I guess Elsa was more tired than I realized, after an hour or so in to the trip back to Arendelle, she fell asleep. I gently detached myself and picked her up like I had outside of Eowan's cabin and carried her below deck. I set her in the captain's bed and pulled the blankets up over her.
I limped back up to see how everyone was doing, I wasn't able to take a look at the injuries during the fight. And too exhausted immediately afterwards. So I made a trip around the ship to check on the families and couples, making sure they were okay and unhurt. One of Tyman's men caught up to me and forced me into one of the hammocks they had set up on the masts. He called over what passed for a doctor on the ship to patch up my injuries, paying close attention to the slash on my leg.
Like the fool I was, I let myself surrender to sleep. I rested in the hammock until we got close to the entrance to Arendelle's ports. I was woken up with cannon fire. A large ship had been anchored in the entrance and skipped the formalities of identification, and moving directly on to the fighting.
Before we could react, a cannon ball tore through the pilot's deck. The ship pilot and the wheel were gouged through and knocked overboard. The ship swung violently to the side and crashed head on at full speed into the shore just outside of Arendelle's waters.
The masts came crashing down. People were knock down and overboard. A large piece of wood fell and pinned me to the deck, and another smaller one fell and hit me on the head, knocking me out.
I don't know how long I was unconscious, but when I woke up, I was laying in the sand. Rubble and debris was scattered all around me. I couldn't feel my legs, and a huge piece of the mast was laying on them. Bits and pieces of ship were on fire on top of the water or on the beach, black smoke rising into the sky, making the sunset look downright sinister.
I called out for help. No one answered. No one answered the other three times I called either. There was no one in sight, not even a body. I was alone. So I waited.
Eventually, I heard sand crunching beneath feet behind me. I couldn't move my head far enough to see behind me. And whoever was there, didn't intend on moving into my field of view. I heard three or four more pairs of feet behind me, I couldn't see them either.
"Who's there?" I asked, trying to keep the pain out of my voice.
Whoever was there laughed for a time, before saying in a deep harsh voice, "Well, well, well. Look what we have here. A helpless Primordial. What should we do with him boys?"
The only answer he got was a bunch of different, but equally harsh laughs.
"I think I have an idea. Grab him boys." The voice said.
Two pairs of rough hands grabbed my shoulders and painfully jerked me out from under the piece of mast. But before I got a good look at either of them, a boot came down on my nose. Pain shot through my face, I couldn't see through it.
Boots rained down on me from everywhere. I tried reaching for magic, but couldn't find any, I had used up too much on the ship. They kept hitting me. Fists and feet. Thank god they didn't have any weapons, I don't think they would've held back. Bones cracked, cuts opened, and I could feel my skin bruise up.
I don't know how long they beat me. I just know it was too long. When I reached the edge of consciousness, they relented and simply dragged me away from the beach. I was too far gone to think about where my friends had gone, or who the men who were dragging me were, or where they were taking me. I just knew everything hurt.
Eventually, I came back to full consciousness in a jail cell. The men were gone, but the pain wasn't. The stone floor didn't help any of my bones, nor did the too tight iron shackles that were covering my hands and attached to the wall with chains. There was a bed pushed up against the wall, made out of stale hay and wood. But it was just too far and too high for me to drag myself there. So I fell asleep on the painfully hard floor to the sound of my heart throbbing in my ears.
When Elsa woke up, she was in a large carriage rumbling down a street. The shades were drawn and red light filtered in. Anna, Kristoff, Eowan, Repunzel, Eugene, and Tyman, all sat on the plush bench opposite her. She rose from her makeshift bed into a sitting position, rubbing away some random aches and pains.
"What happened, where are we?" She asked her friends.
"The ship crashed. We're in a carriage on its way into Arendelle. We found out that the Emperor is holding a ceremony in the main square in just a bit. We thought it would be a good idea if we crashed it." Tyman said.
Elsa rubbed at her eyes and yawned. "The ship crashed? So where's James?"
Nobody answered. Elsa asked again and they all looked away or down, except for Eowan who simply scowled.
"Elsa," Anna finally started, in a voice just above a whisper. "After the crash, we couldn't find him. He wasn't near the rest of us. We don't know where he is. We're thinking he might be on his way to Arendelle as well."
"He might be?" Elsa demanded, suddenly angry. How could they just stop looking? Why are we on our way when James might need our help? She thought, frustrated and upset.
"Elsa, he's a Primordial. I don't think there's anything that could pose a threat to him. He even took on Ishnaugh without breaking a sweat." Kristoff reasoned.
"But he wasn't tired then!" She all but yelled, the temperature in the cabin decreasing. "He could barely stand on the ship."
The group didn't say anything. And no one would look her in the eyes.
Elsa took a deep breath, struggling to calm herself down and assert control over her powers. "This ceremony," she asked. "do you know what it is?"
"No, but it was being advertised for miles around Arendelle." Tyman said. "And the traffic into the kingdom has been horrible."
Elsa nodded to herself, not saying anything in response and looked out the window through the red curtains. The group rode on in silence, you could almost touch the tension hanging in the air between them.
After an hour or two, in which Elsa worried for James and her sister, the carriage came to a halt. They had stopped in an alley way just off of Arendelle's main square. The group got out and paid the carriage driver before donning hooded cloaks to hide their identities. Then they walked around the corner into the town square.
In the center was a newly placed platform a couple feet above the ground. On every building hung a banner that displayed the Empire's insignia; a golden crown surrounded by a red circle on a black background. A giant crowd had gathered to see the mysterious ceremony, and were anxiously awaiting the arrival of their temporary monarch.
