Continuing Tales

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 11 of 24

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"I can't believe you gifted me a bed," Revel laughed from the barrel he was sitting on, left foot braced on the edge as he attempted to lace his suede boots.

"Are you complaining?" Elsa asked shooting him a sideways smile over her shoulder.

"How did you sneak that past my men? Hell, how did you even get it into my chambers? It has to be at least twice the size of my old one, and the frame is made of solid oak!"

The queen gave the Captain a knowing smile that made his scalp tingle. "I have my ways."

"It was magic, wasn't it? You must have more magic than your ice, and you're just not telling us."

"Oh of course," Elsa chuckled as she slipped off the pair of fingerless gloves she used to prevent blisters from forming when handling a sword and tossed them at Revel. The Captain caught them smartly and set them on the shelf next to him. "Not only am I the Snow Queen, I also have the ability to shrink things with my mind."

"Seems like a power that could come in handy," Revel shrugged.

"Depends on who you're talking to and what it's being used on," Else said with a catty smile that sent a shiver down the Captain's spine. "But what I would like to know is how you delivered your gift to my study."

Revel leaned back against the wall behind him and gave the queen a smug grin. "I have skeleton keys to the entire palace."

"Well, that's certainly…reassuring. Though with the grin you're wearing, I'm not sure if I feel entirely safe now. Maybe I'll start icing my door shut at night."

"What's to say there aren't secret passages in the walls?" the Captain quipped with a nonchalant shrug, his grin still in place.

"Sneak up on me in the middle of the night and we'll see who has the faster reflexes," she warned and summoned a shimmering ball of arctic magic into her raised hand for emphasis.

"I would never," Revel assured her, sliding off the barrel and dusted off his loose black breeches.

It was a week after Christmas, and the glow of the holidays lingered in the air like the smell of baked goods. Even with the decorations having been pulled down the day after the New Year, Arendelle could still feel the echo of the winter season as more snow continued to fall, blanketing the kingdom and country side in pristine layers of glittering white.

As promised, Revel and Elsa's sessions resumed the first Monday of January, both still flushed from the holidays, and the time they spent in the evenings seemed to revolve more around idle conversation now than any actual training. The two would practice a few techniques, mostly things Revel knew Elsa had down pat, before their conversations gradually took over and any hope at practice died. Tonight was different though. Revel was determined to get back on track with teaching the queen, and this evening he had a special exercise in mind.

"So, you told me earlier you wanted to try something new. Well, I'm open for suggestions," Elsa remarked coming to stand in front of him, hands on her hips. Revel swallowed and fought to keep his eyes glued to her face and not on the gentle curves of her body.

"Defense," he said with an exhale.

"Haven't we already covered basic offense and defense?"

"We have, but that's not what I'm getting at. The defense I'm talking about it shield defense." Standing, the Captain walked to his weapons rack and pulled down a sizable round shield. Elsa recognized it as a classic Saxon shield, the circular edge banded with an iron rim and an impressive polished brass boss at its center. Revel hefted it easily, sliding his left arm into the leather straps in the back.

"You know the basic point of a shield, correct?" Revel asked stopping in front of Elsa.

"To make sure the pointy end of whatever is aimed at me doesn't find its way under my skin," she replied with as straight a face as she could manage.

"Precisely, but a shield can be more than just a defensive tool. For instance," Revel turned to the side until he was in profile so that Elsa could see his shield arm better, "you can shove with a shield, putting needed distance between you and an opponent, or forcing them wherever you want them to go. Do you remember those forearm blocking techniques we did the first month?"

Elsa nodded.

"The same principal applies while using a shield. Blows can be stopped or redirected. You can catch a weapon on a shield's edges and pull it away from your opponent. You can strike also with the metal edge, aiming for you opponents face, neck, or chest. And if you put a spike on the boss of the shield you can even turn it into a piercing weapon. So you see, there are advantages to knowing how to use a shield properly. Against popular belief, it's not just for hiding behind when the battle gets to rough."

"I see. So what will we be working on tonight?"

"Learning the basics, but first I want to see what kind of shield suits you."

"In the past I've always just raised an ice wall…it's worked out pretty well," Elsa said watching the Captain sling his shield over his shoulder, an action that seemed second nature to him, and walk over to the barrel he'd previously been seated on.

"I agree, in the past that's worked, but I suspect there was a fair bit of luck to it as well."

"Are you saying the two arrows I stopped with an ice wall was just a matter of luck?" the queen asked raising an eyebrow.

"Please don't take offense, but yes. You saw it coming and reacted. It was a split second decision that could have ended tragically had you been a hairsbreadth slower."

"Isn't that what you do with a shield? You see an attack and raise it in time to keep whatever aimed at you from killing you?"

"I understand your incredulity, so let me demonstrate." Before Revel had even stopped speaking he'd reached into the barrel and pulled out a perfectly round sandbag the size of his fist. With expert precision, he launched it at the queen and wasn't surprised when the projectile struck her squarely in the right shoulder. A split second later her ice wall rose from the ground, but the connection had already been made.

"Ow…damn!" Elsa winced, rubbing her shoulder. "What was in that thing?"

"Packed sand," Revel smiled pleasantly and lifted another sandbag. This time Elsa was ready and raised her shield, the sandbag bouncing off harmlessly with a hollow thud, but Revel hadn't meant to throw only one bag and launched a second after quickly skipping to the left. This bag caught her in the ribs. A third bag caught her in the hip, and she sword loudly.

"God, alright, alright!" Elsa shouted after a fourth bag managed to hit her before she was able to raise her shield in time. "I get your point. Ow, those things hurt worse than the bigger ones."

"They're meant to," Revel smiled. "Now that I've proven my point, let's begin again. Make a shield."

"Ass," Elsa mumbled rubbing her sore hip and scowling. The sandbag had caught her right on the bone, and she knew there was going to be a nasty bruise there in the morning.

"We've already established that the title fits me," Revel said with one of his infuriating smiles.

Elsa fought the urge to say more and spared a glance at the shields lining the wall. Most of them were U shaped with a flat top, a European style that had become popular a few years after her great grandfather's reign, but a few traditional round shields remained. Focusing on those, Elsa willed her ice to pool along the length of her right arm. Immediately it obeyed and began congealing there, layers upon layers stacking atop one another like bandages until she had a sizable lump ice sleeve on her arm. With a small mental push, the ice began to rapidly expand outward along the front of her forearm, fractals interlacing like crystalline fingers, snapping and crackling into place. Before Revel could blink three times, Elsa had formed a perfect replica of the shield slung across his back. He could see what appeared to be board slats, complete with individual wood grain and studs hammered around the outer band to keep it in place. It was, again, a magnificent piece of work, and the Captain found himself yet again blown away by Elsa's ability to copy things with her ice with such precision and so little observation to time. The only marked difference between Elsa's shield and Revel's, aside from hers being made of crystal blue ice, was the stylized royal snowflake boss at the center of the shield.

"You continue to amaze me," Revel exhaled, taking a closer look at the shield. The ice sleeve she'd used to conjured the defensive tool remained, Elsa's right forearm completely encased in aquamarine ice.

"I just did as you asked," Elsa pointed out feeling heat rise into her cheeks.

"Can you make it a little smaller?"


Revel nodded, taking the either side of the ice shield in his hands as if measuring it. "This is just a bit too large for you. Bring it in two or three inches so the weight is more evenly distributed."

Elsa obeyed and pulled in her magic like sucking water through a straw, the shield shrinking to fit his specification.

"Perfect. Does that feel a little better?"

Elsa tested his question by raising her arm and rotating it, feeling the ice crack and split as the tight muscles of her forearm flexed, only to reform a half second later.

"Yes, actually. It's not quite as cumbersome."

"Perfect," the Captain smiled. "Any particular reason it's on your right arm rather than you left?"

