power now. She has gained mastery over the season…somehow she has learned the secrets of the spirits… why else would Arendelle be free from this so-called plague of the seasons?”
“Why do you care about Arendelle’s weather?” Clearly, Lord Wilfred knew they both knew Elsa had about as much everyday influence over the weather as the horse chewing on oats next to them. Sure she could conjure ice and snow but that didn’t mean winters were any shorter or milder.
Prince Christian was a little insulted that the scholar did not think better of him. “I’m sure it’s obvious. The Isles are suffering an inexplicable loss. For the second year in a row, our harvests are failing. Just as they have elsewhere, the seasons have turned on us and we cannot fathom how or why. We cannot sustain ourselves indefinitely at the rate this is going. Not without this trade and more. If we had control of the seasons…not just winter but spring and autumn as well…”
His passionate explanation was cut short by a scoff. “And you plan to do what? Encourage Elsa to trust you enough that she shares this… this knowledge with you?”
Undeterred, the prince leaned forward, his eyes shining. “Imagine what we could do with such power! To command the seasons…life and death themselves!
Lord Wilfred shifted uncomfortably. “We have no desire for it.”
Christian was an expert negotiator. He’d been reading people for years, determining the moment when resolve faltered, when doubt or fear began to creep in and change opinions. With Lord Wilfred, he knew he’d just reached that moment. All it would take now is a little push…“Oh, but I think you do.” He surveyed the lord coldly but not, one could say, unkindly. “You are suffering as well I think. Why else would you, a northern country, be demanding ice?”
Lord Wilfred stiffened. “You really think Elsa would help you?” He replied, ignoring the comment about his kingdom’s resources. “I hardly think you worthy of her trust. After what your brother did here, she has every reason to never make contact with you again.”
The Prince’s face darkened considerably. Anger clenched painfully in his gut. “My youngest brother is…indisposed. I do not wish to speak of him.” The words were uttered through tight lips. He had not received news for several days. He was beginning to worry. “And Arendelle is hardly in a position to be emotionally-influenced for trade agreements. The queen knows this. Elsa will eventually see a partnership with us as her only way out. Elsa agreeing to renew our countries’ long-standing partnership is only the first step. There are many more to follow my good man.” The Prince placed a gentle hand on the older man’s shoulder and lowered his voice ever futher. “You will see, partnering with us may very well split Arendelle at the seams, spilling her wealth out for all to reap…” His grip tightened, becoming far from comforting. “and then we shall enter and discover the gifts the prophecy promised…and claim it as our own.”
His horse was brought before him, a gorgeous chestnut stallion with one white sock. Prince Christian swung himself into the saddle and leaned down to give the lord his final words. “already the whispers have begun…Queen Elsa may find she had fewer allies among her people than she thinks…and if the moment arises, we will not hesitate to use that to our advantage. Elsa will find she has little choice but to help us…or relinquish all her treasures…and if she will not comply…” He smirked, a thrill of excitement racing through him. “Then she may just find herself stranded.” Even the skeptical Lord Wilfred shuddered at those words.
The older man took a step back from the prince. “Alright.” He said quietly, his obedience and compliance clear in his voice.
Prince Christian sat up, finally feeling good about the progress of his plans. “I knew I could count on your assistance…I will be in touch soon.”
Preoccupied as they were, neither of them noticed that one of the stable lads in attendance did not have a horse to attend to. Nor did they notice the same stable lad, slide into the shadows, throw off his jacket and slip away into the night.
For the first time in months, Elsa was sleeping alone. She pulled the blanket up to her chin and tried to get comfortable in her seemingly much-to-large bed.
Anna had tried to convince her to let them bunk together that night as they usually did but Elsa had been firm.
“It’s your wedding day, Anna.” Elsa had told her, emphasizing the words as Kristoff had set her down on her bed. “You should be with your husband.”
“Not while you’re upset.” Anna had said stubbornly shaking her head.
