Continuing Tales

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 10 of 24

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As was customary, Elsa and Anna arrived at the Yule Ball promptly at six with Kristoff and Olaf in tow. Together the royal party had ascended the dais, the queen saying a few words of greeting before declaring the ball officially begun, and accepted generous applause from the throngs of noble guests spread throughout the ballroom. Immediately the orchestra struck up a lively tune and the dancing and revelry began in earnest, servants mingling through the crowd with silver trays of sparkling gold champagne in molded ice flutes, courtesy of the queen, and small finger foods. No more than ten minutes into the party, Elsa had been approached by at least five noblemen asking for her hand in a dance. Partially obligated to oblige them, the queen elegantly swept into the center of the ballroom and danced with each man in turn, all the while keeping close watch on the door.

She didn't understand why she felt Revel's absence like a candelabra missing half its candles, but each moment that passed without the Captain dragged on for an eternity. After the first hour she'd given up watching the door for him, and after the second she'd given up the hope of seeing him at the ball tonight, a prospect that both saddened and irritated her. He'd seemed so enthusiastic about attending a week ago, their sessions taking a hiatus until after the holidays ended for both their sakes, and she wondered what had changed. Disheartened, Elsa turned her attention away from her crestfallen feelings and onto the people who were actually in attendance. There were quite a few noblemen she intended on speaking to about different political matters and was grateful for the diversion. She hadn't even noticed the time slipping by as she continued to dance and carry on conversations until Anna waddled up to her, her stomach showing through her loose fitting burgundy dress with embellished silver embroidery and a soft leather bodice, and grabbed ahold of her arm.

"I don't know how much longer I can keep this up," the princess panted with a smile. She'd just finished her third dance with Kristoff and had excused herself in order to catch her breath. Her husband had departed to retrieve refreshments for his wife, threading his way through the throngs while trying his hardest not to engage in conversation with anyone. Despite being elevated to the title of Barron, Kristoff had no grasp of anything pertaining to politics or the political game and hated when nosy noblemen and women pounced on him expecting the ice harvester to gossip about internal affairs he knew nothing about.

"Well, we've got at least another two hours before the party ends; do you want to head to bed already?" Elsa asked with a sideways smile. She knew full well that parties and balls were Anna's bread and butter, the princess being a natural social butterfly who thrived off a crowd.

"Hardly," Anna scoffed wiping the sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand and grinning. "I just need to take a breather. It's hard dancing when you have half a person growing in your stomach."

"If you need to, please sit. I don't want you overexerting yourself tonight," Elsa said motioning towards the throne behind her.

"I'll be fine," the princess insisted, bumping shoulders with her older sister and managing to pull the first genuine smile from Elsa that night. "Are you alright? You seem…distracted."

"Hmm? Oh, just letting my mind wonder," the queen said offhandedly.

"You're looking for someone," Anna pressed, watching her sister's cerulean blue eyes dart quickly around the room, scanning faces at lightning speed.

"What makes you say that?" Elsa asked, pulling her gaze away from the thirty or forty pairs of dancers gathered at the center of the ballroom.

"Because I know you too well."

"Perhaps I'm just enjoying—"

"Ah, Queen Elsa, it's a pleasure to see you this fine evening! Merry Christmas to you and your family!"

Elsa turned towards the familiar voice and smiled warmly at Duke Ferdinand and his two sons. The three men stopped in front the dais and, with a nod from the guards stationed discretely on either side of the raised wooden structure, approached the royal sisters, all smiles and warm embraces.

"Merry Christmas to you and your kin, Ferdinand; I had hoped to see you here this evening," Elsa said bowing ever so slightly towards the willowy man. The Duke folded himself into a perfect bow and took the queen's hand gently in his, kissing the top of it lightly. Elsa had to keep herself from rolling her eyes, a smile pulling at her lips.

"You know these courtly trappings of proper etiquette aren't necessary when I think of you as extended family."

"I do it to keep up appearances," Duke Ferdinand whispered out of the corner of his mouth, "and to teach my uncultured twin sons how to properly act in front of a queen."

Elsa giggled, bowing to a flushing William and Isaac, both of which had been within earshot of their fathers quip. "Merry Christmas to you two as well. I hope you are enjoying the party?"

"Yes, Majesty," both boys answered and bowed in perfect unison as had been their custom since they were little.

The Duke had been close friends with the late king and queen, oftentimes visiting over the summer before the castle was put into perpetual lockdown because of Elsa's uncontrollable powers. After the Great Freeze, however, the queen had reached out to her now closest trade partner, Weselton having been removed from the books and barred from any form of trade with Arendelle, for support. Duke Ferdinand had gladly stepped into the role of head trade partner, but his presence this evening had nothing to do with business or trade. Having practically grown up around the Duke, Elsa had wanted a familiar face at the party tonight.

"You look exceptionally lovely this evening, Majesty," Ferdinand said with a broad smile. "If I'm not being too bold, I do believe you've inherited your mother's beauty and your father's strong sense of business."

Elsa smiled and couldn't resist rolling her eyes, "You are a hopeless flatterer, sir."

"I find it keeps my wife on her toes when I flatter beautiful women!" he said with a wink. "And Princess Anna, look at you!" the Duke turned and bowed, kissing the top of her hand as well. "A vision of beauty wreathed in strawberry fire. You grow lovelier every time I see you."

"Thank you Ferdinand, though I dare say that my loveliness has diminished slightly over the past few months as this little one grows," Anna said grinning and placing a hand on her stomach.

"Nonsense! A woman only grows in beauty the more with child she becomes. Why, I remember when my Rebecca was carrying these two," the Duke said planting a hand on either of his sons' shoulders. "She practically glowed with maternal warmth that seemed to die the minute the boys rolled out of her. Haha!"