"You know I'm ambidextrous," Elsa said quietly. It was a little known fact in Arendelle that their queen could use her left hand as effectively as her right. The ability had startled and confounded her tutors in the beginning, and they had insisted she make her right hand her dominant hand. When the young queen had asked why it was so taboo for her to use her left hand, Bishop Arren had explained, as gently as a man of the cloth could, that Christ was seen as the right hand of God whereas Satan was the left.

"Anything opposite Christ is of the Devil, Majesty. Therefore, you must always use your right hand lest the Devil use your left for wicked intentions."

The Bishop's explanation had galled her for years. There wasn't anything significant, religious or secular, about the fact that she could use her left hand as easily as her right. To Elsa, it was just another form of religious superstition she had to live with, so in order to appease Arren and the rest of pious members of her council she became ambidextrous. Still, whenever possible, she would use her left hand, as it felt more natural.

"I know you are; I just didn't know if it was a matter of preference or comfort. It doesn't make any difference to me which arm you choose to use."

"It's a little of both really. I feel more comfortable blocking blows with my right arm while using the left to attack."

"Your body, your rules," Revel shrugged and a smile. "As I said, it makes no difference to me. Now, let's try the sandbags again."

Elsa was ready for him this time, raising her shield the instant his arm snapped forward and released another sand bag. She felt the concussion of the bag as it struck her shield, shockwaves spreading out across the crystalline surface. Peering over the rim, the queen sidestepped in time with the Captain as he let another projectile loose, this one springing off the edge of her shield and spinning away.

"Good, much better. You see the benefit of being able to take your shield with you?"

"Yes, I can see the benefit. So what now? I've created my shield," she wiggled her shield arm, "and you've made a point of hitting me numerous times with hardened sandbags, most likely exhausting your supply. So what else did you have planned?"

"What makes you think I've exhausted my supply?" Revel asked with a wide grin and launched a bag at her. With a squeak, she ducked and jumped back, feeling the force of the bag hit her shield a half second later. Peering through the wavy translucency, Elsa could see Revel moving to her exposed left side and dared a look over the rim. To her great surprise he was almost behind her, arm raised to throw another bag. Moving purely on reflex, she spun around and blocked a bag that would have hit her in the center of the back.

"Very good! I can tell your reflexes have greatly improved since the beginning of our sessions."

"I've had a good teacher," she replied a little breathlessly as she continued to spin and block.

"You're a good student," Revel retorted with a grin.

"Yes well — damn!" Elsa stumbled and would have fallen hard had she not pin wheeled her arms and regained her balance. Balancing on one foot, she winced and rubbed her shin where a bag had skipped across the ground and connected with it.

"Oh, that stings….that really, really stings."

"Apologies," Revel offered trying to keep from laughing, "but you'll have to protect more than just your torso during a fight. An attacker will aim for whatever opening they can get, and people oftentimes forget to block their shins."

"Lesson well learned," Elsa grumbled. "At least I can explain away this bruise."

"I'm sure you'll think of a convincing story to tell a curious onlooker," the Captain intoned over his shoulder as he walked the training chamber and retrieved his thrown sandbags. "If you'd like to take a break, I certainly wouldn't blame you. After all, it will take a few more sessions to get back to as sharp as you were before our holiday break, and I wouldn't want to push to terribly hard."

"You just said my reflexes had improved, and now you're saying I've gotten lax?" Elsa asked with true incredulity in her voice.

"Not at all. I'm saying that the holidays can make a person…soft."

Revel, sandbags cluttered in his arms, returned to the barrel and deposited them. Just as he was about to turn around something hard and very cold hit him in the back of the head. Momentarily stunned, the Captain reached back and pulled a chunk of snow from his hair, the icy particles melting almost instantly against his warm fingers. Slowly he turned towards the queen and was met with another perfectly placed snowball, this one exploding across the side of his face and making him gasp and stumbled against the barrel.

"Why Captain," Elsa gasped in mock surprise, "have you gotten slow over the past few weeks? That snowball should have never hit you."

"Perhaps we're both out of practice," Revel surmised with a slowly spreading grin. He reached for the barrel and felt two more snowballs hit him, one in the back of the head again, and one against the shield still slung across his back.

"Raise your shield, Captain. Come on, I assume you know how to use it, correct?" Elsa quipped raising her own and readying another snowball, Revel's infectious grin catching her lips.

The chamber erupted in a flurry of activity as both sandbags and snowballs whizzed through the air. Elsa moved like a dancer, skipping and spinning as she ducked bags and retaliated with her snowballs, laughing as she did. Revel laughed along with her, hair dusted with speckles of ice and snow, the front of his shield almost completely iced over. Despite Elsa's fast reflexes, and pinpoint accuracy when throwing her ice, the Captain had ground speed and force on his side and quickly gained the upper hand. More sandbags found their mark somewhere on her than her snowballs did on him, and in an attempt to even the playing field, Elsa hardened her snowballs to the same consistency as the sandbags and put more force behind her throw. She was rewarded with a few pained grunts from the Captain; he still had the upper hand, but the queen aimed to change that.

After deflecting a sandbag that could have easily connected with her shoulder, Elsa stamped her foot hard against the packed earth and released a wave of arctic magic. A large snowflake erupted under her and spread quickly across the floor, and in seconds there was no place either party could put their feet that wasn't entirely ice.

"Wait…w-wait! That's not fair!" Revel exclaimed as he attempted to maintain his balance as his feet lost traction and began to slide off in different directions. Try as he might, he tipped backwards and fell on his ass with a grunt. Elsa stood demurely at the center of the chamber, shield at her side. She began gliding calmly towards him as easily as if she were walking on polished marble and not frictionless ice.

"You once told me all was fair in combat," Elsa grinned impishly. "I just put the odds ever in my favor."

"I…damn," Revel sighed, attempting to standing but finding it difficult to get his footing without first removing his shield.

"You're not going to hit me if I take this thing off, are you?" he asked warily, green eyes watching the queen.

Elsa shrugged, impish smile still in place. "No promises."

Revel detached his shield from his arm, sliding it away from him with a forceful push. "There. Now I am at your mercy, my Queen."

Elsa rolled her eyes and watched him, bemusedly, trying to stand. On his hands and knees, Revel managed to get his feet under him and slide into an upright position, arms held out for balance as if he were walking on a tightrope.

"Not so difficult now, is it?" Elsa asked, left hand resting on her hip while her right dangled at her side, ice shield still attached to it.

"I've never had good footing with ice."

"Well, you've certainly not fumbled too terribly around me."

Revel laughed nervously and carefully shuffled towards her, tentatively placing one foot in front of the other. He managed to get next to her and stood a little straighter, surveying the state of his training chamber with a happy sigh. There were sandbags and half melted snowballs all over the place; a few weapons had been knocked from their stands on the weapon rack.

"Well, that was an eventful session. You really do have excellent aim. A couple of those snowballs will definitely leave bruises."

"As will your sandbags," Elsa added, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye. She tried hard not to snigger, not to let on that something was amiss, but couldn't keep back a tiny giggle as she watched him. Revel noticed her barely hidden mirth a half second too late as a massive ball of snow fell from where Elsa had suspended it in the rafters and landed squarely on the Captain's head. Taken by surprise, Revel jumped at the sudden shock of cold snow burying his head and lost his footing. Desperately clutching at whatever he could to keep from falling again, he grabbed hold of the queen's arm and pulled her down with him, the two tangled in a mess of limbs and snow.

The moment froze when the two realized what had happened and where they were, Elsa straddling Revel's left leg and laying against his chest, and how close they were to one another. Faces very nearly touching, a spark of volcanic fire leapt between them and exploded across their bodies, eventually pooling in previously unfelt locations. The Captain and Queen lay motionless for a span of heartbeats, stray flakes of snow swirling around them in glittering wonder that mirrored the sparking wonder felt between both individuals, until Elsa broke into a fit giggles she couldn't control. Fragile silence broken, Revel joined her in a laugh, resting his head against the icy floor and staring up at the shadowed rafters above.

"I'm sorry, that was unfair of me," Elsa finally managed after her giggles had subsided.

