Queen Elsa of Arendelle couldn’t believe her ears; could no longer retain a royal demeanor in the face of a statement that shook her to the core. The normally composed and somewhat stoic young woman could barely contain the anguish coursing through her at that moment.
"Anna’s been WHAT?!"
"Kidnapped, Your Majesty."
The portly bearded man before her delivering this terrifying news seemed strangely unaffected, even bored at the proclamation. King Helmut of the Southern Isles was a cunning and untrustworthy man; someone Elsa had deigned to entertain. The meeting they were currently having had only occurred after three years of negotiation, threats and near outright declarations of war.
Following the harrowing events that nearly took the lives of both she and her beloved sister, Elsa had concluded that the Southern Isles, while not directly responsible for Hans deadly scheme, was a trading partner best left alone. The few goods Arendelle received from them could easily be replaced by other partners with comparable pricing and less threat of a royal coup. King Helmut had tried many avenues to persuade the young queen, none of which had been terribly successful, before threatening an all out war between the two countries.
Loss of life on such a large scale was something Elsa was unwilling to stomach and so with a begrudging spirit, she had agreed to travel with Anna and Kristoff to Odense, a beautiful city off the coast of the Southern Isles for negotiations because she was not quite ready to welcome kin of Hans into her home. Now, facing what was surely her worst nightmare, she was sorely wishing they had never come at all.
Elsa did her best to control her emotions, had endured barely an outburst in the past few years, and yet all in the room felt the temperature plummet dramatically, frost spreading ominously at her feet. King Helmut stroked his long beard complacently before answering.
“Rebels, bandits, I’m afraid. There are some who still believe you to be a threat to the Southern Isles, Your Majesty.”
Elsa sensed the disdain in his words; felt the familiar twitch as magic welled up inside her threatening to strike out. She would not give him the satisfaction. King Helmut cared for her no more than she for him and apparently cared for Anna’s safety even less. A sudden thought occurred to her!
“What of Baron Bjorgman?”
Kristoff and Anna had wed the spring before and Elsa had bestowed the tittle of Baron upon him to avoid any unneccessary questioning of his royal authority. After the Farewell Ball to celebrate the renewed partnership of the two countries, Kristoff and Anna had left to take a walk through the castle’s gardens, with their regent of guards, while Elsa had stayed behind to wrap up negotiations. How these bandits were able to get to Anna inside the castle walls was something Elsa would be sure to ask them personally.
“The Baron is currently in the infirmary with a head injury. My physician assures me it is not serious.”
Elsa’s blood boiled even as the temperature continued to fall; the ice at her feet spread even further, defying her best efforts to contain it. Why was this man doling out information to her in infuriating bite-sized pieces?! Was he stalling? Was he involved?! She had no more time for games. Turning to face the King she put on her best queenly mask.
“Your Majesty,” she entreated using her most regal tone. “Allow my men and I to go after my sister. We will bring in whatever bandits we can capture and turn them over to you for punishment. All I want is my sister’s safe return.”
The King continued to stroke his beard in contemplation, a habit Elsa now interpreted as his “tell”. When they had first met Anna had pointed out that he strangely resembled a red-haired Father Christmas. Oh, Anna. This man was clearly lying and her sister’s life hung in the balance. Her heart clenched at the thought and she seriously considered icing this chamber shut and proceeding without the man’s blessing. But that would be foolish, she had come here to prevent war, not start one.
“Your sister has barely been gone a few hours with no word from her abductors. Do you not wish to hear their demands?” He asked, eyeing her with suspicion. Elsa’s patience was immediately worn through.
“They will be heard at the end of a blade, sir. Do I have your permission?”
Helmut nodded slightly and Elsa whirled to address her Captain of the guard, Rayce. He was a quiet man of dark complexion and calm spirit with a thick beard of coal black hair and a regal crown of it to match. Rayce had come to Elsa on a diplomatic mission from the far continent of Africa, the district of Egypt. After standing beside the queen in battle during an attempt to assassinate his current ruler, Rayce had resigned his commission with the Egyptian army and entreated Elsa to join hers. His decision was met with ridicule by his fellow countrymen who found it difficult to trust someone so young with such immense power.
Despite all her assistance, Elsa was still viewed as a threat and Rayce had been informed that if he aligned himself with her, there would be no turning back. And yet, the brave captain could think of no one more deserving of his service and so he remained in Arendelle at her side. A man of such integrity was truly a diamond in the rough. Elsa trusted no one else to lead her to Anna.
“Captain, ready your men and my horse. We ride on the hour.”
Rayce did not hesitate. With a deep bow to the Queen he turned to his men and began barking orders for the preparations. After they departed in a flurry, he waited silently in the doorway, not willing to leave his beloved Queen in the company of possible hostiles.
“Thank you, Your Majesty.”
Elsa ground the words out, as she was now more sure than ever Helmut had been complicit in all of this. Her suspicion was that he had only given her permission to go in hopes that she too would be captured, or better yet killed. With both she and Anna gone, Arendelle would be ripe for the picking. What the cunning man did not know is that much had changed since she had faced his son three years ago on the fjord.
Helmut watched Elsa leave, determination evident in every step she took. He knew she would stop at nothing to rescue her beloved sister and had hoped for no less. If there was one piece of information his idiot son Hans, had come back with of value, it was how to defeat the “Snow Queen”. She had only one weakness.
How fortunate for him that the local band of rebels had absconded the pretty little Princess and drawn her sister into a conflict.Such a perfectly executed plan that fit neatly into his.
