Continuing Tales

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 14 of 24

<< Previous     Home     Next >>

February gave way to a rainy, cold March that didn't seem to want to end. Storms rolled in off the sea almost daily, gray clouds blotting out the sun for what seemed like weeks on end and hanging low over Arendelle in a near constant fog. Some days it would rain hard enough that the fat drops striking the castle windows sounded like a tattoo of drums. Other days, it would drizzle enough to leave the kingdom soaked in a fine mist, beads of water clinging to every available surface like dew. In the end, everything remained wet and cold and gloomy. Everything except the monarch of the prosperous kingdom and a wayward guard Captain, because not even the rain could dampen the solar fire burning between them.

As with all new and unfamiliar love, Elsa and Revel took every opportunity they could scrape together to see each other, cherishing the moments no matter how small. During the day it was passing meetings, the queen taking a detour down a deserted hallway where her lover waited, shrouded in shadow and lit with a desire to hold and kiss the woman he'd surrendered himself to. Sometimes, Elsa could swing a 'security' meeting with the Captain, explaining she needed to go over guard placement for the Spring Trade Summit at the end of April. Though once the doors shut behind them, there was little planning done since the Captain's hands and mouth were preoccupied with other, sweeter ventures, and the queen had little voice to delegate commands.

There was less risk of the two getting caught while in Revel's office, but Elsa couldn't keep making trips to the Guard House, at least not during the day. So their liaisons outside a 'scheduled encounter' were brief at best, a kiss and an embrace, whispered words of wit and romance that left the both of them grinning like fools and aching for the moment when the sun would finally set and they could be together without fear of discovery. And it was at night, when the rest of civilization was asleep and the kingdom was quiet, that the buildup of the day was released in carnal form, bodies intertwining as they rode the wave of passion like leaves caught in an undertow.

As the weeks progressed, spring started to set in, and the nova of passion gently cooled into the warm glow of sensuality and contentment, allowing the two lovers to regain some semblance of control over themselves when in each other's company. Conversations began again: words of advice, encouragement, wishful thinking, love, hazy plans for the future, and stories of the past passed between the two as they lay wrapped in each other's arms, the fading heat of their lovemaking radiating around them like a warm afterglow. Revel continued to surprise the queen, regaling her with stories of his years in Arendelle and the things he'd seen while traveling between Germany and Norway after leaving home, but there was always hesitation when he spoke about his family as if he were trying to puzzle something out or choose his words wisely. So, with no small amount of shock, one evening after their passion had run its course Revel divulged a piece of his past Elsa hadn't been expecting to hear.

"I'll tell you secret if you promise it never leaves your lips," he said as they lay together in his bed one late night, the sheets barely covering their naked forms. They hadn't been talking about anything in particular, just passing the hours in relaxed company, so when Elsa heard the seriousness in his voice, she immediately took notice. She looked up from her place against his chest and cocked an eyebrow, her mane of platinum hair falling over her shoulders as she shifted her weight onto her elbow.

"Is this a secret that will make me question everything about you?" she asked cocking an eyebrow playfully.

"It might, but I think it needs to be said. I've…I've been thinking a lot about my past lately, and it seems unfair that you have share so much with me and I so little with you."

"Revel, I know you haven't had an easy life, so you don't need to explain yourself. We can't live in the past," Elsa said putting a cool hand on his chest, splaying her fingers as she played with a dusting of dark, curly hair. She could see fear in his eyes, but fear of what she couldn't possibly fathom. What had he done before coming to Arendelle that would make him wall off a portion of his childhood? Or had something been done to him? She almost shuddered at the implications, and, not for the first time, a deeper part of herself, the part connected to her ancestor through blood and magic, whispered a warning.

Do you really know enough about this man to trust him so completely?

"I always fear my past coming back to haunt me somehow. It's one of my greatest fears." Taking a breath, he squeezed her with the almost desperate tightness of a man about to be swept away by a strong current. "I told you a while back I wasn't proud of my younger years, and that wasn't untrue. I left home in a hurry after my father's death. I had no other choice, and a young boy alone on the streets can run into…trouble."

Forced from home, Elsa realized with a start as his words sank in. He didn't leave on his own accord after his father's death?

"Such as," Elsa asked slowly.

"Are you familiar with the kingdom of Brekemal?"

This time, Elsa did shudder. "Please, I was blissfully relieved when that cesspool of a kingdom burned to the gr—"

The queen sat up suddenly, not bothering to pull the covers over herself. Revel refused to meet her eyes, a sure sign that what she suspected of happening actually had something to do with him.

"You burned down Brekemal? That was almost thirteen years ago!"

"In a way, yes," he whispered pulling himself into a sitting position but still refusing to meet her startled gaze. "I migrated to the kingdom shortly after leaving home. I had hoped to start a life there. I was only fifteen, a wary fifteen year old, but still so young. I was under no disillusion that I would have it easy…I just didn't know how hard it could be.

"With no money, and no way of claiming who my father was, I had nothing. The son of a…prosperous merchant is usually welcome where his father does business, but I had no way of indicating who I was. And a child with no identification and no writ of passage is barred from everything. So I lived there doing what I could and with who I could."

Elsa understood what Revel was saying and made an apologetic sound. "You lived on the streets."

"Yes, and in Brekemal, one did not simply curl up to sleep in an alley without paying the gang who ran the area a tax. So I learned very quickly how to get the things these gangs needed in order to remain unmolested. I became an adequate thief, but paying their taxes wasn't enough to secure protection from any number of dangers lurking in the kingdom's alleys and dark places. That was the second lesson I learned in my first few months; there is safety in numbers, even if those numbers are thick with crime.

"The gang I became entangled with was a low level group who lived in the poorer area of Brekemal. We squatted in an abandoned shack; all twenty of us, housed in a single room meant for half our numbers. Our entire purpose was to get enough money to survive from day to day and pay the required tax to the bigger gangs in the area, mainly the King's Bastards, the prominent gang who ran the underworld in Brekemal. Ironically, it was run by one of the king's own bastards, hence the name. So for two years, I kept my head down, endured the hardships that came with being an urchin and a thief, watched friends hang when they weren't fast enough to escape the city watch, or watched them succumb to illness and disease. It was a horrible time, but I didn't think things could get much bleaker…until the night the city burned."

Revel was silent for a long time, staring at the low embers in his hearth as he pulled the memories together. Elsa watching him in rapped silence, unsure if she should comfort him or keep her distance. She chose the latter of the two and remained still until he finally began to speak again.

"The leader of our gang was a man named Kelven, Kel for short. I wouldn't call him an ambitious person; he'd lived his life moving from gang to gang and dreamed of one day making enough coin that he could overthrow the King's Bastards and run the underground. It was a foolish dream. Kel didn't have the stomach for the politics and violence associated with gang warfare, but he still dreamed and schemed, and those are what got him killed.

"One evening, Kel got into a fairly nasty fight with one of the King's Bastards and went and got himself roaring drunk afterward. While in his drunken stupor, he vowed to avenge the honor he'd lost during his beating, and told anyone who would listen he'd challenge the Bastard's leader to a duel. In order to do that, he decided our little gang needed better weapons than the broken pieces of glass and shards of metal we used for makeshift knives. So, Kel came up with the grand idea to steal weapons from the town armory. Obviously, the rest of us were powerless to say no."

"I'm not following how this resulted in burning the kingdom to the ground," Elsa said frowning. Revel chuckled mirthlessly and shook his head.

"The armory wasn't just a place where the guards stored their swords at night. It was also where the alchemists worked developing powders and potions. It was also dangerously close to the King's Bastards territory. So, imagine twenty grungy unchains, some as young as ten, sneaking into the armory and setting about looking for weapons. No one realized there weren't any guards around until it was too late and the trap was sprung. Apparently, Kel's rantings had been overheard, and the Bastards didn't take kindly to threats, no matter how small the gang. They attacked us once we were in the armory, bolting the doors shut so we couldn't escape. They did, however, make one grievous mistake. They'd locked themselves in as well.

