Walking onto the dock, Elsa saw Anna, standing near the bottom of the gangplank, talking to the ship’s captain.
“Elsa, are you sure about this?” Anna asked, looking worried.
“I’m sure,” Elsa replied, feeling some trepidation about taking the voyage. “I assume you have been talking to Captain Eric?”
“Yes. He assures me all will be well.”
“Our voyage will be short,” the Captain began. “We will never be far from shore, and there are several places we can anchor safely if we encounter foul weather. We best get going; King Ragnar’s ship is even now leaving the harbor.”
“Well, for good luck, I re-christened the ship,” said Anna.
Elsa looked at the side of the ship for the new name. “The Snowburst?”
“That’s right. Shall we give her the proper send off?” Anna smiled, extending her left hand.
Elsa smiled back, and took Anna’s hand in her right. The two sisters held their free hands a few inches from each other, forming a snowball between them. Once it grew large enough, they shot the ball upward, where it exploded into a snowy shower of white.
Elsa awoke to the ship’s gentle swaying. The motion had lessened since last night, so she guessed they had entered the fjord leading into Cliffdale. Sitting up, Elsa looked across the tiny room made available to her on the Snowburst. She had never before slept on a ship, experiencing its cramped living conditions.
Looking in the mirror, Elsa wondered, who am I today? The Queen of Arendelle, or the Snow Queen? Well, the village needed magical help, so I’ll be the Snow Queen. Then she remembered that her gifts from Anna were left at home. The tailored version of the ice gown was not on-board. The ship’s captain had recommended traveling light. She stood, concentrated, and with a gesture covered herself with a gown of blue-violet woven ice, keeping the cape shorter than normal, a concession to shipboard conditions. She had to wear her hair up to support her tiara crown, as Anna’s other gift, the ring-style crown, was also back at the castle. Her preparations were close to complete when there was a knock on her door.
“Your Majesty? We’re about to enter the harbor. We’ll be docking soon.”
“Very well,” Elsa responded to the sailor. “I’ll be ready shortly.”
After coming on deck, she looked about and saw a massive cliff rising from the sea on the ship’s port side, easily three times taller than the one east of Arendelle. The cliff top was partially visible through gaps in the low, grey clouds.
Captain Eric came beside Elsa. “That’s the cliff for which this village is named,” he said.
Elsa could see the cliff extended up the fjord, onto the land. To the cliff’s south stood the village. “The cliff protects the village and its harbor from the worst of the winter storms. That protection has allowed Cliffdale to build a large fishing fleet.”
“I can see all the fishing boats at anchor. The King said the men were not taking them out.”
“Yes. Something’s very wrong here. These waters are cursed.”
Soon, they were close enough to see a pier extending into the harbor, with a vessel alongside. Elsa recognized the King’s ship, already docked. Captain Eric started giving orders to his men, having them drop sails, lowering their speed as they approached.
When they were a few yards away, a single dockworker walked along the dock until he was abreast of the ship. A sailor threw him a line, which the dockworker took and wrapped around a cleat a few times in a sloppy manner. Even to Elsa his effort looked insufficient to properly secure the line.
“You there! Make that line fast!” ordered the first officer. The dockworker gave him an empty stare, then turned and walked away.
The first officer turned to the captain. “Sir?”
“Move us in and get some men on the pier to handle the lines,” ordered the captain. Slowly the crew eased the ship into position. Three sailors jumped ashore. One secured the first line, while others caught additional lines thrown to them from the ship. Together they made brought the ship to dock.
Two sailors lowered the gangplank into position allowing Elsa and the captain could disembark. Looking along the length of the pier, she could see King Ragnar and his entourage coming her way.
“Your Majesty, welcome to Cliffdale,” he said.
“Your Majesty, I’m happy to be here.”
The captain did not speak quite so cordially. “What’s going on with the dockworkers?”
“I must apologize. It appears that whatever is effecting my village has gotten worse in my absence.”
“My Queen, I think I had best stay with my ship,” Captain Eric said. He motioned to four sailors, having them come forward. “Will these men be sufficient for you?”
Elsa looked at her seamen and nodded.
