The Snow Queen and the FireHeart

Fire and Ice

IX

Fire and Ice

"So nothing happened…" Anna remarked, stepping up on her toes to look over Kristoff's shoulder at Yasha, who was still sitting against at the other side of the grotto. With Kristoff's anger and Yasha's stubbornness, she was surprised she hadn't come back to fireballs and ice axes flying all around. Oddly, it felt kind of disappointing. "You didn't punch him, or kick him or anything?" Her eyes had gone back to him and she smirked at his surprisingly mild response to being alone with her kidnapper. He wiped his face with his hands, barely containing the disbelief.

"Oh come on, if you're going to get mad at something I didn't do, at least let me know ahead of time so I can actually do it," he complained. It was like she was angry that he hadn't gone against her wishes and slugged the guy, which had been a nearly irresistible temptation from the moment he saw him. Women were so difficult to understand. "All he did was sit over there and mumble," he added, remembering how strange it had been to listen to his quiet, garbled voice with no apparent receiver.

He then also remembered the other slight incident that occurred.

"Oh, and he might have lit Olaf on fire."

"He lit Olaf on fire?! You don't think that's something?" she yelled at him, looking down to the snowman's poor, burned twigs.

Olaf was depressed about the way his charred hand appeared. "I'm half the snowman I used to be," he sighed, cringing as his hand creaked and crackled when he opened and closed it.

While Anna and Kristoff bickered over the apparent lapse in oversight, Elsa had been standing to the side, her eyes cast across the cavern, staying on the man as he sat motionless against the wall. Just seeing him again made her apprehension rise and she was rubbing her hands together nervously, remembering how easily it had been to push her ice over him. Just his presence and the magic that flowed through him made her head cloudy and the same harrowing urges to fill her heart.

And once more, she was subject to his frightening eyes.

"Elsa?" Anna asked, breaking her from her trance.

She snapped away with a disturbed expression and suddenly saw the concern in Anna's face, realizing that she had called her a few times before she realized. These lapses in her mood were beginning to stir the fears inside.

"What?" she whispered distantly.

"Are you okay?" Anna asked, reaching out to support her.

Elsa tried to shake off her mood. "I'm fine. I'm just a bit tired is all," she replied nervously, keeping her attention on Anna. She felt that if she kept turning her mind onto Yasha, her heart would succumb to this unnatural pull she felt and she would once more do something terrible. Seeing her mood deteriorate again, Anna reached out and rubbed her hands, finding them very cold. That was strange, as the weather had very little effect on her. Instead, she realized it was probably her mood influencing her powers and while normally that would have been a chilling thought, Anna knew she could help her keep them under control, just as long as she could be with her.

Yasha, on the other hand, was someone she had no idea how to handle.

Turning her eyes on the silent figure across the grotto, she let out a sigh at the upcoming challenge, though realized that if she let herself bend under the weight of it, there would be no way to support Elsa. Instead of bending, she looked back to her, intending on becoming the bridge that would grow between them. "Come on. I'll be right here with you. If he gets mouthy, we can do the whole frozen-butt thing," she said with a light smile. Elsa felt the support in her touch, though the doubts remained. She had been naïve to think she could control him, but even more so that she could control herself around him. It was difficult figuring out who had the advantage between them, since even in his weakest state he could disturb her with nothing more than the fire in his eyes. A part of her also feared that she would have to meet his unwavering resolve with another front of magic, as she wasn't convinced at all he would listen to reason and give up his task.

She saw no such accommodations in his eyes.

Taking a deep breath, Anna dragged Elsa over to him, who continued to sit against the wall and watch them silently. As they approached, she noticed that the mouthy fire sprite was with him and her presence made her frown. That was something the situation didn't need, but she was pleasantly surprised when Sid appeared to be asleep and didn't move at their arrival. She could now focus her attention solely on Yasha. "Uhm, hi. Remember me from that whole kidnapping thing?" she said sheepishly, trying to break the ice. His eyes moved slowly to her, but he said nothing. She noticed how ragged he appeared and was nearly distracted by making sure he was okay, though the electricity in the air made her realize that she needed to move forward quickly, and that he would probably dismiss her concerns outright. "So, I know you've already met, but Yasha, this is my sister Elsa. She's that Snow Queen you're so on about. But now that everyone's calmed down, and you kind of already got your butt kicked, I think we can have a nice, quiet conversation about how you'll, you know, not try and kill her. Okay?"

