Continuing Tales

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 17 of 24

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Anna would always remember the events of the April Summit ball. It would forever be branded in her mind, a milestone that stood out amongst the rest of her memories. For better or worse, it would always be there, and she would spend countless hours dissecting that moment in time and examining the pieces. The ball began normally as most balls usually did, nobles dancing and laughing together, champagne glasses tinkling in small toasts, and just an overall feeling of warmth and contentment. The evening was unseasonably warm, the air sticky with humidity that didn't abate even after the sun had set, but no one seemed to mind. From her seat on the dais, because dancing was out of the question with her ankles as swollen as they were, Anna watched Elsa mingle after excusing herself from her conversation with Revel. It was hard to spot because the queen was a master of putting on emotional masks, but the princess was able to tell even at a distance that her sister was truly happy for the first time in years. She was openly smiling and laughing and joking with strangers like it was second nature, like three years ago she'd not almost destroyed her kingdom. Elsa had found a measure of peace and also love in the strangest place, in perhaps the strangest, most unassuming man, and that made Anna smile all the more. Elsa was in love, and so Anna's world was complete.

As the evening wore on, the princess rose from her seat periodically and relaxed into casual conversation with Kristoff and Prince Symon who had arrived an hour late. The Asham prince, dressed in black and gold courtly finery, was a shy man around Anna's own age, shy but incredibly knowledgeable and very easy to talk to once he let his guard down. He and Anna had started a dialogue earlier in the week, and the moment Symon had walked into the ballroom, clearly searching for someone, the princess had sent Kai to fetch him. After the usual introductions, conversation began.

"I'm actually not all that well versed in the art of ice harvesting," Symon said with a small shrug. "I know that there needs to be a right temperature and depth to the ice in order to harvest it, but aside from that I'm terribly uninformed."

"It's good that you called it an art," Kristoff grinned. "Most people think we harvesters just spend a majority of our time lugging heavy ice bricks around, but there really is an art to getting the perfect cut. We start checking the ice when it reached a foot thick," Kristoff explained, his eyes gleaming with that special glint he got whenever talking about his previous career. "You first have to drill a hole and check the depth. If it's less than a foot you leave that patch alone, but if it's more than a foot you can start harvesting. The group I used to work for would only harvest two feet thick or more. It was easier for the horses and less stressful on us. The thicker the ice the surer the footing. Anyway, we would mark the lines with a simple level to be sure everything we cut was symmetrical then start sawing."

"You use a saw?" Symon asked, his eyebrows rising in surprise. "Like a tree saw or something different?"

This is insane, Anna thought watching the two with a small smile. He looks just like Revel, it's uncanny.

"Ice saws are different from wood saws. The teeth of an ice saw are bigger so it has more bite. Also, the tip is stronger and narrower, allowing the harvester to punch through the ice. As far as I know, you can't do that with a wood saw against a tree."

Symon chuckled and handed his empty champagne glass over to a waiting servant. "No, you most certainly can't. You mentioned horses?"

"We used a team of horses to drag a blade along the cut lines before starting."

"That really is fascinating. I never stopped to wonder where our ice came from or how it was harvested, but that's truly amazing. I'd love to visit the harvest fields sometime."

"If you ever visit again, I'd be more than happy to show you around," Kristoff beamed.

"Is it true you have a reindeer for a pet?" Symon asked with a sheepish smile.

Anna, content on letting the two converse, turned her attention onto the crowd. She caught the glint of red fabric on the dance floor and saw Elsa spin in time with the music, Revel's fingers interlaced with her left hand. A giddy warmth bloomed in the princess's chest. They really did look happy together. Anna had never seen her sister so open with anyone before save herself. Her romance with Revel had brought her out of her shell in ways she'd never expected. She was so focused on watching her sister spin and dip, regal mask in place but the fire in her eyes almost tangible, that she didn't see the commotion at the ballroom entrance until Symon's comment pulled her attention away.

"Why is Fritz here?"

It wasn't the comment itself that caught her attention, it was the way Symon had said it. There was genuine curiosity laced in his question, but it carried an undertone of unease and — something else, something like dark disapproval — that made the princess turn. She saw a cluster of guards forming at the door and sharpened her focus. Sigmund, Revel's lieutenant, was speaking to the Asham king's attendant, his face slack with what could only be described as shocked surprise.

Why does he look surprised?

Anna remembered Revel explaining his feeling of unease and immediately felt a ball of fear twist in her stomach. What was happening? Clearly it had something to do with the queen, because the guards, three from Arendelle and five from Asham, set out from the door and headed straight towards her. By now the small disturbance had spread throughout the crowd like ripples in a pond. Nobles turned and stumbled out of the way, opening a wide path for the cluster of men to follow. Anna watched with banking dread as they approached her sister and fanned out. The impossible was happening but her mind was slow to realize it until Symon spoke up and broke the fragile spell of calm.

"Is— oh, dear God— no, it can't be. Is that my brother?"

The pieces flew together in the princess's mind with such force she actually staggered and had to be caught by Kristoff. All the sighs, all the little inconsistencies in his stories and mannerisms, they all made painfully clear sense now. He didn't act like a commoner or even a form of higher nobility. Revel had always been a little too polished for his position, his etiquette a little too refined. Anna had noticed it during their training sessions but chalked it up to just a personality quirk. He wanted to stand out, so he'd made an effort to sound, act, and be a little more refined than his peers. But that wasn't the case anymore, and Anna knew it. Revel wasn't just an overly polite commoner, wasn't even a polished noble, he was royalty.

No, it can't be true! Revel is just a commoner, just a guard captain…just a, just a…

And all at once it didn't matter because the next thought that exploded in Anna's mind was, he's a prince, which means he can be with my sister.

That revelation alone, coupled with the electricity it created that spread through the princess's body, would have been enough to light the entire kingdom should the sun ever burn out. Revel and Elsa could be together for real now, they could actually court, they could…

The happy swell of possibilities came crashing down as the squad of Asham guards suddenly tackled the captain. Prince Symon, previously frozen in place, practically dove off the dais like a hawk chasing a rabbit, pushing and shoving people out of his way as he tried to get to the commotion now taking place in the center of the ballroom. Anna scrambled after him, her heart hammering so loudly in her ears she didn't hear Kristoff's shouts of concern. She did feel his hand enclose around her wrist and was surprised when he didn't try to pull her back. Instead, Kristoff was using his massive bulk to shove nobles aside as easily as if they were tree branches.


Anna heard her sister shout and suddenly the ballroom fell deathly quiet. Everyone in attendance felt the temperature dip dramatically; a few nobles and onlookers flinched back or outright retreated from the creeping fingers of ice snaking across the marble. Kristoff looped his arms around his wife's shoulders in an effort to keep her from stumbling on the now frictionless floor. Around them, people were succumbing to the ice, their arms entangling or pinwheeling in an effort to stay standing, and under it all like an invisible current was a hum of fear. The queen had revealed her powers like this once before in a similar fashion; they all had heard the stories or been present when Elsa locked Arendelle under nearly twenty feet of ice and snow. So it was safe to say that many were deeply concerned when the temperature continued to plummet and the ice didn't abate. Someone yelped in surprised pain and a second later the sound of something shattering rent the air.

"I. Said. Enough." Elsa's words cut through the tense silence like a knife, her voice as sharp and lethal as a honed blade.

Anna stumbled to a halt, her heart skipping a beat. She would always remember the distinctive sound a sword made when shattering to pieces. It was the last thing she'd heard on the fjord before the ice snuffed out her life like a candle at the mercy of the wind. Her scream and Hans's sword shattering: those two things would haunt her for the rest of her natural life, would invade her dreams and plague her with vivid nightmares what could sometimes rival her sister's. Kristoff heard the shatter too and felt his wife stiffen. There was a brief pause, a moment of nervous hesitation, before Anna started earnestly pushing people out of her way. It took a little effort, the ice and her treadles slippers slowing her down tremendously, but eventually she was able to slide her way through the press of petrified and curious onlookers. She stood at the edge of the ring of people, her wide eyes taking in the catastrophe unfolding like a penny opera drama. Revel was on the ground struggling against four guards trying to subdue him. The fifth Asham guard wasn't a guard at all. Fritz stood like a sentinel between Elsa and Revel, his eyes setting fire to the distance between him and the Arendelle queen. Anna saw darkness in the man's cold stare, saw such an all-consuming malice in his hazel eyes it very nearly knocked the breath from her. Why he was glaring at Elsa with such open hostility only he knew, but Revel seemed to feel it as well because he fought all the harder when Elsa demanded to know under whose authority Fritz had acted upon.

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

King Adrek swept into the center of the crowd ring with a grim kind of grace, his movements fluid despite the icy floor. His handsome face was grim as well as he turned towards Revel without any preamble. Anna wanted to scream for him to stop, to think about what he was doing. This was Revel, her Revel. He'd been her teacher and friend for three years, and was now her sister's lover and her only chance at happiness. Whatever he'd done to the Asham king, surely it could be forgiven. Surely it was all a mistake.

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

And the earth fell out from under Anna's feet at the same time it did her sister's. A collective gasp rippled through the crowd like a shockwave, and the world tilted on its axis. Unlike Elsa, Anna had Kristoff to fall back against as the force of the accusation hit her like a cannon ball to the chest. The queen, however, stood alone at the center of the maelstrom that had now become her life. She stood still as a statue, the ice climbing her arms and spreading out under her feet providing only a sliver of a glimpse of the turmoil taking place inside her.

"Take him to my ship and put him in—"

"No." The word slipped from Elsa's lips and fell like a rock into a placid pond, her voice quiet but heard by all. Anna could see her sister rising above the blanket of shock, her queenly mask sliding into place. Though the mask she wore hid her thoughts, Anna could practically hear her sister reciting the mantra that had been part of her for more than half her life.

Conceal, don't feel. Don't let it show.

"I'm sorry, Queen Elsa, but this is an Asham matter now. This traitor will be locked in my brig until I set sail for Asham."