As much as Elsa wanted nothing more than for Anna to chase her nightmares and lingering fear over today’s events away, she had flatly refused. She would not be so selfish as to steal Anna away from Kristoff on their wedding night.
But the sacrifice was proving more difficult than she had anticipated.
Some strong, independent queen I am… Elsa thought as she adjusted herself again, unable to get comfortable. I slept alone for years, what is the problem?
The pain had all faded away but the memory of it clung to her. She knew she was firmly back in control but now there was a lingering dread: what if it happened again?
Finally she managed to find a position that did not serve to remind her of the absence of Anna in her arms: pillow in her face, arms wrapped tightly around it.
Elsa let out a huge exhale and tried to sink into sleep…
She sat bolt upright at the voice in her head. Her heart was racing, ice was gathering at her fingertips.
“Isen?” She called out softly, hardly daring to hope it was true.
But it was then that Elsa realized this voice was familiar. And definitely not the illusive winter spirit.
“Branna?” Elsa called softly inside her own mind.
The voice echoed back, like a half-formed thought in the back of her mind.
Yes, it is I. I’m reaching out to you. Answer me in your mind, child.
Elsa didn’t really know how to go about doing that but it seemed that she’d already done it once so it couldn’t be that hard.
“What do you want?”
Something has happened. Is Isen awake?
“No. I still can’t reach her.”
You know me. Isen knows me. She is in there somewhere. Call to her, bring her out.
“I cant…she isn’t…there’s nothing there!”
There has to be. There cannot be a host with the powers of Winter without Isen’s presence.
“It’s just me! Nothing else! No matter what I try, she’s not there! Even today, when I lost control of my powers, I didn’t feel her!”
…I feared as much…Don’t worry, Theonia will be there soon.
If anything, that only made Elsa worry more. “Wait…no! She can’t come here! Why?”
We are running out of time. You need to find Isen before we try to go after Død. Only Isen will be able to convince the spirit of Autumn to stop torturing her host.
Død was the first to be cast out by the Mother. Isen willingly joined her in exile and convinced Livet and myself to do the same. Autumn will only be driven out by the coming of Winter. Please, reach out to Autumn, tell her we are coming…tell her to stop…
“Isen isn’t there! I haven’t…”
Elsa awoke to an incessant tapping on her window. She didn’t remember falling asleep but sometime during her mental conversation with the fire spirit she must have. She sat up and looked towards the window.
The face outside it was by no means one Elsa hoped she would see again soon.
Throwing back her sheets, she crossed to the window and pried it open.
“Theo! What are you doing here?” She was glaring but that in no way prevented the tiny flutter of that flame still flickering in her chest as she took in the woman who had been haunting her sleep for months. Those red eyes staring back at her only made her feel more confused about the whole thing.
If Theo noticed the emotional turmoil of her glare, she said nothing. Her own glare was just as hard. “Looking for you.” She replied. The fire host was hovering just outside the window, supported only by a crumbling sand platform haphazardly attached to the ledge of Elsa’s window.
“I thought I made it quite clear to Garret that none of you were welcome here.” Elsa told her, making no move to let her inside.
Theo let out an exasperated sigh. “Well we can’t exactly give up on you. You’re our best hope.” She stumbled a bit as a large piece broke off of the platform under her and Elsa suddenly found herself gripping the girl’s arm as if she could prevent her from falling.
Their eyes shot to each others’ but Theo did not allow the contact to linger. She looked away first and Elsa noticed her eyes briefly scanning her and suddenly became aware of just how flimsy her nightdress was. She released Theo’s arm immediately and fiddled with her hands, trying to decide if crossing her arms would make the whole thing less awkward or not.
“Branna sent me.” Theo continued moving to sit on the windowsill and averting her gaze. Under her feet, the sand platform crumbled into grains and fell. “Said it was urgent, that you needed my help.”
“I don’t need your help.” Elsa replied stubbornly.
Theo huffed tiredly. “Well then you two better have a damn good reason for why I just high-tailed it over here on a tornado.”
