I covered a yawn with my hand, leaning back in my chair with my hands resting on the arm rests. To my right sat Elsa, we were both sitting in large dark wood chairs at the head of the council table. She was wearing a fresh ice dress with her hair in its customary braid, her silver crown with blue diamonds glinting on her head. I knew she was just as bored as I was, but she hid it much better than I did.
The council room looked like it had been designed specifically to keep people bored. The walls were all made of simple stone, with bland Arendellian drapes hanging on them. There were no windows in the room to let in natural light or allow a view of the outside. Instead of relying on the sun, there were many lanterns set up around the room and across the table. Even the councilors looked boring.
The councilors had their own honorary chair around the rectangular table, not as splendid as mine or Elsa's chairs but still not ordinary chairs. None of the councilors seemed to be under fifty years old, essentially everyone there but me had either grey or white hair. They all wore formal robes of either black or brown. And they all droned on in either monotones or snobby voices.
I picked at my robes, not really paying attention to the councilor that was talking. I was wearing dark blue robes lined with gold, with soft shoes, a large hood, and a leather belt with my sword on it. I felt a smack on my right arm and looked up. Elsa told me with her eyes to focus on the meeting, I rolled my eyes in response but tried to pay attention none the less.
"-and wheat production has not risen since the last quarter's report. However the population seems to be rising towards an eventual problem with stagnant wheat production some ten years in the future. In addition, tourism for Arendelle and the Arendellian Kingdom is experiencing a huge increase. If we wish this to continue, we need to work on the production of our food." The agricultural councilor finished. He was short and stout, wearing brown robes and wire-rimmed glasses.
"And what do you recommend we do, councilor?" Elsa asked regally, sounding like a dignified queen. Over the last six council meetings, this problem had been brought up and every time the councilor didn't come up with a possible solution.
"After much deliberation and a long, extensive, multiple research sessions, me and my team of trusted advisors have finally come up with a solution. We have researched the fields of every council position. We have gone back so far that we have even researched if and how the very first king and queen of Arendelle dealt with this kind of problem. And introducing this solution-" The councilor was cut off.
I couldn't help it. If there was one thing I hate about council meetings the most, it's the elusive and indirect ways of talking that they all did to avoid any negative repercussions while opening up the opportunity to claim that it was their idea if it succeeded. I leaned in and interrupted him.
"Councilor. As much as we all would love to hear you go on and on about your research and whatnot, I would like to finish this meeting before the end of the year. So if you have a solution, I suggest you get straight to the point."
The old man's face erupted in a crimson blush. He floundered for a second, messing around with the piles of paper in front of him. The other councilors snickered under their breaths at their peer, but were quickly silenced with a pointed look from me. After a few moments the councilor managed to figure out what he was going to say, "Your Majesty, me and my team have come to the conclusion that we should cut military spending to raise agricultural production."
The war councilor, who was still old but seemed younger than the others, sprung up from his chair, wearing black robes with a ceremonial dagger at his waist and his silver hair neatly done. "What military spending? We're underfunded as it is! Not to mention the fact that we are still at war with the Southern Isles and Weaseltown!"
That made me take notice. I leaned forward. "What do you mean, 'we're still at war'? We beat them, it's over."
"My apologies but they don't seem to agree with you. Although we haven't seen any enemy movement towards us, neither nation has offered us peace nor even filed any paperwork necessary to make peace legitimate. For all intents and purposes, they are still at war with us." He said gravely.
"Have you tried reaching out to them? Offering them peace?" Elsa asked, not nearly as emotionally involved as I.
"No, Your Highness. As I said before, our military is underfinanced. We don't have enough money to send someone over to either of them. Plus, all our forces are still preoccupied with rebuilding what little damage we received."
I leaned back in my chair once again, rubbing my temples to get at an annoying headache that was building up. Arendelle is a relatively prosperous country. We aren't exactly rich beyond measure, but no one goes without. The problem is, we've never really had a need for heavy military spending; Elsa and her parents and ancestors were excellent politicians. They were able to expand the kingdom to great lengths, develop and modernize, while at the same time avoiding war or conflict from any other nation. This was the first time in Arendelle's history that the nation had been declared war on and attacked.
