"Faster, hotter," I shouted at Anna as she strained to control her newly found powers. She fired off two short blasts of fire from a pair of punches at a flame-resistant target I had set up across the courtyard.
Anna was breathing hard, her hair was ragged, although not as much as when she woke up, and her face was covered in soot. But she had a determined look on her face as she was dead set on mastering her powers quickly.
"Let's try a little sparring again," I suggested, stepping forwards as Elsa did on Anna's other side.
All three of us assumed fighting stances, drawing up power to our hands, mine and Elsa's hands glowing two shades of blue and Anna's glowing a fiery red. Anna struck first, sending a blast each at both me and Elsa, then emitting a wave of fire from her body in a circular wave. Anna didn't have to hold back when we were sparring, no doubt she was naturally powerful, but not as much as either me nor Elsa and lack significant experience in wielding magic. In other words, me and Elsa were able to defend ourselves effectively.
The three of us trading blows back and forth, Elsa and I slowly picking up speed and power to stretch Anna's abilities past their limits. Eventually Anna tired out and we ended the sparring match, everyone breathing moderately hard. We walked into the castle dining room, wiping sweat off with towels we had brought, Elsa and I hand in hand.
Kristoff was waiting for us, seated at the table polishing his pickaxe with a few small blades lying neatly around in their sheaths. Anna immediately moved over to him, carefully putting her arms around him so she could be sure she wouldn't burn him. Control over body temperature and keeping herself from accidentally burning or setting things on fire was the very first thing I had Anna master. She had progressed quickly during the day, and had already moved past basic recreational uses of fire magic and onto combat magic.
I released Elsa's hand and swiftly moved to pull out Elsa's chair at the head of the table. She smiled at me, regally taking her seat. She flickered her hand and a glacial wind scooted a chair on the right side of the table right up next to her. I smirked and sank into the chair, wrapping an arm around her shoulders.
A battered looking chef appeared from the kitchen carrying food on two silver platters, more following soon after. The chefs made their way over to the table, placing the platters of food in front of us, one bowing his head at me and Elsa, "Queen Elsa, Master James."
Elsa nodded at the server, dismissing him. We all moved in to start on our meals when a small teenage boy burst into the room. He gave a hasty bow to Elsa, "Queen Elsa, James, I have a report from the civilian guard captain."
Elsa gave me a look, telling me with her eyes that I should handle this. I nodded at the young man as my friends started eating. "First off, no one has seen hide nor hair of Julius or the men that support him. Second, a few scouts have returned from the borders of the town, they say that the Weaseltown fleet and Southern Isles army will arrive in two days time. And third, Tyman and Eowan are causing chaos in the enemy camps and trying to amass a small cavalry out of stolen horses. While Eugene and Repunzel have gone to assume control of Coronian frigates to try to counter an attack from the sea."
I took in the information, trying to compile a strategy for defending Arendelle. "Thank you, you may return to your other duties." The teen bowed deeply at the waist and ran out of the dining room.
I pushed thoughts of attacks and defenses to the back of my mind as I ate my meal. Honestly, you can't blame me, Arendelle's chefs are some of the best in the world and aren't afraid to challenge themselves with every meal.
"So James," Kristoff started as he swallowed a bite, "what is the plan here? Because I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do."
"The plan is simple, go and grab the staff we trapped Ishnaugh in while you all hold off the attack, I get the staff to you guys so you can have a Primordial on your side, and I fight Lognath." I said solemnly, knowing that the plan had a lot of 'what ifs' and opportunities for failure. "I know it's not much of a plan, but it's the one that we have."
Anna's expression turned to one of outrage. "No! No way! You're not going to fight Lognath all by yourself, you're relying on a necklace to even function properly, you're not in any condition to fight Lognath!"
"I know you don't like it." I said calmly. "But I'm not going to risk any of you to fight a battle I should've fought a long time ago."
"James, she does have a point." Elsa said, eyes full of concern. "You're going to need help to fight him. You need us by your side."
I reached over and took her hands in mine, looking into her eyes, "Elsa please, there is no chance in the world that I would ever put you in danger. This is something I need to do, and I need to do it alone."