Theo nodded. “Yes. They’re quite effective for high-speed travel.” She swung her legs inside and stepped down from the window only to promptly fall flat on her face. “Though I do not recommend them for the already delirious…” she muttered into the carpet.
Elsa hovered next to her, trying to decide if she should help the girl up or not. Before she could make a decision, Theo pulled herself upright using the thing closest to her. Which just happened to be Elsa herself.
Theo looked horrified as she realized what she was holding and abruptly released her grip.
“There is still no sign of Isen?” She asked, apparently straining to keep her voice within its normal range and tone.
Elsa was still trying to process the idea of creating and riding a tornado. And forget how Theo had just used her as one might a wall. “You road a tornado over here because you thought I might be in trouble?” Too late, she realized there was a touch, just a touch of surprised flattery in her words.
Theo brushed herself off and Elsa noticed that her legs were trembling. “No,” She said, sounding a bit defensive. “I rode a tornado over here because Branna and I felt the same thing you did.”
Elsa shivered, recalling the fit that had overcome her earlier that night. “What was that?”
Theo’s gaze darkened. “That? That was Død throwing a tantrum.” She turned to Elsa. “They’ve finally reached the breaking point…Autumn is on the move and dangerously strong.”
“So what does that mean?”
“It means, if we don’t get to her soon, we’re all in a heap of trouble.” Theo wrung her hands and Elsa saw a few sparks flare briefly. “Now that she’s fully awakened, her power will be easier to trace. But she’ll be stronger, angrier…”
“We’ll need to move sooner.” Elsa guessed.
Theo nodded. “We’re leaving in two weeks. As soon as we locate her.”
Elsa jerked back in surprise. “Two weeks?! Garret told me it would be around the solstice! When was this decided?”
“About two hours ago.”
The queen crossed her arms angrily. “And you were just going to show up here and pull me away like last time?”
Theo’s eye snapped to hers. “Is it really too much to ask you to at least visit the temple once in awhile? Then you would at least be in on these plans.”
Elsa glared back, letting loose the fullest extent of her commanding gaze. “You know that is impossible for me.”
Amazingly, Theo’s gaze dropped. “You don’t have to stay…” She began slowly, “just visit…once in awhile…”
The vulnerability of that statement, threw Elsa entirely off guard. She felt the anger slip from her face as she examined the other host.
Theo was still examining the floor, fidgeting with her hands. Her hair had grown out slightly in the months they had been apart, it now hung thickly about her head instead of as a short stubble. Her brows were drawn tight over her eyes but her lips were pursed tightly together. There was still a stubborn set to her features but under that, Elsa could see the insecurities plain as day.
“Could you please stop radiating cold?” Theo suddenly snapped.
Elsa realized that the temperature in the room had dropped so much she could see Theo’s breath. Calming herself, she let the room warm again.
“Why don’t you just warm yourself up?”
“Summer’s over.” Theo said flatly, rubbing her arms. “My powers are waning.” She blew out and a thick cloak of smoke emerged from between her lips. “That’s about the warmest air I can project right now.”
Elsa waved her hand to keep the smoke out of her face.
“You flew here just fine.”
“If you consider about to pass out as ‘just fine’, I really think you need a new understanding of the concept of ‘fine’.”
Elsa couldn’t help it, she giggled. She couldn’t believe she had actually missed this bickering. To her surprise, a hearty chuckle accompanied her own. Theo was laughing with her.
It was truly transformative: even this small bout of laughter caused her entire face to open up, her fiery eyes calmed to display a pleasant warmth and her tight shoulders visibly relaxed. Without the usual worry or anger creasing her brow, Theo looked younger, more hopeful and stronger.
As the two shared their mirth, Elsa suddenly realized that this was the first time she was seeing Theo look happy.
Looking at her like this made Elsa feel…safe. For the first time in weeks, she didn’t feel like she was trying to hold off a panic attack.
