Elsa rushed forward to Anna and embraced her, feeling dominated by her own chaotic emotions. Since the moment she had walked into her empty room, she had been suffering from the anger and fear of her absence, as well as dreading the terrible things that might be done to her. Finding her sitting alone wasn't how she envisioned them reuniting and she wondered if she had somehow escaped from her abductors and fled, becoming lost amongst the caves. At the same time, she was overwhelmed with relief, with a sharp exhale dispersing the dark aura that had been gripping her heart. With no villain to confront, she felt as if all of her anger would be simply left to fizzle away into nothingness. Soon, she was busy pawing at her, half-laughing and half-crying, all while searching for any sign of mistreatment or injury.
To her infinite relief, she found nothing.
"Oh, Anna. Are you hurt? Did they do anything to you?" she cried, putting her hands affectionately on her shoulders.
Anna found herself equally engulfed by happiness at having her sister safely nearby. "I'm fine, I'm fine," she laughed back, holding to her shaking arms and trying to calm her down. Her entire kidnapping had seemed weirdly ordinary. Other than dealing with the ship captain and the encounter with the Xenolith, it had been a thrilling adventure. Strangely, she couldn't forget the atmosphere between them when they had last talked and seeing her made the memory of their meaningless argument flash back to her mind. A slightly guilty look washed over her as she shrugged, speaking from places other than her heart.
"I'm really glad you came. I thought that maybe after our fight, you might not want to chase after me," she admitted, even knowing it was not true.
Elsa found the concern just as flimsy and shook her head, knowing as well that the argument had been shallow and that it seemed like a distant memory now, ready to be forgotten. "That doesn't matter, Anna. You're my sister and I'll always come for you. It's not like you haven't done the same for me," she replied and a warm smile overcame Anna's glass fears. The irony of their situation was apparent to both of them, with Elsa charging off into the frozen countryside to save Anna instead of the other way around.
"And it's not just me," she added, taking a quick look around for her equally engaged partners, "Kristoff is here too. And Olaf."
The idea of her beloved mountain man coming for her made Anna's heart race and she perked. "Kristoff?" she chirped happily, looking over her shoulder but finding no one else in the darkness beyond. Being able to see him on top of reuniting with Elsa would be just another respite against a petty, timeworn concern that stayed loosely as a brittle grudge in her heart.
She knew his sins would be forgiven as soon as she saw him.
Elsa nodded. "They're looking for the next piece of your dress," she said, looking down at the tattered fabric hanging from her body and letting a sharp exhale permeate the cave. While she was by no means uncovered, the jagged cuts in her dress made Elsa narrow eyes as she was visibly reclaiming some of her anger.
Once more, she found she wanted to find the one responsible.
Anna laughed sheepishly and tried to straighten her dress with her hands, feeling a bit embarrassed to be seen in such a state. The tattered fabric did let parts of her legs show and the collar had been stretched and torn from Yasha's rough handling, yet she spoke of it as if it were nothing more than a prank, waving off the weight of her mood with a simple flick of her wrist. "Oh! Funny story about that. Well, at first I was so not laughing when Yasha wanted to start chopping off parts of my dress, and I can't even tell you how embarrassing it was! I didn't think I'd make it before he stripped me bare," she mused, imagining how she would have reacted if she showed up completely naked.
"Yasha?" Elsa repeated, her lips pursed.
"Yeah, the jerk. I bet he secretly liked sitting there and slashing away my dress with his knife," she laughed in the same tone of banter that she used when speaking to him. She was certain the remark would have made him embarrassed, making a wicked little smile play over her lips until she focused back on Elsa and found the furious expression she wore. At first she didn't understand her reaction, but then her face drained as she remembered just how volatile the situation was and the mistake she made of taking it so lightly. She had come to think of him fondly, yet realized Elsa probably thought of him like he was a depraved criminal who had taken her for all sorts of foul purposes, and while she had developed a different rapport than expected and caught the glimpses of his true heart, she had none of those benefits.
Lacking that insight, her sister was justifiably livid.
"Oh, Elsa! So, funny thing, really. Before you go all ballistic or anything, I really need to talk to you about Yasha. He's…" she began, but the sound of another voice shattered the air, chilling her right to the bone and taking her explanation right out from under her.
"The Snow Queen has come."
