On the afternoon of the second day of their trip, Anna began to get worried. The weather had turned, and snow started falling around noon. As the afternoon wore on, the snow began to get heavier, and the wind picked up.
“We need a place to stay. We cannot be out in this all night.” Anna commented.
“We can if we have to. Even though I have a fairly good tent, I’d prefer to find something else,” answered Kristoff.
“There’re no more inns?”
“I knew about the one we stayed at last night, but I don’t come this way very often. I’m not sure what’s out here.”
“What about that?” Anna asked, pointing off the road to a small shack.
“Sven, over there!” Kristoff called to his reindeer, who pulled the sled off the road. A few moments later, they pulled to a stop near the small building.
“Do you think anyone’s home?”
“I don’t see any smoke. It looks empty. Let me check.” Kristoff stepped off the sled and walked to the door. “Hello? Anyone in there?” After knocking and waiting for a bit, he opened the door and looked in. “Looks like no one is here. Shall we unload?”
“Wait a minute. We cannot simply barge into someone’s home.”
“Hospitality of the mountains,” said Kristoff off-handedly.
“I’ve never heard of that.” Anna stepped off the sled, came to the door, and looked into the small, one-room cabin.
“It’s sort of an unwritten law. Here in the mountains, the weather can turn bad in a moment. It can be dangerous to not have shelter. So most everyone allows travelers into their homes as a matter of course, whether they’re home or not.”
“Well, if that’s the custom.” Anna walked back to the sled and grabbed a bag.
“It’s more than that. We need to take good care of the place. Leave it in better shape than we found it, if we can. For example, here the owner has a small wood supply. I’ll cut some, more than we need, and leave him the extra. First, let me take care of Sven. While I do that, would you like to start dinner?”
“Sure. How do I do that?”
Kristoff stopped unhitching Sven and looked at Anna. “You don’t know how to cook?”
“Why should I know how to cook? I’m a princess. I live in a castle filled with servants.”
Kristoff looked at Sven, who looked at Kristoff, both sharing the same expression. “Duh, you were expecting something else?” Kristoff said, speaking for his reindeer in a low tone. Then to Anna: “I can teach you.”
Anna shrugged and smiled.
“I’ll start on the wood. You keep unloading and get a fire started.”
That evening, Anna learned how to cut meat and vegetables to make a simple stew. They had brought a few spices, so Kristoff showed her how much to use and how to adjust for taste. After eating, Kristoff played some music on his lute. The two sang and laughed. Outside they could hear the storm winds whistling through the pine trees. “Will Sven be alright out there?” Anna asked.
“Sure. He’s a reindeer. They normally live outdoors in all sorts of weather.”
By morning the snow had stopped and the wind had begun to die down. Low clouds drifted across the sky, bits of blue showing through here and there. Several inches of new snow promised easy going for the sled. After they had packed, Kristoff walked around the cabin, making sure they had left everything in good shape.
“We should leave the mountains today,” Kristoff commented. “If we have to camp, I would prefer to do so in the foothills, where we can get some protection from the wind, rather than the eastern plains.”
“You don't think we can find another inn? Or at least a cabin?”
“Out here? Almost no one lives out here. The only people found here are a few trading caravans and travelers.”
“Wait, stop the sled,” Anna pointed to where the ground slopped upwards from the right roadside, at something sparkling in the sun.
“So, Pabbie has you collecting crystals too? Oh, and good eye.”
“Actually, I asked what I could do for him. We keep asking for his help. I wanted to do something in return.”
Kristoff reached into the back of the sled and retrieved his ice axe, walked to the slope and collected the rocks.
“I’m not sure why Pabbie wants them. They don’t glow,” wondered Anna.
“They do something to make them glow, I’ve never seen what,” replied Kristoff as he stowed the crystals. Soon, they were on their way.
The road wound through the terrain, mostly downhill. Suddenly, Anna saw some movement ahead.
“What was that?” she asked.
“I don’t know. It went behind that tree. Whoa, Sven.” Kristoff then called out, “Hello? Anyone there?”
The head of a small girl poked out from behind a tree, the wind blowing through her curly, golden hair.
“What’s a child doing out here?” asked Anna. Then louder, “Are you alright? You can come out.”
The girl took a step into view, keeping one hand on the tree, ready to dart back. Anna climbed off the sled and slowly walked forward, to a few feet in front of Sven. Then she knelt.
“Hi. I’m Anna. Who are you?”
Anna examined Gerda. She had cloth-wrapped feet and wore dirty clothes. Other than that, she wasn’t in bad shape.
“Hello, Gerda. What are you doing out here? Where are your parents?”
“They’re home. They would not come with me.”