"When the fighting broke out, I ran for the nearest room and bolted the door behind me. Luckily, there was a window I could climb out of, and in my haste to escape the slaughter, I knocked over every bottle and container in that room in order to get to the window. I didn't even realize what was happening, or what I could be doing, until I heard a soft hissing coming from one corner of the room. Green flames were creeping across the floor towards ten large wooden barrels. I didn't even stop to wonder what could have been stored in the airtight barrels in a military and alchemy armory. When the first explosion threw me out the window, I realized something awful was about to happen. The second explosion tore half the side of the armory off. I remember seeing flaming bodies scrambling and shrieking down the street, trailing fire as they slowly burned to death. There was a third and a fourth explosion, but by then I was running as fast as I could from the green flames, heading towards the city gates.

"It was the fifth and final explosion that did the most damage. Apparently, a few of the barrels contained a recipe for Greek Fire, or as close to it as the alchemist could get. The explosion sent globs of sticky goo in every direction, and anything it touched went up like a torch. I'm sure you know the legends about Greek Fire. It can't be put out with water or earth, and with how packed together the homes and businesses were in Brekemal, it was a matter minutes before half the kingdom was ablaze, the castle included."

"They say the kingdom burned for a week straight before the fires died, and only a few hundred souls survived," Elsa whispered as she recalled the letter her father had gotten from a Duke in a neighboring hamlet. The news of the burning had rippled through the monarchy in and around Berkemal as thoroughly as the fires that consumed the kingdom.

"It's rumored there were less survivors."

"But, I'm confused. How is any of that your fault? It's not as if you intentionally set fire to those barrels. You were running for your life."

"Had I not tangled myself with the gang, or if I could have talked sense into Kel, none of it would have happened. There were innocent people in Berkemal. I could have called the fire brigade while I ran, but I was too much of a coward. I just kept running and running until my legs gave out."

Elsa made a face and scooted closer to Revel, taking his warm face in her hands. "Listen to me. You are not a coward; you were a young man afraid for his life. I don't know many full grown men who could have faced down a wave of Greek Fire. The fact that you escaped unscathed is testament that you weren't supposed to die that day."

"But I could have prevented it!"

"By getting yourself killed? By letting those thugs end your life? Revel, you're not making any sense. Why are you blaming yourself for an accident?"

"I just…I just felt responsible for the people in my gang. Even if they were urchins, they were still a kind of family. They were people who could have had more, who could have had a better life, but they chose to stay on the streets. So I felt responsible for taking care of them because I didn't begin on the streets. Because I knew what it felt like to have a family who was blood related, and friends who you didn't have to worry would stab you in the back, and…and a life."

There was so much sorrow and regret in the Captain's eyes, Elsa pulled him toward her and locked him in the tightest embrace she could manage. He squeezed her in return, burying his face in her shoulder and breathing in her comforting scent. After a moment they pulled back from one another, but Elsa refused to let go of his hands.

"You can't keep lamenting about the past, because no matter how much we want to change it, the past is in the past. We can learn from it, but we can't remain locked in it. If we do, there isn't any hope of us living in the present." She leaned in and kissed him deeply, fingers trailing icy tendrils down his jaw. "And I need you in the here and now with me, so stop blaming yourself. Stop saying you could have prevented bad things from happening. There was nothing you could have done to make the outcome change. It's like saying you could have changed the outcome of your father's death. It's not as if you're responsible for ending his life, so stop dwelling on it."

"What?" Revel's face went so pale so fast that Elsa feared he'd pass out and topple off the bed. A flicker of something deeper than fear flashed across his face, his green eyes wide as saucers. She saw him slide a look over at the hearth before drawing in a slow breath and steadying himself as if realizing everything was fine and the fear he'd briefly felt was unfounded.

"Are you alright?" Elsa asked, brow knitted in concern. In the pit of her stomach she couldn't shake the feeling that something was amiss.

Why did he look over at the hearth?

"I…I…" He took another moment to breath, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. "I think I just misunderstood what you said, is all. I'm sorry, and you're right. I couldn't have prevented my father's death, but it doesn't mean I don't still feel responsible."

Elsa watched him for a minute, weighing his words. "Are you sure you're alright? I've never seen you go so pale before."

Revel touched his face and felt sweat come away on his fingertips.

Why am I sweating?

"Honestly, I'm not sure. I feel…off, but I can't explain how or why. Something just doesn't feel right."

"Maybe there's been too much ice in your life," Elsa teased.

Revel grinned and pulled her close. "Well, if I'm running a fever, I know one person who can cool me down."

"Oh, do you now? A fever, you do not have, but perhaps some sleep will do you good."

"A marvelous idea," Revel yawned, snuggling down into his sheets. Elsa curled in her usual place against his chest, moaning softly as his fingertips traced lazy circles around her shoulder.

"Are you sure you're alright," she asked one last time.

"As long as I have you here."

"You do," she said smiling.

"Then I'm perfect."

Elsa knew Revel wasn't telling her everything. She could see it like a shadow lurking in the back of his eyes. There was something of far more significance he was keeping from her, but she knew it was a matter of time and trust before he divulged the final secret pieces of his life before Arendelle.

In a way, he's just like I used to be, Elsa thought as she felt the rise and fall of his chest even out as sleep took hold. And I can't fault him for having a past he doesn't want to discuss. It's disconcerting, yes, but it's not something I'm unfamiliar with. How long did it take for me to fully trust Anna with the story of our past and the reason for my exile?

With a sigh, she pushed the niggling questions from her mind. For the time being, she was the happiest she'd been in years, and Elsa would do everything in her power to keep things the way they were. She knew it was a futile effort, the world was forever changing, but she'd hold on for as long as possible.

Maybe I'll talk to Anna about this.

"He did what?" Anna gaped, sandwich half way to her mouth.

The royal sisters sat together in a small parlor just off the Great Hall where they often took private lunches. It was a treasured custom Elsa had been neglecting over the past month, so the day after her talk with Revel, she asked her sister to have lunch with her so they could discuss 'sisterly things'. Anna happily agreed, thrilled at the possibility of being able to discuss whatever was on her older sister's mind, as well as give her something important from Grand Pabbie, and the two sat down to a light lunch of sandwiches, tea, and small pastries. The princess hadn't known that what Elsa had wanted to talk about pertained to her secret lover and his sordid past.

"Shhh, Anna, please," Elsa chided, sliding a look over to the door. One could never be too careful when speaking in a castle. As her father had always said, the walls could grow ears when they wanted to. The queen wasn't worried about unwanted eavesdroppers, no one in her employment would be caught dead spying, but there was a level of paranoia she couldn't shake no matter how honest she believed her staff to be.

"You can't tell me something like that and expect me to react quietly!" Anna said in a forced whisper. "Did he really burn down Berkemel?"

"According to him, yes. He was associated with a gang—"

"Are you serious?! A gang?"

"Not by choice! He was forced into it in order to survive living homeless on the streets."

"Why on earth did he do that?"

"I…I'm not quite sure," Elsa said taking a small sip of tea and frowning. "When Revel and I first started talking on the parapets at night, he told me he left home after his father's death because he had no other reason for staying."

Anna nodded as if to confirm his story. "He told me the same thing when I asked him about his past during out training sessions."

"See, that makes sense to me. But yesterday, he told me that he had to leave home, as if he didn't have a choice in the matter."

"That's…a little weird, yeah. Maybe he was just being polite when you two were talking on the parapets? I mean, it's not really polite conversation. 'Why yes, I was forced out of my home after my father's murder for various reasons that don't really pertain to this conversation'," Anna said, mimicking a deep male voice that could only be an attempt to imitate Revel.

"I guess you're right. Being evicted from home after your father's death isn't really good conversation starters. And I guess I can understand why it happened. I mean, he was the son of a wealthy merchant. If his father had debts, assuming, of course, that's the case, Revel and his brothers' would have been responsible for paying them back. Maybe their home and assets were seized by the governing Duke," Elsa mused as her mind worked to puzzle out Revel's cryptic words.