“Seriously, we may need to invest in a new royal dictionary for you or something…” Theo quipped as their laughter began to fade. The statement was so light, so without any form of the malice that Elsa had come to expect that her laughter abruptly ceased. She realized just how closely she’d been watching the other girl these past few minutes and felt a blush creep up her neck.
Their eyes met and Theo’s face became serious once again.
“Not a word of this to Scara.” She told Elsa, sounding like it was of the utmost importance that this joke remains between them.
“Why not?” The queen asked, puzzled. She assumed Scara would be thrilled they were finally getting along.
“Winter-Summer, Spring-Autumn. We’re a matching pair, however you want to interpret that.” Theo wrung her hands. “Scara cant stop dropping hints…” She muttered, more to herself.
Elsa tried to ignore the way her heart skipped at those words. “Such as?”
Theo looked like she wanted to start pacing but lacked sufficient strength. “According to legend, Isen and Branna were lovers in the ancient times, sisters only by marriage. Then they separated for some reason, causing the seasons to come at opposite times of the year.”
Her face contorted into what may have been a wince but Elsa knew so little of her expressions that she didn’t know what it could possibly mean.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” She asked.
Theo stiffened. “fine.” She practically spat, her face pale. Elsa noticed her knees trembling dangerously.
Moving towards her bed, Elsa patted the covers. “here, sit down. Maybe that tornado took more out of you than you realize.”
Slowly, without protest, the fire girl sank down, keeping her hands well away from the flammable fabric underneath her.
“Better?” Elsa asked. Theo only nodded curtly.
“You really haven’t gotten any closer?” The summer host asked, sounding skeptical. “At all?”
Desperately, Elsa shook her head. “Meditations aren’t working…I’ve tried everything.” She leaned against the corner post of her bed, wrapping her arms around it as if it could provide her the necessary comfort. It couldn’t.
Theo peered up at her, examining her closely for a moment. “Well then, we’re going to try something different.”
Theo shifted so that she sat cross-legged on the bed, facing Elsa. “Yes. Since Isen cant be coaxed out, we’re going to have to force her out.”
“Force her?” Elsa was beginning to get a sense of dread. She recalled what happened last time they had tried something ‘different’. She was not keen to experience that again.
Theo nodded. “It’s worked before without fail.” There was a certain bitterness in the way she said the words. “She may not like this, but it’s the only way.” She laid her hands open on her knees and gestured for Elsa to join her.
Elsa moved to take Theo’s hands but something stopped her. Her hands remained suspended in the air, unwilling to drop those several inches to make contact with the summer host’s.
Elsa flexed her fingers. “Nothing.” She sat facing Theo, trying not to look in her eyes. Why did her chest suddenly feel like she had a blush?
Slowly, she lowered her hands into Theo’s. The hot fingers tightened around hers firmly but not constrictively.
“Now, think of a distressing moment in your life.” Theo instructed. “A moment where you felt your life was in danger or when you lost control of your powers. Keep your eyes open but let the memory play in your mind…”
Elsa pondered only for a moment before her mind invariably settled on something. She shuddered.
“Now, I need you to focus, think of that painful memory.” Theo said softly, the heat in her hands beginning to crawl up Elsa’s wrists. “It will help draw Isen out. The spirits respond to intense emotional distress. Often times it awakens them…”
I picked up my skirt and dashed up the icy stairs as quickly as I could. They had gotten past my guard. They were coming after me…they were going to corner me…
Theo’s calm voice, like a gentle, glowing ember broke the memory. “Now…while still feeling that distress, expand your mind…think of Autumn…of what you felt earlier. Try to see where she is…”
Elsa tried, she really did but all that kept coming to mind was the attack on her ice palace. The scene kept flashing before her eyes in broken segments, her vision going white in between...
“Stay away!” I shouted. They didn’t move. I shot ice at one of them but he jumped out of the way…
The heat in her hands intensified. “Focus Elsa…don’t go too deep into it…just keep to the surface…”
The surface? Already she was six feet under, struggling to rise back out.
The younger was pinned against the wall, an icicle merely an inch from his throat. All it would take was a flicker of my finger and he was gone.
