***Day of the celebration, one month since the Great Thaw***
"Anna?" Elsa called softly as she slipped into the bedchamber, pushing a cart filled to the brim with an assortment of delicious looking foods.
Elsa had decided to surprise her little sister with breakfast in bed; today was all about Anna after all. However, when she had awoken early and gone down to the kitchens, Elsa had come to the painful realization that she still had no idea what the princess even liked. Luckily for her, the castle staff did.
Unsurprisingly, the princess slept on; dead to the world and unaware of the treats that awaited her.
"Anna dear, wake up," Elsa tried again, at little louder this time.
The girl rolled over and mumbled something in her sleep that sounded suspiciously like the name of a certain ice harvester.
The queen laughed and looked thoughtfully down at the slumbering redhead. So much had happened in the past month Elsa could still hardly believe any of it was real. Her secret had been exposed, she'd learned the true extent of her power, and she was reunited with her beloved sister. The sister who saved her, who stuck by her side even after years of separation, years of believing Elsa no longer loved her. Well, today's celebration would show her just how wrong she had been.
If Elsa was being completely honest with herself, she may have gone a little over the top. With the extravagant banquet, the lavish ball and expensive gifts. But she couldn't help it; Elsa owed the girl so much.
However, it would be very difficult for Anna to enjoy the festivities while sleeping.
As Elsa was contemplating this fact an idea struck her, and a cat-like grin spread across her face. With a flick of her wrist, Elsa conjured a gust of arctic air in her palm and thrust it at the sleeping girl, effectively blowing the comforter off the bed and causing Anna to sit bolt upright, now fully awake.
"WHAT ON GOD'S GREEN EARTH!?" she yelled, eyes bulging in shock and limbs frantically striking at the air as if fending off some sort of invisible assailant. Her head whipped around to the sound of hysterical laughter coming from the other side of the room, where her sister stood doubled over, clutching her sides and gasping for air. "YOU!" Anna roared and leaped from the bed.
Elsa yelped in surprise as a flurry of red hair tackled her to the ground and began tickling her sides mercilessly. "Anna no! Stop it, that's not fair!" she shrieked, trying rather unsuccessfully to push the girl's hands away. "Okay, okay! I'm sorry, you win!" she gasped and the princess jumped off her with a triumphant cry.
"Ha! Serves you right for waking me up like that," she scolded, helping the still giggling queen to her feet.
"Well maybe I wouldn't have to if you weren't such a heavy sleeper. Honestly, someone could fire a canon in here and you would just keep snoring away," Elsa said readjusting her dress and smoothing her hair back into place.
"I do not snore," Anna huffed and folding her arms across her chest.
"I see. Well then, I will just have to inform Kai that an angry bear seems to be frequenting whatever room you may be sleeping in," Elsa responded with a smirk.
"Alright missy first of all, rude. Second of all, I will have you know- Wait a minute," the princess paused in her ranting and tentatively sniffed the air. "Do I smell chocolate?" Anna's face lit up when her eyes fell to the serving cart behind her sister.
Elsa smiled and turned to wheel the cart over to the small dining table next to the window. Anna trailed after her, nose first.
"Victor has assured me these are all of your favourites," she explained. "You have quite the sweet tooth Anna, I have never heard of someone enjoying so much sugar this early in the morning," Elsa said in disbelief. Although, she had to admit, those hotcakes smelled delicious.
Ignoring the comment Anna openly ogled the mouth-watering spread before her and savored the delicious aroma rising from the meal. Elsa was right when she said every single breakfast food she loved currently rested on that tray; buttermilk pancakes filled to the brim with bits of chocolate, fresh strawberries, quail eggs mixed with red pepper and cheese, long strips of crispy bacon and buns dipped in honey. Anna was sure that if she stood there much longer she would start drooling all over her nightgown.
"Well are you going to eat or just stare at it all day?" Elsa asked, waving a hand in front of her sister's blank expression, snapping the girl out of her trance.
"Uh, the first one," Anna said, almost like a question. Siting down in one of the chairs and picking up her fork Anna noticed something. "Where is your food?" she asked looking pointedly at the queen.
Anna knew that the blonde has always been thin but these last few weeks had left the queen practically skin and bone, something the princess was determined to fix.
"Oh I'm fine, I had a bit of fruit this morning," Elsa replied, waving away the girl's concern. "Please dig in, I'll just watch."
Sighing Anna grabbed a spare fork from the tray and forcibly handed it to her sister. "Eat," she commanded, daring the woman to argue with her.
"Anna really, I am fine. It is your food, your day. I don't need-"
"Elsa," Anna interrupted. "Don't make me force feed you. There is no way I will be able to eat all of this food on my own anyway," she said matter-of-factly. "C'mon we'll share."
Smiling lightly, Elsa took the fork from her sister.
"You really didn't have to get me anything Elsa," Anna said as she followed her sister down one of the castle's many hallways.
Once they had finished eating - Anna having successfully coaxed the queen into eating a generous amount of food - Elsa announced she had something she wanted to give the princess. And although the girl had repeatedly told Elsa she had done enough and she didn't need to be showered with gifts, on the inside she was practically buzzing with excitement.
"Nonsense, we are celebrating you after all," said Elsa. "Besides, you got me that lovely quill and I would very much like to return the gesture. But, I suppose if you really don't want it I could send it back…"
"No!" Anna yelled suddenly, causing her sister to smirk at her and raise an eyebrow. "I- I mean I wouldn't want you to go through all that trouble for nothing. We shouldn't let all your hard work go to waste, right?" she said hurriedly and flashing an innocent smile. Good save Anna, she totally bought it.
"Well it is good to hear you always have my best interests at heart," Elsa chuckled. "Come on it's just in here."
"But this is my room. Wait, you didn't clean it again did you?" Anna asked narrowing her eyes at the queen.
"Well admittedly yes, but that isn't the surprise," she replied taking the girl's hand and leading her inside.
"Good morning Majesty, Highness," greeted a wispy haired, old woman standing in the middle of the bedchamber.
