The following morning, Elsa was sitting by herself at the breakfast table, drinking her tea and going through the usual morning paper. She had let Anna sleep in because they had stayed up late last night discussing what had happened in the past twenty-four hours. Elsa was about done with breakfast when Annaliese walked in, "Good morning, Queen Elsa. How did you sleep?"
Elsa politely smiled and stretched, "Honestly, I didn't sleep at all…too many things happening at once, too many thoughts racing through my mind. How about you?"
Annaliese sat down and hungrily eyed the food, "One of the best night's rests I've had in a while. Thank you again for letting me stay here."
"You are quite welcome…" Elsa eyed Annaliese with a bit of curiosity, "So, moving to Arendelle and deciding to start a new life here is a pretty big decision. How did you come to make it?"
"To be honest, I was very reluctant in coming here to begin with, but Hans kind of persuaded me to come."
Elsa raised a curious eyebrow, "Really? How so, if I may ask?"
Annaliese began buttering the toast, "Back in December, when we found out that I was pregnant and Kendrick had died, I was in terrible condition. But Hans, being the kind-hearted person that he is, made me a promise that he would help me take care and raise the child in place of his deceased brother."
A knot formed in the bit of Elsa's stomach, as she nonchalantly took another drink of her tea, "He said that?"
Annaliese glanced up at Elsa, "He didn't tell you?"
Elsa carefully chose her words, "No…I can understand how he forgot, though. There was a lot going on yesterday with him going back to the Southern Isles to reinstate his royal title-"
Annaliese stopped buttering, "He went back to the Southern Isles?"
"Yes…but he should be back in a week's time."
"Well, that's if he gets an answer right away…according to their law, the King can take up to a month before deciding to reinstate a royal title, and even then the process could take up to another week or two."
Elsa silently did the math in her head before she responded, "That means Hans would be back by the first week of June, at the latest…there would still be about two weeks before the end of Spring, that's enough time to arrange a wedding if we make most of the preparations beforehand."
Annaliese was so surprised that she accidentally dropped the knife, "Wedding?!"
Elsa slightly blushed, "I found out yesterday that I have to marry a prince by the end of Spring, so I originally chose Prince Benedict of Livonia. Fortunately, Hans returned and he proposed to me yesterday, which is why he left for the Southern Isles-"
Annaliese nodded with understanding, "So if he gets his title reinstated then he could come back and marry you."
"That's the plan."
Annaliese smile, "I'm happy for you, you'll have a long happy life with him by your side…I'm actually sort of jealous of you two."
Now it was Elsa's turn to be surprised, "Of us?"
"You get to marry the man you love and he gets to marry the woman he loves…it's basically a storybook ending."
Elsa understood where Annaliese was going with this, "Well, your story isn't over yet…you're still very young and you practically have your whole life ahead of you, Annaliese, I'm sure you will find your true love someday." Elsa remembered something she was told way back in December, "In fact, what are your thoughts about William?"
"Welcome to the Southern Isles, please watch your step."
About three days had passed, by the time Hans reached his hometown. He kindly smiled at the greeter and nodded, "Thank you." He probably thinks I'm some sort of royalty from Arendelle because of the ship, otherwise I wouldn't have gotten the welcome wagon.
Hans took a route through the back alleyways of the town, in order to get to the castle quickly and efficiently. When he reached the castle gates, he fixed his disguise that resembled a royal advisor, and knocked on the gatekeeper's door. Ah, home sweet home. I never thought I would come back here by my own willpower…but this is for Elsa and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make her happy.
The grumpy gatekeeper opened his door, "What do you want?"
"I'm here by order of Queen Elsa of Arendelle; I have a message from her to the King regarding an alliance between the two kingdoms of Arendelle and the Southern Isles."
The old man grinned, "Arendelle you say? Hold on."
The castle gates began to slowly opened up, "Thank you-" But the man had slammed the door in Hans's face. I see that hospitality has definitely improved here.
Once Hans reached the steps leading into the castle, a frumpy man approached him, "You the man from Arendelle?"
Hans nodded, "Yes, I'm here by order of-"
The man turned and began walking away, "Yeah, yeah…follow me. So how is Queen Elsa doing these days?"