She felt herself shiver. The waves were coming faster, she couldn’t avoid them.
I pushed the other one, he was no match for me…none of them were! He was right on the edge, a few inches more and he would fall…
A strong, desperate voice from behind me broke through the murderous haze…
“You’re not trying to relapse… you’re just trying to frighten Isen awake, like escaping a nightmare…”
Nightmares? Nightmares were exactly the problem…she was trapped in nightmares.
“Queen Elsa! Don’t be the monster they fear you are!”
I stopped, inches from ending two bright lives…
What had I done?
“Elsa…Elsa stop, you’re going to far again…”
She was trying to stop. But she couldn’t, the pain was too raw, too intense. There was no ice to comfort her, to numb the pain away…to lock it away in a flawless mirror…
…a shattering sound…the great snowflake was falling… I was running…too slow…
Abruptly, the illusion shattered just as her first chandelier had and Elsa drew a deep, shaking breath, gasping to fill her empty lungs as she crashed back into reality. The heat had moved from her hands to her face, a gentle, reassuring pressure accompanying it.
Theo’s hands were on her face, staring deep into her eyes.
“Are you okay?” She asked, sounding desperate. She gazed at Elsa, her eyes burning.
Elsa found herself gazing back ,desperate for something to ground her after the turmoil of those memories, the confusing shift between reality and memory that she had just weathered. Those solid, glowing eyes were her lifeline, her rock in this storm. This was reality. Here. A gentle thumb stroked her cheek, sending a sliver of heat shooting through her. A silent promise. She was here. Theo wasn’t going to let her drown in her own mind.
As her breath slowly began to quiet, Elsa realized just what she was seeing. Theo’s eyes. Or, more accurately, the look in Theo’s eyes. This time it was different from that eye-lock they had shared at the ice palace. Instead of deep, unspoken attraction, this time she saw…she saw something…familiar. The same turmoil, the same fear, the same shyness and self-doubt that looked at her from every mirror when her thoughts turned to the girl before her.
And something new. A tenderness and care that she had never witnessed before. Concern.
Here, looking into her eyes so closely with no expectations, no barriers or impressions in the way, she was finally seeing the Theonia everyone kept assuring her existed.
Elsa didn’t know who leaned in, perhaps they both did, perhaps their faces were already the correct distance apart. Regardless, the icy coolness of her lips suddenly made contact with burning hot ones.
Elsa had to admit, she’d never imagined her first kiss would be like this.
The lips under hers were hot and dry like the desert but they quickly moistened under the cold wetness of her own.
Theo exhaled, her warm breath invading Elsa’s mouth and against her logical mind, the queen felt herself sliding further into the kiss. She pushed back, asserting her cold, hard lips into the fire against her mouth and heard a small moan in response, almost like ice expanding.
The sound seemed to switch something off inside Elsa’s head, as if someone else had taken the controls, rendering her little more than a marionette doll. Her thoughts faded away and she felt as if she were slipping into another meditation. Only this time, Theo was right there with her. Together, their collective skin was joining the ice, dancing in the flames.
Theo leaned even further forward into the kiss, her mouth falling open and Elsa suddenly found her tongue sliding along a hot lower lip. She felt Theo shiver. She felt sweat gather on her forehead. Theo shifted slightly, her nose brushing Elsa’s cheek and gently took Elsa’s lower lip in her teeth. Her hand shifted from Elsa’s cheek to gently cup the back of her neck.
Elsa’s hands twitched, wanting to join the binding of fire and ice, to exchange two opposites to make a new whole. Before Elsa could stop them, they left the bed and circled around Theo’s neck, right at the same time those impossibly hot hands slid down to her hips. Strong fingers tightened on her hips.
