Continuing Tales

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 15 of 24

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Blurriness and pain gave way to blackness and pain. It felt as if Elsa fell through the void of time for an eternity until she slammed back into her bed with such force the mattress bucked under the sudden, unexpected landing. Scrambling for purchase, she grabbed ahold of the sheets as she skidded across her bed and would have fallen off the opposite side had Revel not been there to take the fall for her. With a startled yelp, he tumbled to the floor in a tangle of sheets, suddenly very awake and aware that something was wrong. Out of reflex, he sprang to his feet, body poised in a fighters stance ready to counter an attack, but none came. At least, not the type of attack he'd been expecting.

"Elsa? Elsa, what's wrong?" Revel asked as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. He could see her curled into an impossibly tight ball at the edge of the bed, right hand clamped down over her left shoulder.

The queen tried to speak, tried to make her tongue form words, but the pain radiating from the brand on her skin was enough to take her wits from her, and all she could do was fight back the screams building in her throat by gnashing her teeth and shivering. And while her body shook with pain, her head swam with images she couldn't comprehend. It seemed as if her and Saja's memories were bleeding together like two jars of different colored ink tipped over onto a slick wood table. Elsa couldn't tell where one memory began and another ended, and the madness of so many jumbled sights, sounds, smells and sensations was putting her body into sensory overload. She vaguely heard Revel ask her what was wrong, but she certainly felt it when he scooped her into his arms in an attempt to move her back into the middle of her bed and heard her voice as she screamed into his shoulder.

"You need to tell me what's wrong," he said with as much firm gentility as he could muster while trying not to panic. "Is it your magic? Did something hurt you? Did I hurt you?" When she didn't respond, Revel took her face in his hands and turned her towards the weak moonlight streaming in through the triangular window. Elsa's eyes were open but they were hazy and unfocused. She stared past him as if he weren't there, as if she were watching something happening far off in the distance, and all the while her labored breath washed across his face in frigid waves.

Panicked now, he lit the small lamp on the table beside her bed and pulled up short when he saw the mark on her shoulder. Earlier that night, the strange handprint had been a shimmery metallic color, hardly noticeable unless he looked for it. Now, however, the skin had turned an angry black and the edges looked to be rimmed in frost.

"What's happening?" he breathed and tried to gently remove her hand so he could get a better look. That seemed to rouse her a bit. Her eyes cleared fractionally, and she stared up at him in utter confusion before the pain set in again and she screwed her eyes shut against the agony.

"Let me see." Revel reaching for her hand again. Elsa shook her head violently and tried to turn away from him, but he caught her and rolled her onto her back. "Elsa, stop. I need to see what's wrong. Something's not right."

"Please. It — oh God, oh God — please make it stop," she choked, eyes brimming with tears.

"I know, love; I know. Please, let me help."

Lacking the will to fight him much longer, Elsa removed her hand from her shoulder and turned her head away so that Revel could see what was happening for himself. Careful not to jostle her, he bent low and examined the handprint in the light of the table lamp, stunned by how dark the mark had become. This close, he could feel the chilling cold rising from the brand like heat haze off hot stones.

"Is this your magic doing this?"

Elsa shook her head and began to shake with the effort of keeping her own magic at bay. Her body knew she was in pain and wanted to react, but with Revel so close she couldn't trust herself to let it out safely. So, she weathered the back build of power with white knuckle determination. That is, until Revel unexpectedly laid his own hand across the mark and immediately regretted his rash decision. The pain that exploded through both their bodies was cataclysmic. Elsa arched off the bed, throat clamping shut even as she tried to scream, and Revel rocked back with the force of the magic sizzling up his arm and dispersing across his chest. He would have removed his hand if he could, but a thick layer of ice had instantly encased his hand, locking it to the queen's shoulder.

Body curling in on itself involuntarily, Revel gasped as an overwhelming cold crept up his spine and wrapped around his head with arctic fingers. Suddenly, the world around him fell away as hundreds of images flooded his mind like the sporadic flashing of heat lightning.


He saw a woman that could only be described as winter incarnate, pale skin, white hair, and the gray eyes of a wolf, watching a young girl no older than perhaps eight build creations with ice magic.


The same wintery woman stands next to another woman who was nearly identical to Elsa in every way save for her hair and eyes. She holds the body of a man and screams at the heavens with what could only be described as pure anguish.


The same woman who looked like Elsa stands next to a blond haired man, her stomach swollen with child.


Elsa's double wears a crown of ice and gold and is seated on a modest throne.


A happy family, mother and husband play with four children of varying ages.


Three graves for three little bodies, and a blizzard unlike anything Revel had ever seen raging in a village burnt to ash.


A crucifix breaks apart on a table as a spike of ice is driven through the tiny edifice of Christ.


The wintery woman with white hair and wolf gray eyes cradling the body of Elsa's double in her arms as she entered a misty cave surrounded to strange looking boulders.

The last flash lingered a little longer that the rest before the connection was suddenly severed, and Revel fell into blackness.

He woke some time later on his own accord, head pounding as if it had been used as a croquette ball. Reluctant to open his eyes but knowing it was necessary, he cracked them infinitesimally and wasn't surprised at all to find himself staring at one of the ornate feet of Elsa's bed.

I must have fallen off.

Shaking the cloying hands of unconsciousness from his body, Revel attempted to sit up and felt his body voice its displeasure at being moved. His ribs were still bruised and aching, adding to his growing headache. Falling off the bed, he'd landed on his left side, waking more displeased shouts as he attempted to shift onto his stomach. But the pain that overrode everything else seemed to be the fiery heat radiating from his right palm. The room was still dark, but the table lamp had remained lit, so he pulled himself into a sitting position with his left hand and examined his right in the orange light. Most of the skin of his right palm was gone, the bloody raw tissue gleaming in the weak light.

It's like I've been burned.

His mind flashed back to the moment six years ago when he'd cradled an unconscious Elsa in his arms as he followed Kai and Gerda to an open guest room. The queen had collapsed in her chambers after the news of her parent's death. Revel had caught a glimpse of the wounds on her body caused by her power, had seen the ruin that had been her hands, and his skin looked eerily similar to her wounds.

Thinking about Elsa snapped his mind back to the present and he scrambled to his feet. She sat motionless against the headboard of her bed, knees against her chest and arms wrapped tightly around her legs. Her wide, vacant eyes, stared past the large triangular window as her breath came in fast and shallow. Revel could see a streak of bright crimson trailing down her left arm and focused his attention on that in order to give himself the motivation to move despite his body's angry protests.

"Elsa?" he said, cautiously easing himself onto the edge of the bed. She didn't respond, didn't seem to even see or hear him, and the Captain recognized the symptoms of shock immediately. It was unclear whether or not she was hurt anywhere else aside from her shoulder, so to be safe, Revel quickly dressed his own wound by cutting strips of cloth from her bed sheets and winding them around his hand before attempting to untangle her from the ball she was scrunched into.

"Listen to my voice. You're alright, but I need you to come back to me. I'm right here, right in front of you." With the back of his left hand, he trailed his fingers down her cheek and jaw. He felt her shift slightly and saw her lips move, but couldn't understand what she'd said. Her lips moved again as she began repeating the same thing over and over again.

"I didn't want to see."

"Didn't want to see what?" Revel watched tears well in her eyes and roll down her cheeks, and still she kept repeating the same thing. Then he realized with a thrill of shock that she must have seen the same things he had. Taking her face in his hands and ignoring the pain of his right hand, he leaned in close and put his forehead against her.

"What did you see?"

"Everything," she whispered, cold breath washing across his face.

Revel jerked back and raised her head, searching her face. Slowly, the vacancy in Elsa's eyes dissipated, and she focused on him. The Captain breathed a sigh of relief and wrapped her in his arms, holding her tightly. There was always a chance when someone went into shock they wouldn't recover from it quickly. He'd seen it happen before and had experienced the effects for himself, but how the victim's recovery depended solely on their strength of will. It was a relief that Elsa was steadily rising out of the hazy fog of confusion and blackness. After a long, silent moment, the queen seemed to regain her senses and sagged into her lover, well beyond the point of exhausted.

"I'm going to lay you down and clean the blood from your shoulder," Revel murmured into her ear. She nodded her head weakly and allowed him to lay her back against her pillows. He found a basin of water on her vanity and brought it over, thankful there had also been a washcloth next to it.

"Seems I'm always cleaning blood off you somehow or another," he remarked with a forced smile as he bent over her and began gently wiping the blood away. The handprint wasn't as black as it had been, nor as cold, and it didn't seem to be giving the queen any pain now.

That or she's numbed to it.