The royal sisters both fought back a string of giggles as they watched William and Isaac flush a deep scarlet. Parental embarrassment was a horrible thing to endure, but it was even worse when it was in the presence of a queen who was still eligible for courting.

"Duke Ferdinand, is that you?"

The Duke turned and gave a mighty laugh as Kristoff stepped next to the dais, a crystal glass of water in his right hand and a small plate of food in his left.

"Barron Kristoff, what a pleasure!"

"Likewise," the mountain man said handing his wife her glass of water which the princess took eagerly and drained in two gulps. "I didn't know you were coming tonight."

"Wouldn't miss the Arendelle Yule Ball even for the second coming of Christ, haha!"

"It's nice to see the two of you as well," Kristoff said nodding to the twins.

As the mountain man broke into conversation with William and Isaac, Elsa took the opportunity to scan the crowd one more time in a vain attempt to see if Revel had shown or not. Not seeing him amongst the nobles clustered around the door or on the dance floor, she turned her attention back on the conversation at hand. A few minutes later, Elsa felt something akin to a prickling on the back of her neck and turned to look out across the ballroom, heart flying into her throat as her eyes locked with Revel's. Her first instinct was to go and greet the Captain, and she'd almost taken her first step when she noticed he was in the company of Lady Genora, Duke Wellmore's youngest daughter. Immediately her happiness at seeing him was overshadowed by completely new, completely unforeseen emotions.

So, this is the game you want to play, Captain, Elsa thought to herself as she watched him break eye contact and step into the first legs of his dance. Well, two can certainly play at this game. Challenge accepted.

"William," Elsa said after the conversation had reached a stopping point, "would you care to dance?"

Before the flabbergasted young noble could react, his father pushed him forward with a grin so wide it was a wonder it stayed within the boundaries of his face.

"Of course he would!"

"Wonderful!" Elsa said before William could open his mouth to either protest or accept her offer, taking the young noble by the arm and leading him onto the dance floor. "I trust you know this dance?"

"Y-yes Majesty," William managed to stutter.

"Perfect. By your lead then."

William immediately took the queen by the waist and extended right hand and stepped into the three step waltz. It was a simple enough dance, the gentleman leading the lady in a series of three step movements done in three increments, their bodies poised in a loose yet refined posture. There were a few tight twirls to break the monotony of sidestepping in a triangular pattern and even a moment where the gentleman released the lady so that they could, for whatever reason, bow to one another before coming back together and continuing the waltz.

To her great surprise, William was actually a fine dancer with sure and graceful steps uncommon in most noblemen his age. Knowing that he was just freshly seventeen, Elsa had expected William to fumble and bumble about, tripping over his feet or nervously counting in time with the music to make sure he was on rhythm, but he did none of these things, instead he was flowing and becoming one with the music as much as the queen was. It was such a shock, Elsa momentarily forgot her true reason for dragging William onto the dance floor until a familiar face passed by, and she caught Revel watching her with a look that could only be described as utterly apologetic.

Is he sorry for being nearly three hours late, or sorry I'm dancing with William? Elsa wondered as the two parties passed each other like ships in the night. She quickly schooled her face into one of cool indifference and cocked an eyebrow at Revel over William's shoulder. She saw the Captain glance down at the woman in front of him before he looked back up with helpless shrug.

Ah, dragged into a dance were you? Well, serves you right.

"You dance wonderfully, William," Elsa said catching the young noble off guard.

"T-thank you, Majesty. You're a good dancer as well. I mean…you're not just good, your great, wonderful…spectacular…"

Elsa laughed and smiled warmly at the young lordling. "You needn't be so nervous when speaking with a woman, William. Just act as naturally as you dance."

"Try telling that to my father," William mumbled, twirling Elsa once in time with the music. "He insists my brother and I aren't courting properly or trying hard enough. Every event we attend, he's always pushing noble Ladies on us or bartering with their parents like he's buying livestock." As if realizing what he'd just said and what it could imply about his forced dance with the Queen, William gave Elsa a panicked look. "Please don't misunderstand me though! I'm not saying it's not been a pleasure to dance with you. Quite the opposite…I just wish he'd let Isaac and me go at our own pace."

"I can sympathize with both parties," Elsa said as the song slowly came to a standstill and she and William sketched a shallow bow towards one another along with all the other dancers scattered across the dance floor. "Your father only wants the best for you, but I disagree at pressing anyone into falling in love. The choice should ultimately be yours and the young lady you decide to court. No parent should sell his children into marriage."

"Thank you, Majesty," William said with a bright smile. "It is nice to know someone at least partially agrees with me."

"Like I said, I can see through the eyes of both parties." Elsa smiled and took Williams offered arm as they exited the dance floor. Just before she re-entered her personal clique, the queen glanced over her shoulder and wasn't surprised to find Revel watching her leave. She offered him a sly smile, knowing full well she was being openly coy with her instructor, and turned her attention back to her group, content on making the Captain work for his dance this evening.

It would take another hour of near constant dancing with Lady Genora before Revel was able to disentangle himself from the clingy noble, and even that was like pulling free of brambles imbedded in skin.

"Do forgive me, Lady Genora, but there is a pressing matter I must attend to," the Captain said sketching a deep, apologetic bow.

"But I thought you said this ball was purely pleasure for you," Lady Genora said, a small bit of whine in her voice and wine on her breath.

"Oh, do believe me it is, but there is a man I was hoping to see this evening. He and I need to discuss the reasoning behind a few missing supplies of mine. If you will excuse me…"

"Of course, Captain. And when you've finished, I'd be happy to continue our conversation," Lady Genora said extending her hand. Revel took it and kissed it lightly before turning sharply and walking away as quickly as he could. Reaching the ring of onlookers at the edge of the dance floor, the Captain exhaled like a man who had been holding his breath for hours and ran a hand through his hair. God help him, if he had to dance with Genora one more time tonight he just might actually go through with his previous contemplations about throwing himself off the balcony.