Yes, that makes sense. Mounting debts can cripple a kingdom and doom a family if the only living heirs aren't capable of payment or mismanage funds. And Revel did say he had an older brother who would have inherited his father's business, for better or for worse. Maybe Revel ran because he and his siblings were being chased by collectors. But then why hasn't he spoken about his brothers? I don't even know their names.

"Anyway, he lived with the gang for two years, surviving by stealing what he could to pay the gang tax and stay alive."

"That's horrible," Anna said making a face. "But how did he burn down the kingdom?"

"His gang was set up and ambushed in a guard house. Revel found an open window in an alchemist's room and knocked over different chemicals in order to escape. Some of them must have been flammable because they set fire to the room which was full of barrels of recreated Greek Fire."

"Wait…wait…Greek Fire? Why on earth was Brekemal kingdom making barrels of recreated Greek Fire?" Anna asked in shocked surprise.

"I'm as unsettled by the information as you are. Why indeed? Why would any kingdom create such a volatile element if not for war?"

"That's a scary thought. So Revel lit the barrels on fire?"

"Accidentally. Naturally they exploded and spread throughout the entire kingdom."

"Wow, that's just…wow. It's a miracle he got out alive, and I guess we should be thanking him. If Brekemal had intentions of going to war, our guard Captain foiled those plans pretty thoroughly."

"I told him that none of it was his fault, but he seems to carry so much guilt over something that was an accident. He blames himself for the deaths in the kingdom and the deaths of his friends." Elsa raised her eyebrow at her sister when she noticed she was giving her a wide, sly grin. "What?"

"Gee, that's sounds strangely familiar. Blaming yourself over something that was obviously an accident and carrying around guilt for it for years. Oh no, I've never met someone who's done that."

Elsa scowled. "It's not the same."

"Like hell it isn't! You blamed yourself for what happened to me—"

"That's because it was my fault!"

"We were playing, Elsa. I still don't remember that night, but you said we were playing in the Great Hall like we usually did, and you accidentally slipped and hit me with your ice. Same goes for the incident in your ice castle during the Great Freeze. Same goes for freezing the kingdom. Everything was an accident. Would you sit here and tell young Revel that what happened to him was somehow his fault?"

"No, I wouldn't."

"Then the same thing goes for you. No more blaming yourself for past events. You and Revel are like kindred spirits. No wonder you two get along so well."

"I…I guess I never thought of it that way," Elsa admitted and absentmindedly rubbed her left shoulder where Saja's brand was diminishing into a faint blush of a gray handprint. It was hardly noticeable anymore, and unless she moved a certain way in the light or touched it, the mark was all but invisible.

Maybe that's why I'm drawn to him. We have similar pasts and similar scars.

Anna caught the motion and pursed her lips, fidgeting nervously with her napkin in her lap. "Elsa, that mark isn't really a bruise, is it?"

The queen stopped rubbing her shoulder and sighed, unsure how to broach this subject with her sister. Should she tell her the truth or let Anna keep believing she'd unintentionally hurt herself?

"It's…complicated, Anna," she eventually sighed and looked up at her sister. "I don't think you'd believe me."

"Elsa," Anna said leaning forward and cocking an eyebrow that oh so familiar to the queen, "you have ice powers, Kristoff's adopted family are trolls, you made two sentient snowmen and an ice castle after freezing an entire kingdom. I think I can handle whatever you tell me."

"Fine, you're right." Elsa sighed and lowered her eyes. "It happened the night I collapsed. I was in a bad way that night, Anna. There was so much darkness in me; I didn't know where to go or what to do. I…I contemplated taking a walk along the parapets…and jumping…"

Anna's face paled and she sat back in her chair. "I knew something was wrong," she whispered. "I could feel it. I knew you were soul sick, and I didn't want to leave that night because I just had this feeling things would get worse the minute Kristoff and I were gone from the palace."

Elsa reached across the table and took her sister's hands in her, squeezing her fingers tightly. "But nothing happened, Anna. I didn't go through with it because I couldn't leave you like Mamma and Papa left us. And I'll never entertain those horrible thoughts again, I swear."

"So…so the mark happened when you went back to your room?" Anna asked shaking herself to be rid of the cloying fear.

"I went and got some work done in my study before heading to bed, but I don't remember ever making it to my bed. I think that's the point there I passed out, or something. I remember the nightmare I was having," Elsa shuddered at the memory of that horrible dream, "but something changed. I woke up, and I was standing in the middle of my room."

"Like, you fell asleep standing up?"

"Maybe? I'm not sure. I just remember blinking awake and looking around at a dark room. I was still fully dressed, my bed was untouched, and I was just standing there. It wasn't until I looked back at my mirror that I saw…her."

"Her?" Anna frowned and leaned forward.

"There was a woman standing in my mirror who wasn't me. And she…she wasn't just standing there; she came through the mirror like it was a doorway."

"Elsa…are you sure this wasn't a dream?" Anna said giving her sister a worried look. It wasn't like Elsa to lie about things. Sure, she had her secrets, but she'd never been one to spin fantastical stories to explain away accidents or mishaps like the princess was notorious for. But what the queen was describing to her sister was something straight out of a story book, and a frightening one at that. People crawling out of mirrors? Had Elsa really seen that or had it been her fevered mind playing tricks on her? Anna was inclined to believe that her sister had just had an extraordinarily vivid dream, but the look of utter sincerity in her shinning cerulean eyes made the princess think twice.

"I knew you wouldn't believe me," the queen said sitting back with an exasperated sigh. Why had she thought this was a good idea again?

"No, no! It's just a little strange, that's all. I mean, people coming out of mirrors? That's terrifying! But, please continue. I'll keep quiet, I promise."

"No you won't." Elsa half smiled and Anna stuck her tongue out at her. She stared silently at her sister for a few heartbeats before deciding to finish her tale. "Apparently, that night I was going to have a visit from our ancestor, Queen Saja."

"Wait, are you serious?" the princess said as her eyebrows shot into her hairline. "The Saja? The one from the legends? What was she like?"

"She was definitely different than what the stories we've read. Saja looked a lot like me…or I resemble her. She was a warrior during her life, and she's certainly not someone to be trifled with. She was livid when she came to me, and chastised me for my…thoughts."

"Glad someone got the chance to," Anna mumbled. The queen quirked her in face in an annoyed expression but continued as if not interrupted.

"After that…we sort of had it out with one another."

"You fought our ancestor?"

"More like she forcefully taught me a few valuable lessons about ice magic and the various ways it could be lethal. She was powerful Anna, so powerful. Everything I've learned over the years pales in comparison to what she can do with half the effort. Afterword, she told me I'm part of a race called the Frost Born. She was the first born from Snaer, and I'm the only other Frost Born seen in four hundred years."

"Snaer was her mother? Not the witch in the mountains?"

"I wasn't able to ask her that."

"Why wasn't this mentioned in our history? I've never read anything about Frost Born or anything like it in Saja's legends." Anna tapped her chin and furrowed her brow in though. "Maybe Pabbie knows something."

"Perhaps. I don't know why it took four hundred years for another one of us to be born, or if there were others and I'm just the most recent. Maybe it did have something to do with that herbal tradition Papa told us about when we were young. I'll have to ask Saja the next time she visits me."

"You've seen her more than once?"

"She came to me the night you caught Revel and me in the library," Elsa blushed and looked away momentarily. "She apologized for our rough first meeting and wanted to start teaching me about my powers. We spoke about how we Frost Born have a limited number of fractures within us that determine how much power we can use at any given time, and how I can communicate with anything I make out of ice. It's…it's really hard to explain out loud. In my head it makes perfect sense, but saying it to someone else…"

"It's alright," Anna shrugged. "But this is still exciting! You've somehow gotten a direct link to our earliest ancestor. Just think of the things you could learn from her! Like, how the Frosberg line really came to be, and the stuff about the herbal tradition. We don't know anything before great, great, great grandfather, so this could be an excellent time to find out our history."