"You overstretch and forget yourself, King Adrek," Elsa warned with such frigid evenness even Anna felt the verbal slap. "Regardless of who this man is, he is a sworn member of my royal guard and therefore falls under my supervision. He will be held in my personal dungeon until the time of his trial."

Anger darkened Adrek's face, lightning flashing in his eyes. "He is my brother. He will find justice in my kingdom."

My sister was finally happy! Anna wanted to scream but her tongue was just as numb and useless as her lips. What right do you have to take that from her?! Don't you know what's she's been through!?

"This matter is not up for discussion. Lieutenant Sigmund," Elsa snapped her head around, and the big guard saluted with a nervous quiver. "Take Captain Revel to the dungeon and place a two man guard by the door. No one is to enter or leave without my spoken consent."

"Yes, Majesty," Sigmund saluted again and attempted to shuffle across the floor towards the four guards holding Revel. Elsa realized with a flush of embarrassment that her ice had escaped her notice and immediately dispersed it with a tiny flex of her fingers. Their feet finding traction again, the Arendelle guards attempted to take Revel from the Asham guards, but Fritz blocked their way.

"Master Fritz," Elsa warned, her eyes starting to lighten as her power boiled over the flames of her anger, "stand aside or be arrested as well."

For a tense moment the two stood glaring at one another, angry sparks flying like embers leaping from a smith's anvil. The tension was palpable, hanging suspended in the air like summer humidity. The crowd of onlookers held a collective breath as they waited in rapped silence. Fritz begrudgingly broke eye contact first and glanced over at his king. Adrek, face dark with indignant rage, flared his nostrils and took a breath, wide chest expanding like a cobra's hood. Not to be intimidated, Elsa stared him down, will-ice still clinging to her arms, a not so subtle threat that should this visiting monarch think himself above her laws he'd quickly find himself in a less than pleasant situation.

"This matter is not finished," Adrek finally managed, his words raspy and dripping with venom. "We will speak of this."

"Yes, we shall," Elsa replied with a sharp nod. "Take him away."

Sigmund and his men did as they were told and pulled Revel to his feet. One guard to each arm and Sigmund holding the captain by the back of the neck, the unhappy group left quietly and without incident. Adrek whirled away, stalking angrily from the ballroom with his guards and Fritz in tow. Only once did the king's right hand man glance back at the royal party, and it took only a glance for them to see the dark rage rolling inside him.

"Kai, inform the guests that the ball is over and that they are to leave the castle premises immediately. Also, prepare the parlor and bring me the royal guard's ledger and census forms," Elsa instructed as the manservant jogged to her side, concern etched into every inch of his body. He bowed tightly without a word and hurried off leaving the queen alone in the middle of the room as the guests closest to her turned and quickly walked away. It took only moments for the ballroom to empty save for the royal party and…Prince Symon. Elsa started when she saw him, her eyes playing tricks. He really did look a lot like Revel. In fact, now that she thought about it, all three siblings looked alike. It was a wonder she'd not made the connection until now.

"Prince Symon, I believe your brother is heading towards his ship. You should do the same. I imagine we'll be in discussions most of the evening." She was playing the role of stoic ruler well, but she wasn't sure how much longer she could keep up her façade. Already the weight of today's revelation was starting to create cracks in her otherwise flawless demeanor.

"I…I…" Symon looked like a dear who'd been running from a bear only to come face to face with a wolf. He was frozen, clearly unsure as to what to say, do, or think. Suddenly, Elsa's heart went out to him despite the fact that hers was currently breaking. She may have formed a bond with Revel and become his lover, but this was his flesh and blood brother. Symon hadn't seen Revel in fifteen years. The pain he must be feeling, the acidic mix of relief, anger, and betrayal warring within him, must have outmatched hers a hundred fold.

Hesitantly, Symon approach the queen, his eyes searching and finding Anna as she came to stand next to her sister, just as thunderstruck as the rest of them. "Queen Elsa, I…this is…I don't even know where…" before she could blink, the Asham prince was on his knees in front of her, head bowed to his chest and hands pressed flat on the cold marble floor. "I know I have no right to ask you anything. This is your kingdom, and I am but a visitor, but please, please spare my brother's life. If he is extradited to Asham, Adrek will have him executed for treason. If he remains here, he can at least live out the rest of his life behind bars."

"I imagine his punishment will mirror his crime. The law is the law, Prince Symon," Elsa said and immediately hated herself. This was Revel she was talking about, not some common criminal! Why was she suddenly being so cold?

"Please I…I lost him once before. I was only a child, barely able to run after him, but losing him broke my heart. I can't live with that pain again."

Elsa felt tears welling in her eyes and fought tooth and nail to keep them from falling. Taking a few steadying breaths, she kneeled in front of Symon and gently lifted his chin until his eyes— Sweet God, they look just like Revel's— were level with hers. "You love him, don't you?"

"He's my older brother," Symon hiccupped, unbidden tears trailing down his face. "Of course I love him. I know he's committed a heinous crime, but fifteen years has lessened the pain of my father's death and taught me forgiveness."

"I take it your brother Adrek does not feel the same," she remarked with a quivering twist of dread.

"Adrek is…he is a fair man and a good king but…my father's death greatly changed him and the council he holds is poisonous." Elsa didn't need to know that Symon was talking about Fritz. "Justice must be served," Symon continued, "but blood atop blood is no victory. What can we hope to gain from killing someone in the name of vengeance?"

"You are wise beyond your years, Prince Symon," Elsa said, swallowing hard and forcing a small smile. She could feel her mask starting to slip, the knot in her throat growing by the second.

Symon choked out a broken laugh. "I've been told that before. Thank you, Queen Elsa. I'm sorry," he suddenly said, climbing to his feet and helping the queen rise as well, "I must look rather pitiful. Forgive me, I will return to my brother's ship."

"Remain in the castle, if you like. I imagine your brother will want you in on the proceedings."

"I can't imagine why he would," Symon replied with a slightly bitter note to his voice.

"Regardless, you will be needed," Elsa said with flat finality. "If you will excuse me, I need to retrieve important documents. Kai will fetch you and your brother shortly."

"Of course." Symon bowed and left the ballroom.

"Elsa," Anna said in a tiny voice, hands clasped against her chest and face slack with despair. She didn't know what to say. Was there really anything that could be done to rectify the situation save for rewriting the past? Were there words she could say to take the pain away? Should she hold her sister, or give her space, or cry with her? "Oh Elsa I'm so—"

"It is what it is," the queen interrupted a little too hurriedly, her tone a bit too sharp. She turned quickly away from Anna and the princess felt the proverbial door slam in her face again. Elsa was retreating into herself. She was concealing, and that hurt Anna deeper than any slap. "Excuse me, but I have to change and prepare for this meeting."

"Elsa, please don't do this," Anna said attempting to chase after her. "Don't lock this away. We're here for you," she indicated herself and Kristoff with a wave. "Please, you don't have to carry this burden alone."

Elsa paused half way to the wood with her back to her sister. Her arms snaking around her waist in a vain attempt to comfort herself, she felt the muscles in her back and abdomen seize as she fought to keep the sobs building in her chest from escaping. The telltale burn of tears stung her eyes, and she clenched her jaw tightly to keep from hiccupping as she took breath after ragged breath. She didn't have time for comfort or tears. Right now a man's life lay in her hands, her lover's life, a man she thought she knew but clearly didn't. Revel's future wavered on a knife's edge, and she didn't have to be told that the meeting she was about to have with King Adrek was pivotal in determining whether he was headed for the executioners block or not. Just that thought alone made her nauseous to the point she felt bile force its way into the back of her throat.

"Yes, I do," Elsa affirmed, fractionally turning towards her sister after wrestling her grief into temporary submission. "I am queen. This is my solemn burden to bear, and I will bear it alone."

"No, you don't!" Anna shouted at her sister's retreating form. "You're not alone in this! Elsa, please wait!"

"Anna, stop," Kristoff said, catching her arm and gently pulling her back. "Let her go."

"Why?!" she demanded rounding on him. "So she can run off to her room and hide from me because I'm asking her to do the insanely difficult thing of letting me help? Why can't she see that I'm just trying to be there for her? I want to make this right, I want to—"

She was cut off mid-sentence when her husband pulled her close, wrapping her in a firm hug. At first she stiffened and contemplated pushing him away. The last thing she wanted was comfort when her sister was probably feeling ten times more pain than she was. Still, it didn't come as a surprise when tears rolled down her cheek and a choke sob broke free from her throat. Suddenly, all she could do was cling to Kristoff, fingers curling into the fabric of his jacket.

"I know, love. I know," he soothed, warm hand gently stroking the back of her head.

"Why is this happening?" Anna hiccupped, burying her face into his shoulder. "Why now…sh-she was so happy."

"This isn't the end," Kristoff said, stepping back and cupping her face. "I can't accept that this is the end. Your sister deserves a happy ending."

"How is that remotely possible now?"

"I don't know, but we'll find a way. I promise."

Anna nodded meekly and leaned on her husband as they left the ballroom. She had no idea what she could possibly do to make this chaotic situation better, but damn it she wasn't going to let her sister's one chance of happiness slip away. Come hell or high water she was bound and determined to find a solution.

It was well past midnight, but Elsa was anything but tired, her body still jittery from the shock working through her system. Her mind tumbled over the meeting that had just adjourned. The session with Adrek had gone as expected. The Asham king had demanded his brother released into his custody under the laws of extradition. He'd bellowed and blustered and fervently explained his case in an attempt to get Elsa to hand Revel over, but the queen was not someone who could be bullied or manipulated into anything, especially when it came to the rights of her citizens. And by all accounts, Revel was a citizen of Arendelle. He'd been part of the census for fifteen years, paid his taxes, and held a steady and respectable job. The assumed identity he lived under was the only crime he'd committed, and though it was a serious offence, especially since he'd risen to the rank of captain of the royal guard, it didn't warrant an execution. Elsa also reminded Adrek that Arendelle had no extradition laws. Once a person was established as a lawful citizen they remained so for life unless banished or excommunicated. Needless to say, Adrek was furious and the arguments volleyed between the two opposing monarchs lasted well into the wee hours of the morning. It had been the Asham king who called an end to their meeting, declaring that they would continue in the morning and that Elsa would supply proof of her laws since she'd already shown him proof that Revel was a citizen of Arendelle.