Slowly, Revel threaded his way across the ballroom until the press of bodies thinned and he entered a surprisingly open pocket just in front of the raised dais. Elsa was nowhere to be seen, but Anna and Kristoff were there speaking to a nobleman Revel finally recognized as Duke Ferdinand. Taking a breath, the Captain ventured forward, nodding at the two guards standing near the royal party who nodded back respectfully.

"Good evening Princess Anna, Barron Kristoff, and merry Christmas."

"Captain Revel!" Anna said with an infectiously bright smile and waddled towards him. Before he could protest, the princess had thrown her arms around him and pulled him into a tight hug. "I didn't know you were attending this evening. What's the occasion?"

"Her Majesty invited me," Revel said and made sure to keep his comment as neutral as possible lest Anna grow suspicious as to why he'd received a personal invite from the queen. The princess didn't seem concerned or suspicious and pulled Revel forward until he was standing next to one of the Duke's twin sons.

"Duke Ferdinand, may I introduce you to Arendelle's finest guard Captain; Revel Handler."

The Duke, champagne flute in hand, laughed and extended a hand which Revel took and shook firmly. "Captain of the guard, eh? Well, it's good to meet the man responsible for keeping Arendelle's royal family safe!"

"A duty I will continue until the end of my days, or until I'm forced to retire," the Captain said with a smile.

"Forced retirement? Good man! It warms my heart to see that those younger in years than myself still have some semblance of responsibility left in them. I look forward to the day I can finally retire. A young man, I no longer am."

"Oh come now, Ferdinand," Anna chuckled, "older than dirt still qualifies you as young in the earth's eyes. Just remember that."

The Duke barked with laughter, and Revel decided in that moment that he liked this old nobleman. Any noble able to take a joke about their age was someone who didn't think themselves above their fellow man, a quality the Captain could certainly respect. The Duke was about to say more when Elsa swept back into the clique with a sweating and panting Kristoff in tow. She took one look at Revel, her face an unreadable mask, and nodded curtly at him.

Seven levels of hell, she's mad at me, Revel thought and sighed inwardly.

"Good evening, Captain. So nice of you to join us. Did you just get in?"

Revel couldn't help but read between the lines of the queen's question and winced. Apparently she'd noticed his tardiness and had taken offence.

"No, Majesty. I've been in attendance for about an hour now." The Captain knew there was no point in further explanations because they would come across as an attempt at an excuse which could very likely make the situation worse. He had a sinking feeling he was on thin ice with the queen as is, and didn't want to further anger her.

"Well, regardless," Elsa said with a slight nod as she accepted an ice flute of champagne from a passing servant, "it is ever so nice to see you this evening." After taking a few sips of the golden bubbly liquid, she turned away from the conversation Anna and Isaac were having and turned her full attention onto Revel, her face still set in an impassive mask.

"I saw you dancing with Duke Wellmore's daughter earlier. How is she?" she asked conversationally, though Revel was able to see through her innocently curious façade.

"Lady Genora is…well, Majesty."

"That's good to hear. I know the poor dear doesn't have very many suitors or courtly friends to speak with, so it's nice to see she's taken a liking to my guard Captain."

Revel couldn't help but notice that Elsa stressed the word 'my' a little too heavily, and it was his turn to raise an eyebrow, a small smile playing on his lips. He moved in closer so that his voice wouldn't carry and dropped his courtly etiquette.

"Jealousy isn't an emotion becoming of a queen, Majesty. Though I can't, for the life of me, understand why you're feeling it towards a woman so many stations beneath you. What do you have to fear from Lady Genora?"

Elsa shot the Captain a cutting look and felt a bit of flush unwillingly rise into her cheeks. Damn if he wasn't a perceptive bastard sometimes. She was quiet for a few moments, lips pursed in thought, before letting out a short sigh, her regal coolness slipping a bit.

"You're three hours late," she said lamely, unable to bring herself to openly admit that she had indeed been jealous of the dance Revel and Lady Genora had shared.

"And I would have apologized had you let me," Revel said flatly.

"I had thought…" Elsa trailed off and looked out at the dancing nobles, a small bit of embarrassment worming into her stomach. She knew she shouldn't have gotten angry with Revel, he did have other duties aside from attending a silly ball, but she'd felt his absence like a missing limb and had felt slapped in the face when she saw him dancing with another woman.

Another woman? Elsa thought with a shock of unwanted surprise. Revel isn't mine by any right. What is wrong with me? He can damn well dance with whomever he wants.

"You thought I'd forgotten your invitation to dance," Revel said with a smile.

"Yes," Elsa mumbled. With a sigh that pulled her rigid posture into a slight slouch, the queen folded her hands in front of her and looked up at Revel with a mixture of regret and embarrassment wreathed in her eyes. How much the fool did she look getting so easily jealous? She should know better!

"Forgive my earlier mood, Captain. I shouldn't have gotten angry."

"There's nothing to forgive," Revel said softly. "Though, if you want to make it up to me, you could accept my hand in the next dance. That is, so long as you're not torturing Kristoff any longer."

Elsa fought back a laugh and cast a glace over her shoulder at the mountain man. Kristoff's dancing had certainly improved over the past few months, but he was nowere near the caliber of the queen or his wife. The big man was leaning gingerly against Anna in a vain attempt to relieve the pressure and pain in his aching feet.

"I believe I challenged you to keep up with me," Elsa said, motioning for a nearby servant to come and take her champagne glass before turning towards the dance floor.