An awkward silence settled over them. Anna stood expectantly, Elsa still in fear. Kristoff was amazed at how strange that entire introduction came out, while Yasha's eyes had moved back to Elsa, though he continued his silence. Nothing seemed like it could melt away the tension away, until someone else jumped into the mix.

"So you're Yasha. I've heard so much about you," Olaf said, jumping out and offering his arms out to the brooding man, "I'm Olaf, and I like warm hugs!" When Yasha's eyes moved to him and glimmered with annoyance, Olaf sucked his singed arm back in and remembered the last time he saw that look. He laughed nervously. "But not that warm. Your hugs are a little too warm. Hot, actually. Like burning fire."

Even with the snowman's awkward interjection, Anna felt like the atmosphere was much better now and nodded triumphantly, as if she had singlehandedly resolved the problem and put everyone on amicable terms. "Great! It sounds like everybody is friends now. No need for fireballs or snowballs or any other kind of, well, magical balls. You're not trying to set anyone on fire, and you're not trying to turn anyone into a popsicle. Everyone can just get along, right? I knew the whole thing was just…" she began, but Yasha suddenly interrupted her in a powerful voice.

"I would speak with the Snow Queen."

"Alone."

His suggestion made Elsa wince and take a step back, her eyes filling with apprehension, though Anna felt the blow to her efforts and glared at him, feeling angry that he still wanted to command the mood. "Oh, I don't think so, mister moody-pants. The last time you had a little chat with her, things didn't end so well for you, if you remember," she sneered, putting her hands up around her neck and emulating the way he had been choked by Elsa's attack.

He didn't appear amused by the reference, or pay attention to Anna at all. "You wish me to give up on this quest against you? There is a way, Snow Queen. All you must do is consider my proposal," he continued, his voice showing more strength than any of them had expected after his defeat. Elsa was squirming under his gaze and rubbing her hands together harshly. She was either wavering under the possession to destroy him or utterly terrified of him, so speaking to him alone felt completely irrational.

Anna wasn't oblivious to her mood and stepped between them, glaring intently at him as she continued to seethe at his stubbornness. "Anything you have to say, you can say it to all of us. You got the whole set as soon as you kidnapped this princess from her bedroom," she declared, stabbing her hands onto her hips. She was fuming at him for trying to ignore her, especially after what they had been through.

He shifted his eyes to her, finally giving her the attention she demanded. "And I promised to send you home unharmed when I had what I want, something you obviously did not embrace when you had the chance," he replied, though it didn't diminish her anger. Strangely, he couldn't keep his eyes on her for long and he looked beyond her, to where Elsa was hiding in the background.

"Your answer, Snow Queen? Would you listen, or shall we continue this dance until my terms are fulfilled?"

While Elsa ground her hands together, Anna growled and once again pounced between them, crouching in front of him and stabbing her finger into his nose. "Don't you sit there and ignore me! I didn't put up with you for this long just to be ignored. If anyone's going to do a dance around here, it'll be me doing a folk-kick on your backside," she threatened. He wasn't really sure how to react to her, especially as he was trying to set a certain mood with her sister, yet to anyone else it seemed like a very bad idea to provoke him, prompting Elsa to finally act.

"Very well," she suddenly barked, making them all look at her. Anna's finger was still stabbed at Yasha's nose and the two of them were surprised by her quick outburst, though they could all see the reluctance at which she spoke. Elsa stared at him, her hands gnashed, but her jaw firm and her shoulders square. She wore the mask of a queen and her presence regained some of its authority.

She only wished she could mask the fear in her eyes as well.

"I'll listen to your request, if it will put an end to this game."

Feeling worried, Anna jumped up and went to her, showing her concerns on her sleeve. "Whoa, hang on, Elsa. This may not be the best idea. You have no idea how sneaky this guy can be. You don't need to do this alone," she said.

Elsa looked reluctant, but also like she had made up her mind. "It's fine. If he wants to talk to a queen, then it's about time I act like one," she replied, trying to put on airs. Anna wasn't convinced, but Elsa relaxed a bit and offered her a soft smile. "I'll be okay, because you're near."