"Hello Netta," Elsa said giving the royal seamstress a small nod of her head. Even though both girls had known Netta since childhood the woman looked exactly the same as she did the first day they'd met. Back bent from years spent hunched over a needle and thread, long fingers made for precise, delicate movement, and despite her age the brightest green eyes Elsa had ever seen.
At the sight of the woman Anna gave her sister a confused look. "I don't understand, Netta is my gift?"
Smiling, the old woman motioned the girl forward and as she did so moved toward the changing curtain. "No princess, I am not your gift. This is your gift," Netta said pushing the curtain aside, revealing the most magnificent ball gown Anna had ever seen in her entire life.
"Oh," she breathed.
Anna was awestruck. It was gorgeous, it was stunning, it was wonderful, splendid, and a number of other adjectives that Anna couldn't recall at the moment. It was the colour of the first leaves of spring with skirts inlaid with soft patterns of weaving vines. Carefully, she reached out and ran a hand over the soft fabric admiring the way it shimmered in the light. The bodice was framed in delicate beading that came together at the waist to run down the front of the skirt, it also reached around the wearer's neck to secure the bodice in place. Lastly, interweaving hand-stitched golden rosemaling decorated the bodice as well as the skirts below it, revealing just how much time and effort was put into making such a dress.
"I take it you like it then?" Elsa asked, moving to stand next to the girl.
"Like it? I love it! Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Anna cried, wrapping her big sister in a bone-crushing hug that Elsa returned happily.
The sound of Netta clearing her throat reminded the girls that they weren't alone and reluctantly pulled apart. "Come princess, let's have you put it on so I can make sure it fits properly for tonight's ball."
Anna's fitting took a little longer than usual due to the redhead's constant fidgeting. The seamstress constantly had to remind the girl to stand still lest she get pricked with a needle.
"Oh my gosh Elsa this dress must have cost you a fortune! I bet you could buy like 1000 chocolates with the beads alone! That would be a lot of chocolates though… maybe too many chocolates… ha, listen to me talking crazy." The girl gushed while Elsa read over some last minute arrangements for this evening's ball.
"I'm sorry your highness, but you really must keep still. I'm almost done," Netta chuckled, knowing full well that a few pokes would do little to quell the girl's excitement. Anna had been this way since she was small and the seamstress knew the redhead was not likely to change today.
Once everything was pinned into place, Netta stepped out of the room to fetch her sewing materials. Anna stood facing the mirror admiring the way the gown perfectly hugged her frame, and how the soft shade of green seemed to bring out the fiery copper of her hair just right.
"You look just like her," Elsa said from just behind her sister.
Anna didn't need to ask of whom the blonde was talking about. She knew right away that Elsa was referring to their mother. Tears blossomed in her eyes and her chest tightened.
"You really think so?" Anna asked, her voice small as her eyes searched Elsa face for reassurance.
Elsa nodded and took the younger girl's hands in her own. "They would have been so proud of you Anna."
"Of both of us," Anna corrected, giving the queen's hands a gently squeeze.
With a smile full of warmth and love Elsa brushed her sister's bangs away from her face and placed a light kiss to her forehead. "Yes, of both of us."
Sitting next to Anna, Elsa tried very hard to steady the trembling in her gloved hands.
The royal sisters sat under a green and purple canopy watching the large crowd enjoying the grand celebration honoring their heroic princess. The festivities were well underway; sleds traveled up the North Mountain every two hours so that the citizens of Arendelle might witness the awe-inspiring ice palace their queen had created during the eternal winter; performers entertained the masses lining the streets; and carts displaying all kinds food and drink filled the main square with delicious smells.
Anna, full of energy as always, bounced up and down in her seat, craning her neck to get a better view of some brightly coloured jugglers who were throwing what appeared to be flaming torches between them. At their feet stood a wide-eyed Olaf, fascinated by the dancing flames.
That morning Elsa had addressed her subjects publicly once more, during which she introduced the little snowman. She had expected them to at least be a little bit nervous, but it seemed that after discovering their queen had magical powers granting her the ability to manipulate ice and snow, a sentient snowman was not all that shocking. And as Olaf waved down at the crowd Elsa declared that the celebration of Arendelle's princess had officially begun.
"Elsa can we go closer? Sitting here is boring. Let's go explore," Anna said hopefully, eyes wide with excitement. This was the first time she and Elsa had gone into town together and she wanted to make the most of it.
"I- I don't know Anna," Elsa wrung her hands together, twisting and pulling at the fabric of her gloves. Anna hated those stupid gloves almost as much as she hated that stupid door.
"There are so many people. Why don't you go ahead without me," she said, pulling her gloves on a little tighter.
Elsa's ability to be around people may have improved greatly over the last month but there had always been some level of distance between her and those she interacted with. Whether it was the desk in her study, the dais upon which her throne sat, or a balcony, Elsa was able to maintain her space. This however, was different. If she were to venture out into the crowded streets she would loose that space… she might accidentally touch someone.
Anna knew her sister had been practicing with her powers each day, refining her control and testing her limits. But Anna also understood the woman had been living in fear for so long that thoughts of frightening or even harming someone still plagued her mind like a festering wound.
Standing up, Anna moved to stand in front of the blonde. To anyone else Elsa would look to be the picture of graceful queen, but Anna could see all the conflicting emotions swirling in those cerulean orbs. The girl held out a single delicate hand to her sister. "It's alright to be scared Elsa, but I will be right here with you. It will be okay I promise," she paused for a moment, eyes sliding downward. "I- I just wish you wouldn't wear those dumb gloves," Anna grumbled, making a face at the offending articles of clothing.
At the mention of her gloves Elsa looked down and flexed her hands, savoring the familiar feel of the soft fabric that she had worn almost like a second skin for over a decade. The queen knew she didn't really need them, but somehow they made her feel a little less stressed about being in the village among her people; they were a crutch in the form of dyed calves skin.
Giving her sister a pleading look, Elsa resisted the urge to bring her hands close to her chest, fighting hard to maintain her regal visage. There were eyes everywhere and she couldn't afford to look weak while she was still trying to convince her kingdom that she could be a capable ruler. "It's just… this is the first time I have been this close to everyone since the coronation. I don't want them to be frightened of me… ," she said, voice small.