"Ah yes, I remember. Well then, Majesty," Revel said extending his hand for her, unable to hide his wide smile, "shall I lead, or will you take the honor?"

"Oh by all means, Captain," Elsa said with a grin matching his, "take the lead, but don't be surprised when you find yourself following my steps by the end of the song."

"Challenge accepted," Revel replied as the two swept into the center of the dance floor. Before they could begin, however, Elsa excused herself momentarily and approached the orchestra. The maestro bowed deeply, and after a few quick words with the queen, nodded once and turned back to his work, muttering a few words to his instrumentalists.

"What was that about?" Revel asked quietly as the queen took her place in front of him and placed her hand atop his strong shoulder. The Captain had to fight back the urge to shiver at her touch, his heart starting to pound like a drum in his chest.

"A change of pace," Elsa smiled sweetly. "I trust you're familiar with the Five Step Waltz?"

Revel flashed a toothy grin. "One of my favorite dances, but not a common one. Few people know how to play the game."

"Well then, we shall see how good a player you are."

"It will be like dancing in my sleep."

"Show rather than tell, Captain."

The music began with a boisterous note from the orchestra, string instruments mixing with a few woodwinds and brass. It seemed the crowd around the queen and Revel knew the song, but Elsa paid them no mind, her eyes locked on the Captain's as he pushed off and began guiding her around the dance floor.

They began as most partners did, on equal ground with one another, steps in tune with the music. Revel tipped that precarious balance and took the lead, stepping ever so slightly to the left only to move forward a step, effectively pushing the queen back. This went on for a few moments, Revel guiding Elsa backwards and to the side as they twirled in time with the music. The key to this particular dance was to have the follower, the dancer being led by the lead partner, strike the ground five times in quick succession as the dance moved in a circular pattern across the dance floor. It was effectively a counting game put to music, and what made it so enjoyably frustrating was that it was up to the leader to decide what move to make. Unlike most waltzes, the Five Step had no routine, no choreography to follow aside from the five steps each participant had to complete. The addition of twirls, dips, and the unjoining and the rejoining of hands was a clever way to try and throw your partner off count, and when someone misstepped they relinquished their role as leader for the next turn.

Unsurprisingly, Revel was unable to get Elsa to misstep on the first go around, her feet moving seamlessly in time with the music. His second try yielded the same result, and the queen seemed to be gaining both confidence and speed as she continued to follow his lead, right hand held delicately in his while her left draped over his shoulder.

"Is this your idea of a challenge?" Elsa said with a catty grin.

"I had thought I would take it slow for your benefit. You have been dancing all evening whereas I've only been at it for an hour."

"Oh, so you think my endurance is lacking?" the queen said, the air around her thick with sarcasm. "Well then, I guess I should demonstrate just how strong my endurance has become since beginning classes with you."

Revel felt the shift in power like he was riding a horse bareback and the animal suddenly surged to life under him. Before he could blink twice, the roles had been reversed and he was now the follower to Elsa's leader, backing away as the queen advanced. Mind spinning to catch up with his shocked body, he missed his first step and nearly swore aloud. Elsa grinned and continued to press her advantage, but the Captain quickly recovered and fell into step with her rhythm.

"You definitely have the poise and grace for this game, Majesty," Revel said, a little bit of color rising into his cheeks with exertion as he fought to count, keep an ear on the music, and banter with the Queen at the same time.

"I would certainly hope so," Elsa smiled sweetly and disconnected herself from Revel, opening a small gap about three feet wide between them. Like a cat on the prowl, the queen attempted to circle the Captain, but Revel was wise to her movement and circled with her, making sure his shoulder was parallel to hers. When they rejoined it was his right shoulder against her left, their arms intertwined, palms together, fingers laced.

The two stared at one another like duelers locked in mortal combat, and the spark that suddenly leapt between them would have been enough to illuminate the whole room had it suddenly been plunged into darkness. The hairs on the back of Revel's neck stood on end and his scalp tingled at the same moment goosebumps exploded across Elsa's entire body, ringing a shiver from her as they went. She felt the telltale coolness of her magic pooling in the palm pressed against Revel's, but if the Captain felt it too he didn't seem to mind. Suddenly the room and their fellow dancers fell away until it was only the Captain and the Queen at its center.

Heart beating so forcefully he feared it would plow through his rib cage, Revel stepped back, extending their currently intertwined arms. With a forceful snap, he pulled Elsa towards him and sent her into a twirl. Once, twice, three times she rotated before he caught her, both dancers returning to their previous center, right hands extended, hand on shoulder and waist. Revel felt a breath of arctic air wash across his face, wafer thin ice cracking underfoot before disappearing, and couldn't help but smile. It was the queen's turn to be surprised, and she misstepped almost immediately, her equilibrium momentarily off balance.

"That was…unexpected," Elsa said a little breathlessly, a rosy color rising into her cheeks. She hardly heard the music anymore, moving purely on instinct.

"The ice or the spin?" Revel grinned devilishly.


"Well, you should learn to expect the unexpected from me, Majesty."

"As you should from me as well."

Elsa didn't give the Captain time to prepare a response. She was in the lead almost immediately, forcing Revel to follow her steps or risk a misstep. The speed and precision of her movements, the way her body flowed into each new position, instantly captivated the Captain. She was electricity made flesh in his hands, her crackling energy flowing through his veins and quickening his step at the same moment it quickened his heartbeat. Around they went in a blur of motion, elbows and feet moving at an almost supernatural speed, heedless of the dancers around them, or the ball, or the world. Elsa matched Revel stroke for stroke, giving ground only to take it back from him.

