The news spread like wildfire throughout the kingdom of the Southern Isles. Barely half a day had passed since the incident, and yet virtually every person seemed to know what had happened. The noise in the streets was deafening as men and women, girls and boys, exchanged their theories as to what had happened that day.
"Did you hear about the news?"
"Can you believe it?"
"Is it really true?"
Wherever you went, questions and answers of the same nature were constantly being exchanged. In every single street of the kingdom, people were completely desperate for answers, and yet terrified of knowing the truth at the same time, for fear that they would be next to fall prey to the same cruel fate.
"Yes, yes, that's what I heard-"
"Two of the Princes... I don't know which ones-"
"That makes four, now-"
"Only nine left-"
What with two Princes dead in a terrible catastrophe, it was no surprise the people of the Southern Isles were in such a state. The gossip potential was great, but the terror that came with it was overpowering. The two late Princes were, no doubt, among the most powerful people in the Kingdom, or at least the best protected, and if they had still been targeted, what chance did anyone else have?
The exact cause of their death was unknown, but there was definitely not a lack of theories flying around. The two Princes had been heading for another island just off the coast of the main isle, that much everyone knew, but the rest was a mystery. Some people assumed there had been an assassination attempt, but there were no signs of any puncture wounds from a gun, no betraying slashes through their skin from a sword. No bloody noses or bruises in sight.
Others assumed it was the result of some new disease, which, naturally, was terrifying to the people of the Southern Isles - no doubt it would spread quickly, and if doctors couldn't detect it, which must have been the case if the two Princes had not received medical attention and were off to visit other parts of the kingdom, anyone could be dropping dead any minute. Some people then went on to relate it to the plague, claiming that, like the Black Death, it would quickly kill of a large percentage of the population.
Understandably, the second theory made more sense than the first to the people, which terrified them, although many were trying to convince themselves that the first was the truth - perhaps they had been strangled? Still, it would take a miracle to get close enough to the two Princes to do so without being beaten to a pulp by their guards.
Then there were the final few, who had a completely separate idea. Most shunned their views as childish, stupid, but a handful of people believed something different.
They didn't know who, or how, but these few people were convinced that it had been magic which had caused the two to pass on.
How correct they were.
Ayla smiled as she looked out of the window at the people gathering in the streets below, talking nervously with each other, sharing gossip and theories about the recent event. She couldn't help but feel very satisfied with herself, impressed at how well she'd actually pulled the whole stunt off.
A knock came at the door, and Ayla glanced around quickly to see Hans standing in the doorway, looking somber, which puzzled her - surely he wasn't saddened by the deaths of his two older brothers, considering how little respect, or love, he had for them. As he walked into the room, however, his expression grew more light-hearted and much less upset, and it was clear it had all been an act before.
"Why, hello there, Princey." Ayla said, as she slouched casually in her chair, folding one leg over the other absent-mindedly. Her blonde hair shined in the light, and the way the sun was located behind her head gave her an angelic image.
Of course, Ayla was anything but angelic.
"I see everything went to plan, then?" Hans said, as he sat down across from her, eyeing her with interest, something which would make any normal, respectable woman blush a deep shade of crimson. Ayla, however, just smiled in a teasing way, before a black cloth from her vanity floated over to him and tied around his head, too quick for the Prince to even react. Hans folded his arms in frustration after trying in vain to remove his blindfold, scowling in an annoyed way.
"Use your imagination, Princey." Ayla said with an almost scolding tone, reprimanding him for having such thoughts. "You have a very twisted mind, I'm sure it won't be all that hard for you."
Hans seemed insulted, and Ayla grinned at her success at getting something over him. "Now, to answer your question, yes, everything did go to plan." This seemed to lift Hans' mood, and though he was still blindfolded, Ayla could easily imagine his eyes sparkling from the way his mouth curved into a thin smile. She sighed, however, as her eyes went blurry for a second. "Bloody hard though; I'm going to have headaches for weeks! That being said, I think my whole body will be aching for at least a few days."
Hans chuckled, and it was easy to imagine him raising his eyebrows in mockery. "Oh, really? How can magic make your body hurt?"
Ayla scowled at him in frustration. "It takes a lot of concentration and energy, Hans." She snapped, "The level of magic required really takes it out of me, though it pains me even more to admit it."
"So, how did you accomplish it?"
Ayla paused for a second, wondering how to start. "Well, it took an hour or so to actually come up with a plan, to begin with." She started, and adjusted her seating position to get more comfortable. "My powers can't be used to kill someone directly, as you know. So, for example, I couldn't just click my fingers and you fall dead. Of course, I have to work with what I have, so it wasn't easy to find another way to get rid of your two brothers without having their deaths be an obvious murder."