"Only problem is, I haven't seen or felt her for weeks. When she first appeared, the mark she gave me was dark, like a bruise. Now, it's faded. I don't know if it's linked to my connection to her or what."

"How did she mark you?"

"With her hand. I don't know how she did it, but she used her hand to burn my skin…only it doesn't feel like a burn. It feels like marble when I touch it, and it's cold."

"Weird. Well, if she used her magic to mark you, maybe you can use your magic to call her?"

"It's worth a try," Elsa shrugged and smiled. "To think, none of this would have happened had I not started having sessions with Revel."

"I'm still mad you didn't tell me," Anna said pursing her lips and crossing her arms over her chest. "I wouldn't have been angry, and having someone to spar with aside from Revel and Kristoff would have been nice."

"How many times can I apologize for keeping it from you?"

"Well…we could always ice the Great Hall," Anna mused trying to hide her excited grin.

Elsa cocked an eyebrow but couldn't hide her own smile. "You're heavily pregnant, Anna. I think the last thing we need is you slipping on ice."

"Then we can build a snowman together!" the princess said jumping up and pulling her sister to her feet. A sudden thought seemed to strike her, and she pulled up short. "Oh, I completely forgot!"

"Pardon?" Elsa asked quirking an eyebrow.

"We got to talking about Revel and your dates with our ancient ancestor, and I completely forgot I needed to give you something." Anna returned to the table and retrieved the small leather pouch she'd brought with her. Elsa had noticed it when they sat down for lunch but hadn't thought much of it. Now, however, she gave her sister a puzzled look. Anna unlaced the pouch and shook a blue crystal, wrapped with a thin leather thong, into her palm and handed it to her sister.

"This is from Pabbie. When Kristoff and I went to visit him last, he gave me this to give to you. I'm sorry it took so long for me to remember," Anna winced and kicked at the carpet, knowing she was about a month late with Grand Pabbie's gift. The shock of seeing her sister with Revel in the library, and the hectic weeks following, had completely erased her given task from Pabbie from her mind until her husband and noticed the pouch on their nightstand that morning.

"Is this a troll crystal?" Elsa asked picking up the gem by the leather thong and examining it with a curious eye. "Like yours and Kristoff's?"

"Yes, and Pabbie mined it especially for you," Anna said sheepishly.

"Why would he go through the trouble?"

The princess looked down at the floor and kicked her feet again. "Because I told him you'd been soul sick. That was the reason for our visit. I thought that maybe Pabbie would know something to help you get better. He asked when it had started and what your symptoms were, and when I told him, he said you needed," she screwed up her face, trying to remember the exact words, "non-traditional earth medicine. That's why Kristoff and I stayed the night. Pabbie went into the Starlight Cavern and pulled that crystal from a special vein. He told me to give it to you as soon as possible."

Elsa settled the crystal in her palm and turned it in the light. She knew little about troll magic, the earth guardians were a secretive bunch when it came to sharing information about their magics and abilities, but she knew that crystals mined from the Starlight Cavern were precious to the trolls. They held strange magics of their own and were only given to the worthy or those in desperate need.

"Did he say whether or not I needed to wear it or just keep it close?"

"I…" Anna paused and searched her memory. "He didn't say actually. He just said to give it to you. I assume that meant to wear it like I do mine." She reached past the collar of her dress and withdrew the small pink crystal she wore at all times and smiled fondly at the gem.

"Strange, Pabbie usually isn't so cryptic." Elsa frowned. Then her frown deepened when she realized the significance of the stone's color. "Anna, this is a male stone. Only male trolls wear cooler colors."

"I noticed that too, and I asked Pabbie about it before we left. Apparently, there are stones that represent different elements and the stone in your hand is an ice stone. It won't hinder your magic, but he said it might help balance you out."

Not knowing exactly what to say, Elsa slipped the necklace over her head and tucked the stone under her underdress where it nestled just between her breasts. She could sense a coolness emanating from the stone and felt a faint buzz race across her skin the moment it touched her. Jerking in surprise, Elsa pulled her underdress down and looked at the crystal but saw nothing amiss.

"Is it supposed to…tingle when it hits your skin?"

"Mine did," Anna shrugged with a smile. She reached out and took her sister's hand, pulling her along behind her. "Come on! I want to see if I can break my record snowman build!"

Elsa opened her mouth to protest but thought better of it. Maybe some fun would take her mind off the hundreds of questions bouncing around in her mind about her mysterious lover, her equally mysterious, dream hopping ancestor, and now the crystal hidden beneath her dress. Tonight she had work to do and wouldn't able to sneak off to be with Revel. Perhaps a snowman was just the distraction she needed to muddle things out in her mind.

After dinner, the queen excused herself to her study to finish the last couple of invitations for the Spring Trade Summit at the end of the month. So far, the tally for attending dignitaries, monarchs, Dukes and Duchesses exceeded two hundred, not including the addition of traveling companions and entourages. It was safe to assume that Arendelle would be accommodating at least a thousand visitors, and that meant figuring out housing, food, adequate water supply, scheduled meetings, ball preparations, and guard placement. Elsa was immensely grateful that Kai had taken the responsibility of arranging housing and food while she took care of ball arrangements and meetings. Revel assured her that he'd have all his men staffed that week as well as coordinating staggered patrols and crowd control with Arendelle's military General. The higher nobility would stay in the guest wing of the castle, or on their own docked ships, while the lesser nobility would stay in the inns in town. The queen wasn't to terribly keen on having so many strange visitors sleeping in the castle, but it was a necessary evil when hosting the biggest trade summit in the Northern region.

Elsa worked until her fingers were black with ink stains and her back was aching from being hunched for so long before declaring herself finished for the day and in serious need of a long soak. Summoning Gerda, she had a bath drawn and happily sank into the steaming hot water with a blissful sigh as she felt her tense muscles begin to loosen.

Sometimes the smallest things hold the greatest pleasures.

Soaping her hair and scrubbing herself clean with lightly scented soaps, the queen remained in the bath until the water had lost a good portion of its bite and her vividly pink skin had begun to wrinkle. With great reluctance, she toweled herself off and returned to her chambers, ready for a night of peaceful sleep, only now she wasn't as tired as she'd been before her bath. Sighing, Elsa sat down in front of her vanity and carefully arranged her wet hair into a loose braid. As she inspected her work in the mirror, she caught sight of the mark on her shoulder and paused.

Maybe Anna was right. Maybe I can call Saja by using my power.

It wasn't like she knew what she was doing. Everything that Saja had told her was still being processed in her head. She still had so many questions and didn't even know if this would work, but Elsa decided it was worth a try. Plus, she needed to see how far her powers could stretch, and hadn't Saja said something about communicating through their shared bloodline?

Carefully, Elsa positioned her right hand over the metallic blue handprint on her shoulder and concentrated her power into her palm and fingers. Steadily, the mark grew colder and colder as she pushed magic into her skin, willing it to only touch the brand and nothing else. But after a few minutes it just felt like she was trying to purposely freeze her shoulder, and Elsa didn't feel any different from when she'd started. Withdrawing her hand, the queen inspected the mark in the mirror. Nothing had changed. Sighing in frustration, she leaned back in her chair and stared at the ceiling.

Maybe I'm doing something wrong. Maybe Saja is the only one who can communicate with me. Then a thought occurred to her and she scrunched her brow. Wait, she said it was a connection through the bloodline. Maybe…maybe there needs to be blood in order to call her. Saja did say that's how I summoned her in the first place, with blood on a blade of my making.

Waving her hand, Elsa summoned a thin ice dagger no larger than a letter opener but sharper than any razor in the kingdom. Swallowing her unease, and unsure why communicating with her ancestor had suddenly become so important, she set the blade in the center of her brand and pushed the tip of the dagger under her skin. Hissing through the pain, Elsa dispersed the dagger and put her right hand back in position and summoned her magic. This time, however, she focused on the Frost Born and the questions swirling around in her mind. She remained like that for a handful of minutes, eyes tightly shut in concentration, before cracking open and eye and looking at the mirror. If she'd been expecting to see someone other than herself, she was greatly disappointed. She was, however, greeted by a faint glow coming from a small point in the center of her chest. Lowering her towel, Elsa lifted the blue crystal and frowned at it. The stone was cold to the touch and shone with a faint, ghostly light emanating from its center. As she held the stone, the light gently faded until extinguishing completely, and the queen was once again left in twilight.