"Okay," Anna sighed. "I think I get it, but for the record I don't like it. I'm not afraid of you and neither are they, so relax," she said firmly.
After a little more persuading, Anna hooked her arm around Elsa's and the two royals ventured forth into the streets. At first the queen walked stiffly at her sister's side, a tense smile glued to her lips and nodding to those that waved. However, the longer they walked together the more at ease Elsa became, it was hard to remain anxious while Anna pointed out all the different performers and waved enthusiastically back at the townspeople.
"Anna! Queen Elsa!"
"Halt! Sir, you do not have permission to approach the queen and the princess."
"Hey! Let me go, I know them. Anna!"
The commotion caused Arendelle's royal sisters to look up from a collection of summer hats they had been admiring, to find a tousled Kristoff wrestling with the two men that made up the girl's escort.
Snorting in amusement Anna ran to the mountain man's aid.
"Guys, guys it okay. Kristoff is with me. I mean he's not with me, with me. Uh, that is- I- We're friends," the princess said, becoming increasingly flustered.
The men of the royal guard looked to Elsa for assistance.
She nodded and waved them away. "Good morning Kristoff, I see you share my sister's proficiency for attracting trouble," she said good-naturedly as she watched the ice harvester indignantly straighten his mussed clothing.
"Hey!" Anna pouted.
Kristoff smiled. "Morning. How are you guys enjoying the celebration?" he asked.
At his question Anna immediately brightened and animatedly began to tell him all about her morning and all the things she wanted to see before they had to return to the castle courtyard.
The two friends quickly became so absorbed in their conversation that they had started wandering off, leaving Elsa by herself. And without her sister's comforting presence the queen could feel her insecurities clawing their way back into the forefront of her mind.
Elsa was about to flee back to the safety of the canopy when a squeal of laughter caught her attention. A little girl – she couldn't have been more than five or six years old - with soft brown curls and a ragged looking doll clutched to her chest darted out from between the forest of legs, seemingly to get to a cart full of sweets. Seeing no parents nearby the queen watched as the child's foot caught on one of the cobblestones and fell hard to her hands and knees, doll flying.
Hearing the girl's cry of pain, Elsa reacted instinctively and the next thing she knew she was at the girl's side, helping the child to her feet. Although she didn't seem to be harmed, the little girl had scraped one of her knees and was wailing loud enough to attract the attention of most of the people standing nearby. Elsa however, hadn't noticed the onlookers yet as she was too busy trying to persuade the girl to stop crying.
"You're alright. Don't cry." Elsa soothed, but it didn't seem to help.
What am I doing? I don't know anything about children. The only child I've been around was Anna when we were younger…
Elsa was suddenly struck with an idea and pulled off one of her gloves. "Here look," she said as a small flurry of glittering snowflakes burst from her open palm.
This seemed to distract the girl from her aches as she watched - eyes wide with wonder - the snow fall gently to settle on her nose and eyelashes.
"Pretty, isn't it?" Elsa asked with a soft smile.
The little girl nodded but her lip still trembled and tears threatened to spill at any moment. Elsa looked around for something else to distract the girl and noticed the doll lying off to the side.
"Your doll fell and hurt herself, I think she needs a hug," the blonde said dusting off the toy before offering it to the curly-haired girl. She snatched up the doll and hugged it close, looking up at Elsa with puffy green eyes.
"What is your name little one?" Elsa asked, still oblivious to the many on-lookers who watched in stunned silence.
It was an odd sight to be sure. The once elusive Queen of Arendelle known for her poise and elegance, kneeling in the dirt and trying to bring comfort to a small girl in pain.
"Maika," she said shyly.
"Hello Maika, my name is Elsa," the woman replied, encouraged now that the girl had stopped crying.
The girl sniffed and wiped her nose on her sleeve. "I know that; I seen you talk'n to everybody at the castle after the summer-winter. You's the queen," she said raising her chin, proud she was able to show off that she knew just as much as the grown-ups did.
Elsa raised an eyebrow and chuckled. "That's right, I'm the queen. And as queen I say there is to be no crying today. So, let's put a smile on your face shall we? Do you have a favourite animal Maika?"
Wrinkling her nose, the little girl thought for a moment before responding. "Kittens!" she proclaimed, skinned knee now completely forgotten.
Smiling, the queen lifted up one of her hands, palm facing up and held the image she wanted to create in her mind. As she did so the ice lying dormant beneath her pale skin sprang to life, rising up and slowly taking shape. Within a few short moments the soft glow of her magic retreated back to it's mistress, leaving behind a small cat made of ice so smooth and clear it could have been mistaken for glass.
"There," Elsa said holding up the ornament and handing it to the little girl who was now bouncing on the balls of her feet as she fought to contain her excitement. "Now your doll has a pet."
Giggling madly and before Elsa had time to react; the girl threw her arms around the queen's waist eliciting a sharp gasp from those watching.
Now aware of her audience Elsa began to blush furiously and stiffened. No one had touched her so freely in over thirteen years - no one other than Anna of course. As the little girl hugged her, Elsa was reminded of her sister at that age and how she would cling to her older sister when she was scared or tired. The happy memories eased her embarrassment and she returned the embrace, hearing more then one sigh of endearment from those around her.
"Maika!? Maika, thank goodness," called a slight, dark-haired woman who Elsa could only assume was the girl's mother. "I've been looking everywhere for you, you naughty child," the woman scolded, as the girl extracted herself from the queen, who then took the opportunity to pick herself off the street and quickly slip her glove back on. "Thank you for finding her Miss- "
The woman trailed off as her eyes quickly took in Elsa's finely made clothing, briefly pausing on her gloves before finally coming to rest on the glittering ice-tiara nestled amongst her platinum strands.
For a few seconds the woman simply stood wide-eyed in front of Elsa, mouth hanging open. She had heard rumors that the new queen was a kind woman, but there were other rumors too, ones that caused her eyes to occasionally flick down to the beautiful suede gloves that perfectly hugged the woman's fingers. She seemed to suddenly realize she was staring and found her voice again.