"No, that was perfect. You are as much a prankster as your sister. She used to do things like that all the time, only with buckets of water."

"She and I are cut from the same cloth," she sighed pushing herself off Revel and onto her knees beside him. "Are you alright though?"

"Nothing broken if that's what you're asking. Though my pride might be a bit bruised, I'll manage."

Elsa dispersed her ice with a wave of her hand, the chamber floor once again returned to packed earth. Standing first, the Captain offered her his hand and helped her to her feet.

"Now that you and I are sufficiently wet and icy…well me more than you…would you care for a cup of tea?"

"Thank you, Revel, but I believe I need to be getting back to my chambers. The next couple of weeks are going to be…trying," she said by way of explanation even though the idea of sitting down with the Captain and sharing a kettle of hot tea sounded like an enticingly wonderful idea.

"Ah yes, mid-January. Will it really be here in just a few days?"

"I'm afraid so," Elsa sighed deeply.

"Perhaps we ought to postpone our sessions until February," The Captain offered as he walked the queen to the door as was his habit after each session.

"No, please continue them."

"Then I will be here waiting for you to grace my chamber with your effervescent presence," Revel smiled taking Elsa's left hand in his and bowing over it, his lips gently touching her knuckles.

"Is this your attempt at flattery?" she chuckled despite feeling the familiar flight of battle armor butterflies take off in her stomach.

"You said once before that flattery will get me nowhere with you," Revel grinned as he reached for the door handle.

"I did say that, didn't I?" Elsa flung her cloak over her shoulders and fastened the clasp with deft fingers. Task done, she stepped up to the Captain and smiled. "You are a charming man, Captain Revel, but I choose not to be charmed by you. At least…not tonight."

A sudden compulsion overtook Revel, and before he could stop himself, the Captain leaned in and lightly kissed Elsa on the cheek. It was a shock to them both but not necessarily an unpleasant one. The queen felt her face ignite like an inferno and knew her cheeks had turned a dark shade of red. Revel seemed to be fairing about as well, his ears turning a brilliant pink.

"Good night, Captain," Elsa said in a small voice, the butterflies rolling around in her stomach suddenly making their way into her chest.

"Good night, Elsa," Revel replied and pulled open the door for her. The queen silently slipped into the darkness without a backwards glance, and the Captain watched her go. Only when she'd entered the castle through the servants' entrance did he finally close the door and exhale the breath he'd been holding.

Mid-January hit like a freak hail storm rolling in off the sea, tossing the once tranquil atmosphere of Arendelle on its head and beating it like a dead horse. It was always like this after the holiday season. Elsa rode the holiday high for as long as she could because she knew once January came it was only a matter of time before she came crashing back down to earth, and this particular mid-January season was an intensely harsh one.

The dread of mid-January had many facets and reasons. For one, it was the coldest, harshest time of year in the fjord kingdom. Mother Nature ruled this time of year with an arctic fist, and she found it amusing to pull insanely cold air in from the mountains, sometimes so cold they were able to deadlock the fjord in solid ice, and bring torrents of snow and freezing rain along with it. This wasn't uncommon for the people of Arendelle, but this mid-January season was harsher than normal, and the sudden change instantly made Elsa uneasy. Being a child of frost and snow, she longed to be outside in the stabbing cold, face in the biting wind, and hands in the frozen water. She wanted to embrace the cold, to become one with it, and that was where the second half of the hatred for mid-January came in.

The Spring Trade Summit was now only month's away meaning the queen had invitations to write, trade agreements to look over, new partners to solicit and old partners to pacify all while taking care of the endless ebb and flow of visiting dignitaries. You would think that the harsh cold would be enough to drive most ambassadors away like a team of horses running from a fire, but it was the opposite with Arendelle. If anything, it gave the dignitaries an excuse to stay longer if the fjord froze, meaning Elsa was forced to act the part of dutiful hostess all while trying to run a kingdom. She'd done it so many times before it shouldn't bother her, but she was a creature of habit and control, and when she couldn't control the weather in her favor, because fighting Mother Nature's natural fury with her magic would have been like throwing kerosene on a bonfire, or remove herself from her hospitality duties, she became increasingly tense and nerve frayed.

Elsa had all of these…festivities to look forward to without even mentioning that Anna had become almost unbearable to be around as her pregnancy deepened. It had begun with light mood swings and hunger pains, but now Anna flipped from one emotion to the next like a jester switching masks: happy one minute and screaming at Kristoff the next. The princess had taken it upon herself to decorate the nursery, and the little freedom the queen had given her sister over a particular room in the palace had quickly turned into a horribly regrettable decision.

"That's not the shade of blue we agreed on," Anna glowered at her husband.

"It is! This is the swatch you gave me to give to the paint maker. This is the color you wanted, and it's the color we're using."

"Like hell we are. That's the wrong color, and I'll prove it!" Snatching the color swatch from the low table next to her, the princess pressed it against the tester wall and looked back at her husband expectantly.

"See, they don't look a thing alike."

"Have you gone blind? They're the same exact color!"

"No. They. Aren't." Anna was about to say more when she saw her sister quickly duck past the door. "Elsa! Hey, Elsa! Come in here and take a look at this will you?"

The queen quietly swore under her breath, already ten minutes late for an important meeting with Duke Ferdinand. She would have kept on walking, pretending not to have heard her sister, but Anna poked her head around the corner and called for her again.

"Just take a look and confirm to my color blind husband that these two colors are nothing alike."

Elsa sighed and turned back towards the nursery. She glanced at the color on the wall and the swatch in her sister's hand and felt a vein pulse just above her left eyebrow.

"Anna, I'm sorry, but Kristoff's right. They are the same color."

"What!? No, no, that's not right. They're different!"

"I'm afraid not."

"Thank you," Kristoff exhaled with a relieved sigh. "Can we now move on to more important things…like me starting on the crib?"

"God, the both of you are impossible," Anna grumbled and threw the paint swatch away angrily. "Half the time I think you're just taking his side to shut me up."

Elsa gave her sister an unamused look. "I don't take sides, Anna. I never have."

"That's a lie, and you know it."

Elsa's face darkened and she felt a telltale dip in temperature. "I don't have time for this, Anna. I don't have time to argue with you, nor do I have the patience right now. Come and speak to me when your moods have evened out."

Elsa turned and left the nursery, leaving a fuming Anna in the care of an exasperated Kristoff. It wasn't the best way to leave an already rocky situation, but she had other, more important, matters to attend to, and none of them had to do with Anna's pickiness about paint colors.

That had been Monday. As the week trudged on, like a man trying to drag a body uphill, things only became more tense around the palace. Anna's moods did not improve, and Elsa found herself spending increasingly more time locked in her study in order to keep away from her sister. Wednesday brought with it a screaming match between Kristoff and his wife, the two at their wits end with one another. In an angry rush the mountain man had packed a small bag and headed out to the stables, announcing that he needed a few days alone to clear his head, calm his temper, and, should he be needed, could be found with his troll family in the hills. This left Elsa alone with an irate Anna who flipped between being volcanically angry with her husband and breaking down into fits of heavy sobbing. Even Olaf was at a loss and joined Kristoff and Sven in their trek into the mountains.

Later that same day a fire broke out near the wharf. Nothing malicious, just a lantern left to burn to close to a stack of hay, but the damage had been absolute. The building had burned to ash and cinders, and had it not been for the fast reaction of the merchants and guards the waterfront could have very easily gone up in flames. Elsa had received word of the accident minutes after the flames had been contained, and by the time she arrived at the wharf that fire was extinguished. She saw Revel and a handful of grim faced guards sifting through the still scalding rubble, every inch of exposed skin stained with inky black soot as they pulled smoking beams aside searching for victims and survivors. The queen had immediately stepped in to help, casting her magic over the area and effectively cooling the ashy destruction. The added measure of magic was a great help, and the rescuers were able to pull a survivor from the wreckage. It wasn't until Revel had carried the limp, ash covered body out of the debris that Elsa recognized the little girl as Sonja, one of her favorite children from town who helped decorate the Christmas tree in the Great Hall each year.