“You’re out here all alone?”
“You shouldn’t be out alone. Would you like to come with us?”
Gerda retreated behind the tree, leaving part of her head and one eye visible, then looked at Sven. She held his gaze for a moment, and then came out and ran forward. Anna raised her arms to receive her, but Gerda ran on past, to Sven instead, placing a hand on either side of the reindeer’s head. They regarded each other for several seconds.
“Sven says you are nice people, and I should come with you.” Gerda looked at Kristoff. “You do not look much like a prince.”
“What?” Anna stood up. She cast Kristoff a confused look. “How? What? How do you know his name is Sven?”
“He told me, silly,” Gerda replied, smiling.
Anna and Kristoff cast another confused look at each other.
“You can talk to him?” asked Kristoff.
Gerda nodded back.
Anna stood, looking at Gerda, confused. “If you’re going to come with us, you better get on the sled.” She took Gerda’s hand, and led her to the front seat. Gerda climbed into the sled, and sat between Anna and Kristoff.
“You’re going the wrong way. We need to turn around.” Gerda stood on the seat and looked behind them.
“We’re going this way. We need to find someone,” said Kristoff.
“No! I need to go the other way!” Gerda began climbing over Anna, trying to get off the sled. Anna tried to hold on to her. “Let me go, I got to go find Kai and save him from the Snow Queen!” cried Gerda.
Anna froze, and then turned to Kristoff. They both sat there, starring at each other, mouths agape. Too many weird things were happening too fast. In their confusion, Gerda slipped free of Anna and made good her escape. She ran behind the sled and continued along the road.
Kristoff and Anna both rolled off the sled and surged after her. Kristoff reached her first, catching her with both hands at the waist and lifting her off the ground.
“Put me down!” Gerda demanded. Kristoff lowered her to the ground, while continuing to hold her. Anna caught up with them and took Gerda’s hand.
“You should not be wandering about by yourself through the mountains.”
“But I got to save Kai! He’s my best friend.” Gerda stopped struggling and began to cry.
“It will be alright. We’ll come back this way once we’re done. The woman we’re going to see might know something about your friend. She is supposed to be very wise.” Anna said in a gentle voice.
“Yes, of course.”
As Anna comforted her, she noticed something on the ground, where Gerda’s tears had fallen. A single rose bud started pushing through the snow. Within seconds the stem had grown to a few inches in height and the bud opened into a flower.
“What’s going on here?” Anna whispered to Kristoff. He just spread his hands and shrugged.
Gerda stooped and looked at the flower. Anna whispered, “Bet she talks to flowers too.”
“Oh, that would be silly,” Kristoff whispered back.
“This one does not know anything about Kai either,” said Gerda.
“Told you,” whispered Anna.
Anna turned back to the girl. “What did the rose say?”
“It said ‘Red was the color of the maiden’s lips. She worked as a serving girl in a tavern. One day a merchant came to the tavern, and gave her a rose. She smiled, and suddenly the tavern was filled with roses.’ But it does not know anything about Kai.”
Anna looked at Kristoff, confused, then back to Gerda. “That’s nice. But Gerda, please come back with us. We are going to see someone who might be able you help you find Kai.”
Gerda looked up at Anna. “Really? You would not be trying to fool me.”
“Really. I wouldn’t do that. Here we go, back in the sled.”
“It won’t be that hard to find Kai, after all the Snow Queen is . . . OW!” Kristoff rubbed his leg where Anna had just kicked him, then cast her a dirty look. Anna sent it right back and shook her head.
Soon they were back in the sled and on their way. Anna decided to let Gerda talk, asking as few questions as possible, as she was a very talkative child. Maybe she missed talking because she had been alone in the woods for several days.
“Gerda, how do you know Kai?” Anna asked.
“He lives in the house next to mine. Something happened to him a while ago. He got all mean. He said he did not like me anymore. Then one day his house started on fire. Everyone was screaming. I hid under my bed until they stopped. When I looked outside I saw Kai being taken away by the Snow Queen! When I tried to get my parents to help, they did not believe me. So I followed her myself.”
“That was really brave of you.”
“I had to! I had to save Kai. But I cannot find him.”
“You have been wandering around in the woods all this time? What did you eat? Where did you sleep?”
“The wolves let me sleep with them. They are all cute and fuzzy. They invite me into their den, and I curl up in their fur. When I want to eat the rabbits bring me berries.”
“How did you get here?”