Hans nodded to convey his understanding, slouching in his chair slightly.
"So, then, how did you pull it off? The townspeople have no idea what happened, so you must have done something right."
Ayla smiled at this, knowing how smoothly it had all gone indeed. "Well, I had to do a combination of magic to get things like they are, hence why I'm aching so. On it's own, a single work of magic's not too hard to pull of, but when there is a lot in constant succession, that's when it gets hard. Like going running, I guess; when you start, you're fine, but the longer you run, the more tired you get, and at a quicker pace." She paused for a second. "Does that make sense?"
Hans nodded again, and Ayla sighed.
"Good, good. Anyway, you don't want to know that really, do you? You couldn't really care less about the theory, and don't lie 'cause I know it's true. You just want me to explain what I actually did, right?"
Hans sighed. "You know me well, Ayla; it's kind of creepy, really."
Ayla laughed. "Ah, get used to it. I could read your mind anytime, so it makes little difference."
Hans seemed to stiffen a little, and this only increased the sorceress' amusement. "What's wrong, Princey? Don't want me knowing what you're thinking right now?" She laughed. "Haha, don't worry. I can't be bothered to use my magic for something that complex now anyway, I'm too tired. You're safe for now, although don't fret too much - you've actually got a pretty strong mind, meaning it's harder for me to get in there."
Hans chuckled, and his stiff posture relaxed, as he let out a breath he'd been holding. His face, beetroot red, slowly returned to it's normal shade of tan.
"So, go on." He urged, eager to know how Ayla had pulled it off, just as she had been about to say. The sorceress smiled.
"You are so impatient, Hans." She teased, and clucked her tongue in a disapproving, but not serious, way, making a tsk-tsk sound. "Okay, okay, fine.
"The first stage was easy, really. All I had to do was make an illusion of snakes in front of the horses pulling the carriages - simple, although I had to be careful not to get trampled when the horses spooked. I had to be close to monitor things, and I can't do magic if it's too far away, so that was the best bet.
"So, the horses spooked, and ran off with the guards. That was a lot harder to pull off successfully, because usually they'd have just dismounted straight away, so I had to fix that, as I needed the guards out of the way. So, I used my magic to clear their mind for a few seconds, which, believe me, is not easy to accomplish, especially considering how many of them there were. I think I managed about ten or fifteen seconds before I couldn't keep it up.
"Luckily, that gave me just about enough time - by the time my spell wore off, they'd temporarily forgotten the events of the past ten hours or so, an hour lost per second, and by the time they'd come back to their senses, I was done."
Hans reached up again, trying to undo his blindfold, and Ayla sighed as she undid the magical bonds, letting the black fabric fall into Hans' lap. He seemed to sigh in relief, although the bright light shocked him for a second.
"So," he recapped, "You got rid of the guards by spooking the horses and making them forget what they were doing for a while. Okay, what next?" Ayla raised her eyes, and Hans sighed. "I'm not being impatient, I just... don't want to waste your time."
"Yeah, right." Ayla said, shaking her head in amusement. "Anyway, the next part was worse, because by this point, my head was starting to throb from using complex magic to get rid of the guards. I had to duplicate the carriage, which was quite hard because it was so finely decorated, and then I made two copies of your brothers, but I didn't animate them - pretty much like just massive, very realistic stuffed toys.
"Then, to finish off, I had to set fire to your brothers' carriage - I had to use a match to set it alight because I was too tired - and use the last of my magic to immobilise them so they couldn't escape. Still, they were strong willed, like you, and I was weaker by this point, so I couldn't keep it up. I passed out not long after, and don't think of me as pathetic for doing so, either, because I already do myself."
Hans chuckled. "Don't worry, I'll let you off. Besides, if I did call you pathetic, I'd end up with my head on a stake, so I think I'll stay on your good side."
"So, what happened in the end, do you know?"
Ayla thought for a minute, as if the information was hard to find. "Well, I came to not long after, though I still didn't have much strength and everything was a bit... blurry, I guess. I wasn't quite with it, but when I looked over, I saw that the carriage was barely more than a pile of ash, and your brothers were in a pretty bad state. They had really bad burns, and were in a lot of pain. They were acting strangely, their eyes were cloudy and they were acting strangely, as if they had gone mad. So, I put them out of their misery - I'm not a complete monster, after all - so I wacked them over the head with a rock. Bit messy, but they died straight away. Quick. That's the best way, after all. Then I vanished their bodies and the ash - making stuff disappear's easy enough - and then the Guards found them. They spread the word, people investigated, and you know the rest."