"Q- queen Elsa! I- please forgive my rudeness," she stuttered, quickly ducking into a low curtsy, no longer able to meet the blonde's eye. "I- I didn't realize- I am so sorry your Majesty. And my daughter, please, she doesn't know any better. Doesn't realize who you are-"
"I do so know who she is!" said a very indignant little girl.
"Hush Maika!" hissed her mother.
Elsa's smile slowly turned sad when she saw how frightened the poor woman was.
I knew they were afraid of me. Of course they are you fool, you've been locked in a room for thirteen years and the first time they actually get to meet you, you freeze everything. Did you really think one speech and a party would fix that?
"Oh, um… you must be Maika's mother. Please don't apologize, it's quite alright… um… you have a very lovely daughter," Elsa said, schooling her features into what was hopefully, a reassuring smile.
The woman seemed slightly surprised by Elsa's response as she raised her head abruptly. "T-thank you your Majesty."
The awkward exchange between the queen and Maika's mother had Elsa so upset that she could feel her gloves stiffening with frost and her composure slipping. She had just made up her mind to excuse herself when little Maika's voice pulled Elsa down from her panic.
"Look mama, the pretty queen-lady made me a kitten!" the girl suddenly exclaimed, tugging on her mother's skirts and holding up her new toy proudly.
Taking the tiny figurine from her daughter, the woman turned it over in her hands. Marveling at the intricate details and the sheer elegance of it. She couldn't help but marvel at the lack of imperfections in the finely crafted ice. There were no air pockets or cracks like the ones usually found in its natural counterpart, which only further indicated that this was no ordinary ice.
"You made this?" the woman asked incredulously.
Elsa nodded. "Yes well, Maika had hurt herself… I just wanted to make her feel better," the blonde said timidly.
The woman visibly relaxed and even gave Elsa a warm smile. "It's beautiful."
"Thank you," Elsa said, feeling the heat rising in cheeks.
Maika's mother then crouched down in front of her daughter and handed back the little ice cat. "Sweetheart did you thank Queen Elsa for the gift?" she asked.
"Thank you Miss Queen Elsa!" she said brightly before turning back to her mother. "Mama can I play with my kitten now? I want to show Kalie."
"Alright, but no more running off," she said, standing up and taking the little girl's hand. "Thank you again Majesty… it was… it was nice to meet you."
"You're very welcome. It was a pleasure to meet you both, please enjoy the rest of the celebration," Elsa said, folding her hands neatly in front of her. Feeling happier then she had all morning.
As she watched the pair walk away, her attention was suddenly drawn to a voice calling her name.
The queen turned to see the bubbly redhead squeeze through the crowd, dragging a bemused Kristoff behind her.
"Why'd you leave? You missed it; this guy swallowed like five whole swords! Isn't that crazy!"
"It was only one sword Anna," Kristoff corrected.
"What does it matter how many there were? A person shoved a sword down his throat!"
Elsa rubbed her own throat at the thought. "That does sound rather impressive," she chuckled.
"So what were you doing?" Anna asked, giving her sister a suspicious look. "I was worried that you had run back to the tent."
Elsa couldn't help the guilty look that flashed across her face. "I was going to," the queen admitted. "But I got a little… distracted," she said, a small smile tugging at her lips.
The princess tilted her head to the side in confusion. Crossing her arms, Anna opened her mouth to demand what exactly it was that had caught the blonde's attention long enough to stop her escape. But the question died on her tongue when a little girl with blonde pigtails and dirt on her nose began tugging on Elsa's skirts causing the queen to look down in surprise.
Both Kristoff and Anna stood in complete shock as they watched Elsa - the woman who not minutes ago was fretting herself into an early grave at the thought of getting too close to people - crouch down to the girl's level.
"Hello there," she said warmly.
"Are you the queen who made Maika her ice kitten?" the little girl asked eagerly. "I want a pony!"
The woman chuckled at the girl's forwardness.
Those insufferable men on my council could learn a thing or two from this child. My meetings would certainly be a lot shorter.
"Okay you two, enough with the secrets. What's going on? Don't think I can't see those smug little looks you're giving each other. I know you're hiding something from me,"
Anna said with an irritated huff and crossing her arms in a very mature pout.
After spending most of the morning entertaining the children of Arendelle, Elsa and Kristoff had taken the princess for a walk through the palace grounds, but she wasn't so easily fooled. She knew there was something going on - the entire time they had been walking the two of them kept exchanging the most annoying glances and whispering to each other.
"I have no idea what you are talking about Anna," Elsa said innocently, earning a glare from her sister.
"Yea freckles, when did you become so paranoid?" Kristoff chuckled, before dodging a well-aimed punch. The mountain man decided he enjoyed this ruffled side of Anna. He was once again proven wrong in thinking the girl couldn't get any more adorable and he could help but want to kiss the indignant look right off her face.
Feeling the blush rising in his cheeks the man quickly shook the thoughts from his head, now painfully aware that Anna's sister was, right there you idiot!
Groaning loudly and pulling at her braids in frustration, the girl tried a different approach. "Okay if you won't tell me what is going on, will you at least tell me where we are going?" she probed.
"No need, we're here," Elsa said turning to the princess, smiling widely and looking far too proud of herself. Anna couldn't recall a time she had seen her sister so giddy, that was usually her job.
Anna looked from Elsa to Kristoff to Elsa again, now completely lost.
"The stables? Why are we- " the princess gave a little gasp of excitement. "Are we going riding?" she asked, now bouncing up and down.
"Not exactly," Elsa said, giving Kristoff another one of those damn looks, to which he just smirked.
"Well then what are we doing here?" Anna sighed, growing impatient.
"Coming inside and see," the queen said, taking one of Anna's hands in her own and pulling her forward.
As the trio entered the barn Anna was greeted with all the sights and smells she had loved so much growing up. The girl smiled as she inhaled the scent of hay and pine shavings, recalling all the time she had spent grooming her pony. She would spend hours brushing him and telling him about the new dress mama had bought her or how she had actually talked to Elsa that day.