While still torn by the idea, the comment made Anna's heart soar and she held Elsa's hand tightly, feeling that as long as she had her sister's trust, there was nothing that could harm them, not even a broody, magic-wielding kidnapper. "Okay. But if he so much as breathes funny at you, I'll come back and sock him in the nose," she promised, presenting a balled fist to back up her claim. The display made Elsa laugh slightly, feeling better knowing she had such a devoted knight at her side.

"Thanks," she replied.

Anna gave her hand a final squeeze, then accepted that facing him alone might be what she needed to resolve her own issues, though she then looked down at Yasha with a scowl and presented the same tight fist in his direction. "If you so much as breathe funny at her, I'll…" she began when he raised his hands up at her, cutting her off.

"I overheard. A good sock to the nose."

His submissive response satisfied her and she gave him a beautifully dominant look, showing that out of anyone in that grotto, she had the best grasp on his heart, and she would use it against him without a moment's regret. "That's right," she said, then abruptly pointed at her eyes and then to him.

"Eyes on you."

When he did nothing more than smirk at her in response, Olaf stared in disbelief of the difference in his reaction. He remembered that going much differently for him. "Heeeeeeey…" he protested.

Feeling satisfied in her command over the situation, Anna turned to leave them alone when Kristoff grabbed her arm, showing great reservations in his eyes. He had been quiet for a long time, but the concern was evident on his face.

"This isn't a good idea," he warned.

She looked at him a moment, then back to Elsa and Yasha. As much as Elsa was trying to appear in control, it was obvious she was still unstable, and Yasha stared up at her with his resolute eyes, intent upon setting his pace. The situation was obviously volatile, but she embraced the fact that everyone was talking, not hurling fireballs or icicles through the air. She felt it was definitely an improvement. "Nah, it'll be fine. Try not to worry so much," she remarked, patting him on the arm and nodding to the other side of the grotto. As she walked off, confident that everything would work itself out, he eyed the two and shrugged in defeat, wondering why with the air filled with tension and obvious animosity, they were strolling off like wandering socialites in a ballroom.

"Am I the only one that thinks this is a bad idea?" he sighed, leading the rest to follow her.

Now alone, Elsa continued to present a royal face, looking down at Yasha as if he were bowing before her. Her hands were plastered to her waist and her eyes were drawn tightly in her superior position. He continued to sit, his eyes on her and his hands dangling off his knees, showing an unusual level of ease for the situation. More than she would admit, his liberated hands distracted her and she wavered slightly, only to reinforce her will and speak as powerfully as she could.

"Speak."

He didn't obey, but continued to assess her. For the moment, he would suppress his seditious desires to go after her in light of new paths before him and the words of Nazir ringing in his mind. He had always been talented at reading people, though it didn't take any skill to see how bothered she was, or that her mask was as thin as her attempts to exert her authority over him. This was a new battle for them, and it was a battle of wills.

Unlike the apparent gap in their powers, he had far more confidence in his chances in this battle.

"Return with me to Fria," he finally replied.

Her royal posture shattered and she blinked, unable to believe that she had heard him right.

"I'm sorry?"

He shrugged lightly, talking smugly towards her despite his subservient position, "It is a simple request, Snow Queen. Send your sister and the others back to your Arendelle. Journey with me to Fria, and I will no longer seek your life."

With another exasperated gasp, she had a hard time understanding his intent. She had expected him to demand some kind of payment or ransom, as she would expect of any criminal. He had constantly destroyed her expectations and that was frustrating to her. The very idea of being alone with him made a shiver run down her back and she slowly shook her head without even taking a moment to consider his suggestion. "I don't think so," she answered, her brow twisted as she tried to figure what his was planning at, "Besides, Anna told me you couldn't return to your kingdom."

"True," he began, then slowly pushed his legs under him and scraped himself up the wall to his feet, watching how his ability to rise in front of her made panic run wild in her eyes. It was the response he wanted as he meticulously controlling the amount of terror he injected into her. "Should I be found in in Fria, I would be killed. But I moved about your Arendelle with no great trouble, even into the heart of your castle. Taking the Snow Queen to the mountain would not be impossible."

