The Snow Queen and the FireHeart
On the day of the MidWinters Ball, Queen Elsa walked alone through the halls of her castle, the sounds of her footsteps her only companions as she made her way away from the noise of the celebrations. The MidWinter festivities had lasted all day and the dark sky had been alight with fireworks. The announcement of Princess Anna's engagement had bolstered the mood in town, as did the refugees from the lost kingdom of Fria as they discovered their new lives among the denizens of Elsa's kingdom. Arendelle was celebrating a new transition in its history and everyone felt it was the grandest MidWinter celebration ever, yet Elsa walked alone, preoccupied with other thoughts, as she had all day.
Stopping outside a large, sturdy door, she paused and held her shaky hands over her beating heart. She stared at the lacquered wood and focused on her breathing, which came out in barely-visible wisps of vapor. Her hands were clammy and her skin showed the slightest signs of perspiration, with those small beads of sweat quickly frozen into icy dust and blown into the air, which was colder than usual in the brightly lit hallway. Inwardly, she mused how her powers still suffered the will of her emotions. She stood there longer than intended. Strangely, she found it hard to simply reach out to the intimidating door, as if it would retaliate against anything she did. There was something behind that door that frightened her, yet also demanded that she move forward against her fears. The fear she felt for the path she was about to walk was unlike anything she had ever felt before.
A gentle knock rattled the door and it slowly opened between Elsa and Yasha. Her expression showed that she wasn't actually ready for what she was about to attempt, for her eyes were wide and her chest frozen at its highest apex of breath. For his part, he was surprised by her visit, but pleased. He stifled his true reaction to her out of sheer willpower.
"Your Highness," he said politely, bowing to her.
Elsa was still not used to hearing him call her with such formality. To her dissatisfaction, it made them feel more distant in spite of all they had been through. She gave him an anxious smile and lingered in the hall, her nervous hands clutching an ornate mask, the one she intended to wear to the masquerade later that evening. Conversely, she noticed how his appearance was far different than any time she had seen him before, with the memories of his terrifying appearance when they first met a distant glimmer in her mind. It was charming to see him wearing his new clothes, styled like the royalty of Arendelle but in the red and black of his native kingdom. His hair was shorter and neat, and he gave off a regal, handsome aura. He truly looked like a prince and she was struck by how well it suited him.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, Yasha. May we speak a moment?" she asked with equal politeness.
"Of course," he replied, stepping to the side and gesturing into the room, "By all means."
Taking a deep breath, she stepped in gracefully, her elegant blue dress fanning out behind her and her eyes scanning around. It wasn't a room she entered often, but had chosen for him because of the excellent furniture and the grand fireplace glowing brightly in the stone mantel. More than she would admit, she searched for signs of him. Much to her expectations, there was very little. A smile came over her as her eyes fell on the only sign of his belongings; the exotic dagger called Xenocryst, his bamboo flute and the ring that could always dominate her attention. Unlike the first time she had seen it, the ring was now perfectly round, having been reforged by his magical flames and tempered by her ice. It also had the most unusual blue glow and a strange rippled appearance, as if it bled the ancient magics that had formed it. She let her eyes linger on the ring, remembering how it had awoken him from the madness of the FireHeart.
It was a catalyst for her memories of him.
"How may I serve you?" he asked, aware of her sudden silence.
She quickly turned, waving her hands to disperse the formality that had grown between them. "Oh no, I'm just here to see how you are. After everything that happened, I was worried about you," she said, a bit embarrassed by the flimsy excuse she had to come see him, "Is there anything you need?"
He looked embarrassed as well and shook his head. "King Nazir and the Heart are no more. My people are safe. And for you to welcome them into your kingdom is…" he said, showing a bit more emotion than he intended, but forcing through it with a grateful smile.
"I could ask you for nothing more."
"It's nothing, really. You're all welcome here," she replied, looking around the room and seeing some recently-placed decorations from the artisans of Fria. She smiled. "Your people have already begun selling their wares in the market and even though there are so few left, I hear they're very popular. I've even ordered some made for the castle. I only wished they'd have been ready for the ball tonight," she said, trying to move towards the subject she had come to discuss and why she was twisting the mask in her fingers.
"I am hopelessly indebted to you," he replied, looking at her with gracious eyes. She felt nervous under his gaze and shifted from foot to foot, something unusual for the mannerly queen. She inwardly hated how his eyes melted through her and the way he seemingly flaunted this power to disturb her. She had so often been at the mercy of his eyes, but no other time seemed as dangerous as they way they were her now, silently revering her and whispering of the adoration he admitted to as he came back from the dead. Her unrest grew when his eyes had fallen to her chest and stayed there, making her breath seize in her throat. She found his attention unnervingly bold.
"Where did you get that?" he asked suddenly, shattering her wandering thoughts. Her fingers went up to the gold and silver brooch that she had pinned across her chest, the only element of her dress that wasn't created by her magic. The black gem glowed with the mysterious red markings of his kingdom and her mind went back to the old woman who had given it to her as she pleaded with her to help Yasha.