Just after Elsa and her friends had blended with the crowd, the Emperor, accompanied by an escort of Imperial guards dressed in standard black uniforms carrying either spears or swords, strutted onto the stage. The crowd erupted into a collection of mumbles as the people were asking those next to them if they knew what was going on.
The Emperor stood in the center of the stage with four guards on either side, basking in the attention he was receiving until he raised a hand and a hush fell over the crowd.
"Good citizens of Arendelle!" He greeted. "As you know, Weselton and Southern Isle forces threaten to invade this fair kingdom.
"Because I love this kingdom. And because I love all the people that help form and strengthen this glorious nation, I have decided to invest my extended interests in protecting it."
"What is he going on about?" Tyman asked Elsa under his breath. Elsa just shrugged in response. She didn't know for sure what the Emperor was going on about, but she did have a hunch...
The bishop that had crowned Elsa as queen of Arendelle two years ago during her coronation walked onto the stage and stood next to the Emperor, holding a wooden box close to his chest. However, the bishop didn't look the same, Elsa barely recognized him. His face was marred with bruised and small cuts. He stood with a slouch as if in great pain, when he walked he limped and when he stood he swayed worse than a drunk man after a night on the town. The crowd gasped in shock when they saw the state of their favorite cleric.
"And I have come to the conclusion, after many a nights thinking hard upon this problem I have come to the best solution possible." The Emperor said, opening and reaching into the box and pulling out a solid gold crown, one adorned with the Arendelle crest in purple gemstone. "That I, Emperor Julius Xavier the second, do hereby declare myself undisputed king and ruler of Arendelle."
Elsa froze as he said that. He had just circumvented the marriage that had been put off for some time. She had thought that he would bid his time until they were married to proclaim himself King.
"How dare you!" Anna yelled, throwing off her hood, small flames igniting on her fingers and underneath her newly shoed feet, although she didn't seem to notice. "How dare you proclaim yourself ruler! Elsa is the true ruler of this kingdom! Not you! You don't care about them, you stole their food, you sent shadows after me and my sister! It was on your order that I was tortured on a ship miles from here!"
The crowd gasped. They apparently hadn't been told anything, and they now they were angry. The crowd turned on the Emperor, shouting and throwing whatever they could find. The Emperor looked on with cold eyes, then he smiled. A sick, twisted smile that was full of malicious glee.
"Queen Elsa and Princess Anna! Or should I say ex-queen and princess?" He sneered down at them. "For a while there I had forgotten you. You should have stayed in hiding, for I still look for a bride."
Elsa then threw off her hood, and created a small platform to stand on out of ice so that the whole crowd could see her, and that she was eye-level with the Emperor. "Fat chance. You've revealed yourself now, and I will never marry you. James will come for you, and I'll laugh when he finds you."
The Emperor reacted the exact opposite of how Elsa thought he would. She expected him to get angry and lash out. But instead he leaned his head back and laughed. When he finally reassumed control of himself, he let his head fall back forward and sneered at Elsa, with an occasional venomous snicker escaping. "Oh dear, you don't know." He sneered. "I should probably tell you then. Your precious James was... collected, by associates of mine a night or two ago. If you don't agree to my demands, well, to his misfortune, I'll have no further need for him."
Elsa froze, a look of fear on her face. So did the rest of the crew, even Eowan who had started to respect James's fighting abilities. They hadn't planned for this. They never expected James to have been captured. They wouldn't ever admit it, but they all secretly harbored hopes that James would swoop in at the last moment and make things right. But now that hope was crushed.
"Elsa, what do we do now?" Anna asked in a whisper to her sister. But Elsa was still too shocked to respond
"Guards!" The Emperor called, "How about you escort my lovely bride and her family to the ... "special" room?"
His private guards immediately hopped off the stage and made their way towards the group.
"Elsa!" Anna tried again, louder this time, starting to get nervous. Flames started flickering across her clothes and body in reaction to her emotions.
"They'll kill him." Elsa said. "Anna, they'll kill him if I don't stay."
After a moment's thought, Anna squared off her shoulders, with Kristoff by her side, and stood tall next to her sister. "If you're staying so am I."
Elsa was about to argue, but seeing how Anna was acting she knew there was no way she was going to get her sister to leave her. Eowan, Tyman, Eugene, and Repunzel, however didn't stick around. They all apologized, saying that they'd be more helpful out of prison, and disappeared into the crowd.
The guards grabbed Elsa and her family, forcing them to the ground and placing restraints on them. More so on Elsa and Anna due to their magical abilities, but not before a few of them got frostbite and some serious burns.
As soon as the remaining members of the group were subdued, a deep, terrifying laugh sounded from the sky. Elsa looked up, she hadn't noticed it but the blue sky was covered up in deep dark storm clouds. Said storm clouds rapidly formed a funnel cloud and came crashing down a few feet in front of Elsa.
The dark clouds condensed and formed the silhouette of a tall, lean man. Without having ever seen him before, or even heard a description of him, Elsa knew who this man was. He was Lognath, the Primordial of Darkness. The manifestation of evil took a single step towards the stage and materialized on it, looming over the Emperor.
"You have done well, Julius." Lognath said. His voice a deep rumbling one that instilled fear into everyone who heard it. "Now, finish your task. Kill the false Primordial, and I will make you a new Empire. One ten times stronger and more powerful than the last."
The Emperor bowed low, his nose almost touching the ground in front of him. "As you wish, my Lord."
Lognath turned his head towards the group on the ground. Elsa couldn't see his eyes, but still felt their presence on her. Before she had the chance to say something scathing and insulting, Lognath slightly nodded his head and the guard restraining her drew back, then hit her in the back of the head with the pommel of his sword.
The last thing she heard before slipping into unconsciousness was Lognath, "Sweet dreams, Snow Queen. We next you see me, I will have won."