Never Can Say Goodbye
"We sail at first light."
That had been the original plan, laid out by Admiral Wahl. However, the morning of their departure, things changed considerably. Instead of immediately boarding The Adgar at first light, the King and Queen opted instead to spend the morning with their growing family. Rayce knew that as many misgivings he may have had about returning to the isles, Elsa harbored even more over leaving her children and sister behind, aboard a ship no less!
The queen had made it clear on more than one occasion that she loathed the open sea and the dangerous possibilities lurking just beneath the murky surface. Though she had been in less than ideal shape, Elsa had been endlessly thankful that she had spent the majority of her last ocean voyage in a medicated slumber. Especially since that trip had taken a full day and half longer due to a brewing storm.
The Admiral had been more than a little perturbed that the couple had decided to leave in the late afternoon yet would never be so impertinent as to question the pair. Even now he sat aboard their vessel waiting for the royals to declare themselves ready. Rayce smiled softly as he watched his wife perched upon one of the wooden rocking chairs; both boys barely fit on her lap yet they listened with rapt attention to the melodious sound of their mother’s voice. Ever so often, she would stop to press a kiss to a tiny forehead or stroke a chubby cheek. Observing the peaceful smiles that his family wore, the king knew they could never have just boarded a ship before dawn without a word.
Greger broke into a jaw-popping yawn, rubbing tired eyes with his tiny fists before Griffin followed suit, sagging heavily against Elsa’s stomach. The queen knew the boys were well beyond their nap time but the thought of being away from them for a full week made the young mother wish the afternoon would never end. Eventually, both boys lost the battle and tumbled into an uncomfortable slumber only small children could tolerate. Elsa kept rocking and reading as though she hadn’t noticed no one was listening. Rayce knew what she was doing and approached his wife cautiously.
“Just one more story.” She responded in a small voice, tremulous with unshed tears.
“Dearest,” he replied in his most sympathetic tone. “We must be underway. The tides will be changing soon.”
Elsa nodded but didn’t respond, a few tears finding their way down her beautiful face. He stepped forward and lifted Griffin gently into his arms, moving towards the crib. Elsa rose as if on a string and deposited Greger beside his brother, stifling a sob as she pulled the warm blanket up to their little chins.
“I will not say goodbye my loves, my heart,” she whispered tearfully. “We love you truly and always. I swear to return to you.”
She rushed from the room, a light snow falling in her wake. Rayce placed a gentle kiss on each little forehead before moving to the door himself. He peeked back in for a moment, observing his boys one last time. Yes, they would return, he would see to that. In the hallway he found Elsa weeping quietly as snow fell all around. He drew her to his chest and led them without a word toward the docks.
“You have to write to me! EVERY DAY!’
“Anna...” the queen sighed as her younger sibling laid down demands.
“I mean it! Promise me.”
“I promise.” Elsa replied, hand over her heart even though she knew she would more than likely return before any of the messages reached her sister. “Any other demands?”
“Promise me you’ll try to have a good time? I know you’ll miss me and the boys but you guys deserve some one-on-one time.”
“I will do my best. Anything else, highness?” Elsa stressed her sister’s title trying to add some levity to the moment before Anna brought it all crashing down.
“And promise... promise you’ll come back to me...” the princess finished in a soft, tearful voice before being drawn into her older sister’s chest in an all encompassing hug. She savored the clean, cool scent of her sibling so afraid she might never smell it again.
“That is a promise I will do all in my power to keep.”
The queen leaned her sister’s head back to place a cool kiss on her forehead before she stared into Anna’s teary eyes. The siblings had spent so many years forced apart that even the shortest separation caused both girls immense anxiety. Though they had determined not to allow the past to overpower them, some feelings could not simply be wished away. Anna stared up at her with such unending love and adoration that Elsa had to look away lest Rayce have to carry her on board in a bucket from the simpering puddle she was about to become!
“Stop that.” She commanded in a wavering voice. “I’ll be back Anna. Before you’ve even noticed I’ve gone. I promise.”
“I love you.”
“I love you more.” Elsa replied with a watery smile.
Anna nodded in sad resignation before reluctantly stepping back, still gripping her sister’s hand. Rayce chose that moment to intervene, giving both women an apologetic look. He had been keeping a keen eye on the Admiral aboard The Adgar, noting the man’s growing impatience. They needed to go. NOW. Otherwise, they would have to wait until tomorrow and he was certain, given the chance, Elsa would opt not to go at all.
“Dearest...” he placed a warm hand on the small of her back and Elsa nodded before backing away from her sister towards the gangplank. The siblings finally let their hands fall as Elsa turned to board the ship, constantly glancing back at Anna as she went.
“Safe travels, Rayce.” Kristoff gripped his brother-in-laws forearm tightly before tugging him in for a strong hug! When Rayce pulled back he clapped Kristoff on the shoulder appreciatively.
“Thank you brother.” He beamed as he followed Elsa up to the deck.