Hans curiously raised an eyebrow, "Why does this concern you?"
The man gave an eerie smile, "Oh, the royal family here loves Queen Elsa for sentencing Prince Hans to death. He was a problem child that needed to be dealt with."
Hans kept his face complacent, "Did anybody mourn the death of the late-prince?"
The man scoffed, "Not here, at least."
"I personally felt bad for the man, he seemed like a genuine guy that just had a hard past. People are not born evil, you know?"
The man remained silent for a few seconds, "How did he die?"
"Hung by the neck until dead, why?"
"The castle staff and the royal family bet wages on how she would kill him. Most were hoping that she would freeze his heart so he could experience a slow death."
Hans feigned a chuckle, "After what he did to them, he definitely deserved something like that."
The man approvingly nodded as they reached the throne room, "Agreed. Here we are…the King will see you now."
Hans took in a deep breath as he made his way through a very familiar throne room. He did a quick look around but noticed that his father was impatiently tapping his fingers on his throne. Hans tried not to seem anxious, even though he realized that his future depended on this conversation he was about to have with his father, the man who betrayed him and left him to die. Hans respectfully bowed, "King Richard, I'm here by order of Queen Elsa of Arendelle. I have a message from her regarding an alliance between the two kingdoms of Arendelle and the Southern Isles."
The King methodically rubbed his chin, "I see…and how shall our two kingdoms become allies? Last I heard, Queen Elsa didn't want anything to do with us since my youngest son, Prince Hans, tried to murder both her and her sister."
"She wishes to marry for the alliance, Your Majesty."
The King was pleasantly surprised and stood up with a huge grin on his face, "Marry?! That fox! Which one of my lucky sons does she wish to marry?"
"Prince Hans, Your Majesty."
The smile on the King's face immediately disappeared as he sat back down on his throne, "Sir, Prince Hans is dead. Queen Elsa sentenced him to death about eight months ago, you should know this already…heck, she should know this! Is this some kind of joke?"
"No joke, Your Majesty. There is a law in Arendelle that states Queen Elsa must marry a prince before the end of Spring and she chose to marry your youngest son, Prince Hans."
The King scoffed, "Now I know you're messing with me…tell me-"
Hans began taking slow steps towards him, "But the problem is-"
"Did you just interrupt me, peasant-?"
"You disowned Prince Hans-"
"So she cannot marry him until you reinstate his title-"
King Richard raised his hand, "Wait! What did you just say?"
"Queen Elsa cannot marry your son, unless you reinstate his royal title."
The King's voice became icy, "My son is dead."
Hans took his final step, "If he were alive, would you reinstate his title so he could marry Queen Elsa?"
"Of course! I've been trying to reestablish an alliance with Arendelle for quite some time."
"King Richard, today is your lucky day." Hans took off the hat he'd been wearing, "For the good of the Southern Isles, I ask you to reinstate my royal title as Prince of the Southern Isles, so that I may return to Arendelle and marry Queen Elsa."
His father eyes widened with shock and confusion, "Hans?! What?! How?!"
Hans put on a smug face and spoke in a devious tone, "I appealed to the sisters' sense of mercy…they really do have a soft spot for people who share a relatable rough childhood like themselves. And once I got Princess Anna on my side, she persuaded Queen Elsa to spare my life in exchange for manual labor at the castle."
His father curiously eyed his son, "So what's this about marriage?"
Hans began circling his father's throne, "I promised you, Father, that I would pursue one of the two royal sisters and, by marriage, eventually secure myself into Arendelle's throne. It took a while, but I've done it, I've got Arendelle in the palm of my hand…including their Queen."
King Richard stood up and put his hands on his son's shoulders, "Hans, my boy! You are by far the most devious and cunning man I have ever known, and I'm proud to call you my son. It would be an honor to reinstate your title…I'll get everything done as soon as possible so you can get back to your future bride, and more importantly, your future kingdom."
Hans bowed, "Thank you, Father."
As Hans walked away, his father chuckled, "It sure feels good to have my favorite son back."
