The Eastern Plains
The sun began to set behind some clouds, and the day started to get dark. Despite the failing light, Kristoff drove on, into the twilight, changing directions now and then. They drove over low hills and into shallow valleys. There were no trees, only the occasional snow covered bush. The wind whipped around them, blowing snow across the ground.
“I think we have gone far enough,” Kristoff said. “It’s getting too dark to see in any case.”
“How about the lantern?” asked Anna.
“We’re not going to use the lantern. Or have a fire. We’re trying to hide. There’s some light, we should have enough to set up the tent.”
“If we’re going camp here with no fire, it’s going to get cold.” Anna turned to Gerda. “How are you doing? Are you alright?”
Gerda nodded, looking scared and remaining quiet.
Kristoff stepped off the sled. “We need to get the tent up. We’ll put it here, downwind of the sled, where we’ll get some protection.”
Gerda climbed off and took a few steps into the darkness.
“Oh, Gerda, be careful. Stay with us.” Anna looked around. “It’s so dark. I wish we had an aurora tonight.”
“I’m glad there isn’t one,” replied Kristoff. “The light would make it easier to find us. No moon either. It’s close to a new moon, so it won’t rise until a little before dawn.”
Sven gave a snort, turned to the side, and lowered his head.
“What is it?” Kristoff moved to Sven’s side and looked the direction his reindeer pointed. In the distance he saw dimly glowing eyes. “Wolves,” he said, apprehensively.
Anna looked at Kristoff, then to Gerda. She moved to Gerda’s side, ready to protect her. Gerda had other ideas.
“Wolfies!” she cried, and ran into the darkness directly at the wolves.
Kristoff and Anna called together as they ran after her. Then, Anna put her hand against Kristoff’s chest. “Let me. Remember, she said she has been sleeping with wolves.”
Anna walked forward, into the darkness, and soon found Gerda. She had stopped well before the wolves, confused, looking back and forth between them and Anna. Anna knelt so Gerda could see her in the dying light.
“Gerda, wolves can be dangerous.” Anna said.
“Not these. They’re my friends. See how nice he is?” Gerda pointed to a wolf. Anna had not heard him approach. The wolf looked at Anna from a mere two feet away, calmly regarding her with large eyes.
Anna momentarily froze in place, taking a moment to get control of her fear. “Why, he’s sort of like a big dog.”
The wolf gave a low growl. “Don’t call him that! He’s a wolf!” scolded Gerda.
“Right. I’m sorry. But, what about Sven? Reindeer and wolves don’t get along.”
An uncertain look crossed Gerda’s face. She looked at the wolf, and then ran off toward Sven, leaving Anna alone. She watched Gerda run off before turning back to the wolf, seeing his nose now inches from her own. “Please don’t eat me,” Anna asked quietly.
Gerda ran to Sven and looked at him for a few seconds. “He says he’ll be good if the wolves are good,” she called back to Anna.
Anna carefully stood and walked back to Kristoff. “It looks like we’re sleeping with wolves tonight.” Kristoff could do nothing more than lower and shake his head, before going back to pitching the tent.
“If we can’t have a fire, we’ll have to eat a cold meal,” Anna said as she looked through their supplies. “I think we recovered some cheese and bread.”
“That should get us through the night,” replied Kristoff, warily eyeing the wolf pack as they came forward. Soon five wolves were roaming about the campsite. Sven appeared to accept the wolves as he lowered himself to the ground to sleep. A wolf lay down beside him.
“The tent’s up. Gerda, you should sleep between us. It will help keep you warm.”
Gerda ducked and crawled into the tent. Anna followed, carrying a bag a food along with every blanket and warm item of clothing she could find. Finally, Kristoff entered.
Anna spread a few blankets on the floor and they all got settled, barely able to see each other. Anna began passing food to everyone when a wolf poked his head into the tent. Gerda reached to him and petted his head. “Isn’t he nice?” Then to the wolf: “You can sleep over here.”
The wolf moved to the side of the tent and lay there. A moment later a second entered and settled on the other side of the tent.
After they had all finished eating, Anna and Kristoff lay on the blankets facing each other, their backs to the wolves, with Gerda between them, additional blankets covering them all. Gerda reached across Anna and patted a wolf. “Goodnight, Wolfie.”
Hours later, movement startled Anna awake. The wolf at her back had risen to his feet, and made a low growl. Suddenly, he ran from the tent. The other wolf quickly followed.
“What’s happening?” Gerda asked, sounding sleepy.