With the royals FINALLY onboard, the Admiral began bellowing orders and in a matter of minutes the ship began steadily drifting from the docks. Elsa stayed at the edge of the deck, Rayce’s warm arms wrapped around her, watching her sister steadily grow smaller. Anna kept waving and blowing kisses until she could no longer make her sister out aboard the large vessel as it moved towards the horizon. There was no one else present for the sendoff besides a few royal guards. Elsa had wanted a quiet departure, not wishing to alert potential enemies of her absence right away.
“Let’s go feisty pants,” Kristoff whispered softly before guiding her back towards the castle. Anna nodded with a sniffle.
She was almost to the other end of the dock when a flash of light streaked through the afternoon sky. Running back to the edge she watched in awe as a burst of blue energy expanded outward until it settled into a shape she knew all too well. Elsa’s snowflake hung over the fjord for all to see; yet it was meant for only one.
“I love you too.” Anna whispered to the open water before the symbol faded and she finally allowed Kristoff to take her back to the castle.
Rayce was at a loss.
“Dearest, I know this is difficult but I will not allow you to stay in this room, wallowing in despair.” He paused, waiting for an answer he was sure he wouldn’t receive. “Fine. We will do this the hard way.”
Elsa barely had time to register his words before her husband swooped her into his arms and headed out towards the upper decks.
“Rayce,what?! Put me down this instant!”
The queen struggled against her mate’s grasp but he would not yield, not even looking at her as he strode with purpose onto the deck. It didn’t really matter, as Elsa’s struggling was half-hearted at best. She knew Rayce was right but she couldn’t shake the sadness tugging at her every fiber. Once on the deck Rayce set her down gently on a chair before kneeling in front of her.
“I’m sorry for man-handling you but I could not sit idly by while you slipped further away from me. This trip was supposed to be our chance to reconnect, to reignite the fire that burns so deeply between us. And to that end...”
He gently spun her chair until she was facing a beautifully adorned table. Candelabras burned bright in the center of a feast fit for a Queen, the delicious treats heaped high upon sparkling silver trays atop lush linens of the finest silk. Elsa’s gaze dropped to her lap in shame only then noticing the red rose petals sprinkled around the deck. She felt a large finger tip her chin upward until she met the king’s soulful eyes.
“Join me for dinner, dearest?”
“Azim... I’m sorry. I was so foolish and you have been so patient...” she stumbled over her words, still ashamed by her behavior.
“There is no need to apologize my love. I only wish for your well-being and I know venturing from home is especially hard for you. So I ask again, join me for dinner?”
Elsa nodded tearfully, dabbing at her eyes with a napkin before giving a scornful laugh. “Look at how beautiful you’ve made this dinner and here I sit a weepy, soggy mess!”
Rayce laughed a little as well before taking the napkin from her and wiping away the remnants of her smeared eye makeup. Giving her a quick once-over, he tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear then settled back on his haunches.
“There,” he declared. “As beautiful as you were ever meant to be.” With a quick peck to her cheek he settled into his seat, reaching across the table to hold her hand while the servants began distributing the feast before them.
Later that night the royal couple lay chatting in bed after their romantic dinner under the stars. Elsa had to admit the enormous down-filled mattress was far more comfortable than the small, standard bunk she’d had previously. In her defense, the young queen never had any intentions of sleeping aboard The Adgar.
In fact, the first time they had journeyed to The Southern Isles, Elsa had spent the majority of the trip pacing and fretting; rewriting her introductory speech until the sun shone high above the horizon. The only time she had slept on the way back was when Katerine had all but drugged her into unconsciousness to aid her recovery. She sighed in contentment as she felt the anxiety seep from her bones, absorbed by the fluffy mattress beneath her.
“I like this bed...” she murmured against the king's skin, sinking impossibly further into the downy softness.
“Oh?” Rayce quirked an eyebrow. “I thought you might object. It is quite a bit larger than your previous sleeping arrangements.”
“No, I love it. It’s perfect. Its big and soft and so warm; just the right size for two. Thank you for doing this. All of this. I truly don’t deserve you.”
“No you don’t.” He agreed, causing the queen to glance up at him in shock! He laughed, kissing her nose as he continued. “You deserve far better than me but I am happy to do the job until such a God comes along!”
“You forgot handsome, charming, dashing, frightfully brilliant...”
“Stubborn, pig-headed, annoyingly chivalrous and perfectly formed...” The queen carried on running a ravenous eye over her husband’s form.
“You dare treat me like some courtesan who catches your fancy?!” He asked, pulling back in mock horror.
“Oh, please,” she countered drawing him back to her. “You and I both know you like it.”
“That is untrue. I LOVE it. And you.” He leaned down to skim her lips briefly before adding in a conspiratorial tone, “Shall we see just how strong this frame is?”
Elsa blushed furiously before agreeing.
“We are here to reconnect...”
At that the king threw his head back and roared in laughter before settling above his wife for an eventful night.