“Make sure Her Majesty is reunited with her sister.” He told his Captain with a dismissive wave. “The sooner the better…”
As soon as they exited the King’s chamber, out of the sight of he and his advisors, Elsa explained the rest of her plan to Rayce in a hushed tone, as castle walls often had ears.
“Captain, we must speak to Kristoff before we do anything else. He may be able to gives us some insight into who has taken Anna and where. I assume you have your men speaking to the castle guards who discovered him?”
“Of course, Majesty. Though I doubt they will be of much help. I feel the … ‘spirit of cooperation’ is most lacking here.”
Elsa smiled lightly despite the dire situation. It would seem she wasn’t the only one wary of the King’s motives and his willingness to help. Leave it to her Captain, ever the diplomat, to find a manner to politely call the King an ass!
“Indeed, Captain. I believe this will be our first and last visit to the Southern Isles.” Rayce returned her small smile and added an uncharacteristic chuckle.
“Yes, well, I will miss the weather Majesty.”
Being from such a warm climate, Rayce was rarely comfortable in Arendelle during the winter months. Add to that his Queen’s predilection to keep things around her cool; the poor man often went months without feeling truly warm. His time in the Southern Isles had at least given him a break from Arendelle’s ever-present chill as their climate was warmer, especially this far in-land. Elsa smiled again.
“Sorry, Captain. Vacation is over.” Reaching around her, he pulled the door to the infirmary and entered a beat after she did.
“Queen Elsa has come to see about Baron Bjorgman.” He informed the nearest medical personnel.
The nurse seemed unnerved by their presence and quickly ran to find a doctor. Seconds later a man dressed in all white exited a door to their left. Rayce made sure to keep himself between Elsa and the man, preferring not to take chances in what was quickly shaping up to be a hostile situation.
“Baron Bjorgman has only just awakened…” The doctor was hedging when Rayce cut him off.
“The Queen wishes to speak with him, immediately.” He stressed the urgency knowing Elsa was not in the mood for any further delays.
“Perhaps Her Majesty might give him a few more minutes to gain his bearings?”
“You forget yourself sir,” Rayce drew himself up to his full height of 6′5" staring the doctor down. “Her Majesty acquiesces to no one, not even the Baron, and most certainly not you. Step aside.”
The doctor bowed slightly stepping away from the door so they could enter having utterly failed at slowing them down. Rayce pushed the door open for Elsa before entering, resisting the urge to slam the door in the doctor’s face behind them. He was rapidly losing patience with the people here.
“Kristoff!” Elsa exclaimed as soon as they were alone, hastening to her brother-in-laws bedside and hugging him tightly. He returned her hug with his lopsided smile.
“I must be in really bad shape to deserve this kind of treatment,” he joked lightly as Elsa sat back to look at him. She swatted him playfully on the arm before becoming serious.
“Are you alright? What happened?”
Kristoff looked uneasy as he ran a hand through his hair, wincing when his fingers ran across the large goose egg on the back of his head. He avoided Elsa’s gaze when he spoke next.
“I’m so sorry, Elsa. You trusted me to protect her … and I couldn’t. I failed you both.” Elsa’s heart broke as she watched the guilt twist Kristoff’s face. She knew he would never let anything happen to Anna if he could stop it; told him as much.
“That is enough of that!” She scolded him with a note of affection in her voice. “No one is better suited to watch over Anna than you. It would seem there is not much any of us could have done to prevent this, which worries me. What do you remember?”
“We were in the gardens with our guards when all the torches went out! I pulled Anna to me and tried to make a run for the stairs when something hit me from behind. Next thing I know, I’m here with a nasty headache.”
Elsa exchanged a worried look with Rayce. Clearly this was a well-coordinated attack and someone had known exactly where to find Anna. The Captain stepped forward to address Kristoff.
“Baron, is there anything else in particular you can remember? Sounds, smells even?”
“Salt!” Kristoff exclaimed at the question drawing confused looks from the room. “The guys who jumped us smelled salty, like seawater…”
“Of course!” Rayce exclaimed and now it seemed Elsa was the only one lost. He hastened to explain. “Majesty, it is quite possible that the bandits who took the princess are located somewhere off the coast, near to the water…”
“Making them smell salty…” Elsa finished; glad to be able to follow the train of thought. “The coast spans half the continent, Captain. We need to narrow the search.”
“Yes of course. The bandits are clearly unwelcome in the actual kingdom. They would need to stay out of sight; they couldn’t simply camp on the beaches…” Rayce was deep in thought when Kristoff snapped his fingers!
“I got it!” He exclaimed before being shushed by the other two. He continued in a lower tone. “I got it. When we sailed in, these caves she saw off the corner of the coast impressed Anna. She said we should go explore them before we left. I thought it was a crazy idea because those cliffs are steep, hard to get to and…”
“A perfect place for a hideout.” Rayce and Elsa finished together, with Elsa adding “Kristoff you’re a genius!” before hugging him and bounding off the bed toward the door.
“Wait!” He called after her. “I should go too!” Elsa stopped halfway to the door, spun and fixed him with her most queenly stare.
“You most certainly will not!” Kristoff chaffed at her tone but saw the concern in her eyes. “I will lose no one else to the this damn isle of horrors. You will stay here, under guard, until we return with Anna and then we will ALL leave this god-forsaken place. Am I clear?”
“Crystal,” he muttered as the Captain placed a reassuring hand on his arm before opening the door for Elsa. “Love you too…”
“Love you more,” she snarked back with a hint of a smile. “Be well, Kristoff.”
“Be safe, Elsa…” he whispered to her retreating form before the door closed behind them.