Elsa looked down for a second, thinking about it then slowly nodded her head in submission. I looked at Kristoff and Anna, neither of them tried to argue but they obviously didn't like it.
We ate in silence for a while, before the doors opened and a few guards came in with the lists of preparations and defenses set up in the city. Elsa and I excused ourselves from the room to go over the lists with the guards in Elsa's study.
For the next several hours, we reviewed the lists and maps of Arendelle to see how we should implement them and where we could draw the enemy in to do the most damage with the least number of casualties. Halfway through the meeting the sun went down, and I had to create a few miniature balls of blue light so that we could continue to work. A few hours after that and Elsa could barely stand she was so tired, she hadn't gotten near as much sleep as I had in the dungeons. After the third time Elsa almost dropped her head on her desk, I decided to temporarily end the meeting.
Elsa sat in her large brown leather chair while I stood behind her, we both watched all the guards leave, taking with them all the information necessary to do their jobs. I gently rubbed Elsa's shoulders as she leaned her head back. "Thank God, that's finally over." She said.
I chuckled under my breath, "Is a certain Snow Queen getting tired?" I teased. Elsa groaned in agreement, giving a nod. "Alright, time for bed then."
I walked around the chair to offer Elsa my hand, but she lifted her arms in a infantile gesture to be picked up. I lifted a questioning eyebrow, but she just gave me a pair of puppy-dog eyes. I rolled my eyes, a smirk forming at the side of my mouth.
I reached an arm underneath her knees and one behind her back and lifted her up into a bridal position. I carried her through the dimly lit castle, only lit by a few small magic blue lights. I made my way into her room and gently place her onto her bed, pulling the covers back and over her as she morphed her ice dress into sleep apparel.
I gave her forehead a small goodnight kiss. I turned around to leave but a gust of cold wind closed the door in front of me. "And where do you think you're going?" Elsa said from her bed.
"To bed, where else?" I asked.
"Why would you need to leave? There's a bed right here." Elsa said, her voice soft from exhaustion and her eyes still closed.
"I wouldn't want to intrude, and wouldn't it be inappropriate for a queen to be sleeping with someone in her own bed?" I asked sarcastically.
"Didn't stop you before." She replied, gently pushing the blankets besides her down to offer a space for me.
I smiled and gestured at my body, using a little magic to change the clothes I was wearing into a pair of night pants and a thin white t-shirt. I slid into bed next to Elsa, her back facing towards me. I wrapped my arms around her, the familiar cold freshness spreading through my body.
I closed my eyes, drifting off to sleep, but was interrupted by a soft comment from Elsa. A simple few words right before she drifted off to sleep. She rolled over to face me, wrapping slender arms around my chest, and muttered before she dropped into unconsciousness, "I love you, James."
The words shocked me, leaving me speechless and unable to react for a few heavy seconds. But I was finally able to pull my mind together and process what she said. I couldn't help but break out into a undoubtedly goofy broad grin. I lowered my head on top of hers, "I love you too, Elsa."
I drifted off into a blissfully dreamless sleep.
Elsa woke up happy. She opened her eyes and found herself wrapped up with James' arms and warmth. She has also has a wonderful dream, a simple echo of James telling her that he loved her. She smiled, she had made up her mind, she loved him, Primordial or not. Elsa laid there, enjoying being with James until an idea sprang to mind.
She very carefully untangled herself from James, thank goodness he was a heavy sleeper. She quickly combed her hair and braided it into its traditional style, used her magic to reform her ice dress and swiftly made her way down to the kitchen.
In the kitchen, she found a few surly chefs that had just woken up and where starting to get breakfast for the royals together. She started going around the kitchen grabbing ingredients and various kitchen supplies, and started whipping up breakfast.
One young-ish chef nervously walked up to her with a confused expression on her face. "Uhm, your majesty, isn't that what we're supposed to do?"
"Yes," she replied crisply, "however, I'm making this because it will mean more."
"I don't understand." The poor kid said.
"Then don't worry about it, just let me do this and be on your way."
The kid sulked away even more confused than when he went up to her and Elsa continued with her task. When she was finished, she had made a small breakfast of pancakes, bacon, and a glass of orange juice. She looked over the finished product with a proud smile before putting it all on a tray and carrying it down to her room.