Hans seemed both impressed and a little sickened. "You say I have a twisted mind," He remarked, and Ayla smiled at him sweetly, looking the picture of innocence.
Not that Hans was falling for that.
"You say you want to stay in my good books," Ayla said softly, and her eyes sparkled, "But you're being very cheeky with me. "
Hans smiled. "You're a big girl - you can deal with cheekiness." He said, and his voice got steadily deeper.
Ayla shook her head in amusement, as Hans stood up and walked over to her slowly. His eyes were glinting in an excited way, and his pupils had dilated somewhat. "You know, when you sit there like that, you really look like an angel." He drawled, and drew a little closer to her. Ayla flashed him a smile, and her eyes settled on his lips hungrily.
She raised up slightly in her seat as Hans leaned down, and their lips collided roughly, both feeling their excitement growing rapidly. Ayla drew back a little and then pressed back, invigorated by a new, lustful energy she never knew she had.
Mia was sat on her bed, staring up at the ceiling, both insanely bored and incredibly scared. She'd heard what had happened to the two Princes, was terrified their fate would become hers. She didn't completely understand the concept of death or what it was, but in the society in which she grew up in, death was a common occurrence, especially in new-born babies and the elderly, so even in her two years, she'd come to realise that it was not something to be embraced. The end of everything. Or... something like that.
She turned her head to the open window and sighed, wishing she could go outside to get some fresh air - she did not like being cooped up when she wanted to go outside, but Hans had specifically requested that she remained in the castle, and did not even go out to the courtyard. Supposedly the deaths of his two brothers had been caused by magic, and he later went on to state that there was 'overwhelming evidence' that it had been Queen Elsa who had orchestrated the scheme.
Mia didn't quite understand what Hans had said - 'overwhelming' was too big a word for her to have learnt yet - but she knew that whatever it meant, her aunt was being blamed.
And though it didn't register in her brain, she knew, deep down, that it was just a plot to make her angry at the Queen.
She slowly walked over to the window and pushed her head out as far as she could, without actually falling out of the window, and began to cry. She rested her head on her hands as the tears rolled down her cheeks in waves, splashing on the oak window frame and making small puddles there of salty water.
She clenched her fingers into a fist and released them again, something which had grown into being a habit brought about when she was angry or stressed, a way of release, and a small snowflake burst forth from her palm, hovering in the space next to her, frozen in place but softly, slowly, spinning.
A gentle bird song blew across on the breeze and reached Mia's ears, and the sweet lullaby soothed her, dried her tears, and she looked up, watching as a small bluebird fed her chicks in a nearby nest. The princess sighed at the happy family of animals, and she so wished they would come closer.
Without even realising it, Mia's hand slowly flicked upwards, and the little snowflake, as if following an order, went in the same direction, landing upon the bird's head and melting. The bluebird appeared dazed for a moment, then turned to face Mia and flew over quickly, settling on the window sill and letting out a few whistled notes in greeting.
It was then, as Mis felt her body go numb and heavy from sudden tiredness, she remembered her other power of mind control, and smiled weakly, before her legs gave way and she had to crawl over to the bed to rest.
The bird fluttered over, and Mia felt her energy being sapped with every passing second. She could feel a connection between her mind and the blue bird's, but it was growing ever weaker, until finally, the creature shook its head and shot off.
Mia watched the bird leave, and she understood that she wasn't strong enough to control it for long, yet she knew this other power was her only means of escape.
She sighed, as she rested her head into the pillows, and fell into a fatigued sleep.
Elsa awoke slowly, her heavy eyes fluttering open, and the bright light shocked her. Smoothing her loose hair back away from her face, she sat up, and slowly began to try and get up, hating how her hair fell around her face when it was down, much preferring the more comfortable feeling of having it up in it's usual messy plait, which was her signature hair-style.
The door creaked open, and Ida stood there, who had been serving as the Queen's personal maid for the journey. Though Elsa had, at first, said that there was no need for anyone else to come along - she didn't want to endanger anyone else's life for her own comfort. Still, Ida had insisted that she would come along, claiming that 'the sea air would do her good', although in truth, it was much more likely that she wanted to find her son just as much as the young Queen.
"Oh, your Majesty!" She cried, and quickly rushed over to usher Elsa back into her bed, looking as if she had almost had a heart attack. Ever since the death of her daughter, Ida had been especially caring towards the Queen and her sister, and it was nice for both of them, having someone looking over them as a mother after so many years of being orphaned. Even if Anna was a mother herself now and Elsa would be soon, it was still nice.
