Continuing Tales

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 16 of 24

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"Majesty?" Gerda knocked gently on the door and waited a beat before calling out again. "Majesty, the royal seamstress has arrived for your dress fitting."

Elsa sat up with a gasp, arms and legs flailing as she attempted to throw off her covers and crawl out of bed. "Yes, Gerda! I'm…" she glanced back at a slowly waking Revel and grimaced, "I'm awake. Give me a moment." She heard Gerda mumble something inaudible behind the door, most likely speaking to the seamstress.

"Revel! Revel, wake up. We overslept!" Elsa whispered harshly as she shook her lover awake. He blinked and groaned in the sunlight but reluctantly sat up with Elsa's help as she pulled at his arms. "You have to leave. Now."

"Majesty, is everything alright?" Gerda asked again sounding curious and slightly peevish about having to wait in the hall. Elsa swore under her breath and raked her fingers through her hair. She didn't know if the service matron knew about the secret passage in her room and would hear the door swinging open when the hidden switch was pressed.

"Calm down, let me just find my—" still groggy and uncoordinated, Revel put his right foot down on the cold floor and lost his balance, toppling over with a thunderous crash. "Marry mother of Christ," he hissed rolling onto his back and rubbing the tender place where his head had connected with the hardwood.

"Queen Elsa?" Gerda knocked again, this time sounding concerned. "Is everything alright?

No, no, no, this was exactly what I've been afraid of. They're going to find out. They're going to hear him. I can't keep stalling— I can't—

"Yes I'm…I'm just having trouble finding a robe. One second!" Then, helping a now awake but still naked Revel stand, she whispered, "We don't have any time! Get in my closet and shut the door." Elsa shoved him forward before he could protest. The seamstress wouldn't need to go anywhere near her closet, so it was the safest place to stash her lover.

"Wait— no I can't… ow stop shoving so hard—"

"Shh, they're going to hear you!" the queen snapped and managed to get Revel over the threshold. Snagging a robe from off the back of the door, she offered an apologetic wince before closing him in. Elsa staggered to her room door with as much grace as she could muster, composed herself with a few short breathes, and wrenched it open.

"I apologize," she said with a gust exhale and a wan smile. "I overslept. Please, come in. Ingrid, it's nice to see you again," Elsa acknowledge with a slight nod, her heart still hamming in her throat.

Gerda and the seamstress curtsied simultaneously and stepped into the royal chambers. Elsa shut the door behind them and shot a nervous glance at her closet and the living secret she had hidden there.

This is doing nothing for my nerves.

Immediately, Ingrid set the low wooden stool she'd brought down in a particularly bright stream of sunlight and placed the unfinished gowns draped over her arm on Elsa's bed for the queen's inspection.

"Four dresses as you instructed, Majesty. Please take a look at them and see if they meet your exact specifications. If they do, I will start the fitting."

Elsa almost rolled her eyes but managed to keep enough of her regal mask in place to pull off an air of indifference. Ingrid was a sorceress when it came to crafting gowns and suits for the royal family. She'd been employed as the royal seamstress since after Anna's birth and had continued the tradition of making almost everything the family wore. She knew Elsa's preference and style better than anyone, so the queen wasn't worried in the least that the dresses Ingrid had created for her for the start of the Trade Summit tomorrow were exactly as she'd ordered. Still, it was a traditional dance she and the seamstress participated in every time she came for a fitting, so Elsa went through the motions of examining each dress for flaws she knew wouldn't be there.

"Excellent as usual, Ingrid. You are a miracle worker with thread and needle."

Ingrid made a dry scoffing sound in her throat and batted at the air. "The only miracle here is that I've lived this long and still have the use of my hands."

Indeed, the seamstress was well into her seventies. Her stooped back and wobbly legs required her to walk with a cane, but her spindly, knobby fingers still had the dexterity of a woman more than half her age. She watched the queen inspect the gowns with sharp hazel eyes, her thin gray hair tied back in a loose bun behind her head.

"They are exactly how I wanted them," Elsa smiled, rubbing the soft cotton fabric of a stunning navy and sky blue dress between her thumb and forefinger. She could already envision where her ice would go, further accenting the gown with glittering gems of translucent blue and white.

Ingrid grunted and nodded, setting down the large wooden box she'd been holding and gently opening the lid. The box opened like an ornate flower, panels and drawers sliding out in every direction revealing the tools of her trade kept in rigorous order. She withdrew a cloth tape measure and instructed Elsa to disrobe and pull on one of the gowns for her proper fitting. The queen obliged and stepped behind a thin screen provided by Gerda and slipped on the first dress: a burgundy, half-shoulder gown that would open her right side while completely covering the brand on her left.

"Would you like me to bring you some tea and pastries, Majesty?" Gerda asked from a respectful distance. Elsa swallowed nervously when she saw how close the service matron was to her closet door and suddenly changed her mind about not being hungry.

"Yes, thank you, Gerda."

"Why, Majesty, if my old eyes are seeing things correctly, you've acquired a new glow since last I saw you," Ingrid said once Gerda had left the room. Elsa stiffened and slowly looked down at the old woman.

"I'm certain I don't know what— ouch!" she jerked away from the needle that had pricked her hip, ice crusting her fingertips.

"Careful, Highness. Needles are sharp, and I have a lot at my disposal. It is unwise to lie to an old woman," Ingrid lightly chided, cracking a smile.

Elsa blew out a breath and looked out the window, schooling her face into as much as a blank mask as she could. "And what kind of glow do you see in me?"

"The glow of a woman who's finally surrendered to the pull of love," the seamstress replied as she continued to measure and pin the dress in such a way it hugged Elsa's curves without being overly tight and constructing.

With any other servant, the queen would not have tolerated such wild accusations, but Ingrid was the closest thing to a grandmother she and Anna had ever had. Being the royal seamstress, she'd been in and out of their lives almost weekly and wasn't afraid of speaking her mind or speaking casually with the royal sisters. It was strange yet refreshing having someone so willing to step across the threshold of proper etiquette, but it was also an endearing quality that the queen appreciated. Sometimes it was nice to be treated like a normal, twenty five year old woman rather than a ruling monarch.

Elsa didn't need to affirm anything. Her silence was answer enough for the old seamstress. "So, you've found a man to court you, or at the very least sate the desire that burns in us all."

This time, Elsa anticipated the prick of the needle when she jerked around to stare wide eyed at the old woman. "Ingrid!" she admonished, face flushing a brilliant shade of red.

"What?" Ingrid chuckled, sitting back on her heels and pinning a few more inches of fabric around Elsa's waist. "You think men are the only ones who desire a loving touch. We women can rival them in our cravings, and," the old woman whispered, leaning forward so that she peered up at the queen from around her right hip, "we can rival them in our lovemaking. They think that just because they have the snake it somehow means they have the skill. If only they knew how delusional they were."

"You're horrible," Elsa murmured, trying to hide her creeping smile. "If Gerda heard you talking like this, I think you'd give her a heart attack."

"I love Gerda to death," Ingrid exhaled, "but she is the most prudish woman I've never met. It's bad enough when I have to fit your sister's husband while she's present. Never seen a woman blush so deeply at the sight of a pantsless man. Granted, young Kristoff is not lacking in male prowess. It's no wonder your sister became pregnant so fast, and that he doesn't split her in half like a piece of lumber! I have to sew in at least six inches of extra fabric in his breeches just to fit his—"

"Thank you, Ingrid. I don't need to know anything further," Elsa said in a frantic rush. The last thing she wanted on her mind was the knowledge of how well-endowed Kristoff was. It was something she could go her whole life without knowing.

Ingrid shrugged nonchalantly and continued pinning. "Anyway, I notice you're not denying anything I've said thus far. So there is a man who's snagged your heart. Good for you, lovely. So, when will we be hearing wedding bells?"

Elsa looked startled and shot a glance over at her closet. Revel was hearing all of this, damnit. "I…I really don't think—"

"Ah, so it's not something as easy as marriage that can bring the two of your together. I see. Well, you are within your right to be with whomever you want, Elsa. You are the queen."

"I wish it were that simple," Elsa whispered before she could stop herself.

"My dear sweet child, it is that simple," Ingrid said standing with a groan and stretching her sore back. "If you truly love him, royal preamble and tradition be damned. Marry his handsome ass before he gets away!"

Elsa felt another searing flush coming on and pressed her teeth into her bottom lip. Why on earth was she even having this conversation with her seamstress? Wasn't she always the one reminding Anna and Kristoff that the walls had ears?

"What makes you think he's handsome?" she asked quietly, lowering her voice so that only the two could hear.

"Well, you're definition of handsome and my definition of handsome will be two different things, but I can't imagine you giving your heart to someone with average looks. Unless he's gifted in other areas." The seamstress gave the queen a wink, and Elsa had never felt her face remain so red for so long.

"He is…handsome in his own right," Elsa said slowly. "And charming in an infuriating sort of way."

"Men think themselves capable of such wit and charm when in a woman's presence, but really they're just floundering fools grasping at straws. But, if this man has been able to steal your heart, there must be some good in him. It's refreshing to hear that you've finally reached a point in your life where you feel comfortable enough being with someone. I'm happy for you, Elsa."

The queen went quiet, and that seemed to suit the seamstress just fine. After a handful of silent minutes, Ingrid declared herself finished with the first dress and had Elsa change into the emerald green and blue one next. Gerda returned half way through this fitting and the three women began discussing mundane things like where the servants would need to take the guests that had already arrived and how they would conduct dinner that evening. A few Dukes and higher nobles had requested a private dinner with the queen, the King of Asham being one of them, which was a surprise. Elsa hadn't expected King Adrek to attend this year, but was more than happy to entertain the spice king.

An hour or so later, Gerda and Ingrid left the royal chambers. Ingrid had her measurements and would send the finished dresses to the queen later that evening. Gerda excused herself to take care of more morning duties leaving Elsa alone in her room and practically giddy with relief they were gone.