"Well, that was certainly unexpected, and a bit of a wasted venture. At least the cold took the pain of the cut away," she said examining the small puncture wound in the mirror as she wiped blood off her right palm. It was more than that, it seemed. Her ice hadn't just dulled the pain of her cut; it had also congealed over the wound and pulled it shut. She could hardly see where the cut was anymore aside from where the small bump of blue ice sat.

"That's curious. It's never done that before."

Throwing on a thin robe, Elsa decided she'd had enough magical dabbling for the night and snuggled into her bed, pulling the large tome Revel had given her for Christmas into her lap and reading where she'd left off.

It hadn't occurred to her that she'd fallen asleep while reading until a faint grinding noise woke her some hours later. Opening her eyes, Elsa looked around her now dark room, the small lamp she'd been reading by having run out of oil and extinguished. At first, she thought it had just been her imagination, or perhaps the fading tendrils of an already forgotten dream, but the sound came to her again, and this time Elsa was sure it had come from somewhere near her bookcase next to her vanity. When her bookcase, which sat flush against the wall, swung towards her as if on well-oiled hinges, the queen was propelled out of bed by a thrill of fear and crept across the room, jumping from one shadow to the next on the balls of her feet.

It had never crossed her mind that there might have been a secret passage leading into her room. Arendelle castle was ancient and riddled with hidden pathways and passages that the royal sisters had discovered during their early years of exploration, but one leading directly to the royal chambers? That she hadn't expected, and the realization that she could have been taken unawares in the middle of the night was terrifying. Elsa knew Anna would never use a secret door to gain entrance into her room. If that had been the case, she'd have never been able to get the princess out of her quarters when she needed privacy. She knew none of the staff would dare use something like this, so whoever was attempting to break into her room wasn't someone she knew and that could mean only one thing.


Teeth gritted, nostrils flared, and heart in her throat, Elsa positioned herself in the shadow behind the bookcase and slid into a fighter's stance: feet apart, weight evenly distributed on the balls of her feet, and readied herself. The stranger who was coming through the passage crossed the threshold and began to close the bookcase behind them, she sprang into action. Elsa stepped up behind the assassin, sheathed her hands in ice, and delivered a solid blow to his right kidneys with all the force she could put into hook punch. The man grunted in surprise and hunched in the direction of the blow, having to use the bookcase to steady himself. The queen instinctively ducked, remembering Revel's words about the threat of retaliation with an elbow or a back fist, and delivered two more blows to his left kidneys in quick succession. The assassin staggered, obviously winded, and Elsa pressed her advantage by grabbing him by the shirt and spinning him into her elbow. The man's head snapped to the side with a forceful crack, and he slipped to the floor quietly.

"I did it," Elsa breathed, pulse pounding like a drum in her ears. "I did it! Yes!" Overcome with excitement and self-pride, she delivered a swift kick to the man's ribs for good measure. "Now to get a look at you and call the guards."

She retrieved a lantern from her vanity, lit it, and stood in front of the man. With the wave of her hand, ice encased his legs up to his knees and climbed up his back until it encircled his neck like an icy collar. Flicking her fingers towards the ceiling, the queen's ice obeyed and pulled the unconscious man into a standing position against the wall. He hung there like a broken puppet, supported only by ice. Raising her lantern, Elsa stepped forward with a small smirk on her face. "Now, let's see if I— oh my sweet God, Revel!?"

Elsa set the lamp down and took the Captain's face in her hands, turning it in the light to make sure it was him. Panicked, she dispersed the ice but didn't anticipate having to catch and hold a man who outweighed her by at least seventy five pounds. His limp body pulled her to the floor and they landed in a tangle of limbs. After a moment of undignified struggling, Elsa managed to roll him into his side before pulling him into her lap. Blood was oozing out of his nose and mouth and a dark bruise was starting to form along his right temple.

"Oh no—oh no—oh…shit. Revel, can you hear me?" Gently, she put a hand against the bruise on his face and pulled her magic into her palm. That seemed to rouse him a bit, and he moaned lightly and shifted. After a moment, he cracked open his eyes and looked around blearily.

"Wh-what hit me?"

"Oh thank God," Elsa breathed and scooted under him so that he could look up at her without having to crane his neck. "Are you alright?"

"Did…oh God, my ribs are on fire. Did you just…attack me?"

"Of course I did! I thought you were an assassin!"

"Why would you—"

"How was I supposed to know there was a secret passageway in my chambers!" Elsa admonished wiping the blood on his face away with the sleeve of her robe.

"These are your chambers. I thought you knew about the passage."

"If I had I wouldn't have attacked you! Why on earth were you sneaking into my room in the first place?"

Revel grunted and winced as she slowly sat up, right hand pressed against his ribs. He looked sheepishly towards the bookcase and the bundle of spring moon flowers lying on the floor. Elsa followed his line of sight and felt a wave of guilt crash into her.

"I…I wanted to surprise you," he said with a shallow shrug and made him gasp in pain. "I guess I managed to do just that."

"Oh, Revel, I'm so sorry. Do I need to call the Physician?"

"And have to explain to her why I'm in your personal chambers at night? No, I'm fine. I've had worse bruises than this; though I've got to say, your punches have gotten a lot stronger."

Elsa blushed and raised a hand. Translucent ice crept across her skin in the blink of an eye, and she made a fist to demonstrate what she'd hit him with.

"Ah, well, that certainly explains why it felt like I was being punched by an armored fist."

"I'm so sorry."

Revel laughed and winced. "It's alright. You did warn me before Christmas that if I snuck into your room I'd be taking my life in my own hands."

"I know, but I'm still—"

The Captain put a finger against her lips, silencing her. "It's alright, Elsa. Just…help me to the bed."

Elsa nodded and helped him stand. He leaned heavily on her and ground his teeth against the pain slowly starting to spread along his left side.

"I think you might have cracked a rib," he managed as she eased him down onto the feather soft mattress. He lay on the flat of his back after kicking off his shoes, hand still pressed firmly against his side. Biting her bottom lip, Elsa ran to her vanity and fetched a glass of water and a damp washcloth. The Captain thanked her for the water and drank his fill before quirking an eyebrow at the cloth.

"I think you got all the blood off me with your sleeve."

"I know just…take off your shirt," she said with focused concentration.

Deciding to do as she asked rather than teasing her, Revel attempted to remove his shirt but ran into trouble when he couldn't lift his left arm high enough because of the pain. Elsa helped him the rest of the way and made an apologetic noise when she saw the large black bruise spreading across the Captain's ribs.

"I can't see it; how bad does it look?"

"I'm so, so sorry," Elsa said by way of reply and gently pressed the cloth against his side. Revel snarled at the pain and arched away from her, but she didn't withdraw. Instead, she pushed her ice into the cloth and instantly cooled it. After a moment, frost began appearing atop the fabric and Revel's shallow breathing evened out a bit.

"That…actually feels a great deal better. Thank you."

Elsa smiled and had Revel roll onto his right side so that the iced cloth could remain over his ribs.

"I feel awful about doing that to you," she said crawling into bed next to him.

"No need to apologize…again. It was entirely my fault for not thinking that you'd actually use what I taught you. I should actually be praising you. If I had been an assassin, I'd be in the dungeons right now, or worse. I'm proud I could teach you to defend yourself."

"I don't think I remembered anything you taught me in that moment. It felt like I was moving on instinct."

"Oh trust me, those strikes were dead on perfect. Don't discount your abilities, Elsa. You've absorbed what I've taught you as much as any of my guards have, maybe even more. Fact of the matter remains, you still managed to fell an opponent with," Revel paused to think, "four strikes. Not bad. Not bad, indeed."