The queen waited a full thirty minutes after his departure before leaving the parlor. In those thirty minutes she paced the length of the room near a hundred time attempting to digest everything Adrek had told her. According to the king, Revel had stabbed his father to death over an argument about lines of succession. It had been a crime of passion fueled by drink and hot tempers. Apparently, the late Asham king was known for having a short fuse that was made even shorter when wine was involved. Fritz was the one who discovered him standing over the body, blood literally on his hands, and had attempted to apprehend him. Revel fought back and scarred the champion, because Elsa realized he was Adrek's muscle as much as his confidant, a scar that he bore to this day across his face. Elsa listened to the stories and accusations, listened to Adrek's reasoning for wanting Revel turned over to him, but she couldn't get Prince Symon's plea out of her head. The youngest Asham prince had not been in attendance, and his absence was marked by the queen. He'd begged her not to allow Adrek to take Revel back to Asham, but little did he know she had every intention of keeping him in Arendelle.

Elsa left the parlor and wandered the lower floors of the castle, frost echoing her footfalls and climbing the walls. She knew Adrek wasn't telling her everything. Being a ruler who'd acquired a reputation for being a master barterer, the queen had developed the ability of sensing whether or not someone was trying to sell her something far beyond its value. To put it plainly, she could sniff out bullshit, and Adrek smelled strongly of it. Trouble was she couldn't prove he was lying. At least not yet. Elsa had bought herself some time, but how far was she willing to push a fellow monarch who not only provided valuable trade but also had an impressive navy and a reason for starting a war. Hadn't the legend of Troy begun this way? She was so wrapped in her thoughts she didn't realize she'd descended into the lower levels of the castle until she was standing in front of the dungeon doors.

Do I have the courage for this? Elsa thought, staring at the plain metal doors with trepidation pumping through her veins. A deep, cleansing breath pushed the fear away, the second steadied her, and the third banked her courage. She knew she didn't have a choice. If there was to be a trial, she needed to hear Revel's side of the story.

The stairwell beyond the doors was unexpectedly dark, lit only by a single lantern hanging adjacent to the door. The little light it provided was weak at best, throwing the narrow spiral staircase into deep pits of black shadow. Carefully, she descended one step at a time, hand trailing the cold stone wall for both balance and support. Two guards waited at the bottom and jumped to attention when she emerged from the staircase, arms swinging into a salute. With a silent nod from the queen, they pulled open the door revealing a tiny antechamber and another short staircase beyond that. Elsa descended in silence, her footfalls impossibly loud in the tight space, before reaching the final guard who wordlessly opened the second and final door. Elsa noticed that this particular door was well over a foot thick and studded with iron bolts. The hinges creaked noisily as the guard pulled at the heavy wood, grunting with the effort.

"How long will you be, Majesty?" the man asked with nervous formality. She knew why he was asking. It was protocol. She would give him a time limit that he would set with the different sized hourglasses sitting in a recess behind him before entering to see if she was alright. It was safer that way, but it also created a time constraint, and Elsa didn't know how long she'd be staying.

"I'll call for you once I'm finished," she replied dryly. The guard nodded and slowly shut the door behind her, the latch clicking in place with a rusty screech. Elsa held her breath as the world plunged into a brief darkness until her eyes adjusted to the gloom. She remembered with shocking clarity the hours she'd spent in a cell three years ago, remembered the claustrophobic feeling of high dark stone and iron bars. Her hands suddenly ached at the memory of those hellacious steel mitts and what they had been created for. They'd been designed to keep a prisoner from hurting themselves, but the purpose the mitts had been used for that bleak day was an attempt to smother her power and make her compliant. To make her vulnerable. Swallowing hard, Elsa edged further into the dungeon, back pressed firmly against the wall. She didn't want to be here, didn't want to see what she was about to see, but there were duties a queen had to perform that went far beyond what she wanted.

Rounding a sharp corner, Elsa emerged into the first set of chambers and their holding cells. Back painfully stuff and fingers tingling with sparking blue magic, she stared across the dark stoned room and into the iron cage where Revel sat staring back at her with unreadable eyes. He'd been stripped of his courtly finery and left in only his thin green undershirt and black pants, both now grimy from contact with the dirty stone floor and worse for wear. His carefully oiled hair was a tousled mess that hung in his face in slightly curly strands of chocolate brown that hid the swollen skin under his right eye but did nothing to hide his split lip or the dark blood on his chin. He'd fought the Asham guards with a desperate fury, but had he fought because he knew he was guilty and knew he faced the executioner's blade or because he knew he was innocent? The queen was having trouble believing either scenario. Innocent or guilty, she couldn't say. His wrists were encircled with thick iron manacles that were embedded in the floor by a two long chains. They rattled and clanked as he shifted, scooting back so that his back was flush against the wall behind him.

After a tense few moments, Revel lowered his gaze and stared at his bare feet folded under him. "You shouldn't have come," he said in a quiet whisper that carried almost unnaturally through the empty dungeon.

Suddenly, everything Elsa had wanted to demand from him vanished from her mind like fog burning away under the heat of the sun. The courage she'd mustered to just come down here faltered, and she was left speechless in front of the man who had entwined himself so completely into her life, who knew most of her secrets, who she could have talked endlessly with for hours in the past. Her muteness was startling: mouth opening and closing uselessly, her tongue limp against the back of her teeth. It took a few moments for the episode to pass. When Elsa finally rediscovered her courage she found her voice with it. A few tentative steps forward was all she was willing to take, hands clenched into tight fists at her side.

"You've been lying to me this entire time," she said lamely and silently cursed herself.

Out of all the things I could have just said to him, that's the first thing out of my mouth?

"Very perceptive," Revel said with a defeated sigh. "I will not deny that I lied to you and to everyone in this kingdom."


He almost laughed. It was such a simple question with such a tangled answer. Why, indeed? Why had he ever thought that he'd be able to run from the sins of his past? Why did he think he'd be able to hide from Adrek and Fritz? Why did he think she would somehow understand and believe him? Why had he hoped she would forgive him? Yes, why indeed.

"Isn't the answer simple?" he asked, canting his head to the side, brow wrinkled. "Because I wanted to live. What hope would a man wanted for the murder his father have while remaining in his own kingdom? I'll answer that for you. None. I ran, and I started over. Simple as that, and I created a persona for everyone else to see that would provide me with anonymity. No one suspected a thing. No one knew a murder walked among them."

"So it's true then. You murdered your father."

A beat of silence, quickly followed by another, before Revel answered. "Yes"

"You hesitated," Elsa observed, narrowing her eyes. Yes, she'd seen the calculation in his eyes. Revel wasn't a stupid man by any stretch of the imagination. A stupid man would have gotten caught after fleeing his country because of sloppy mistakes. A stupid man would have found himself on the executioner's block and not lived a full fifteen years after his crime. Revel was a man who thought out each and every move he made, and that realization chilled Elsa. Had she been just another calculation?

"Does it matter?" Revel asked, leaning his head back against the cold stones and closing his eyes. A part of himself just wanted this day to end, and an irrational part of himself was grimly glad the chase was over. Fifteen years was a long time to run.

"You stupid man, of course it matters!" Elsa exploded and a burst of frost climbed the wall behind her. "If you didn't commit this crime, I need to know! Your brother wants you extradited so that he can take you back to Asham where I have no doubt you'll be subjected to a mock trial and found guilty. If you didn't do this, if you didn't kill your father, tell me who did. Adrek claims Fritz found you over your father's body."

"Of course he would say that," Revel mumbled.

"So it isn't true? Fritz didn't find you—"

"He found me exactly as he described."

"So you are guilty. You slit your father's throat over an argument about inheritance."


Elsa took a step towards the cell, eyes lightening as anger burned hot and unchecked in her blood. "You're lying. Your father was stabbed to death."

A glimmer of confused surprise arched across Revel's face, there one second and gone the next. Elsa saw it and would have smirked in triumph at catching him a lie had she not been furious at him for lying to her in the first place. What was he trying to prove?

"It was fifteen years ago. The details are a bit cloudy in my mind."

"Really? I find that hard to believe. You don't forget killing someone, especially if that someone is your father. I imagine that, had you killed him, you'd be able to tell me in great detail every wound you cause him, ever plunge of the blade. You could describe exactly what he was wearing and the look on his as his life slipped from him. Do you know why I know this? Because traumatic moments, such as nearly killing someone or succeeding in it, are forever burned in your memory. You close your eyes and it's there. You open them and it's still there. It invades your dreams and every waking thought thereafter. So I'll ask again, why are you lying to me?"

"Fine. I stabbed him five times in the chest with my belt dagger."

"Adrek said he'd been killed with a sword thrust through his stomach and into his chest," she retorted icily.

"Then it was with my sword."

"Long or short?" she pressed taking another step closer.


"Wrong, it was with a curved blade. I'll ask you again; did you kill your father?"


"Wrong, try again."

"I did kill him," he scowled, a shallow blush of frustration coloring his cheeks.

"You're losing ground, Revel. I thought you were better at this game," Elsa taunted without an ounce of mirth in her voice.

"Stop it," he warned, his voice low.

"Stop what? Blowing such gargantuan holes in your lies they will never again hold water? Stripping away your mask so I can see the real Revel beneath your deceit? Pushing you to tell the truth?"

"Stop pushing, Elsa."

"Not until I get the truth from you! What are you trying to prove? Who are you trying to protect?"

"I told you to stop!" Revel bellowed and came to his feet in a flash. He would have charged the bars had the chains around his wrists been long enough. As it was, he jerked to a stop feet from her like a dog running out of rope. His movements were so fast Elsa wasn't able to register what had happened until she heard the chain click and stumbled back in surprise. Her shock was quickly smothered under a heavy blanket of rage, and she too charged the bars.

"I am your queen!" she shouted back, the blue of her eyes fading to white. "You do not tell me when to stop. You! Listen! To! Me!"