The small group walked to the end of the pier and onto the main road into the village. Walking along the road, they saw some villagers moving about, slowly going about their tasks. Little conversation passed between them, and no laughter. Elsa looked around, seeing dreary brown buildings. No color greeted the eye. The snow from the storm a few days ago had been pushed to the roadsides, into piles of brownish grey sludge.
Elsa stopped, feeling something pressing on her spirit, draining away joy and beauty.
“Queen Elsa, before you said that your fear froze the land. What do you feel here?”
“Not fear, at least not much. I feel something else.”
“Different people describe the effects caused by the curse in different ways. Some say they feel hopeless, or despondent. Some lose the will do anything. Others see ugliness wherever they look. If fear froze the world, what thawed it out?”
“Love. The love I and my sister share, the love for my people and my land.”
“To me this feels like the spirit of my people has been frozen. Do you think you can help?”
Elsa pondered the situation for a few seconds. “I see nothing that makes your people unworthy of love.”
She closed her eyes, remembering back to the day she ended her winter, bringing back summer, and to the love she felt for her sister, whom had moments earlier shown the willingness to sacrifice her life to save Elsa’s.
Power began to gather around her. Elsa opened her eyes and raised her arms, spreading the Power throughout the village.
The air warmed. The low grey clouds began to clear, revealing a deep blue sky scattered with puffy white cumulus. A soft breeze blew across their faces. The flow of Power swept away the sludgy grey snow. A few scattered flowers poked their heads though cracks and around the buildings.
Elsa looked about at the transformed village. Dry, dusty buildings greeted her eye. If anything the village looked drearier than before. What flowers had bloomed had already started to wilt in the heat. Then she saw an old man coming toward where she and the others stood.
“What foolishness is all this?” he asked, as he scanned Elsa from head to foot. “Are you that Snow Queen? What have you done? It’s hot! I’m not dressed for hot. I’ll die of heat stoke because of you! Go home and leave us alone.” He walked on by, regarding the group with an expression of hatred. One of the King’s men started after the old man, intending apprehend him for being disrespectful to Royalty.
“Let him go,” Ragnar said. “He’s not responsible.”
King Ragnar and Elsa looked at each other, sharing a common thought. She had failed. She felt more hopelessness and despair descending upon her, wondering how much resulted from the curse, and how much was from her failure to help.
“That was quite an impressive display,” he said, diplomatically.
“But ineffective,” she replied, while continuing her survey of the streets, trying to find any benefit from her effort.
“Is there anything else you can do? Any other abilities?”
Elsa looked at the King, frustration showing through her poise. She opened her mouth to answer when one of her seamen saw something.
“Your Majesty? Smoke!” He exclaimed, pointing uphill, into the village.
“We better go see.” The King led the way with his men, Elsa, then her men following, uphill on the main road, and then left along another. On this street, the homes had been built quite close to each other, with barely any room between them. Many had planters mounted below their second story windows. On the right side of the road, smoke billowed from one home.
As she came to the burning home Elsa could see smoke coming from a second story window on the side of the house. Oddly, the planter there had been turned so that it formed a bridge to a window on the neighboring house. A young boy came running from the front door of the burning house. He ran down the steps and into the street, then turned toward it, backing away slowly.
“Burn you ugly old house!” he yelled. “Burn to the ground! And take everything else with you!”
Several men ran into the house carrying buckets. Elsa ran in after them. The air was not too bad. Most of the smoke was confined to the ceiling or flowing up the stairway. Elsa had to dodge two men returning with empty buckets before moving farther into the house. She continued until she found some drapes on fire. Elsa quickly smothered the flames in a spray of snow. She looked about the area, but could find nothing else burning.
On returning outside, Elsa saw two of the King’s men holding onto the boy. He struggled weakly, trying to escape their grip. Two others, a man and woman she had not seen before, stood in front of him. “Kai! Why did you do it?” she heard the woman say.
Elsa walked over. “What happened?”
“It’s our son . . . why, you’re the Snow Queen! We’re so sorry to trouble you. Our son has been very bad. This is the second time he has set fire to our house.”
“The second time?” asked King Ragnar.
“Yes, Your Majesty. He’s been very disobedient recently. We just do not know what to do with him.”
“When did this start?” asked the King.