"You saw her too," Elsa said after a stretch of silence. Revel stopped wiping at her shoulder and looked down at her, brow scrunched.

"I…I don't know who or what I saw."

"Saja. You were seeing Saja, my ancestor."

"The woman who looked like you, that was Saja?"

Elsa nodded, continuing to stare at the ceiling. "Yes. She's been coming to me in my dreams and speaking to me. That's where the handprint came from. It's her mark and how she communicates with me."

Revel leaned back and set the bloodied cloth back in the basin. He knew she wasn't lying, didn't have the capacity to lie at the moment, but the implications of what she was telling him were fantastical at best. Dream visits from an ancestor? Magical handprints that connect the living to the dead?

Fool, you're in love with a woman who conjures ice as easily as breathing. How is what she's saying farfetched in any way?

"The mark on your shoulder had almost faded away until tonight. What happened? Does this happen whenever she comes to your in your sleep?" he asked cautiously.

"No, I made her angry," the queen said, and Revel could hear the fear and sorrow in her voice. A wayward tear slipped out of the corner of her eye and disappeared into her mussed hair at her temple. "She's been teaching me about my powers and how to better control them. I hadn't seen her in a while, and I had questions for her, so I tried to summon her with my magic…only something went wrong." Her voice began to shake as more tears spilled from her shinning blue eyes, fingers curling around the crystal lying against her chest. "I didn't know," she choked.

"Know what?" he asked gently, moving stray hairs away from her face and attempting to thumb away her tears.

"That I was summoning her with troll magic. I…I thought it had just been my magic touching the mark but..." Whatever else she was going to say fell away as the storm of emotions she'd been trying to hold at bay finally broke through her defenses. Heavy sobs wracked her small frame, and she buried her face in her hands, curling into a ball on her side. Revel, at a loss as to how to help her, wrapped her in his arms and held her close.

It would take quite some time before she settled down enough to do more than even out her breathing, and by then her exhaustion had sapped the last ounce of consciousness from her. As Elsa slipped into a fitful sleep, Revel continued to hold her, confused and disturbed by the night's events, but unwilling to leave her side. He couldn't explain what he'd seen or felt in those moments while connected with the queen. Perhaps it had been a form of fever dream brought on by the pain of her magic. Perhaps it had been a glimpse into the past, as Elsa had said. Whatever it had been, it had shaken Revel to his core, but there was one thing he knew for certain: he would not be letting Elsa sleep alone from now on. Not when the threat of an attack from unseen forces could come in the night. And he was good on his promise; he didn't let Elsa sleep alone from that night on, sneaking into her room through the bookcase passage and staying with her until just before sunrise.

At first, Elsa had objected to the idea when Revel approached the subject the evening after her nighttime attack. They had met in the guard tower under the cover of darkness as they had for months now, only no training would be had this evening. Instead, Revel dedicated the rest of the night to making certain he got his point across to his lover and was also able to clear up his training chamber from the cluttered mess it had become in preparation to the Summit.

"Absolutely not. What if someone walks in? What if someone catches us? How are we going to explain ourselves?"

"Then ice your door at night," Revel had said with a casual shrug as he rolled a few large barrels of unfinished knife blades across the training chamber floor. He needed them polished, sharpened, and fitted for handles before the Trade Summit began in two weeks' time. Most of Arendelle's blacksmiths were already overloaded with orders, so the Captain would put his men to work the next morning assembling the daggers. It would be a nice reprieve for them before the week of hell that the Spring Trade Summit usually turned into, as well as providing a chance to teach some of the newer recruits how to assemble their own knives. It was an invaluable skill when oftentimes there was only enough money to supply the guards with a single small knife for personal use. Most of the older guards had made their own weapons and carried those on them as a way to both stand out amongst their peers and to assure themselves they knew what weapon they were fighting with.

"What if my ice fails?" Elsa countered as she helped him with two more barrels, these filled with jars of powder dye and unspun sheep's wool. Until the new store house was finished, which according to the master craftsman would be later that week, the guard tower and Revel's training chamber had become a safe place to store tradable goods.

"Elsa, when has your ice ever failed you?"


"Can't think of a single moment off the top of your head," Revel interrupted and dashed a kiss on her cheek.

"My ice arrow," she said stubbornly, crossing her arms over her chest after securing her barrel against the others.

"I broke that with a fair amount of force, so it's safe to believe that in order for someone to break the ice on your door they'd have to hit it pretty hard. I'm sure we'd wake up before that."

"That's not the point, Revel. I don't want to risk—"

The Captain put a finger to her lips, effective silencing her. "It's a risk we'll just have to take, because I'm not going to let you sleep alone. Not after that night attack you suffered."

"It…it wasn't an attack," Elsa sighed, lowering her eyes. She knew there was no arguing with Revel when he latched on to something, and, truth be told, she was actually grateful for his presence at night. Just having him close put the queen's mind at peace which was something she desperately needed as the Trade Summit neared.

So Revel began sleeping in the queen's quarters despite her previous objections. To Elsa's great relief, the mark on her shoulder had all but faded into obscurity once again over the course of a couple of nights. If only the memories of what she had seen while connected to the Frost Born's mind would fade as well. She could conjure the disturbing images into her conscious thought without much effort and examine them with frightening clarity. When she closed her eyes, the images became even more intensely vivid. She could still see the bright spray of Gunnar's blood, smell the irony tang in the air. She could feel Saja's rage, the cold more bitter than any high mountain air, but what scared her the most was remembering the jerky stop-motion movement of the ice corpses. Battle and bloodshed she was capable of weathering, but seeing the corpses rise again with new, terrible, stone cold life had scared her more than anything. It was a reminder of what she almost did to Anna.

It truly was a fate worse than death, Elsa thought with a shiver as she continued to help Revel stack barrels.

"We are not naming our child Harald," Anna said leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms over her chest. Less than two weeks separated the royal family from the Trade Summit, and she and Kristoff had been spending the majority of their time in the library recently trying to decide on names for the baby, and neither of them were getting anywhere. Anna couldn't tell if it was the stress of helping her sister or Kristoff's unease about choosing the perfect name, but the princess's patience was starting to fray along the edges at the same rate of her husband's.

"How is Harald a bad name for a boy? It's better than Alf or Erling," the mountain man countered, looking up from the book he'd been thumbing through.

"It just doesn't seem to fit," Anna explained with an exasperated sigh.

"Well, if we're going that route, might as well not name him for a year and wait and see what name fits him best as he grows. And we're still under the assumption you're having a boy. What about if there's a little girl growing in there?"

"A mother knows her children," the princess said lifting her chin slightly. "I can tell this is definitely a boy rolling around in my stomach. He flails just like you do when you're excited."

"I do not flail," Kristoff muttered and returned to the book of ancestral names Anna had found. "Why does he have to have a Nordic name? Why can't we name him something different?"

"It's tradition. Either he gets a Nordic name or a Christian one, and you seem to be against the latter of the two, so Nordic it is."

It wasn't that Kristoff disliked Christian names; he just found them irritatingly bland and generic. During his life as an ice harvester, he'd interacted with countless clients with names like Sarah or Joseph or Mary or Simon, and rising into the ranks of the elite hadn't changed the names either. So no, his son or daughter needed a name that would both command attention and respect as well as stick in the memory.

"What about Beldesh or Carvem?"

"Where do you see those names anywhere in that book?" Anna asked quirking an eyebrow.

"They aren't in the book. Those are troll names."

"How are we going to explain the origins of those names to people?"

"Do we have to?"

Anna planted her elbows on the table and stared at her husband. "Yes. Bishop Arren will ask for the meaning behind the name, and if we tell him they're troll names…I'm not quite sure how he'll react. I suspect badly since trolls really aren't smiled to fondly on in the Catholic religion."

Kristoff scrunched his face into a scowl. "Why does it matter? It's our baby, not Arren's or the Church's. If we want to give it a troll name then we can damn well do that!"

"Kristoff, you don't understand—"

"No, I don't understand!" he said rising angrily from his chair and snatching up the book that was now completely useless to him. He found the empty hole where it belonged in the rows of bookcases and slammed it back in place. "Why do you royals give your religion so much power over every aspect of your life? Why does everything have to be approved by the Church before you ever make a move?"

"Because that's just the way it's been," Anna answered with a deep sigh. This wasn't the first time her husband had become angry when the subject of religion and the Church had been broached. Most of the fights they'd shared while courting had involved Anna's religion and Kristoff's inability to understand why she was forced to function under so many constricting and pointless rules. Eventually they had agreed to disagree, but now the tension had been rekindled because they had to have a baby name ready for Arren once Anna gave birth.