They fell back onto Elsa’s sheets, the sudden motion breaking their lips and shattering the moment that had been created. Elsa’s eyes flew open at the loss of heat and she once again found herself lost in those haunting ruby eyes. Theo stared right back, although Elsa could see a fear in her eyes that kept the connection from consuming her as it had before. That fear was intoxicating and Elsa soon felt a trace of it within herself. What were they doing? For a moment, it seemed they had both lost control of their actions completely. Their chests were pressed flush together and they were both consumed with a feeling of warmth and cooling, of rising and falling in time with their tangling breaths.
It was all Elsa could do not to give in to the undeniable pleasure of the contact. Or be consumed by her fear of that pleasure.
Steam was curling around Theo’s ears and Elsa could feel it licking at her face. Theo’s hands were on either side of Elsa’s hips, her thumbs still barely brushing Elsa’s hip bones.
She was very glad she had not worn an ice nightdress tonight.
Slowly, her eyes never leaving Elsa’s, Theo pulled away and sat up.
The loss of heat from her made Elsa’s entire frame begin to tremble, as if part of her had been torn away with the loss. She quickly sat up, trying to hide her feelings by focusing on her breath. Surprisingly, her heart wasn’t racing like she expected it to. She straightened her nightdress, unable to look at the other girl.
Elsa looked up. Theo refused to look at her and her quiet utterance sounded more like a confession than an actual apology. Like she had just wanted to try that as another method for waking Isen.
Inexplicable anger surged through Elsa as she looked at the fire-girl. She felt cheated, played, used.
How dare she.
“Leave.” The word slipped from her lips before she could consider saying anything else.
Theo stood, and in a completely uncharacteristic display of obedience, crossed to the window, opened it and jumped out with sand swirling around her. All without sparing Elsa so much as a glance. Letting Elsa send her away this time.
It shouldn’t have stung but it did. Elsa leapt up and slammed the window shut with a force she didn’t know she possessed. A few loose particles of sand danced from the window to the floor. She started to pace, walking the short distance from her window to her door and back with as much focus as if she were climbing a mountain. She wrung her hands and forced herself to breathe deeply to keep the snow at bay. With Theo away from her at last, the anxiety of the past few months was creeping back, even stronger than before. Along with an undeniable frustration that only one person had ever aroused in her. She didn’t like it.
How can she be so hot and cold? Elsa wondered as her bare feet scuffled along the carpet. And why, gods, why? Why does being around her make me want to both kill her and…She struggled to find the right word. observe her and being away from her just make me want to see her again? One second they were arguing and the next…
She shot a blast of ice towards the window, watching it crawl across the glass and seal it tightly.
Elsa didn’t want to remember the kiss, she really didn’t. Not because it had been bad or good or sinfully lustful or even because it was her first.
No, she didn’t want to remember because for that one moment, those few seconds when their lips had locked and drawn them together, she hadn’t felt scared or alone. She’d been half of a whole. The nightmares had ceased to matter.
And she didn’t want to remember that that was a possibility granted to her by the source of half the nightmares themselves.
She wanted to be free of those nightmares.
The queen flopped back onto her pillows, throwing one arm over her face to muffle a sob.
Why hadn’t she asked Theonia to stay? Just for a bit? As a companion, nothing more, someone to talk to and hold her? To take away the sting of the memories? The bitter taste of loneliness that she still hated, despite the familiarity?
To have someone to wrap their arms around her and whisper in her ear to chase away the nightmares?
Because you’re a coward. And you’re not sure if you want this. You’re not even sure what this is.
Elsa curled in on herself as she felt frost begin to coat her blankets and walls. She bit her lip.
Then why had she kissed back?
Sometime after leaving Elsa’s room, climbing back down the wall and heading out towards the fjord, Theo felt the now familiar pain ripple through her middle section. She doubled over, biting her lip hard to contain her cry. She was standing on the beach, near the docks that stretched out a little ways into the glittering water.
You are just leaving?!
Theo felt blood trickle down her chin and she drew a shuddering breath before replying to the voice in her head. “She asked me to.”
The pain doubled if that was even possible.
We call the moves, she does not.