As they danced they grew closer, bodies gravitating towards one another like the pull of a sun on a planet. Again Revel twirled the queen, her dress spinning and snapping around her, heeled shoes scraping softly against the marble floor. The sudden halt of her spin as she reconnected her grip on the Captain pulled her loose hair over one shoulder, thick platinum locks cascading down the front of one half of her dress, leaving the opposite half shockingly bare.

Again they separated, only to come back together like waves crashing against a coastal wall, noses very nearly touching, bodies only inches apart. This close and the Captain could see every facet of the queen's cerulean blue eyes, how the color shifted around her iris in varying degrees of blue and light blue. This close and he could nearly count all the freckles dusted across the bridge of her nose. Breathing deep, Revel could smell the rich scent of high mountain frost rolling off the queen, her breath enticingly cool on his sweat prickled neck.

Elsa allowed the Captain to move her backwards, feet striking her needed five steps in quick succession, but she hardly felt herself move, hardly felt herself breathe. She'd never had a dance partner like this before, someone actually able to keep up with her, to challenge her every step and push her beyond her limits. It was both thrilling and terrifying. Revel was power and grace, gentility and passion rolled into a seemingly ordinary, unobtrusive package. He was the epitome of an enigma, and the mystery swirling around him like an aura only deepened the queen's need to know him on a deeper level.

As the song came to its crescendo, the music building like a storm about to break, the Captain spun the queen in another rotation of three, but, the moment he caught her, immediately rolled into a dip so low Elsa's head very nearly touched the ground. It only took half a heartbeat, but the look of shocked surprise and the feeling of her left hand clench the fabric of his jacket while the right tighten around his hand was well worth it. Revel snapped the two of them back to a standing position like a bamboo rod springing upright, faces barely inches apart, rapid breaths intermingling in a warm haze around their heads. The previously felt spark chose that moment to return with a vengeance, the nervous electric energy arcing between the two as they stared at one another, hearts pounding like twin war drums in their chests.

Neither realized the music had stopped until a burst of applause shattered the rapt silence like a brick through a window, shocking them both back into reality. Startled, Elsa and Revel took a step back and looked around as if realizing for the first time they were in the middle of a hall surrounded by applauding onlookers. Unsure of exactly what to do, the Queen and the Captain bowed to one another, faces radiating heat while their smiles grew by the second. Taking the Captain's offered arm, Elsa allowed herself to be led back to the dais where a completely awestruck Anna and Kristoff waited, mouths hanging open.

"Where…where'd you learn to dance like that?!" Anna stammered as her sister came to stand next to her, the queen smoothing out the fabric of her dress and tucking a few wayward strands of hair back behind her ears. The princess knew Elsa could dance, but she'd never seen her older sister pull moves like she'd done moments ago. Just the complexity alone made Anna's head spin. And the way she'd moved so seamlessly with the Captain…

Anna blinked, realizing something for the first time. It wasn't that she'd never seen her sister dance like that before, Elsa was as talented at dance as she was with her ice magic; the princess had never seen her dance so fiercely or freely. There had been no restraint between Elsa and the Captain, no nervous fumblings, not that Elsa was prone to any, no formal rigidity. Their movements had been so fluid, so tightly synchronized it was almost like they'd planned the entire thing, but somehow Anna knew better. So a niggling curiosity began to form in the back of the princess's mind as she watched her sister readjust herself and slip back into the role of the ever poised, ever proper queen. She couldn't put her finger on what was going on, but she knew she was missing something happening just under her nose.

"From the same instructor who taught you," the queen said with a smile and graciously accepted a glass of water offered by a still stunned Kristoff. She hadn't noticed until now that her hands were shaking quite badly and the excuse to hold something tightly against her chest would help hide it.

"Wait…Are you sure?"

"Undoubtedly. I remember you were more interested in horseback riding than you were dance, at the time," Elsa said and took a sip of water. She noticed Anna was giving her the look she often wore when trying to puzzle something out and frowned.

"Something wrong?" the queen asked over the rim of her glass.

"No…just trying to put my finger on something I'm missing," Anna said continuing to stare at her sister.

Growing uncomfortable under her sister's scrutiny, Elsa turned her attention away from Anna and nodded at Revel, "Captain, I don't believe I've had so much fun dancing in a long time. Thank you for indulging me. You are a marvelous dancer."

Revel sketched a tight bow, unable to understand why he felt he could run the full length of the parapet wall at full tilt and make it back with energy to spare. He was practically vibrating and grabbed the first champagne glass that passed by, desperate for something to take the edge off.

"The pleasure was mine, Majesty. It's been years since I've been able to dust off those old steps and actually put them to use," Revel said taking a long pull from the champagne glass. The alcohol helped marginally, and by his third glass he was beginning to mellow a bit, his hammering pulse slowing to a rhythmic beat. Revel remained with the royal party for another half hour, chatting with Anna and joking with Kristoff, before feeling the effects of his long day and lack of adrenalin begin to take effect. Gently he touched the queen's arm to get her attention and sketched another perfect bow.

"Majesty, I believe I will turn in for the evening. Thank you for the opportunity to attend your ball and for the lovely dance you and I shared."

"Likewise, Captain," Elsa said stepping away so that the two of them could speak more privately. "So, off to discover what gifts were left for you this merry Christmas Eve?"

"Gifts? I thought only good little boys and girls received gifts," Revel replied with a broad smile.

"A lump of coal for you then, though I'm not at all surprised," Elsa sniffed with mock disinterest. Then another thought touched her mind and she stifled a giggle. "Or a beating in a burlap sack with a willow switch, if you follow Kristoff's beliefs."

"I…certainly would take the lump of coal over a willow switch beating," Revel said making a slightly confused, slightly alarmed face. He was rewarded with a peal of laughter from the queen that stretched the grin on his face to the breaking point.

