"What have you done?!"
The screams of Nazir filled the Scoria Chamber, resonating off of the gilded chandeliers and golden throne, and through the empty alcove where the FireHeart once burned. The ornate king had stumbled there, his hands shaking and his eyes wildly darting around for any sign of the mystical orb, yet found nothing but harrowing stillness, and the cold space where his everything once was. Falling to his knees, his golden fingers clawed into his face, which was twisted in terror. After countless years of unchanging dominance, the FireHeart was no more. Elsa didn't watch him. Her attention was solely on the tragedy in her arms as she knelt on the marble floor, cradling the motionless body of Yasha and completely unsure how she should react. Seeing the FireHeart explode behind him had been a crucible of emotions for her, for it was the entire reason they had come, yet had cost them so much. He was now in her grasp, but terrifyingly still and cold, leaving his face more relaxed than she had ever seen it. His chest didn't move with breath. His heart didn't beat with fire. His eyes no longer burned with resolve.
He was simply gone.
"Yasha?" she whispered, carefully using the back of her hand to brush some of his long hair from his face as she had done before, when he had been crushed by fate and also lay helpless in her lap. This time the stillness didn't encourage her or give her hope, and his words still resonated with her. They weren't friends, and the notion of them being more did seem absurd to any rational mind. Yet, as she looked down at his face, free from all of his burdens and all of his pain, she knew that deep within her chest, where there were no masks and no consideration of fate, she felt something, and while it was neither exactly pain nor regret, it was akin to the fear and uncertainty she had often felt throughout her life, differentially tempered across her heart as chaotically as the feelings she had felt for him from the beginning.
She didn't know how to describe what she felt and didn't feel brave enough to try.
"You can open your eyes now. You finally did it. The FireHeart is gone," she whispered as her fingers brushed his face, her lips phasing from a painful smile at their success to a fearful frown at the realization of its cost. "You can't give up now, after all we've been through. You're people are finally free."
"You're finally free."
There was no response and she wondered why her chest was so tight when not a single tear would fall for him, and her mind was being assaulted by questions that no one could ever answer.
"Were we this far apart after all? Are these feelings I have nothing more than fear and doubt?"
"In the end, was the only thing we really had together just…fate?"
Her reflections would be given no more time as the ground suddenly began to shake and roll. It tore her from her regret and caused her to throw her arms around him, strangely protecting him even though he would answer her no more. Instead of his answers, there was a terrible wailing and her eyes flew to its source. In the empty alcove, Nazir was twisted into himself, crying out in a pathetic moan, all as he staggered to his feet. Once framing the magnificent FireHeart, the curtains of lava were beginning to gurgle out from the mountain, free from their restraints and pouring onto the marble floor behind him. The rush of mountain blood made the air in the chamber ripple and she gasped, realizing that she had to get out of there, yet also realizing that Yasha was too heavy for her carry alone, and that there seemed little point in trying to save someone who was already gone.
Yet, she couldn't bear the idea of just leaving him there.
"Yaaaashaaaaa!" Nazir howled as he whirled around, enraged at his defiant son. Lava was bursting all around him and he was glaring at the body in her arms, his orange eyes reflecting the fading of endless days and the malice of a fallen god. A golden hand clawed out just as a wave of molten rock overtook him, devouring him in stone and fire and smothering out his terrible cries.
Like the FireHeart, Nazir disappeared in a shower of flame, screams and sparks.
As the lava poured into the Scoria Chamber, Elsa's heart raced. She tried to move Yasha's body towards the exit, but it was an effort in futility. Her magic exhausted and her skin beading with sweat, she looked down to his serene expression, choking at yet one more mechanism of fate, and the choice before her.
Stay and be burned alive.
Escape and leave him to be consumed by fire and stone.
Even after he had paid the price for his broken shackles, it seemed the will of fire was still going to claim him, and she could do nothing to stop it.
