The Queen's Guard
Erik was pretty sure he had made a mistake. His duties were completely changed. He was no longer commanding a combat unit. His sole responsibility was a single individual. He was just so…
When he was not training he spent most of the time patrolling the castle and standing watch outside Elsa's room. Though he was not completely surprised, he actually had not seen her since his first night over a month ago. He understood why she stayed hidden, but he was having serious doubts this was the assignment for him. It was too late to bow out of it though. He has sworn an oath. And besides it would probably just be a few years until she found a suitor. Well maybe. And when that happened he would probably be released by the future king.
His training kept him busy during the next few weeks though. It was quite different learning to protect someone then it was leading men into battle. He spent much time receive special fighting tactics and learning some of the eastern martial arts that a few Arendelle explorers had learned in their travels. He would also spend time studying. Having never been able to attend the academy all his strategic training had been hands on in the field. Now he poured over books of tactics and strategy to prepare himself when he re-entered the field.
His living arrangements had changed as well of course. He now had a room in the castle. He stayed on a wing close to Elsa so he could be on hand for anything. His uniform was also different more grey on black to indicate his station. In his room he had hung his old uniform he had been stabbed though. It served as a reminder of why he was doing this. He had also hung up the family sword and James' spear.
Despite the position being a disappointment so far he did his duty well. He made sure he was always close by ready to attend to Elsa even if she never requested anything. Despite rarely seeing her he had learned and was learning things about her. He could tell she kept a very reserved and quite appeared up at all times. Especially for the rare times she came out of her room. She seemed to be concealing her true self all the time, and not just her powers.
Elsa almost always seemed to wear one of two expressions. One could barely even be called that. It was almost if she put on an expressionless mask to hide and shut out everything. The other was the sad expression and eyes that always seemed to have a hint of fear in them.
He could also tell she suffered from nightmares. When patrolling her hallway at night he could sometimes hear soft whimpers from the other side of the door and could feel the temperature drop outside the door. He wished he could do something to encourage her. He had to deal with scared recruits before. Despite his being barley older than them he could always find ways to help control their fear in battle. This was something else though. This was a young women with extraordinary power who was afraid of herself. Especially after nearly killing her sister years before. He wasn't sure how to even begin to ease her fears.
Elsa had a new nightmare popping up now. She dreamed of armed mobs chasing her calling her a witch as she ran alone though the hallways. She thought that having a guard who know about her and was not afraid would help. It did give her some comfort when she was awake knowing that if anyone came after her again someone would be close by to protect her. On the other hand she had a new person which she was afraid of harming. Just because Erik wasn't afraid of her, at least that she could see, didn't mean she couldn't hurt him. Also bothering her was the fact that her 18th birthday was coming up. It would be a signal for other kingdoms so send their suitors to court her. Despite the fact that the gates were closed she was the heir to the throne. That alone would make many princes and nobles interested. She and her parents didn't know yet how they were to handle it. Already a few princes had shown up hoping they could get ahead of the others only to be turned away. Her parents could use the excuse that they wouldn't allow it until she was 18 but that excuse was about to go away. She honestly believed she could never find love. It's not that she couldn't love. She loved her Parents very much and Anna too but that why she had to be careful so she wouldn't hurt them.
She shook her head and tried to clear herself of all feeling. There was so much to prepare for. She had to put the face that everyone expected on or it could all be ruined.
Elsa's birthday came without much fanfare. To Erik he couldn't believe how little attention was paid to it. His 18th birthday had been more memorable. Well the parts of it he could remember seeing as his company had kept pouring drinks down the young private's throat. He grinned a little at the memory also remembering that the day after had been one of the worst of his life. Probably why he barely drank at all anymore.
As far as he could tell for Elsa's birthday her parents had just sat in her room with her privately. Her sister and some of the castle staff of course had gotten her gifts and she would give them thank you notes but they were used to the fact she didn't communicate in person much. He wasn't sure if he should get her anything or not but in the end came to the conclusion a small token would be appropriate. After all she was the reason he wasn't taking a dirt nap right now. He tried to think about what would be appropriate for a princess then he had an idea. He went to his room and opened a box that had several trinkets and tokens inside. He pulled a coin out that had engraved on it Courage under fire. Bravery for Arendelle. It was a small commendation he received for courage in battle. He had several of them. Even though the princess was not a soldier he felt this would be appropriate. He placed it in a small box and wrote a note to go with it.