The way he spoke so casually about his feats irked her, especially as it was about his crimes against Anna, but she couldn't deny his confidence or apparent skill. Still, his words continued to confuse her, which was already eroding away the force of command she was trying to portray "I don't understand. Why would you want me to come with you?" she asked.

Yasha's pageantry faded away and his eyes became fierce.

"To freeze the FireHeart," he replied.

She was even more confused and furrowed her brow. It was unnerving enough to have to talk with him after he had so viciously come after her, but with his riddles and proposals, she found him very difficult to follow. "What? Isn't that exactly what your king fears and why he sent you after me?" she gasped.

"Indeed. That is exactly why King Nazir will never be prepared for it. We could return to the Scoria Chamber together instead of continuing this meaningless task, for I have no desire to hurt you or your sister. But after seeing the strength of your magic, I have come to understand that it is not your life I need to achieve my goals, but your help. Only your power can stop the ancient flame," he explained, carefully keeping his eyes locked on hers, "And save my people."

"Save your people?" she repeated, feeling his persuasions and finding herself even more uncertain of her stance.

Yasha shifted his eyes past her, to where Anna and the others were watching intently at a distance. He could tell that his movements had put them on edge and he was amused at Anna's intense glaring, yet he knew he had made the right choice in speaking to Elsa alone, where he could avoid the considerable influence she had over her sister. "The princess certainly told you of my desire to return home, but she did not tell you my reason," he explained, looking back to her, "I am not trying to simply return to my previous life. No, the only thing I have ever desired is to see the radiance of the FireHeart taken from the skies of Fria and see my people freed from the tyranny of King Nazir."

Elsa could barely believe what she was hearing and no small part of her suspected this was all a lure, some kind of scam to get her to let her guard down, though the alleged reason made it impossible to continue to view him as a simple criminal and even harder to cling to her deaf hatred of him. By the look in his eyes, she could tell he wasn't lying, though something was also telling her that he was still hiding many things. Her head was swimming with doubts and suspicions.

"Isn't the FireHeart the source of your magic? Isn't Nazir your rightful king?" she asked.

At the suggestion, he let his emotions slip angrily. "King Nazir has no right to rule over a people he cares nothing about. How could any king watch his people suffer and die, with no pity and no remorse?" he seethed, pacing slightly in front of her. His reaction took her further off guard and, for the first time, she felt like she had seen his true self, the part of him that Anna had come to trust. Even against the suspicions she continued to cling to, seeing that part of him made her waver in her mistrust of him and loosen her grip on the frightening memories of their battle.

"Your people suffer because of the FireHeart?" she asked, feeling seduced by the noble sentiment.

His attention snapped back to her and he realized he had been opening up too much, though he had no more control over the passion in his heart as he did over the schedule placed on him by Nazir. Thinking of the plight of his people, he had trouble controlling himself and his scheming mind lost out to his aching heart. "The FireHeart rests deep within Fria, the mountain my people have long thought as a protector, a deity if you will. But the FireHeart is unnatural, and its power brings fires so hot, it melts any stone and forges any metal. These goods bring great wealth to Fria, but with that wealth comes death and sickness. From the moment a child is born in Fria, it breathes ash and smoke. The heat burns skin and scars faces, and the tremors…" he explained, unable to control the fury in his voice as he stared down at the ground between them.

"The mountain opens up and devours those who are precious to us. And we continue on as a matter of routine."

Elsa was speechless. The situation he described was horrific and something she couldn't even imagine. Her own kingdom was serene and bright and not without its problems, but her people smiled and prospered, as she dedicated herself to ruling them fairly. The idea of such a place made her begin to sympathize with Yasha.

"That's terrible. I had no idea such a place existed," she remarked, then focused her gaze on him, "But how does freezing the FireHeart save your people?"

"Without the Heart, the mystic fires will not burn. The mountain would not give Nazir the wealth he desires. There would be nothing to keep my people so close to the mountain's inherent danger, and they would be able to leave, to breathe fresh air," he explained, showing her the resolution he had for his plan. There was a markedly different tone in his voice now and he looked at her with new eyes, ones she had even a harder time resisting. "You have proven your power to be greater than mine, though I am but a sliver of the FireHeart's true strength. It would take all that you have to do this, but I would place my trust in one who has none for me, and do all that I could to protect you."