Elsa blushed and reached for the covers at their feet. "Well, I contribute my success to having an excellent teacher who isn't going anywhere tonight. Not until that bruise I gave you calms down a bit and you can walk without toppling over."

"You could always kiss it better," Revel teased folding his arm under his head and watching the queen with bright green eyes.

"Oh can I now?" Elsa said sitting up on her knees beside him and trailing her icy fingers gently down his bruised side. The Captain gasped and arched against the sudden cold, a wide smile on his face. She withdrew her hand and folded it with the other in her lap, giving her lover a lopsided grin. "But no, I shouldn't tease you. It's hardly fair, what with you being incapacitated and all."

"I would think that would be the best time," Revel replied as his eyes locked with hers. "They'd be solely at your mercy."

Elsa chuckled and felt a familiar burn settle into her abdomen. "Mercy. What a novel idea."

The queen removed her hands from her lap and let them trail across Revel's bare shoulder and chest, grinning like a cat as her touch raised goosebumps across his skin. Removing the frosted cloth, Elsa bent down and trailed her tongue across the bruise, tasting the salty tang of his skin while leaving a trail of frost behind. Revel groaned and shifted, but couldn't get up the gumption to move onto his back.

"You are cruel," he moaned as his love slid down in front of him.

"Am I now? I thought I was helping," Elsa teased.

"Helping things in other places, it seems," Revel groaned and shifted again. The queen's sudden, wicked smile didn't ease the tension building in his pants, and he pulled her to his lips while trying to ignore the now dull ache of his bruised ribs. Their kiss was passion laced and lasted until they needed to break for breath. "So, you've decided to be a tease?"

Elsa tossed her head back and laughed. "Why Captain, isn't that the point of woman? Weren't we put on earth to tempt men into vile, debase acts that would surely make God blush?" As she spoke, she slid her hand down his stomach, his muscles tensing as she went, and slipped her fingers under the hem of his pants. Revel's breath caught in his throat as her cold hand enclosed around him. Elsa smiled devilishly and nuzzled into his neck, breathing lukewarm breaths against the sensitive skin just below his ear.

"Y-you're going to g-give me…frostbite, you know," he tried to say but simple things like forming sentences with his tongue were becoming increasingly difficult. Especially when he wanted to use his tongue in more pleasurable ways.

"I assure you, my ice won't hurt you so long as I will it not to," Elsa purred into his ear, wringing a wave of shivers from him which then ripped into a sharp gasp of discomfort for more than one reason. Before she could say anything more, Revel rolled her onto her back, satisfied that her robe had fallen open in the process. He glimpsed a strange looking blue crystal hanging around her neck, but thought nothing of it. The queen stared up at him with a knowing grin.

"And here I thought you weren't able to move. Maybe I should rethink my invitation for you to stay."

Revel growled throatily and dove into the sweat flesh of her neck, kissing and nipping his way down her body until he reached the destination that had taken over his thoughts. He had every intention of using his mouth and tongue for more than just teasing banter, and by the end of his own brand of teasing, Elsa was gasping and writhing under him like a worm on a hook. Together they brought each other to the edge of madness and beyond, bodies pulsing with orgasmic fire that, after running its course, left the two happily exhausted.

Elsa spooned in close to Revel, beyond satisfied and already drifting into the between stages of sleep. She felt him shift until her found a comfortable position that didn't irritate his bruises, heard him murmur things into her hair, felt herself smile, but couldn't make her mouth form any response. Sighing contentedly, she closed her eyes, drifting to sleep almost instantly, and stumbled into chaos the moment her mind touched the dream world.

Bodies pressed in on her from every direction; men jostling for footing and screaming at his neighbor, "hold the line!" her ears filling with the sound of iron striking iron, wooden shields splintering, and men dying. She could smell the heady musk of churned earth, the pungent scent of sweating bodies, the iron tang of blood, and the sickening sweet smell of spilt bodily fluids. Panicked, Elsa scrambled backwards, pushing away from the crushing press of the shield wall and the razor sharp pieces of iron reaching out for her. Will-ice dagger in hand, she stumbled into open ground, unsure of where she was or what was happening but knowing she had to get away as fast as possible. Ice powers or no, surrounded by men with swords with no change for escape meant she was as good as dead, or as dead as you could be in a dream. When a cluster of armed warriors rushed her, she immediately sank into her fighter's stance and lashed out only to have her attack fade through one of the men as if he were smoke. Confused, Elsa jumped to the side only to block the path of another charging warrior. Bracing for impact, the queen felt an odd rush of cool air as the man dissolved and reformed a few feet away, his eyes never catching sight of her.

Am I already dead? Elsa thought with a wild thrill of fear as two more warriors walked through her as if she were made out of smoke. No, not dead. I remember falling asleep next to Revel. I'm just…nonexistent.

Panic leveling out, the queen dissolved her will-ice dagger and scrambled towards higher ground in order to get a better look at the battle she'd been thrown into and hoped to maybe find a reason why she was here. Feet finding purchase in mud that left the rest of the men swarming around her stumbling and swearing, Elsa climbed the rise quickly. She reached the top of the rocky incline where she found a chard oak tree. It's bark was nothing more than white gray ash: it stood sentinel over the chaos below. As she reached the shade, she heard a shout go up from the battlefield and turned to survey the chaos.

The land below her was an unfamiliar territory. A wide valley unrolled under her like a green carpet, flanked on either side by an imposing forest that looked to be on fire. A spindly river bisected the valley, its waters churned into muddy paste as hundreds of boots marched through it. Elsa could see what she suspected was perhaps three thousand men advancing across the valley towards where she stood, all wearing the same yellow and green as the warriors currently engaging a small cluster of leather clad warriors. Off in the distance, behind the shifting clouds of black smoke rising from the tops of the trees, she could see the low humps of mountains rolling along the horizon. A familiar cry sounded above her, and Elsa looked up to see Himmelen circling.

I see you, Himmelen, now where is your mistress?

As if in answer to her unspoken question, Elsa heard Saja's voice carry over the din of battle like rolling thunder.

"To me! For up and brace for impact! Shield wall and wait for my command! Spears! Get your fucking spears raised before Earl Elerend's warriors trample us!"

Elsa watched as the swarm of men surrounding Saja thinned and straightened into a somewhat cohesive shield wall, shields overlapping their neighbor creating a solid wall of wood and steel, seconds before a larger force of warriors, men sporting yellow and green clan colors, slammed unmercifully into Saja's men. The wall held for a moment, two tidal forces pressing against one another while spears and swords poked over the top of shields, killing or wounding men on both side. Eventually, the strain on the smaller force was too much, and Saja's line broke like a dam under pressure. Earl Elerend's men poured into the gaps, cutting down great swatches of men as they scrambled to raise their shields and weapons in time. Immediately following the breech, blasts of arctic magic erupted from the tangle, men from both factions flying in any given direction as Saja's power ripped through them.

With her unobstructed view, Elsa watched with wide eyed wonder as the Frost Born plowed through rank after rank of yellow and green clad warriors, ice sword and shield flashing in the watery sunlight. Ducking, weaving, slicing, bumping, punching, stabbing, Saja did it all with such fine precision it looked as if she were dancing rather than fighting for her life. Three men converged on her at once, but Saja didn't seem bothered. Face set with grim determination and spattered with blood, the shield maiden cut each man down, her ice sword cleaving libs from bodies and splitting shields in half as if they were made out of tissue paper. But no matter how many men she killed more always took their place, and before long, Saja and her company were pinned on three sides by the enemy.

"Saja, we need to retreat!" Elsa head a man's voice carry over the din of battle. No, she hadn't heard it carry over the cacophonous roar, she'd heard it as if she were standing right next to him, as if he were speaking into her ear.

Am I hearing through Saja's ears now?

"We have to hold them off just a little bit longer! Earl Karlson should be here any minute with reinforcements!" Saja screamed in reply, kicking out the knee of the warrior in front of her and burying her sword in his chest.