"As pressing as our food production is," Elsa said. "international war takes priority. So, how do we get the money needed to extend an offer of peace?"
She looked around the table with a piercing and cold stare, searching the councilors for any ideas. Almost all of them averted their eyes. The ones that didn't did avert their eyes when I raked them all with my stare. Apparently, I was scarier than I thought.
When nobody gave an answer to her question, Elsa said, "Well, since this is the most important matter on the table for now, and none of you have an answer to my question, this meeting is over. The next time we meet, I expect an answer."
The councilors all stood and bowed to the two of us, then quickly filed out of the room. When they were all gone, Elsa turned to me and fixed me with a questioning raise of her eyebrow. I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose.
"You've really got to learn how to control yourself, James." Elsa said. "Even if the councilors ramble."
"I just think that if everyone would simply get to the point, these meetings would both go a lot faster and get much more stuff done." I responded tiredly. Council meetings really took the energy out of me.
"You're probably right. But for now, this is what we've got." Elsa stood. "Now, what do you say we get some lunch?"
I stood as well and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "I say, what are we waiting for?"
We walked through the halls of Arendelle castle together. Every so often, a worker would approach us with a stack of papers to look over and sign off on, Elsa simply instructed them all to place them in our study for later. The ever-growing mountain of paper in our study was always there. Since day one of being king I'd had to deal with tedious papers. I don't know how Elsa managed by herself, even with both of us working on it at the same time it took us most of the day.
We finally reached the dining room and pushed open the doors. Anna sat at the table, reading a novel. Kristoff had left earlier to see to his duties as both Royal Ice Harvester and Prince of Arendelle, and was expected back later that day.
"Good morning, Anna." I greeted politely, pulling out Elsa's seat before sitting in mine.
"Good morning, James. How was the council meeting?" Anna asked with a smirk on her face. Ever since Elsa had told me that she was requiring me to attend the stupid meetings, Anan had been entertaining herself by poking fun of my misery.
"Horribly boring as per usual." I replied. "At least this one was only about wheat growing."
"Apparently, we're still at war with the Southern Isles and Weaseltown." Elsa interjected, cutting me off with a smirk of her own.
"Really? I thought we won." Anna said, confused for the same reason I was.
"Nope. Still technically at war." I said. "Kind of not sure how that works."
"It takes a lot of paperwork to fill out. There's peace negotiations and terms and agreements." Elsa said.
"Oh well, we'll find a way to make this fall into place." I said.
The waiters came in toting huge trays of food. They always over prepared the food. I got quite a few smiles from them, which I graciously returned. And we dug in. Once we ate all we could stand, the head chef came out once again.
"How did you like your meal, your majesties?" He asked. His bruises and injuries had fully healed by then, and he looked content once again.
"Delicious as usual." Elsa complimented. "I don't know how you do it."
"Years of experience, Queen Elsa." He said, a large smile on his face. "Is there anything else any of you need?"
I was about to turn him down, but I felt a rising pain in my chest. "Actually, I could use a glass of water."
"Of course." He said, and snapped his fingers. A spare kitchen help came in and filled up my glass, and left a pitcher of ice water on the table. With a bow, both of them quickly walked back to the kitchen to start preparing dinner.
Anna and Elsa started having a conversation about something or ever while I downed the glass of water. For some reason, it didn't help out. So I tried another glass. That didn't help out either. The pain seemed to keep growing, more painful than before.
I muttered an excuse to Anna and Elsa, stood up, and started towards the door and the royal physician. I made it about halfway before the pain flared up once again and made me stumble.
"James are you okay?" Elsa noticed from behind me.
"Oh it's nothing, I just-" I started to say, before being cut off by a lack of breath.
"James?!" Elsa called out, I could hear her and Anna's chair being pushed back.
I tumbled down to the ground, trying to hold myself up with my hands. Then my arms gave way and I fell on my face. The pain in my chest was almost unbearable. I could see Elsa drop to her knees at my side. My head started to get light and I got dizzy. Darkness crept in from the edges of my vision as Elsa rolled me over. Her crystal blue eyes slowly dimmed along with everything else. She was saying something, but I couldn't hear it. And finally, the darkness closed up and once again I faded into unconsciousness.
My last thoughts were; Dang, I thought I was finished with this crap.