"Oh. The woman you call Oma gave it to me the day we faced the FireHeart. It's so beautiful, I thought I'd wear it for the ball," she explained, fondly looking down at it. He seemed unsettled as his eyes moved from the brooch to her face, his mouth twisting with a dozen silent words. She wasn't lost on it.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Forgive me, but in Fria that brooch is gifted when giving one's blessing for a marriage," he explained, embarrassed for the both of them.
Elsa's skin erupted with heat. On that day, it had been awkwardly charming when the old woman had thought they were together for intimate reasons, and she had been barely able to brush it off in lieu of their impending task, but even since returning from the lost kingdom of Fria, her enkindled affection for him caused the explanation to overwhelm her facade. He sighed at the actions of the old woman and gave her a sympathetic look. "There is no way you could have understood its significance. After all, it was a tradition in Fria," he remarked, though her face was still pale and her eyes wide. Her plight made him smile softly, ruling upon the prank as if he wore the lost crown of his kingdom, though he was secretly amused by her expression. "But Fria is no more. If it pleases you, continue to wear it, though be prepared for some interesting reactions from my people." She found his efforts her did little against the embarrassment and she continued to play with the brooch with her fingers, debating whether or not to remove it, all the while her eyes were set into his and her red lips quivering in thought.
"I will," she began, then hesitated before finishing her sentence, "give it some thought."
He nodded, though she couldn't read his intent.
A moment passed between them, with neither able to surmount the mood. It was obvious that they both still had something on their minds, but the atmosphere in the room was heavy. Elsa moved to speak several times, though she retreated each time with a look of frustration on her face. She was still flustered by the subject of the brooch and her fingers continued to play across the black gem. His response was to wait patiently for her, but ultimately he tried to break her uncomfortable aura by speaking first. His face had become solemn."Your Highness, may I put to you a request? It is a personal matter."
She seemed relieved, and excitedly curious.
"Yes, go on."
He hesitated, and then moved into the room, his eyes falling over his simple belongings and how they contrasted with the beautiful décor. His lips pursed. "Your generosity goes beyond my capacity for recompense. You saved my people, and my life," he began, thinking on how their journey had come to this point. He never once believed he would be there, standing in her graces and pardoned of all the terrible things he had done to her. His expression failed as he looked down on his pile of belongings.
"I wish to leave the castle," he admitted, his finger touching the ring gently.
She looked as if she had been stabbed through the heart. It wasn't the request she had hoped it to be and she stepped towards him. "What?" she asked through broken lips. She couldn't mask the disappointment on her face and her voice was shaky. "May I ask why?"
"I do not belong here. I am no different than my people, and I deserve to be with them," he replied distantly.
"Yasha," she said, her eyes full of objection, "You're their prince, if not their king. Your place is here, in the castle."
"I have never lived in a castle. I have never worn a crown," he replied, then turned to her with fierce eyes, "I am a prince only because that man was my father, and the legacy holds no value to me. Now Fria is gone and I am surely no king. By what right do I deserve to live any differently than my people?"
She burned for him. His nobility was so apparent to all but himself and she wanted nothing more than to be the one to help him see it. Without the FireHeart, the magic that once flowed through him was gone, but this didn't diminish him in the slightest. At least, not for her.
"You gave everything for your people. How is that not your pedigree as their king?" she countered.
With a gruff sigh, he stubbornly couldn't accept the birthright. He was overwhelmed by her support and he could barely grasp her reasoning. His actions towards her had villainous, yet she welcomed him and his people to her kingdom. This young queen had already proven to be his superior, in magic and in heart, and beyond his stated reasons, it was maddening to feel as he did about her, in spite of all he had done. His admission had been in the haze of death, yet truly reflected his heart. Somewhere on their journey, even as he lied to her and manipulated her and even turned his hand against, he had found himself longing for her attention and the gentle nature she commanded. In contrast to his dark life, she was a radiant beacon of light and he was sure she wouldn't understand the feelings he had.
"It is no more than they would do for me," he remarked, turning away from her once again.
Elsa pursued him, urged by her beating heart and a new sense of fear – a fear of walking without him. "Which is all the more reason you belong here. Can't you see that? You're their king by your noble heart, not by your father's blood," she answered.
There was great contrast between them. Once, she had thrown away her kingdom to embrace her powers and found redemption in her sister's love. He was willing to destroy his kingdom, his powers and his life to save his people, and that was all the reason she needed to adore him.
And though she hadn't been so bold in the admissions of her heart, she adored him, and wondered how he would react when he found out.
Yasha lingered before one of her beautiful ice sculptures, which stood in defiance of the warmth of the fireplace as it swirled elegantly up through the air, almost appearing as translucent blue flames frozen endlessly in time. He was trying to accept her words, but he was too unsure of many things. Her wisdom and her beauty charmed him and he admired how her magic could create such wonderful things, while his magic had done nothing but tear the world down around him. It had destroyed his home and tortured his people, and it was she that saved them and gave them a new home.
He had trouble understanding her.
"How can you be so kind?" he asked, running his fingers over the sculpture – over her ice. It was just one of a dozen words he would use to describe her.