Although a relatively large building, capable of comfortably housing upwards of forty horses, it currently contained only two – plus a reindeer. Where there should have been many grooms and trainers bustling about, were empty stalls and dusty tack hanging on the walls.
"Which one?" Elsa asked Kristoff, eyes sweeping up and down the center isle.
"Last one on the right," Kristoff replied, laughing at the redhead's surprised expression as Elsa began pulling her sister along behind her.
What on earth has gotten into Elsa? She doesn't even like horses. Anna thought, almost colliding with the queen when she suddenly came to an abrupt halt. And before the girl could give her sister a proper scolding Elsa had grabbed her shoulders and spun her around to face the stall they were standing in front of.
"Anna, I'd like you to meet Cinna." Elsa gave her sister a gentle nudge forward.
Stepping closer, Anna couldn't help but gawk at the magnificent beast standing before her.
In the stall stood a beautiful mare that wasn't anything like the typical Scandinavian ponies that lived within Arendelle's boarders. Short and stocky was replaced with tall and lean; with a gleaming coat so red it put Anna's own copper strands to shame. And instead of a coarse mane that stood up straight, was a black mane and tail that flowed like silk.
At Anna's approach the horse pitched her ears forward and lowered her velvety muzzle to the girl's outstretched palm, breathing in her scent. Deciding she'd had enough with introductions, Cinna began to nose her all over, mouthing at the redhead's clothes and hair in an attempt to locate potential treats.
Kristoff and Elsa exchanged proud grins as they watched the girl they both cared for so much giggle happily as the mare continued to tickle the redhead's face with her whiskers.
Finally able to tear herself from the red mare's affections Anna beamed at her two favourite people. "She's beautiful, I've never seen a horse like this in Arendelle."
"Well, I met our cousin from Corona a few weeks ago - you will get to meet her and her husband tonight at the ball - she told me about the fine horses they breed back in her home country for the military. Cinna, I'm told, has impeccable breeding; her sire was one of the bravest in Corona. Naturally, Rapunzel and I decided the mare would be a perfect addition to our stable," Elsa explained.
"And she's mine?" Anna asked excitedly.
Elsa's smile stretched from ear to ear, Anna's joy was infectious as warmth flooded her body. "All yours," she answered softly.
"But only if you clean up after her, feed her, and take her for her walk," Kristoff lectured, with laughter shinning in his dark brown eyes. "Otherwise we'll have no choice but to send her back."
Elsa chuckled lightly at the ice harvester's teasing but it quickly turned into a squeak of surprise when something crashed into her and began to squeeze uncomfortably tight. Anna had wrapped her sister and Kristoff in a fierce embrace that crushed the three together, reminding each of them just how deceptively strong the princess was.
When Anna finally released her hold, the three of them were grinning like idiots. Elsa was the first to recover and cleared her throat. "I'm thrilled you like her Anna, but there is another matter I would like to discuss with you. As your first act as Right Hand I would like to charge you with getting this poor excuse for a stable back on its feet. Hire new grooms, trainers, farriers, and fill up these empty stalls. That being said, try to keep in mind that Arendelle's treasury is not as well stocked as it once was, but we can discuss that at a later time. As you are much more knowledgeable in this matter than myself, I am leaving this endeavor entirely in your capable hands," she said affectionately.
Anna's eyes grew so wide with a combination of shock and excitement Elsa silently worried they might get stuck that way. "Oh my gosh Elsa, are you serious!" She spun around excitedly picturing how it would all look once she was finished. "I have so many ideas, I can't wait! We can clear out the old trails and convert some of the stalls to loose boxes; I read somewhere that they're better for the horses. We will have to open up the rooms above the barn for any new staff of course but that will be easy. Oh, oh we can get a carriage; I've always wanted to ride in one! The tack room could go over here, it will be much bigger than the old one," she said racing over to a dark, empty room. "And over here is where the carriage goes, we can put - "
"Anna!" Kristoff called, happy to see the girl so thrilled but if he didn't pull her out of her rambling now they may never bring her back.
"What?" the princess asked sounding annoyed. She was breathing much heavier than normal and was practically vibrating with all the plans buzzing around in her head.
Both Kristoff and Elsa were grinning at the enthusiastic redhead as they waited for her to come down from her high. When she had calmed down enough Elsa decided it was safe to continue. "I am confident you will have this place returned to it former glory in no time and I would love to hear all your ideas, but I think we should get back to the celebration, yes?"
Anna took one last longing look at Cinna and the rest of the stable before turning back to Kristoff and her sister. "Ya, okay. What do you want to do now? We could go get something to eat, I saw a chocolate vendor on our way here," she said as her mouth began to water at the thought.
"Unfortunately, I have some matters that must be dealt with back at the castle before I can join you in the courtyard," Elsa said, referring to the demonstration she and Anna had concocted in order for Arendelle's citizens to view their new queen's awe inspiring powers up close. Seeing the disappointment flash across Anna's face Elsa quickly redirected her attention. "Why don't you take Kristoff down to the wharf and give him his own surprise."
Anna's looked just as confused as the man next to her for a moment, but her eyes widened for a second time as she suddenly understood what Elsa was talking about. Any sour feelings about her sister's impending departure vanished as she began to bounce up and down excitedly.
"Whaaaat are you talking about," asked Kristoff, drawing out the word as he grew more and uneasy at the knowing looks the two royals were giving each other. The giant smirk stretching across Anna's face wasn't helping matters either.
"Only one way to find out," Anna said. Quickly snatching a rag hanging next to Cinna's stall Anna and grabbing one of Kristoff's large hands, she began slowly dragging him toward the door. "Come on, I can't do this all on my own, you're heavy!" she huffed.
Kristoff threw Elsa a pleading look. "Majesty have mercy," he begged.
Anna scoffed. "Oh stop being such a drama queen! She can't save you now! Your princess commands you to follow her to – the – docks," Anna called, pulling with all her might.
Elsa could only laugh as she shrugged her shoulders at the poor man who was now being shoved from behind. "I'm sorry Kristoff this is a matter for the Right Hand of the Queen."