Hans stopped at the door and turned to face his father with a haughty smile, "Feels good to be back…"
As soon as Hans left the throne room, he couldn't help but feel disgusted with himself. He went out into the gardens and took a quick dip in the pond, wanting to wash away the filth of his deeds. I did what I had to do…I have to let Father think that I'm still conniving and deceitful. He would never reinstate my title if he knew that I only wanted it because I truly wish to marry Elsa for love, not power.
Once Hans finished drying off, he heard a familiar voice in the distance, "Hans! Hey, Hans!"
Hans squinted in the direction of the voice, "Kevin? Is that you?"
Kevin ran up to Hans with a smile on his face, "Father, told me you were back and alive, but I had to find out for myself. So is it true? Are you going to marry Queen Elsa?"
Hans put on his shirt, "I can honestly say that I am going to marry Queen Elsa before the end of Spring."
"That's great! I can't believe that you got so far when, last I saw you, you were practically on death row. Once Father left you in Arendelle, I honestly thought you were done for…I didn't know that whole thing was just a charade. You are my hero, Hans."
Hans rolled his eyes, "Don't get all sentimental on me now, Kevin. Did you forget the cardinal rule? Nothing is more important than the job, and one should do whatever it takes to get it done."
Kevin put a hand on Hans's shoulder, "But still, Hans, you've been scheming for over eight months…I admire your persistence. Can I buy you a drink?"
Hans guiltily chuckled, "I could go for a drink."
Kevin slapped Hans on the back, "That's my baby brother!"
It was about eleven o'clock at night when Anna waddled into the library in search of her sister. She spotted Elsa curled up in a large comfy chair by the fireplace, reading a book with a cup of tea on the table beside her. Anna shuffled her slippers across the hardwood floors, towards her sister, "How are you doing?"
Elsa looked up and smiled, "I'm fine…why?"
Anna sat down on the floor, facing Elsa's chair, "Well, he hasn't returned yet."
Elsa refilled her teacup, "It's only been five days, Anna…he said that he would return in a week's time and I believe him."
"But didn't you say that Annaliese mentioned it could take up to a month and a half?"
"Hans said a week's time, so he must know what he's doing…knowing him he probably had a plan going into it."
Anna curiously eyed her sister, "You really do trust him, don't you?"
Elsa took a sip of tea, "Yes…don't you?"
"Oh sure, sure…it's just, how can you be so certain that he's not still playing us?"
Elsa closed her book and placed it on the table, "You expect me to believe that Hans has been playing us for over eight months now?"
"No…well, I don't know, maybe?"
Elsa clasped her hand together and put them on her lap, "Anna, when did you realize that Kristoff loved you?"
"When Olaf told me that he did."
Elsa furrowed her brow, "You had to have a snowman tell you?"
Anna held up her hands, "Hey, in my defense I was dying and hopeless. The man who I thought was my true love left me to die and for the first time in my life I gave up, I couldn't find a bright side to the situation…I was at a low point in my life."
Elsa cleared her throat, "What did Olaf tell you?"
Anna smiled to herself, "Love is putting someone else's needs before your own and that some people are worth melting for."
"And Kristoff did that?"
"Yes, he almost lost his ice business because of me, he brought me back to Hans even though he loved me, and he risked his life when he decided to come back for me."
"And you sacrificed yourself for me?"
"I love you, Elsa…it's just like when you left to find the antidote for Kristoff. You risked your life because you loved me and wanted to see me happy."
Anna nodded with understanding, "Hans risked his life when he decided to go with you to Sperca, and he even died for you, to protect you…because he loved you."Anna looked up at Elsa and smiled, "I get it now…we can trust him." She pointed at Elsa's book, "What are you reading?"
Elsa quickly snatched up the book and covered the front, "A book."
Anna rolled her eyes, "No, really, Elsa…I didn't notice. Seriously, what it is?"
Elsa bit her lip, "Okay, just don't freak out…"
Elsa handed Anna the book, making her sister's eyes go wide, "A wedding catalog?! Elsa, you started planning your wedding without me?!"
"Anna, I was just browsing for the fun of it…it's something I do when I can't sleep."
Anna excitedly flipped through the pages, "Well since you're up and I'm up, why don't we start looking at dresses or something?"
Elsa laughed and scooted over in the seat, patting the small empty space beside her, "Okay…try to squeeze in if you can."