"Elsa!" a voice suddenly yelled, and she turned just in time to see a sled come rocketing up through the entrance to the chamber, pulled by an exhausted reindeer and containing Anna, Kristoff and Olaf. She had never felt such relief as the sled came skidding to a halt next to her, with Anna jumping out and rushing to her, her eyes widely taking in all of the danger around them. "The whole volcano's going off! This is so not the best place to be right now!" she cried, then looked down to the lifeless Yasha and winced, "What happened to him? Is he okay?" The silence in her sister's reply and the terrified look in her eyes gave Anna her answer, but Kristoff wasn't sparing any time for inquiries. Jumping down from the sled and seeing how tightly Elsa was still holding onto him, he grabbed Yasha and threw him over his shoulder. His more immediate concern was the lava that was gurgling into the hall.
"No time to chat. Everyone in the sled. We've got to get out of here!" he yelled and climbed back in, putting Yasha in the back and grabbing the reins. Anna grabbed Elsa's hands and pulled her to her feet, though was quickly distracted by something rising from the lava behind them, which reflected in her wide eyes.
"What is that?!" she cried and Elsa turned to look as well, sharing her shock.
A great, tormented form began to rise out of the molten rock, thrashing about and howling under the intense heat. Arms of dripping lava were coiling around the chamber and tearing the golden chandeliers from the ceiling, while two distinctly malevolent eyes began to glow bright orange as they turned their attention to the group. Even amid the cries of agony, there was something distinctly focused in the howling, and they could make out a single name being warbled from the depths of the creature's gaping maw.
Elsa gasped. "Nazir," she whispered, unable to believe that his will was so strong. Anna had no idea what was going on, but she knew that this wasn't the place they wanted to be. Dismissing the creature and tugging on Elsa's hand, she leapt back into the sled and made sure to wrap her arms around her distracted sister.
"Come on, Sven!" he yelled in response and threw the reins forward, urging the reindeer to drag the haggard sled back down the stairs and towards the entrance.
As they coursed through the elaborate hallways, crashing through fine wooden tables and shattering elegant mirrors, Anna turned her attention to Elsa and ran her hands over her, making sure she was okay. The distant look on her sister's face, especially in light of the crisis, worried her. "What happened? By the time we got here, the volcano was starting to erupt and those masked guards were already getting people away from the town. Did you guys already know the volcano was going to go?" she asked. Elsa winced, then slowly shifted her eyes to Yasha. Strangely, she remembered him standing at the top of the steps and talking to the guards and she realized that he must have already been preparing for this effect of destroying the FireHeart; just another secret he had kept from her.
"Even before we approached the Heart, you were already saving your people."
That glimpse of his real self made his sacrifice suddenly more painful for her and she looked to Anna with a whimper. "Yasha…he…" she began but the sled suddenly rocked into one of the walls and jarred them.
Anna grunted as she straightened herself and threw Kristoff a fierce glance. "Hey! Be careful!" she yelled, but then something behind them grabbed her attention. Down the hallway, a wall of molten lava was pushing towards them, devouring tapestries and golden lamps and anything else in its wake.
Anna's face popped.
"Nevermind!" she shrieked, "Go faster!"
Kristoff looked over his shoulder and grimaced as well, then tried to push Sven even harder. "I'm going as fast as we can! Sleds aren't made to go over rocks and stairs!" he yelled, feeling just how damaged his sled was from their hurried trip to Fria and how the lack of snow had taken its toll on the wooden rails. He knew Sven was exhausted from pulling them over the rocky ground and that the sled wouldn't last much longer. He only hoped it would last long enough to get them away from the volcano.