"Your Majesty, you really must get back into bed! You'll catch your death of a cold!" Ida hurried around Elsa, fussing, forcing the Queen back under the covers with a hot water bottle safely nestled there. "Please, your Highness. You need to rest and get your strength back up - you spent so long in the sea trying to rescue the young man yesterday, you passed out just as soon as we were able to rescue you."
With a shock, Elsa remembered the previous day's events, and she sat up straighter, though Ida was quick to push her back down. "The... the boy... did he make it?"
Ida looked at Elsa sadly. "We aren't sure, your Majesty. The captain regrets not seeing him fall overboard, if he does live he'll be in your debt completely. However, he was in the water longer than yourself, and does not have your good fortune of not feeling the cold. He was freezing when we got the two of you back onto the ship, and he'd already passed out from exhaustion, and was nearly in a coma - a minute or so more, and we fear he would be."
Elsa gasped, feeling guilty that she hadn't acted sooner, that she hadn't tried harder to get the man to safety. "So... so how is he now?" She urged, though she feared knowing the truth. Ida looked unsure.
"We don't know whether he'll pull through. He's on the edge of a coma, and he's in a very unstable condition. If he is strong, hopefully he'll get better eventually, though he is so weak after the ordeal, and needs so much energy to recover, we really are on tenterhooks. He's barely staying out of a coma as it is, but the longer he remains as he is, the less chance there is of his recovery."
Elsa lay down, feeling so very guilty.
"This is not your fault, your Majesty." Ida said, noticing Elsa's expressions, but no number of reassurances could convince the Queen that this was not brought about by herself. "The doctor is doing everything he can for the young man, and though he is still dangerously close to falling into a coma, we do believe he may be a little better... perhaps. All we can do for now is hope, really - we're keeping him as warm as we can, and we've been trying our best to get some food into his system, though it is not easy. There's nothing more we can do now, except pray for him and monitor his progress constantly."
Elsa sighed, and buried her head in her hands. "I understand." She said, her voice shaking - even though she did not know the young man personally, she felt so bad about all of this. "Please tell the doctor that if the man pulls through, I'll give him a pay rise." She said, hoping that the prospect of extra money would encourage the doctor to work harder to keep the boy alive.
Ida nodded, and slowly began to leave the room in search of the Doctor. Elsa watched her depart as she pulled her hair into a loose ponytail, and suddenly, something occurred to her.
"Wait, Ida!" She called out, before the woman reached the door. Her mind drifted to the small kick her child had given her, his or her first kick, and she felt both happiness and dread. "One last thing... is my baby okay?"
Ida smiled at the Queen warmly. "I'd say you've got yourself a little fighter there, your majesty." She commented, before curtseying, and leaving the room.
Elsa smiled in relief, and slid further under the covers, snuggling in and trying to forget everything that was going on, focusing solely on the little baby growing inside of her.
Her and Odd's baby.
She felt a little flutter in her stomach, and a soft nudge against her abdomen as the ship rocked over a large wave. Elsa smiled softly, her mind distracted from the events of recent, and she placed her hand on her rounded stomach, rubbing it in circles, softly crooning to herself.
"You get seasick too, huh, baby?" She whispered, glad that her own sea-sickness had subsided for now. "Haha, just hang in there. You'll get to meet Daddy really soon, and won't that be nice."
Elsa's mind drifted to Odd and her niece as she felt herself falling into sleep. You hang in there too, Daddy. We'll get you and little Mia home in no time.
Ayla grinned at Hans, and though her body was aching from both her magical fatigue, and as a result of their recent actions, she couldn't quite feel the nagging feeling above the excited pounding of her heart, the blood flowing through her veins reviving her.
The Prince returned her grin, looking pleased with himself, before he sighed, and relaxed.
"So, now that your brothers are out of the way, what happens?" Ayla asked eventually, as her heart rate returned to normal, and she went back to sit in her chair, starting to feel the aches.
Hans thought for a moment, smiling. "Well, now that they are out of the picture, and can't argue against our plans anymore, I say we progress onto the next stage. No doubt, the rest of my family will be too numb anyway to argue, and if we can convince them that the deaths are connected somehow to Arendelle, they'll have extra reason to support us. Bjørn's death made a great foundation, but this will really have pushed them over the edge." He paused again. "No one else knows of your powers, aside from the young Princess, I believe, so no one will blame you. And as Arendelle already has a history of magic, courtesy of Queen Elsa, it will be believable that my brothers' deaths were caused by an Arendellian Sorcerer."
Ayla nodded. "That's a fair point. As long as we can convince people their deaths were of magical origin, then it shouldn't be hard to get them to support our cause." She smiled, "So, like I said before, what happens now?"
"We attack Arendelle."