To Anna's utter horror, he was looming at the other side of the cavern, bathed in the shadows of the torchlight, with Sid buzzing around him. His arrival was like a strike of flame across a massive pile of dry tinder and she cursed his sense of timing. If only he had given her just a few minutes to prepare her sister, she was confident things would turn out fine. As it stood, she slowly looked past Elsa to him, whining as she finished the petition he so rudely interrupted.
"Standing right behind you."
Elsa whirled around to finally face the one responsible for stealing away her sister, finding that the moment she laid eyes on him, something inside of her began to churn hotly. He was everything she expected him to be, with his snarled, dark hair strewn about his face and the way he lingered in the shadows, glaring ominously at her. What she didn't expect was that he caused a wave of peripheral whispers to touch the edge of her ears, something that sounded almost like the wind winding through the cave around them, yet had more depth and message, while meaning nothing to her at all. It was like nothing she had ever felt before, as if someone or something was telling her secrets from far away, or breathing warnings about the man that sent tremors through her body. For some reason, his mere presence was resonating with her and she felt her magic licking against her skin, cautioning her that even though she had spent so much time trying to imagine what she would do when she found him, she was completely ill-prepared for the depth of their encounter.
"It was you," she growled.
He offered no reply, though he strangely appeared just as agitated by her presence, with Anna frantically trying to figure out how to stop the tragedy before it began. While she suspected Elsa would be angry when she met him, she had no idea she would react so strongly and she felt completely unprepared as well, though she was absolutely focused on talking them through this. "Wait, Elsa! It's not what you think. Listen to me for a second…" she began, reaching out to calm her sister. When her fingers touched Elsa's shoulder however, a flash made her cry out and step back, looking at the frost that glazed her hand. Looking up fearfully, she found that her mood had fouled so much that she was consumed by it, and glaring at him with every intention of finding out how she would punish his sins.
To her terror, Anna suddenly didn't feel like she was looking at her sister at all.
"I won't forgive you for what you've done," Elsa hissed, clawing her hands out into the air and feeling the pulses of her magic commanding the air around her. Propelled by her haunted mood, she was thrilled to unleash her full fury upon him.
Yasha was quiet, looking at her with eyes touched by hues of orange. He also felt a strange repulsion at her and didn't understand where it was coming from, though it resonated deeply within his heart and demanded that he clash with the Snow Queen. Seeing her pool her magic against him, he also felt his own like an inferno in his chest, yet even in the midst of his provisions against her, his eyes moved to Anna for a moment and he felt his mood waver. He could see her genuine desire to stop this, for his sake as well as her sister. For a fleeting moment, he was tempted to simply step back from his task and give her the chance to defuse the situation, but soon realized as the cold chewed at his skin and made his breath pulse out in vaporous clouds that he was in no position make his own choices, and he looked back to Elsa, finding her fury intoxicating.
Responding to her powers, he lifted his hand up and violent flames engulfed it, filling the area with a dull light and illuminating the bizarrely satisfied look on his face. In spite of all his reservations, he felt an unquenchable desire to fight her with everything he had.
"As it should be."
While she was shocked by his display of magic, she had little time to react before he threw his hand out, sending a powerful fireball through the air and shattering the ceiling above them. Surprised by the sudden assault, both leapt away to avoid the avalanche of stone that followed. After the rocks stopped falling, Anna was waving her hands in front of her to try and clear the air of dust, coughing loudly as she did. The burst scattered her mind for a moment and she wasn't sure what had happened. Even as she had spent her entire journey trying to figure out how to resolve Yasha's iniquitous task without them turning their magic upon one another, the filthy air hanging in the cavern obscured any sign of hope, and she was having trouble seeing through the dust and stone.
"Anna!" came a loud voice through the dust and Kristoff appeared to her from another part of the caves, with Olaf and Sven close behind. Seeing her made a wave of relief overtake him and he reached down to help her up, looking her over desperately to see if she was hurt, "Are you okay? What happened?"
"Kristoff," she wheezed, relieved at hearing his voice and clutching him tightly. Before she could breathe again, she remembered just how much she had missed him and she pressed her head into his chest. In spite of the frenzy of her plight, just being able to take a moment to catch her breath while in his arms made a new wave of confidence fill her. She even let herself forget that she was mad at him.
After taking a moment to be him, a flash of light aroused her and she realized that the rockslide had separated them from the other side of the cavern, where Elsa and Yasha were doing exactly what she feared – fighting.
The realization made her sprout wildly in his arms.