She found James still sleeping in her bed snoring ever so slightly. She smiled at his completely relaxed expression, slightly hunched under the soldiers, his arms still in the position they were while he was holding her. She took the tray and set it quietly on the nightstand on James' side, and carefully sat down next to him.
It didn't take long for James to wake up, just a few minutes after Elsa returned. He sat up and stretched, a few joints cracking in the process. He blinked a few times and looked at her with bleary eyes, "Elsa? Up kind of early aren't you?"
"Well, I wanted to make you breakfast in bed." Elsa said, twisting around to grab the tray of food and setting it in James' lap.
"You made this?"
"Just for you."
"Well, thanks. That means a lot." He said, taking a bite of the pancakes.
"I was thinking," Elsa started pulling on her braid out of nervous habit. "Since we've still got tomorrow to get ready, do you think you could put off the planning so we can have a day to ourselves?"
James looked surprised for a second but then donned a warm smile. "Of course. I'd love to spend the day with you."
Elsa smiled and leaned down, giving him a short kiss. Then stood up and opened the blinds covering up her giant window looking out over Arendelle. She heard the ruffling of cloth as James got out of bed and changed into new clothes. She turned around just as James finished pulling his shirt on.
He was wearing brown pants, a tight blue shirt that clung to surprisingly chiseled abs to which Elsa blushed and looked away, soft comfortable black sneakers, and a dark brown leather jacket with a black cloth hood like the one he wore on his first day staying in the castle. His hair had fallen back down to its regular well-styled-looking messy position. And his green eyes were shining bright with intelligence and excitement.
He flashed a confident grin at her staring at him. "Make a painting, it lasts longer, your majesty."
Elsa giggled, "Oh be quiet you. Are you ready?"
"I'd imagine I am, but I don't really know what I should prepare for, I didn't really have anything planned."
"That's okay, I do." Elsa said, brushing past him, out the door and down the hall, James not far behind. "I'd like to show you something today."
"Show me what?"
"It's a surprise." She gave him a smirk over her shoulder as she exited the castle and entered the stables.
Elsa and James unfortunately didn't have their usual horses, they had been left at Eowan's cabin. So they borrowed a pair of normal chocolate brown horses and started heading north. As they walked through the town people gathered on the side of the street, reaching out to get a chance to touch them as they strolled by.
"Quite the popular one, aren't you?" Elsa teased, knowing James didn't enjoy being in the center of attention.
James groaned, "Unfortunately. But it has a lot to do with you, if they didn't prefer your rule to Julius' then they wouldn't be fighting for you and Arendelle."
"They're not fighting for me. If anything they're fighting for you."
James snorted in disbelief. "Yeah, well. Let's agree to disagree on that."
They traveled in comfortable silence out through the forest and into the mountains. They slowly made their way up one of the mountains. "You know, this looks like the path I took to Arendelle." James said.
"Really? You woke up on this mountain."
"Because the surprise is just around this ridge." Elsa said guiding her horse around the narrow passes of the Northern Mountain.
It took a second but Elsa finally got to hear James draw in a surprised gasp. Before them stood Elsa's grand Ice Palace. His eyes had gotten wide and his jaw fallen open in amazement.
"Elsa...you made this?" He asked astounded.
"Yup, all in one night." She said proudly.
They approached the castle and a large pile of snow started moving. The pile morphed into Marshmallow and started growling at James. "Huh, I was wondering where he went." She heard James say behind her.
"Hey, Marshmallow." Elsa said authoritatively. "This is James. He is a friend. You will not attack him. Do you understand?"
It took a second but Marshmallow finally tore his glare away from James and gave an unhappy little nod before curling back up into a pile of snow. Elsa and James dismounted and made their way up the ice stairs. James admiring every inch of the intricately created ice fractals.
Elsa giggled. "You might want to hold off on admiring that. There's still the entire castle you haven't seen and I promise you it'll be much more impressive."
"That's the point. Anyone can expertly design an interior, it takes true skill and talent to make the railing on a simple staircase this amazing." James told Elsa.
