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The Snow Queen and the FireHeart

By LeGrande_Grover

Fantasy / Adventure

MidWinters Ball


MidWinters Ball

The kingdom of Arendelle stood firmly in the grip of an icy winter, with the endlessly sterile sheets of white stretched out over the land, broken only the dark, frigid waters of the fjord. Just before MidWinter, the denizens of the kingdom were planning to celebrate the longest night of the year by filling the castle with light, laughter and cheer. It was the time of year when the sun barely rose in the sky and the night seemed to last forever, but despite the absence of sunlight, the town was alive with preparations for one of Arendelle's oldest traditions; the MidWinters Ball. In spite of its ancient heritage, it had been many years since the castle had been the center of the celebration, with that tragic past still spoken carefully against the chilly air, though now only as a memory to be forgotten as the people looked forward to their future under the lauded rule of their queen, Elsa. There would be a grand feast and lots of music, dancing and cheer. The formal ball was a masked affair, archaically to scare away the spirits that kept the night long and to bring the sun back to the kingdom. The traditions and superstitions of their kingdom dominated their preparations, some blatant and bold in the instruction of the younger generations that tagged along, with others unspoken, but revered.

In the heart of the town, Princess Anna had been running around as it transformed around her, overwhelmed with excitement at being able to once more join the celebrations that existed outside the castle walls. Her heart was light and a melody was at her lips as she twirled among the workers, trying to see every sight and absorb every joyful sensation of the day. For years, she had watched the town filled with songs and celebration, sometimes dancing alone in front of the windows to fight the loneliness born from locked doors and secrets. Those days had fallen behind her as castle doors were finally opened and she was eager to celebrate one of the most cherished traditions in the kingdom. Tagging along with her was Olaf, who had been in awe at the festivities, even with his beloved summer so far away.

"Look at all of the decorations! I can't believe they found flowers at this time of year. Ooo, grilled mackerel!" Anna cheered, walking around the bustling square where the residents were preparing, her hands moving nearly as quickly as her eyes while she poked and prodded every sign of the festivity she could find. Others sang around her as they worked, turning the entire town into a symphony of happiness, spurring her on in her own part in the homage to Arendelle's prosperity.

As she skipped along to the lively mood, she suddenly could hear the sound of a distant flute, injecting a lonely melody that stood out against the pulsing brightness of the town's song. The disparity between the two attitudes stalled her for a moment, making her look around for its source. While the melancholic tune rattled her embrace of the festivities, it had its own beauty and tale, something that made her want to find out where it was coming from, though she was unable to find anyone calling such a gray shade into the air.

Olaf was oblivious to the sedated song. "I know. Isn't it great? This will be the best party I've ever been to!" he remarked.

His reply made Anna lose the distant melody of the flute, and as she could no longer hear its decadent whine she shrugged and looked down to him with a smirk. "How many parties have you been to before?" she asked.

"None. Why?" Olaf replied.

She snickered at his remark and felt recharged by the atmosphere, jumping up to a lantern pole and looking out over the sea of people. "You're right. This will be the best party ever. The last one had some hiccups and kind of a lot of snow, but this time I'm sure everyone will have a great time. Especially Elsa," she said, imagining that even though her sister had been busy lately, she was secretly just as excited about the celebrations as Anna. Hopping down from the pole, she smiled impishly as her boots spun smoothly across the frozen cobblestones, her toe kicking through a careless drift of white powder. "I mean, we've already got the snow."

Olaf was busy rummaging through a half-built stall containing various bottles filled with colored liquids. They clanked together loudly as he tossed them between his twiggy fingers. "Oh oh! Look, Anna! I have the greatest idea," he called, taking out a small sheet of paper and rolling it into a cone, "We can put a scoop of snow in a paper cone, drip some of this sweet juice on it and people can eat it to stay warm!" The snowman presented the treat to her, which was simple but colorful and had a sweet, seductive smell.

When she took a bite, it didn't make her any warmer as expected, but it was tasty and brought a wide smile across her face. "It's delicious, Olaf. And it's just snow in a paper cone," she remarked.

"I call it Olaf's Super-Sweet Frozen Treat," he said proudly.