Anna hopped onto the chair and miraculously the two sisters fit perfectly in the large seat together. Elsa opened the book and by the first page, Anna was already ogling over the beautiful dresses, "Oh! I like that one! It's perfect!"
Elsa light-heartedly rolled her eyes, "Anna, this is only the first dress…"
Elsa flipped to the next page and Anna got excited all over again, "Oh! I like that one more!"
This time Elsa couldn't help but laugh, "Anna, please pace yourself, this is a pretty large book."
Anna snuggled closer to Elsa and smiled, "In that case I'd better get some of that tea…it's going to be a long night, sis."
Two days later, Elsa was in the ballroom, meeting with the wedding planner that her council was extremely adamant about hiring, "Your Majesty, have you set a date for the wedding?"
Elsa was impatiently pacing back and forth, "No."
One of the assistants, who was righting things down, spoke up, "Queen Elsa, do you have a theme planned?"
The wedding planner placed her hands in her lap, "Do you have a menu in mind?"
Her assistant stopped writing and put her pen down, "Do you have a color pallet?"
Elsa furrowed her brow, "Isn't that included with theme?"
Elsa pursed her lips, "Then, no."
The wedding planner and her assistant looked at each then back at Elsa, "Flowers?"
Elsa's head was beginning to hurt, "Enough!" Fortunately, she saw Kristoff walk into the ballroom, signaling that it was already time for another meeting with the local businesses, "Look, until Hans comes back, there will be no major decisions made. Now, if you'll excuse me, I do have a kingdom to run."
Once they exited the ballroom, Kristoff nodded back at the door, "Who were they?"
Elsa rubbed her head as if she had a headache, "The wedding planner and her minions…" When Kristoff started laughing, she quickly added, "I'm sorry that was uncalled for."
Kristoff continued laughing, "No, it was rather funny…it's something Anna would say."
Elsa smiled, "Well, we are related, we do share some of the same traits."
Kristoff cleared his throat, "So where did you and Anna get your sense of humor?"
"My mother was very fun loving and loved to laugh, but it was my father who liked to act silly and make her laugh, he made us all laugh actually."
"Your father was a good man and a fine ruler…he cared deeply for the people of Arendelle."
Elsa was silent for a few seconds before she quietly responded, "Yeah…"
Kristoff noticed her change in behavior, "Elsa? Are you okay?"
Elsa hesitated, taking in a long breath, "I just realized that my father won't be there to walk me down the aisle at my wedding…" She glanced up at Kristoff, before she quickly looked down and shook her head, "I'm sorry you don't want to hear this-"
"It's fine, you miss your parents…" He gave her a warm smile, "It shows that you're human."
Elsa raised a challenging eyebrow, "You didn't think I was human?"
Kristoff widened his eyes, "What? No, that's not what I meant-"
Elsa giggled, "Geez, Anna's definitely been an influence on you."
Kristoff blushed ever so slightly, "What can I say? I love spending time with your crazy sister."
Elsa smiled, "I'm happy to hear that…"
They remained silent for a little bit, before Kristoff cleared his throat, "Have you heard anything from Hans?"
"How long has he been-"
"So he should be back soon, right?"
Elsa slightly hesitated, "He should."
Once Elsa and Kristoff entered her study and closed the door, Elsa sat at her desk and clasped her hands together, "So what about you?"
"Right, uh, my ice business has greatly profited since-"
Elsa smirked, "No, no, no…that's not what I meant. You've obviously been spending a lot of time with Anna…what are your intentions?"
Kristoff sat down in the chair across Elsa's desk, "My intentions?"
"Yes, where do you see yourself and Anna in a year? Still dating, engaged, married?"
Kristoff nervously shifted in the seat, "I've been thinking about our relationship a lot lately, and I've come to the realization that I would love to marry Anna, I want to marry Anna…but-"
Elsa raised an incredulous eyebrow, "But?"