"We can't! We've already lost too many men. Saja, please, we have to call a retreat!"

"Then call it, but I'm staying to hold off these sheep fuckers for as long as possible!"

Saja spun and planted the heel of her boot into the groin of a charging warrior, doubling the man over. Using his crumpled form as a boost, she leapt into the air and slammed back into the earth with a resounding boom. Ice erupted under her in a wave of bitter cold, and the men pressing in around her and her band of clustered warriors stumbled on the sheets of ice. It was a welcome diversion, one the queen watching the fray could appreciate, but it wasn't a fix for Saja's predicament. Most of the enemy warriors had metal spikes driven into their shoes that gave them traction on ice, and those few continued attacking with an almost vengeful furry. Still, Saja fought on, using her magic to throw men, impale them, pin them, freeze them, and anything else she could think of, but there were just to many.

"Gunnar, Gunnar! Take Rag and your men and get to higher ground, now! Tell the archers in the cairn we need them yesterday!"

"I'm not leaving without you," the man named Gunnar said as he pulled his sword free from the gut of a dying man while simultaneously burying his axe in the neck of another, blood spattering his already gore slicked face.

"Goddamnit Gunnar, I'm your leader first and your wife second! Just take them and go! I'll hold them off!"

"Like hell you will! Rag!" Gunnar shouted over his shoulder as another man fell to his blade. His sword arm and shoulder was screaming at him, but still he raised and lowered it, knowing if he faltered for a moment it would mean his death.

"A little busy!" a tall, fair haired man, stripped to the waist and covered in blood, replied from a few feet away.

"Take our men and run for the ridge. Saja and I will keep them off your tail."

Rag, a bear of man with tree trunks for arms and a barrel chest that barely contained the muscles rippling under his skin, looked as if he might object to Gunnar's command, but he simply nodded his shaggy blond head and shouted for his men to follow.

Elsa saw the cluster of bloodied warriors climb past her, and realized the cairn Saja and Gunnar had been speaking of was directly behind her. Instinctively, she moved out of the way as more men clambered up the incline at an almost desperate speed. Rag paused and looked back at the two wayward warriors standing in front of an imposing warband and growled with frustration before pulling himself away.

"You ready for the press?" Elsa heard Saja say as Gunnar rejoined her after dispatching a few unlucky souls, effectively clearing a path for them to engage the next wave of enemy warriors making their way up the incline towards the squat cairn behind them.

"I'm ready to go home and end this fuck'n clan warfare," Gunnar replied readjusting his grip on his small axe.

"We share the same thoughts," Saja said with a grim smile. "Get close to me, I'm going to clear us some room and give Rag a head start."

Gunnar stepped behind Saja as she drew on her power, the air around them both dropping to an abominable degree. Using both feet as an anchor, she raised her hands above her head, a silent prayer set to the gods, then brought them down on either side of her as if slamming a hammer against an anvil. A ring of ice quickly surrounded the two and spread out under the feet of the approaching yellow and green clad warriors who slowed their approach to a cautious crawl. Palms down, Saja connected with her ice and fed it an image of what she wanted. Instantly it complied, and hundreds of thin stalagmites of translucent winter shot out of the icy ground like a porcupine springing its quills, impaling any man unlucky enough to be standing near one. Countless screams rose into the air as the Frost Born braced herself and pushed. The ring of deadly ice spikes widened, forcing men to retreat or be skewered. It was an effective attack but one that was hard to duplicate when in a tight press of bodies and unable to tell friend from foe.

"Where's Ragnar?" Saja asked pushing again and launched spikes off the ice base like javelins. Three or four waves of Earl Elerend's men collapsed, dead or dying. Those who were dead acted as flesh and blood buffers for the men climbing over the spike wall towards Saja and Gunnar, and the two warriors readied for another attack.

"Half way up the rise. How many fractures do you have left?"

"Enough to finish this! I'll disperse the rest of my magic once we're far enough away."

"You've used too much already, Saja! We need to get to my brother and get under cover!"

"I know! But we can't run with this many—"


Gunnar pushed Saja out of the way and raised his shield in time to catch an arrow that would have likely plunged through the Frost Born's shoulder. Immediately, she countered with her own icy projectile, killing the archer before he could string another arrow.

"That was too close. Come on!" Gunnar yelled taking Saja by the arm and dragging her up the incline towards the cairn. Arrows whistled past them as they ran, hand in hand, up the rise, but as they stepped onto a level plateau, Saja felt the brush of Himmelen's thoughts touch hers.

Mother, there is a squad of enemies climbing the opposite side of the hill towards you. They are hidden behind the cluster of bounders to your left.

Immensely grateful she'd sent Himmelen into the sky, Saja relayed the ice hawk's message to Gunnar and the two readied themselves. Reaching the cluster of boulders, a squad of yellow and green warriors stepped in front of them, effectively cutting them off. They were surprised, however, when the lone warriors didn't pull up in shock.

"Gunnar, turtle back!" Saja yelled as they continued to run full tilt towards the opposing faction who had raised a wobbly shield wall.

Gunnar skidded to a stop a few feet in front of Saja, slung his shield over his back, and hunched over. Saja, still running full tilt, jumped into a flip over her husband's back, sliding on the slick surface of the shield, chambered her magic, and let it erupt as she landed. The shield wall in front of her split down its middle as a wall of ice rose up between the ranks, opening a small pathway for the two warriors. Taking no chances, Gunnar and Saja darted through the tunnel at a breakneck speed, arms and legs pumping. The two were nearly next to Elsa where she stood in shocked silence when an arrow streaked out of the sky and pierced Gunnar in the back. Grunting, he continued to run until a second arrow caught him in the left thigh, toppling him.

"Get up!" Saja screamed as she attempted to pull her husband to his feet. Gunnar grunted with the effort of standing and went down hard onto bent knee when his leg wouldn't hold him.

"Keep going!" he shouted pushing Saja away towards the cairn.

"Not without you!"

"You know I'm going to slow you down, and you have to get to the cairn, Saja. You have to tell Earl Kelvinson about the betrayal. There only needs to be one mouth for that task."

"I'm not leaving you here to die!"

"Go, I'll meet you in Valhalla," Gunnar said pushing her away from him as the line of warriors, now two hundred thick, raced up the incline towards them, not more than fifty yards away.

"You stubborn jackass, we're dying together or not at all!"

Before the first wave of warriors hit them, Gunnar grabbed Saja by the front of her gore stained black chainmail vest and pulled into a crushing kiss. For half a heartbeat he held her close, savoring the taste of her, the softness of her lips, and smell of her distinctive peppermint scent before breaking the connection and physically throwing her farther up the incline.

"Run, Saja!"

The Frost Born barely had time to open her mouth in a cry of protest before the first yellow and green clad warrior struck.

Elsa and Saja both watched in horror as the man's blade sliced a wide red arch through Gunnar's chest, effectively opening him up from his jugular to just above his right armpit. He spun once, eyes wide with shock, before collapsing to his knees in front of Saja, blood gushing from the wound in his neck. Earl Elerend's warrior would have continued through with his momentum and cleaved Gunnar's head clean off his shoulders had Saja not put an ice spike through his chest, her scream echoing so loudly the very earth shook. The approaching warband jogged to a halt. She sank down in front of Gunnar, her hands attempting to stem the flow of blood oozing from his wound, red wetness staining her skin and running down her arms in warm rivers of red.

"Gunnar, no," she choked, eyes glassy with tears. "No, no, no, stay with me! Don't go! Come on, you can fight this…you can…you— oh gods, no…No!"

Gunnar went limp in Saja's arm even as he struggled to form words, struggled to tell her to run and that he loved her, eyes staring into blank nothingness. Elsa put a hand over her mouth, tears of her own spilling down her face as she watched Saja sob over her fallen husband, hands clenching his blood soaked tunic so hard her knuckles were turning white. Time seemed to stand still. Even the attacking enemy stopped in order to watch the drama unfolding before them until one man stepped out from behind the shield wall and removed his helmet.