"Hah! You hear that, you see the pin? It means you have to do what I say, now move it!"
Soon after naming Anna as her right hand Elsa had presented the girl with the traditional pendent that would let everyone know her station. It was a smooth white gold in the shape of two hands cradling the crocus of Arendelle. The day Elsa had gaven it to her the princess had run around the castle proudly showing it off to anyone foolish enough to cross her path.
Kristoff just grinned as he let himself be wrestled out of the barn, but not before hollering, "She's drunk with power! Quick, arrest me!" over his shoulder.
Still laughing as she watched Anna drag a blindfolded Kristoff behind her, Elsa reluctantly made her way back towards the castle and the headache that awaited her there.
Upon reaching the palace steps Kai rushed out to greet her. "Welcome back Miss Elsa, I do hope you and princess Anna enjoyed yourselves," he said falling into step beside her, extending an arm.
Elsa gratefully accepted the gesture and the comfort it offered. "Thank you Kai, we enjoyed ourselves very much." Elsa smiled as she thought of little Maika and all the other children that had swarmed the sisters, sitting in laps and clutching at skirts as the queen conjured new toys for each of them; curious parents looking on from a distance. "Is everything prepared for this evening?" she asked.
"The refreshments arrived shortly after you and the princess left this morning and the decorations are nearly complete. The grand ballroom looks magnificent; Gerda has outdone herself this time. You can be sure she won't soon let anyone forget it," he added chuckling lightly to himself.
The queen smiled along with him for a time, but grew somber once again as she remembered the reason she was there in the first place. "Are they ready?" Elsa asked as she felt her stomach twist in knots.
"Waiting for you in the receiving hall," the manservant said giving her hand a light pat. He always had a knack for sensing when the queen was nervous.
"I assume the Duke has come to collect them then?"
Kai sniffed at the mention of the vile little man. "I did not grant him access to the castle, his men will be escorted to him just outside the main gates. All three will then be discretely led back to their vessels, as per your request Majesty."
"And Hans?" she asked reluctantly. She just wanted to be done with the prince, so that they could put this whole mess behind them.
"The Lord visiting from France has graciously volunteered to escort that… that… beast back to the Southern Isles. The Lord will be ready to depart within the hour, until that time he will be left in his cell," he replied through clenched teeth. The thought of almost loosing the two young women he had watched grow up because of that monster ignited an anger Kai had never felt before.
Elsa couldn't help but grin at the servant's tone. Although he had not come right out and voiced his displeasure at his queen's decision to withhold execution, Elsa could tell he was less than pleased.
As the pair entered the recieving hall they were met with a flurry of activity. The staff were bustling about, removing every speck of dust from the furniture and hanging any last minute decorations. At its center stood a few of the men that made up her small council, the captain of the royal guard, and the two assassins from the mountain, each flanked by four guards. It took every shred of Elsa's self-control not to ice the two men where they stood as painful memories flooded her mind.
"Good afternoon gentlemen," Elsa called politely, swallowing her anger. "I do hope I haven't kept you waiting. I would like to get this resolved as quickly as possible so that I may return to my sister's celebration." Elsa then turned to the man as her side, "Kai, you have the document of severance I presume?"
The man nodded and pulled a large scroll from his jacket. "Right here your Majesty."
"Thank you," the queen turned to the large, grey-haired man standing to her right, who immediately snapped to attention. "Captain, you will have these men escorted back to their ship along with their master. I want him, and all other traces of Weselton out of my kingdom within the hour. As for Prince Hans, someone has very graciously offered to accompany the Prince home and see that he is left in the proper hands." Her advisors nodded their approval. "Now, I would like to once more confirm that this is truly how we wish to proceed with the Du-"
"Your Majesty, I beg your pardon- " interrupted the guard captain, causing Elsa to raise her eyebrow in surprise. This man was already on very thin ice with her as it was – no pun intended – and he was not doing himself any favors by speaking out of turn. "-but why are we allowing these men to simply walk free? They attempted murder, shouldn't they be receiving some form of punishment?"
Kai scowled while every other head in the room turned to stare questioningly at their queen, only to find her lips pulled tight and eyes hard. However, her expression was once again schooled into the icy calmness her advisors had come to learn was a sure sign their monarch was not happy.
"Kai, would you please fetch the French Lord and escort these men back to their ship,"
she commanded without looking away from the captain. "The rest of you are dismissed, the captain and I have some… issues we need to discuss."
The manservant nodded before gesturing to the guards surrounding the men of Weselton and leading them outside. The rest bowed before hurrying away, they had heard that tone before.
It wasn't until they were completely alone that Elsa spoke. "I appreciate your concern captain, and I am glad to hear that you think it important that those who have wronged me be punished accordingly," she said giving him a sharp look that caused the man to pale. "However, I would remind you that as the queen it is my responsibility to decide the fate of those men, not yours. Do not make the mistake of thinking that I have taken their actions lightly," she said, voice rising in volume. "For it was I who was hunted down, it was I who defended myself as they attempted to bury a bolt in my chest, and it was I who was then caged in my own home like an animal simply because I has the audacity to be myself."
The man cowed under her cold gaze and inwardly winced at the accusation. "I have given you the benefit of the doubt captain because my father both trusted and respected you a great deal. But frankly I have yet to see the man he spoke so highly of, seeing as it did not take much for a foreign prince to make you forget your oath."
The man lowered his gaze; shame a crushing weight on his shoulders. The truth was, he had let his fears get the best of him. The man had seen death, watched good men get cut down while still in their youth, and seen things that would make even the bravest of men cringe, and yet in this he had faltered. He had allowed Hans to treat the woman he had sworn to protect, his queen, like a criminal. It was a decision that he would regret until the end of his days.
"I- I have no excuses Majesty. I beg your forgiveness," he said taking to one knee and bowing his head. "I have disgraced my position as your protector, it will not happen again."
The queen looked down her nose at the man for a time, not fully convinced of his remorse. "We shall see," she said before turning away.
"Come on, come on, come on, come on, come on!" Anna giggled as she dragged a blindfolded Kristoff behind her.