"Good night, Majesty, and I hope you will not find a lump of coal waiting for you," the Captain said bowing for the last time, and gently kissing the top of Elsa's hand. He never let his eyes leave hers even as he bowed and watched a hue of red form just over the bridge of her nose.

"Good night, Captain, and merry Christmas. I look forward to hearing about your lumps of coal."

"I'll be sure to tell you about them in great detail."


And with that, Revel took his leave, feeling like a man walking amongst the clouds.

Stepping into his personal chambers was like stepping into a little piece of heaven, and Revel sighed with happy relief as he slipped out of his jacket and hung it haphazardly on a wooden coatrack just behind the heavy door. Bolting the door shut behind him, more out of habit than security, the Captain glanced around his dark quarters, eyes quickly adjusting to the low light. Moving towards the feeble glow of hearth coals, he tossed a few logs onto the low red embers. December nights on the fjord could be brutally cold, so it was best to stoke the fire now rather than in the middle of the night. Immediately, the logs caught fire and his room was bathed in warm, flickering orange light that cast moving shadows across his walls.

Releasing another contented sigh, Revel leaned against the table in front of the hearth and kicked off his shoes and at the same time unbuttoned his undershirt. The heat from the fire began warming his cold hands, further relaxing him. Energy for the most part spent, and head still in the clouds, the Captain turned away from the fire, not bothering to undress any further, and flopped onto his bed with a grateful moan that died half way out his mouth. His bed….it didn't feel…right. Sitting up, Revel noticed with puzzling shock that he didn't feel the customary lumps and bumps under his palm. Quite the opposite, the mattress under him was uncharacteristically plush with just a hint of firmness.

"I didn't have that much to drink…" Revel said pushing himself off the bed and starring at the mattress as if anticipating it to suddenly sprout wings or do a flip. Gingerly he reached down and pressed on the surface again just to be sure he'd actually felt what he'd felt. Sure enough, it was the same luxurious softness.

"This…isn't my bed. What the hell…?" He was about back away when he noticed a lit oil lamp sitting on the nightstand next to his imposter bed, a manila envelope leaning against the glass hood. Carefully, the Captain pulled the letter free and felt his eyebrows shoot into his hairline as he began reading. Suddenly, Sigmund's earlier comment made sense.

Captain Revel Handler:

I would first like to extend my unending gratitude towards you and your men for the years of protection and safety you've brought to my kingdom. Yours is a career of selfless sacrifice and unyielding courage and loyalty that I do not believe my subjects truly appreciate, but your service has not gone unnoticed.

Enclosed in this letter is a receipt for: two hundred and thirty six new cot mattresses, two hundred and thirty six cotton blankets and wool blankets (four hundred and seventy two blankets in total), two hundred and thirty six duck feather pillows, one master goose-down mattress with matching pillows, complete re-restocking of guard food rations, and one hundred and twenty new uniforms. Please sign the receipt and give it to Kai to be placed in the books. Also know that none of the items listed above was purchased using money from your Guard Credit.

Please accept these things as a token of my appreciation for Arendelle's royal guard. Merry Christmas, Captain.

Her Majesty, Queen Elsa.

There was a secondary letter enfolded in the first, and Revel unfolded with shaking hands and read it aloud.

"Captain, as a thank you for all that you've taught me over the course of our sessions together, I took the liberty of replacing your old mattress with a more updated version. I hope you won't mind. Also, be sure to take a close look at your table as I believe there is something waiting for you there as well. Merry Christmas, Revel, and I look forward to the return of our sessions together after the first of the New Year. Until then, take care."

Dumbfounded, and just a little giddy, Revel glanced over the top of the letter at his table and saw a tall, dark bottle sitting there amongst a scattering of unimportant papers that he hadn't noticed until now. Slowly, he walked over and stared at the bottle, the glass winking greenish black in the firelight, and felt his mouth fall open in shock. He knew what it was before reading the label and felt an explosion of warmth spread throughout his body as if enveloped in a massive hug. On his table sat one of the rarest bottles of Metaxa brandy known to be in circulation. If the dark green glass hadn't been his first indication, the gold filigree label and purple wax coating over the cork would have given it away. With shaking hands he lifted the precious liquor into the firelight, unable to pull his mind away from the fact that one glass of what he held sold for as much as he made in a month. When he shifted the bottle to get a better look at the label and wax seal, a large snowflake the size of his palm, tied around the neck of the bottle on a hair thin silvery thread, swung into view and caught Revel by surprise.

Gently he removed the snowflake and set the bottle aside, turning the remarkable piece of craftsmanship in his fingers. He realized, after a silent moment, that he was holding an actual supersized snowflake in his hands. It was made from the queen's will-ice, but didn't look anything like her personal snowflake that had become Arendelle's crest. This was a custom piece of artwork, each facet and spine, each hexagonal edge and fractal curve having been artfully crafted with both precision and care. Holding the ornament aloft, Revel tapped one delicate edge and watched the snowflake spin in the firelight, winking and flashing like a diamond as it rotated. A warm smile quickly overtook Revel's face as he watched the ornament spin, and somehow he knew there wasn't another snowflake like his anywhere in the world. This was the most personal gift he'd received in years, and he'd never appreciated something so much before in his life. Suddenly, he didn't feel as foolish as he had earlier that evening. It was now apparent he wasn't the only one with gift giving on the mind, and the thought of what he'd left the queen made the corners of his mouth curl.

Eagerly, the Captain looked around his quarters for somewhere to display his snowflake and decided the best place was hung in his window. That way the light could catch it and make the fractals and facets glitter. It was also directly in his line of sight while lying in bed. With deft fingers he tied the silver thread, also will-ice, to the locking mechanism of his window and stood watching the snowflake twinkle at him before returning to his new bed and easing onto the mattress. Carefully, as if expecting something unforeseen to jump out at him, Revel reclined back into his new pillows and moaned with relaxed contentment.