"Surrender yourself to us, winter witch, and we'll leave the cairn untouched," Earl Elerend said from the head of his warband. When he was met with no reply, he sighed dramatically and leaned on his spear. "All of this could have been avoided had you not run from me. I would have spared Gunnar and the rest of them, but you doomed them to die, Saja. Remember that."

Even if this were a dream, Elsa felt the shift in power like a storm front rolling in off the sea. She could smell the scent of mountain frost and felt the bite of bitter winds as they swept over the valley. The buzzing she'd felt under her skin during her first meeting with Saja returned with a vengeance, and all she wanted to do was dig her nails into her arms and claw out the feeling. Dream or not, memory or not, Elsa could feel a different, dark magic enveloping the Frost Born as she clung to the body of her lover and rocked back and forth.

"Our magic can be a terrible thing to behold," Elsa repeated Saja's words in a hushed whisper as she watched the woman closely. She knew something terrible was about to happen but couldn't pull her eyes away from the scene unfolding before her.

The silent moment ended when Saja, sucking in heaving breaths as tears rolled down her face, looked up from the broken body of her lover and screamed. The blue of her eyes steadily dissolved into metallic white, ice spread across the ground around her and falling from the overcast sky in fat snowflakes as her fury took control. Earl Elerend scrambled back behind the protection of shields, shouting for his men to stay together.

"I won't let you go," Saja rasped as her magic unconsciously encased Gunnar's body, shifting and creeping over every inch of him like a second, translucent skin. Something inside of her was breaking, Saja could feel it all the way down to her core. It was unclear whether or not it was her mind or her magic, but something was giving way under the force of her despair. "We die together or not at all. That was the deal."

It only took seconds for her magic to permeate every part of him inside and out, to coat every muscle strand, every organ. When it was done, she raised her head, glowing eyes glued on the now petrified warband, and whispered five trembling words into the icy ear of her dead husband.

"So we'll kill them all."

Suddenly fueled by a strange and terrible magic, Gunnar's body lurched to life and slowly stood. The warband took a collective step backwards, eyes shining with a new kind of fear as they watched the reanimated corpse turn towards them in a jerky, stop-motion movement. Saja, black chainmail growing gray and white as if turning to ash as her magic permeated her armor, stepped next to him and roared at the men before charging into the first terrified cluster with the suicidal abandon of a woman who had just lost everything.

Elsa watched in frozen horror as her ancestor charged, but it wasn't the fear of Saja's intended suicide that scared her. It was the ice corpse trudging along after her like a puppet on a string that put such a seizing terror in her soul she thought she'd never be able to move again. Bile forced its way into the back of her throat, and she swallowed hard in order to keep from vomiting.

This is what Anna could have been, she thought numbly as she watched the ice corpse kill warrior after warrior. This is what I could have turned her into.

The queen of Arendelle knew this was a losing battle; two warriors against two hundred, even if one was a Frost Born, were devastating odds, but something was happening on the battlefield. She could feel the pull of Saja's magic as it manipulated the world around her. Snow fell thick and heavy while freezing winds swept into the valley, but the air around her was…darker. It wasn't until one of the slain enemy warriors rose to his feet with jerky stop-motion movements that Elsa realized what Saja was doing…what Saja had the power to do.

Fallen warriors were quickly being encased in translucent blue ice and rising from their graves. Some were so grievously wounded it was difficult for them to stand or move, but the magic forced them into action regardless, and they turned on their terrified comrades, propelled by Saja's force of will. Now, where there had been only two warriors against two hundred, the tides were turning in the Frost Born's favor as every man killed by her, or her reanimated corpses, fell under her command.

Her arm rose and fell hundreds of times as she cut down any man in her way. Above, the storm bearing down on the valley grew in intensity, blood and snow falling together like a mismatched rain, beauty and death married for a frozen moment in time. Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw Gunnar and the other ice warriors take blow after blow, but, since their bodies were encased in ice as powerful as Saja's will, not a single blade pierced the aquamarine shell. Even the dozens of arrows fired at close range weren't enough to break the Frost Born's ice. It was unclear how long and how hard Saja and her reanimated warriors fought, one moving at an almost superhuman speed while the others delivered blow after blow with a jerky fluidity that was both inhuman and terrifying. Earl Elerend's men, after witnessing Saja savagely decapitate their Earl, fled the incline, throwing down their weapons and running as the corpses lumbered after them on stiff, unyielding legs.

Eventually, when there was no one left to fight, Saja dropped her numb arms and watched the retreating warband, breaths coming in so hard and so fast she thought she was going to pass out. The blizzard swirling around her continued to rage, bands of snow blowing almost horizontally at the behest of the wickedly strong wind. The storm would chase the men back to their settlement, back to their homes, and rage for days, likely killing the village in the process. Saja was fine with that. Stiffly, she turned towards her collection of dead warriors and stared at them with cold, hard eyes. After a moment of calculated deliberation, she seemed to reach a decision and raised her hand, calling her ice back to her. The bodies of nearly a hundred men simultaneously crumpled to the ground. Only one remained standing. Only one truly mattered.

"We did it, Gunnar. We did it," Saja whispered, eyes blurring as exhaustion set in. The ice corpse of Gunnar stopped moving, head lolling to one side exposing the horrific gash in his neck that had very nearly taken his head off. Blood and other bodily fluids caked the dead warrior from the chest down, and Elsa, still standing in fixed horror not thirty feet away, found it hard to look at the creature for more than a few seconds.

I have to get out of here. I have to wake up. Why can't I wake up?

Slowly, Saja stumbled over to her dead husband on stiff legs that matched his. Reaching up, she gently wiped away the blood from his face and stared into eyes that no longer saw her, that no longer held any life save for the mockery she'd bestowed on him with her magic.

"I don't want to let you go," Saja suddenly choked and put a hand against Gunnar's cheek, tears spilling down her face. Unknown to her, a small band lead by Rag had descended from the cairn and stopped a few feet away, staring wide eyed at the ice corpse and the woman responsible for making him.

"I love you," Saja whispered and kissed the man that had once been her soul mate, who had won her heart and forged a love for her out of battle and chaos, gently on his forehead.

"I love you," the ice corpse mimicked Saja's words, and the Frost Born felt like someone had torn her heart out through her back.

With a shaky wave of her hand, the magic surrounding Gunnar disappeared and he crumpled to the ground, dead for the rest of eternity. Saja fell with him, head pressed against his ice cold chest as fresh tears fell from her eyes and she screamed until her throat bled.

Elsa felt tears of her own slide down her face, a choking sob squeezed from her throat. This had been what Saja had been hinting at when she'd spoken to her about what could have happened with Anna. This was the pain she'd seen veiled behind the woman's ancient eyes. Suddenly, a hand clamped around her arm and she let out a startled scream and spun. The Saja she knew, the woman wearing fur and leather and chainmail, stood behind her with such pain in her azure eyes the queen took a reflexive step away from her.

"Who gave you the right to make me relive this?" Saja all but sobbed as she pointed an accusing finger at the carnage and tragedy before them, fighting to keep her emotions at bay but failing miserably.

"I…I didn't mean…I don't even know how—"

"You touched the brand with troll magic!?" Saja stepped back, disgust and rage warring for dominance over her face. "You stupid, ignorant girl! Do you know what forces you were playing with? What you could have done? And of all the horrors in my life, you had to bring this one to the surface?!"

Elsa opened her mouth to object, to tell the woman it had all been a misunderstanding, that she had no knowledge of troll magic, that she hadn't meant or wanted to see anything of Saja's past, but before she could the Frost Born reached out and gripped the brand on Elsa's shoulder. White hot pain erupted from the mark, and she screamed.

"Go back," Saja roared and shoved her descendent as hard as she could backwards, "and stay out of my memories! And if you ever call me with troll magic again, I swear to all the gods above and below, I will kill you!"

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 14 of 24

<< Previous     Home     Next >>