"Ok here I come," Kristoff called as he stumbled blindly about, occasionally knocking into the unsuspecting people crowding the – wherever he was. He knew they had to near water as the man could hear sailors shouting orders to each other and smell the salt in the air. His musings came to an abrupt halt however when something cold and solid smashed into his face. "OWW! Poll," he laughed.
"Whoops sorry," Anna said timidly, running back to retrieve him.
Just as he thought his arm might fall off with the force of her tugging, they finally stopped.
"Ok, ok, here we are," Anna squealed. When she received no reaction she looked up. "Oh!" The princess had forgotten to remove the rag that covered Kristoff's eyes. As she yanked the cloth from his face the mountain man's jaw dropped.
"I owe you a sled."
Sitting across the wharf was the most beautiful sled Kristoff had ever seen in his life. Sven strutted about next to it wearing a matching harness, modeling the gift. It was clearly handcrafted and polished to a shine, a sled he could only dream of owning.
"Are you serious?" Kristoff gasped, not even daring to blink just in case it was all a fantastical hallucination.
"Yes! And it's the latest model," the princess announced proudly, eyes darting between the man and his new sleigh.
"No, I can't accept this," Kristoff replied, still unable to tear his gaze from those flawless rudders.
"You have to! No returns, no exchanges, Queen's orders. She's named you the official Arendelle Ice Master and Deliverer, which means you will need a proper mode of transportation," Anna said jabbing a long finger into his broad chest and crossing her arms firmly.
"What? That's not a thing," the man said giving the redhead an amused look. However, he still made a note to ask Elsa about this Ice Master deal later on, just in case it actually was a thing.
"Oh sure it is," she said waving him away. "And it even has a cup holder… do you like it?" she said, nervously wringing her hands together.
Kristoff smiled down at her. "Like it? I love it!" he exclaimed grabbing the girl by the waist and twirling her in the air. "I could kiss you!" His eyes bulged at the slip. "I could- I mean I'd like to. I- may I? We me? I mean, may we? Wait what?
Anna grinned affectionately at his fidgeting. "We may," she said softly, stepping closer.
Elsa stood just inside the main entryway of the castle, peeking through the small gap between the large doors at she watched the growing crowd of people that filled the courtyard. Her stomach felt as though it had climbed into her throat as she pulled and twisted the fabric encasing her fingers. The queen attempted to think about anything other than the choking fear that made her sick to her stomach, but it was just so hard. Anna had tried to convince her otherwise but Elsa couldn't rid herself of the nagging feeling that the only reason her people had accepted her was because they were petrified of what she would do if they didn't.
Elsa had been unable to admit it at the time but the Duke's jab about how readily Arendelle had accepted Hans hurt more than she let on. She couldn't shake the words, they clawed at her mind like barbed wire, digging in and refusing to let go. Those same words were what made it so hard for Elsa to believe her sister when she had said no one feared her… they had feared her then.
What am I doing? Putting this- this… abnormality on display will only remind everyone how dangerous I am. God, and I'll be so exposed, I have already survived two assassination attempts I doubt I'll live through a third. I might as well tie myself to the stake for them and hand out the bloody matches while I'm at it. Why did I let Anna talk me into this!
Elsa had begun raking her shaking fingers through her hair, effectively ruining her tight bun, as she frantically paced back forth. The queen became even more agitated when it started snowing lightly around her and frost bloomed beneath her heels. Her fear was slowly replaced with anger as she watched the snow and ice reflect her inner turmoil. Hissing in frustration Elsa whirled around, blasting a nearby suit of armor with a burst of arctic winds and knocking it to the ground with a loud crash. All she could do was glare at her mess, chest heaving and hands balled into tight fists. In her fit of rage Elsa hadn't heard Anna slip inside the castle, softly closing the doors behind her.
The queen jumped and spun around so fast Anna feared she might fall over, eyes wide with panic. Seeing who it was, Elsa sighed in relief.
"Elsa I am so sorry, I didn't mean to scare you, honest," Anna said, raising her hands apologetically. "I just came in to see if you were ready when I heard a crash. Are you ok?" she asked, noting how tightly the blonde clutched her hands to her chest and the pile of armor behind her, covered in ice.
Tears suddenly filled Elsa's eyes as she shook her head slowly, looking away.
"What's wrong?" Anna said taking a step forward.
"I… I don't think I can do this," she whispered.
The princess tilted her head in confusion. "You mean the demonstration? Why not?" she pried gently.
"Because Anna, they don't see me the way you do. All they will see is a witch who freezes everything, someone who can't be trusted. You've read all the fairytales, what happens to witches?" she asked bitterly.
"But Elsa, you're not a wi-"
"What happens to witches?" Elsa repeated, a little harshly.
Anna sighed. She had no idea where this was coming from; Elsa had been fine a few hours ago. "They die…" she replied, defeated.
"Elsa what is the matter with you?" Anna asked suddenly. "Were you not just a few hours ago performing your magic for children, while their parent's watched no less. Do you think people would trust you with their kids if they thought you were even remotely dangerous?" Elsa didn't answer. "Well!?"
"No," Elsa mumbled.
"Do you think people would go out of their way to come to the castle just to ask you something if they were scared?"
"And do you really think so little of me that you believe I would let you go out among all those people if I, even for a second, thought they might hurt you."
Elsa looked up at her abruptly, guilt shining in her cerulean eyes. "No, of course not."
"Exactly," Anna mirrored. Her expression softened and took another step forward. "Like you said, I can't lose you again." Finally closing the distance between them, Anna pulled her older sister against her small body. In response Elsa buried her face into the girl's shoulder, finally allowing the tears to fall.
"I just want to be normal," she whispered as her sister held her close, stroking Elsa's hair.
The question caught Elsa off guard. She looked up in confusion to find Anna staring at her as if she had two heads. "What do you mean why?"
"Being 'normal' is overrated Elsa. No one ever remembers the people who were just like everyone else. Elsa you are special; you are one of the lucky ones who simply can't be forgotten, but it is up to you to decide how you will be remembered. You can be the magical Queen who was an amazing ruler of Arendelle, or you can be the Ice Queen who spent her reign behind a closed door like a scared child."