"Is she alright," Elsa had asked rushing over to the Captain's side.

"We won't know until the physician cleans her up. Her hand's a mess, but it doesn't look like anything else is broken. She's got some nasty burns though."

Revel gently placed the girl onto a piece of sail cloth suspended between two wooden poles and instructed two of his guards to rush her to the physician. A pale, balding man who could only be Sonja's father ran after them. As they departed, the little girls hand, which had been dangling over the edge, fell open, releasing the object she'd been clutching before succumbing to unconsciousness.

Elsa bent and picked it up, breath freezing in her throat. It was the little bear ornament she'd made Sonja two years ago. The ice had distorted in the heat, but the shape of the animal was still recognizable. With a wave of her hand, she reformed the bear and handed it to Revel, tears beginning to well in her eyes.

"Give this to her when she wakes."

Revel nodded woodenly and set off towards the local physician after instructing a squad of his guards to cordon off the area. Elsa surveyed the damage with sad sigh. It could have been much worse, but the building that had burned was one of the well-stocked storehouses meant to supply this area of the kingdom during the winter. With it burned to ashes, it put a strain on the other storehouses, meaning Elsa would have to go through the lists of all of Arendelle's stored goods and redistribute them evenly amongst the people. It would take all night and probably a good portion of her free time tomorrow to work out the numbers, and she felt the weight of her title settle like a boulder on her shoulders. Grimly, she returned to the castle under guard, her mind still unable to push the image of little Sonja's limp body being lifted from the rubble. If she lived, she'd bear deep scars. If she didn't….Elsa wouldn't allow herself to think that. For sanities sake, she just couldn't.

By the time Thursday rolled around, Elsa was exhausted and beyond the point of done with everything that pertained to her royal duties. The fire the day before had left her shaken, and when she inquired after Sonja's health the prognosis was bleak. The girl would live but she'd be disfigured. The burns on her back and arms were severe and would most definitely scar, but what worried the physician was Sonja's left hand. It had been crushed under a beam and had to be amputated. The news had hit Elsa like a well-placed punch to the ribs. Bitter sweet news was oftentimes worse than bad news; at least with bad news there was a finality to it. Sonja would live but without her left hand and with horrible scars on her back and arms. Too numb to do much else at the moment, she instructed Kai to prepare a care package for the family. If anything she could at least ease their pain as much as possible while they recovered.

As the day progressed, her bleak mood only worsened, and, when emotionally compromised Anna was thrown into the mix, Elsa's otherwise controlled temper quickly became volatile. Knowing where her anger could take her, she instructed Gerda to help the princess in any way so long as she was kept as far from her as possible while she entertained four unannounced dignitaries who'd come calling earlier in the week. Elsa had to struggle to fit the men into her already packed schedule, cutting out eating breakfast and lunch for Thursday and Friday in order to receive them properly. As a consequence, she also had to cut her session with Revel for both days in exchange for some much needed rest; though sleep was a reluctant companion at night. Elsa found herself staring blankly at her ceiling, wishing for rest while the hours ticked by. It didn't help matters that her stress level was now aggressively high, and, with no way to bleed the anxiety from her body, the queen was left to deal with the back-build of emotions alone. Friday was when her luck seemed to take a turn for the worst, and the week from hell came to a head.

She'd woken late and fallen out of bed upon realizing what the time was, jarring old and new bruises. Dressing in a hurry, Elsa had broken her back bodice cord and had to send for Gerda to fetch a new one, making her extremely late for her impromptu meeting. Her tardiness wasn't received well, and, after two hours of heated debating, the visiting dignitary and his entourage left the palace in a huff with no trade agreement established.

"Young monarchs," the dignitary had muttered as he emerged from the audience chambers, "so much room for improvement."

Elsa had been beside herself with barely contained indignation and fury, and it took every ounce of self-control not to ice the man where he stood. The second meeting went more smoothly, though not by much, the diplomat from the Asham kingdom more than willing to discuss a spice trade agreement. The agreed currency exchange was a little higher than she would have liked, but with her luck this hellish week, she'd take what she could get.

That would be the only highlight of her day. Despite dinner being one of her favorite meals, hearty beef stew with roasted squash, fresh yeast rolls, and Gerda's special bread pudding, the dinner table was cold between the sisters, neither really speaking to the other unless asking for a dish to be passed for fear of starting an argument. Exhausted, stressed beyond reason, and frustrated to the point of throwing things, Elsa excused herself before she finished eating, unable to stand being ignored by Anna as if they were children again pretending the other was invisible because of hurt feelings.

She returned to her study a little hungry and flopped into her high back chair next to the crackling fireplace, unable to shake her darkening mood. Her mood was so dark, in fact, she toyed with the idea of canceling yet another session with Revel but thought better of it.

Perhaps the stress release of hitting things will make this twice damned week a little better.

But if she was expecting Revel to be in better spirits she was terribly mistaken.

Captain Revel Handler's week had begun on a less than stellar note and had continued on a downward spiral ever since the wharf fire. Nothing seemed to want to go right for him. It was like the universe had set itself against every move he made and countered each attempt at serenity with ever bigger obstacles.

First had been the fire. He still recalled the panicked look on Sigmund's face as the big guard ran into his office and announced that one of the storehouses was on fire. Revel had leapt into action and called for a water brigade to form up around the building. His men had moved as smoothly as oiled clockwork and a chain of bodies quickly stretched from the water's edge all the way to the burning building. Buckets of freezing cold water were passed down the line with shivering hands until the flames no longer licked the dry wood and the acrid black smoke no longer boiled in the sky, but the damage had been done: the fire ate everything within the building and left only ash in its wake. When Elsa had arrived and doused the area in arctic mist, the Captain had felt a flush of relief pass through him. The queen could smother any wayward flame that might spring up far faster than his men could carry water buckets. So, Revel had thought the storehouse burning had been worst of it. They had lost produce and stored goods, but those could be replaced. It wasn't until he and his men began sifting through the rubble that he made the horrifying discovery of a little girl pinned under a beam.

In that moment his week went from bad to worse. Holding the little limp body in his arms had brought unwanted memories boiling back into his conscious thoughts. Grinding his back teeth and breathing deeply through his nostrils in order to keep from vomiting, Revel had carried the injured girl to a waiting stretcher. He didn't think his heart could sink any farther until he saw the tears in Elsa's eyes as she held an ice ornament in her hands and asked him to give it to the little girl when she awoke. Revel wanted to gently tell her that the chances of the child ever waking again were slim, but he couldn't bring himself to say those words. Not now, not with the memories of blood and bodies filling his mind. He'd wordlessly took the ornament and headed towards the town physician, heart sinking farther into his stomach the farther he got from Elsa.

After that day a black mood overtook the Captain. His once limitless cheer and easy smile disappeared behind a cloud of ill-tempered fog that left his men scurry to get out of his way. Even Sigmund sensed the change, and remained unusually tight lipped around his superior. As the week progressed, it became clear to Revel that the storehouse fire was only the beginning of his troubles. A day after the fire, an angry mob of wharf workers and residents marched on the city watch tower at the center of town demanding to know if rations would be distributed to the poor families who depended on the burned down storehouse for food. Revel assured them they would be compensated and food and any other necessities would be available as soon as the other storehouses could be cataloged and their supplies equally divided. This did little to calm the agitated mob, and all thought of peaceful negotiation went up in smoke when someone in the crowd threw a brick into the line of guards surrounding the watch tower, hitting a guard in the head and very nearly killing him. Suddenly the uneasy tension suspended between both parties erupted, and the line of guards advanced on the mob.

Knowing it would be a bloodbath if he didn't intervene, Revel called his men back, reining them in like a team of unruly horses. Reluctantly his men came to heel, the respect they had for their Captain overriding their need for retribution. Plus, there were laws in Arendelle that prohibited the city guard in using excessive force to deal with angry crowds. Yes, a brick had been thrown and a guard injured, but that was not justification for the rest of the mob to be punished. The man who threw the brick would eventually be ousted by his fellow man when a reward for his capture was posted in the town square tomorrow.