Please accept this as a token of my gratitude. Your actions saved my life. You showed tremendous courage that day whether you realize it or not. Let this coin always serve as a reminder that you can always overcome your fears. You can accomplish great things.
He placed the note in the box along with the coin and gave it to a servant to deliver. He hoped she would appreciate it.
It had taken some time but he was getting to know the castle staff. Of course he was closest to the other guards but he was becoming more familiar with the others. They were also getting used to him. Most of the staff had been there a long time so it was a tight knit group. They also were clearly not expecting a position like his to exist. After they had gotten to know him a little they began to warm up to him more. He probably hadn't made it the easiest transition though due to his closed and somewhat anti-social personality. He could be warm and funny at times but mostly with people he knew well. He was more concerned about making sure his duty was being done and keeping up the appearance of a professional.
Always interesting was his encounters with Princess Anna. It seemed at least once a week he was apologizing when she ran into him. She would blush then apologize herself and run off to wherever she was off too in the first place. She had to be the absolutely clumsiest person he had ever met. She was also pretty much the complete opposite of her sister. She was always all over the castle bouncing off the walls. He could tell she was frustrated with being cooped up alone. However she was always friendly and very sweet and sometime he couldn't help but laugh at the things that came out of her mouth. At first he had expected her to resent him for being his sister's guardian, but instead he found her often clamoring around him asking about her sister. He would always be polite but would never answer directly.
This particular morning he saw something he was not expecting. As he walked down the hall he saw a mangled mane of ginger hair and a disheveled form walking towards him. At first he thought some homeless beggar had wandered into the castle somehow. Upon closer inspection he was able to recognize Princess Anna as she walked her eyes half closed drool still hanging from her mouth. She walked by like she was completely unaware of people around. He was wondering if he should say something but when he turned around another guard went "ahem" and made a motion not to. Erik walked over to the guards and asked. "So what's up with that?"
The guard grinned. "Princess Anna isn't exactly what you call a morning person."
The guard snickered a little. "It's best not to mention it. She gets really embarrassed and nearly has a conniption. It's best to just let her be she will wander back to her room eventually, unaware of how many saw her."
Yep this castle could be a strange place at times.
One evening a couple weeks later Erik brought Elsa her dinner. He knocked on her door gently.
"Princess Elsa I have your dinner."
After a moment she opened the door and quietly said thank you. As he turned to go she stopped him. "Thank you for your gift. It was very kind."
"It's no problem your highness."
"You know you still owe me a story." She smiled slightly.
"Your highness?" He looked at her puzzled.
"The night you saved me you said you had a secret ability too."
Suddenly Erik remembered the promise he made to tell her about his little secret. "Oh yes I suppose I did promise. You sure you want to hear? The story is a little graphic."
She paused but nodded.
"Well do you remember I was wounded when I found you?"
She grimaced remembering the ugly wound. "I don't think I will ever forget. I'm pretty sure I could see your heart in that hole."
"Yea it looked pretty bad didn't it? Well two days before I was at the battle of Moret's point. As the battle was winding down I noticed Count Snider retreating away from the battle. Me and my friend James perused him. We had him cornered before he could escape. It looked like we were going to capture him. I went to put shackles on him when my best friend James betrayed me by thrusting his spear though my back and into my heart."
Elsa audibly gasped when he said this.
Erik continued. "I dropped to the ground instantly and I was pretty sure I was about to die. Even James and Snider wondered how I survived being impaled. Then Snider told about a legend he heard. It's called the warrior's heart. Basically it let me live long enough to complete my mission. After I either completed my mission or failed to do so the heart gives out. However thanks to you freezing the opening in my heart here I am today."
"So how many people know about your heart?"
"Not many. It's something I don't talk about I don't want everyone thinking I'm some undead abomination."