Anna smirked at the mouthful of a name and was about to suggest a catchier one when she happened to catch a glance of her sister, Queen Elsa, as she stood on the docks near the anchored ships in the fjord. As always, she was a stark contrast to the world around her, even in the winter. Where everyone wore thick fur coats and heavy boots, Elsa still wore an elegant blue dress that exposed her shoulders to the elements and her bright, platinum blonde hair seemed to glow even in the dim light of MidWinter. Since finding her was an added bonus to her stroll, Anna started to walk over to speak to her when she caught wind of the disagreement that was happening between the tall officer next to her and one of the ship captains, a flamboyantly dressed man that appeared to have his attention more on the radiant queen than the matter at hand. At a distance, she could only see how angry the royal officer was, and while Elsa appeared calm she obviously shared in his mood. Anna could tell it was no time to approach them, so she lingered behind some crates and strained to listen, munching mindlessly on Olaf's treat.

"Your Highness, surely one ship makes no difference in your big, impressive harbor. My men have sailed a thousand moonless nights through waters far more treacherous than these. If you'd just grant my request to disembark, I'd no longer be a burden on your exquisite shoulders," the captain cooed in a heavy accent, treading a fine line between roguish charm and inappropriate insult, especially as his eyes were laid lustfully across her bare skin.

Elsa remained cool, but the officer next to her was barely holding his anger back at the way he regarded his queen as nothing more than a tavern girl. "Impudent cur. Your request has been denied seven times already. To have the queen come down personally is more than a musty seadog like you deserves. Your ship may not depart until after…"

The captain suddenly shot him a glance, obviously not interested in the diversion while the infamous Snow Queen was standing right before him. "You interrupt me, sir, for I am speaking to your queen, not you. I bid you to bite your wagging tongue and allow this vision of elegance and beauty to speak on her own behalf," he spat, though his tone continued to build this mock reverence for her, while his eyes moved back to continue their irreverent worship.

The officer fumed, but Elsa's sudden step forward restrained him. "The harbor is closed until the end of MidWinter by tradition. You're welcome to join in the celebration with your crew and when the sun once more touches the Northern Tower, you may depart," she noted, not looking amused by his antics. Her immunity to his charm and her firm ruling didn't improve his mood.

"Your Highness, surely there is some kind of compromise that we…" he began, but a sharp glance from her silenced him. As innocuous as she appeared, there was a great pressure behind her eyes and the air itself seemed to chill with her glance. Something deep inside was warning him not to go too far in his actions.

"After MidWinter," she repeated coldly.

With the matter closed, she turned and began to walk away from him with her officer in tow, leaving the captain breathing puffs of vapor and wondering just how true the rumors were about her powers. The notoriety of the Snow Queen had stretched far outside of Arendelle's borders, propelling varying tales of viciousness and cruelty like tidal waves to the lands beyond. If she had frozen an entire kingdom, he imagined he was better off not seeing how far he could get with her, though some muddy laughter from the deck of his ship clued him into the attention of his crew, signaling that from their perspective, he had just been dressed down by nothing more than a pretty girl. On a ship where fear kept men in line, retreat like that was a dangerous thing.

He also remembered that he had a very good reason to make preparations to leave very soon.

His back stiffening, he suddenly regained his smug gait and threw his boot onto the mooring post that held his ship, nodding towards the frigid waters with his roguish smile back in full effect. "You may keep your celebrations of night and winter, m'lady. The Southern Seas beckon me, and I am set to go. You may never even know I was here," he said, intent upon defying her long after she returned to her castle.

By now, her officer was no longer content to simply speak to him and was going to deal with his insolence, but Elsa suddenly stopped, feeling her temper strained by the the man. It was aggravating when people took her courtesy for granted. She was the queen and gifted with extraordinary powers that didn't exist elsewhere.

Sometimes, she felt she had to remind people of that.

With an annoyed fire burning in her eyes, she slowly raised her hand out to her side, making all that watched her stall anxiously at her posture. With a simple flick of her wrist, a wave of ice surged up from the fjord and devoured the side of his ship, jilting the unimaginably heavy vessel to the side, creaking over wood and moor and reaching all the way to the dock, where even the captain's boot was locked to the post he arrogantly championed. The spectacle drew the attention of the people around the harbor, a mixture of amazement and fear rippling through the air as the ship finally creaked to a halt, listing and seized. The arrogant captain shrieked, trying desperately to pry his boot loose from the magical ice before looking to her with terror in his eyes.