Still, this left the Captain with a massive amount of paperwork to sift through and incident reports to be drawn up and brought to the House of Justice. It would take days to get everything sorted out, and, on top of an already stressful recruit registration, he had to continue his night sessions with the queen while trying to fit in an adequate amount of sleep each night. It had been an unspoken blessing when Elsa canceled her Wednesday and Thursday class with him, allowing Revel some much needed time filing his reports and sleeping where he could.

By the time Friday rolled around, the Captain's black mood hadn't lifted and didn't look like it was going to budge any time soon. So when his session with Elsa began promptly at ten that evening, Revel had an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach as he watched Elsa enter the training chamber and shut the door behind her with an irritated sigh.

A half hour into their session, Revel realized this had been a bad idea. Not only was Elsa as irritated as he was, but the Captain was having difficulty controlling his temper and levels of exasperation. The smallest, most insignificant things had the power to set him off, and Elsa's lackluster attempt at target practice was grating his nerves like rubbing a porcupine backwards. He couldn't help up snap at her, and wasn't at all surprised when she snapped right back at him.

"How is it possible you're missing the target entirely? You had this down pat less than two weeks ago!"

"I'm not blind, Revel! I can see I'm missing the target," Elsa snarled as yet another of her projectiles swung wide and struck the brick wall beside the round hay target.

"You're not even trying," the Captain muttered, massaging his right temple with his thumb. Elsa was being sloppy. Her stance was loose, her feet not correctly planted, her shoulder barely aligned with the target. It was like the only reason she was with him tonight was to fire ice spikes at his target, and he more pressing matters to attend to rather than playing attendant to the queen while she vented her frustration.

"I'm so glad to see you know my magic so thoroughly. Perhaps you'd like to step beside me and fire off a few shots of your own to show me what I'm doing wrong? You being the master and all."

Revel could hear the bite in her voice, but rather than taking a less abrasive approach, he stared coldly at her. "Drawing attention to the fact that I don't share your abilities, and using that as a weapon to antagonize me, makes you look like a fool."

Elsa glared at him out of the corner of her eye. "Seems someone has a bit of bite to them his evening."

"Eerie looking into a mirror, isn't it?" Revel snapped before he could stop and shove his foot into his mouth.

The queen felt her temper flare, hot and dangerous, and fought the urge to slap him. Why was he being like this? She knew he'd had a bad a week, they both had, but tonight Revel was short tempered and broody, pacing and growling like a wolf in a cage. She began to regret her decision to come to session this evening, and toyed with the idea of leaving early in order to give her and the Captain some space, but somehow that felt like retreating, and the last thing Elsa wanted to do was give ground when Revel was being an ass. Call it stubborn determination, call it royal pride, but Elsa wasn't leaving come hell or high water.

"Perhaps we should move on to a different exercise," she suggested turning away from the targets and folding her arms across her chest. Revel stared at her with such open hostility she felt her cheeks reddening but refused to lower her stare as a reminder to the Captain who he was locking eyes with. Finally he lowered his eyes and sighed exasperatedly, leaning his head back against the wall behind him.

"What did you have in mind?"

"Something of your choosing. Apparently, I'm incompetent at target practice tonight, so pick something else. Something you can actually teach me."

"Very well. Your evasive knife fighting is deplorable. I've been meaning to hash out a few lessons for you, but since you're insisting on a change of pace, there's no time like the present," Revel said with all the pleasantness of a grave digger. He detached himself from the wall and walked over to the weapons wrack, eyeing each blade carefully. After a moment of quiet contemplation, he grabbed a long wooden training dagger from the few he had on display, flipping the prop weapon deftly as he strolled to the center of the chamber, and waited for Elsa to join him.

"Anything I should know before we begin?" Elsa asked tersely as she rolled up the sleeves of her gray tunic and secured them behind her elbows.

"I will attack, and you will evade. Use the ground grappling techniques I taught you a few weeks ago, provided you remember them."

"What is it with you and making slights against my memory? When have I ever forgotten anything you've taught me?"


"You can't think of a single instance; I know you can't. So who's using their position to bully the other now, hmm? Who looks the fool?"

Revel felt his face flush scarlet and his hands close into fists but hid his growing agitation by lowering himself into a ready stance in front of Elas; all the while hoping some swift hand-to-hand combat would ease his temper and loosen him up.

"Make yourself ready," the Captain growled.

Elsa seemed to enjoy the fact that she'd beaten Revel at his own game, humorless grin sliding into place as she spread her feet apart and lowered her center of gravity.

"After you, Captain."

Revel moved with swift efficiency, coming in low for a knife strike that would have buried the weapon in the queen's side, had it been live steel and not wood, but Elsa was ready and dodged his attack, spinning behind him and delivering a solid blow to his ribs. The Captain grunted in surprise and nearly dropped his prop knife.

"I didn't say there was contact allowed."

"Oh, I do apologize, Revel. Did that hurt?" Elsa asked sweetly in an overly dramatic voice.

"No physical contact unless we're wearing the proper equipment. You know the rules of my training chamber."

The queen sobered quickly and glowered back at the Captain. "You forget that you're merely renting this chamber from me. Don't forget that."

Revel pretended he hadn't heard the barely veiled threat hidden within Elsa's words and readied for another strike. Again Elsa dodged, but was a little slower this time in her escape from the wooden blade, the tip barely brushing against her right shoulder. She and Revel both noticed this, and the Captain idly wondered if he'd attacked faster than previously thought. Not stopping to dwell on the matter, he launched into another few sets of thrusts and lunges until he was finally able to catch the queen in a lock.

"So you do remember some of the techniques I showed you," Revel remarked without any hit of pride. He was just stating a fact rather than making conversation and couldn't help but notice the brittle edge to his voice.

"Again with the memory quip," Elsa scowled.

"I trust you recall what lock we're in?" Revel smiled mirthlessly.

"The twister-lock; yes, I know what it is."

"And you know that strength wins in the twister-lock."

The two of them were face to face, hands intertwined in a complex lock that could give in either direction depending on who had the greater amount of force. Elsa knew she had no hope of besting Revel in a show of strength, so she had to use other means to gain the upper hand. Without having to do much else than step forward onto the ball of her foot, Elsa quickly iced the area around her and the Captain. Immediately Revel began to lose his footing, and it was all the leverage she needed to twist his arm and send him crashing to the frozen ground.

"Cunning can win the twister-lock as well, Captain," Elsa said standing over him with her hands on her hips. "You should have known better."

Revel didn't remember the red mist filling his vision as he got to his feet or the cold vice wrapping around his stomach. He didn't remember demanding the queen to remove her ice from the chamber or remove herself. He didn't remember the angry words they'd exchanged, words as hurtful as they were dangerous, or how dark Elsa's face had gotten when he screamed for her to leave. What he did remember was that she had taken a swing at him and he'd reacted.

It happened so fast. One second Elsa's fist was half way to his face, her small hand clenched in a tight ball, and the next, Revel had caught her arm, redirected her momentum, and flipped her head over heels. She hit the ground with enough force to crack the ice under her like a rock hitting a mirror, her head bouncing painfully off the ice like a croquet ball. Revel followed through with his throw and crouched over Elsa, their noses barely touching, his wooden prop knife pressed against her stomach.

The force of the throw and the painful landing had driven the breath from the queen, and her back arched against the pain lancing through her shoulder blades and lower back. Light exploded behind her eyes a second later as the back of her head connected with the ice. She feared she'd pass out as black mist began to creep into her vision. Fighting to breathe, Elsa arched again and simultaneously saw a shadow couch over her and felt something sharp pressed against her stomach. Immediately she froze and her eyes flew open. What she found looking back at her made her blood turn to icy sludge in her veins. Those eyes….those clear gray eyes, like a wolf, completely devoid of emotion, stared down at her. Suddenly, she was back in the courtyard feeling the blade slide under her ribs as the world and everyone in it ceased to exist.