"Oh no! Elsa! We have to get through!" she cried, turning from him and leaning up on her toes as she tried to see a way through the pile. The flashes from the other side showed only through small holes between the stones, sending bursts of blue and orange spectacularly across the cave walls, though she was far beyond being amazed by the light show. She was too stricken by fear.
"Elsa!" she called through the pile.
"What's going on? What happened to Elsa?" he asked, looking between her and the flashes of light seeping through. Despite his earlier concerns, the pile of rocks didn't disturb him, as he now had what was most important to him in hand and he could no longer afford the distraction.
Anna bounced a few times on her toes to try and peek over the top of the wall, though found it to be thick and unyielding. Seeing the continued flashes of light made her panic grow, for if they wouldn't even try and talk, there was no hope to save the both of them. Silence would be the method of their fate, and that terrified her. "She's in there with the one who kidnapped me. He can use some crazy magic too and he plans on doing something terrible!" she cried, trying to pry a large stone out of the way. Kristoff had a many other questions to ask her and wanted to take a week making sure she was okay, but her frantic tone and hearing about Elsa's situation made him focus on the task at hand, leaving his chances to fawn over her until later. Instead, he turned his attention to the pile, using his strength to roll the large stone to the side. Threats of magic and fate were inconsequential in the face of taking the dread out of her voice.
"Okay. Let's hurry and get her out of there," he said.
Amidst the continuing sounds of the fight beyond the stone wall, Anna grimaced as she worked and her mind was stuck the terrifying look on Elsa's face when she glared at Yasha. For some reason, it didn't feel like her sister at all. She also thought on how Yasha's fire magic weakened him very quickly and how even though he was dangerously proficient with that dagger, his apparent choice to fight magic with magic would quickly sap his strength. Knowing how powerful Elsa was, she felt even more compelled to get through the blockage before something terrible happened to the both of them.
"I think Elsa might not be the one in danger," she whispered.
As they tried to dig out the stones, a small trace of light surfed along the pile and came zipping through a gap, hovering in the air behind Anna and floating indignantly as they worked. It was Sid, and she seemed more agitated than normal as she glowered at their efforts. "What are you doing, bait? Quit playing with those rocks and come on. Time to go," the sprite said, startling them all.
"Sid!" she cried in surprise, whirling to the small sprite and seeing a ray of hope in the most unlikely place, "You have to tell Yasha to stop! I can talk to my sister. They don't have to fight!" Sid didn't instantly fire back as expected, but instead seemed swayed by her suggestion. It was apparent that she was very concerned for Yasha and the thought of the Snow Queen's magic sent chills through her tiny body. Even now, the pressure from her ice felt like it would snuff her out and the sprite wavered back in forth through the air, wanting to take her up on that offer.
However, she had been given a task and she was compelled to finish it, despite how desperately she wanted to do as she said. "Sorry, bait, but he told me to take you out of the caves and send you home. So that's what you gotta do," she sighed.
Anna snorted at the apparent stubbornness in everyone. "Ugh, why isn't anyone listening to me? I'm not going anywhere until those two calm down and start talking like civilized, magical people!" she yelled gruffly, going back to the pile with all of her strength. Kristoff, who had been distracted by the small sprite, went back to helping her without a word.
Sid watched them ignore her orders and flared indignantly. "Hey! The bait doesn't get a vote!" she howled in a pitched voice. Following Yasha's commands was natural to her, even when she vehemently disagreed with them, so her disregard for his desires made her detest the fiery princess even more. "Ugh, fine! I don't care if you stay or go. Stupid bait!" Her small, fiery body flared in annoyance and she buzzed away, though she quickly came to a screeching halt as she came face to face with Olaf, who was staring at her in awe. She suddenly became more irate. "What are you supposed to be? A walking snowball?" she asked petulantly. Olaf was completely smitten as the small sprite glowed brightly in his eyes, despite the way her heat was making his cheeks drip.
"You're beautiful," he said dreamily, leaning closer to her.
His interest made her recoil back, wondering if there was anything more ridiculous than a snowman's infatuation with a fire sprite. "Ewww! Get away from me!" she howled and kicked him in the nose, though her small size didn't even budge it. It did light the end of the carrot on fire however, and Olaf shrieked, running in circles as the end of his nose burned.
"Oh oh! Candles and snowmen don't mix!" he cried, finally coming to Sven, who casually leaned down and blew out the flames with a throaty puff of air. Olaf pawed at the black tip of his nose and sighed in relief, then laughed sheepishly as he looked up at the reindeer.