Leaning against the door for a few heartbeats, she breathed a relieved sigh. Revel hadn't been discovered…well, not in the way she'd expected anyway. Ingrid was a sharp woman and had figured out her secret without much trouble, but that didn't surprise or worry the queen. Shocking though it had been, the seamstress would never breathe a word of what she'd discussed or discovered with anyone, so Elsa's secret was safe. Still, that meant three people now knew about her lover.

Where am I going wrong with keeping this secret? It's harder to keep under wraps than my powers. So what's different?

The answer was simple. She didn't have the ability or luxury to lock herself in her room anymore in order to hide.

Exhaling again, because right now it felt like the weight of endless duties and responsibilities were again settling on her shoulders, Elsa moved over to her closet and reached for the door handle. "Revel, I'm sorry I locked you in—" she pulled up short, realizing a second later that what she was seeing wasn't a trick of her imagination, "what the hell are you doing!?"

"Well," Revel began popping his hip to one side so that the fabric of the green dress he'd managed to squeeze himself into fell over his bare leg, "when charm and wit are no longer enough to woo a woman, I figured a keen sense of style would be my next safe bet."

With careful, ginger steps, because walking in heels wasn't something he was used to and he didn't want to snap the thin spike, he strut forward on the balls of his feet and turned with a swish, the fabric of the dress swinging wildly around his knees in a flourish.

"Is…is that one of my summer dresses?" Elsa gaped, mouth making a near perfect "O" of disbelief. At the moment she was too stunned to be anything but…well, stunned.

"I don't know darling, it's whichever one fit me best," Revel said with a casual wave of the hand that eventually alighted on his cocked hip. "I think this bring out my eyes, don't you?"


Someone knocked on the door and the two froze, a burst of ivy ice snaking out under the queen's feet.

"Yes?" Elsa called, her voice slightly strangled.

"It's Anna. Can I come in?"

Elsa was just about to begin the now arduous task of shoving Revel back in the closet when his face morphed into a devious grin and he called in an surprisingly accurate, albeit deeper, mimic of the queen's voice, "Come in!"

"No wait, Anna don't—"

"Ok good, because I need some help with these bodice laces…" Anna stopped as the door swung shut behind her, eyes growing as big as dinner plates. She looked between a completely mortified Elsa, head in her hands and ice at her feet, and a grinning Revel dressed in one of her sister's summer dresses before bursting into such heavy laughter she began to tear.

"Oh sweet God…what are you— no, I don't even want to know. Wait, yeah I do! How did you get into her dress? Are you wearing…are those heels?"

"Anna, this isn't the time—"

"Oh you know," Revel said speaking over Elsa, sashaying with overdramatic swings of his hips to the vanity and gingerly easing himself down into the chair. He attempted to cross his legs, felt the seams against his thighs straining, thought better of it, and simply leaned back with mock casualty. "A little stomach sucking, a little squeezing and pulling. You know, I've never realized how confining these things are in the legs. You women make moving in them look effortless, but coupled with heels," he raised his foot and shook it, eliciting another rancorous bout of laughter from Anna, "it's a wonder you all get around."

"I'm going to burn that dress now," Elsa mumbled, peaking at her lover over the tops of her fingers.

"I was going to add the matching bodice but thought better of it."

"If you can fit into any of my bodices, I will kill myself," she said glaring at him.

"Oh, don't be so overdramatic. I thought this color looked great on me. I should consider wearing it to the Summit ball on Friday."

"He's got a point," Anna admitted after wiping the tears from her eyes. "Green looks good on him, and I mean, look at how this dress hugs his curves!" The princess pulled Revel to his wobbly, heeled feet and motioned excitedly with her hands. "He's positively radiant!"

"I hate you both," was Elsa's reply as she iced the door so there were no more unexpected visitors.

"She doesn't mean that," Anna whispered out of the corner of her mouth. Then turning back to her sister she said, "Are you going to help me with my bodice or not?"

"Here, allow me." Revel took the blue laces from the princess and began carefully lacing the back of her bodice. It was a little difficult to get the necessary tightness around her stomach without putting too much pressure on the growing little one, but the Captain worked deftly, and in about a minute Anna was comfortably laced.

"You're very good at that," she said straightening her dress and smoothing her skirt.

"Practice," Revel replied casually.

Anna grinned devilishly and turned towards her sister who had just finished getting dressed in complete, mortified silence. "I'll bet you've gotten a ton of practice. Lacing and unlacing."

"Anna!" Elsa groaned.

"Oh like this is news to me," the princess said waving her sister off.

"It's still not something I want to talk about…in public."

"How is this public? We're in your private quarters." A thought suddenly occurred to her and she turned toward Revel who was still sitting ramrod straight in Elsa's vanity chair looking like perhaps the most muscular and ugly woman either of the sister's had ever seen. "How did you get in here past the guards at the staircase?"

"Secret passage," Revel answered before the queen could jump in and stop him.

Anna's eyes lit up. "Really?! Where?"

"The bookcase," he replies again before Elsa can intervene, pointing at the large bookcase near her door. The queen give him a wide eyed "why in the hell would you tell her about that" look, and all he can do is grin back at her.

"Is there really? Oh, that's just too cool! Can I see it? Where does it lead? Oh! Can I get into any other rooms from here…like say…my room?"

"I've actually not explored it all that much," Revel admitted with a small shrug.

Anna looked back at him from where she stood examining the bookcase and snorted with fresh laughter. There was just something so gut seizingly funny about seeing her sparing instructor and Elsa's lover sitting prim and proper at the queen's vanity as if preparing for a party. "I should do your makeup for you."

"Oh that would be grand!" Revel beamed setting his hands daintily on his knees and turning towards the queen. "Wouldn't you agree, dear? A little splash of color on my cheeks to bring out my fair complexion and maybe some eye shadow to bring out my eyes?" The Captain clapped his hands excitedly. Elsa blatantly ignored him, hands behind her back as she tied her bodice laces with deft fingers. "Oh, look at us! Having girl time and everything!"

"Come on Elsa, it's not going to kill you to smile," Anna chuckled. "At least you've found a man with a good sense of style. And he can even help you get ready in the morning! That's a plus!"

"I'm not talking to either of you," she said lifting her chin in a way that was more irritated sister than grumpy queen and walked stiffly to her door, deicing it with a wave. "If you'll excuse me, dear sister, I need to finish getting ready for my meetings this morning, and you need to be off to see the Physician."

Anna groaned, rolling her eyes as she moved towards the door. "I don't see why I need to see Brynja every other day. The baby will come when he's good and ready."

"You go because she asked you to and because she wants to make sure the baby hasn't shifted," Elsa answered dryly, hand on the ornate brass door handle. Anna attempted to stand her ground, squared her shoulders and stuck out her bottom lip in what could only be described as mildly defiant, but the queen's unblinking stare eventually wore her down and she threw her hands up in defeat.

"Alright, alright! I'm going. Just put those icy stares away before you freeze me again."

Elsa said nothing as her sister walked past, but just as she stepped over the threshold the queen sent a dervish of super cold air whirling towards her. The instant it hit her skirts and lifted the fabric off the ground was the instant it froze in place like a flag halted in mid flap. Anna jumped and squeaked in surprise, turning just in time to see her sister flash her a wicked grin before shutting the door behind her.

"I hope someone throws hot water on you and you melt!" Anna shouted from the hallway, attempting to push her skirts into a more normal position so walking wasn't awkward. It took a few tries, but eventually the ice melted enough that she could make it downstairs without much trouble, mumbling and grumbling all the way to the medical wing.

Elsa turned back towards Revel, eyeing him with a single perfectly arched eyebrow. The Captain returned her stare with a smug one of his own. "Well, my dear, are you going to help me out of this dress or am I going to have to waddle back to the guard tower in your heels?"

"I should make you do exactly that," she said canting her head slightly.

"You could, but this is expensive fabric that would never last the trip," Revel said standing, hands on his hips.

"Oh Revel," Elsa said with a smile so sweet it was devious, "I'm the queen. Expensive fabric means nothing to me, especially when revenge comes to mind."

And for the first time in a long time, the guard Captain felt genuinely nervous standing before the woman who had become his lover, the woman who was still very much his queen, the woman he was compelled to obey.

"You want a carrot, eh? Well, what's the magic word?" Kristoff said waving an enticingly large carrot near Sven's snout. The reindeer made a lunge for it, but the ice harvester jumped away, tisking the big animal as if he were a naughty child. "That's not the magic word. Honestly Sven, where have your manners gone?"

The bull reindeer grunted and bugled, giving his friend, because Kristoff would never think of Sven as a pet and assume the role of master, a plaintive look.

"Please?" Kristoff whined, pitching his voice to sound more like how Sven sounded in his head.

"Alright buddy," he consented and handed the treat over which Sven devoured in a greedy gulp. Shaking his head, Kristoff continued to brush the reindeer's slick coat, ridding it of all the loose winter hair that currently littered half the stall Sven occupied. Shedding month was never easy for the reindeer. Without being able to wander the woods and rid himself of the itchy leftover fur by rubbing against trees, Sven had to be brushed daily. It wasn't a chore that Kristoff disliked. In fact, he looked forward to the time he could spend with his best friend, just the two of them alone with their thoughts.

"I know buddy, I know. It's itchy and uncomfortable. I promise, after this whole Summit thing is over, we'll go into the mountains for a few days. Maybe even head up North Mountain to the ice palace. Would you like that? Huh? Would you like that?" He smiled when Sven grunted and stamped his feet happily.

Kristoff felt a much needed laugh build in his chest and felt the tension of the past few weeks lessening. Three years living in the Arendelle castle had taught him a lot. He'd learned courtly etiquette, or as close to it as he could come, learned the proper utensils for dinner, learned how to dance, learned how to speak with other nobles. Basically learned how to be the man Anna needed him to be. But his lessons weren't always pleasant and oftentimes led to sharp reminders that he wasn't really a part of the aristocracy. It didn't matter how much like a royal he acted, Kristoff knew in his heart of hearts he would always be an ice harvester. It had been his life before Anna, had been his entire existence, and learning how to juggle what felt like two lives, two different people, was difficult at the best of times. It was only in the stables and while alone with his wife that the mountain man felt the most at peace, and that feeling washed over him like a soothing balm as he continued to brush Sven and hum softly while Olaf snoozed in the corner. The little snowman had become the reindeers near constant companion when he wasn't wondering the castle or spending time with the royal sisters.