At first all she could feel was paralyzing fear. It coiled around her body like a snake, stealing her voice, stealing her breath, stealing any spark of willpower that would jolt her body into action. Those piercing gray eyes engulfed her vision until all she could see was her assassin, and all she could feel was the knife pressed against her stomach. Elsa felt powerless again and at the mercy of a merciless killer.

Not powerless, an unfamiliar voice said from within a previously unfelt portion of her mind, Never powerless. Frost Born are never powerless.

There was truth to the unfamiliar speaker's words, and Elsa felt a spark of something new and terrible ignite within her. She recognized it as the will to live, the clawing determination to fight to the bitter end even if it meant succumbing to her own death. She would not be another victim. Not ever again. Terror and rage merged into a volcanic substance that set her blood boiling, and her power ripped from her body with the concussive force of a cannon blast.

Revel felt himself leave the icy ground only to reconnect a half second later with a jarring thud that very nearly took his breath away. Disoriented, he attempted to stand but was struck again, this time pushed against the wall behind him with enough force his head snapped back and cracked against the stones. Bleary with pain, he opened his eyes and felt his heart seize with cold fear, all previously felt anger entirely forgotten. Elsa was a hairs breath from him, her cerulean blue eyes leached of color and replaced with glowing white power. Her usually beautiful face was scrunched into an animalistic snarl, lips peeled back as she bared her teeth. Revel tried to swallow and felt resistance against his neck that only tightened as his Adam's apple bobbed. Elsa had her right forearm pressed horizontally into his neck while her left hand…

The Captain flinched as something cold and dangerously sharp pricked the skin of his neck. Out of the corner of his eye he could see that Elsa was holding a wickedly sharp will-ice dagger to his jugular. Revel went still even as Elsa pressed harder on the blade, the tip sinking beneath his skin. He knew what this was, had known the very second he'd seen the pain, terror, and panic flash across her face as she'd hit the ground. He'd seen the same look before in veteran solders returning from campaign, seen how the haunted look in their eyes could spark into a raging inferno the second they saw or heard something that reminded them of combat. The queen was in the full grip of the Warrior's Terror, and it was entirely his doing.

Oh God, oh my God, what have I done?

"Elsa," he breathed in a soft voice that barely rose above a whisper. A fresh snarl rolled from her throat, and she pushed her arm harder into his neck, choking him. "Please," Revel gagged and ground his teeth, "Please, I know what you're f-feeling. I…I know this feels right, it feels so good to have control, but what you're seeing is a lie."

Again she pushed hard on his windpipe, and the Captain choked on his next words. Even though he could barely breathe, Revel fought to reach her. "I'm not him. The assassin…Hans… W-Weselton brothers, none of them…here. J-Just me."

Elsa's glowing eyes flashed, and Revel felt a bracing cold spread over his body as if he were wading into a frozen river; the shock of it took his breath away. Ice accumulated on his clothes and quickly spread across his skin, stealing the warmth from his flesh, but he dared not shiver for fear of jarring the knife and successfully ending his life. He needed to talk her down, needed to right his wrong…somehow, but didn't have the first clue of how to do that when she thought of him as the enemy.

Aren't I though? Isn't this my doing?

"I've been where you are now," he began slowly. "I know what the fear is making you see, and it all feels so real. What you're doing right now feels so right, but you couldn't be more wrong. Please, Elsa, please see me. Please recognize me. Don't end this here because of my stupidity. Don't become a killer. Believe me, it's a stain that will never come out."

Revel watched Elsa's body begin to tense all over, the hand holding the dagger of will-ice to his throat beginning to quiver. She was fighting with herself, waging an unseen war within the recesses of her mind, but if she fought the fear it would only grow. Surely she knew that better than anyone.

"No no no, don't fight the fear. Bend with it. It's all in your mind, and you have the power to control it. You've always had the power."

Revel felt the blade tip and her forearm leave his neck as she took a tentative step back. For half a second he allowed himself to breathe before moving into action. Slowly, carefully, he reached for the dagger that was very nearly hanging limp from Elsa's hand. He was fairly sure the episode was finished, could see reason slowly replacing the terror and rage warring in her eyes, but it had been a mistake to touch her. Suddenly, the queen's hand tightened into a death grip around the hilt of the blade, and she brought it down in a swift arch. Revel felt cold fire lance across the skin of his upper arm as the wickedly sharp blade bit deep, spattering blood across the floor. Had Elsa been standing a few feet closer, the Captain had no trouble believing she'd have carved a wide red slash in the side of his neck. As it was, the wound was deep, but nothing serious since it didn't seem to have hit the bone, so he wasn't concerned about his arm. Revel only had eyes for Elsa as she backed away, bloody weapon pointed at him in a warning to stay back. She was breathing heavily now.

"Please," Revel pleaded holding his hands palm out to show he meant her no harm, "don't run from me. Don't let the fear and anger swallow you. Don't go where I can't follow."

She was shaking violently, every inch of her body quivering like a tree caught in a strong wind, hyperventilation increasing. Suddenly the dagger fell from her fingers, and Elsa gripped the sides of her head as if at any moment her skull would explode. Different emotions flashed across her face like lightning, there one second and gone the next. Staggering back, she ground her teeth against the pain, against the screaming in her head, and the room's temperature took a dangerous dive. The once cheery orange flame torches circling the room shrank down to blue whispers of heat, each only throwing off enough light to elongate the creeping, undulating shadows overtaking the room. Revel saw his breath turn to vapor in front of him and watched in transfixed wonder as toothy shards of ice rose from the floor around the queen. In the rafters above, more ice formed, translucent fingers slowly growing into thick stalactites.

"Bend, Elsa. Let it pass through you. Let it go."

Finally, it seemed the war raging inside her head finally hit a cataclysmic peak. She suddenly whipped around towards Revel and let a godless roar tear from her throat, and for the first time in years the Captain felt true fear seize his heart like a vice. This wasn't the queen standing in the middle of the training chamber, this wasn't Elsa. Her hands were aglow with blue fractures of will-ice that quickly began climbing her arms like jagged vines; her eyes glowed so brightly with primal magic they could have been ship's beckons. There was a lethality to her eyes that leant her an inhuman quality, a promise of pain and death for whomever was unfortunate enough to approach her in this state. Revel pinned himself to the wall, fearing if he shifted a single muscle he'd discover an ice lance protruding from his chest.

Her roar lingered far longer than should have been humanly possible, but once it began to fade so did the lethal light in her eyes and the glowing magic climbing her arms. Energy spent, Elsa swayed unsteadily as the adrenalin left her body like a bucket with a hole in the bottom. Slowly the torches returned to their normal burn, and the room once again filled with soft orange light, but still Revel didn't dare move even as he felt drop after warm drop of blood drip from his slack left hand. With a great amount of effort, the queen lifted her confused gaze towards the Captain, held it for a brief span of heartbeats, before her eyes rolled shut and she crumpled to the floor like a puppet with its strings cut.

"You don't have to do this alone anymore. Because for the first time in forever, I'll be right—"

"I can't!" Elsa screamed at her sister's reflection in the ice wall in front of her, the back-build of her magic ripping from her body with a thunderous clap. All she wanted was to know that her sister was safe and for her to leave her in peace, but the Princess was anything but safe while in the presence of the Snow Queen, the monster who had buried Arendelle in nearly twenty feet of ice and snow. As always, Anna had come knocking at her door even in Elsa's exile at the top of North Mountain. She was forever knocking, forever trying to get her sister to open up, forever trying to search out and find the love the two of them had once shared as children before the accident. It was infuriating, it was terrifying, but it was everything the queen needed, yet couldn't have. She was death while Anna was life, but all Elsa wanted, all she craved, was the love of her sister, her last living family member.