He had just been personally introduced to the will of the Snow Queen.

Slowly lowering her hand back to its practiced place at her waist, Elsa turned her head cordially to him, her eyes filled with a mixture of warning and satisfaction. "After MidWinter," she repeated and then departed and headed back towards the castle, leaving even her officer looking after her with a sort of disturbed stare. Upon getting away from the harbor and heaving a sigh of relief, she tiredly rubbed her temple and tried to get the throbbing to go away, where she knew more bureaucracy and annoyances waited for her. More and more, she was feeling like people were going out of their way to irritate her, making these incidents of ice more common than before. The incident with the ship captain was just the latest in a flow that was starting to make the people whisper as she walked past them, though she could barely keep her mind from the man's ugly smile when he had spoken to her. She felt like she needed a warm bath.

"Ugh, what a pretentious man," she grumbled to herself just as Anna popped out from her hiding place, startling her.

"Wow, Elsa! What was that all about?" she asked, a ring of blue on her lips.

Elsa was happy to see her, but soon her dark mood came back as she looked back towards the frozen ship. She secretly enjoyed having its fate in her grasp. "It's nothing. A ship wanted to leave before MidWinter, so I was explaining to him why they couldn't," she replied. Seeing the crew of the ship trying to chip away at her ice with their swords improved her mood slightly, though the reasons behind it made her quiver, and she soon turned her attention to Anna as a way of getting away from that dark feeling.

"What is that? And why are your lips blue?" she asked.

Anna looked to her and licked a blue tongue out to try and clean her lips. "Uhm, Olaf's Super-Sweet Frozen Treat? It's really good! Want some?" she replied as she tilted the sweetened snow towards her.

"I named it!" Olaf chimed in with a hop.

Feeling a better mood come over her, Elsa smiled but raised her hands in defense to the offer. "It looks delicious, but no thanks. You enjoy," she declined. Anna shrugged and continued slurping at the treat, while Elsa sighed and looked around at her people preparing for the impending celebration. As the disturbance in the harbor faded, seeing the town bustling with activity replaced the pain in her head with a warmth in her heart that she never thought she could feel, especially when it was framed by the ice and snow of the winter, two things that had terrified her for so long. Her mood continued to thaw. "It's so nice to hear everyone singing and working to make MidWinter happen. So many times I listened to them from the castle, wanting to join them. It feels like a dream come true."

Anna was trying to wipe the blue color from her lips with the crumpled paper cone, but shared in her sister's sentiment. "I know. It'll be so much fun to have the Ball in the castle again," she agreed, "Oh! Have you found a mask for the Masquerade yet? I found a matching set for us."

Elsa found the idea very attractive, but shook her head with a sad smile. "The queen doesn't wear a mask. It's tradition. You'll have to wear one for the both of us," she explained.

"Oh, come on. You're the queen and everything. Just change the tradition. It'll be fun," Anna suggested.

Elsa frowned, moved by her interaction with the rude captain and echoing some of the recent words of her advisors. "No, we must hold to our traditions. The queen must be unmasked before her people," she explained, though she didn't understand it at all. Anna frowned as well, wishing that lately she could see more of the carefree Elsa that was not being bound down by the burdens of the throne. She also had expectations as a princess that she sometimes didn't agree with, but she felt she had no idea of what Elsa went through as she tried to rule Arendelle.

Quietly, she wanted to find a way to help her sister more.

"Hey Elsa! What do you think of my mask?" Olaf asked, breaking the gray mood. When they looked down to him, the snowman had a pale turnip, shriveled by months of winter storage, in place of his carrot. And it was in backwards. The shriveled vegetable gave the snowman an even more comical appearance and both of them shared a much-needed laugh. The air itself seemed to warm, even against the winter wind, and Elsa continued to feel better in the presence of those she loved.

"So, I haven't seen much of Kristoff these days. Are you guys having little fight again?" she teased playfully, embracing the mood as she grinned at her sister.

At the subject, Anna groaned and dramatically threw her arm against the nearest lantern pole, rolling her head in the most exaggerated way she could manage. She was glad she had the chance to vent about something that was bothering her. "I don't know what that man is thinking. With MidWinter right around the corner, he decides to go get a load of ice from the high mountains," she said, then shot Elsa a glance, "And no, that doesn't mean we're having a little fight again."