Oh yesshe does have a point, Revel thought as he pulled his familiar comforter over his torso and began to drift to sleep. Goose-down really does beat packed sheep's wool and stray fabric any day. Merry Christmas, Elsa.

Not nearly tired enough to retire to her room, Elsa slowly climbed the residency wing stairs and headed towards her study at a leisurely pace, humming a few notes from the last song the orchestra had played before the ball officially ended at just past ten. It had been a wonderful evening and better than she had expected…much better than she had expected. Despite her seemingly calm demeanor, the queen still wrestled with small episodes of anxiety whenever she found herself in large crowds. Her once debilitating fear had certainly lessened over the years, thanks primarily to Anna's patient yet forceful pushing, but she still felt the need for a healthy dose of private time after a party or a large meeting with dignitaries.

Stepping into her study and closing the door behind her was like slowly lowering herself into a hot bath, and she relaxed immediately, slumping against the door and exhaling slowly. Blissful silence engulfed her, and the only noise loud enough to reach her keen ears was the soft crackle and hiss of the fireplace. Gerda had made sure to stoke the fire, knowing that the queen would retreat to her favorite haunt directly after the party. The faint scent vanilla and sugar caught her attention, and Elsa turned towards her desk. A small silver tray with an ornate white tea pot, a single white and purple tea cup, and a stack of what smelled like freshly baked sugar cookies waited for her. She grinned happily at the gift.

God bless you, Gerda. I don't know what I'd do without you.

Taking a moment to step out of her shoes, Elsa wiggled her sore toes, working them into the plush carpet and sighing. There was just something so wonderful about bare feet on carpet after a long night of dancing. Smoothly she slid into her high back leather chair behind her desk and carefully stacked and set aside the smattering of unimportant papers scattered there. A large brown package was also nestled in with the papers, but Elsa ignored it for the moment, pouring a steaming cup of peppermint tea instead.

Merry Christmas, she thought leaning back into her chair and sipping her tea contentedly while munching on a still warm cookie. After a moment of quiet relaxation, the queen leaned forward and began sifting through her pile of papers, determined to get a head start on clearing her cluttered desk before the beginning of the New Year. She knew she'd promised Anna she'd take a break for the holidays, but a queen's work was never done, especially when you ran a kingdom as large and prosperous as Arendelle had become. It was boring work, tearing open letters and skimming them before determining whether or not they needed a rush reply or if her answer could wait for a bit, so in order to pass the time, the queen turned to an old, familiar habit.

Barely wiggling her fingers, Elsa released a puff of arctic mist that quickly spread across her desk and accumulated into four glittering blue dervishes. After a moment the small cyclones formed into cohesive shapes that instantly became recognizable as tiny ice sculptures of Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf. The little ice people, no more than eight inches tall, came to life with just a thought from the queen, dusting the last bits of snow and ice from their clothing and looking around. Little Ice Anna perked up immediately and waved at her sister before striding away to explore Elsa's cluttered desk with Kristoff in tow. Ice Olaf and Sven amused themselves by beginning a game a tag.

The queen discovered early on that she had the ability to create animated ice, and it had been this revelation that had saved her sanity during her thirteen years of isolation from her family. Dolls were one thing. Young Elsa had loved to play with them, but they couldn't ever replace her sister's infectious smile, or her mother's understanding expressions, or her father's looks of approval. Dolls were just cloth and cotton come to life through a child's imagination, but her ice was different. Elsa learned how to craft small figures with startling likeness to their human counterparts and imbue them with the ability of motion and expression. She'd never figured out how to make them speak, Olaf and Marshmallow were still a mystery to the queen, but she could make them move and dance and play with a small push from her mind. It was these ice friends who kept her company through her long, lonely years, and the queen hadn't exactly dropped the habit of conjuring them when in the privacy of her room or study.

She watched idly as Little Ice Anna climbed a sizable stack of papers while Kristoff searched for her. Just as he neared the stack Anna pounced on him, the two of them tumbled to the ground in a tangle of flailing limbs. Sven decided to forgo his game of tag and join the pile, Olaf running gleefully beside him. For a few moments the four of them wrestled about until Kristoff pulled his little wife free and dusted her off. Ice Anna shoved him playfully, but he caught her hand when she began to move away and brought her close to him, swaying gently from side to side, mimicking a common couple's dance. Anna laughed happily and stepped into rhythm with him, the two swirling across the queen's desk, leaving behind a trail of glittering ice in their wake. After a few turns, Ice Anna turned to her flesh and blood sister with an expectant look, and the queen nearly rolled her eyes. It was a bit unnerving how lifelike these ice creations could be because Elsa knew exactly what Anna was asking for.

Waving her hand again, Elsa created a tiny replica of herself, clad in her Snow Queen dress, who demurely joined her sister and Kristoff at the center of the table. Anna clapped happily and offered her hand for a dance, but Ice Elsa politely declined, motioned for her and Kristoff to continue their dance while she, Sven, and Olaf watched. But Anna wouldn't budge, motioning with her hands that her sister needed someone to dance with. A sudden thought seemed to strike the little ice figure, and she planted herself on the ground in front of Kristoff and put both hands against the wood grain. Instantly a small patch of frost appeared, and with her little icy finger, Anna scribed a name into the frost for flesh and blood Elsa to read.

"You're joking," Elsa said to the ice figure, a slightly unamused look on her face. Ice Anna pursed her lips and crossed her arms in an eerie mimic of how the real Anna pouted. Elsa rolled her eyes this time and sighed, trying to keep a smile off her face while trying to understand why she was giving into the whims of an animated doll of her creation.