The queen sucked in breath after ragged breath, unsure of exactly what had just happened. The ice hall echoed her scream a thousand times over, her castle snapping and popping as her magic coursed through it. Remarkably, she felt better after her sudden power flux, but something was amiss. She could feel it like a warm prickle on the back of her neck. Elsa's ice palace seemed to realize something was wrong as well, the ice echoing her hesitant curiosity by turning shades of red and yellow. When she heard the pained gasp from behind her, she felt her world tip dangerously to one side. When she turned around to face her sister her world began to shatter.

"E-Elsa?" Anna gasped staring disbelievingly at the twelve inch piece of ice sticking out of her chest. Blood rolled down the smooth shaft and dripped steadily onto the floor, a sizable puddle of crimson quickly starting to form in front of Anna's knees.

"No! Anna!" Elsa screamed and tried to run to her sister's side, but ice held her in place, locking her feet down. The more she struggled the tighter it gripped her, and the creeping vines of cold slowly climbed her legs.

"W-Why?" Anna stammered looking up at her sister, her once rosy face devoid of color. Blood dribbled out of the corners of her mouth and streaked down her pale neck in lines. She tried to remove the spike with shaking hands but only managed a pained whimper.

"Don't pull it out!" Elsa fought against the ice holding her and went down painfully into her hands and knees, reaching for her sister. "Anna, please. Please! You'll die!"

Grinding her bloody teeth, Anna gave the spike one hard yank, and it slid free with a grotesque sucking sound that made Elsa's stomach roll and bile race into the back of her throat. Gently, the strawberry blonde touched the gaping hole in her chest, mittened hands coming away soaked in blood. By now the front of her dress was a gory mess, and she was swaying unsteadily, eyes beginning to cloud.

"I…I told them….y-you'd never…hurt me…" Anna mumbled, slumping forward, the last of her life trickling out of the wound in her heart. She hit the floor with an ugly thud, the ice shard skittering across the glass smooth surface and stopping just in front of the queen. Elsa stared down at the projectile, at the ice that had killed her sister, slick with fresh blood, and screamed until her lungs burned. She screamed and thrashed, but, no matter how hard she fought, her ice wouldn't let her go, determined on holding her in place so that she could see what she'd done.

Your sister is dead because of you! Hans' voice boomed throughout the chamber. Dead because she trusted you weren't a monster!

"Anna! Anna, no!" Elsa finally fought her way free but just as she was about to drop next to her sister, the floor opened up under her and she fell for eternity, blackness swallowing any shred of light.

She woke sitting bolt upright in bed screaming Anna's name, her sheets tangled around her like groping arms trying to pull her back towards the bed. Sheer panic assaulted her from every direction, and, before the queen realized what was happening, she cut her way free of her bed, ice dagger clutched in trembling hands. Elsa hit the floor with a jarring thud and heard ice crunch under her like egg shells cracking. Startled, she looked around and realized with a wave of fresh terror that her room was entirely iced over, every inch of open space covered in a layer of glistening smooth winter. A thousands questions sprang into the turmoil of her mind. Where was Revel? How had she gotten back into her room? Why wasn't she back in the training chamber, and why did it feel like at any moment someone was going to jump out of the shadows and stab her? Something hit her door, and the queen jerked around, more ice spreading under her in bursts of glowing blue power.

"Elsa?" Anna called, her voice drenched in concern.

No no no, please Anna, go away. Something's wrong, please don't get near me! Please!

She heard the door handle jiggle and her heart flew into her throat. Had she locked the door? If not, did she have time to bar her sister's entrance?

"Elsa what's going on? Why can't I get in?"

"Go away," Elsa choked stumbling to her feet, arms squeezing her stomach and teeth gritted against the agonizing pull of her magic as it fought to combat the terror swirling inside her.

"Let me in, Elsa!" Anna demanded, and this time it sounded like she'd rammed the door with her shoulder, the ice holding it in place starting to fracture.

"Go away, Anna! Please!"

If the queen thought her frantic command would somehow sway her sister into leaving like it had done in the past, she was sorely mistaken. Anna doubled her efforts to get into her sister's room, and, after a few more shoulder shoves, was able to push the heavily iced door open enough to squeeze in through a small gap. The cold hit her like a physical blow and she gasped, staring wide eyed at Elsa's room. The last time her sister had frozen her room had been during the assassination attempt a year ago, and that had only been sheets of ice. This time things were different. It looked as if someone had thrown javelins into the wall opposite her bed, long flutes of glass smooth ice sticking out of the wall in clusters of three. Fangs of crystalline wonder hung from the ceiling and rose from the floor like the teeth of a massive ice dragon preparing to swallow the room whole, and standing hunched in the center of it, eyes so wide with gripping fear they almost glowed, was the queen.

"Elsa, are you—"

"Stay away," Elsa hissed backing away as her sister advanced, sparks of blue ice echoing her footfalls. Anna immediately stopped and raised her hands.

"Hey, hey calm down, it's only me. What happened? Are you hurt?"

"Please just…just go back to your room, Anna."

"Not going to happen," the young princess said gently and chanced a step forward. Elsa flinched back again, and it was when she moved into the light of her frosted triangular window that Anna could see she was crying. "What happened?"

Elsa didn't know whether to bolt for the door or take her chances jumping out her window, but all she knew was that she couldn't be in the same room as Anna right now. She could feel her fears manifesting into physical ice all around her and knew her sister was in grave danger the longer she remained close, but Anna was determined not to leave. Breath coming in heaving gulps, the queen tried to struggle through the crippling waves of terror as best she could but it was too much…everything was too much…she was losing the fight…she was going to…

Sudden warmth shocked her out of her downward spiral like a slap to the face. Startled, she looked down and realized she was on her knees and her sister's arms were wrapped around her, swollen belly pressing against Elsa's side. Gripping panic washed over her as she realized how close Anna was, but her struggling got her nowhere as the princess tightened her grip, refusing to let go.

"Anna, please, please! You can't stay here, you can be around me. I'm going to—"

"No, you need to calm down," the princess snapped and squeezed tighter. Then more gently she said, "I've got you. You're safe."

Anna began rocking back and forth, rubbing her sister's frigid back with her free hand. If she noticed that her sister was dressed in a gray fencers top, leather vest, and black pants when she should have been in her nightgown, she said nothing about it. Anna could feel Elsa tensing like a coiled spring, every muscle as rigid as a plank of wood, but she refused to let go.

"Anna p-please…"

"I'm not going anywhere, Elsa, and I never will. Please calm down, and tell me what happened."

The queen choked after a long silence "I killed you." Hot tears welled in her eyes. "Oh God, oh God, I watched you die…there was so much blood…I-I watched you die!"

"No you didn't, I'm right here. Listen." Anna gently took Elsa's head in her hands and pressed it against her chest right over her heart. Sure enough, she could hear the rhythmic beating of her sister's heart, and never had a sound been more needed or treasured.

Suddenly Elsa couldn't hold herself up anymore and collapsed into her sister, and heavy sobs tore from her throat. Hands gripping Anna's nightdress with an almost desperate need, she buried her face in her sister's chest and cried until her lungs burned. The two sat on the frozen floor for what seemed like hours, younger sister cradling older sister as the queen bled the fear and anger and sorrow from her body through her cries. Eventually she calmed enough to sit up on her own, body shaking with the effort. She realized her room was still encased in ice and dispersed her magic with the wave of her hand, and the room quickly returned to a more livable temperature.

"It was just a nightmare," Anna reassured her as she helped her sister back into bed. The sheets were a little damp, so she carefully waddled over to the wardrobe and pulled out two sets of blankets. Returning to the bed, Elsa allowed her sister to throw one over her shoulders while Anna wrapped herself in the second.

"It was so real," Elsa hiccuped, pulling her blanket tight around her shoulders more for comfort than warmth.

"Do you want to tell me about it?"

"We….we were back in the ice palace during the Great Freeze. You were trying to get me to come back with you when I….w-when I…"

"It's okay, it's okay, I understand," Anna shushed her quietly and cradled her sister against her chest, shushing her softly as she began to cry again.