“A little over three weeks ago,” answered Kai’s father.
Elsa and Ragnar exchanged a quick glance. “It’s the curse,” he said.
“You’re beautiful,” Elsa heard from the boy. She looked at him, seeing he had stopped struggling and stared up at her, almost in a trance.
“Why thank you,” she said, smiling while leaning forward a bit.
“I have never seen such darkness, such evil. I’ve never known it could be so lovely.”
Elsa’s smile vanished and her eyes grew wide. She straightened, taking a small step backwards.
“Kai, don’t say such things,” scolded his mother.
“Why not? Its true, you old hag.”
“Kai, stop that right now!” His father grabbed Kai’s arm, drawing him off to the side.
King Ragnar came close the Elsa. “This child seems to be more strongly affected than anyone else in the village,” he said quietly.
Kai started screaming, distracting Elsa. “Let me go! I don’t want you, I want the Snow Queen!”
Elsa turned back to the King. “There is something else I can do. I know some friends who might be able to help that child.”
“Who? Can you bring them here?”
“No, they’re trolls, and will not travel. I’d have to take Kai with me.”
Kai’s mother had overheard them. “Take my son with you? But you might be able to help? Please, anything. We want our son, our real son, back.”
“If you can cure the child, maybe you will learn how to save my village. Will you try?” asked Ragnar.
“I’m not sure I’ll be able to do anything. If you’re willing to let me take Kai with me, yes, I’ll try,” replied Elsa.
King Ragnar turned to Kai’s parents, seeing if they would approve. Both gave a nod, and Kai’s father released his hold on his son.
Now free, Kai ran forward and threw his arms around Elsa. After a moment, he backed off, looking into her face in wonder.
Kai’s father turned to his wife. “Shouldn’t one of us go with him?”
“I don’t know. I don’t want you to lose your job, and I have to take care of mother.”
Elsa overheard them. “I promise he will be well taken care of.”
“Well, if you’re sure,” Kai’s mother replied. Elsa saw relief in both parent’s faces. She guessed Kai had become such a trial that having someone else take care of him, even for a short time, would be welcome. She also wondered how much their decision was the result of whatever was affecting the village.
“Kai, would you like to come with me?” Elsa asked, as she offered Kai her hand.
“I’ll do anything for you,” he replied as he reached for her, taking her hand.
“If whatever is going on here is getting worse, I’d better leave immediately,” Elsa said to the King.
“Very well,” the King replied. “My men will escort you back to your ship. I hope that in the future you can visit under better circumstances, and stay to see my kingdom. Good luck and fair winds.”
Gerda crawled from under her bed. The screaming had stopped, and the smell of smoke had dissipated for the most part. Cautiously, she walked to the window and looked about. She saw a little smoke coming from Kai’s window, far less than earlier. Looking to the street, she saw several people walking away. One woman had white hair and wore a glacial blue dress, her cape adorned with snowflake patterns. She walked along the street, hand in hand with Kai. She must be the Snow Queen! The Snow Queen was taking Kai away!
Gerda ran downstairs to her parents. “Mommy! Daddy! Come quickly! Kai is being kidnapped by the Snow Queen!”
“Don’t be silly. The Snow Queen doesn’t kidnap people. She makes snow. And she doesn’t live here, she lives up north in her ice palace,” replied her mother.
“But I saw her. She was right outside. You have to come and see, to save Kai. He’s my best friend, and you have to save him!”
Her father started to stand. His will to move appeared to leave him before he got very far. “Do you want to go look?” he asked his wife, as he slumped back into his chair.
“Not really. Gerda, stop saying such silly things. Go to your room.”
Gerda looked at her parents, then turned, and ran back upstairs. She threw herself on her bed and began to cry. A few minutes later she realized what she had to do. She had to rescue Kai herself. She put on some warm clothes and her new red shoes. Sneaking past her parents, she slipped outside, onto the street.
Gerda looked toward the direction the Snow Queen had gone, seeing no one. Which way did she go? Gerda ran to the main road. Looking both ways, she could not find the Snow Queen. One direction led downhill to the docks, the other, uphill. Which way? She’s the Snow Queen, not the Sea Queen she thought. Gerda turned inland and started heading up the road.