"I'm just afraid that I'll let her down…what if I can't be the kind of husband she needs? I'm no prince charming…just a lowly ice harvester that was raised by trolls and has a reindeer for a best friend. I don't want people to look down on the royal family because of me…"
Elsa kindly smiled at his thoughtfulness, "Trust me, I think I've already occupied the position of being a disappointment to the royal family. To be completely honest, I think you are the most normal person here because let's be real, Kristoff, the royal family of Arendelle consists of a quirky overly ambitious princess and an emotionally distressed snow queen…add in an ex-criminal to the mix and you'd fit right in. If you're afraid of letting her down, then by not thinking about your future together with her, you will be letting her down. My sister loves you and cares deeply about you, she trusts you with her life…she's willing to spend the rest of her life with you."
Kristoff silently sat in the chair for a couple minutes, contemplating what Elsa had said; I know that I love Anna and I know she feels the same way about me…I couldn't possibly see myself being with anyone else other than Anna. We've discussed the idea of marriage before, but I wasn't ready to trade everything I've ever known for the life of a prince…but now I think I am. I'm ready. Kristoff smiled to himself and stood up, confidently looking Elsa in the eye, "As am I…Queen Elsa, I would like to ask for your blessing of the marriage between myself and Princess Anna."
Elsa stood up and matched Kristoff's look, "Kristoff Bjorgman, you've done so much for my sister and Arendelle…you've earned my respect and trust, which is not an easy thing to do. I would be honored to bless the marriage between you and my sister."
Kristoff's grin spread across his face as he properly bowed, "Thank you, Queen Elsa."
Elsa politely bowed her head, "It is my absolute pleasure…oh and Kristoff?" Elsa gave Kristoff a pleasant smile as he paused by the door, "Welcome to the family."
That night, Elsa could not stop tossing and turning with the many thoughts that ran through her mind. She was about to give up and go to the library with her book and tea, when she heard a tap outside her window; what was that? She remained still in her bed until she heard it again. Elsa sighed as she got out of bed and tightly wrapped her light blue silk robe around her body; whatever it is, I'm getting to the bottom of it right now. But once Elsa opened the window, she couldn't help but laugh, "Hans, what on earth are you doing?"
Hans dropped the pebble in his hand, "What does it look like I'm doing, I'm trying to get your attention."
"Why? I mean, why this way? Can't you just knock on my door like a normal person?"
Hans gave her a roguish smile, "Because this is much more romantic, now come on down."
"Are you crazy?! I'm about three stories up!"
Hans nonchalantly shrugged, "Perhaps, but what can I say…I love crazy."
Elsa knew she should go back to bed and try to get some rest, but she had to admit that she was intrigued; it's not like I was going to get a whole lot of sleep tonight anyways. "Fine…but you might want to stand back a bit."
Hans obediently took a few steps back as Elsa fully opened her windows and stood on her window sill. From there, she waved her hands and right before their eyes, a beautiful spiral ice staircase reached from her window, down to the ground. Elsa gracefully made her way down the stairs as her nightgown and robe transformed into her signature ice dress. Once she reached the bottom, Hans was already there waiting for her and promptly wrapped his arms around her in a gentle hug. After their hug, they stood close to each other and held the other's hand, "Okay so what's the meaning of all this?"
"I thought that it would be fun to take my fiancé out on a date."
"At eleven o'clock at night?"
"If I waited until you had room in your schedule, then I wouldn't get to go on a date with you until after the wedding."
Elsa covered her mouth with her hands as she excitedly gasped, "Does that mean you got your title back?!"
Hans properly bowed, "Your Majesty, I am once again Prince Hans of the Southern Isles…now, would you care to go on a date with me?"
Elsa crossed her arms and put on her professional face, "Prince Hans, I don't know how they do things in the Southern Isles, but asking a queen from another country out on a date at eleven o'clock at night is frowned upon here in Arendelle."
Hans bowed again, "My apologizes, Your Majesty…perhaps I should just go."
Elsa shrugged, "Well, now that you already got me out here, I guess I can see what you had in mind."
Hans dropped all formalities as he reached for her hand, "Perfect! Come on!"
Elsa quietly giggled, "Where are we going?"
"It's a surprise…"
A sinking feeling grew in her stomach, "I'm not a huge fan of surprises…"
Hans gave her hand a gentle squeeze, "Trust me, Elsa, I know you well enough not to do anything too outrageous."