"There is no other path that does not require me to point my blade at you. As poor a choice as it is, it is the only one that relieves us both of my task."

Elsa was searching his eyes. As far as she could tell, he wasn't lying about what he said, but she had discovered that her mind didn't always prove clear when he was nearby. His stated reasons were nobler than she expected and the thought of helping his people did attract her, as did the potential of stopping him from coming after her again. At the very least, when he didn't have the bloodlust in his eyes, she was able to keep down the dark urges that sat just beneath the surface, threatening to lash out and cloud her mind once more. She considered his words, frightfully against common sense and reason. What he asked of her was ridiculous, with any sane person wondering why she would agree to his terms. He had proven his villainous aptitude and wicked capacity, yet him asking her for help made a considerable impression on her, one that was so prevailing that she felt her reason cracking under the pressure of his will.

The ferocity of his eyes was difficult to resist.

"What about Anna?" she asked, turning her head to try and escape back to the one shard of hope she had in resisting him.

Yasha's gaze moved past her and he met eyes with her sister. His expression didn't change. "She cannot follow. The dangers of this plan should be apparent and I cannot escort a regiment into Fria unseen. It is your power I need, and yours alone," he replied sharply, continuing his assault against her, "The FireHeart is a fearsome thing, as is its master. If you value her safety, tell her to return."

She hesitated. Her head turned to the side, she wanted to look back to her sister for support, but her eyes wouldn't follow, nor could she look to him with the sort of resolve he was expecting of her. She was an influx of emotions, between the fear of being at his mercy and the uncertainty of her own haunting rage. In truth, she wanted to run away and simply end this, leaving their fate in the air and return to her life back in Arendelle, yet she found that the allure of his eyes was stronger than she ever imagined, and that even though she feared the unbridled desire to destroy him, there was an equally powerful pull on her heart, urging her to obey him and come to the FireHeart.

"I…" she whispered, trying to wade through the torrent in her chest and finding her voice was just as her indecisive as her eyes.

Yasha's body tightened and he glared at her, traces of orange flaring up in his eyes. He was doing his best to control his impatience and he could feel the will of the FireHeart in his chest. "This is no time for uncertainty. There is much at stake here and no time for pause. It is you who decides our fate, but rest assured that I will proceed without such hesitation when you choose," he commanded, not giving her a moment's respite.

"It is you, and only you, who decides where I would cast my hand, Snow Queen."

Elsa slowly looked to him, finding his fierce expression intoxicating. Once more, the murky haze had touched the edges of her mind and she tried to speak, though nothing seemed to come out. This power he had over her felt stronger than before, despite the fact he had been weakened from their fight. She couldn't explain it, but only knew it felt similar to her magic, only residing deeper and more intimately within her. She didn't know what was more haunting, the depths of his pale gray eyes or the relentless whispers of the voice in her mind, but they both possessed her and made her resistance to him fade away.

As she answered, it felt like someone else was speaking with her voice.

"I'll come with you."

In spite of her submission, he didn't relent in his gaze and appeared just as entranced. "Send Anna away," he demanded, quietly and with much force, "Leave your hesitation behind you."

"Come with me to the Heart."

Elsa could bear him no more and dropped her head, nodding as she knit her hands tightly across her waist. "I will," she whispered, swallowing harshly. Her eyes were at his feet and she dared not meet his gaze again. She didn't trust him and she still feared him, but his words had a resounding effect on her. Where she had previously dreaded the idea of being separated from Anna, those fears were muted in the haze of her mind. Frighteningly, she still felt like someone else as she turned from him, took a deep breath, and walked towards the others to tell them of her decision. Watching her go, his posture loosened and the orange faded from his eyes. Like her, he acted as if some invisible hand had suddenly let go of him and left him bewildered, though he was easily able to dismiss it as he had put his plan into motion. In truth, he had told her more than he wanted to, with so much he had held back. His guilt began to eat away at him, but he knew this was what he had to do in order to walk forward, down the ultimate path that would give him everything he desired, even those things he neglected to tell her about. But as he had already been her villain, he could live with these imminent sins against her, just as long as he put her on the right path.

Nothing else mattered beyond bringing the Snow Queen to the FireHeart.

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