When the door leading to the stable master's room swung open suddenly, reindeer and ice harvester jumped in unison and stared at the man stumbling out of the room. Captain Revel quietly shut the door behind him, apparently not seeing Kristoff in the corner stall, and gingerly made his way across the stables towards the guard tower. Only when Revel was about to push open the lower stable door, the upper half locked to the wall to allow the warm breeze to flow through the stifling building, did Kristoff raise his voice.

"Something wrong with your feet?" the ice harvester inquired with a slight arch of his eyebrow. Revel spun and would have lost his balance, which was odd for the Captain because he was usually more sure footed, and had to grab hold of a nearby stall door to keep from toppling over.

"Baron Kristoff! I— I didn't see you there. My apologies, I should have—" he stumbled again barely catching himself, "taken better care to look around the stable. I—"

"Good lord, relax Revel," Kristoff cut in and gave the Captain a look somewhere between irritation and curiosity. That was another part of being "royal" he had to get used to. People always seemed nervous of approaching or accidently insulting you. Like people weren't human and forgot their manners sometimes. Nothing to get bent out of shape about, but Kristoff had learned it was the principle of the matter. He was royalty now and therefore was to be treated as such.

Sometimes I wish things could be normal again. I'd like to be just normal Kristoff without the added title of Barron. People act more themselves when they're talking to a peasant rather than talking to a noble.

"Of course, my lord," Revel replied tightly, sketching a bow while trying to hide his wince.

"No, I'm not 'my lord'. I'm Kristoff. Just Kristoff," he stressed and instantly regretted his tone of voice. Revel wasn't doing anything wrong; Kristoff was just irritated this morning. He'd woken up in a gray mood that hadn't yet abated. Sighing again, he set down Sven's brush and stepped out of the stable. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you. Please, just address me by my name. I know it seems strange, but sometimes I want to be plain old me and not 'my lord' this or 'Baron Kristoff' that. Just…just Kristoff."

Revel felt a flash of sympathy for the man and nodded, consenting to the ice harvester's request. "As you wish…Kristoff."

"Thank you," the mountain man sighed with relief, never so grateful to hear his birth name spoke aloud. Well, that wasn't entirely true. Whenever Anna spoke his name, whether it was in the annoyed, eye-rolling tone, or the husky "I'm ready, take me now" whisper, it always sent a shiver down his spine. Three years had done little to dent the impact she had on him on a day to day basis.

As the two stood regarding one another in a thin silence, Kristoff suddenly noticed what was causing the Captain's discomfort and canted his head, thoroughly confused. "Why the hell are you walking around in heels?"

Revel glanced down at his feet, and his face ignited in a fearsome blush powerful enough to turn his ears burgundy red. "Ah…well…I thought I'd try out a new fashion that just came in from France. You see, it's all the rage for men to wear heels now. So I thought, what the hell. Must keep up with the times."

Kristoff glanced back at Sven, face scrunched in the "is her serious?" look, and the both turned that same unconvinced expression onto the Captain. "I'm not buying it. You made her mad, didn't you?"

He'd said it quietly enough and there was no one present with them in the stables, yet still Revel grimaced and glanced around just to be sure. Finally, after staring at his ice encased feet for a few moments, he sighed. "You could say this is my punishment for a less than amusing prank."

"She put ice shoes on your feet," Kristoff chuckled, unable to hide his grin. Anna might have been the more mischievous and adventurous of the royal sisters, but Elsa hid a wicked streak a mile long behind her sweet smile and perfect grace. Under it all, she was just as devious as Anna and had nearly limitless power at her disposal. The ice harvester was suddenly very happy he had little Anna to stand between him and the queen if this was how Elsa dished out paybacks.

"Yes she did. And they won't dissolve until I get to the guard tower."

"Can I ask what you did to earn the ire of the queen?" Kristoff asked, arms folded across his chest, sly grin starting to pull at the corner of his lips. If it were possible, Revel's face deepened in color.

"I…" he waffled a bit, clearly torn between keeping his mouth shut and enduring his embarrassment in silence and confiding in another man who knew all too well what Elsa was capable of when pushed. "I put on one of her dresses and ran around her room," Revel finally said in a faint whisper.

Kristoff blinked in surprise before a wave of laughter hit him before he could stop it. "Gods above Revel, what the hell were you thinking?"

"It was a joke. I was just trying to get her to laugh."

"I don't need to tell you that your plan seems to have backfired."

"Clearly," the Captain grumbled and shifted his weight, the balls of his feet screaming. He was starting to understand why Elsa griped so much about having to wear heels. Aside from being massively constricting, they forced the wearer to walk constantly on their toes! What was the point of this fashion?

Never again. I'll never make fun of her sore feet again, I swear to God.

"So, what happens if you get caught?" Kristoff asked after clearing his system of giggles. "People will know where those shoes came from. I mean…not many people can replicate translucent blue heels."

"Yes, well. It's up to me to get to my destination without being seen."

"Clever," the mountain man nodded, appreciating the layers of Elsa's revenge. Revel not only had to get to the guard tower, a feat not easily done when you weren't use to walking in elevated shoes, but he also had to make it there as if nothing were amiss. As if he wasn't wearing perhaps the most elegant looking pair of women's footwear this side of Corona.

"Our queen is anything if not a woman capable of varying degrees of deviousness. Lesson learned on my part."

"Sven and I could walk next to you," Kristoff offered with a shrug. Despite his mixed feelings towards Revel, he didn't want the Captain subjected to too much public ridicule. The pain he was feeling was punishment enough.

It wasn't that the mountain man disliked Revel. There wasn't much about him that would make anyone dislike the Captain, but that was also the problem. There wasn't much about him. Kristoff knew next to nothing about the Arendelle guard captain aside from what Anna had told him second hand from Elsa, and that was sparse at best. He knew Revel had come from a sordid background and had left home at a young age. He'd lived on the streets in another kingdom before accidently burning it down. Later he came to Arendelle, but it was his unwillingness to speak about his past that raised a flag of suspicion. One of the things Kristoff valued most in a relationship was trust. He trusted Anna with everything; every facet of his life with the trolls, all the secrets of his teen years, all the hardship of his adult life. There wasn't a stone unturned in his life's story, and the same went for Anna. Kristoff knew everything about her, yet here was a man who had somehow stolen Elsa's heart yet wouldn't speak a word about his years before leaving home. What was he hiding? Better yet, who or what was he hiding from? Something about the Captain niggled at the back of his head like a worm burrowing through an apple. What it was, he couldn't say, but he didn't like feeling this way towards someone who ran in his immediate circle, who walked so closely to his family. Kristoff frowned at the swirling thoughts in his mind, previous mirth slipping away.

"Thank you for the offer Barr— I mean, Kristoff, but I'm afraid if I'm aided in any way, she'll find out. I'll do as she asks and return to my tower in…well in these. I certainly don't want to earn any more of her ire." Revel realized the mood around Kristoff had changed at about the same time Sven did and nudged his friend gently. The big man's face had suddenly become stony, a sure indication he was upset about something. Kristoff was an easy man to read, and it didn't take much deducing from the Captain to realize the ice harvester's sudden mood shift somehow pertained to him.

"Is there something wrong?"

Kristoff was silent for long enough Revel began to question whether or not the ice harvester had heard him. Finally, he seemed to come to some kind of internal decision and leaned back against the open stall, arms folded across his broad chest.

"What's your end game, Revel? What's the point of all of this?"

"I'm…I'm not sure I follow," the Captain frowned.

"I mean this…" he waved his hand as if indicating something far away, "thing with Elsa. Why are you even bothering? It's not like the two of you can go anywhere with your relationship. She's stations above you, a damn queen, so why are you even bothering? What are you trying to get, because that's the only reason I could see you continuing this charade. You want something from her."

Revel felt a different kind of heat rise into his cheeks as the implications of what Kristoff was suggesting fully registered in his mind. His eyes practically ignited with green fire as he glared across the stable at the mountain man. "No, you don't know me; because if you did you'd know I would never take anything from Elsa. I'm not like those station hunting bastards looking for their next leg up. I know my place, unlike some of us."

Kristoff understood Revel's jab and felt his blood begin to boil, a snarl coiling in his throat. No, that's not what he'd done with Anna. He loved her, station or title be damned. End of story. "Watch yourself, Captain."

"As I recall, you and I aren't using titles at this moment, ice harvester. Perhaps it is you who needs to watch himself. You seem to forget where you came from and presume yourself above the rest of us."

Kristoff had never been a violent man, passiveness was a troll trait he'd learned years ago, but something within him snapped and suddenly he was across the room and looming over Revel like a giant. The Captain realized in that startling moment that the ice harvester was a beast of a man well beyond the normal size of most. His chest, which Revel was more than eye level with, was like a barrel, his arms like tree boughs, his hands as big as frying pans. Suddenly, Revel was reminded of the story of David and Goliath, and he could certainly sympathize with David. Facing down a giant was terrifying, even more so when he knew he couldn't run away while wearing women's shoes.

Revel opened his mouth to say something, anything to defuse the situation that was quickly spiraling into disaster, but Kristoff put a stop to anything that might have come out of his mouth. The big man grabbed him by the front of his shirt, physically lifting him up off the ground and shoving him against the wall with a forceful thud. Some of the air rushed out of Revel's lungs, and he wheezed. They were so close Kristoff could smell the distinctive perfume Elsa wore still clinging to the Captain's shirt.