Elsa blinked owlishly at her sister; she had never seen things that way. For a large portion of her life Elsa wished she hadn't been born this way; to be like other people. And just when the blonde thought she had finally cleared that hurdle and accepted herself the way she was, all at once the insecurities had come crashing back. Lucky for her, she had Anna with her; keeping her grounded and reminding Elsa that being different didn't have to be a bad thing.
"How do you always know exactly what to say?" Elsa murmured into the girl's copper strands, pulling her in for another long hug.
"It's a gift. You have your powers, I have mine," Anna said, giving the older girl a gentle squeeze.
Elsa chuckled, stepping back and smiling at the redhead affectionately. "What would I ever do without you?" she said tucking a stray strand of hair behind her sister's ear.
Anna shrugged. "You would probably be very bored," she replied grinning.
"Indeed I would be," Elsa laughed. Something warm and bright erupted in Elsa's chest, filling her body so full she though she might burst if she didn't find a way to release it. "I love you Anna, so very much."
Elsa stood in the middle of the castle courtyard looking around nervously at the crowd. Pushing her insecurities to the back of her mind the young queen did her best to quell the unease coiling in her chest like an angry viper. Elsa was comforted when she didn't find any unfriendly faces among her people, in fact most looked on in eager anticipation. But there was only one face Elsa was interested at the moment.
Anna stood a little ways off along with Kristoff, Sven and Olaf, her eyes locked on her sister. The girl could see that Elsa was still very tense, so she had made a point to always stay within the blonde's line of sight giving her reassuring looks and warm smiles all the while.
"Good afternoon," Elsa began, relieved that she was able to keep her voice from shaking. "I would first like to say I hope you have all enjoyed the celebration thus far. As you know, I have invited you here today so that you may all have better idea of what my magic can do, to see it up close. I hope you all brought your skates," she said grinning, as the people around her nodded. Satisfied, Elsa turned around to give her sister a questioning look: now? Anna gave her a thumbs-up.
Elsa took a deep breath as she willed her magic to pool in the soles of her feet. "Are you ready?" she called. The crowd cheered in response. Hiking her skirt up a little, Elsa stomped one of her slippers to the ground. Everyone watched as frost blossomed where the ball her foot had struck the ground and rippled outward to form a thin layer of ice that coated cobblestone beneath them. When the Elsa's ice reached the columns surrounding the courtyard it quickly spiraled up to create magnificent archways that split and reached out like the branches of a frozen tree.
The blonde heard the townsfolk gasp in awe when she pushed her magic into the two fountains that flanked her. The water froze instantly, each droplet suspended in mid air as the ice twisted and curled to form twin sculptures that rose ten feet into the air. But she wasn't quite finished yet. Gathering it in her palms, Elsa tossed her magic into the sky where it burst into thousands of tiny shimmering snowflakes that rained down on the many heads below.
Elsa thought she might weep with joy as her people laughed and cheered around her. Everyone smiled broadly as they watched their wondrous queen show them just how beautiful her gift could be. No one looked at her with disgust, no one grabbed any concealed weapons in order to purge the land of her unholy power, and not a single syllable of witch was uttered. The black fog that had settled around her shoulders like some sinister cloak lifted, and for the first time since her return, Elsa could breath.
The tearful woman turned to find Anna sliding wobbly towards her. When she began to fall Elsa reached out to catch her, gripping the girl's elbows tightly and grinning down at her fondly.
Clinging to her sister Anna looked up with tears in her eyes. Not long ago Elsa had been practically cowering away in the castle at the thought of being rejected by the kingdom. She had looked so small and broken then, but now she looked… peaceful, whole. "I like the open gates," she said giving Elsa's arms a gentle squeeze.
The woman felt her chest grow tight with emotion. As she gazed down on the one person who had stayed by her side no matter how cruel she had acted, had kept her holding on even in her darkest times, and had saved her in more ways than one, Elsa felt something shift into place. She was home. "We are never closing them again," Elsa said, eyes reflecting the love that shone within the teal ones of her sister.
Glancing downward Elsa noticed something was off about the redhead.
Anna's happy expression turned that of confusion when she noticed the queen studying her. She opened her mouth to ask but before she could make a sound Elsa directed some of her magic towards Anna's boots. The princess felt the ground become even more unsteady as blades of ice sprung from the soles of her feet and snowflakes decorated her once plain boots into pair of lovely white ice skates. "Oh Elsa they're beautiful but you know I don't- " Elsa grabbed her hands as she began to glide backwards, dragging a fumbling Anna behind her and smirking all the while. "Skaaate!"
"Come on, you can do it!" Elsa laughed, keeping a firm grip on the girl as she led her around the courtyard.
"Easy for you to say, it's your ice," Anna grumbled, screwing her face and sticking out her tongue – which only made Elsa laugh harder - as she fought to keep her feet beneath her. "Ok I got it, I got it," Anna shouted as she found her balance and even let go of one of Elsa's hands. Her triumph was short lived however when a shout of "Look out reindeer coming through!" from a certain ice harvester that she may, or may not have been kissing a little while ago broke her concentration. "I don't got it, I don't got it," she yelped clutching at her giggling sister.
"Hey guys!" Called a familiar voice as something cold and wet nudged Anna from behind, pushing her back to her feet.
"Thanks Olaf," Elsa said as the little snowman helped her steady the girl.
All around them the ice glittered and shone brilliantly, reflecting the unequivocal joy that radiated from its creator. Elsa sighed contentedly as she listened to her ice sing its pleasure in a melody meant just for her.
The pair skated throughout the courtyard, hand in hand and giggling madly as Anna struggled to stay vertical among the people of Arendelle. The queen and princess locked eyes for a moment both lost in the disbelief that after so many years of pain and loneliness things were finally beginning to fall into place. The transition back to normal everyday life had undoubtedly been difficult, for both of them. But with Anna truly back in her life Elsa knew that they would be able to get through it together, moving forward as sisters, moving onward.
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