With the sled and the reindeer at their limits, they burst from the entrance of the volcano just moments before a spout of lava followed, spraying into the dark sky with steam and sparks. The sled sailed completely over the stone stairs and landed hard in the village square, with the added load and exhaustion cracking the rails and splintering the woodwork. They managed to scrape along the cobblestones and dirt until the sled finally shuddered and broke into pieces, throwing all of them out as the shattered rails dug into the black soil, then finally came to a battered stop in the open ground just before the forest. Back to the volcano, the lava was pouring out of the entrance and down the sides of the mountain, with a tower of ash rising into the air, lit off by sparks and explosions. It was a spectacular sight, but also a terrible one as the lava began to consume the kingdom and anything around it. Scanning the area lit by fire and spark, they could see groups of people gathered around the countryside as they watched their world burn. There were wails of sorrow and loss, but Yasha's forward thinking had saved them from being devoured by the angry mountain. The thought made Elsa look down to him as he lay with the remnants of the sled, still quiet and cold. Her hand rested on his for a moment, wondering if he could appreciate the hard-earned salvation of his people.
Suddenly, an explosion larger than the rest rocked the ground and nearly tossed everyone from their feet. The side of the mountain burst open and a molten hand clawed its way out into the black sky. As fire and rock belched out around him, the terrible creature crawled out, still screaming out the name of the son that had shattered his Heart and searching for him even as he was no longer able to answer. This creature had no consideration for the world around it and molten hands were sweeping across the burning town, crushing homes and flattening forges, turning the kingdom of Fria into a raging inferno.
"Oh, come on! How are we supposed to stop that?" Anna yelled.
The idea was daunting, yet one of them stepped forward to put an end to this madness, walking confidently towards the raging creature and feeling their frozen magic up to the task. "Everyone step back. I'll handle this," Olaf proclaimed, cracking his twiggy hands together as he smirked defiantly to the sheer size of the monster. Anna watched him with an incredulous look on her face, but then heard a strange voice and looked over to Elsa as she knelt by Yasha, her hand cupped gently over his. She heard her speaking quietly, but something about her voice was different and it made her shiver.
"Consider this payment…for doing what I couldn't so long ago."
"Elsa?" she asked quietly, watching her sister rise. Elsa turned, her eyes glowing brightly in the most beautiful color of turquoise, and it made Anna gasp. It was like she was looking at a completely different person and she said nothing as she walked past, a terribly cold air following her and crests of icy magic spreading out from each of her steps upon the black soil. Her movements grabbed the attention of all and she walked alone out into the clearing, swirls of crystal ice dancing around her and her dress glowing the same color as her eyes. The scars of her travels faded away from the dress and a new cape extended from her back, though this was not made like the one before, but seemed to be nothing more than a vaporous sheet of cold against heat, rolling like mist from her back and out across the ground behind her.
This new presence dragged the attention of the lava creature away from its chaotic search for Yasha and it locked onto her with its glowing orange eyes. Its howling voice became a shriek of tragedy and despair as it moved towards her, crying out into the pitiless black sky.
The name made a frown cross Elsa's face, but didn't deter her from her task. Her hands moving around her and up through the air, her eyes closed as she summoned her magic, moving as if she were dancing. The icy swirls caressed her and surrounded her, then began to rise, bellowing through the air and sparkling against the distant sparks and flames of the volcano. From those swirls of magic grew a delicate form of beauty, like an avatar of the radiant queen that birthed it. The magic coalesced and formed into the form of a beautiful woman, made purely of ice, growing right out of the misty vapor coming from Elsa's dress. The others were taken back by the sheer size of it and the way the air around them seemed to freeze, yet didn't make them shiver.
Faced with a creature of equal size and power, the lava monster shrieked out, thrashing through the town even more as lava covered everything. It called out the name, unfocused and full of regret. Slowly opening her glowing eyes, Elsa looked at the creature with no expression, but for the frozen tears that were rolling down her cheeks and bursting from her chin as nothing more than icy dust, and equal remorse.
"Farewell, my love."