She had no answer and was frustrated by him. She didn't want his admiration or the self-depreciating reasons why he should leave. She only wanted him to find the peace he desired from the sacrifices he had made, throwing these doubts and fears aside and coming to realize that the end of his tragic path hadn't been an end at all, but a beginning.
And then she wanted more.
In light of the mood, he suddenly recoiled his hand, gasping in pain. A mark of red was on the edge of the ice sculpture and she could see the cut across his hand, which made her rush forward and take it with little regard for the tension in the atmosphere. "Are you all right?" she asked, examining him. She had seen him hurt too much already and anything more would go beyond her ability to bear it. His posture wavering, he looked past the wound, down to her concerned face. The touch of her hands was surprisingly warm, in spite of her cold powers, and he was far more interested in her than the pain. Her attention on the cut also waned as she realized she was holding his hand and her chest swelled under her dress. Her fingers dug softly into his skin. She couldn't retreat for a moment, but stared up at him with her red lips slightly parted in an airless pant. It was enchanting to be this close to him and hold even the smallest part of him in her hands.
Despite the cut, he slowly closed his hand around hers and tried to drown out the roar within his chest. Their entire path together had been a struggle against the heart, whether it be fire or flesh, and it was now him that felt unable to deal with the heart's whispers or its will, and the way she made him feel. A simple cut was meaningless in light of the way she tore through his chest and made him burn in ways he had never thought possible.
His voice came out heated and tense.
"It is nothing compared to losing one's heart."
Her smile blossomed at his response and his touch, though it quickly fell away against the intimate moment they had found, finally alone and without the world against them. If there was one thing she feared most of him now, it was his tongue, and she ironically agreed with one thing that Nazir had said - that Yasha had a way with words. Simply being able to hold his hand without the impetus of fate was enough to justify the fear she felt at being at his complete mercy.
Without thinking, she had already pushed up slightly onto her toes, looking up at him expectantly, with her lips quivering and her breath short.
In some distant reach of the castle, there was music slowly starting to rise. The MidWinters Ball was coming together and the queen would soon be introduced. The floor trembled with the percussion of the evening and it began to intrude on their moment, much to their mutual dismay. The rhythm slowly dragged her back from their isolated moment and she was overcome with panic, realizing that her assignment of forever had just been stolen away. Her eyes widened. "The ball! Oh, I have to go," she cried, tearing herself from his grasp and turning to flee, but then remembering the main reason she had come in the first place.
Stopping at the door, she placed her hand on the wood and paused. With a deep breath, she looked back to him, still trying to hide her flushed skin as she spoke, "The MidWinters Ball. You'll attend, won't you?"
He opened his mouth to answer with a thousand other words, yet only one made it out against the beating of his heart.
Her mood sparkled. "I'm glad," she admitted, trying to force herself out the door.
"Elsa," he suddenly blurted, stopping her. Hearing him use her name made a shiver run through her. Had she known the effect it would have on her, she wouldn't have been so eager for him start calling her by name.
"My people have a tradition. If the heir of Fria were to attend such a celebration, he must be honored with the queen's first dance," he continued.
"It is an ancient tradition."
While suspecting that to be a lie, she let an enchanted breath escape her smiling lips, which she tried to hide with the top of her mask. Her blue eyes beckoned him and her hand moved gracefully down the edge of the door. "There's nothing to do then, if it's an ancient tradition," she said, accepting that tradition wholly within her heart. Her anticipation for it could barely be contained in the expression she showed him.
"Until then, King of the FireHeart," she called him sweetly, using the title that should have caused him so much torment, yet seemed the only fitting way to address him. Lingering only a moment more to appeal to him with her eyes, she then disappeared out the open door, her hand slipping out of sight with the slightest kiss of frost on the wood.
Yasha watched her leave, favoring the hand she had so warmly held. The words fell away to the way he longed for her and her scent as it hung in the air, making him look after her for far longer than was needed, though never felt like enough. Within his cursed life, he had never known romantic love, but this feeling consumed him, so much so that he feared losing control once more. Only the familiar sound of the flame was enough to break him from her spell and he felt himself drawn to it. Turning towards the fireplace, he walked over to the coals and stared at them, his heart and his mind raging just as fiercely as the inferno before him. It was the one vice he would allow himself after years of trying to destroy the world around him. He would allow himself to yearn for the Snow Queen, the woman he had once been fated to kill. The devotion of his heart was ransom for his sins, yet he had no reluctance to pay such a price.
Reaching his hand out, he felt the heat tearing away at the cut, but he didn't withdraw it. Instead, the flames began to stretch out towards him, swaying in a rhythmic dance, and his eyes glowed in their light. A mystical glow caressed his palm and the flames licked clean the wound on his hand. The magic then faded into the air in wisps of dying flares, taking any sign of its existence with them.
Yasha looked to his mended hand, then back to the coals. His eyes were glowing.
"As of yet unworthy to be king. And of the FireHeart…" he whispered quietly, and then silenced all flame in the room to darkness with a quiet sweep of his hand.
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