Elsa smirked.

"He went to go get ice. For us. In the middle of winter. Ice."

Anna wasn't lost on her point, though she didn't want it spelled out to her in such a snarky tone. Her eyes narrowed. "Yeah, well, maybe he has some super-special ice that not even you can't make. Did you even think of that?" she replied petulantly.

"You're fighting."

"No, we're not. We just happen to not totally agree on a lot of things, like not going to get ice in the middle of winter right before a super-important ball."

"That's called fighting."

"Uhm no, it's not. Fighting over something like why he hasn't even breathed a word about getting married would be fighting, but since we're obviously not fighting over why he hasn't even breathed a word about getting married, we're obviously not fighting," Anna fumed.

Elsa sighed. Her feelings on Anna getting married had come a long way from her disastrous incident with Hans. She knew that she loved Kristoff and that he loved her just as much, but also that he was also a very good man, honorable and truehearted. There were many reasons why she was satisfied with them being together, even if a part of her was also sad for it. It was a lonely thought to finally let go of her beloved sister and give her to someone else. "You can't rush this, Anna. Marriage isn't some casual engagement you make on a whim and you know that more than anyone. Kristoff will come to you in his own time, and at his own pace. You have to be patient," she counseled wisely, as sister and as queen.

Anna wasn't known for her patience and folded her arms, thinking hard about her advice. "Right. Be patient. Be patient. I'm sure he'll come back just in time, dashingly entering the Ball on his…reindeer, wearing a handsome mask, and propose to me in front of everyone. Yeah! I bet that's his plan. Seems perfectly reasonable."

Elsa stared incredulously and her brows rose at the very image of it. "Kristoff..." she coughed.

Olaf was equally confused by the idea. "Is she talking about the same Kristoff I know? Because that guy would soooo not do something like that," he remarked.

Anna knew the idea was unreal, but her heart was searching for something her head already understood, and she had a very stubborn heart. Truthfully, she had been a little lonely without him around. "Well, then maybe I'll be the one who asks him to marry me. That'll work, won't it? Of course it will. I don't have a ring or anything, or maybe he still gives me a ring. Does that mean he has to wear the dress? No, we'll figure out the details afterwards. Let me think," she rattled on, putting her gloved hand to her forehead in thought.

While Anna was busy trying to figure out those details, Elsa's brow had furrowed as she listened to the idea, a strange shade of a smile twisting her face. Against the carefree tone of her sister's voice, she suddenly felt agitated again, though she couldn't exactly explain why. "Wait a minute, Anna. Slow down. You can't be the one that proposes," she stated, half-laughing at the absurd idea.

Anna stopped mid-sentence and looked at her in confusion. "What? Why not?"

Elsa winced. "Why not? Because…because that's not how it's supposed to happen. Kristoff needs to propose to you, not the other way around. It's how the tradition goes," she explained, though the expression on her face showed she didn't really understand the reasons either. It was just one of those unsaid things that everyone held to their hearts but no one could really explain. At the moment, she felt like it was not her voice that was answering, but the endless voices of her choir of advisors.

Anna was now feeling a mixture of confusion and anger as she tried to grasp the response. The idea was unorthodox, but she loved Kristoff and he loved her back, which was easily enough for her, though she was reminded of the last time she spoke of marriage to Elsa, even if the situation could not have been more different. Oddly, her reaction felt the same. "It's how the tradition goes? Why does that matter? I know Kristoff wants to marry me, and maybe he isn't the type that knows how to ride in a swoop a girl off her feet, but why does that mean I have to sit and wait? If it's the right person, shouldn't that be enough?"

"Anna, take a moment to think about what you're suggesting. Certain things have to be done certain ways. For you to ask him is…is…" Elsa stuttered with an unsure look on her face before looking back to her sister and straightening her back.

"It just isn't done that way."

Anna felt even more defensive and her face collapsed in anger. "I don't care about how it's done, and I thought we were past this. Who says a girl can't ask the man she loves to marry her?" she argued.

"I do," Elsa replied in a heavy voice as she placed her hands sternly across her waist, "You're a princess, and you're being unreasonable about this. Tradition must be..."