“Quiet!” came Kristoff’s tense reply. “Listen.”
The three froze, listening, seeing nothing in the total darkness of the tent. In the distance, a wolf snarled. Then they heard a sound like men yelling at each other. Anna felt about in the dark, found Gerda’s hand, and held on tightly.
They heard more yelling, more snarling, and then a pause. Suddenly, the wolves all started howling. Minutes later, the two wolves returned to the tent, entered, and laid down as though nothing had happened.
“Good Wolfie,” said Gerda. She rolled over and fell asleep.
Near dawn, Anna awoke a second time. Dim light bled into the tent. She stuck her head outside to have a look. The eastern sky had a deep blue color, with a thin crescent moon positioned above the horizon. The light she had seen in the tent did not come from the dawn; it came from above. She looked up, into a green glowing curtain, slowly curling across the sky. She ducked back into the tent.
“Gerda, come look,” Anna whispered.
Gerda awoke, and followed Anna, poking her head out into the cold.
“The sky’s awake,” whispered Anna.
“Ooooooh,” Gerda exclaimed.
After Anna grabbed some blankets, the two lay on their backs with their heads outside the tent, watching as the aurora slowly faded in the growing light of day.
Kristoff awoke with the rising sun. “You two are already up?’ he asked.
“We have been watching the aurora,” replied Gerda.
Kristoff smiled at Gerda. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Gerda nodded enthusiastically.
Kristoff left the tent and walked to where Sven stood. “Look, I’ve cleared off some snow. Nice work with those antlers, buddy. Have some grass and moss. Looks delicious, but I think I’ll gather some wood and cook people food.” Sven looked disappointed. “For them. I’m sure you understand.” Kristoff pointed to the two women. Gerda giggled while she watched Kristoff and Sven having a ‘conversation’.
Kristoff found sufficient branches to make a small fire to cook some food. They had a warm breakfast, much better than last night’s dinner.
“You’re not worried about the smoke?” asked Anna between bites of a meatcake.
“I think we’ve seen the last of those robbers. I bet they believe we were eaten by the wolves.” Kristoff passed a bowl of oatmeal to Gerda.
“All the wolves appear to have left. The two in the tent left right after we started watching the aurora.”
“I never thought of wolves as friends. I’m sure glad we had them here last night.” Kristoff paused, then turned to Gerda. “Thank you for having your friends guard us.”
“You’re welcome. They’re good wolfies. They scared away the bad men,” Gerda replied.
Soon after they finished eating, they broke camp and loaded the sled. Their adventure with the robbers had forced them north of the road they had been following, so Kristoff drove them southeast, hoping to intercept the road close to their goal. By mid morning they had regained the road. Half an hour later, they saw a round, hut-like building in the distance. Thatched roofing extended past the walls into eaves that ended a few feet above the ground.
“Do you suppose that’s it?” asked Kristoff.
“It’s in the right place. We are where Pabbie’s directions said we would find Finnoa.”
Kristoff stopped Sven several feet away from the building.
“How do you suppose we get in?” Kristoff asked.
“Let’s look around,” Anna said, as she stepped off the sled started circling the hut. About half way around she called out. “Over here!”
The three gathered at the entrance. Steps lead down several feet to a landing and a door. Oddly, none of the steps, or the landing at the bottom, had any snow on them.
Kristoff motioned to Anna. “Be my guest.”
“Why am I always the one to knock on the mysterious doors?”
“Because you’re so good at it.”
Anna gave him a dirty look, turned, and descended the steps.
“And, because you’re a princess,” Kristoff added.
“Hello?” Anna called, knocking on the door.
A deep woman’s voice answered from within. “Now who is calling at my door?”
“I’m Princess Anna. We’re looking for someone named Finnoa.”
After a few seconds the door opened. “You have found her. Quickly, come inside, out of the cold.”
Anna, followed by Gerda and Kristoff, entered a large, circular room, decorated in a manner they had never seen. Blankets with odd, multi-colored angular patterns adorned the walls. On another section of the wall, a strange carved wooden mask, thin and tall, looked at them with empty eyes. The room was warm, almost too warm. Finnoa had dressed for the heat. Barefoot, she wore a short skirt and a shirt cut off to reveal her midriff. A tall woman, a little taller than Kristoff, she had short, black, tightly curled hair, with skin the color of fertile earth. She carried herself with the regal poise Anna recognized, one both she and Elsa had been trained to have.
“Whoa, hot in here,” remarked Kristoff. He looked around, but saw no fireplace, or any other method for heating the room, other than a few candles, which provided the room’s only light.