"It's irritating and controlling!" Kristoff shouted pointing to the door. "We should be the ones who choose what to name our child, and the Church be damned! They don't have the final say in our lives!"

Anna looked startled by his words, but she wasn't the one who jumped three feet into the air when a blast of icy air hit Kristoff in the back. Spinning, he stared at the queen as she stepped into the library and quietly closed the door behind her, cerulean orbs shinning in the warm sunlight. He could tell by the rigid set of her stance she wasn't happy.

"There are certain things I will not tolerate in my palace, brother-in-law, and speaking ill of the Church is one of them," Elsa said as she walked further into the room. Without glancing back, she flicked her wrist towards the door and iced it closed, ensuring no one could enter or leave without her consent. The sudden unease rolling off Kristoff was almost palpable.

"Elsa, please," Anna said standing as quickly as she could managed, "he was just—"

"I know what he was," Elsa interrupted, flicking her eyes towards her sister before returning her piercing stare to the mountain man, "and I can understand his frustration. This is a stressful time for you both, and sometimes a slip of the tongue is bound to happen, but please, police your tongue a little better in the future." Lowering her voice, the queen stepped closer to Kristoff and gave him a wan smile, "My sister and I are bound to the Church through our bloodline and tradition. We have no choice but to obey the laws created by our ancestors, but that does not mean we enjoy following them. There are many aspects of our laws that she and I dislike, but until they can be discreetly changed they must be followed by everyone. Do I make myself clear?"

Kristoff pulled back, genuinely surprised. He'd expected Elsa to be angry with him for speaking heresy against the Church, but apparently there was more to the queen then he understood. "Y-yes, I understand."

"Excellent. Also, remember this. Walls can have ears, Kristoff. I trust my staff, but if you are overheard speaking like you just were by anyone, there is a chance they will come to me with a complaint. Do not make things hard on you and your budding family. I understand your frustration," Elsa sighed and clasped her hands in front of her, "I really do, but you must keep your opinions to yourself or speak them quietly. Now, as far as baby names go, I will have the final say in what your child will be named, not bishop Arren. He will recognize the name through the Church, but he does not have the final say. One of the many laws I've been revamping within the last few months."

"I…um…thank you, Elsa," Kristoff said feeling heat rise into his cheeks as his anger fell away. "And I'm sorry for making a scene."

Elsa smiled fondly at her brother-in-law and moved towards the table where Anna stood looking just a little paler than normal. "You're welcome. Have either of you at least narrowed the search?"

"No," Anna said sitting back down in her chair and putting her face in her hands. For a moment, she had thought Elsa was going to rip into her husband about his rash words. Now that she knew her sister wasn't angry, and that she wouldn't have to jump in to save a floundering Kristoff, her body shook with the excess adrenalin coursing through her veins. Elsa seemed to notice the change in her and walked up behind her, putting a cool hand on the back of Anna's neck.

"Are you alright?"

"Yes, it's…this whole searching for baby names is a lot harder than I thought it would be," Anna replied and moaned lightly as her sister's cold fingers began to kneed the tight knots in her neck. "Oh, that feels good."

Elsa smiled and kept massaging as she looked over Anna's shoulder at the list of possible names. A few stood out, but none were anything she'd ever name a child, hers or otherwise. "Well, what about Sygard?"

"Great grandfather's name?" Anna inquired turning to look her sister.

The queen shrugged. "Or we can go farther back in our history and name him Ivar or Jostein." Elsa felt a twinge on her left shoulder and twitched, unsure why the handprint hidden there was suddenly tingling. Ignoring it, she continued, "I've always been fond of the name Jorik or Iona appealing."

"I kind of like the sound of Ivar." Kristoff shrugged and took his seat across from his wife.

"You would," Anna said making a face and sticking out her tongue. "Ivar was a warrior king who helped establish Arendelle as a stable kingdom."

"Well, then the name seems perfect."

"If you are certain you're having a boy, you could always name him Eugene," Elsa said offhandedly.

"Absolutely not," Kristoff said sitting up straighter at the same time Anna's eyes lit up.

"What's wrong with the name Eugene? My cousin is married to a man with that name," Anna sniffed defensively.

"It's an embarrassing name. What boy wants a name like that? And, as I recall, Rapunzel's Eugene lived under the alias of Flynn Rider for exactly that reason."

"I see nothing wrong with the name," Anna countered. "Eugene is a wonderfully sweet man, unlike you, mister grumpy-pants."

The two began to argue good-naturedly again, and Elsa thought it best she leave them to their name hunting. As she un-iced the door and left, she glanced back at the two and smiled, happy to see them so engaged in their child's life even before it was born. Her smile morphed into a sad frown and she sighed as she shut the door quietly, gently pressing a hand against her stomach. Yes, it was wonderful seeing how happy Kristoff and Anna were, but it was also a bitter sweet happiness for the queen.

Will I ever know the kind of happiness Anna feels right now? Will I ever get the chance to be a mother?

The thought both terrified and thrilled her. It would be the continuation of her bloodline, much like it was with Anna, but it would also be a chance for her to set things right in her mind. Elsa didn't blame her parents for what they had done to her when her powers began manifesting in a dangerous way, but she wanted to prove to herself and the world that the Snow Queen was just as capable of being a normal woman and loving mother as the rest of the women in her kingdom.

"So they're having trouble coming up with baby name?" Revel asked as he slid into bed next to Elsa and pulled her close. For a brief moment she let him hold her, let the warmth of his bare chest ease the tension in her back and shoulders that she'd been carrying around all day.

"Differences of opinion," Elsa replied.

"I know how that goes," Revel mumbled into her shoulder.

The queen turned and stared sharply at him. "Oh? Have you had to choose a baby name for someone before?"

"Not for anyone attached to me," Revel said a little wounded. "A few of my guards are family men, and I've heard them lamenting before about how difficult their wives are being with deciding on a name for the child. A few times they've asked me for my opinion."

"Oh, I…I didn't mean to assume," Elsa said quietly turning back around. It was still remarkable just how jealous she could get at the thought of another woman being with Revel. "I'm sorry."

I think that's something I need to work on.

"It's alright," he assured her and nuzzled into her neck. Elsa squeaked and curled into herself, stifling a string of giggles by pressing her face into the pillows under her and swatting half-heartedly at Revel. After a moment, her lover relented and set his head back down on the pillow.

"Do you have any favorite baby names?" Elsa shyly asked after a moment.

"I've never given the idea of fathering a child much thought," he admitted. "But that's not to say I wouldn't like to have a family someday," Revel added quickly when he felt Elsa deflate fractionally with disappointment. "A few names have stuck with me over the years. If I had a son…" he thought for a few moments, "I think I'd name him Hagan."

"And if you had a daughter?" Elsa inquired softly.

"Isotta, after my mother."

"They're beautiful names," the queen said fighting back a wide yawn.

"You're tired," Revel commented pulling the covers up around them.

"What was your first clue," Elsa said speaking through another yawn. "I swear I'm going to take a small vacation after the Summit is over."

"A wonderful idea. You of all people need a break."

"Maybe we could sail around the coast for a little while, just be away from everyone," Elsa slurred as she shifted until comfortable and sleep gently pulled her under.

Revel leaned over and kissed her temple gently. He knew it was just idle pre-sleep talk and that she wasn't thinking clearly. The Captain of the Guard accompanying his queen on a private tour of the coast was a scandal waiting to happen, and he'd never put his lover in that kind of situation. Still, the idea made him smile. The two of them alone on a ship with no one to judge them, no one to hide from; he could be with her fully and without fear.

"Maybe someday we can," he whispered before laying back.

Elsa was surprised that when she opened her eyes she was standing in the middle of a pine forest clearing, towering emerald fur giants standing sentinel around her. The rich scent of the pine was almost overpowering as the breeze stirred the needled branches. She turned in a slow circle taking in her surroundings, twilight painting the sky above in hues of lavender, pink and red. Thankfully, no army waiting for her this time. No scrambling shield wall or dying men or angry Frost Born; just the simplicity of standing in the middle of a forest—

"Nothing is ever simple, Elsa. Not even a forest."

The queen spun in the direction of the familiar voice and backed away from Saja, hand's raised in the off chance she had to defend herself. After her last encounter, she wasn't going to take any chances of being caught off guard. Dream or not, the pain that could follow her back into the waking world was enough of a sharp reminder of how powerful and long Saja's reach really was.

The Frost Born watched her descendant with barely contained exasperation, but there was also an apologetic quality to her stance. She wasn't standing ramrod straight, wasn't commanding instant respect by the square set of her shoulders or the frigidness of her stare. Instead, Saja slouched as if greatly tired. Her eyes, though still remaining razor sharp, seemed dulled.