"Forgive me, Majesty, but as it stands, you are not my queen," Revel challenged, face tight with anger. "You and I are equals."

"Not right now we're not. Right now you are a prince with a murder charge hanging above your head who seems so willing to throw himself on the blade for a crime he did not commit."

"You know nothing," Revel replied venomously.

"Only because you refuse to let me in!" Elsa breathed heavily through her nose, her anger burning in her cheeks and making her body quiver. A pregnant silence stretched between the two, green eyes locked with white in a battle of wills. Remarkably, she relented first and looked away, the rigid tension in her shoulders drooping a bit. "Are you so willing to throw everything away?"

Revel could read between the lines just as much as Elsa could, and inwardly winced as he took his place against the wall again. She wasn't talking about his life or his freedom. She was talking about herself. Was he so willing to throw her away like she was nothing but a springtime fling, a roll in the tall grass, a regal thrill? There was so much she didn't understand and needed to know, and the worst part was he couldn't tell her. Danger lurked around every corner, and Elsa was blind to it. Revel knew it was there, and he knew that in this case knowledge could be the linchpin to her downfall. So he bit his lip and said nothing.

"Stop it," Elsa hissed.

"Stop what? Giving you the answers you want?"

"No! Giving your brother what he wants! Of all things you are, Revel: a liar, a thief, a poacher, a guard, a—" she almost said lover but stopped herself in time, "you are not a victim, and all I hear coming from your mouth right now are the words of a man condemning himself to death."

"I will take my punishment, and there isn't a damn thing you can do about it."

"Is that what you want? To die?" Elsa snarled. "Because I can grant you that request quite easily."

Hands gripping the bars until her knuckles turned white, the queen let her magic go where it pleased, the temperature in the cell dropping to a barely livable degree. Frost bloomed along the stone walls and snaked between the mortar lines, stalactites of dark ice growing in the corners of the dungeon and descending from the thick beams overhead. Smooth, cylindrical javelins sprouted around Revel like lethal arctic flowers, points so wickedly sharp they could have been used as needles. He froze, breath vaporizing around his head like a cloud, as the needles of ice stretched towards him like crystalline fingers, their gleaming tips crying out for blood.

The cold assaulted him from every angle, numbness creeping into his bare skin and making his very marrow ache. His body began shivering, frost accumulating along the bottom hem of his pants and shirt and spreading further as the temperature continue to plummet with each exhale from the queen. The iron shackles around his wrists froze, links seizing in place, the cold metal like fire against his skin. He hissed at the pain, but it was as much a blessing as it was a curse because the colder he got the clearer his head became.

"If I am t-to die," Revel shivered, his teeth chattering so severely he could barely form words, "I w-would r-r-rather it b-be…by your hands th-than my…brothers." He would have said more but the cold was quickly starting to steal his reason along with his consciousness. Still, he fought to stare into the white eyes of his lover, eyes that boiled with anger and sadness and hatred.

Even if that's the last thing I see, I would rather go to my death with her face in my mind's eye rather than the wood of the executioners block, he thought sadly.

The power of his words hit Elsa like a cannon blast and she rocked back with the force of it, blinking as if waking from a dream. She realized what was happening a second later and released her grip on the bars, looking around the room in horrified wonder at the arctic death closing in around her. This was a manifestation of her anger and fear and grief; the same creeping darkness that had overtaken her ice palace like a cancer after she'd chased Anna and Kristoff off North Mountain with Marshmallow. It was cleaner somehow, less fractured and jagged than it had been years ago, and that terrified her all the more. Her powers had only grown since she'd learned to control them. Three years ago her magic had reacted purely on instinct, but the dark ice growing around her now was tailor-maid for lethality and it was all pointed towards Revel.

Are you so full of regal ego you think yourself judge, jury, and executioner? Look at you, losing your temper like a child when you should be trying to figure out why he continues to lie.

Elsa started at the sudden realization, her stomach dropping through the floor. Was that what she was doing? Presuming the title of all three and passing sentence? But there was also something else here, something darker. Revel would rather have her to be his executioner than his brother, to die by her hands. Was it the ultimate blow of twisted revenge that the woman who loved him, had loved him, perhaps still loved him, would be his undoing?

"No, I will not give you the satisfaction of haunting me. I have enough demons in my life, past and present. I don't need to add your death to the weight of shame I already drag around," the queen said with acrid finality. Throwing out her arms, she dispersed her magic and pulled it back into her. The room immediately returned to its original, slightly clammy temperature, but the difference was like emerging from a frozen lake and jumping into a sauna. Revel gasped at the sudden change, his body heat starved and shaking.

"That's n-n-not w-what I m-meant."

"Really? How else was I supposed to take it?"

He fought to keep his teeth from chattering so that he could speak, but the more he tried to suppress the shivers the harder they came. After a moment he was able to control himself long enough to answer. "I know you wouldn't prolong the inevitable."

"You mean torture you," Elsa frowned.

"Yes. You would grant me a swift death, a….a peaceful one. Adrek he—" words suddenly escaped him as he struggled to find the right thing to say, "he may not be a vengeful man, but he savagely protects what's his."

"And are you not his as well?" she snapped. "You're his brother! The crime you may have committed was heinous, yes, but he would stoup to torturing you? For what? Causing you pain won't bring your father back! Killing you won't change the past either!" Elsa was shaking now, the tears she'd been fighting back since earlier that evening finally brimming in her eyes. "Killing you won't make things right, it just continues the cycle of heartache and bitterness."

"There are laws not even royalty can skirt, Elsa. You know this. Treason is treason, no matter what your standing is, but you have to put yourself in his shoes," Revel said quietly, his previously felt anger all but gone. "What would you do if you discovered your sister had killed your parents?"

"I wouldn't kill her as punishment! I wouldn't torture her!"

"You can't possibly say that with certainty—"

"You think I can't?!" Elsa screamed, clutching the bars again and pressing her face between the gaps. "I would never because I know Anna never would. For the longest time I blamed myself for my parents' death, did you know that? I stood on the library balcony the night their ship went down and laughed in the face of God. For all I know, he killed them to prove a point. So through my reasoning, I blamed myself, and I thought Anna did too. Three years later I nearly destroy my entire kingdom and everyone in it. Anna could have hated me for what I'd done. For shutting her out as a child, for closing myself off to her, for running away from my duties, for shooting her through the fucking heart with ice! I killed my sister. She died for a few seconds on the fjord, but was her first instinct to attack and kill me in return? No! The thought never crossed her mind because we're family, and despite everything, despite the darkness in our lives, we love each other. So don't you dare sit there and tell me that family wants family dead because of past sins. You deserve punishment, yes, but not death. And asking for my aid in killing yourself is beyond disgusting."

Revel sat in stunned silence, Elsa's words more than just a slap in the face. He knew she was right, but she didn't know his family. Didn't know the depth of Adrek's hatred towards him. Even from across the room he could see the tears trailing down her face and was overcome with the uncontrollable urge to thumb them away like he had in the past. He wanted to hold her, to tell her everything was going to be alright, but Revel knew it would just be another lie to go with the rest. His fate was sealed, had been since that fateful night fifteen years ago, but that still didn't mean he wanted what was coming or to see the pain it was causing the woman he still loved.

"You have to let me go, Elsa," he said softly. "I know my fate and where it's going to take me. Adrek isn't a man you want to anger, and I don't want you to put Arendelle in danger because of me."

You have to let me go.

The words echoed in her mind like the roll of distant thunder, and she felt a familiar nauseous dread coil in her stomach. She'd begged Hans the same thing. Begged him to let her go, to let her retreat into the mountains and live the rest of her life in isolation because the kingdom was better off without her. Was that what Revel was telling her to do? Was he telling her to let him go because he knew she was better off without him?

"This isn't fate, its choice, and it's taking you where you want to go," she retorted bitterly turning away, thankful that the shadows of the dungeon hid most of her crushing anguish.

"We both know that isn't true. Just please…" Revel sighed, staring at the back of her head, "don't watch when they put me on Adrek's ship. Just let me go."

Elsa turned, her mind slow to realize what she was saying. "I'll do what I can." The instant those words fell from her lips her hand clapped over her mouth, and she felt her stomach heave.

Just like Hans. Oh God, I'm just like him.

She felt a familiar darkness twisting within the recesses of her mind and recognized the prickle at the base of her skull. The voice that Saja had silenced during her first encounter had been gagged, but the queen could still feel the slithering, coiling creature buried deep in her soul, the darker part of herself that fed her lies while feasting on her anxiety and fear. It was still bound but she knew it was devouring every minute of her world collapse with gleeful appreciation. She could almost feel it telling her it had been right all along; that it was only a matter of time before he betrayed her and left her like everyone else had in the past.

Only a monster could love another monster, Snow Queen. The whisper somehow slid past her defenses and she jerked in surprise.

The mark on her shoulder suddenly flared with intense, icy heat, and the queen let out a startled cry and stumbled into the wall adjacent to her, sagging there with back to Revel. Holding her shoulder and hissing through her teeth, she rode the waves of pain that quickly spread across her chest and crawled up her neck in tendrils of sparking fire. A vision flashed behind her tightly shut eyes: Saja, eyes white with power, screaming her name seemingly at the top of her lungs. The vision clouded before fading like windblown mist, but the pain in her shoulder remained. She blinked blurrily back into the present to someone else saying her name.

"…wrong with the mark. Elsa, please turn around," Revel pleaded, pulling against the chains anchoring him in the middle of his cell. Slowly, turning only her head, she looked back at the man she didn't want to love but couldn't bring herself to kill her feelings for, and saw him straining, every muscle in his chest and neck corded as he tried to pull himself towards her. But it was his eyes that captivated and held her attention. Despite everything that was happening to him, despite their argument moments ago, despite his arrest and murder charge, despite having the executioner's block looming ahead of him, at this moment the only thing showing in Revel's eyes was concern for her. There wasn't any hint of fear for his future, not a scrap of concern about his own wellbeing. The only thing Elsa could read on him was genuine concern and it put such a weight in her stomach she barely turned away in time as fresh tears fell.