Elsa looked at him then asked. "So what's that mean now then? Your heart can't be pierced?"
"Well I'm not sure if it's a one-time thing or not. Let's just say I'm not going to shove a blade in my heart to find out."
At this Elsa actually giggled a little. She then got serious and asked. "So when did you get over your fear of going into battle?"
Erik thought for a minute then said. "To be perfectly honest you never really do. Combat always stirs fear in everyone because you never know when a moment will be your last."
"So fear is always with you?" Elsa asked her face falling a little.
"Yes. But the key is learning to control it. In some ways fear can be helpful. It prevents you from doing something foolish or lets you know when something is dangerous. To defeat it you have to control it. Make it work for you. Don't let it control you."
Elsa thought about this for a second then asked. "So how do you control it?"
Erik smiled and responded. "I think about what would happen if I were to fail or give into my fear. Without the army and navy to defend Arendelle our enemies would come and destroy all of the people. It's up to men like us to defend those who can't defend themselves."
Erik continued. "And its actually not death that is my major fear."
Elsa looked shocked. "It's not?"
"No it's the fear of failing my men or Arendelle. The last battle I was in I was terrified I would make a mistake and get my men slaughtered."
"So how do you use that to work for you?" Elsa asked her eyes getting wider.
"I use it to motivate me to be the best I can be. To always be at the ready and prepared for anything. There are some things I can't control and just happen. However, I want to be prepared for anything that can."
Erik continued. "Don't get me wrong the thought of being killed in battle scares anyone but I use that ever constant threat as motivation."
"To live every day as you last?"
"Not exactly. Sometimes to do that one may only live for themselves. I look at each day more as an investment. If all I'm impacting is my own life what good is it really?"
Elsa considered this for a moment. Then she smiled and said. "Thank you for talking to me Captain. I really appreciate it."
"My pleasure your Highness. I am always here for you."
"Thank you Captain." She smiled again as she turned. "Have a goodnight."
"Thank you Princess. Pleasant dreams to you."
In the following weeks the King approached Erik and told him to follow him. As they walked Erik wondered what this could be about. Had he done something wrong? His curiosity and worry picked up when they went up to another area of the castle. He hadn't really been up in this section before. It was generally unused and part of it was sealed off. The king pulled out a key and unlocked the door leading to the sealed hallway. He turned to Erik. "What you are about to see you are not to tell anyone. Understood?"
"Yes your Majesty."
The proceeded down a hallway the reminded Erik of the dungeons below in the lower levels. The king stopped and opened another door that lead to a cell. It was unlike any cell that Erik had seen before. It was more closed off and looked of heavier construction. The window had glass instead of just bars facing the harbor. Inside was a bed and a curious set of shackles that were themselves chained to the floor. Instead of being designed as bands to go around the wrist the where in the shape of cylinders. He picked them up and opened them noticing five small locking rings inside each cylinder looking like they were designed to enclose and secure a hand…
Wait. There was no way this could be for…
He looked at the King. "You have a high security prisoner incoming Majesty?" He asked hopefully.
"No, I wanted you to see this just in case. This room was designed years ago for Princess Elsa. Only as a last resort I assure you. If she were to ever lose complete control this rom was designed to keep her and others safe."
Erik just nodded trying to hide a look of horror on his face.
The king frowned. "You disapprove?"
"Not my place to say one way or another your Majesty."
"Very well. I am giving you key to access this place should the need ever arise. Hopefully it never will."
Erik looked around the room again unable to imagine throwing Elsa in here for any reason. He made a silent vow to himself he would never put her in here.
Erik had been Elsa's personal guard for a little over a year. For him things ran pretty routinely. His interaction with her was sporadic. There were times when she seemed to enjoy his company a little. Most of the time she remained concealed in her room. He figured she was still worried about harming him along with everyone else. There were times when he wished he could do more to help her. However, his main priority was her protection. He always had to be mindful of his bounds and never let it become too personal.
One day an announcement came that the King and Queen would be sailing for Ollonena. They usually did not leave the kingdom but in this case it couldn't be avoided. Elsa was dreading them leaving even if it was only for two weeks. They were her main source of comfort and enjoyment.