Hans led Elsa around to the backside of the castle and they quietly escaped through the small gate, leading to the South Mountain. Unlike the North Mountain, where Elsa's ice castle stood, the South Mountain was a lot smaller and more hill-like. But at this time of the year, the spring flowers had bloomed and the usual rolling green pastures were now covered with crocus flowers. Elsa and Hans happily ran through the fields, carefree and laughing the entire time. Once they finally reached the top of the hill, they settled beneath a tree and gazed out at their view overlooking the fields, "What kind of flowers are these?"
Elsa reached forward and picked a flower, "Crocus flowers, these are the same flowers that are on Arendelle's official crest. They are a symbol of rebirth and spring, and in cold regions, these flowers can bloom while snow is still on the ground."
Elsa handed Hans the flower and he began twirling it between his fingers, "Wow…I never knew that."
"Well, it's good for you to learn this kind of stuff since you'll soon be King of Arendelle…everything you see will be yours."
Hans placed the flower in Elsa's hair and held her in his arms, "Ours."
Elsa blushed, "Right, of course…" For a few minutes they just stayed in their embrace, overlooking the pastures until Elsa cleared her throat and looked up at Hans, "So how did you get your title back so quickly? Annaliese said that it could take up to a month and a half."
Hans avoided her eyes by continuing to look at the view, "I, uh, did something I'm not very proud of…I made my father believe that I was still playing you and Anna. He thinks that this whole entire time I've been sticking to the original plan in trying to woo either you or Anna in order to marry into the throne." He looked down at Elsa, his eyes filled with sincerity, "But it's absolutely not true! I felt so rotten afterwards that I actually had to go wash myself in the pond, just to get rid of the filth of my deeds. You know I love you, Elsa…I would do anything for you."
"I know…" Elsa rested her head against his chest and closed her eyes.
Hans rested his chin on top of her head, "Can I ask you a question?" Elsa nodded, "Back at the pond a week ago, you didn't seem as surprised as I thought you would have been when you first saw me…it almost felt like you weren't mourning for me but more like waiting for me."
"Well, it's true…I learned that sometimes you have to listen to your heart when it comes to the matter of true love. So although my mind was telling me to mourn your death, my heart was telling me to not give up on you, to wait for your return."
"How'd you do it? Stay so persistent, so strong-willed?"
Elsa sat up and looked up at Hans, "It wasn't easy, believe me. But I had a little help from you…" Elsa reached inside her dress and pulled out a neatly folded piece of paper, "I found your poem in my pocket the day I returned from Sperca. And ever since then, I've been keeping it with me wherever I go. It always stayed in the same place, right here…near my heart."
As Elsa tucked the paper away, Hans stood up, "Close your eyes."
"Just do it, it's a surprise."
Elsa slowly stood up, "…Okay."
Hans walked behind her and placed a cold object around her neck, "Happy birthday."
Elsa looked down and gasped when she saw a beautiful silver pendent necklace dangling from her neck, "Oh my goodness, Hans! This is beautiful!"
"So you like it?"
Elsa nodded and smiled as she admired the intricate crystal snowflake at the end of the necklace, "Absolutely! Thank you!"
"You're welcome…I thought of you when I first saw it and I remembered that I never gave you anything for your birthday."
Elsa wrapped her arms around him in a warm embrace, "You didn't have to get me anything."
Hans gave her a gentle squeeze, "Well, you're my fiancé now. So I thought that was a good excuse to buy you a late birthday gift…oh and one more thing." Hans pulled away and tucked his hand into his jacket.
"Hans, please, you don't have to give me anything else."
"Yes, I do. Last week, my proposal, although sincere, was not exactly what I had in mind…but now…" Elsa gasped as Hans got down on one knee and lifted up a small box with a beautiful diamond ring inside, "Elsa, will you marry me?"
Elsa paused, taking in the moment, before she smiled and quietly answered, "Yes…" Hans slid the ring onto her finger and when he stood up he cupped Elsa's face in his hands and gave her a long loving kiss. After their kiss ended, Elsa smiled up at his handsome face, "Is this how you had imagined it?"
Hans lightly chuckled, "No, this is so much better and do you want to know why? Because this isn't in my imagination…this is really happening and I couldn't be happier."
Elsa placed a delicate hand on his cheek, "Me too."