"Do you think she likes me?"
On the other side of the rock pile, Elsa and Yasha were standing at odds, their hands raging with magic and both of them winded from their exchange. Scorch marks and thickly frozen stones dotted the cavern around them and the air was violently swirling from the clash of hot and cold. She was staring at him, still suffering the rage in her heart and the utter shock at seeing him using magic. There were a thousand questions in her mind, but they were quickly losing out to her heart, which was stuck on the image of Anna sitting against the stone, her dress torn and her body shaking with tears. It was like she found exactly what she had been looking for to justify her rage and that anger stole away all words, leaving her only able to seethe at him viciously and stand oblivious to why her blood ran so hot around him.
At the other end of the cavern, Yasha was panting. There was a bright glow coming from his chest, though it was mostly covered by his shirt and he winced as the pain tore through him. The power of the Snow Queen was greater than he imagined and his plan to end it quickly seemed far away. He also dismissed his unnatural rage, not knowing where it was coming from.
For some strange reason, it simply felt right to try and destroy her.
"You are far less talkative than your sister, Snow Queen," he called, trying to gather his strength for another assault.
Elsa grimaced and her eyes darkened. "Don't you dare talk about Anna!" she howled, throwing her hand through the air and sending spikes of ice rising from the ground around him, threatening to skewer him from every direction. The attack surprised him, but his movements were nimble and he avoided a number of the spikes with sheer agility, in spite of his deteriorating condition. When their numbers overwhelmed him, he finally drew his dagger from his belt and slashed at the ice, making it shatter beautifully around him. She was surprised by it and she suspected his dagger might have some kind of magical properties to break her ice in such a way, though she also knew that letting him get close to her would be a lethal mistake.
She had to keep him away.
The pain in his chest was growing and even moving with his dagger was starting to drown his mind with a red haze. Inwardly, he cursed the fact that he was so close to achieving his goal, yet had so many things working against him. Despite those things, he suddenly couldn't get Anna out of his mind. Even when it took everything he had to try and fulfill his task, he was torn at how his success would affect her, further hampering his movements and his resolve.
It wasn't just the Snow Queen he was fighting; it was everything – his body, his mind and his heart. He only allowed himself a moment to curse the terrible fate he suffered before he refocused his efforts and held tightly to the one desire he had above all others.
I must get back to the Heart.
Knowing it would only quicken his end, he reached deeply within and made a gesture to the ground before him, where red markings much like the ones in his dagger appeared and surged forward at Elsa, through rock and dust alike. The markings pooled at her feet and suddenly erupted into a column of fire, though she had just been aware enough to jump out of the way. His fire destroyed the wispy cape of her dress, showing it had the capacity to break through her powers if she were careless enough to get caught by it. A few more of the trails surged at her and she was nimble enough to avoid them, but she couldn't focus on them and him at the same time. Before she realized it, she had moved dangerously close, in line with his strategy. With fearful eyes, she suddenly looked up as he lunged at her, his dagger poised to strike, and her hand raised out just in time meet him with a bubble of her magic. The pulse threw him harshly back against the cave wall and he fell harshly onto his stomach, groaning loudly. His dagger was thrown to the side, leaving him reliant on his powers alone, which had already reached their limit and felt futile against hers. Elsa could barely focus over the thundering of her heart and she took a moment to catch her breath, staring at him as he tried to drag himself up from the ground. Dust burst from around his face with each ragged breath and his chest was burning painfully, but he wouldn't succumb to it. He wouldn't give in to the temptation to quit. A memory of himself submissively bowing before King Nazir flashed into his mind and his fists clenched tightly, his teeth grinding in his ears.
"I will not…" he gasped into the ground, still struggling to stand, and the words caught her for their ferocity.
"What?" she asked, shivering at his sudden change of aura.
Yasha pushed his feet below him, scraping loudly on the dusty stone. He stood against the pain that racked his body and his muddy hair shrouded his face. His eyes were glowing bright orange and the glow across his chest now seemed to burn out right through his clothing. For the first time since laying eyes on him, her fear overcame her anger and she stepped back, feeling the unrelenting heat from him. He suddenly seemed like an entirely different person.
He suddenly seemed like a monster.