The day they departed the Queen pulled Erik aside. "While we are gone I would like you to look in on Elsa more often. She has never been left without us before and since you're the only other person really familiar with her I would like you to keep her occupied so she doesn't worry as much. Will you do that for me?"
"Of course my Queen." Erik knew he would try but wasn't sure how he would do that. Despite their slight familiarity with each other she still wasn't very open with him.
As he went to escort Elsa down to see her parents off Anna nearly crashed into him as she gave both her parents a huge hug. He proceeded to Elsa's room and knocked. "Princess Elsa your parents are ready to depart."
She opened the door without a word looking more sullen and sad then he had ever seen her. He walked her downstairs to her parents who stood waiting and gave them some distance as they said goodbye. He overheard her father assuring her she would be just fine. She watched as they walked out the door. Erik then approached her and escorted her back to her room. As she opened her door he asked. "Your highness do you need anything?"
She said very softly. "No thank you I just want to be alone." Then closed the door.
During the next two weeks Elsa hid in her room watching time pass until her parents would return. She felt even more alone without them. She noticed Erik was smiling more than usual when she saw her and she could tell he was trying to make it easier for her. It did help a little to know someone was watching out for her but still he wasn't her Mom or Dad. She just wanted them to come home. She felt so lost without them around. She looked at the calendar she was marking off. Only a couple more days. She breathed in and out slowly hoping nothing would delay them she didn't know how much longer she could keep going like this.
Unfortunately the day they were supposed to return came and went. When she asked Erik if he had heard anything he told her no, but not to worry overseas travel rarely was ever on time. Probably the wind wasn't going their way.
Still Arendelle sent a ship out to see if it could spot the King and Queens's ship. It returned four days later with the news.
The day the ship returned Erik was walking downstairs when he spotted Kai, Gerda, and several other staff looking extremely sad and troubled. He approached them and asked what was going on.
Gerda sniffed and said. "The Artigas returned from its search for the King and Queen's ship. It came across wreckage and was able to confirm it was their ship. There were no survivors."
The news hit Erik like a ton of bricks. The King and Queen dead?! It didn't seem possible. To add to it for him he was friends with several guards that went along with them. He was snapped out of it when he heard Kai say. "We need to tell Princess Elsa and Princess Anna."
He groaned on the inside. This news was going to devastate them both. He spoke up and said. "I…I should be the one to tell Princess Elsa."
Gerda looked at him. "Are you sure you want to do that?"
Erik knew that the news would probably cause Elsa to lose some control of her powers so it had to be him. "Yes. I have had to give news like this before. You two should be the ones to tell Princess Anna though."
He turned and walked slowly up the stairs dreading the conversation that was coming. It was true he had done it before. He had told multiple people that their Husband, Brother, or Father was not coming home. To him it just seemed worse because having gotten that news about his Father and Brother he knew what it was like. To this day he remembered every conversation he had like that. Sometimes their cries, screams, pleas, and haunted eyes were waiting for him in his dreams.
Unfortunately this was likely to be worse. In all the previous cases when he delivered the news at least there was family or friends around for them to hold onto. This would be the first time he delivered the news to someone alone. Also afterward before he could get back into his job to help him deal with it. In this case Elsa was his job. He shuddered at the thought of what this was going to do to her. The two people who cared about her most and understood her were gone. He stopped for a moment and thought. This meant she was now Queen! Wait not till she turned 21 but the kingdom would look to her. Her world was about to turn upside down. He reached her door and raised his fist. He paused for a moment and took a deep breath then knocked.
Elsa was in her room looking out the window anxiously awaiting her parents return when she heard the knock. "Princess Elsa." It was Erik's voice. She went and opened the door a look of eagerness on her face and asked.
"Have my parents returned?"
The look on her face and the way she asked with such hope just made things worse for Erik. He wished more than anything that the call would come out that The King and Queen had returned and the Artigas had made a mistake. He knew no such thing was to happen though.
"I'm afraid not Princess, I…I have some news about them."