Desperate to leave the dungeon and the devastation of her crumbling world, Elsa staggered to the door and pound on the rough, iron studded wood three times with the flat of her palm. "I'm done here," she called to the guard through the closed observation hatch.

"Wait, Elsa stop!" When she didn't answer and promptly stepped through the open door, fresh fear seized him. Revel could almost taste the unfamiliar magic buzzing in the air around him, magic that didn't feel anything like Elsa's ice power. It was electricity on his skin, miniscule arches of blue lightning raising the hair on his arms and the back of his neck. "Majesty, you have to find your sister! Find Anna!"

"Is everything alright?" the guard asked looking back at a shouting and struggling Revel.

Elsa mustered all her strength to answer in an even tone. "The cries of a desperate man. Leave him to his ravings."

"Please, you know what's happening! We both do— Elsa please! Please!"

The guard nodded and shut the door, effectively cutting off Revel's cries. The queen could feel tears sliding down her cheeks as she walked up the narrow staircase and left the dungeon. Fighting back a heavy sniff, she wiped at her eyes and tried to smother the agony of her breaking heart. No, she would not give Revel the satisfaction of tears. Right now, as the tumulus sky rolled at the behest of an unmerciful wind, the only thing Elsa wanted to do was scream.

Anna woke with a start as a clap of thunder shook the palace, windows rattling in their frames. For a breathless moment she lay in her bed staring up at the ceiling trying to get her heart to leave her throat and settle back in her chest. Unlike her sister, she never liked thunderstorms. Maybe it was their unpredictability; maybe it was the power they could unleash upon the land; maybe it was because her parent's ship went down during a storm at sea. Whatever the reason, Anna disliked thunderstorms and being woken by one was perhaps the most terrifying thing of all. Sleeping soundly in a nice warm bed only to be shaken awake by a tremendously loud clap of thunder that shook—

A brilliant flash of lightning illuminated the room for a brief half second, and the princess held her breath. As a child, her father had taught her how to gauge how far out storms were by the seconds between lightning flashes and thunder claps.


BOOM! Again the castle shook, and this time Anna was out of bed before she realized she'd moved. Kristoff mumbled in his sleep and turned towards her, blinking blearily.

"Wha…wuz'wrong?" he slurred, half way sitting up.

"Nothing love, go back to bed," Anna soothed, forcing a smile. Her husband stared at her for a moment, eyes half lidded and heavy with sleep, before sighing and flopping back into the pillows. The princess knew he was just as exhausted as she was, so she couldn't blame him for falling back to sleep almost instantly. None of the royal family had gotten to bed until late that night after the fiasco that had been the Summit ball. Elsa had gone into a heated meeting with King Adrek immediately following Revel's arrest and hadn't emerged from the parlor until just before midnight. Anna only caught a glimpse of her as she headed towards the east wing but hadn't known whether to follow or not. Deciding to give Elsa space, Anna returned to her room and slid into bed next to her husband, content to let the horrible day fade away but finding herself awoken by heavy claps of thunder.

Standing at the edge of her bed, Anna thought she heard quiet footfalls in the hallway and turned to look at her door. A shadow passed by, visible only between the small gap between her carpet and door. A second later it was gone, heading in the direction of her sister's room.

I need to go talk to her or at least be near her, Anna thought with fresh determination as she moved closer to the door, periodic flashes of white blue lightning illuminating her room in jerky, stop-motion bursts. Rumbles of thunder followed like the throaty growl of some massive sky beast, but none as loud as the boom that had woken her. Throwing on a thin robe, she went to the door and pulled it open.

The hallway beyond was deserted, as it should be at this time of night, and lit by small wall sconces evenly spaced along the wall. She honed in on her sister's door and caught it just as it was closing behind someone. Taking a breath, because thunderstorms really did bother her, Anna closed her door quietly behind her and began walking toward her sister's room. She made it to Elsa's door before another loud clap of thunder rattled the windows seconds before torrential rain broke free from the boiling clouds and beat down on the castle. Between the near blinding flashes of light, Anna could see the storm through the hallway window behind her rolling in off the sea, wind whipping the trees into a frenzy of thrashing movement. There was such ferocity to their swaying and snapping, such power in the drive of the rain, so much anger in the thunder, Anna suddenly became uneasy standing in the open hallway, and she pulled her robe tighter around her for both comfort and warmth. Was it her imagination or did the hallway seem cooler than usual?

"Elsa?" she called over the cacophony of the storm, hoping her knock could be heard. "Elsa, are you awake?"

Not wanting her back to the open hallway anymore, Anna turned the knob and was surprised to find the door unlocked. Gingerly, she pushed it open and peeked inside just as another flash of lightning lit the palace. In the static blue and white brightness she could see that her sister's bed was empty and she wasn't anywhere inside. A little perplexed, because she was sure she'd seen someone walk into her room, Anna stepped back into the hallway and shut the door. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw someone walk into the library and frowned.

How did she get all the way down there without me seeing?

Biting her lip uncertainly, Anna shifted from foot to foot. She was already unnerved and the stretch of castle between her sister's room and the library was long and sparsely lit because of the large windows. Every time the lightning flashed it illuminated those windows and momentarily froze writhing shadows of thrashing trees and driving rain along the opposite wall. To say it was creepy would have been an understatement.

I really, really don't like thunderstorms.

Deciding her sister was well worth the eerie trek down the long shadowy hallway, Anna took off towards the library door as fast as her pregnant body would allow. She kept her eyes on farthest wall, not wanting to see the outside world or the storm raging around her kingdom. When the princess finally reached the library, she peeked in and was bewildered to find it empty as well.

"I think I'm losing my mind," Anna mumbled, closing the door with a click. Suddenly exhausted, she leaned against the door and put a hand against her stomach. The little one nestled within her womb seemed to sense its mother's touch and shifted, kicking as it did.

"You don't like storms either, little one," Anna said with a small smile and start back towards her room. No use scouring the castle for her sister. Elsa would turn up by morning and Anna would talk to her then.

As she passed one of the large windows, the princess had the sudden, uncontrollable urge to stop and watch the storm break over the fjord. At first, only her reflection stared back at her in the dark glass until a strobe of lightning illuminated the chaotic world beyond the castle. April storms weren't all that uncommon in Arendelle, but one this violent this early in the season was strange. Eventually the sky went dark again and Anna blinked in the sudden absence of light. Her reflection stared back at her along with—

Anna felt her pulse pound in her throat when she saw her sister standing behind her, blue eyes locked with hers. "Sweet God, Elsa," she panted, grabbing at her heart and turning, "are you trying to make me—"

The princess felt the blood drain from her face in a rush. The hallway in both directions was empty; no one stood behind her. Immediately, the hairs on the back of her neck prickled and she felt the unnerving sensation of being watched settle between her shoulder blades. Something wasn't right. Heart pounding hummingbird fast, she stood with her back pressed against the window, arms braced against the ledge, her eyes darting from own end of the hall to the other.

I know I'm not seeing things. I know someone was there…I know…

A familiar sound caught her attention as the rain beat down on the window, and she froze. It was the unmistakable sound of creeping ice, the creaking and popping as the fractals spread and multiplied, frosting the warm glass until it was opaque. Slowly, Anna turned only her head and watched the ice continued to spread. When it touched the small of her back, she whirled and stared wide eyed at the window. It was nearly frosted over, but how? Her sister wasn't anywhere near…so who was—

Lightning split the sky followed instantly by a massive thunderclap. This time, however, as her eyes adjusted to the darkness of the hallway, Anna watched the silhouette of a hand appear in the middle of a fully frosted pane as if someone were holding a warm hand there. She was so focused on the materializing handprint that she didn't notice the woman emerge from the shadows behind her like a wraith. A breath of icy air rolled across her neck, this time followed by a single, whispered word…


Pregnancy be damned, Anna took off like a shot down the hallway, running at full speed. She swung around the corner next to her sister's room so fast she almost lost her balance, but luckily years of barreling full tilt through the palace had conditioned the princess and she expertly righted herself and continued her mad dash towards her room. More lightning flashed and thunder rolled, punctuating her footfalls like the sharp tattoo of drums. Passing one of the last black glass windows, Anna saw the reflection of the woman in the dark glass screaming at her and stumbled in shocked terror, slamming painfully into the opposite wall when she whirled away. The same window frosted a second later, each dark pane smothered in opaque frost. Fresh panic gripped her, and Anna ran faster, knowing with sick knowledge that if she fell whatever was literally breathing down her neck would catch her. It was one of her worst nightmares come true and she ran until her lungs burned.

The princess reached her door in a matter of seconds though it felt as if she'd been running for hours. Hands shaking, she struggled to turn the door handle, tears welling in her eyes as she felt the creeping frost catch up to her, icy fingers trailing over her face and neck as if searching for something. She thought she saw a shadow detach from the wall a little ways down the hallway, thought she saw frost creep along the floor as the figure neared, but it could have been her imagination. Anna was finally able to shove her way into safety, slamming the door shut behind her with a bang.

"Kris…Kristo…Krostoff," she panted, trying to catch her breath as she braced herself against the smooth wood. Something bumped the door and she shot away from it. "Kristoff!"

The mountain man surged out of bed, naked as his name day, body moving solely on instinct. He realized something was happening and grabbed the hatchets he always kept next to the bed and moved towards his wife. He took in her milk white face, wheezing breaths, and sweat prickled brow with a glance, but what put a ball of anxiety in his chest was the terror in her eyes as she stared at the door and the ice slowly starting to creep under it.

"Anna, what wrong with Elsa?" he demanded moving between his wife and the door, hatches clutched in knuckle white hands. It was curious his mind immediately jumped to the conclusion that Anna's terror was somehow caused by the queen, but that's where his reason landed. He wondered if metal weapons would be enough to protect them. Guess he'd just have to find out.

"Not…not Elsa—"

"What do you mean?"