Gerda put a finger to her mouth, thinking, remembering her trip. “Well, first I walked up into the mountains. It was a long way. Then I started back down and came to a river. The Snow Queen had to come that way, so I asked the river when she crossed, and if Kai was with her. The river would not answer. So I offered it my new red shoes. They are my most favorite shoes in the whole world. The river still did not answer, so I threw my shoes into it. The river pushed them back to me. I thought maybe I did not throw them far enough, even though I threw them as far as I could.
“Then I saw a little boat. I got in it, and went into the river and threw my shoes into the water. The river still did not tell me where Kai was. I tried to get back to shore but I could not figure out how. I drifted for hours. Then I drifted to an old lady on a crutch. She used her crutch to pull me to land.
“There was this little house there. It was where the old lady lived. She offered to take care of me. Could I have some water please?”
Anna reached around to the back of the sled, rummaged through the supplies, and found a water skin. “Here you go.”
Gerda took a sip, and then continued. “Thank you. The old lady took me into her house, and gave me some food. Then she let me go play in her back yard. It has all kinds of flowers. I asked them all if they knew where Kai was. None of them knew, all they did was tell me stories.”
“What sort of stories?”
“I found a buttercup and asked if it knew where Kai was. And it said, ‘The bright warm sun shone on a little yard on the first warm day of spring. His bright beams rested on the white walls of the neighboring house. Close by bloomed the first yellow flower of the season, glittering like gold in the sun’s warm ray. The old woman sat in her armchair at the house door, and her granddaughter, a poor and pretty servant-maid, came to see her for a short visit. When she kissed her grandmother, gold appeared everywhere. The gold of the heart was in that loving kiss. It was a golden morning. There was gold in the beaming sunlight, gold in the leaves of the lowly flower, and gold on the lips of the maiden.’ That was the story the buttercup told me. But that had nothing to do with Kai.”
“It’s a very pretty story”, Anna said encouragingly. “What did you do next?”
“None of the flowers knew where Kai was. I sat on the ground and started crying. A rose bush grew right where I sat. I asked it if it knew where Kai was. I thought it might know because roses are Kai’s and my favorite flower. The rose bush didn’t know anything either. It said the old woman had made it go into the ground, and Kai was not there. Because he was not in the ground, I knew that the Snow Queen must not have killed him. So I snuck out the back gate of the yard.
“I walked and walked. I did not know which way to go. Then I came to where another road went off from the road I was on. I did not know which way to go. I asked a crow sitting on a tree. He said I should go this way. He said I would meet a prince and a princess, if I went this way.”
“Is that why you thought I was a prince?” asked Kristoff.
“Yes, the crow told me. He said I should go this way, to find a prince and princess who would help me. He said they would have a golden carriage pulled by a dozen noble steeds.”
Gerda looked about the sled. “I guess you cannot always trust a crow. But you are a princess. I can tell,” she said to Anna.
“Hey, Sven, did you know you’re a noble steed?” Kristoff said as Sven looked back at him. “I’ve always known I’m a noble steed. That’s right, buddy, you are.”
“Well, we will help you. He was right about that,” Anna said to Gerda.
Gerda fell silent. Looking at her, Anna saw the girl’s eyes closing, and her head dropping. “Gerda, would you like to climb into the back of the sled and sleep?”
She nodded and stood on her seat. With Anna helping, she found her way to the rear of the sled, and lay amongst the bags of supplies.
They rode on, silently, for several minutes; until they were sure Gerda had fallen asleep. Then, Anna and Kristoff began talking in low tones.
“I cannot believe we found Gerda. What are the chances? She’s Kai’s friend and lived right there, when Elsa visited Cliffdale,” said Anna.
“I’m not sure that finding her had anything to do with chance,” answered Kristoff. “Pabbie sent us this way.”
“You think he knew Gerda would be here?”
“No. Well, not like that. It’s hard to explain. I lived with the trolls for several years while I grew up. I saw things like this several times. Pabbie would tell someone to go somewhere, or do something. Later, I would ask him what they would find. He always said he did not know, or something like ‘What they need’. I don’t think he knew of Gerda at all. What I do think is he knew we needed to come this way, because we would find something important, something we needed to find.”
“I wonder how Gerda is important,” Anna said thoughtfully. “Maybe we just needed to rescue her from wandering in the woods? But she has all these weird powers too.”
“Weird powers? You do remember who your sister is?”
“Why did you stop me from telling Gerda about Elsa?”
“Elsa recommended I don’t tell anyone who I am. Gerda is a very talkative little girl. I thought it best if we don’t tell her. Also, she might get scared off if she knew about Elsa.”
Hours later, they were descending the last few foothills. They could see the eastern plains stretching into the distance. As they were approaching one of the last stands of trees, Anna started getting sleepy herself. She slid across the seat to Kristoff, rested her head on his shoulder, and closed her eyes.