"Do you care about tradition more than me?" Anna snapped, her eyes stinging in the cold air, "I thought you'd always support me about this. I'm not some lovesick girl grabbing the first guy that comes along and you should know that better than anyone. How can you suddenly be so coldhearted?" The word struck Elsa powerfully. It made her think back of when they had been standing in her ice palace and Anna had been desperate to try and reach her, yet her fears had closed off her heart in order to protect everyone, including herself. Just the emotions associated with those memories made her clench her hand over her chest and stare back at Anna with uncertain emotions stirring within.

More than anything, she just wanted to stop this. "That's enough, Anna," she commanded, aware that their exchange was drawing a crowd but also aware that her voice lacked the potency it had before. She was starting to feel like her old self again. "This isn't the place for this," she warned, giving her sister a desperate glance.

Anna stared at her painfully. She could see the panic in her eyes and understood instantly that this petty disagreement wasn't worth the pain it was causing them. The argument was shallow and shouldn't have caused such a scene, but there were other things churning in her that made her more sensitive, and didn't seem able to control the storm of emotions in her chest. Only in calm weather did slight winds gain weight and she struggled to push down her feelings in order to salvage their previous rapport, though she found she was having trouble doing it, as her burning heart cast a deafening roar in her ears.

With nothing more than a lost whimper, Anna turned and fled towards the castle, leaving Elsa surprised as she looked after her, raising a hand out but not taking a step to give chase. She felt the entire argument was empty and should have ended with nothing more than a reluctant apology, yet it ended with them bitterly apart and unsure why it had happened in the first place. She didn't care how they got married as long as they were happy, but she also felt she could never allow such an unorthodox proposal and she feared the stern response she would hear from her advisors. The stresses of ruling had been cutting her patience short and bringing out more of her darker impulses, especially when things didn't go how she wanted them to, making her feel like she wasn't entirely in control of her destiny. More and more, she felt a current of wills, with hers being strangled by others and fostering the desire to press against them with her magic.

Like it had happened with the ship.

"Wow. Do you think she'll be okay?" Olaf asked, looking after Anna with concern.

Elsa shook off her emotions and dismissed the strangely cold wind that was thrashing the torches in the town around her. Regally, she knit her hands in front of her waist and put on a show for the spectators, who had been speechless in watching the royal sisters bicker before them. "She'll be fine. She just needs a little time to cool off and see reason," she replied, then headed towards the castle with a practiced pace and nobility. While she put on the front, her heart was aching and she worried about her sister's mood.

Secretly, she wondered if she should visit Anna later in a more sisterly capacity.

In her room, Anna had been crying. Her face was distorted by her cheek laying across her arm, her back curved and her feet toed into the floor. The desk beneath her arm was cold and hard, yet bore her weight as she wept, her heart heavy and her eyes red. She didn't know why she was so upset or why Elsa's actions made her so angry. Deep down, her idea had been little more than a silly musing, but when her sister had reacted so coldly, she couldn't control how defensive she felt, as if she had been attacking the idea of her marriage to Kristoff. She knew the truth of the matter, but that didn't lessen the pain. "Where are you?" she asked breathlessly, fingering a snow globe Kristoff had given her months ago. Inside a snowman was surrounded by a flurry of sparkles and white shards, with two small children playing at its base. Each time her finger disturbed the globe the flurry swirled around and reminded her of hard-to-grasp memories of her childhood. Despite her mood and regardless of who had given to her, she still saw herself and Elsa as the two little children in the flurry, happily pushing a ball of snow up to the incomplete snowman.

This wasn't how she wanted to spend the days leading up to MidWinter and she secretly considered seeking out her sister to reconcile.

Against the silence, a creaking floorboard alerted her to the presence of someone else in the room and she straightened slightly, wondering if one of the guards had entered without her noticing. She didn't really want to see anyone at the moment. "What is it?" she asked, keeping her face from the door.

"Princess Anna, I presume," said a voice, unfamiliar to her and in an accent she couldn't place. Her heart skipping, she wiped her cheeks with a clumsy hand before standing to face the speaker, wondering if some lost delegate from another kingdom had wandered into her room.

Instantly, she could tell this was not the case.