"I did not bring you here to fight, Elsa," she eventually said with a sigh.

"Forgive me if I don't believe you outright," Elsa replied, her body still tensed for attack.

"I admit that you've not seen me at my best recently, and that is my fault. This is the first time I've spoken to someone tangible in four hundred years, so my manners are a bit rough. We also come from two different ways of life, you and I, so forgive an old woman her shortcomings. I truly didn't bring you here to fight."

"More lessons then?" Elsa asked lowering her hands fractionally.

"In a manner of speaking, yes. You expressed interest in knowing why my arms are the way they are, and I thought it was time I showed you." Saja moved around Elsa with slow, measured steps, the index finger of her right hand tapping her chin thoughtfully. After two rotations, she gave a satisfied grunt and stepped back.

"I may have to resend my previous assumption that you need training with your ice. As far as I can tell, you've taught yourself how to use your powers quite effectively. There are techniques you could stand to learn, how our ice interacts with the world around us and how we have the ability to wreak havoc on a flesh and blood being, but overall you are not ignorant in the ebb and flow of your powers. Your lover has also schooled you well in the art of combat, so I do not need to touch on that subject. So, what is there left to teach you that you haven't already learned through instinct and experimentation?"

"Why did you bring me here if you didn't know?" Elsa frowned as her wariness gave way to irritation. She would like a consistent week of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep, and her fear was quickly turning to annoyance. "What's the point of these visitations if you're not going to teach me something valuable?"

Saja's eyes flashed dangerously, but the Frost Born kept whatever sharp remark she'd formed to herself. "I can see you have my quick tongue. That can be a greater weapon than any amount of power, but it can also get people killed. Watch yourself in the future."

"Threatening me isn't going to help matters between us," the queen rumbled.

"What I will show you tonight," Saja said ignoring Elsa's last statement, "are the dangers of exceeding the limits of your magic, and in doing so I'll also reveal your misguided trust of the trolls."

This time, Elsa felt her irritation flare into hot anger. "You do not get to dictate whether or not anything I do is misguided. The trolls have helped my family for generations. Pabbie himself saved Anna when I struck her with my powers and later saved me when an assassin's blade broke off under my ribs."

"Oh yes, they've done wonders for our bloodline," Saja chuckled mirthlessly, "but have you ever stopped to wonder why? Why would creatures born from the earth, with no connection or relation to humans, with no need for our presence on earth, suddenly seem to want to help a human family? Why would they care what happened to us?"

"Father always said it was because we controlled the land and where people could expand their settlements. Arendelle skirts the troll kingdom by at least ten miles, so the trolls repay us for keeping people away from them by helping us when we need it."

Saja was silent for a moment before bursting out in a spasm of rancorous laughter. "Your father was even more misguided than you, and a fool! Really? The trolls thankful to us for not trespassing on their land? Oh no, you've got it completely backwards. It's the trolls who control the land and were your kingdom was built. They control the ore you mine from the ground and wood you clear from the forest. If you ever encroached on their land without permission, I assure you that whatever settlement was raised would disappear from existence the next day."

"Arendelle has prospered and expanded since my grandfather's reign," Elsa said lifting her chin. "If what you say is true, then how is it we've been able to hunt, log, and mine without incident? If the trolls are really that malevolent, why haven't they attacked the ice harvesters or the loggers or the trappers?"

"Because then you would know the true extent of their power."

"Convenient," Elsa said tilting her head to one side. "You tell me they are evil creatures but that they will never show their true nature because that would reveal their secret. What's the point of hiding who you are when everyone already knows? I can't help but feel you have a bigoted view of the trolls."

"Do not," Saja warned, "make light of what has happened to me because of trolls. And regardless, they aren't going to draw attention to themselves because, like any creature, they can be hunted." The soft glow in her eyes a promise for future pain should she be pushed.

Elsa understood Saja's message and shivered. Had the trolls been hunted? Had she been the one doing the hunting? She asked as much and wasn't surprised when the Frost Born leveled an icy look at her, eyes rimmed with power.

"Yes, I have hunted them, and so has my mother. After what they did to me and my family, what they did to my children, I made certain the trolls feared the onset of frost and snow." There was no pleasure in Saja's words, no gleeful undertone that told Elsa she'd enjoyed her hunting. There was only cool neutrality that the queen instantly recognized as the callused mask of a woman who'd reached her limit for feeling any type of emotion.

"They make you think they are mundane and harmless," Saja continued, unable to let the subject drop, "wise in the ways of the earth and its magic, but they are devious and cruel and underhanded. Have you not heard the tales of the changlings? How they will kidnap children from their parents, erase the child's memories, and raise them as their own?"

Elsa felt a chill creep into her spine that had nothing to do with her magic. Kristoff said he'd always been with the trolls. Ever since he was old enough to remember, he'd lived with Pabbie and Bulda, but was that how it had begun? Surely not; Kristoff was human, so he would have had to have a human mother and father. What had happened to them? Shaking her head to be rid of the disturbing implications of Saja's words, Elsa set her face to match the neutrality of the Frost Born.

"I am sorry for the pain you've suffered at the hands of the trolls, but I have never had bad dealings with them."

"That's because you have me to thank for the fair treatment," Saja all but snarled.

"How so?"

"I started out as a normal child. Well, as normal as a child whose mother was the spirit of snow and frost."

"Snaer….is a goddess?" Elsa asked with an incredulous cock of her eyebrow.

"Goddess, spirits, elemental, they all mean the same thing to me. Snaer had relations with a human and in turn gave birth to me. She gave me up three days after I was born because, in the world she resided in, a half human child could not survive. She gave me to an Earl's wife who could not conceive, and who had prayed to the gods for years to have a child. That is how I came to be, but my mother would not leave a human couple to deal with a child born with powers they did not understand. You and I share the same beginning, it would seem. The only difference is that Snaer took it upon herself to teach me how to control my powers for my benefit and the benefit of my human family. If I could not be with her in her world, she would make certain I could survive in my own. I learned from her until my eighteenth year when I and my powers reached our flowering. After that, she disappeared back into her realm.

"It would be later that same year that my life would take an unexpected and life changing turn. I was kidnapped one night by men from a neighboring kingdom who knew a winter witch lived in the village. My adopted mother and father had done their best to shield me from prying eyes, but secrets always escape, no matter how tightly you hold them. It would have only taken the flick of my wrist to kill the men storming into my room one early winter morning, but one of them managed to straddle me and press something against my chest."

Saja pulled down the neck of her leather tunic and chainmail shirt to reveal the scar just below the hollow of her throat. Elsa studied it, brow creased in concentration. It looked like she'd been branded with a coin about half the size of her palm. Within the brand were the twisting and swirling lines of a knot, though she didn't recognize the design.

"It was Earl Elerend who had sent the men after me. My father thought it was just power play, and in truth it was, but it later came to my attention that Elerend had made a deal with the trolls near his hamlet. They would supply him with a charm that could cap my powers, and he would see to it that Snaer's human abomination would never tip the balance of power between the warring magics between my mother and the trolls."

"Elerend…the man you killed when Gunnar—" Elsa stopped talking and looked away, still unable to stomach the thought of what Saja had turned Gunnar into.

"Yes, that same man. I was to be Elerend's hostage to ensure that my adopted father cooperated with his demands, but he did not expect me to escape, nor did he anticipate I would take a good chunk of his men with me when I ran."

"So, the trolls supplied Elerend with the charm that capped your power. I can see why that would be irksome, but that hardly justifies—"

"Irksome? You think that having your power bottle up inside you would simply be irksome? I was without my power for nearly two years, at the mercy of men who saw me as nothing but a tradable good. Try holding your breath for that long or go without eating. As I recall, you couldn't go a full twelve hours when Pabbie capped your powers after removing the assassin's blade from your chest."

Elsa narrowed her eyes at Saja, a shiver running the length of her spine as her magic twisted under her skin. "How do you know about that?"

"Who do you think you were speaking to when your powers were capped?"

The queen took a reflexive step away from her ancestor, hands opening and closing by her side. Yes, she had heard a voice calling to her as she struggled to awaken in time to save Anna from the second assassin. "You…you were with me that day? But, how? I didn't call you."

This time, Saja gave her a lopsided smile that seemed to melt the years off the woman. "Dear one, I have been with you since the beginning, you just didn't know I was there."

"Alright," Elsa said slowly, her mind racing with a new batch of unanswered questions. "Alright, we can come back to that later. I can understand your dislike for the trolls, but not your utter hatred. I can see your point, but—"

"No, this is seeing my point." Saja reached out and touched Elsa on the forehead before she could back away again.

