Anna screamed as she entered the snowy castle courtyard, seeing before her a massive pool of blood resting upon the icy floor, and she rushed over quickly, sliding once or twice, fighting the increasingly urgent urge to vomit.
One of the maids who had been tending to Arne looked at the girl sadly, and her eyes were red and puffy in the dim daylight, the sun hidden by the clouds blocking it, and tear tracks had stained marks upon her pale white cheeks. Her hands were shaking, and her voice was shaking when she spoke.
"I'm so sorry, Ma'am..." She said, in a voice almost as faint as a whisper. "I am not sure what happened. One moment, the boy was playing quite happily, and I left to get him some lunch, and then... then I returned and... and... well, he'd jumped." She broke down in tears, and buried her head in her hands. "I'm so very, very sorry, Ma'am. I just can't tell what went wrong. His window was closed and everything; I didn't even think that he'd be able to open it!"
Elsa hurried over, and her legs gave way when she saw the pool of blood, slowly trickling across the cobblestones, staining everything it touched.
Love has a peculiar habit of hurting in exactly the same way; betrayal is even worse.
"What happened?" Kristoff's voice cut through the still air, and he looked pale as he looked upon the sight, and he had to lean on Sven to stop himself from falling down too. "Please tell me that's not..."
The maid looked at the Prince with sorrowful eyes, and she nodded slowly, whimpering a few times before. "It's Arne." She repeated for him, "But we don't know what happened."
The faint patter of rain began to sound, the droplets pummelling the ground as Kristoff wanted to beat in whoever had harmed the small boy in such a way; he was an intelligent man, and he knew for certain that the boy would never have jumped. Not only was the window handle much too high for Arne to have reached on his own, he also knew how grown up the child was, even if he was young, and there was no way he'd simply launch himself out of a window. The kid was not suicidal, after all.
Kristoff looked at the floor sullenly, and there was a moment of silence, of quiet reflection, before the heavens opened, spilling a torrential wave of water on the courtyard. The rain spilled over the cobble, rushing off of it like a rapid flowing river, and with it, the horrific pool of blood was swept away, too. The current stole away the mark of Arne's suffering in mere fractions of seconds, and as the streams wound their way away, the rich redness of the water became more dilute, before it was nearly impossible to distinguish.
For a few moments, the group remained there, before the realisation that it was raining hit them, and Kristoff hurried Elsa and Anna inside, with the maid quickly following. The two royal women were freezing, shaking and shivering violently, and after the events of the day, it was all the Prince could do to attempt to minimise their suffering.
He smiled as he watched the two drifting off into deep sleep, curled up in a warm, sisterly embrace, and he softly shut the door to let them rest in private. He truly loved Anna, and he adored Elsa also, though in a different way, as one would care for a sibling, and it made his heart soar knowing that they were safe and, for the moment, happy.
Kristoff made his way across the corridor, and glanced out of the window at the kingdom before his eyes; his home. He watched as the droplets splashed against the window ledge, and was instantly reminded of what had happened to Arne. Clutching the window ledge for support, he closed his eyes and sighed. The child hadn't deserved to die, and not only that, but he was Mia's only true friend, as well. No doubt that if they ever found her, after all she'd been through, it could easily break her.
He looked across the villages, and his eyes found the start of the valley where he knew the other side of his family, the trolls, inhabited, and he knew what he had to do. Things just didn't add up, and he was determined to find out what was going on.
No doubt Grand Pabbie would know...
Yet, as he thought this, he couldn't help but get a bad feeling that something else wasn't completely right.
As the door creaked open early the following morning, Kristoff looked over, and saw his wife standing in the doorway, smiling very slightly, more out of sorrow than relief.
"Hello, Kris." She greeted weakly, her voice shaking. Her eyes were red and puffy, and she'd clearly been crying. "I went to our room, but you weren't there... obviously... and..." She shook her head, wiping her eyes gently, and she went over to the man before her, standing awkwardly for a few moments, feeling unsure of whether to sit or not. Kristoff reached up, and placed his hands upon her waist, pulling her down to sit on his lap, softly brushing her soft ginger hair with his fingers, distracting himself.
"Couldn't you sleep?" She asked, her voice a little unclear as it shook, the words unsteady as "It's very early, and you look exhausted."
Kristoff nodded. "I've just been distracted. I mean..." He paused, rubbing the back of his neck, wondering how to explain himself. "Well, I've been thinking, and... things don't seem right." He sighed, and hung his head. "Something... something happened with Arne. He... wouldn't have just jumped out of the window himself."