"She wasn't….she wasn't in her room or…library. Someone else….someone—"

Anna would have said more had she not noticed a faint glow illuminating a small portion of her room behind them and turned to look at her mirror. A wordless shriek tore from her throat as she saw the woman standing in the glass, glowing white eyes shining like beacons in the night. Kristoff saw it too and put himself between the specter and his screaming wife, but even he froze with fear when the woman pushed through the undulating glass and stepped into their world. Without a second's hesitation, he cocked his arm and let the hatchet in his right hand fly free with a tremendous rush. The blade flew true and would have struck the woman directly between the eyes had it not sailed through her as if she were smoke and smashed the mirror to pieces.

"Anna, run! Get out of the castle, and go to the troll—"

Kristoff was cut off mid-sentence when powerful blast of arctic air erupted against his right side and sent him sailing into the wall with enough force to splinter the wood. He crumpled to the floor in a heap, his arms and feet instantly enveloped in crystalline blue ice and locked in place where her lay. Anna instinctively moved towards her husband, but the specter moved when she did, and the princess froze.

"What do you want?!" she screamed, trembling hands thrown out in front of her in anticipation for an attack. The woman turned her unearthly eyes on the princess, and Anna's body quivered as paralyzing fear sank its talons into her. Suddenly, she couldn't breathe, couldn't see straight as the room began to spin. She didn't know why she was locking up now. Of all the horrors seen in her life, of the handful of near death experiences she'd been a part of, Anna couldn't figure out why her body had suddenly betrayed her and began shutting down. When the woman took a step forward, blackness crept into the corners of her vision and she felt herself began to slide to the floor. A deeper part of herself screamed for her to stay awake; she had to protect herself, had to protect the baby, but the blackness was more powerful.

"Peace, Anna Frosberg, I mean you and your family no harm," the strange woman said in a voice so eerily similar to Elsa's it sent an involuntary shiver down Anna's spine.

The princess anticipated the bone-jarring impact of hitting the ground, but instead, something cold gently brushed against her, icy arms slowly raising her back up. Blinking as consciousness quickly returned, Anna looked around and realized she was lying against a sheet of ice that had kept her from hitting the ground. As she became more aware of her surroundings, the ice sheet began to rise forward until she was again standing on her own two feet.

"I'm sorry. It wasn't my intention to scare you."

The princess looked up and reflexively flinched away from the strange woman who looked so eerily similar to her sister. There were only a few marked differences between the two: the woman was older, she had a different shade of blue to her eyes, and her white hair hung loose around her shoulders with small micro braids running along either side of her head. Aside from that though, the woman could have been Elsa's double.

Elsa's double….

"S-Saja?" Anna ventured, voice shaking with adrenalin.

"Yes," Saja nodded and smiled.

"I…what — I don't understand," she sputtered, her mind running faster than her tongue. "Why are you here? I mean…I know why you're here, but why are you here here…in my room? Aren't you supposed to be only in Elsa's dreams?"

Saja's face scrunched into something akin to frustrated irritation, and Anna realized something was wrong. "I have been trying to communicate with your sister all evening, but I'm unable to get through to her. I don't know how she's blocking me, but I need to tell her something important. So I came to you instead."

"God above, you scared the shit out of me! Why the hell didn't you come to me in a dream instead of crawling out of my mirror like some kind of demon?"

"You and your sister have a strange way of imagining demons," Saja grumbled. "I've not made a connection with you, so I had to manifest myself first."

"You mean you've not branded me," Anna retorted, taking another step back. The Frost Born caught the movement and hung her head with a sigh.

"I will not mark you, Anna. In fact, I can't. You do not carry the Frost Born power, so my mark would mean nothing. Your mother made sure she did not make the same mistake with you that she did with your sister."

Somehow Saja's remark kindled a spark of anger in her chest, and Anna scowled. "My sister was not a mistake."

"No, she was prophecy," the Frost Born mumbled too quietly for the princess to hear.


"I said, I did not say she was a mistake, but I doubt your mother and father anticipated their first child being born with Snaer's power. Regardless, I'm not here to speak about the past. What I have to say pertains to the present. The man your sister loves has a secret he wishes no one to know."

"You're a little late on your delivery," Anna huffed and crossed her arms. "Revel was arrested this afternoon for murder."

"No, that's not his only secret. Within his chambers he hides something else. It's hidden behind a strange colored stone in his hearth."

Anna frowned in confusion. "How do you know this?"

"A few weeks ago your sister's lover touched her mark while it was warring with the troll magic she'd summoned me with," Saja said and slid her eyes towards a struggling Kristoff who had just awoken and was trying his best to break the ice bonds keeping him in place. The muscles of his chest and arms corded and rolled as he strained, his screams muffled by the ice gag over his mouth. Anna followed Saja's line of sight and her eyes went wide when she saw the state her husband was in.

"Let him go!" she shouted and ran over to him. Kristoff was trying to tell her something, his head snapping repeatedly towards the door, but that was all he could get through to her. Anna tried to dig her fingers under the gag but the ice was flush with his skin.

"Not until I've finished speaking to you," Saja said flatly.

"You're hurting him!"

"My ice is merely keeping him in place. He hurts himself by struggling."

"Let him go, or this conversation is over!"

Anna saw a glint of anger spark in the Frost Born's eyes but refused to lower her gaze. After a silent, tense moment, Saja exhaled sharply through her nose and waved her hand with forced casualness, dissolving the gag.

"Get the fuck away from my wife!" was the first thing Kristoff screamed when he realized he could speak again. "Get out of our room and go back to whatever goddamn cave you crawled from!"

"So the changeling has some bark after all," Saja said with a cheerless smile.

"I'm not a changeling, winter bitch!" Kristoff roared and pulled against the ice holding his arms against the wall.

Saja's stare turned dangerous, the light blue of her eye dissolving into static white. "The gag has been removed, but you will instruct your husband to keep his tongue between his teeth, or I will rip it out of his throat. I did not come here to argue with a troll's bastard."

Kristoff would have said more had Anna not realized Saja's threat carried merit and clapped a hand over his mouth. "Kristoff, please, if she wanted to hurt me she'd have done it already. I don't like this anymore than you do, but please don't make her angry."

The mountain man glared at the Frost Born for a long while before eventually nodding his head in agreement. Anna sighed with relief and carefully climbed to her feet. "Can you unfreeze him, please?"

"Not until you have I have finished speaking," Saja said with a flat finality.

"Fine," Anna conceded, shoulder dropping a bit. "How do know about Revel's secrets?"

"When his skin touched your sister's brand some of his blood mingled with hers. She wasn't able to see it, but I saw glimpses of his past and the secret he's been hiding since traveling to your land."

"Did he truly kill his father?" Anna asked eagerly, desperate to know that truth.

"I couldn't tell that much from the glimpses I saw, but I know about the piece of paper his father gave to him before his death. Revel hides it behind his hearth stones."

"Why are you helping us?" Kristoff snarled angrily.

"Why?" Saja canted her head, brow furrowed, "Because this man and your sister are linked through blood and magic. Revel is the only chance Elsa has of making certain the Frost Born line continues since the little ones squirming around in your womb have been robbed of that birthright by yet more troll magic."

"What? There's been no troll magic used on my child." Anna looked down at her stomach, face suddenly flushing with heat.

"You offered the fertility goddess the herbal bundle," Saja explained gruffly.

"But…that came from the mountain shaman…" Anna seemed to suddenly realize something and rocked back with the shock of it. "All this time I thought Snaer was the mountain shaman, but she wasn't…was she?"

"My mother is no shaman. That herbal poultice came from the trolls, but that is a story from another time."

"Did…did you say little ones?" Kristoff asked, stunned into passiveness.

Saja frowned and cautiously approached the princess. When Anna jumped away, she rolled her eyes in such an eerie echo of how Elsa rolled her eyes when exasperated. "I'm not going to hurt you, nor am I going to hurt your children."

"You can't—" Anna felt the coldness of the Frost Born's touch even through the layers of her robe and nightgown and stared down in wonder at Saja's ice covered right hand. No, not ice covered…they're made entirely out of ice, the princess realized with a thrill of shock. Saja gently slid her hand along the top of Anna's swollen stomach and down over the side before stopping next to her belly button and closing her eyes. Anna felt a slight tingle race through her extremities, and lightly bit down on her bottom lip while trying not to jerk or move.

"Yes, there are two little ones growing within you," Saja confirmed and smiled warmly as her hand continued to stroke Anna's stomach. When she looked back up at the princess, Anna thought she saw tears shining in her eyes. "You are a lucky woman. Two children born at once is a sign of good fortune."

"Th-thank you," she stammered, body numb with astonishment. Her own hand came to rest against the side of her stomach, and she turned wide-eyed towards an equally shocked Kristoff. "Two, Kristoff. We're having two." The mountain man could only manage a weak nod.

"Yes, a happy day, but the two of you must find Elsa," Saja said, snapping the couple out of their parental bliss. "I sense darkness creeping in around her and Revel and fear that if you two do not act quickly one of them will lose their life."

"Can you tell who or what the darkness is?"

"Someone residing within the kingdom, but I am not a seer like my mother. I lack the ability to narrow my vision, but I can tell it is close. It may even be here in this palace, so move quickly."

"Can't you do something about it?" Kristoff asked, sagging against his bonds.

"I can barely keep this form for much longer; what do you expect me to do?" When Saja saw their blank looks, she made a face. "I was only able to manifest because of the storm. I'm drawing power from it, but once it dissipates I'll only be able to visit through dreams. By the time I amass enough energy to communicate with Elsa it will be too late."

The mention of the thunderstorm brought Anna's attention back towards the window. A few weak flashes of lightning still lit the sky but nothing compared to the heart of the storm that had been over the kingdom minutes ago. Even the rain seemed to have lessened.

"Find your sister, and tell her what I've told you, but be careful. If the darkness I sense is truly within the castle, your movements may be closely watched. Whoever bears Revel ill will intends to make sure he dies. Do not let that happen."

Anna nodded once, hands moving up to her chest, before nodding more vigorously. "Yes. We'll do what you ask."

Saja inclined her head and walked back to the mirror Kristoff's hatchet had destroyed. Using her magic to raise the wooden structure back to standing, she pressed a hand against the bare wood and conjured a glass smooth surface that immediately frosted. Before she stepped back through the mirror, she dissolved the bonds holding Kristoff.