"Oh." She said her face fell a little. "Have they sent word?" She was dreading a letter explaining they would be gone even longer.
"No princess." He sighed and took a breath. "I'm sorry to have to tell you this…but…there was a storm. The ship…your parents…They didn't survive."
Elsa's world came crashing down around her. No! She didn't hear they right. Her parents. They couldn't be…gone!
"No." She shook as she spoke softly. "Please…it can't be true."
Erik looked at her with pity his eyes filled with sympathy. "I'm so sorry Princess Elsa."
Elsa stood there in shock the tears starting to come as she tried to speak but no words came. She tried to move but started to fall. Erik instinctively reached out and grabbed her holding her. "I got you princess." He said gently. With that she began to wail into his shoulder as he held her. He began to feel the coldness and a wind from nowhere. He quickly moved her inside her room and closed the door. Inside a storm formed and the snow and ice formed. He was freezing but there was no way he was just going to leave her like this. He held her tight as she sobbed into him trying to think of something to say but just electing to stay quiet. Elsa barely even noticed him holding her. All she could do is cry as the realization sunk in deeper that her parents were gone and she was more alone than ever. From somewhere down the hall even though the wind howling in her room they heard Anna scream as the awful news was given to her. He knew that night his job was about to become so much more than just a guard.
Word had spread quickly throughout the kingdom of the death of the King and Queen. The nation went into mourning along with the rest of the castle staff. Both girls had cried for hours. Erik stood and held Elsa until she had finally passed out from exhaustion and gently laid her on her bed. He then left the room quietly and made sure he brushed all signs of snow and ice off before proceeding down the hallway. He ran into Kai and Gerta as they were leaving Princess Anna's room.
"How is she?"
Gerta answered. "Not well the poor dear. She's huddled up in the corner holding the stuffed animal her momma gave her when she was a child. How did Princess Elsa take it?"
Erik shook his head. "Not well at all. She finally stopped crying but only because she's too exhausted right now. I'll go check on her in a little bit."
"Those poor girls their family taken from them so young. We're going to have to try to help them from now on."
A few days later a funeral was set for the King and Queen. Erik approached Elsa's door and knocked softly. "Your Highness, are you ready to go?"
From the other side of the door he heard a sniffle and she replied. "I…I don't think I can."
Erik didn't argue. In fact he expected as much. That much emotional stress would be too much for her. He replied sympathetically. "I understand. Don't worry I'll cover for you."
He went down and found the other staff getting ready to leave. "Is Princess Elsa ready?" Kai asked.
"I'm sorry but she is in no shape to attend." They looked at him questions all over their faces. "It's just too much for her to stand there. I don't think she is well. I'll stay here with her."
As they left he gathered a few things and returned to Elsa's room. He knocked softly again. "Princess Elsa I have something for you."
There was no answer except for a few stifled sobs. He knocked again. "Princess Elsa please open the door I have something which may help a little."
After a moment she slowly opened the door. "Yes what is it?"
"I just wanted to help you say goodbye since you can't go out to the funeral yourself."
"How?" She asked the frozen tears in her eyes and on her face.
He help up a pair of candles and a bag containing some other items. "We can remember them right here."
She let him in and he set the candles on the floor lighting on for her mother and another for her father. In front of each he placed a ring that had belonged to her mother and a sash that had belonged to her father. He then opened a book and began to read a passage he remembered from attending multiple field burials.
Elsa stood there her eyes glistening as he read saying goodbye in her mind. When he finished she started to cry again. "I…I can't even control it long enough to attend their funeral!" She sobbed and he gently took her gloved hand.
"Princess Elsa its ok I'm sure they understand. They wouldn't want you exposed like that yet."
She looked up at him and he said. "I know it's hard to believe now but eventually its hurts less. I know I lost both my parents and my brother."
She looked down then noticed her hands in his and quickly pulled them away. "I'm sorry I don't want to hurt you."
He smiled softly. "It's ok. Just know that I am here for you. You are not alone."
They sat looking into the flames awhile longer. A year ago Erik was sure he made a huge mistake. Now he was sure there was no where he was needed more.