A tear leaked out of Anna's eyes, and she nodded, as she leaned back to lay against him. "You're right," She agreed, sadly. "I wish we knew what really happened, but... there isn't anything we can do to find out, is there?" She sighed, and her mind wandered to everything that had happened recently. The missing villagers, still not found. Mia's kidnapping, still lacking details. Odd's disappearance, still a mystery.
And now, Arne's death, so strange, so dismaying.
Kristoff looked out the window again, and Anna's eyes trailed quickly after.
"When the sun rises, we'll go to the trolls." He said, slowly, "And hopefully, we'll be able to get at least some of this sorted out."
Mia wriggled around in her bed, moaning in her sleep, her duvet laying forgotten on the floor. A layer of sweat was shining on her forehead, and her bleach blonde hair was stuck to her cheeks. Her nightdress clung to her body, and she squirmed around again, kicking out and swatting the air with her small, dainty hands.
A pair of large, bright green eyes glinted in the cold blackness, shining with hatred, malice and a sick, twisted, dastardly pleasure, as the sharp sound of a sword being unsheathed from it's holster echoed around the dark cave of nothingness. The silver sliced through the scene, a blur as it fell, and the bright white of teeth could just be made out through the shadows.
She awoke with a start, crying out and breathing deeply, gasping for breath as she sobbed slightly. She'd been having the same dream - no, nightmare - repeatedly during her stay in the Southern Isles, and it always seemed so real. So very, very real.
Wiping away the tears, Mia whimpered to herself, as she curled up in a ball, and lay on the bed quietly for a few minutes, before slowly getting up and, on shaking, wobbly legs, she tottered over to the window, leaning against the sill and gazing out across the sleeping kingdom.
She wasn't sure what to think. She looked out at the sun, the very fine first rays peeking over the horizon sneakily, and tried to settle her rapid breaths, but she simply couldn't shake away the memory of those eyes. She knew she'd seen them somewhere before, they were just so familiar... At first she'd linked them to her Uncle Odd's eyes, but then she came to the conclusion that it couldn't possibly be right, because he was sweet and kind, and besides, his eyes were brighter anyway.
Still, though, she had been away from her home for nearly three months now, and in truth, she could barely remember what her family looked like. Was it her mother who always wore her hair in plaited pigtails, or her aunt? Did her father have brown hair, or was that her uncle?
She placed her head in her hands. After everything she'd been through, her memories were blurry. Of course, at her age, she didn't recall many events from the past, but when she thought hard enough, she could, just about, remember her family. They had always been so special to her, but now...
Glancing back out of the window, she sighed. She was scared to go home, for she still felt that she'd done something wrong, although what she still could not decipher. For many evenings, after another nightmare, she would lay awake thinking about what had happened, and she had begun to feel skeptical as to whether she was, in fact, being punished, or if something more sinister was going on. At any rate, whatever was happening, something just didn't feel right.
Though she didn't want to go home, she wasn't sure what she felt about staying here, in the Southern Isles, either. The kingdom had done her a great favour, rescuing her, and all of the people here had welcomed her very warmly, even if only a few of them could speak her language. All of the royalty could, though, and the strange woman - Ayla - seemed to be able to as well. She enjoyed spending time with the people here, and one of the Princes had a daughter her age, who was fun to play with. But... things just weren't the same.
She just... didn't feel like she belonged here.
As she stood up from her little window-seat, she walked over to the little arm chair that was located for her in the corner of her room. "I don't like here." She said sadly to herself, almost wishing someone would hear her, yet she was scared what would happen if they did. "I miss Mama, Papa." She began to sob quietly to herself, and she pulled her knees up to her chest. She was just so confused, and everything was making the smallest little decisions seem like massive choices. "I don't like here."
She looked at the walls, and then up to the ceiling, where a beautiful painting of angels stared back at her. Still, she felt sad, and looking into the faces of the happy, carefree creatures, she felt an intense wave of jealousy she had never felt before.
She didn't care what she had done to get sent to the caves, where she had been tortured.
She didn't care for all of the care the Southern Isles was lavishing upon her, and even their best intentions made her feel bitter.
"I just want go home..."
Curling up in the chair, she cried for a while more, before eventually, she fell back into a fitful sleep, plagued with images of cold green eyes, devastatingly sharp sword blades, seemingly familiar to the exhibited roman swords Hans had shown her the day before, and, most often, snippets of the torture she'd endured just a few weeks before.