It was a man, dressed in heavy brown robes and wearing a strange metal mask on his face. A hood obscured most of his head and his appearance was almost more monster than man, with the mask in particular sending a shiver of anxiety through her. With MidWinter coming, there had been lots of them around so she didn't feel immediately threatened, but something about him made her blood chill. His entire presence didn't seem real.

"Can...can I help you?" she asked, her chest rising nervously and her brow twisted. The man said nothing, but pulled out a long dagger with a black blade covered in strange red markings from his robes. It was like no blade she had ever seen and she was lost in its beauty for a moment, but she soon realized his intentions weren't noble. He held the knife at his side and she gasped, backing into her chair slightly.

"I'm guessing you're not here for the ball. Guards? Oh guards..." she said in a frightened voice, her hand grasping at the snow globe behind her back.

There was no answer from the dark hallway beyond.

"You will come with me, Princess. Quietly, I would prefer," the figure said in a voice both polite and commanding. The demand made her gasp and he approached her swiftly and with intent. Her face was frozen with fear, but she wasn't one to simply sit by as some stranger in her room threatened her.

She would show him that she wasn't so easily taken. "Yeah well, sorry to disappoint you!" she cried, swinging the snow globe at him with all of her strength. Much to her surprise, his free hand darted from his robes and caught her at the wrist, swinging the bludgeon away and making her smash it down into the desk. His skillful movements took her off guard and she tried to make as much noise as possible, hoping the noise would alert the guards or anyone else. As she struggled, she wondered how he had gotten into the castle, as it was no small feat to enter the princess's chambers without a single noise, though her impressions had to be suppressed as she concentrated on doing everything she could to defend herself from him and wait for someone to come.

In the terror of the moment, no one came.

Suddenly, the man darted in and slipped up behind her, his hand coming up forcefully at her throat. The sensation of his powerful grip muffling her cries was nothing compared to the strange feeling she felt as her breathing was cut off, even as she struggled to break away. Faster than she expected, her head suddenly became light and her eyes began to drown in a hazy fog that obscured her room, though she was just as overcome by fear as she was the terrifying feeling of not being able to breathe, coupled by the realization that despite his powerful grasp, she felt no pain.

As quickly as the light fleeing a room after a candle was extinguished, her room became dark and her body became heavy, with her last thoughts wondering what terrible fate lay in store for her.

At the end of their struggle, she collapsed to the floor, laying there much like the broken snow globe that was scattered all around. Heavy breathing was the only sound in the room and her body was before him like a sacrifice, with the hand that had just quieted her dropped to his side carelessly. His body was rigid as he slowly knelt next to her, his hand once more reaching out to her throat, though only to feel the beat of her pulse under his fingers. Silently, he lingered, listening to her breathe. Her face was serene, yet twisted by terror and after taking a moment to bask in the things he had done, the figure slowly rose back to his feet, exhaling slowly. A disgusted sigh deserted him as he took himself from the moment to look out of her window and to the moonlight beyond, with the harbor burning brightly in torchlight and beckoning him to his path.

From this point on, there was no turning back for anyone.

"The task begins."

Elsa was marching through the halls of the castle, exhausted from her duties and tired of listening to some of her more long-winded advisors. Some of them treated her as if she were still a child, and that infuriated her more than anything. Only moments before, one of their comments had struck her wrong and she frosted the man's glass with nothing more than a glance, causing a disturbance in the room. She only partly felt bad about it, and excused herself with a thin apology, though such occurrences had become more common with the young queen, not because of any ill will but simply because her emotions sometimes escaped her. It happened most often when she was fatigued, but cooler heads usually prevailed and there hadn't been any real fallout, though her apologies were getting thinner and fewer, while her indifference grew. Her most trusted advisor and mentor, Regent Stenson, had followed her out and scolded her, but even his words seemed like nothing more than a nuisance today. The endless drone of tradition and expectation was drowning against the exhilaration of watching her magic shape the world around her, and the queen that many wanted to see would often lose out to the person she wanted to be, at least in her heart.

Sometimes, she found herself wanting to be high atop the mountain again, released from her responsibilities and free to do as she wished, even if she could never really forget how lonely it had been.