"I'm only going to say this once, so now would be a good time to open your ears. I don't give a fuck what you think of me and how I came about owning my title, but you will not insult my wife or the queen. What's done is done, and I don't need to justify myself to you. Fact of the matter is, I don't like you because I can't trust you. I've been in the ice business long enough to know when I've caught the scent of bullshit, and you stink like shit. You're hiding something, and I don't appreciate liars lurking around my family. So you get this through your pretty little head. If you ever, ever hurt Elsa in any way, I will make you bleed."

Before Revel could answer, Kristoff dropped him and walked back to a nervous Sven. The reindeer followed his friend out of the stable, glancing back every now and then at a thoroughly shaken guard captain who was having trouble picking himself up off the stable floor. It wasn't that he was scared of Kristoff, Revel had faced down bigger and meaner men, it was the promise of a different kind of pain in the ice harvester's eyes. Kristoff was Anna's husband, therefore he had her ear. If he wanted to set a wedge between him and Elsa it wouldn't be hard to do, and he wouldn't be blunt about it either.

Rising unsteadily to his wobbly feet, Revel made it to the guard tower without incident or being seen. Just as Elsa had said, the second he was inside the heels dissolved, but he hardly felt the change. His mind was on his hearth and the secret he had hidden there. A secret that Kristoff knew he was hiding. A secret Revel knew could destroy everything he'd carefully built over the years.

The Spring Trade Summit came on like a multicolored hurricane that slammed into Arendelle with unapologetic force. It wasn't so much a formal event as it was a massive trade celebration that brought in hundreds of merchants and tradesman from all around the adjoining kingdoms and beyond. For one week Arendelle was turned into the mecca of all things bought and sold, and every night, once the sun had slipped under the horizon, the taverns, inns, and courtyard were turned into a melting pot of revelers and party goers eager to socialize and talk business. To say it was a weeklong party would have only been partially correct because there were agreements and trade deals struck, new merchants hired, old ones fired, goods ordered and goods returned. And the woman at the epicenter of it all was the queen.

Elsa prepared all year for the Summit, organizing everything down to the letter. Those attending, those who were not, which merchants were given permission to set up stalls, which were forced to share, even where the dignitaries and nobles stayed while within the city proper; everything revolved around a strategy that would ensure Arendelle's growth and the growth of her hamlets and trade partners. Everything played out like a living chessboard.

Monday saw the start of the festivities with a lively parade and town square festival. It was the first chance vendors and merchants had to make a good, lasting impression, and they pulled out all the stops. Overnight the castle courtyard and town square were turned into a kaleidoscope of different colored tents and vendor stalls, some going as far as gilding their temporary dwellings with ornaments and feathers like competing peacocks. Food vendors squeezed in where they could, the smells of their combined cooking both enticing and overpowering, but it was within the palace that the real work began.

Elsa would rise an hour before sunrise and meet a handful of select nobles in private quarters. Together they would eat a small breakfast before venturing headlong into heated discussions ranging from everything from raw material trade, mined minerals, weapons forging, ship building and goods transportation. No stone was left unturned, and every word exchanged was meticulously recorded by Kai or one of the manservant's trusted scribes. Elsa bartered and traded, bought and sold, haggling like a seasoned merchant until the price of the goods she needed was well within budget. It was exhausting, at times confusing, work, and the queen thanked God more than once that Kai was present to refresh her memory when the bartering began in earnest. Lunch provided a much needed hour break before the next set of nobles met with the queen. Dinner was Elsa's only chance for separation from her duties, but this year she decided to entertain the visiting royalty from neighboring kingdoms as much as possible. So on Monday evening she sat down to dinner with her first royal guest, King Adrek of Asham.

He was already waiting for her when she arrived, early by five minutes. Adjusting herself one final time to make sure everything was in proper order, she nodded for Kai to open the door. The manservant announced her in the usual manor, his voice echoing through the dining room and bringing those seated to their feet. Else swept the room, her emerald green and ice accented dress flowing around her, and was surprised to find King Adrek standing by the fireplace admiring the antique trinkets her father had collected during his youth. When the announcement met his ears, Adrek turned sharply and swooped into a perfectly smooth bow so deep he bent nearly in half.

"Good evening, Queen Elsa," he said rising, cheerful smile in place.

This was the first time Elsa had ever set eyes on the elusive Asham king, and he was a visibly striking man. His height was average, a little on the shorter side of six foot, but what he lacked in height he made up for in physique. Under his velvet black and gold doublet, King Adrek was broad chested and thick limbed, yet he moved with the agile grace and sure footedness of a trained fencer. His dark hair, made darker by the shadows cast from the crackling fireplace, hung in curly waves around his ears. His beard was well maintained and shaved close to his face, ghosting his jaw with just a shadow of dark color.

"Good evening, King Adrek. I hope that I haven't kept you waiting," Elsa said stepping up to the man and extending her hand. Adrek again swooped into a perfect bow, right hand behind his back while his left gently gripped the queen's offered hand. His lips brushed her knuckles before he straightened and drew back a step.

"Not at all, Majesty. I was just admiring your collection of antique pipes."

"They were my father's. He collected them during his travels and even carved a few himself," Elsa said indicating the five pipes displayed on the fireplace mantle with a smile. It had been a quirky habit of her father handed down from his father that grew into something of an obsession. King Agdar had never been one to smoke, unlike Elsa's grandfather, but he appreciated the craftsmanship and skill that went into creating an ornate pipe. His love for them was only matched by his curiosity for creating his own. The five Elsa displayed were her father's first few attempts at whittling, and at times the queen would pull one down and run her fingers along the rough cut wood, imagining her father bent over his workbench trying to draw out the design he saw in the naked wood.

"Your father had a keen eye for detail," King Adrek said following the queen back to the table.

"He loved working with his hands," Elsa chuckled stepping up behind her chair. As was customary, the visiting royal pulled the queen's chair back and allowed her to be seated before seating himself. Elsa nodded her thanks as Adrek took his seat to her right while Anna, who had yet to arrive, would have sat to her left. The princess was late for dinner, but Elsa already knew about her impending tardiness. Her meeting with Physician Brynja had been pushed back until later that evening. Anna had been adamant about participating in the festival in town, thus delaying the appointment, so she and Kristoff would join them once finished.

"I do believe introductions are in order. May I introduce my personal attendant, Fritz Drescher," Adrek said indicating the man sitting next to him.

Fritz stood and bowed sharply, his bright hazel eyes locking with the queen's. "A pleasure, Your Majesty. Thank you for having us this evening."

Elsa inclined her head and smiled, all the while feeling a tingle arch across the brand on her shoulder. She stared at Fritz for a moment longer than was necessary, taking in his sharp, handsome features. Without seeing him in motion, she couldn't tell whether or not Fritz held the same natural grace as Adrek, but from just his brief bow and the hardness in his eyes, Elsa could guess this was a man who had seen his fair share of fights. And if the scare running from the bridge of his nose, under his right eyes, and into his blond hairline wasn't any indication of his combative nature, his unblinking, cold stare was.

"Likewise. Thank you, Master Fritz," the queen said with a polite nod. A thought seemed to strike her and she looked around expectantly. "Is Prince Symon not joining us this evening?"

"Um…regrettably no, Majesty," Adrek replied with an apologetic smile. "He…well that is—"

"He wanted to see the festivities," Fritz interjected flatly and flicked an unreadable glance at the king.

"Yes," Adrek admitted with a sigh. "I'm afraid that, because I have done little traveling, my little brother was quite eager to partake in the festival in town. I do hope you won't take offence to his absence, Majesty."

"Of course not. I cannot blame a young man for wanting to enjoy a few hours of revelry," Elsa said with a small laugh. With having Anna for a sister, she understood how younger siblings could be, especially when they'd been caged within castle walls for most of their adolescent life. The year directly following the Great Freeze, when Elsa had declared the gates to remain permanently open, Anna had gone into town nearly every day and wouldn't return until nightfall. So yes, Elsa understood Prince Symon's need for exploration.

"I look forward to meeting him later this week," she added before waving for the patiently waiting servants to begin bringing in hors d'oeuvres. Once finished with the appetizers, the main course was wheeled in on large silver carts and arranged on the table with almost clockwork precision. Just as the last plate was being set on the table, the door to the dining room burst open and in waddled Anna followed closely by Kristoff.

"Oh good, you've just started the main course. I'm sorry we're late," the princess said ducking into a quick bow directed towards Adrek and his personal attendant. The King and Fritz rose from their chairs and bowed simultaneously.

"Princess Anna, a pleasure to finally meet you. Please accept my congratulations on your pregnancy."

"Thank you, King…" Anna trailed off, her face heating with a bright blush. She really hadn't been paying attention to Elsa when her sister briefed her about dinner this evening.

"Anna," Elsa whispered under her breath, shooting her a disapproving frown. Regardless of whether or not Anna participated in the events of the Trade Summit, she should have at least remembered the name of the royal she was having dinner with.

"Quite alright, Majesty. I imagine the princess has seen and heard many faces and names today, and mine isn't anything spectacular. King Adrek of Asham, at your service, Highness."

Anna's eyebrows rose as she bowed in response, face brightening. "Asham? Our guard Captain is from Asham as well."

"Is he? Well, it appears we live in a much smaller world than previously thought," King Adrek said canting his head in a slightly curious way before turning towards Kristoff and offered him a broad, toothy smile. "This must be your husband."

"Barron Kristoff," the mountain man said dipping at the waist after pulling out Anna's chair and helping her sit.

"A pleasure to meet you both. It gladdens my heart to see a family grow. My congratulations to you both."

After the necessary introductions were out of the way, Elsa declared dinner begun. Both parties tucked in and only after the first course was complete and the second was being brought out did Adrek hold up a hand to forestall anyone from taking another bite.

"Your Majesties, if you please hold a moment. I have something that might interest you and make this dining experience a little more adventurous." With the flick of his wrist, Adrek motioned for Fritz to open the small box next to his left elbow. All three Arendelle royals watched curiously as the personal attendant withdrew three white silk bulbs and handed them to the king.