With the flick of her wrist, the queen conjured a perfect ice replica of Captain Revel who strode confidently towards the royal group and swept into one of his perfect bows in front of Ice Elsa and Anna. Both sisters respectfully bowed in return, but the youngest sister seemed to have been struck by another idea and ran off across the desk looking for something. Ice Revel had just begun conversing with Ice Elsa when Anna reappeared from behind a stack of books with a paper sword in hand and dove at the Captain. Revel expertly danced away, seeming to laugh as he did. Anna stood from her crouch and tossed the Captain another paper sword, and the two circled one another like fencers in an arena.

Flesh and blood Elsa took this opportunity to pull her attention away from her ice creations and their antics and onto the strange brown package she'd set aside. She'd not seen the package in her study earlier that afternoon, so the queen surmised someone had left it on her desk while she was attending the Yule Ball. Curious as to where this heavy, butcher paper bound parcel had come from, Elsa looked for a card and found a small piece of paper tied onto one of the strings securing the bundle. It was addressed to her in her given name, not her royal title. That left only a handful of people the parcel could have come from, and her curiosity increased.

Carefully, Elsa cut the twine and peeled back the brown butcher paper revealing a very old, very worn leather tome and a note resting atop it. She unfolded the letter and felt her brow furrow.


I hope I'm not being to forward by giving you this, and I hope the package gets to you before Christmas morning. I remembered a conversation you and I had during one of our sessions about your love for ethnic fairy tales from different cultures. You told me how your father would read them to you and the Princess at night, and how your current copies had fallen into disrepair over the years. Throughout my travels, I've come across many collections of stories, but this by far was my greatest find. Within these worn pages you will find at least sixty stories gathered from the Far East, France, Russia, and Germany. I believe there are even a few Norwegian stories here as well. I do hope there are a few new fables for your enjoyment, and, if not, at least you will have a new tome to add to your library.

Merry Christmas, and I look forward to the continuation of our sessions after the New Year.


Elsa felt a warm flush work through her system as she lowered the note and stared down at the tome in front of her. Gingerly she pulled open the book, the binding snapping and crackling as she thumbed through it, marveling at the quality of the print and the detail put into each page. It was like looking at small works of individual art with golden scroll work and fanciful creatures painted with loving care into the margins. To say the book was a treasure would have been a huge understatement. Tomes like these didn't come cheaply and were oftentimes handed down from generation to generation, much like the books in the royal library. Some were purchased, but most had come from years of collecting from different generations.

Somehow, Elsa knew that Revel hadn't just picked up this book while traveling. The edges were well worn with use, the leather along the spine and edge of the book soft from countless fingers rubbing against it, but it was still well taken care of. The pages hadn't yellowed much and the spine was still in wonderful shape. No, this wasn't just a find in some market, this was a book from a private collection, Revel's private collection, and the queen felt such an explosion of warmth work through her chest she feared she'd start sweating.

I gave him a bed and a bottle of brandy, but he gave me an heirloom.

Suddenly she couldn't keep the smile from her face as she continued to carefully thumb through the pages, picking through different stories written in different languages. She recognized Russian and French immediately, two languages out of the six the queen knew fluently, and flipped to the index at the front of the book to see what tales were listed. The queen was so engrossed in the tome, and in the flurry of butterflies knocking around in her stomach, that she didn't notice the little ice figure of her and Revel had begun dancing alongside Kristoff and Anna. Only when the two brushed past her elbow did Elsa look up in surprise.

The little ice replicas of her and the Captain weren't dancing the complex Five Step they'd danced earlier that night, but rather a common slow sweeping three count waltz. Around and around they went, perfectly in step with one another. Elsa propped her head up with her hand under her chin and watched the two dance, captivated by the glittering ice personas as they spun in time with music she couldn't hear. As the dance progressed, she barely noticed that Ice Elsa and Revel were getting closer to one another, bodies pulled together as if by strong magnets. Closer and closer they gravitated until the two were barely a hairsbreadth apart and stopped dancing altogether. For half a heartbeat they remained frozen like statues; Revel looking down at her and Elsa looking up at him, tenderness and longing written on both their icy faces. The stillness ended as both moved as one, leaning in, waiting for the moment when….

Elsa realized with a thrill what was about to happen and slammed her hands down onto the desk, dispersing her ice people in a poof of glimmering snow. Heart hammering in her throat and face flushing with so much heat she could have boiled an egg on her forehead, she leaned back wide eyed and slowly exhaled.

"Ok…ok maybe it is time for bed," she mumbled to herself, putting an icy hand against her burning forehead. "Yeah, it's definitely time for bed."

Rising, the queen quickly made her way towards the door and managed to put a shaking hand atop the handle and pull it open before something stopped her and she turned back around. The leather book still lay open on her desk like an abandoned child, a few pages slowly fluttering back into place from where she'd brushed up against them. Biting her lower lip, Elsa glanced between the tome and the hallway, torn between leaving it there and taking it with her. Decision made, she ran back in and snatched up the book before her courage failed her and hustled out of her study, door slamming shut behind her.

The queen quickly returned to her room and undressed, slipping under her covers but unable to bring herself to sleep just yet. Propping herself up with her pillows and lighting the small bedside lamps next to her, Elsa pulled the leather tome onto her lap and riffled through the pages until she came to a story that had previously caught her eye when thumbing through it in the study. It was a French tale, that much was evident, called "La Belle et la Bête". Eager to begin, the queen snuggled down into her comforter, propped the book on her bent legs, and prepared for a night of reading as fresh snow began to fall across the kingdom of Arendelle, heralding Christmas Day in a curtain of white.

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 10 of 24

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