She slowly raised her hand out and commanded her icy creation to fulfill the task, which it did by parting its icy lips. With a burst of frozen breath, the titan covered everything with ice, freezing fire and ash, wood and stone. Even the rage of the mountain couldn't resist it and its searing blood soon ran cold. When the ice struck the lava creature, it howled in pain and terror, trying to fight off the coming fate, yet couldn't resist the grasp of it as the ice crept up its body, turning black to blue. This shell around Nazir became a tomb as the molten stone first cooled and stopped, then froze completely, just like the entire mountain behind it. Even the ash in the sky was frozen, forging a diamond tower that soon cracked under its own weight and fell back into the volcano, sending a shockwave of ice and wind out and giving all that watched the final testament that everything that was Nazir was now gone.
The kingdom of Fria was gone, lost to stone and ice.
"Wow," Olaf remarked, looking on, "That's way better than what I was going to do."
When the air finally settled and the landscape was frozen tundra before them, the ice titan that ruled the dark sky suddenly wrapped its arms around itself and burst into a shower of snow, leaving Elsa to fall forward and clutch her head with a shaky hand. Anna rushed forward to help her, but found the distressed look on her face frightening. With the glow fading from her eyes, Elsa could feel the presence that had haunted her fading away, though for some reason and against all of her previous experiences, she didn't want it to go. There were still so many questions she had and so much she wanted to know. With Nazir no longer able to tell her, she desperately felt like she had to reach out for the withdrawing voice.
"Don't go! I have so much to ask you."
You've come this far without me.
"He said that I'm your child. What does that mean?"
One day, you'll understand.
"Wait! Don't go!"
As the last tendril of Lind's will was pulled from her, Elsa rolled forward and placed her hand across her chest, breathing heavily as she stared at the frozen ground in front of her. The voice completely faded away, but she wasn't even sure the conversation had happened at all. None of her questions had been answered beyond the single, cryptic response that she was somehow connected to Lind, and that her tragic fable somehow bound her to Nazir, and to Yasha. The thought made her look up to Anna, seeing the concern in her eyes, then look over to the lifeless figure laying against the broken cart, realizing that they had finally put an end to everything around them, Nazir's terrible legacy, the powerful existence known as the FireHeart, and one more thing that had been dragged along with it all.
They had finally put an end to Yasha's fate.
Slowly rising and catching her breath, Elsa held to Anna for support and leaned her head against her, staring at him and wishing they had found a better end. She could hear Anna's steady breathing as she looked on as well and she suddenly felt even more remorse. The cries of his people would certainly fill the night in time, but she was shaken by the utter silence as they looked at him. Even after the conclusion to this tragic story, she didn't cry.
It was just one more pathetic reminder that she had no idea how she felt about him or how she was supposed to react.
As they all looked to him quietly, a single point of light came floating through the stillness of the air, casting orange streaks of light and dropping a line of funeral pyres to the frozen ground as she went. In light of the blue and white world around them, it was a chilling reminder of the colors of the FireHeart and their eyes slowly moved to this candle-in-mourning.
"Sid," Anna gasped, watching the fire sprite as she silently floated to Yasha's lifeless body, settled down onto his chest and wilted there, her fiery form seeming to dim with every passing moment she lingered without the FireHeart.
"No…" Sid managed to choke out, placing her small hands across his cold chest and trying as hard as she could to weep for him, yet fully realizing that fire sprites couldn't cry, and that she would soon follow him into the lonely darkness beyond. In reverence of her last wish and as she tried desperately to weep, a single droplet of fire fell from her, landing on his chest right where the circular scarring was, scoring perfectly in the center and instantly disappearing in a bright flash. As if reacting, red markings began to appear on his skin, fading in and out and swirling around the center of his chest, where a heart beat no more. The markings suddenly formed an ancient crest and burned brightly under his skin, making everyone gasp and watch as the runes coursed over every inch of him, like fire through an ash-filled mantel, and finally bursting brightly into a flower of sparks that burst from his chest and lit up the dark night all around.