Immediately, the forest fell away and she was standing at the base of a snowy valley, blinking in the harsh brightness of freshly fallen snow. Twenty feet ahead of her, a thin line of perhaps a hundred warriors stood with their back to her, shields linked in a wobbly shield wall. Another ten or so men huddled behind them, surrounding someone who was seated on their knees. Confused and a little nauseous from the sudden time jump, Elsa began to turn around and jumped when a cold hand touched her arm.

"Why did you bring me here?" she asked moving away from the Frost Born. "Is this another memory?"

"Yes, and I brought you here to show you what the medaling of trolls can do to someone of our kind. This is also a lesson in what happens when we deplete our magic. When Elerend's men capped my power they didn't know how much of a back build it would create, but the trolls did. They had anticipated it," Saja snarled. Before Elsa could retort, a piercing scream snapped her attention back towards the group of soldiers.

She watched as a younger Saja, perhaps a year or two older than Elsa was now, stood up from the cluster of warriors surrounding her and staggered to the front of the shield wall. The men reluctantly let her pass, and she began to climb the hill with lurching steps. Elsa caught a glimpse of movement further up the steep incline and squinted. At first it looked as if a rockslide was thundering down the hill towards the men, but after a moment she realized the rocks were actually clusters of horsemen, and she drew in a sharp breath.

"There were a thousand men charging us this day," Saja said by way of explanation when Elsa shot her a confused look. "Earl Elerend had discovered my escape and sent his warband to recapture me and kill the men who'd chosen to run with me."

"Saja, stop! You can't do this!"

Elsa watched a young man push past the press of warriors and attempt to grab Saja before she moved to far up the incline, but before he was able to break past the shield wall, a giant of a man with tree trunks for arms and long blond hair pulled him back.

"She knows what she's doing, Gunnar!" the blond haired man shouted.

"She's going to kill herself and us if we let her use her magic, Rag! We need to run. There's no fighting something that large!"

"Trust in the gods, brother. They sent us a winter witch, and we just set her free."

"How is that supposed to—" Gunnar would have said more but the conversation abruptly ended when an arrow thudded into the ground next to his boot. "Raise your shields!" he shouted as more arrows began to litter the snowy ground. A few unlucky men didn't raise them fast enough, blood spattering the ground as they lay dying.

The opposing warband was nearly at the bottom of the incline, spreading out into a thin line nearly a quarter of a mile across and moving at an impossibly fast pace towards Saja and her men. Elsa could see the men on horseback clearly now, some notching arrows into bows while others hefted spears, swords, and axes as they prepared to trample the tiny cluster of warriors. Three hundred yards away, the arrows began raining down around Saja's men like hissing black rain, thudding into shields with a dull hollow sound. Two hundred yards and the ground shook with the thunder of a thousand hooves and the roar of men who knew victory was certain. One hundred yards and it appeared Gunnar's suggestion of running wasn't entirely unfounded. Then Elsa felt her mouth fall open as the impossible happened.

"Mother, hear me," she heard younger Saja whisper, voice trembling with fear and pain. "Take what you must of me. My body is payment for the price I must pay; just let them live. Please…let him live."

Saja, who had moved a good thirty yards away from her men, suddenly threw out her arms as if ready to embrace the thundering death headed straight for her. The sky almost instantly darkened: thick, swirling gray clouds enveloped the sun and plunged the valley into an eerie twilight. The wind strengthened and blew in from the north, bringing with it the first fat flakes that heralded the blizzard about to break at the behest of the Frost Born. Steadily the temperature dropped until it reached an abominable degree. Elsa felt the buzzing under her skin return as Saja's magic snaked across the ground in glowing blue fractures of power. The lines raced away from her to the left and right, spikes of translucent ice springing out of the ground like jagged teeth. Even from a short distance, Elsa could feel the magnetic pull of the Frost Born's power, and it left her feeling nauseous as her own magic tried to rise to the surface and answer Saja's silent call to battle.

"Let earth and sky be one!" she heard Saja screamed into the heavens.

Suddenly, Elsa was standing close enough to the young Frost Born she could have reached out and touched her. This close, she could see the sweat running down her face in silvery beads and feel the skin blistering cold enveloping them in icy arms. This close and the Arendelle queen had to grind her teeth and clench her hands into knuckle white fists to keep her magic safely within her body. Saja raised her arms above her head, eyes rolling closed. A split second later the ground in front of her erupted with the concussive force of a cannon blast and rose into the sky, a monolith of frost and ice reaching for the swirling clouds with jagged, grasping fingers. The explosion of so much power unleashed at once bucked and rolled the earth, and Elsa stumbled back in petrified awe, hair whipped off her shoulders as the wall continued its dizzying ascent, ice and snow momentarily stinging her eyes. Higher and higher it climbed until the wall towered over her, Saja, and the warband by at least two hundred feet. Body tensed and quivering under the weight of her power, Saja's arms flew out to either side as if by some unseen force as the wall spread the length of the mile wide valley faster than water spilling from a bucket.

The frantic screams that arose from the opposing warband rose into a chaotic cacophony. Men bellowed and horses screamed. Their impact came seconds later and was so sharp and sudden it was sure to leave man sized blood spatters littered across the ice. Not surprisingly, the bodies of nearly a thousand men and horses did nothing to the wall. The ice, nearly five feet thick and strengthened by Saja's will, held firm. The Frost Born, however, felt the concussion hit her like a boulder slamming down a hill. Her head snapped back and her spine arched, a wordless, agonized scream contorting her face but no sound escaping her lips. She would have topped over with the force of the blow had her legs not been anchored to the ground by arms of ice.

Elsa watched in stunned silence as the Frost Born braced herself and pushed against the monumental force in front of her, back and shoulders bunching as her muscles corded under her thin tunic. A bright bloom of blood suddenly spattered the ground between her feet, quickly followed by three more. The queen realized with a start that the blood was coming from Saja's nose. This was not the only startling change in the Frost Born's body. The whites of her eyes were beginning to cloud pink as the veins burst under the pressure of holding her magic in place. Eventually the azure color of Saja's eyes went a familiar static white, her glowing irises floating in a pool of crimson red as the last of the blood vessels burst. Elsa felt a vacuum of power swirling around her as if she stood above a whirlpool. If she closed her eyes, she could imagine slender lines of blue and white fractals circling Saja as she emptied her magic into the wall. Those same finger-like fractals tugged at her own magic, searching for a power source but finding none. With sick curiosity that couldn't be turned away from, Elsa watched the tips of young Saja's fingers began to blister red before turning black. The creeping sickness slowly began traveling up each finger and spreading across her hands, the skin splitting and bleeding before withering as if put to a flame.

As the blackness reached the middle of her forearm, a loud cracking sound split the air like a clap of thunder. A crack appeared at the base of the wall, black fractures snaking along the ground in either direction. The sound grew louder until Elsa had to clap her hands over her ears to protect her hearing and jumped away from the wall as it began to shift. Saja let out a tortured scream and gave the wall one last push. Remarkably, the monolith pitched forward and toppled to the ground like a falling deck of cards, the center of the wall first collapsing and pulling the rest down with it. The power of its landing threw clouds of snow and ice into the air and shook the ground so violently new crags and fissures appeared in the earth. The men and horses on the other side of the wall were dead. There was no doubt. No bodies needed to be recovered, no rescue effort made. Here and there a spattering of blood could be seen or a bent and broken body part protruded from the jagged clusters of ice, a solid indication that the dead were very much dead.

Elsa hadn't realized she'd been holding her breath until her lungs began to burn. Exhaling in a rush, she watched helplessly as young Saja sank to her knees before pitching to the side, body convulsing with such violent seizures the queen feared her back would break.

"I don't remember much after that," Saja said quietly.

"Your arms—"

"Were gone by that point. The blackness would eventually climb to my elbow, but there was no saving the skin or bone. My arms were useless and had to be amputated after the sickness stopped spreading," she said and lifted her own arm as if to show the queen what she meant.

"You used will-ice to create new arms for yourself," Elsa whispered in sudden awe. It had never crossed her mind that her ice could be used to heal, let alone create limbs. Did that mean others could be healed by her ice? Was that even possible?

"It took some time for me to figure out how to form my ice into something that both resembled and worked like a real arm, but yes, eventually I was able to function like a normal human again."

The two stepped back as Gunnar slid to a stop next to Saja and attempted to lay her on the flat of her back as her convulsions worsened and she arched off the ground, pink foam bubbling out of the corners of her mouth.