Instead of answering, Elsa threw her hands forward and the doors to the palace flew open, revealing the breath-taking entrance hall. James just stood in the entry way, just trying to take in the sight. "Tell me, Elsa, why didn't you take me here before?"
"Well, this place is very special to me. It's where I first felt free." Elsa said, walking in with James slowly following and spinning around admiring the walls and ceiling. "Plus, we were kind of busy. But I'm glad you're enjoying the sights. Come on, you haven't seen the view of the valley."
Elsa grabbed James' hand and dragged him up the stairs and into the balcony room, James barely able to keep up on the slippery smooth ice floor. She actually hadn't cleaned up the room from Hans' attack two years ago, she didn't come to the castle very often and she never got around to fixing it. So they walked around the smashed chandelier and out onto the balcony, Elsa flickering her wrist and sending the block of ice left over from that fight flying off.
"What happened here?" James asked. Anna had told him the story of what had happened during her coronation but even Anna didn't know all the details.
"Hans and a few men from Weaseltown attacked and brought me to Arendelle." Elsa explained, casually fixing the railing. "It's one of the reasons why Hans and the Duke were kicked out of Arendelle and told not to return."
"Didn't work out too well did it?" James joked.
"Well, it worked for a while. But let's not talk about that. I just want to enjoy being here."
James smiled at her warmly. Elsa walked up to the balcony and looked down into the valley below. James came up from behind and wrapped his arms around her, bringing her close. They stood there for a long while, just looking out over the impressive view.
The snow-capped mountains seemed to shine in the midday sun. The clouds weren't high this day, they were remarkably low, circling the mountains giving them a mysterious quality. A light breeze stirred the clouds and fog making it look like a vast white ocean. The sun shone its rays down into the ice castle, and came out on the other side as bright vibrant rainbows.
As beautiful as the view from the castle was, there was still something nagging Elsa at the back of her mind. "James, you don't have to fight Lognath by yourself. Me and Anna have enough power to help you."
James took a breath in and let out a troubled sigh. "I know both of you have power. And I know you don't want me to get hurt. But I feel the same way about you two. If I go by myself, I can draw his attention away from you. And it's not like you two won't be fighting. The people of Arendelle will need your help, they can't win by themselves, and still may not even with your help."
Elsa turned around, looking up into James' eyes. "But what if you fail? Then no one will be safe. Julius wanted to keep you as leverage over me, but then Lognath immediately tried to kill you. He's not working with Julius, he's on his own agenda, and so far it's looking like he only wants to kill people and cause destruction. If we're there to help you, there's still a chance to beat him."
"But why would I even want to beat him if everything I care about gets destroyed anyways?" James said calmly.
Elsa couldn't respond. Judging from James' expression, there was no way to convince him not to fight alone. So she didn't argue, she didn't beg or plead, she accepted it. She laid her head on James' chest and just took in his presence. "Please, just be safe."
"When am I not?" he said, bringing her even closer.
For the rest of the day, they stayed in the ice castle, simply being together. They practiced their powers, showing off for each other. At one point a stray bird few in through an open window and they took care of it together. They talked and joked, Elsa telling stories about her misadventures with Anna, including the disaster of a birthday right after the Great Thaw. Unfortunately the little snow pigmies she had created had gotten out and an occasional report of them came into Elsa's office from Arendelle's countryside.
The whole time they were in the castle, they were always by the other's side, not far out of reach. Neither of them mentioning it, but they wanted to spend the day close together. Both of them knowing what was to come, and the unsure battle that could potentially take their lives. So instead of dwelling on the darkness that was to come, they focused on each other. Both being a bright spot for the other to latch on to.
At the end of the day, as the sun slowly set behind the Arendellian mountain range, they saddled up and rode back to the castle. They received a lot less attention during their return to Arendelle, everybody enjoying their families and the last night together where they didn't have possible death hanging over them.
And and Kristoff were in a castle courtyard, holding hands and walking through the rows of flowers. Anna occasionally showed off a few tricks she had been working on. After dinner both couples retired to their rooms instead of attending to their responsibilities. And both almost immediately fell asleep with each other in their arms, right into a deep dreamless sleep.