"My curiosity is piqued, King Adrek," Elsa said setting her fork down and eyeing the silk bulbs. Had this been any other royal, she would have been instantly suspicious of strange bundles, but Adrek was commonly known as the Spice King because of his trade connections with the Orient. Though the threat of poisoning was still present and was what any level headed monarch remained cautious of, Elsa had no reason to distrust the Asham king. That didn't mean she trusted him entirely, but for now she would indulge her curiosity.

"These are but a few spice samples I have brought with me. The first," Adrek indicated, pointing to one of the silk bulbs tied off with a green ribbon, "is what's called the Heavenly Five and it consists of a mixture of star anise, fennel seed, Szechuan pepper, cassia, and cloves. Granted, each spice on their own provides adequate seasoning, but the five combined creates an entirely different taste altogether." Adrek opened the bulb and handed it to Elsa. She gave it a tentative sniff, and instantly a bouquet of aromas blossomed in her nose. She could identify most of the herbs, but a few were new but not altogether unpleasant. All five combined certainly made for a robust seasoning.

"What can this spice be paired with?" she asked sniffing the bundle again before handing it over to Anna who repeated the gesture.

"Anything from poultry and fish, to fresh vegetables and thin soups. The spices are versatile, so if you would prefer to substitute on for a more common seasoning it can be done."

"This is certainly something I wish my cooks to experiment with," Elsa smiled and turned her attention on her sister. "What do you think, Anna?"

"I think Gerda will enjoy playing with recipes. We could definitely use some new dishes. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love what we eat, but something new would be awesome."

Adrek chuckled. "I agree that new culinary endeavors are something to be cherished."

"Do you enjoy cooking, King Adrek?" Elsa inquired taking a sip of her wine.

"I do, actually. My father taught me and my brothers when I was very young."

Seems Asham fathers are fond of teaching their children how to cook, Elsa thought taking another drink and suppressing a smile at the thought of Revel. A sudden pang of longing shot through her, and she struggled to keep her pleasant mask in place. She hadn't seen him all day and wouldn't see him the rest of the week until after the Summit wound to a close. Such was the hectic life of the queen of Arendelle and her Captain of the guard.

"This," Adrek continued, untying the blue ribbon securing the second bundle, "is fine ground ginger; an invaluable spice I'm sure you are familiar with."

"I certainly am," Elsa replied taking the small bundle offered by the king. Ginger was a priceless spice worth its weight in gold. A bulb like the one she was holding could sustain an average worker for nearly a year.

"I have a direct, untapped trade line with a ginger merchant willing to do business with the North. I'm sure the benefits of creating a trade agreement with him could be invaluable to both Arendelle and Asham."

"I believe I would like to speak with this merchant of yours," Elsa said slowly setting the bulb down.

The Asham king nodded and handed her the third and final bulb, this one tied off with a red ribbon. "The last spice I've brought is something I thought we all could enjoy. That is, if you have the gastrula fortitude to endure its effects."

"I might have to sit this one out," Anna said looking nervously at the bundle and setting a hand on her stomach.

"Of course, Highness. Although peppers have been known to strengthen the blood and cleanse the body of unneeded toxins; something a woman heavy with child might appreciate," Adrek said with a wide smile.

"This is a pepper?"

"More precisely, pepper powder. It is called the Jolokia pepper and it is found primarily in the warmer regions of India. It is very hot and is used to season almost everything. I have grown quite fond of the warmer peppers over the years and would like to spread their knowledge. I would recommend," Adrek quickly said reaching out to stop Anna who was leaning in to sniff the bulb, "not sniffing this particular bundle. The pepper in powder form is extremely potent and has been known to cause temporary blindness if gotten into the eyes."

Anna froze, eyes flicking down to look at the innocuous bulb in her hand. Kristoff gently relieved her of the bundle and handed it carefully back to Adrek.

"Please don't be alarmed. I assure you that a tiny pinch of the powder sprinkled atop any dish will provide a slight warmth to your meal. The more you add the hotter it will become, but it is a pleasant experience when done in small doses." As if to demonstrate, Adrek took a pinch of the pepper powder and seasoned his broiled trout, careful to wipe his hands clean before proceeding further. Fritz wordlessly did the same.

"Alright, I'm curious now," Elsa ventured after a moment. Adrek handed her the bundle and she carefully pinched a small amount of burgundy pepper powder between her thumb and forefinger. "Anna, are you sure you don't want to try?"

The princess gave her sister an incredulous look, lips pursed. "You're usually not an adventurous eater. What's changed?"

"Perhaps I'm feeling more adventurous and am in need of a change," Elsa offered with a small shrug.

"Uh huh, I'm sure. Seems there's been an awful lot of changes taking place around here these past few months. Can't say I don't like them. Who knew such a tiny shift in perspective could have such a huge effect on you, dear sister," Anna implied with a sly smile.

Elsa narrowed her eyes at Anna, and all five people seated around the table felt the temperature dip a bit. It was a silent warning for Anna to stop talking, but the princess merely laughed and took the bundle from the queen. Our of the corner of her eye, Elsa saw King Adrek shifted fractionally, clearly unnerved by the temperature change, while Fritz seemed to freeze in place, eyes snapping between her and Anna as if gauging something.

"Do be careful how much you use, Princess Anna," Adrek advised watching her grab a sizable pinch. "Start out small."

"Yes, dear sister, start out small. We wouldn't want you blindly rushing into things," Elsa smirked, eyebrow cocked. Kristoff fought back a laugh by coughing into his hand and adding a small pinch of the powder to his fish. His wife shot him several withering glares that he returned with a beaming smile.

"So," Anna said glancing around the table, "who wants to go first?"

Remarkably, it was the ice harvester who took the first bite of his spiced fish, tentatively chewing the morsel as if at any moment it might bite him back. And it did just that.

"Oly gawd, 'ut the 'ell?" he coughed spitting out the fish as tears welled in his eyes and sweat began to prickle his brow. He grabbed for the nearest available cup and downed the wine in two large gulps, but it did little to sooth the searing burn trickling down his throat. He went so far as sticking out his tongue and fanning it, eyes beginning to water. "Thucking Christh, that's hawt."

Adrek leaned back and laughed, a hearty, good natured sound. "Yes, Master Kristoff. It is warm the first time around."

"Warm?" Kristoff gaped, his tongue feeling like it was melting and swelling at the same time. "Iths volcanic!"

"Oh, don't be so overdramatic, Kristoff," Anna laughed and patted her husband patronizingly on the shoulder. "Please don't mind him. He's got a sensitive constitution."

"Oh boo I?" he slurred, his tongue feeling like a sea sponge in his mouth. "Well then, yew try it!"

"I'm sure it's not that hot," Anna chuckled spreading the powder around on her fish before scooping a large bite into her mouth. To say her reaction was similar to Kristoff's would have been an understatement. The princess practically gagged after her first couple of seconds, spitting the fish out and pounding the table with the flat of her palm while fighting to keep breathing. Her face turned the same cherry red as her husband's, and she drank her watered down wine plus half a pitcher of water before she was able to bring herself to speak, but even that was strained.

"I…thas really hawt," she wheezed, tears and sweat running down her face. Anna sniffed as mucus began leaking out of her nose and had to bury her face in a napkin for a few moments. "You—" cough "—" really weren't kidding. I don't know…know how you eat that stuff straight faced."

"Years of practice," Fritz said cracking the first hint of a smile since dinner had begun. Elsa couldn't help but shiver at the expression on the assistants face. It was like watching a shark grin.

"Queen Elsa, it appears your sister and brother-in-law have been beaten by the pepper. Are you willing to take the leap and try?"

"I don't see why I shouldn't," Elsa replied and took a bite. Anna and Kristoff, still fighting off the molten lava clinging to their tongues and throats, leaned in and watched the queen expectantly. The princess seemed particularly interested in her sister's reaction and watched her closely while nursing another glass of water. Elsa chewed and swallowed, appreciating the complex taste the spice brought out in her fish, but remarkably, she didn't feel the heat. Quite the contrary. She felt a slight tingling on her tongue and at the back of her throat as if she'd eaten a large amount of peppermint.

"Well, it's definitely a different sensation, but I— what are you staring at?" She frowned at her sister who was watching her with wide eyed. Elsa realized Adrek and Fritz were also watching her and arched a curious eyebrow, glancing between the two parties.

"Your…breath…" Anna said leaning in close enough to her sister that she could smell her perfume.

"My what?"

"Breathe out again."

"Anna, I'm not sure what you're—" Elsa realized what Anna had seen and clapped a hand over her mouth at the same moment her sister burst out laughing. Even with her hand up, Elsa could see tendrils of steam leaking between the cracks of her fingers like smoke. Slowly, she lowered her hand and exhaled, mystified when her breath turned to vapor in front of her face.

"What on earth?"

"That…well that's definitely a new reaction," King Adrek said and broke into a fit of rich laughter. "I didn't realize there were dragons in Arendelle." Awkward tension dissolving, the rest of the table, save for Fritz who remained stone faced, laughed as well but none harder than the royal sisters.

"Where have you been hiding that talent? I didn't know you could do that," Anna managed after her giggles subsided.

"Neither did I. What an amusing side effect. It has to be from the peppers."

"Well, we should have guessed that would happen," Adrek said adding another dash of powder to his fish and taking a large bite. "When you throw ice on fire it steams. Truly, Queen Elsa, your gifts are remarkable."

Elsa felt heat rise into her cheeks and smiled. "Thank you, King Adrek. I think this has been one of my most memorable dinners to date."

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays went much the same way as the rest of the week, the ever revolving door of different nobles continuously meeting with the queen. It was tiresome work that left Elsa exhausted and desperate for the solitude of her room by the time night fell, but there was an added measure of loneliness to her quarters this week. Due to the amount of guests currently staying the palace, Elsa and Revel slept apart for the first time in weeks, and the change was jarring. She hadn't realized it, but she'd become comfortable with the Captain occupying her bed, and the thought of sleeping without him was troubling. The first night was the worst. She tossed and turned, unable to get comfortable and feeling as if the bed she'd slept in for years had suddenly become foreign to her.