"Why is your body doing that?" Elsa asked averting her eyes from the drama unfolding before her. It somehow felt like she was spying on a private moment despite the fact that Saja had meant to show her exactly this.

"I don't know why I was seizing like that. Not even the shamans and physicians who saw me afterword could explain my bout of fits. All I remember is feeling cold for the first time right before my muscles began to seize. As for my arms? This is what happens when we use up our magic. When we use all our fractures, our body cannibalizes itself in order to survive. It attacks the bone and muscle first then eats the skin."

Elsa raised her own hands and looked at the faint scars on her palm. "My magic did something similar to me when I was eighteen. I'd just learned about my parent's death and ran to my room before I revealed my magic to Anna. Once I got there, I collapsed. I don't remember much, but when my power finally tore free from my body I felt cold for the first time. When I woke up my hands were a bloody mess, and I had burns all across my body."

"What you felt was the release of a power back build, but you already knew that. You were not close to depleting your magic, but our power reacts to strong emotion as well as to our surroundings. This is why we cannot bottle or cage it. I suspect that you internalized the pain from the loss of your parents, and, in turn, your power turned on you because you were keeping it smothered. This is why you nearly destroyed your entire kingdom in just a few days after your coronation. Holding in your power was like holding your breath. It just became too much to bear any longer."

Elsa instinctively wrapped her arms around her stomach and shivered, Saja's words sticking in her like a knife. Yes, that had been exactly what happened. The stress of her coronation, coupled with being around large groups of people and Anna's outbursts and "wedding announcement", had provided a perfect trifecta of raw emotion and panic. One thing led to another and before she could stop herself, Elsa had revealed her secret to her subjects and fled her kingdom, unaware her power was spreading throughout Arendelle and the hamlets beyond like a cancer.

"Our magic is a wild thing that reacts poorly to being confined. It's not sentient like your snowmen, but, like a flame, it needs to breathe and burn. Which is why having your power capped with troll magic is the worst kind of torture. With no way of releasing the back build, your body slowly starts to deteriorate. For two years, I suffered debilitating fevers and hallucinations while my body fought to be rid of the charm imbedded in my skin. Towards the end of my two year captivity, I stopped eating. I couldn't stomach any type of food, which is why I look so sickly," Saja said motioned to the vision of her younger self lying prone on the ground next to them.

Elsa hadn't noticed it at first, her attention having been solely on the mile long, two hundred foot ice wall, but now that Saja had said something, she saw exactly what she'd been talking about. Younger Saja was very nearly flesh and bone, the angles of her body too sharp, her skin pale and ashy. Dark circles sagged under her sunken in eyes and the planes of her face looked eerily skeletal. When Gunnar finally scooped her into his arms after the last fit threw her into unconsciousness, Elsa caught a glimpse of the girl's ribs when her shirt rode up and found she could easily count them.

"It's a miracle you survived this," Elsa said quietly.

"On rare occasions, the gods are kind to me," Saja said squinting up at the churning turmoil of gray clouds above. The wind had picked up considerably, blowing around fat, wet snowflakes and turning them in to little dervishes.

"How did you recall your fractures," Elsa asked as she watched the warband slowly start to pick their way down the valley.

"An excellent question. I wasn't able to recall them until after I awoke, which was three days later. That's why the blackness was only able to reach my elbows. Had I awoken sooner, I could have stopped my body from further cannibalizing itself. Had I remained unconscious, the blackness would have continued to climb into my upper arms and spread across my body."

Elsa had expected Saja's explanation of how her arms had turned to ice would be disturbing, but imagining a black sickness creeping up her arms, eating her flesh, bone, and blood, made her nauseous. "I sorry this happened to you."

Saja shrugged as if it didn't matter, but the queen could see past the Frost Born's nonchalance. The memories of the past still bothered her, and with good reason.

"As I said before, I was young and foolish. I should have never had Gunnar remove the charm from me during the heat of battle, but it was fated to happen. The trolls and their magic tried their best that day to be rid of me, but apparently, I'm more resilient than they believed."

"You still think the trolls are to blame for this?" Elsa frowned canting her head to one side.

"None of this would have happened had they not put that charm on me," Saja replied icily.

"But, it was Elerend who commissioned the trolls to make the charm. He ultimately used it, not them."

"It wasn't like they made a charm that could fit anyone, Elsa. The trolls created that piece of metal with the sole purpose of capping my power and killing me in perhaps the most painful way possible. They are as much to blame as Elerend himself."

"I'm sorry. I know this is hard for you, and you have good reason to distrust them, but I just can't grasp your hatred for the trolls. To you they are malicious, but to me they are…well…family."

"Perhaps you should rethink who you associate your family with," Saja growled. "Mixing your family with the trolls will only end in disaster. It's already resulted in the stunted growth of our bloodline."

"How do you figure that?" Elsa gaped.

"Where do you think the poultice from the legend you told me came from? The herb mixture that makes certain no children of the Frosberg line are born Frost Born?"

Elsa felt her mouth go uncomfortably dry as she sought to reply. The legend said it was Snare who gave Saja the poultice in order to make her fertile...but was the right? Saja smiled at the confusion on her descendant's face and crossed her arms over her chest.

"Yes, Elsa, the legend you know is a fanciful lie. The trolls made sure my bloodline would end with my last remaining child. The fear of our power was so great, and the priests of the White Christ advancing into our land so powerful, my son went to Snaer and begged her for a way to stop the continuance of his bloodline. Naturally, my mother refused her grandson's request, so he went to the only other magical beings that would listen to him."

"The trolls," Elsa whispered.

"Yes, and is it any surprise that they were all too happy to provide him with an herbal remedy that would snuff the magic in an unborn child? My son's fear drove him to do the unthinkable, and the trolls obliged him."

"That— that actually makes a lot of sense, but surely not all trolls feel the same way about us. You said it yourself that it was because of you the trolls treated our family fairly."

Saja looked away, and Elsa saw a flicker of some unknown emotion flash across the Frost Born's face. Was that guilt or uncertainty creasing her brow, or was she struggling to keep her temper in check? Regardless, the queen didn't know what to make of her ancestor's explanation about her hatred for trolls. Maybe it was because Elsa and her family had developed a deep love for the trolls in their kingdom. Maybe it was because Pabbie had saved her and her sister's life and never once showed them an ounce of malice or asked for anything in return. Whatever it was, the queen understood that Saja had been wronged by the trolls of her era but that didn't make all trolls bad. But getting that through to the Frost Born was like trying to teach Sven how to dance.

Saja stared at her descendant for a long time as if trying to puzzle something out. Eventually, she let out a defeated sigh. "I can see there will always be a difference of opinion between you and me."

"Apparently so," Elsa confirmed with a slow nod.

"Fine. I will not press the issue with you, but I will not have you call me with troll magic again. That crystal must not touch your skin again."

"Anna wears a crystal, as well as Kristoff. What's different about me wearing one?"

"It only perpetuates the struggle between the magic of the earth and the magic of the elements, and I do not want to take a risk. This is not a discussion. You will take the crystal off. Give it to your lover or back to the current troll chief. Just get it away from you."

Elsa would have said more, wanted to say more, wanted to remind Saja that she was queen and took orders from no one, but the instant her lips moved to form words a familiar blackness swallowed her and she fell back into the waking world in a rush of color and sound. She awoke with a start and sat up in bed, blinking in the faint pre-dawn light peeking through the gaps in her curtains. Scooting into a sitting position, Elsa rubbed the heels of her palms into her eyes and groaned quietly.

"You alright?"

The queen started and looked over at Revel. She returned his sleepy smile with a wan one of her own, raking her fingers through her mussed hair. "I'd like to be able to get a full night's sleep once in a while."

"Bad dreams again?" he asked jacking himself up on his elbow.

Elsa shook her head and lay back down, pulling the covers around her and staring at the ceiling. "No, just Saja again."

Alert now, Revel gently turned her so that he could see the mark on her shoulder. He was relieved to see that the handprint was only slightly flushed with color and not the acrid black it had been the night he'd learned about his lover's ancestral visits.

"Did she hurt you?" he asked, pressing his warm palm against her cool cheek. Elsa closed her eyes and leaned into his calloused yet surprisingly comfortable hand with a contented sigh.

"No, she didn't. It…this was more of a lesson than anything else." Suddenly remembering the Frost Born's final words, the queen reached for the crystal hanging around her neck and pulled it over her head. Seated in the palm of her hand, Elsa could feel a faint hum emitting from the gem and looked at it curiously. Within the natural facets she could see tiny arks of white and blue energy jumping from one side to the other as if the crystal contained bottled lightning. A little nervous now, she dropped the gem and rubbed her thumb against the underside of her fingers as if trying to remove a sticky residue.