"I will not stop here!" he yelled and flames burst from the ground at his feet. They swirled around him and rose to three times his height, where they then began to form into something terrible. Despite being merely flame, it moved organically and as if were truly alive. After a moment, a great dragon formed of his flames and threw two sprawling wings out into the cave, filling it with bright light and searing heat. Its roar shook the air. As beautiful as it was, Elsa gasped fearfully and took another shaky step backwards, finding that his magical creations inherited the wrath of his eyes. The dragon looked down at her before rearing back and belching a powerful column of fire, putting everything he had left into a single pulse of magic. Instinctively, she raised her hands up in defense and a thick wall of ice stopped the flames from reaching her, but she was surprised at how much more powerful it was than anything before. Her ice was keeping the flames from reaching her, but the dragon's size and appearance shook her, making it hard to concentrate. As she struggled, she happened to look through the ice and the fire to where he stood, and his appearance made her heart tremble. His body was shaking and rigid, his face twisted in pain. It didn't look like he was breathing anymore and his chest was glowing so brightly that it almost eclipsed him.
The most striking thing about him was his eyes. They were glaring at her with a ferocity that pierced her with fear and they showed no sign of yielding. Even as she understood that his most powerful magic couldn't break through her defenses, she wouldn't underestimate him or give him even the slightest opening. To do so would mean leaving herself at his mercy, and his wildly ferocious eyes seemed like they would devour her if she let them.
With their powers at a stalemate, Elsa used the refuge of ice to think of a way to end their struggle. Thinking back on how he used his power through the ground, she had an idea and shifted her feet. Stomping towards him, a crest of frozen ice surged through the ground, freezing the cave floor and growing tooth-like spikes all along its wake. He was obviously too engaged in concentration to notice and the crest abruptly burst from the ground right below him, reaching up with icy fingers and snaring him, then smashing him up against the wall in a ruthless column of ice. As the cocoon encased him, from his knees to the top of his shoulders, he howled in pain and struggled, but it was all in vain. In this contest of magic, he was defeated. The dragon wailed as well as the ice rose up its body and into its wings until it was completely frozen. It then burst into countless frozen shards of dust and disappeared from her sight.
Elsa heaved a sigh as she felt the relief from his flames and took a moment to catch her breath, staring as he struggled in his icy prison. The ice and sparks in the room died down until there was only a frigid chill, showing that her powers had reigned supreme. He was completely at her mercy and she took a few shaky steps towards him, trying to focus enough to decide what to do next. The skirmish had cleansed the muddy anger from her, though she still felt dark desires towards him. The sounds of Anna and the others calling from the other side of the rock pile didn't distract her as she approached him, feeling the overwhelming pull of that strange possession to destroy him. A strange and intoxicating feeling came over her at those thoughts, at the complete dominion she had over him, and she couldn't keep herself calm as a subtle turquoise glow invaded the edges of her pupils. This man was subject to her every desire. She felt as if she unequivocally controlled everything about him, from his breath to his life, and that was an entirely new feeling for her. Strangely set against the beating of her own heart, it frightened her to admit that she didn't hate this new feeling, though it was equally terrifying that she couldn't stop her hand from rising up and creating a long spear of ice, ready to put an end to their battle.
Possessed and afraid, all she could think of was how gratifying it would be when she ran it through his raging heart.
As she fought with her possession, he began wailing loudly as he twisted in her ice, though not because of his impending doom. The glow under the ice was getting brighter and soon began to crack the ice over his chest. She was startled as the ice broke open, revealing a brightly churning ball of flame set deep within his heart. It wasn't like his other flames and it enchanted her for a moment, as if she were staring into his soul. It also made the shrill whispers in her mind intensify and she was suddenly drowning between the whispers and the commands. Someone was screaming at her to kill him, the voice painful in her chaotic mind, and her body began to move without her consent.
But her eyes were full of fear, and she suddenly realized that had no idea what was wrong with her.
From somewhere deep within the ground, a rumbling rose through the stones of the cave and rattled the floor beneath her. Everything began to shake in resonance with the thrashing in Yasha's heart and his painful screams hurt her ears. The shaking only grew worse and she could now hear the panicked cries from Anna and Kristoff, something that started to pull her back from her trance and focused her on the reality of her situation. She quickly began to realize that the shaking wasn't natural and was connected to flames that consumed him. Something was reacting to his defeat and trying to defend him. The amount of danger she was in quickly became apparent and she desperately tried to shake off her possession, terrified to her core and grasping for the only thing she felt could save her.
"Anna!" she managed to cry just as the quake ripped through the caves and tore the rocks down around her, leaving her in an underlying darkness; separated, frightened and alone.
And then, everything was silent.