Friday eventually arrived, and Elsa couldn't have been more relieved. No meetings that morning, no clamoring nobles and royals to wade through, no expectant guests. For the first time in days she was allowed to sleep in and move about at her own leisure before attending the traditional Summit Ball that evening. Most of the palace guests had departed to their respective ships and carriages earlier that morning, freeing the castle from the backlog of to many bodies. Elsa took full advantage of the exodus and walked the halls of the residency wing at a leisurely stroll, checking in on the cleaning staff and reveling in the peace and silence.

As she turned a blind corner and was passing an alcove in the wall that housed a marble statue of one of her ancestors, a hand shot out of the darkness and grabbed her. Before she could react, Elsa was dragged into the nook and pressed against the far wall in the statues shadow with surprising force. Her first reaction was to push whoever had grabbed her away as fast as possible, but her hands were pinned at her side. Panic boiled in her chest that almost manifested in a powerful blast of magic had a pair of familiar lips not connected with hers. She smelled his distinctive musk and felt calloused yet blessedly gentle hands cup her face and her fear instantly evaporated.

"You're going to get yourself killed doing that one of these days," Elsa said smiling up at Revel.

"I guess you could say I'm addicted to the thrill," he replied nuzzling the soft skin of her neck.

"No, you have a death wish."

"I've missed you," he whispered pressing his forehead against hers, warm breath washing against her face. The queen smiled and put a hand against his cheek, closing her eyes and just enjoying the familiar comfort of her lover's closeness.

"I've missed you too. This has been an exceptionally long week."

"Agreed. I'll be happy when all of these tourists finally leave."

Elsa rested her head against the Captain's shoulder and sighed contentedly. "I take it policing the town was a chore?"

"I'll tell you about it later," he breathed, searching and finding her cool lips. "Right now, I just want you."

The queen groaned softly and spared a glance at the hallway. "I really need to—"

"You deserve a break, however short," Revel interrupted, kissing her again. For a brief moment Elsa tensed, but the magnetic pull of her lover and the unexpected need building inside her unchecked quickly swayed her uncertainty. As did Revel's lips moving away from hers and traveling down her jaw and slender neck, leaving blooms of fire in their wake. She suppressed a stream of nervous giggles that quickly turned into breathy sighs as the Captain deepened their embrace and began nibbling on her ear and shoulder. Elsa felt his hands begin to wander, fingers sliding along the spine of her bodice and down across the thin fabric of her skirt. With a swift jerk she was off the ground, legs wrapped tight around his waist and arms around his neck. Skirts bunched around her waist, Elsa felt Revel grind himself against her, the hardness of his arousal making her moan with unexpected pleasure as it brushed sensitive areas.

"We— we're going to get caught," the queen breathed into his ear, though there was no real urgency for him to stop. A week apart had been more difficult than previously thought, and Elsa hadn't realized she burned with the same need as Revel until his first kiss ignited the smoldering embers in her abdomen and pelvis.

"Like I said, I enjoy the thrill," Revel growled. He ground against her again, deliberately slow, savoring how she shivered. "But if you'd like, I could always stop and we could continue tonight."

"I…" Elsa bit into her bottom lip, her body practically vibrating with arousal. "Please, d-don't make me c-choose."

Revel ginned deviously against her neck, his tongue laving at her quickly warming skin. "Then I'll make the decision for you."

She felt him shift, fabric being draw aside, before the heat of his head pressed against her opening. A groan slipped past her lips, another wave of shivers running the length of her spine. Slowly, teasingly, Revel slid in until he was completely submerged within her wetness, hissing as a mix of pain and pleasure ignited around his groin. Elsa's legs tightened and she rolled her hips, savoring her lover's rigidity and how he filled her. Their bodies began moving as one, hungry for one another like starved animals. Fingers tangled in hair, lips came together with bruising force, nails raked cloth and halted breaths became barely restrained moans and cries as orgasmic fire ignited between the two. They were both more than ready and peaked quickly, fire igniting into a nova of blue and white sparks that left both queen and Captain breathless and spent.

"My, don't you look satisfied," Revel grinned down at his love as he helped support her until she regained feeling in her legs. Elsa could feel the heat in her cheeks like a forge and pushed him playfully.

"Maybe I needed that," she said taking a moment to test her balance before straightening her skirts and bodice. Revel backed away a step but the queen wasn't yet done with him. She yanked him back towards her and pulled him into another forceful kiss, her tongue brushing against his. The Captain moved closer, pinning her in place, hands pressed flat on either side of her head.

"I really have missed you," he said watching her cerulean eyes dance in the twilight darkness.

"Me too. I'm looking forward to tonight." Elsa smiled and tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. "Are you still coming?"

"And miss the opportunity to show these poor backwater nobles how true monarchy dances? Not a chance. I'll see you at six."

"I'm looking forward to it," Elsa said giving her lover one last kiss goodbye before he ducked out of the alcove after making sure the coast was clear. She left a few seconds later, a much needed spring in her step despite her hips being a tad sore. Tonight was the end of the Summit and her chance to finally unwind. She would dance and socialize, mingle with her peers and be the ever gracious hostess, but more importantly, she would dance with Revel and spend some much needed time with him and her family.

"You look beautiful," Elsa smiled as Anna walked into the ballroom a half hour before the ball began. The princess was wearing a one piece lavender dress paired with a black, soft suede vest with ornate silver buttons. Her skirt stopped just under her knees and flowed like water as she walked, shimmering with delicate swirling ice patterns complements of her sister. The delicate ice flower ornaments helping to keep her braided bun pinned in place were also from the queen and glittered like diamonds in the golden light of the hall.

"I look fat," Anna retorted with a sour look down at herself. It was near impossible to see her feet anymore, the expanse of her stomach eclipsing most of her vision.

"No, you look pregnant. There's a difference, dear sister."

"Elsa," the princess whined, flailing her arms helplessly before resting her forehead against the queen's collarbone. "How am I going to make it through tonight? My ankles look like pig legs, which means they are nonexistent, and I can barely walk without waddling. And God forbid I have to dance. I have no depth perception with this little one jutting out in front of me." Anna gave her swollen stomach a gentle pat and frowned. "Being pregnant isn't as fun as people make it out to be."

"Who on earth said it was fun?" Elsa asked, eyebrows rising into her hairline. Though her memories were hazy, the queen could remember her mother's pregnancy with Anna and the complications she'd run into during her final weeks.

"You always hear courtly women talking about how wonderful it was carrying their children and how blessed they were. Well, I can certainly tell you, I'm blessed alright. Blessed with being constantly out of breath, having swollen ankles, and a stomach that could very easily deflect a croquet ball. This is certainly not fun. You look stunning by the way."

Elsa smiled and wrapped her arms around Anna's shoulders, planting a kiss atop her head. "I know this isn't easy for you, but it will all be worth it in the end. You'll see. And thank you."

Anna snorted and stepped back. "I'll have to take your word for it. Anyway, where has this dress been hiding?"

The queen looked down at the gown she'd been saving especially for tonight and grinned. "I had Ingrid specially make it for the ball."

It was a stunning piece of craftsmanship that only Ingrid's years of exquisite skill had been able to create. Usually, Elsa preferred to wear colors associated with her kingdom and her powers. Purple, blue, and green of varying degrees were the normal colors found in her wardrobe, but she had wanted something special for tonight. So the queen commissioned the royal seamstress to make a burgundy half shoulder dress that laced up the back with black ribbon and required no bodice for support. The effect this created was stunning. Elsa's elegant figure was on show for the world to see. The dark fabric, which stood in stark contrast to her pale skin and platinum blond hair, was silk smooth along her torso before it transformed into textured ruching from the waist down. For an added measure of elegance, and because the queen liked to show off her powers in subtle ways, chunks of clear and turquoise will-ice clung to the fabric around the outer edges, adding a pop of glittering wonder. Elsa's final measure of elegance was her hair which she wore down like she had during the Yule Ball. Three braids began at her temples and conjoined behind her head with a white gold snowflake charm, the rest of her hair cascading down her back in gentle waves.

"Red actually looks really good on you," Anna said stepping back to take in the full effects of the dress. "Definitely makes it look like your skin is glowing. But then again, that might be because you're meeting a certain someone on the dance floor this evening."

Elsa flushed and looked away. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yeah, sure you don't. I'm also sure that this dress wasn't made to catch our guard Captain's eye either."

"I admit to nothing," Elsa said fighting back a grin.

"Your denial is affirmation enough," Anna chuckled and stepped onto the dais behind her. With a thankful sigh she sank down into the ornate chair set beside her sister's throne, massaging whatever part of her leg her arms could reach over the swell of her stomach.

"Are you sure you want to be here?" Elsa asked kneeling in front of her sister and gently rubbing her calves with icy hands.

"Oh my God, that feels wonderful."

"Anna, go on back upstairs and get some rest."

"And miss the chance to see you and Revel dance again? Absolutely not! Plus, I want to say goodbye to a few nobles I met this week. Have you by chance met Prince Symon?"

Elsa had to think back on her week trying to pinpoint a face to go with the name. She'd met with Adrek Monday evening but hadn't seen much of the Asham king since. She presumed he had meetings of his own, but the queen had never gotten the chance to meet the youngest Asham prince.

"I don't think I have yet. Why? Have you?"

"I met him Wednesday. He's a really sweet guy but extremely shy. You'd think he doesn't get out much."

"He doesn't," Elsa said remembering the conversation she'd had with Adrek at dinner. "King Adrek said he doesn't travel much, so I assume Prince Symon doesn't go many places."

"Poor guy. Well, he's supposed to be here tonight, so I'll introduce the two of you."

Elsa smiled and excused herself when she caught sight of Kai lingering by the door. "Is everything ready?"

"Yes, Majesty."