"Something wrong?" Revel asked looking between her and the gem.

"It was something Saja said," Elsa explained. "She told me not to wear anything the trolls gave me because it perpetuated the battle between earth and elemental magics, but I'm not sure I can trust her judgment when it comes to the trolls."

"I take it she's not a fan," Revel said with a small grin. One of the things he'd come to discover about the queen and her family was that they were tied to a clan of trolls who resided at the base of North Mountain. Apparently, Kristoff was their adopted son, thus linking the two families through marriage. It hadn't been hard to believe Elsa's tales about the rock people, evidently he'd even seen one the night Elsa had been attacked by the assassin. The boulder Kristoff had lugged into the castle courtyard had been the troll chief and his adopted father, but it had taken Revel a few days to fully come to grips with the fact that mythical creatures actually did exist and lived a little less than ten miles away.

Elsa blew out a slow breath. "You could say that again. She told me to give the gem to you, but I'm a little worried now. I've never distrusted the trolls before, but Saja was adamant that I could not wear it. I can't, in good conscience, give it to anyone without knowing what's wrong with the stone."

"Maybe she's wrong about it. Maybe there's nothing wrong with the jewel and she's just a little jumpy around troll magic. You said she got angry when she found out you called her with troll magic the last time."

"Angry doesn't even begin to describe what she was that night," Elsa said, unconsciously touching the brand on her shoulder.

"Well, in any case, I'll wear the crystal so you don't wind up angering your ancestor," Revel chuckled as he slipped the jewel over his head.

"I don't think it's a good idea."

"We'll just have to wait and see then."

The queen opened her mouth to say something when a thought suddenly occurred to her and she twisted around to look at the clock on her dresser. "It's almost sunrise."

The Captain stretched like a cat and groaned, arms above his head and spine curved. He held the stretch for a few moments before sitting up and lightly kissing the queen on the cheek. "Trying to be rid of me that quickly?"

"Of course," Elsa smiled broadly and brushed his jaw with her fingertips. "Our tryst must not be made known to the rest of the castle; though it pains me to see you leave."

"Oh no, we can't have that," he murmured as he slid close to her and began nuzzling into her neck, hands slipping under the sheets and sliding up her thigh. Elsa sighed happily and closed her eyes, rolling onto her back as Revel continued to nuzzle and kiss the smooth skin of her shoulder and chest. When his hand past her hip and brushed her stomach she jerked and laughed. When that same hand cupped her left breast and gave her nipple a light pinch she gasped and arched, tingling heat flooding her body from the neck down and making a warm nest in her abdomen.

"But, you're right," Revel said suddenly pulling away with a wide smile and slid off the end of the bed. "I should be getting back to the guard tower before someone notices."

Elsa struggled to sit up and glared at him. Lips pursed, she released a short exhale through her nose. "You're a bastard."

"That, my dear, is untrue. An ass, I am, but a bastard I am not," he said, flashing her another wide grin and ducked as a pillow came flying at him. "Now, Majesty, one mustn't get so testy when teased. It spoils the fun."

"Oh, does it? Fun for the one teasing, but not the one being teased," she said throwing back the covers and lunging at him. Because of the height of her bed, she was able to tackle the Captain around the chest, but she didn't have the mass or force to pull him to the floor. Instead, Revel caught her around the waist and spun her until her feet alighted on the ground.

"That was a good try," he said kissing her on the forehead.

"Someday I'll be able to pull you to the ground," she said and squeezed him tightly.

"You've already brought me to my knees, why do you insist on getting me on the floor?" he mumbled into the fragrant locks of her hair.

"Because on the floor, height and weight don't matter," Elsa replied and cupped his naked groin with an icy hand. Revel jumped and hissed, squeezing his lover tighter as her hand gripped the base of his warm shaft. Then, just as suddenly, she let go and bounced back onto her bed with a mischievous grin.

"Not too fun now, is it?" she asked sweetly.

"I refuse to answer," Revel replied, snatching his pants from the floor and climbing into them, grunting as he attempted to adjust himself so that walking while semi erect wasn't so awkward. Elsa held out his shirt for him, her smile still deceptively sweet. After pulling on his shirt and lacing his boots, Revel stepped in front of the queen and kissed her three times as had become their custom: once on the forehead, once on the nose, and once on the lips.

"Have a good Tuesday," he said after their lips had parted.

Elsa groaned quietly and rested her forehead against his muscular stomach. "I hate Tuesdays."

"I know you do," he said gently pinching her chin and lifting her head, "but maybe this one won't be so terrible?"

"Perhaps," she conceded with a sigh. "Miracles are known to happen."

Revel kissed her one more time before moving back over to the bookcase and pressing the hidden trigger in the wall. There was a faint pop as the door swung open on silent hinges revealing the dark passage beyond. Before he stepped past the threshold, he leaned around the bookcase and gave his lover one last smile. "I'll be seeing you later."

"You too, I…wait, what? We don't have a meeting today."

Revel gave her an innocent shrug and ducked into the passage. The door swung shut before Elsa could reach it and she sighed exasperatedly. As far as she could recall, the meetings taking up a good portion of her day were all with Kai and the castle staff responsible for setting up the banquet and accompanying ball at the end of the Summit and a few merchants requesting permission to set up temporary stalls.

What are you up to?

"Anna, I don't understand why we need to do this now," Elsa said with a sigh as they walked across the stone bridge connecting Arendelle castle to the rest of the town.

Barely a week and a half separated the royal family from the chaos that was the Trade Summit, and already the town was in full preparation. Inns were being repaired, roofs being re-thatched and shingled, shudders being reattached, rugs being beaten, linens washed and hung to dry in the warm westerly breeze and everything within eyeshot of the harbor was getting a fresh coat of paint. And that went without mention of the enormous amounts of tradable goods arriving everyday on the wharf and through the Arendelle land gate; hundreds of crates, boxes, and carts arriving daily, clogging up the thoroughfares and making travel within the town increasingly difficult. All the activity began at sunrise and didn't cease until well after sundown, so venturing into town right at this moment wasn't at all well planned, but Anna had insisted she needed to look at fabric from the nursery and wouldn't take no for an answer. Even Kristoff was unable to sway his wife's decision for a spring morning venture. Elsa, on the other hand, had a wary suspicion as to why her sister insisted on going into town.

"This is the best time to select fabric. You know we always get a large shipment of exotic wears right before the Summit, and I wanted to find something special for the baby."

"Yes, but why now? Why today? This place is a madhouse, and it's not going to get any better with us walking around."

Anna turned towards her sister and gave her the best serious look she could conjure, which, coming from Anna, was just pouty and defiant. "I'm looking for something special, and I intend to find it today."

Elsa rolled her eyes and looked over at Kristoff who merely shrugged and wrapped an arm around his wife. "Just be glad we don't have a three guard escort?" he volunteered with a half-smile, and the queen suddenly realized he was in on whatever Anna had planned.

"What are the two of you plotting?" Elsa whispered stepping closer to her sister and brother-in-law. Before either could answer, someone cleared their throat and the queen turned in surprise to see Revel standing behind her dressed in his captain's uniform. He bowed deeply to the royal family, a motion that was both precise and elegant.

"Good afternoon, Majesties. I am here as your escort into town."

Elsa turned slowly away from Revel and glared at her sister, specks of frost climbing up her fingers. Anna, ignoring the sudden dip in temperature, gave the Captain a friendly smile.

"Thank you, Captain. We'll be along shortly." Then, turning back to her sister with the sweetest smile she could muster, she added, "Oh Elsa, when have I ever plotted against you? Really, you shouldn't be so paranoid. It's bad for your health."

Elsa scowled. "Stop it, the both of you. This isn't the time for games. I have too much on my plate as is; I can't be tugged around by my sleeves expecting to play catch-up with whatever you two have in mind. I need to get back to work, Anna."

The princess stepped up and took the queen's hands in hers. "See, this is exactly why I planned this outing. You're too stressed for your own good. You need a chance to walk around and get some air, and to be with Revel aside from your nightly ventures."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Elsa retorted as she glanced over Anna's shoulder at Kristoff. The mountain man only shrugged and gave her a knowing smile that woke a line of red across her face.

He knows, she thought with a thrill of fear that put her heart into her throat. Who else knows?

Anna saw the look on her sister's face and sighed. "Yes, Kristoff knows."

"Why did you tell him?" Elsa hissed leaning close to Anna.

"Because he's my husband, and I can't keep a secret from him. Elsa, do you really think he's going to say something, or that I am?"