Sighing, she had been thinking of Anna and was eager to speak to her. To that end, she was intent on reaching her without being distracted and was happy that she saw no one along the way, not even a guard. The strangeness of that eluded her, but she was focused on other things. There was so much she wanted to do and so much that she could not do, even when her extraordinary magic should have granted an unprecedented level of freedom. The absurdity was frustrating beyond words. However, she felt at least she could try and smooth things out with her sister. That was something that required nothing but the will of her heart and was among the most important things to her.

Arriving at Anna's door, she reached up to knock, but hesitated, her knuckles inches from the wood. Immediately, she realized that even though she had been singularly intent upon going to her, she wasn't really prepared to talk to her sister. She didn't know if she would back off her harsh stance or continue to uphold tradition. She didn't know if she would be the responsible queen, or the compassionate sister. There were so many questions in her head that she nearly let her hand drop to her side in defeat, but her resolve found strength in the fact that she nonetheless wanted someone to talk to, someone to share her troubles with, and she knocked loudly on the door, her face twisted with uncertainty.

"Anna? Can we talk?" she asked softly to the door.

There was silence. It wasn't the response she was hoping for and she visited the many days when their roles had been reversed, with Anna vainly trying to reach her instead. The memory made her shiver.

She found it too easy to slip back into the tragedies of the past.

Not wanting to relive them, Elsa knocked once more, a bit louder. She leaned in close, wondering if she was actually this mad and that maybe even the best of her intentions would fall helplessly against the authority of the wood. "Anna, please open the door. I understand if you're angry, but if we just talk about this, I'm sure we can figure it out," she said softly, placing her hand against the door and trying to feel some sort of response. "I still don't know if I can allow you to propose to Kristoff, but it's not because I think you two shouldn't get married. I want you to be happy. It's just there are so many things to consider, and we have to be careful about how we do things. We have…so many expectations on us. So many rules."

Strangely, she started wondering who she was talking about as she leaned against the door, her forehead touching the smooth finish.

"Can I come in?"

With more silence in the air, her eyes fell down to the handle and she hesitated, hoping for some kind of acknowledgment, or any response at all. Anna's refusal to answer once more hinted at her stubbornness and she felt angry at that, but she knew if she let those feelings push back, they would only fight again. She wasn't sure her heart could take that. To stem her darker feelings, she pulled the handle down, happy it was unlocked, and pushed the door open to meet her sister.

To her surprise, a cold wind met her from the room and she found it empty and dim. The window was open to the lingering darkness and some of the furniture was turned on its side, showing signs of a struggle.

Anna was nowhere to be seen.

"Anna? Anna!" she cried, rushing into the room. At once, she thought of calling for the guards but the open window snared her attention. She quickly moved to it, hoping that she might find answers. Outside, she found disturbed snow leading down from the roof and towards the harbor, with all torches and lights darkened along the way. The room was cold, meaning time had passed since their flight, but a sideward glance to something else on the desk caught her attention. A thick scroll of paper was spread out on the desk, held open by pieces of broken glass and wood. Dark, red words were inscribed ominously to the parchment and she flew to the desk, brushing aside a shattered snowman from the paper and raising the words into the moonlight.

Snow Queen,

I have your sister.

Come to the Weeping Valley.

Come alone.

Elsa's heartbeat was thundering in her ears and she read the note several times before turning back to the open window, her face twisted in fear. The moon was set low across the dark mountains and barely illuminated the room, where all of the candles and the fireplace were dim and cold. An equally dark mood settled over her and she held the paper against her chest, unsure what to do and overcome with worry for her sister's safety. Having her torn away when they were on the worst of terms made a new level of desperation flash through her eyes and her heart was forked between the angry desire to find the ones responsible and the chilling prospect of never being able to see her sister's smiling face again. She found her mind fragmented and torn. A proper queen would alert the guards and raise the alarm in the kingdom. A proper queen would raise an army of willing soldiers to set out into the night. A proper queen would set the gears in motion for a hundred other souls to come to her aid and bring back the stolen princess. Elsa suddenly didn't feel like a proper queen, but rather a frantic sister, commanding the power of ancient magic and a raging heart, willing to set aside the proper things she should be doing and head into the darkness to find her.

At the mercy of the fire in her heart, she suddenly felt like the infamous Snow Queen that would know how to properly punish the criminals responsible for putting their hands on Anna, and she quickly left the room to the cold darkness that had settled in through the open window.

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