Elsa nod and flicked her hand out towards the currently empty room. Ice leapt from her fingers and crept along the walls and across the ceiling, creating intricate patterns that flashed and winked in the evening sunlight streaming in through the large windows. The chandelier, which was modest by most standards, suddenly doubled in size as the queen's ice transformed it into a hanging piece of art that captured and refracted the light a hundred times over.

"Then show them in."

Revel paused one hallway away from the ballroom in order to make sure his suit was immaculate, straightening his cuffs for the third time and making certain his sash was tied properly. He wasn't a vain man, not by any stretch of the imagination, but he wanted to make sure he looked his best tonight. Mingling with visiting nobility and aristocracy was always a daunting task, especially if Duke Wellmore's daughter was in attendance, which he desperately hoped she wasn't, but tonight he was to dance with the queen in front of hundreds of new and important face. The last thing he wanted was to shed a poor light on her.

Deciding he was as prim as he was ever going to be, Revel squared his shoulders, swallowing a lump of nerves, and stepped into the steady flow headed towards the ballroom. He passed a few squads of his men, nodding to each guard in turn as he passed. This week had proven to be a challenging one. With so many visitors descending upon Arendelle, the task of policing citizens and travelers had become a monumental effort. Most of the Captain's men had to work in twelve hour shifts, himself included, patrolling the streets and keeping watch on the sensitive areas such as inns, pubs, and alleyways. More than a few times his men had responded to bar fights, hauling drunken, screaming men away and letting them cool their heads in the central tower cells. Nothing more major than that, thank God, but Revel could tell his guards were worn ragged. Once the rest of the visitors departed he was going to make sure each man received at least a full day off in rotation.

As he passed a particularly tight cluster of nobles, none of which he recognized, Revel felt a sudden, fierce prickling on the back of his neck and froze, instantly aware something wasn't right. Wading over to the wall in order to remove himself from the current of moving bodies, the Captain scanned the crowd for something, anything, that might explain the unnerving feeling of unease. It was like sensing something on the cusp of awareness, a ripple in the fabric of rightness that set his teeth on edge. The feeling was akin to walking down a dark alley knowing something was waiting for you within the shadows but being unable to tell when it was going to pounce; predator stalking prey. A few nobles gave him questioning looks as they past but none of them seemed out of place. Then again that was the beauty of a stalking predator. You couldn't always see them but they could most definitely see you. It wasn't just nerves, Revel knew. Being a guard for more than a decade and living on the streets before that had instilled in the Captain a heightened sense of awareness regarding his surroundings. He knew something was amiss, could feel it in his marrow, but without anything to go on aside from a feeling he was forced to rejoin the crowd and head into the ballroom.

"Sigmund," Revel called spotting the big guard standing near the secondary doors and waving him over.

"Evening, Captain. You're looking dapper as always," the big guard said with a lopsided smile, the dark circles under his eyes an indication of his exhaustion. Revel almost winced when he saw them.

"Thank you. Have there been any disturbances near or around the castle?"

Sigmund was quiet for a moment, eyes trained on the floor as he thought. "None that I can recall."

"No unusual noises or shady people skulking around the palace grounds?"

"No, sir. What's this about? Is something wrong?" Sigmund asked, suddenly alert. Tried though he may be, the big guard could easily push his exhaustion aside in the face of a potential crisis. It was a quality that Revel greatly admired in his lieutenant and remained one of the reasons Sigmund had risen through the ranks so quickly.

"Not that I can tell, I just….have a feeling."

This coming from any other guard would have put a patronizing smile to Sigmund's face as he sent the man away with a pat on the head. Feelings were hardly ever supported over cold hard facts. Guards weren't trained to go off feelings, they were trained to react, to identify a potential threat before it was revealed by careful analysis. Angry mobs went off gut feelings, professional guards looked at the facts and weighed them accordingly. Revel, however, was a different matter. His gut instincts were usually spot on in most cases. He was famous for having his uneasy feelings turn out to be serious potential threats, and this had gained him an unspoken, respected reputation for having a near sixth sense. So for Revel to have that same set of feelings here and now, Sigmund sat up and took notice.

"I'll call in more guards to police the doorways and balconies."

"No, that won't be necessary. If there is something wrong, we don't want to tip the person off. I'll circle the room a few times and see what I can find. Just keep your eyes open and on the queen."

"Always, sir." Sigmund saluted as Revel moved off and did a quick lap of the ballroom. He scanned the balconies, the drapes, the doorways, looking for a phantom but finding none. Nothing was out of place. As he pressed further into the room the prickling feeling abated like a tide ebbing away, still present at the base of his skull but not nearly as demanding. A quick glance at Sigmund confirmed that the big guard hadn't noticed anything either, so with nothing to go on, Revel turned away from his searching and headed for the dais. As he stepped around a cluster of chatting nobles waiting for the maestro to strike up the first tune of the evening, he caught a glimpse of Elsa standing next to Anna and stutter stepped, his mouth falling open in shocked wonder.

He saw her first and the dress second, the combination of both coming together in his mind like a powder keg explosion. She was the winter sun's radiance made flesh, ice and fire combined to form an entirely new, entirely knee weakening element that very nearly robbed Revel of his senses. For half a heartbeat he just stared, unable to bring himself to move as he felt himself go suddenly weightless. Time seemed to suddenly jump forward without him noticing and he was standing before her, throat achingly dry. He opened his mouth to speak, but the only thing that came out was a pathetic squeak of air.

"Good—um—good evening, Majesty," he managed after an uncomfortable few seconds and swooped into a tight bow, aware that not just the queen's eyes were one him.

"Good evening, Captain Revel. You're looking dashing this evening," Elsa said gracing him with a wide smile that was equivalent to watching the sun break through a fog bank. The Captain reveled in the warmth of her radiance, body suddenly vibrating with nervousness.

I'm shaking like this is the first time I'm meeting her. What's wrong with me?

"Thank you. You're…that is you—" he glanced to either side to see if anyone was near and lowered his voice, "you look radiant, Elsa. Absolutely stunning."

A line of pink stretched across the bridge of the queen's nose, and she fought to keep her face pleasantly neutral. Regardless, her eyes betrayed her inner happiness and relief. "Thank you."

Turning his attention to the rest of the royal family so as not to offend, he bowed to Anna and Kristoff in turn. "It's good to see you all this evening: Princess Anna, Barron Kristoff."

"Good to see you too, Revel," Kristoff said with a tight smile that was anything but cordial. "And it's good to see you decided to wear sensible shoes tonight."

Elsa snorted and almost spat out her champagne, hand darting to cover her mouth. Revel felt a flush coming on but wouldn't give the mountain man the satisfaction of embarrassing him in public, so he played along.

"Yes, well, with this outfit I thought translucent blue heels weren't all that appropriate. It would clash with my breeches and sash, but I'll be sure to think of a social event where those shoes might be appreciated more."

The queen was unable to suppress her laughter and turned her back on the crowd, shoulders shaking. "You looked amazing in those heels."

"I'm completely missing something here, aren't I?" Anna asked glancing between the three with a bewildered look.

"Your sister has a devious mind where revenge is concerned," Revel explained while shooting Kristoff a smug look.

You'll have to do better than that, ice harvester.

"Well yeah, wasn't that obvious? She and I are cut from the same cloth," Anna confirmed with a dubious nod before cracking a grin. "So, she made you wear ice shoes?"

"I made him walk to the guard tower in them," Elsa said around giggles, her eyes twinkling like starlight in the kaleidoscope of color radiating from the chandelier.

Anna pursed her lips, eyebrows raised. "Impressive. I'm surprised you made it there without breaking an ankle."

"I have the added benefit of being very light on my feet," Revel chuckled as he accepted a crystal flute of champagne from a passing servant. As the conversation drifted away onto more mundane things, the Captain took the opportunity to scan the crowd again, opening his senses by taking a long, slow breath. The music had begun a few minutes ago, cutting into the chorus of conversation like a knife through silk. A few couples had begun dancing at the center of the ballroom, the twirl of their bodies caught in snippets between the press of standing guests. Revel still felt the unmistakable tingle of wrongness at the base of his skull but it was more annoyance now than urgency. His eyes found Sigmund still standing by the door, watching the crowd just as Revel was, keen eyes moving steadily from face to face.

"If you'll excuse me," he heard Elsa say from behind him, "I believe I need to play the part of dutiful hostess for a short time."

The Captain almost offered to join her, the words on the tip of his tongue, but thought better of it and remained tight lipped as he watched her wade into the clusters of nobles. He was not her equal, and though having the Captain of the royal guard accompany her wouldn't be unheard of or remarkable in any way, Revel didn't want to give anyone any ideas. So he remained behind, watching her like a hawk, while Anna and Kristoff chatted amiably beside him.

"You look tense, Captain," the princess said coming to stand next to him a few minutes later.

Revel turned and offered her a thin smile. He noticed Kristoff had moved off, probably to get his wife some refreshments. "It has been a very long week," he said lamely.

"I can imagine, but that's not what's bothering you, is it?" Anna pressed gently. "I've seen that same concentrated look on your face before. It's the look you gave Malkof the day Elsa was attacked in the square. You sensed something about him then, and you're sensing something now."

For a moment, Revel was taken aback by Anna's assessment. Of course she had hit the proverbial nail on the head, but it was her ability to read him that shocked him the most. Sometimes he forgot just how perceptive the princess was beneath her outer shell of good natured goofiness. Then again, she had been his student for nearly three years and had learned how to gauge her instructor. He'd taught her enough about being aware of her surroundings that she recognized his immediate unease.

"You're right," he admitted after a moment, "I do sense something, but I can't tell what it is."

"When did it start?"

"While I was walking into the ballroom. I felt…" it was hard putting exactly what he'd felt into proper words, and he struggled for a moment. "I felt wrong, like there was something I should notice but just couldn't see. There was just a wrongness to the air."

"Do you feel it now?" Anna asked scanning the crowd for her sister and finding her laughing in a small cluster of French nobles. The sight of the queen laughing so openly made the princess smile. Elsa had come a long way in three years, and Anna couldn't be more proud of her.

