Anna and Kristoff exchanged more than one amused glance with each other as the troll population bestowed countless good luck charms to bless their ‘engagement’. Kristoff had only given the necklace to Anna as a sign of his devotion, but it was apparent that the tribe of trolls that lived in the Northern Mountains saw the gift as more than a simple birthday present.
I stood with Grand Pabbie up on a ledge overlooking the Valley of the Living Rock, with a few of my personal guard standing close by. I had only been here once before, when I had accidentally frozen Anna’s mind in a slip of control with my powers. I shivered at the memory. Though it no longer caused overwhelming fear in my heart at hurting her again, I was more determined than ever to never hurt my little sister again. That, along with the knowledge that Anna had never once given up on me after I had pushed her away for so long, had steeled my resolve and had opened my heart once again to the love that Anna and I had once shared as children.
Amused, I watched Anna, at the overbearing behest of the trolls, give Kristoff a shy kiss on the cheek, making the sometimes rough-around-the-edges mountain man turn a bright red. Olaf ‘aw’-ed with the trolls in the background. I shook my head at the tolls’ antics, endeared, even while my heart held a secret longing for the still-blossoming, but nevertheless undying love that I knew that Anna and Kristoff had for one another.
Because of the isolation I had put myself through during much of my childhood and most of my young adult life, it was understandable that I would still be a little awkward and uncertain when it came to building personal relationships. At least, that was what Anna believed. She was convinced that I had as much chance as anyone to find true love, someone to trust and confide in, someone that would love and protect me, as I would do for them.
I was not so optimistic.
“You yearn for love?” Grand Pabbie asked from beside me.
I smiled down at him, inclined my head at the loving pair below us and said simply, “This is enough.”
Mysterious understanding shone in his eyes as he said, “You must have patience, Queen Elsa.”
I suspected that the expression on my face could have been described as fond, albeit a little disbelieving. “Of course, Grand Pabbie.” I smiled. “And it’s just ‘Elsa’, please.”
But the old troll was nothing if not a stickler for propriety, not unlike myself. I didn’t think I much deserved the title of ‘Queen’ any longer, after the seemingly eternal winter I’d put Arendelle through a little over a year before, but Anna had refused to take on the role, threatening to abdicate and leave Arendelle without a ruler if I did not remain the queen. I knew she only did this out of a belief that I was the best person for the job.
Again, I was not so optimistic.
As I felt the still-cool wind of Arendelle’s spring season gently caress my face, I felt a disturbance to the west that I couldn’t quite explain.
By the way Grand Pabbie’s gaze snapped in the same direction, it seemed the Troll King had felt it as well.
Something’s wrong. The trolls had their rock forms to protect them, and I, my magic, if need be. But Anna and Kristoff had no such defenses of their own.
I quickly nodded farewell to Grand Pabbie and gracefully jumped from the ledge and down to the lowest plain of the valley, using snow to cushion my landing.
“Anna.” I called as I approached.
She glanced over. “Elsa?”
I smiled and tried not to let my worry show too much. “We must leave. Now.”
She didn’t ask any questions as she nodded to Kristoff and gently bade farewell to the rest of the trolls.
Grand Pabbie, who had come down to see us off, stood at the head of his tribe. “May the journey back be safe for you, Your Majesty.”
Inclining my head, I thanked him before turning to a guard who had untied my horse.
I waited until we had cleared the Valley’s exit before turning to answer Anna’s inevitable questions.
She tilted her head as she asked, “Is something wrong, Elsa?”
I shook my head. I wouldn’t be able to describe the ominous feeling if I tried.
All I wanted to do was get back to the castle where my sister and her beloved would be safe.
Still, I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened in the east to cause me to feel so unsettled. I hoped all was well.
My hands shook in an uncharacteristic manner as I glared up at the usurper. The sword clutched in my grasp was trembling not out of fear, but anger.
I would never forgive this woman for what she had done.
Thunder rolled through the sky and the grey clouds sported random cracks of lightning that would have been very impressive if I hadn’t been otherwise engaged.
Inside, it felt like my body was about to explode with the amount of heat that was building as I struggled to keep my rage in check. I was surrounded by guards and I schooled my expression as I surveyed my situation. I was badly outnumbered, but I could easily break through their lines to the traitor if I let my temper fly.
I felt a tightness in my chest as I was forced to admit to myself that I could never harm the guards that I knew were only defending the Crown, even if they weren’t aware that a snake now wore said circlet on her brow. Of course, the fact that I had trained nearly all of the guards personally didn’t help in my dilemma. Pain sliced through my sides from the blows I had taken instead of actually fighting back at full strength. Even I wasn’t so cold as to try to mercilessly kill those I had trained specifically to protect the crown, especially not for simply doing their jobs. That would make me an even bigger hypocrite than the woman who was smirking down at me from the ledge where Father had once sat with my stepmother.
I would never understand what Father had ever seen in the witch as an advisor Her demeanor could have once been called ‘charming’, but predictably, said demeanor was now nowhere to be found.
A thick sheet of rain pelted the kingdom of Palladon, as if the land itself were mourning the death of its emperor. And they said I was cursed. Orinda had been sealed within me for years, occasionally providing scathing commentary on those I interacted with. Her instincts about people were always spot-on. Unfortunately, her demonic (and somewhat capricious) nature prevented there from being much merit to asking advice from her; it was doubtful she would even tell me the truth, if she replied at all.
Zmeya wore a caustic sneer from her perch on the stairs above me. One of her personal attendants held a canopy over her head to protect it from the falling rain.
Her condescension was ludicrous, considering that we both knew I could have her dead in a matter of seconds, even in my weakened state.
I narrowed my eyes, wishing she would attack me herself and give me an excuse to lop off her head. My hair was sticky with drying blood, most of which was not mine, my armor and underlying garments were in tatters, and my body was weakening. Even I wouldn’t be able to last much longer if I stayed.
“What’s the matter?” She taunted. “Tired already?”
My clothes had started to stick to my body as a result of the storm. Suddenly struck with an idea, I tried not to allow a smirk to find its way to my face.
“You won’t get away with this, Zmeya.”
She scoffed, “We both know I already have.”
When I stayed silent at Orinda’s jab, Zmeya baited, “All out of tricks?”
<Well, what are you waiting for?> I could feel Orinda letting her bloodthirsty nature free, bringing the image of an agitated cat’s swishing tail to mind.<Light up the damn fools.> I could almost see her eyes start to glow in my mind’s eye.
This time, I allowed a faint grin to surface and I reveled in the brief moment her arrogant facade wavered slightly at my expression of confidence.
I tried not to glance at the sky that had given me my means of escape as I replied, “Not just yet.”
In one swift movement, I had sheathed my sword and allowed the heat that had been building finally take root. After rapidly slashing my hands in opposite directions through the air, I brought them quickly up, creating a cover of steam by instantly evaporating the water within a mile of where I was standing.I wasted no time escaping through the ensuing mist.