It wasn't all that uncommon for Elsa to have nightmares. As children, especially after her and her sister's separation, the queen had suffered from night terrors loud enough to wake the castle staff. Always, the late King and Queen had bustled into her room while Kia or Gerda herded Anna back to hers, but after their parents death the terrors had become worse and more frequent. With no one to comfort her, Elsa had dealt with the terrors alone. After the Great Freeze, however, Anna figured out what was going on and stepped in to help. As their sisterly relationship mended, the terrors slowly faded away until Elsa barely had one or two a year, but tonight was by far the worst Anna had seen.

For a long while the sisters sat in silence holding one another until Anna was sure Elsa had fallen asleep against her. Not wanting to disturb her rest, and with Kristoff still in the mountains cooling off, Anna decided to stay, determined to watch over her older sister until she could no longer keep her eyes open. The princess lasted another hour of dutiful watchfulness before drifting off.

It was the knock at the door hours later that woke Anna, and she struggled to push herself up with her elbow, looking around room blearily. Last night came back to her slowly, and Anna looked down at her still sleeping sister and smiled, happy Elsa was still resting peacefully. The knock sounded again, and the princess winced as her sister stirred with a pitiful moan and rolled away from the sound. Sliding out of bed, Anna padded over to the door and cracked it open.

"Good morning, Maj— oh, Princess Anna. I didn't expect to see you."

"Good morning, Kai," Anna said barely stifling a yawn and scooting through the crack in the door, swollen belly scraping against the wood.

"Is everything alright?" Kai asked seeing the tired look on the princess's face as she whipped the sleep from her eyes.

"My sister had a…rough night last night. Please, clear her schedule today, and inform any visitors that the Queen as taken ill."

"Should I call for the Physician, Highness?"

"No, I think rest is all she needs."

"Of course. I'll send Gerda up in a few hours with tea and a small breakfast."

Anna smiled and thanked the manservant, but as she was about to go, Kai stopped her and handed her an envelope.

"This came for Her Majesty this morning from Captain Revel."

"I'll make sure she gets it," Anna said taking the envelope without a second thought and walked back into the room. Elsa was still asleep, so Anna set the letter atop a large leather tome next to the queen's bed. She thought about crawling back into bed with her sister, but doubted she'd find any sleep now that she'd been up and moving around. Not wanting to disturb Elsa, Anna made a decision and quietly left the room. She headed for the nursery after dressing in plain clothes, determined to get something productive done before Kristoff returned, and to work out her apology to him.

Elsa woke groggy and sore, her back a nest of knotted muscles and bruises. Gingerly, she sat up in bed and looked around, unsure of what time it was or where Anna had gotten off to. The clock on her dresser told her it was well past eleven in the morning, and she groaned, hands scrubbing the last dregs of sleep from her face. Someone knocked at her door, and she bid them enter, too drained to swing her legs over the edge of her bed and answer it herself. Gerda pushed open the door quietly and wheeled in a small cart that held a tray of food and a kettle of tea.

"Good morning, Majesty. How are you feeling?"

"Terrible," Elsa found herself confessing before she could stop herself.

"Your sister informed us you had a rough night last night, so I thought a little food and some tea would help. She also canceled your appointments this afternoon so that you could rest."

Elsa smiled wanly. Leave it to Anna to reverse the roles and become the doting big sister when Elsa was feeling poorly. "Thank you, Gerda."

"Of course, Majesty. Should I leave the tray and kettle next to your bed?"

"That would be fine, thank you."

Gerda arranged the plate of food and kettle on a small table in front of Elsa's fireplace before withdrawing from the room with a nod and a smile.

Not exactly hungry, and not sure how steady her hands were, Elsa ignored the food, instead propping herself up with her pillows and staring blankly out her widow with a gusty exhale. Things had gone so wrong last night she feared there would be no mending her relationship with the Captain. They had said hurtful things to one another, had both overstepped boundaries, but none more than Elsa. She shivered at the horrible memories that resurfaced in fragmented pieces, snippets of different moments flashing behind her closed eyes like randomly flipping through the pages of a book. As hazy as most of the memories were, Elsa could recall one that put such a weight of shame and guilt in her stomach she feared she'd fall through the floor. Revel, green eyes consumed with seizing terror, staring back at her with a face so pale he looked like a ghost. It was the same fear she had seen on the day of her coronation when she'd run into the courtyard and accidentally frozen the fountains; the town's people backing away from the monster their queen had revealed herself to be.

Elsa suppressed another wave of shivers and drew her knees to her chest. How had things gone so wrong so quickly? Why hadn't she listened to her gut and left the training chamber before her anger and stress had gotten the better of her? Fighting to keep her composure, the queen slid out of bed and pulled off her training outfit from last night. She threw on a warm robe and wobbled back to bed, the backs of her legs sore and stiff. Once comfortably tucked in, Elsa decided some light reading would be just the thing to preoccupy her mind and reached for the leather tome next to her bed. Hardly noticing the envelope sitting atop the book, the queen opened to her bookmarked page and began reading. It wasn't until she'd finished the most current chapter that Elsa glanced at the envelope and realized with a thrill of anxiety who it was from.

With shaking hands, she popped the wax seal, withdrew the carefully folded letter, and began to read.


Due to the events of last evening, I have decided that it would be in our best interests if we cease our sessions together until a later, undetermined period of time. Regretfully, it appears I have overstepped my boundaries with you, an act that both shames and angers me; therefore I feel it would be prudent for us to withdraw from one another.

Forever your servant,


Elsa had to read the letter two more times before the reality of what had been written, in black ink on white parchment, crashed into her like a cannon ball. The trembling in her hands grew so bad she dropped the letter and fought to inhale, lungs desperate for the air she'd denied them as she processed the letter. At first there was denial, but that was quickly overridden by such a heavy wave of guilt and shame Elsa thought she was going to vomit.

Well done, Snow Queen, a familiar and unwelcome voice sneered as Elsa hunched forward and hugged herself. You've pushed away perhaps the only friend you've ever had aside from your sister. He fears you now, fears you like the rest of your kingdom secretly fears you. It was just a matter of time before you showed him just how dangerous you really are.

Hand over her mouth, Elsa was unable to choke back the sob that tore from her as tears suddenly sprang into her eyes. No, it wasn't true; it couldn't be true. She wasn't a monster, not anymore. Last night had been a mistake…it had been an accident.

Oh yes, you 'accidentally' attempted to kill him by slitting his throat with an ice dagger.

Suddenly, she remembered with such awesome clarity the blood on her knife, the blood pouring down Revel's arm from the deep gash she'd left there, and barely made it to her chamber pot before she vomited. Once her stomach was empty, Elsa staggered to her vanity and the basin of water left for her there. Not bothering to cup the water with her hands, the queen submerged her head in the basin for a few seconds before pulling back with a gasp, letting the water roll down her back and soak the front of her robe. Cool relief soothed her nauseous stomach and took some of her headache away, but it didn't last long. The memories of last night just wouldn't stay away no matter how hard she fought them, and along with the memories came her unwanted inner voice.

What kind of Queen would attack a friend? Would you have stopped with Revel, or would there have been…other casualties?

"Please stop," Elsa whispered, fists pressed to either side of her head.

The truth is hard to hear, Snow Queen, and even harder to swallow. When will you learn you're not deserving of love because who could ever learn to love a beast?

The taunting voice subsided then, melting back into Elsa's subconscious like fog burned away by the sun, but the damage it had meant to do was already done. Staring at the book she'd pulled into her lap without noticing, Elsa felt her tears returning as she read aloud a few familiar lines that had caught her attention earlier and now cut her deeper than any knife.

"Mon coeur est aimable, mais je suis un monster," she whispered in fluent French, her fingers sliding down the page. Teardrops rolled off the tip of her nose and stained the paper as she bowed her head. "My heart is kind, but I am a monster."

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 11 of 24

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