"It comes in waves. I still feel uneasy but it's not as prominent as when I entered. The worst part is that I can't tell who it's targeted towards. It might be you or it might be your sister, so I've told Sigmund to keep a sharp eye from where he's stationed while I watch from my point of view."

"You know," Anna ventured, turning so that she faced away from the ballroom and face Revel directly, "the best way to make sure nothing happens to my sister is to be by her side."

Revel felt his face flush and looked away, scanning the crowd again as an excuse not to look at Anna. As if fate were pranking him, the second he looked out over the ballroom the press of bodies separated and he caught Elsa watching him, her gaze searing a line of living fire across the room to him. He felt the gravity of her gaze, felt his stomach flip at the same moment his heart leapt into his throat. When she eventually turned away to address the man she'd been speaking to, the vacuum her absence created was enough to make Revel dizzy.

"I can't be that man," he whispered. Whether he'd meant Anna to hear him or not was irrelevant because she had.

"Yes, you can."

"No, I can't. It's— I'm not— Anna," Revel fought to get his mind and tongue to cooperate with one another. "It won't happen."

"Is it because you can't let it or won't let it?" the princess inquired lightly, though the gravity of her words was enough to pull the Captain through the floor and into the bowls of the earth. Why was she asking him this now? Why was this even a conversation they were having in the open? Didn't she realize there were ears everywhere and all it would take to destroy everything Elsa had carefully built over the years was for a scandal to emerge within the royal family? No, he wouldn't be the linchpin that would bring his queen to her knees. He wouldn't be her downfall.

"Anna, you don't understand. It isn't in my control to get that I want. I can't put your sister in danger. I can't be her prin—" he stammered to a halt when Kristoff reappeared carrying a small try of food and a glass of watered down wine. The mountain man regarded him carefully as if realizing he'd walked into something, but Revel didn't give him the chance to start asking questions. "With respect, Highness, I can't do as you ask. Please, excuse me," Revel bowed and stepped down off the dais, heading towards Sigmund with a desperate need to distance himself from the royal couple.

"Have you found anything?" Revel asked a little too hastily. The big guard gave him a questioning look but shook his head.

"Nothing, sir. I took the liberty of bringing in two more guards from the hall to police the balcony, and they've reported nothing. Are…are you alright?"

"I'm fine," Revel snapped and immediately regretted his tone of voice. He took a calming breath and silently counted to five, forcing his pulse to slow. "Forgive me. This feeling just has me on edge. If you see anything, anything, please come and get me."

"Of course, Captain. You'll be the first—" Sigmund suddenly went stiff, his eyes staring at something over Revel's shoulder as he saluted sharply. "Good evening, Majesty."

Revel felt his shoulder blades tingling and turned towards Elsa. She stood a few feet away, close enough that if he wanted to he could reach out and touch her, but he did no such thing, his arms rigid at his sides.

"Good evening, Lieutenant Sigmund," Elsa smiled politely and nodded. Her eyes locked with Revel's and he felt his stomach flip again. "Captain, would you please walk with me?"

"Of course, Majesty," Revel replied and quickly fell into step next to her. They walked slowly around the perimeter of the ballroom, striding quietly in thin silence. He hadn't realized it before, but the moment he was in her presence his mind cleared, the hazy fog that had been dogging him since the feeling of unease had followed him into the ballroom finally lifting.

"Ask me to dance," Elsa whispered out of the corner of her mouth as they passed a group of dancers.


"Ask me to dance," Elsa repeated in the same hushed whisper. "If I have to be the dutiful hostess for one more minute, I think I might ice something."

For the first time that evening, Revel felt the ghost of a genuine smile touch his lips. This was the reason he'd come to this ball, wasn't it; to dance with his lover and be close to her? He stepped deftly to one side and ducked into a perfectly smooth bow, left hand behind his back and right pressed against his chest. "Queen Elsa, would you allow me the pleasure of a dance?"

The queen played her part well, offering her hand and allowing him to lead her into the center of the ballroom. They came together with the graceful smoothness of a couple used to being in one another presence, their bodies flowing into the necessary start position. Unlike their first encounter at the Yule Ball, there was no competition, no playful rivalry between the two, just comfortable closeness. The orchestra struck up a beautiful ballad played heavily on string and woodwind instruments, the song lilting over the ballroom like a spring breeze. Revel took the lead, hand around Elsa's waist and right hand gently cupping hers. They moved in time with the rest of the dancers, bodies naturally following the ebb and flow of the song.

"You look stunning," Revel said quietly, unable to keep the smile from his face.

"You said that already," Elsa replied with a teasing look.

"I did, didn't I? Well, I thought you needed to hear it again."

The queen nodded, careful to keep her face pleasantly neutral but unable to hide her true emotion shining through her eyes. She'd been looking forward to this moment all evening; hell all week for that matter. Being away from her lover yet being so close at the same time was a cruel kind of torture. More than once, she'd caught fleeting glimpses of him but never a long enough look to sate her hunger. And the stunt he'd pulled in the hallway that morning hadn't helped matters either. So until they could be together tonight in the privacy of her room, tangled in each other arms, this was the next best thing.

As they twirled and swayed, connecting and disconnecting, Elsa caught a glimmer of something on his cuff and focused her wandering thoughts onto the ornate snowflake cufflinks pining Revel's cuffs together. "Where did you…"

"I had them made this week," he answered quietly. "There was a traveling silver smith staying at one of the inns who had half of his raw silver stolen the day after he'd arrived. I tracked down the thief and got his merchandise back. He was grateful enough having his silver returned that he offered to make me a pair of cufflinks. I chose a snowflake…for you."

Elsa felt a ball of warmth bloom in her stomach that surged through her body like wildfire through dry brush. It was a token, an outward showing of his affection, like a knight of old tying a Lady's handkerchief to his lance before ridding into battle. It was utterly cliché, but she couldn't keep the smile from her face or the heat from her cheeks.

"I…thank you."

Revel nodded and spun her in time with the other dancers, watching how her dress swirled around her, how the diamond-like ice around the edges of her gown winked and flashed in the light, how her hair fell and framed her face like a platinum halo. She was beauty and elegance, grace and poise, and he'd never felt this way towards anyone. No, he couldn't have her, not fully, but here in this moment, as they danced close enough to one another that he could smell her perfume mingling with the scent of mountain frost, he was content. Her closeness was all that mattered. The ballroom, the dancers, the nobles circling them, everything fell away as he stared down at the woman he loved. She looked back at him, regal mask in place, but the warmth in her eyes couldn't be hidden, the spark they shared unable to be snuffed.

Let them see, Revel thought with a surge of bravery. For this fleeting moment, let them feel this heat.

As if Elsa could read his mind, she stepped closer to him, their bodies mere inches apart. It was a perfect moment; a point in time that they could both look back on and smile, but where there is sunlight there is often shadow. Revel felt the tingling unease at the base of his skull explode into a painful buzzing, his heightened awareness screaming for him to look up and pay attention to the world around him. He would later wish he'd never moved his eyes away from Elsa's face, never looked over her shoulder. He saw them coming, a squad of guards five thick, with Sigmund and two Arendelle guards in tow, pushing through the press of nobles and heading straight for him.

Elsa saw the happiness slip from her lover's face like an anvil dropping out of the sky, the blood draining from his cheeks. She followed his line of sight and glanced over her shoulder, stunned to see eight armored men approaching, three of them hers. Revel's grip on her hand tightened, his entire body tensing at the recognition of the foreign guards' kingdom colors. Confused, Elsa turned back to him and saw raw fear burning in his striking green eyes, fear and panic. Yet behind it there was something else, something deeper. Seconds before the world descended into madness, Elsa understood the message Revel's eyes were trying to tell her.

I love you, and I'm sorry.

The moment understanding lit like a spark on her face, Revel shoved her backwards with enough force to send her reeling into the arms of Sigmund and the two Arendelle guards. Half a heartbeat later, the Captain was tackled by five men who attempted to pull him to the floor, but he wasn't about to be brought to heel so easily. Revel twisted and thrashed, throwing elbows and punches and giving the guards attempting to hold him a reason to think twice. One guard staggered away with blood gushing down his face from a broken nose while another fell screaming, arm broken at the elbow like a tree limb, before Revel finally went to his knees. Within the chaos of limbs and shouted commands, Elsa heard a sword being pulled from its sheath and her chaotic mind stopped whirling, instinct immediately taking control.

"Enough!" A blast of arctic magic erupted from her, throwing Sigmund and half the guards subduing Revel back, their feet finding no purchase on the ice spreading out along the ballroom floor. The man holding the sword yelped in surprise and dropped his weapon, the steel shattering into thousands of glittering shards as it hit the marble. The ballroom was plunged into an intense, palpable silence, every eye trained on the drama unfolding at its center.

Stepping forward, will-ice climbing her arms like ivy, Elsa raised her left palm in warning to the rest of the scrambling men, eyes glowing with barely contained rage. "I. Said. Enough."

"Majesty, I—"

The queen's head swiveled around and a red faced Sigmund seemed to forget what he was about to say, or thought better of it. Her eyes moved over to the men crouching nervously over a still struggling Revel. Now that her mind had caught up with the situation, she recognized their kingdom colors and signet, and recognized the man who'd drawn his sword as Fritz, the Asham king's personal bodyguard. The coldness in his eyes, the depth of the glare he stared her down with, was enough to make her blood boil.

"Who gave you permission to touch one of my subjects?" she demanded, voice flat and cold and brooking no argument.

"Forgive me, Queen Elsa, but I gave the order."

Elsa turned as King Adrek swept into the center of the room, face grim. Before she had the chance to remind him that this was not his kingdom and he had no right harassing any of her personal staff, Adrek fixed his gaze on Revel. The Arendelle Captain momentarily ceased his struggling to glare up at the man looming above him with barely contained hate burning in his green eyes.

"Prince Revel Handler Spezerei, you are under arrest for the murder of our father, Gregor Handler Spezerei, the late king of Asham."

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 16 of 24

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