"Be swift, Anna. Time is not on your side."

"I will, and thank you."

Saja bowed fractionally, a movement that echoed Elsa's own tight bow. "I watch over what is mine." Then her sharp azure eyes snapped over to the mountain man who had just regained his feet. Kristoff saw her staring and moved reflexively towards his wife. "Remember that, troll son. I protect what is mine. The trolls may have blinded the three of you to their true nature, but I know better."

"Continue speaking ill of my adoptive family, and we'll see how powerful you think you are," Kristoff growled.

"That's right, changeling. They will always be your adoptive family," Saja said and pointed an icy finger at Kristoff's bare chest and the lightly glowing yellow gems hanging there. "You will never remember who you truly are while under their spell. Remember that."

Before either could retort, she was gone, disappearing back into the mirror.

"I hate her," Kristoff fumed, rubbing his sore, cold wrists.

"Elsa said she had a very warped view of trolls, so don't take what she said to heart," Anna soothed and placed a warm hand against his cheek. He leaned into her touch and put his own hand over hers while the other sought and found the roundness of her stomach.

"Could she be right? Could you be having two?" Suddenly, he sank to his knees and pressed his ear to her stomach as if he could hear whether or not Saja had been telling the truth.

"We won't know until they're born," Anna smiled as she splayed her long fingers through her husband's thick blond hair. "I'll be happy with whatever we have."

After a silent moment, the mountain man rose to his feet and grabbed a pair of pants from the dresser next to their bed. "We need to find Elsa."

It hadn't been but half a heartbeat from when the syllables fell from Kristoff's lips that the door flew open with a bang. The queen stood on the doorway with her hands braced on either side of the frame, dripping wet from head to toe.

She didn't know where her feet would take her and couldn't find the energy to care. She passed servants but hardly registered their polite nods, past guards, and doors and walls and stone. Elsa wandered aimlessly after leaving the dungeon, her head in such a fog she could hardly compose a complete sentence in her mind. It was all too much, and she was shutting down. Her first instinct was to go to her room and lock the door, to ice it closed and lose herself in the darkness. But there were ghosts in that room to painful to face, phantoms of a happier time. The library was the same way, so she wandered further. It came as a bit of a shock when Elsa realized she was standing at the top of the southernmost parapet looking out over her dark kingdom, the wind whipping her hair around as it rolled in off the sea.

This is where it all began, a small, functioning part of her mind whispered.

Yes, she'd first met Revel here a lifetime ago the day Kristoff and Anna had departed for their honeymoon. He'd been in mourning, pouring libations into the sea for a lost loved one. She could remember so clearly the pain in his eyes as he stared out over the dark water, the sad set of his shoulders as he revealed why he was pouring out perfectly good brandy. The memory was like crystal in her mind's eyes yet the innocence of it seemed tainted somehow. The sadness the queen had seen suddenly seemed less like sadness and more like bitter regret.

Turning away, Elsa approached the tower behind her and stepped past the heavy wood door. The guard at the base of the stairs jumped back with a startled squeak when the queen emerged from the antechamber. She was sure he'd addressed her, perhaps asked where she was going, but Elsa didn't respond. Her body was being driven solely on instinct, and that instinct was pulling her like a magnet towards the Overlook.

The climb happened in the blink of an eye. One second she was at the bottom of the steep incline, the heady scent of salt and earth swirling around her as the wind picked up and bent the trees, and the next she was at the top overlooking the sea and the storm front fast approaching. In the distance bright arms of sky fire snaked down from the rolling clouds and struck the sea. If she strained hard enough the distant rumble of thunder could be heard, but for now it was far off, the forceful wind the only indication that the weather was about to turn.

Despite it being pitch black, Elsa knew her way without having to see the trail and took a sharp right at the top of the incline. Her feet lead her towards the great stone monoliths and the shimmering ice sculptures standing between them. King Agdar and Queen Idun, their iridescent, crystalline bodies forever standing guard over the kingdom they had loved, watching over the daughters they left too soon, stared back at Elsa with kind eyes. She'd sculpted them that way, to appear eternally at peace and willing to share that peace with whoever stood before them, but tonight that expression did little for the queen. In fact, it was such a jarring contrast to the frenzied chaos boiling inside her, Elsa had to turn away in shame, tears leaking out of the corner of her puffy eyes. There was no peace to be found here tonight, only sadness and pain. Only punishment.

A wave of crushing anguish slammed into her with such sudden force she almost doubled over, arms wrapped tightly around her waist. It felt like the world had been turned upside down and was slowly being lowered onto her chest. She couldn't breathe, couldn't think. The tightness in her chest was only matched by the fist sized lump in her throat, and Elsa crashed to her knees in the damp grass as the sobs she'd been trying to hold back finally broke free. In the clinging darkness she felt herself falling apart, pieces stripped away by the bracing wind and thrown into the ether.

How could it have all fallen apart so quickly? Hadn't she done everything in her power to protect him, to love him? Hadn't she given him every part of herself, body and soul? She had known he held a secret, but Elsa had been willing to love him regardless. Hadn't she told him that so many times in the darkness of her room while they lay tangled together? Yet in the end he'd betrayed her. Revel had lied about everything. About his past, about his crimes, about his station….about loving her. Yes, Elsa couldn't bring herself to even dare to hope that he'd ever truly loved her despite everything he'd said in the dungeon.

If he truly loved me, truly trusted me, he wouldn't have lied.

Suddenly her sobs transformed into screams that echoed around her like a banshee screech. Head pressed against her knees, Elsa let the weight of her misery crush her and screamed her agony for God and all creation to hear. Magic erupted around her, confused and jagged pieces of her soul frozen in writhing arms of ice that spread like a cancer. She couldn't control it, didn't want to.

"Why?" she choked in a ragged whisper. "Why are you doing this to me?" The question was for Revel to answer, but something else seemed to have heard and thought it appropriate to reply. Elsa felt the hairs along her arms stand on end and uncurled in time to see a blazing arm of pale blue lightning snake out of the sky and strike the sea not far from where she sat. A crackling boom of thunder shook the Overlook, the ground vibrating with the sound.

Eyes turning towards the roiling sky, Elsa stared at the black clouds, and her own anger seemed to rise to match the anger of the heavens. Onto shaking legs she climbed, ice crackling and snapping under her as she staggered towards the cliff's edge. The bracing wind returned, blowing her back as if warning her away, but grief was quickly being overtaken by rage and the earth under her froze, the wind turning to blowing frost as it swept past her.

"What did I do to deserve this?!" she screamed into the wind at the being she knew was staring down at her with contempt. Her chest was heaving, the weight of heartbreak that had hung there only minutes ago thrown aside. She could feel her blood turning to ice in her veins, her magic writhing within her like a wild animal. "Why do you insist on taking everything away from me? You took my parents, you nearly took my life, you nearly took Anna's, and now you're taking him away? For once, why can't you just let me be happy!?"

Lightning answered her cries, sizzling and furious. It struck a tree somewhere to her left and the roar of the connection between earth and sky was deafening.

"Fuck you!" Elsa screamed in response at the top of her lungs. "I won't let you take any more from me! I am the Snow Queen. I am Frost Born! Do you hear me?!" she bellowed, turning in a slow circle as the first drops of rain hit the ground around her. "Do you hear me Saja; do you hear me Snaer? This is my kingdom and my power! My life! And I'm not going to stand by and let you goddamn deities, or whatever the hell you are, control my fate anymore!"

The storm above her broke with a ferocity that very nearly matched Elsa's rage. Very nearly but not entirely. Lightning rent the sky and thunder roared as rain pelted the ground like a waterfall. Gust after savage gust threw itself against the queen, driving her back from the cliff's edge with such howling disdain she felt the skies outraged fury deep in her marrow. Elsa stood in the downpour, teeth gritted and fists clenched knuckle white at her side as she weathered the storm crashing against her. It was wild and vengeful, screaming its hate at her like she had it.

You've not yet seen the depth of my rage.

Will-ice climbed her arms like glowing ivy as a savage need to combat the tempest overcame her. The first wave of magic that leapt from her was thrown back in her face like a resentful slap, the storm mocking her. Again she threw out her arm and again the wind ripped her magic away as if swatting a pesky fly. The howling wind laughed in her ears and pelted her with stinging rain. Seething, Elsa chambered the writhing ball of arctic ferocity in her abdomen for a third time and threw out both arms, this time pushing with all her might against the wind. Twisted crystalline fractals began to grow in front of her, layer after layer, her magic rippling and bucking against the storm. Elsa stepped forward, head down, shoulders braced, screaming her pain and hatred at whatever god peered at her from the darkness. She bellowed and roared and pushed, determined to drive the storm back as proof that she was no one to be trifled with. Only when she no longer felt the sting of rain on her face or hear the howl of the wind in her ears did the queen drop her arms and stand gasping in the face of her creation.

It wasn't so much a wall as it was a half formed shell. Sixty feet of dark ice rose before her like the wall of some ethereal cathedral, arching fingers closing in overhead from where the wind had manipulated her magic like wet clay. The overhang above kept the rain from her and drove a wedge between her and the wind. A bolt of lightning arched down from the sky, illuminating the rippling cavern. It was like looking up at the sky from underwater, the light from the bolt fractured and refracted a hundred times over. Elsa stepped back, her anger slipping away as she gazed up at in speechless wonder. It was breathtaking what her magic mated with a tempest could create, and it was a stark reminder how wild the power coursing through her veins was.

She didn't realize how close to her parents' grave she'd created the ice cave until she caught a glimpse of the iridescent statures out of the corner of her eye. A sudden wave of shame hit her, furnace heat blooming in her cheeks. What would her parents have thought about her little tantrum just now? How juvenile and petty she must look screaming obscenities at the sky as if all her problems could be solved by raging at the clouds and throwing her magic around like a bully. Sighing, the rain pelting the roof of her ice cave reminding her of the frantic tattoo of drums, Elsa put her head in her hands and just breathed.