Theo scrambled for something to hold her up as her legs trembled and her chest constricted painfully. “Branna…I can’t breathe…” She collapsed against a piling, her fingers scrabbling for purchase as her feet kicked the sand.
The two of you cannot ignore this. You are compatible hosts, the first since Ileana and Erin. That means something is coming that will take your combined strength to combat. Something is about to happen, something big. The strength of this attraction is proof of that.
Theo took a few painful deep breaths as her vision swam. “Something did happen…” She managed to choke out, ignoring the spirit’s other comments. “And it happened a long time ago with no one stopping it.”
She stifled a moan of pain as the spirit assaulted her again.
Do what must be done then. We must be able to join ourselves to Isen in anticipation of whatever is coming. Your actions should have pulled Isen out. Why is she still hiding?
The pain was making her irritable and by no means more logical. “Well I have an idea…why don’t you go in there and ask Isen yourself instead of forcing me to toy with Elsa?”
Her vision went black as the pain roared strongly in her ears and pierced straight to her soul.
DO NOT MOCK ME, HUMAN! DO YOU FORGET I AM A GODDESS?!
Breathing shallowly and rapidly, Theo forced her eyes upward, into the dark sky. The lights dancing above her head managed to pull her from the pain for just a fraction of a second. A calmness rushed over her. She wondered if those lights were the hair of the Mother, spilling out over the earth softly, gently for no reason other than beauty…
That moment gave her enough strength to pull through.
“’Compatible hosts’, that’s all you keep saying!” She spat to the fire host, pulling herself up so that her stomach was pressed against the piling, dulling the pain somewhat. “Like it’s already decided that the two of us are meant to be. I know it’s mostly you putting these uncontrollable thoughts and urges in my head. I know you’re only doing so because you think it will serve some greater purpose!” She slipped slightly and growled, determined not to let the spirit best her. Not this time. Summer was fading and so was Branna’s strength. “While guess what? Maybe I decided not to let you decide this for me! Maybe Elsa just doesn’t feel the same! Did you ever consider that?” She was shouting by this point but she didn’t care. Let someone hear her, it wouldn’t change a thing. “Maybe I’m just playing with her feelings by doing this!”
Don’t be such a child Theonia. I am far older and wiser than you and I know what I am doing. You are playing with fire, hoping I will not choose to burn you.
“I’ve been doing that for years. Even though I know you always do.”
There was a moment of blissful silence in her mind, even though the pain did not lessen as the fire spirit burned with a quiet rage within her, choosing not to let its thoughts be known to her. Theo began to feel her vision slip into blackness again and fought to regain consciousness.
It was several minutes before Branna spoke again.
This Død situation isn’t going to make things any easier.
Theo could feel the spirit’s attempt at an apology in both the words and the return of her vision. She blinked, finding tears swimming in her eyes. “You think I don’t know that?” She replied quietly. “Everything could go up in flames now…Council, spirits, nations…” She finally managed to get her feet back under herself and found her fingers had burned little circles into the piling during her spasm. “How can we make this right again?”
The whole reason I got you access to the castle was for you to make this right. You had a perfect opportunity and you cast it aside. What is going on with you?
Theo felt her own temper flare. “That was never our responsibility.” She said through clenched teeth. “Frankly, it shouldn’t be anyone’s responsibility!”
It is of more importance now than ever before. We need Elsa to be at full strength and Isen awakened and ready to take on an angry Død.
“You really think this would help? Because it wouldn’t! She’d be crushed, devastated. Then how would our whole ‘compatible hosts’ arrangement work out?” Theo’s lower lip trembled with something other than pain. “She…She’d hate me.”
Perhaps there was something in the way she said those words that got through to Branna.
The pain finally faded completely. Theo gasped for breath, and slid off the piling as she fell to her knees in the sand, letting the relief overtake her.
You… you let yourself love her, didn’t you?
Branna actually sounded shocked.
For all my meddling, for all the prophecies and legends…you actually love her.
Theo didn’t feel the need to answer the spirit inside her. Those words hurt far more than she imagined any physical pain ever could.