"You already did! Anna, I trusted you to—"

"No, we're not going to talk about trust right now. Kristoff is my husband, and you know I trust him with my life. So, naturally, I'd trust him with this secret between you and I. Relax, please, and enjoy the day." Anna squeezed her sister's cold hands and gave her a bright smile. "I just want you to be happy, and Revel makes you happy. So go and be happy with him today."

The queen hung her head and drew in a deep breath meant to combat the nauseous roll of her stomach. So, two people now knew about her secret. Wonderful. Granted, it was her sister and her brother-in-law, but two was enough even if she trusted Kristoff as much as Anna did. Him knowing changed things, and Elsa realized she'd have to be doubly careful in the future. Unable to relax completely, she took a step back and glanced over her shoulder. Revel was still a little ways away, but when he caught her glance at him, he tipped his head in a courteous nod while a sly smile crooked the corner of his lips.

What have I walked into?

"Anna," Elsa breathed turning her attention back to the princess, but she wasn't there. While her attention had been on Revel, Kristoff and Anna had slipped away leaving Elsa alone with the Captain.

Oh, sometimes I really do hate you, little sister. I really really do.

"Shall we keep walking, Majesty?" Revel asked in a soft voice as he came to stand next to her, smile still in place and hands clasped behind his back.

"You all planned this from the start," Elsa whispered as the two of them began strolling through the town, queen and Captain walking together in near perfect stride. A few villagers and townspeople stopped their work to bow to the queen, but most simply nodded respectfully and continued with what they were doing. Elsa didn't mind and nodded back to them as she passed by.

"I had no part in the princess's plans. I just agreed to escort the three of you into town when she approached me about it yesterday."

"That smile on your face says otherwise," Elsa mumbled.

"Perhaps it is nice to be able to walk with you in the daylight without fear of someone discovering us," Revel said quietly under his breath.

Elsa sighed and folded her hands in front of her, a silent admission that he was right. Though it irked her Anna had been able to pull the wool over her eyes, she really was grateful for the chance to get out of the castle and spend time with Revel in a way that seemed completely legitimate. The queen would need to walk the town and inspect how the repairs were progressing, and her guard Captain would most certainly want to walk with her so they could discuss guard placement and street barricades that would prevent visitors from getting lost as well as deter those special few looking for trouble while visiting.

"You don't look like you've been sleeping deeply, Majesty," Revel said quietly enough so that only she could hear him as he fought to keep his grin hidden.

"You would know," Elsa countered.

"Would I now? Aside from your nightly sessions with your ancestor, what else is keeping you awake?"

"It's a wonder I sleep at all between Saja and all the kicking you do," Elsa said trying to hide her smile. Pointless, playful banter was always best when enjoyed with someone who would participate in it with you, and she would not give Revel the satisfaction of a playmate. The two past a fabric shop, and Elsa caught a glimpse of strawberry blond hair duck out of sight just a moment too late, and made a face.

Anna, I swear to God, I'm going to get you back for this if you're following and listening in.

Revel leaned close and pointed to something obscure to make it look as if he were pointing something out to the queen. "I do not kick in my sleep."

"How would you know? You're asleep, and I'm the one jolted away with a foot in the thigh. I have the bruise to prove it, if you don't believe me."

"Fine, then if I kick in my sleep it's to keep you from snoring."

This time Elsa twisted around to look at him and narrowed her eyes. "I do not snore."

"Like a bear with a head cold," Revel grinned and extended his arm as if allowing her to proceed in front of him.

"You're exaggerating," Elsa whispered as they passed the shop and kept walking.

"Perhaps a little," he grinned.

The two made their way towards the wharf at a leisurely pace, stopping in front of shops to inspect the repairs or allow Elsa to eye some of the products and wears. Queen or not, she enjoyed the occasional shipping trip in town with Anna and the chance to feel like a normal woman rather than royalty. More than once, however, she caught Revel eyeing certain things she had found interesting a little too closely and wondered what he was planning.

"I'm glad to see that the repairs to the store house are coming along at a good pace," Elsa mused as they passed the construction. Most of the framework had been raised and a sturdy roof capped the structure. The only thing missing were the walls which the carpenters and day laborers were currently constructing. In another few days the store house would reopen and be stocked for the Summit.

"The carpenter's guild has done a marvelous job restoring the structure in such a short amount of time. If they could, I'm certain they would work on it through the night in order to get it done before schedule. Having one less store house has put a strain on the residents of the wharf as well as the other store houses."

"Believe me, I've heard nothing but complaints about the lack of a proper store house and how difficult it's been this winter," Elsa replied with a deep sigh, craning her neck in order to see the workers climbing atop the roof with safety lines cinched around their waists.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Revel said and made a face. "People need someone to blame, even for accidents, but that doesn't make it right or fair."

"One of the less than glamorous aspects of being queen," Elsa replied with a shrug.

"Have you, by chance, heard any news of how the young girl who was injured in the fire has been doing?"

Elsa slowly turned away from the construction of the store house and began walking away. "I have," she admitted after a short silence.

"Is the prognosis…bad?"

"I paid a visit to the family a few weeks ago. Sonja is doing better, though adjusting to life without having a left hand has been….difficult for her. Most of the burns have healed, thank God, but the scaring she now bares is horrible. She'll be disfigured for the rest of her life."

"I'm sorry for her and her family," Revel said lowering his eyes. It was a sad fact that someone, especially a woman, who suffered a disfiguring accident wouldn't have much of a life away from their immediate family. Depending on how her father took to her scars, Sonja could likely live out the rest of her days hidden away from a public who would view her as a freak or a monster because of shallow, preconceived views of beauty. It also meant that the prospect of her or her father finding her a husband was bleak.

Elsa seemed to read Revel's mind and frowned so deeply her brow wrinkled. "I know how difficult it will be for her once she begins flowering into a young woman. Regardless of what we are taught by the Church or our own moral values, there is a high price put on beauty. Those without it are usually shunned from society."

"Is there anything you can do?"

"As a matter of fact, there is. I've spoken to Sonja's father at length about her future, and he and I have come to an agreement. The two of them will joint my castle staff once Sonja has completely healed. Her father is a capable gardener, and I am in need of a few more hands in the royal gardens now that I know there will be another mouth to feed once Anna gives birth. Gerda will take Sonja under her wing and teach her how to become a lady in waiting." Elsa wrung her hands together and pursed her lips. "I…I know it's not the ideal life for a young girl, but she and her father will be gainfully employed, and Sonja will learn a valuable skill while also being protected from the prejudices of life beyond the castle."

"I think it's a good idea, but, Majesty, why do you have such a strong need to protect this girl?"

"Sonja was the first child I showed my magic to after the Great Freeze. I made her a bear ornament and she…she began to cry and hugged me. After everything I'd done to the kingdom, after running away from my duties because I feared no one would accept me for who I was, a small, innocent child showed me that I wasn't the monster I was convinced I'd become. I feel I need to repay the love she showed me anyway I can."

Revel had to fight the urge to take Elsa in his arms and squeeze her tight. Instead, he made it seem as if he'd stumbled and gently bumped her shoulder with his. She glanced at him with a questioning look but returned his affectionate smile.

"You know, one of these days, you are going to make a wonderful mother," he whispered.

"One of these days, I hope I can be," Elsa replied with a sad smile. The likelihood of her finding a man she could marry was slim; especially when she already had someone she loved enough to even consider the possibility of starting a family with. Regardless, the chasm of station stretching between her and Revel was too great, and bridging the divide would prove to be difficult and messy.

But there has to be something I can do. There has to be something in the law books, a loop hole perhaps. Once the Trade Summit is over, I'll begin looking into the laws more in depth.

As the two continued to walk the wharf, the secret lovers were completely unaware they were being closely watched by an unwelcome, unfriendly set of eyes. Slowly, a tall, handsome man emerged from the doorway of a shop and watched the couple until they turned a corner and disappeared from sight. Only then did he return to his small schooner and called for the captain.

"Ready to set sail, m'lord?"

"Yes," the man replied still looking into the direction the queen and Captain had gone.

"Something interesting on the wharf?" the schooner captain asked conversationally as he raised the anchor and pushed off the dock. The small boat rocked gently as the waves lapped the hull, the wind catching the furrowed sail almost immediately.

"You could say that. I've just found someone I've been searching years for."

"Ah, well a happy day then!"

The handsome man turned to the captain and gave him a smile that sent a shiver down the schooner captain's spine. Watching his guest smile like that reminded him of a shark, and he couldn't help to catch the malicious glint in his eyes. Truly, this man was a being meant to do harm.

"Yes," the handsome man nodded and turned his hazel eyes back to the wharf, shark-tooth grin still in place. "Yes it is."

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 15 of 24

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