Slowly and with much effort, Yasha's eyes opened to a blurry world, finding shadows, but no substance or sound. There was no sensation at his skin. He couldn't move his body. He couldn't even tell if he was breathing, but as his pale gray eyes began to push through the burning pain and focus on the blurry shadows, a face began to appear. It was a face he recognized and he felt a breath seep from his parting lips.
"Anna?" he wheezed, even more surprised by the drone of his own voice.
Still out of focus, he could nonetheless see a smile come across her face and her lips moving to speak, though he couldn't hear her. Just the sight of her made him relax. After being thoroughly washed by revenge and death, he took a moment to appreciate the irony of seeing her. "I did not expect it would be you that I should find waiting for me in the afterlife," he remarked weakly, closing his eyes as her voice was starting to resonate in his ears. He still couldn't make out her words, but it was strangely comforting enough to know she was nearby. He decided that he might enjoy bantering with her for all eternity.
In the face of that eternity, an impish smile worked its way over his face. If he was finally free of the wicked world, he no longer had any use for his masks. "While I am amused by the prospect, it is a shame that I will not spend eternity with your sister instead. That might have been far more…" he mused, though his entire being was suddenly rocked with a dull impact and he felt his breath burst from his lips. The blow was surprisingly effective at clearing the fog from his mind and he opened his eyes to stunning clarity, finding it really was Anna that was sitting over him, her fist at his stomach and her face showing an irritated smirk.
He could also hear her voice very clearly now.
"It looks like he's fine," she announced.
Yasha blinked and tried to catch his breath, as he was beginning to think he hadn't passed on as expected. There was a strange sensation of heat at his chest and he looked down to find Sid clutching to him, wailing about how much he had worried her and how scared she had been to lose him. The immediate concern of how she continued to exist without the FireHeart fell away to his own survival and his fingers grazed the frantic sprite, returning his attention back to Anna.
"This is not the afterlife?"
She smiled and crossed her arms over her chest. "Nope. You're still among us living," she replied with a firm nod.
The revelation made him exhale awkwardly and look around, finding the moon in the sky, the pale reflections of ice in the distance and the familiar faces of Kristoff and the magical snowman Olaf. Soon enough, his eyes came across Elsa, though she had a very curious expression on her face, a mixture of embarrassment and relief, though the red in her cheeks and the attentiveness in her eyes were striking. He had trouble controlling his own reaction, especially after the slip of such an honest confession about her.
He was fairly certain he had just revealed how he secretly felt about her.
"Uhm, hi," she said, shyly curling her fingers at him as she watched equal embarrassment spread throughout his face. Although his eyes lingered on her for several moments, to try and soak in the depth of his admission, he then leaned his head back and his hands quickly moved up to his face as the tension rattled him, making him try to come to terms with the state of his heart, as well as the fact that with just a simple glance to her, he found it was no longer beating at the pace he wanted it to. He sighed heavily, once more masking the expression he wore. He suddenly felt ill-equipped to conquer the atmosphere he had created.
"Fate…has a poor sense of humor," he groaned.
With the final recognition of fate's true nature towards him, he left his hands to cover his face, which had grown unstable between the smile of embarrassment and the tears of relief. His life had ended the moment the FireHeart ceased to be, yet there he was, reborn like the phoenix and presented with an infinite amount of pathways before him, bound only by the fate that was whispering to him by the beating of his heart. Like him, the land was thrust into a new world, with an endless expanse of frozen stone layered upon the lives its people once knew, with no more smoke and no more ash rising up above the silent mountain. The world of Nazir was no more, and all of those touched by him were free to find their own world and their destiny, without the cause of tradition or expectation of fate.
No sign of this new world was more evident than the fact that for the first time since the FireHeart had appeared in the depths of the mountain, generations upon generations ago, snow began to once more fall on the magically frozen kingdom of Fria, putting the ancient mountain to sleep and signaling to them that their story was just beginning.