Five days had passed since Anna left on her quest. Once or twice a day, Elsa had rode to the ice palace to visit Kai. Although he appeared to like seeing her, he grew more and more sullen, doing little more than pushing about the puzzle blocks she made for him. Every day, he sank farther into darkness. Elsa could feel his despair. She had come to care for this child, and her heart broke to see him so afflicted.
Today she could take no more. She had to try, one more time, to cure him. She rode to Overlook, hoping her Power could melt whatever had frozen his spirit, yet apprehensive at what might happen when she tried.
She dismounted at the top of the road, beside the two Royal Guardsmen stationed there. As she walked to the palace entrance, she gave orders to the two snow monsters, having them move back to the road and stand with the guardsmen. The two guardsmen watched them approach, and then edged closer to the road back to Arendelle.
On entering the great hall, she saw Olaf’s body once again scattered about the room. “Kai, Kai, Kai. Please don’t hurt Olaf.”
“Why not? He’s just a dirty pile of snow.”
“He’s my friend.”
Kai looked back to his puzzles. She noticed he had actually succeeded solving one, the first in two days. Turning from him, Elsa gestured at the snow debris. Power swirled as she brought Olaf back together.
“Oh! Out of body experience!” Olaf said in a singsong voice. “I was a little butterfly, flitting about the mountains.” He slowly spun about, waving his twig arms.
“Olaf, could you go outside for a bit? Move away, back to where you see Marshmallow and Snowflake standing.”
She waited for the little snowman to get clear, then kneeled in front of Kai.
“Come here, let me see you.” Kai stood and let Elsa hug him. Elsa thought about Anna, her people, and how every child, including this one, deserved love. Power flowed about them, and through them, engulfing the two in light. The effect grew until light filled the palace and beyond. A swirling glow enveloped the entire hilltop. After a few minutes, Elsa allowed her Power to dissipate, and released Kai.
The ice palace had been swept away by the flow of Power. Greenery covered the hillside, a riot of summer growth. Kai looked about in wonderment. Elsa sat back in the flowers, smiling as he picked one. He’s better. I’ve cured him, she thought, her hopes fulfilled.
Then she watched, horrified, as he tore the flower to shreds. Kai threw the pieces to the ground and began to stomp on them. “Die! Die you bug-ridden piece of rot!”
Elsa closed her eyes and felt herself sinking into the darkness. She lowered her head, as a tear started to well in her eye, realizing her efforts had done nothing. She fought it back, wanting to remain strong for Kai.
Upon hearing the ripping sound of plants being torn to bits, her heart sank farther. She forced her eyes open, and saw Kai had found a stick, and was swinging it repeatedly at a rose bush. Once the plant had been shredded, he wandered to the cliff’s edge, and looked down.
“Can we go now? I want to go to that ugly little village. You can crush it with ice, and then I can set fire to it. We can destroy everything.”
With difficulty, Elsa stood, her hands trembling. I cannot let him go, not yet. I have to find an excuse, she thought.
“Snow Queen? Are you all right?” Kai asked, coming forward a few steps.
Elsa forced a smile. “I’m fine.” Somehow she kept her voice steady. “No, we cannot leave quite yet, you still need to do one thing for me.”
“What?” he said, returning to Elsa.
“Close your eyes.”
Elsa held the child for a long time, fighting back the tears, resisting what she had to do. Eventually she raised her right leg and brought her foot down sharply. A new ice sheet formed, from which she made a new structure, much smaller than the ice palace, consisting of six simple walls with slit windows, and a main door at the top of the stairs.
Elsa released Kai. He looked about the small icy cell. “What do I have to do?”
“Solve one last puzzle for me,” she said weakly, trying to hide her feelings. With a trembling hand, Elsa created a new set of ice blocks, the most complex she could. “Arrange those to spell out a word.” Let him choose the word, she thought. Make that part of the puzzle.
“You’re a clever boy, you’ll figure it out.”
“I know! ‘Eternity.’ Once the blocks spell ‘eternity’ then I can leave and we will be together, for eternity.
“Yes, that’s right,” she lied. “I know you can do it.” She felt like everything was crashing down about her.
“Once I do, we can go back to that ugly village where I use to live, and together, we can destroy it.”
As he spoke, Kai wrapped his arms around himself, and began to shiver. Elsa suddenly realized her attempt to cure Kai did have one result; her Power had undone the effects from the two kisses she had given him. He once again was affected by the cold and could remember his home. Horrified, she realized she would have to do it again, kiss him to numb his sensitivity to cold and his memory of home and family one more time.
Her mind searched for some way out. Maybe I should take him to the castle. Maybe just take him home. But every option appeared worse. With her heart breaking, knowing the harm she could do, she stooped, and kissed Kai once on the cheek, and once on the head.
“Now, see if you can solve your puzzle for me,” she said.
Kai played with the blocks for a few minutes, and then sank back, pushing them about seemingly at random. Elsa watched him as despair closed around her. She saw Kai had sunk so deep, he could not concentrate on anything, even a task he wanted to do, to get a goal he wished to have. The only thing he seemed able to focus on was destroying anything he saw as ugly.
Elsa walked out of the ice prison, and closed the door. She stopped for a moment, thinking about how she had not only failed, again, but had deceived a child, given him an impossible task, and locked him away in a prison of ice.
She motioned for Marshmallow and Snowflake to come forward. “No one enters or leaves, except for Olaf and myself,” she ordered, her voice sounding hollow and empty. Obeying, the two snow monsters stationed themselves on either side of the door.
Elsa slowly walked down the icy stairs while looking at her hands, her powerful, powerless hands. When she reached the ground, she sat on the bottom-most step, lowered her head, and wept.