“It’s how Finnoa likes it. The warmth reminds me of home,” said Finnoa.
“You must have come form the south, the far south,” replied Anna.
“Yes. In my homeland, the snow never falls except on the tops of the tallest mountains. The days are always hot, the nights warm. At mid-day the sun is always near the top of the sky.”
“You’re far from home. Do you mind my asking why?”
“Sometimes you must travel far to find yourself. Now, what brings you to Finnoa?”
“Pabbie told us to come here. He said you could help us.”
“Pabbie? I know of no Pabbie.”
“Well, he’s a troll,” Anna said, uncertain as to how Finnoa would take it.
“A troll! Now that is a strange one. Why would a troll send you to see me?”
Gerda had been patient as long as she could stand. She ran forward. “You have to help Kai. Something is wrong with him, and the Snow Queen has kidnapped him. He’s my best friend and you have to help him.”
Finnoa kneeled, her face breaking into a smile. “Now who is this?”
“What a wonderful little girl you are! What of this Kai, who is he? What happened to him?”
“We’re not quite sure what’s wrong with him,” replied Anna. “He lived in Cliffdale . . .”
Finnoa stood and paced across the room. “Cliffdale! I have heard of the trouble there. Some bad magic has befallen that village.”
“We were hoping you could help us cure Kai, and maybe the entire village.”
Finnoa stopped and faced Anna. “I cannot help you.”
“What?” Anna said, shocked.
“You must!” exclaimed Gerda. “Kai is my best friend in all the world!”
“You do not need me. You already have all you need,” Finnoa said.
“We do?” Anna looked at Kristoff, who looked equally confused.
Finnoa walked back to Gerda, kneeling and placing a hand on her head. “This wonderful child. Have you not noticed her Power? Wherever she goes, people, animals, and even the plants will help her. She has all that is needed to cure her friend.”
“But how?” asked Gerda.
“Go to him, do what feels right.”
“But how do I get him away from the Snow Queen?”
“Don’t worry about that, Gerda,” answered Anna. “I can take care of her. But what about the village?” Anna asked Finnoa.
“That you must find for yourselves.” Facing Gerda, she continued. “Now your friend needs you. You had best be on your way. Finnoa bids you good travels.”
Anna bowed to Finnoa. “Thank you.”
The three climbed the stairs, into the cold wind and snow.
“What a relief! It was too hot in there. Now I know what Elsa means when she says the cold is refreshing,” said Anna.
“Who’s Elsa?” asked Gerda.
Anna felt a little embarrassed, and worried, that she let Elsa’s name slip. “She’s my sister,” she replied. “You will meet her soon.”
“You have a sister? Is she a princess too?”
“She used to be a princess. Now she’s the Queen.”
Gerda looked at the sky for a moment, then back to Anna. “Can we go find Kai now?”
“Yes, we can. That’s where we will go next.”
“Good. We got to go north, to the Snow Queen’s ice palace.”
“Actually, her ice palace is to the west of here.”
“How would you know?”
“Well, it’s close to where I live. I’ve seen it.”
“Gerda’s face lit up. “Really? You know where to go? Yay! Kai, we’re coming for you!”
Kristoff moved to Anna’s side, speaking softly. “We will need to do a minor a detour to the south. I want to go back a different way.”
“To avoid the robbers?” Anna asked.
“Yes. It will add a day to our trip, but I don’t want to have to deal with them again.”
Anna looked at their supplies. “An extra day? Do we have sufficient food?”
“I think we have enough. There’s a lot of food in the forest, if you know where to look. We should be fine.”
A few minutes later, Kristoff asked, “How do you suppose Finnoa kept her home so warm?”
“Maybe that’s part of her Power.”
“All these people with Powers, it’s beginning to make me feel inadequate.”
Anna put her arm around Kristoff. “Trust me, you’re anything but inadequate.”
Later, when Gerda had fallen asleep, Kristoff whispered to Anna, “Do you think her power effected us?” He nodded toward the rear of the sled, indicating Gerda. “Maybe we picked her up and helped her because she made us do it?”
“Do you really think you need persuasion to help a child who’s alone in the forest? What was that you said, the hospitality of the mountains?”
“I guess not. But I think it may have been part of the reason why Ursla let her go.”
“I’ve been thinking the same thing,” Anna said, thoughtfully.
“You know, you’re going to have to tell her about Elsa eventually.”
“I know, I know. Let’s get her to Kai first.”