What am I doing up here? she thought with another inward sigh. How is this going to help me? Father always said nothing good could ever grow when soil was sown with anger. Maybe I should just—

The growl came from her left and was felt as much as it was heard. Elsa froze, cold panic trickling down her spine. As incredible as it was, she knew exactly what kind of animal was with her atop the Overlook and spun towards her parents' grave. For the second time that night, she felt the brand on her shoulder explode into painful pins and needles at the same moment the world tipped on its axis. The wolf was massive, easily three times the size of its wild lupine cousins, but it wasn't its size or its presence with her that drained the blood from Elsa's face and set her body to shaking. This particular wolf was made entirely out of ice. Every follicle of fur, every rippling muscle, glittered and winked at her as the beast lowered its head, lips pulled back to reveal finger long, translucent fangs. Elsa swallowed hard, hands instinctively rising in anticipation, mind reeling as she tried to make sense of what she was seeing. This creature wasn't one of her creations…was it? No, she'd not made sentient life since Marshmallow. So then where did had this—

The hairs on the back of her neck and arms prickled, the brand on her shoulder flaring with painful heat, as her body became aware of another, unseen presence. Something moved behind her parents' statues, silent was a shadow and a hundred times more menacing. The moment Elsa realized she wasn't alone with just the wolf a set of iridescent gray orbs winked into existence like eyes staring at her from within the shadow of a drawn hood. The entity behind the statues slowly started fading into existence as if it were walking towards her through a fog bank. Slowly, a faint white glow emerged and took shape, and Elsa felt her stomach clench with both abject terror and awe. Her first thought was that it was Saja, but instinct told her otherwise. No, this was something new— something terribly powerful and terribly…cold.

A woman emerged between the statues, a full head and a half taller than the ice sculptures and completely, unashamedly naked. Her long, lean body was white marble made flesh, her waist-length hair freshly fallen snow glittering in moonlight, eyes the steely gray of a seasoned predator. Her beauty was staggering; the smooth planes of her face looked as if they'd been sculpted from glacier ice, but it would have been a fatal mistake for anyone to assume this creature was anything human. There was a fierce, almost savage, quality to her coupled with an alien power that poured from her very person and suffused the air with tingling particles of the purest, deepest winter. It was suffocating, it was consuming; it was power in its rawest, wildest form. The very air froze around her, the driving rain splintering apart somewhere above and twinkling down as nothing more than frozen fractals.

In the fragmented darkness, the storm continuing to rage around them, Elsa could feel her magic twisting and straining under her skin, struggling to be free. And amidst the cacophonous chaos now whirling in her mind, one single, whispered word found its way to the queen's lips like an incantation.


Ice crusted Elsa's fingernail and turned the ground under her into ashy frost. It took every ounce of concentration to keep her magic in check, and all the while she stared in stupefied awe at the wintery woman who returned her gaze with something of a flat curiosity. It was when the queen's will-ice began climbing her arms again that Snaer canted her head, the edges of her lips twisting up in an eerie smile that never reached her eyes.

A blinding strobe of lightning suddenly lit the Overlook, and Elsa blinked rapidly in an attempt to rid her vision of dancing ghost lights. After a moment, her night vision returned and she jumped back with a startled gasp. The woman had moved in the split second between lightning flash and thunder clap, closing the distance between the two. In a motion almost too fast to catch, her fierce gray eyes flicked towards Elsa's shoulder and a spark of—something— arching across her previously unreadable face. Lightning and thunder volleyed with one another from one second to the next, and with each flash the distance between Elsa and this winter woman, this creature born from a glacier's heart, lessened. A small part of Elsa's subconscious screamed at her to run. Something wasn't right, but she was helplessly paralyzed, locked in place by those unearthly gray eyes and the staggering amount of power suffusing the area. She could feel herself succumbing to the force of that power like a pole being slowly driven into the mud. Her knees weakened, her consciousness splintering into jagged fragments while the brand on her shoulder continued to rage with furnace heat. Twenty feet, ten feet, five feet, and Snaer was reaching for her, long, spindly fingers twitching. Any second now, Elsa anticipated feeling those pale fingers close around her throat and driving her to the ground, but something cut the tension like a pair of scissors through twine.

It was faint, almost swallowed by the raging wind and rain, but Snaer had heard it and so had Elsa. A scream drifting through the darkness, a scream both familiar and terrifying.

"Anna," the queen whispered, and the spell broke. Suddenly, she felt strength return to her legs, felt sanity starting to override the fragmentation of her subconscious. Another scream pierced the night, this one shockingly close. It was Anna again, and Elsa could make out a single, terrified sentence.

What do you want!?

"Anna!" Elsa turned and peered into the darkness where she immediately found the glittering golden lights of fire lit windows. Her panic was identical to what she'd felt a year ago when she'd heard Anna being attacked in her room while she slept under the weight of Pabbie's magic. What was happening? Why was Anna screaming? She wanted to run to her sister, wanted to charge down the incline with reckless speed if only her feet weren't—

Elsa was moving before she realized it, her feet following the familiar path down the incline. Startled, she blinked and turned back towards the Overlook and the winter goddess, but neither Snaer nor the wolf was there. Even the ice cavern Elsa had created was gone, the only indication anything out of the ordinary had happened were the patches of frost snaking out from between her parents' statues like eerie footprints. The queen could still feel a presence peering at her from the darkness, could still feel the burn of her brand. She wavered at the edge of the Overlook until a faint growl sent her spinning as she fled into the darkness.

Elsa stumbled a few times coming down the incline, the mud and soaked grass under her heeled feet giving way in sections and threatening to pitch her head over heels into the churning blackness. The rain continued to pelt her mercilessly, thoroughly soaking her clothes and making moving extremely difficult while trying to balance in waterlogged wool and cotton. Frustrated, she threw off her shoes and continued her descent barefoot, toes gripping the mud, but it was only slightly better going. She was still moving too slowly to reach the castle in time to prevent whatever was happening.

Get to Anna. You have to get to Anna, she repeated in her head like a mantra, heart hammering like a war drum in her chest. You're moving too slow! Get to Anna!

But how? She was moving as fast as she could, stumbling and bumbling like a blind man. Even on a good day descending from the Overlook was a challenge, but this? This was lunacy spiced with just a little bit of suicide. How was she going to reach the bottom? Hands pushing back her soaked hair, she cast about in the darkness for a solution. The idea raced into the forefront of her mind like the shockwave of an exploding star, and all of a sudden she knew exactly what to do.

Magic detonated under her next hard footfall and cascaded down the slope in an icy arch, iridescent gray and white bridging the gap between her and empty darkness. Falling into a familiar fighter's stance that kept her center of gravity low, Elsa planted her feet, leaned back, and slid the final two hundred yards towards the southern parapets. Water stung her eyes; wind roared in her ears and tore at her dress, yet faster she slid, hand trailing the ice ramp behind her like a boat rudder. Reaching the end of the incline, she didn't bother stopping. The hill leveled out and eventually stopped at the southern parapet, but Elsa had enough momentum behind her that once she reached even ground all she had to do was chamber her magic under her feet and release it the second she was within spitting distance of the wall. The guard at the gate gave a startled squawk when Elsa sailed over his head, trailing fractals of ice and frost, and flew over the parapet railing like a bird, arms pin wheeling and legs drawn to her chest. Her landing was less than stellar, her rain heavy clothes putting her off balance and her muddy feet slipping on the wet stone. She had no idea how me managed this maneuver so easily, but Elsa was where she wanted to be and kept running until she reach the door that led into the castle, and still ran once within the safety of its stone walls.

She took the spiral stairs to the residency wing three at a time, lungs burning and legs quivering, bare wet feet sliding on the plush carpet. Rounding the corner and stepping into the hallway, Elsa could see lingering fingers of frost still clinging to the windows and carpet in starts and stops like foot prints. The dread banking in her chest didn't break until she'd thrown open her sister's door and saw Anna standing next to her husband who was attempting to climb into a pair of black pants. Both jumped in unison and turned towards Elsa, mouths agape.

"Um…why are you all wet?" Anna asked brow scrunched with confused concern.

She safe, Elsa exhaled. Oh thank God, she's safe.

Suddenly, the adrenalin that had driven her here like a team of horses under the lash dissolved, leaving the queen lightheaded and weak in the vacuum of its absence. She opened her mouth to speak and felt the walls of the room close in on her, darkness fuzzing the edges of her vision. She heard Anna say something, maybe asking her another question, but it was far off and muffled. Then the floor suddenly rolled under her and Elsa was falling, the room spinning like a top. She anticipated a jarring impact but instead felt her cheek land against something warm and slightly furry. It took a moment for her to realize someone had caught her and the warmth she was feeling was their skin. Kristoff's face swam into view as he adjusted his grip so that his right arm was around her waist.

Damn, he's fast, Elsa thought with an inward laugh.

"Anna, go tell one of the guards to get Brynja."

"No," Elsa mumbled and shook her head in an effort to clear it. "No, I'm fine."

"You're not fine," Kristoff countered and scooped her up as if she weighed nothing. Rather than taking her to the bed, the mountain man set Elsa down on the long couch in front of the fire, careful to place her head on the arm rest.

"Kristoff, I'm fine," Elsa assured him and instantly wished she hadn't sat up so quickly. Dizziness still clung to her like a drunken lover. Fighting to stabilize her vision, she turned her attention towards Anna who was still standing between the couch and the door. "I heard you screaming. What happened?"

"You— I— Elsa, you really need to…" Anna looked between her husband and her sister, clearly torn as to which to listen to.

It was clearly evident to the queen that something had deeply upset her sister by the way she was twisting the sash of her robe around her fingers. It was a nervous habit Anna had developed as a child that never fully went away. "Anna, what happened?"

"You need to get out of those wet clothes before you get sick," the princess diverted, waving a hand to indicate Elsa's dripping wet body. Kristoff, who had moved off to pull on a shirt, gave her a confused, sidelong glance from across the room as if to ask 'Why are you stalling?'.

"That's not important," Elsa frowned as Anna came to sit on the couch next to her. Clearly she wasn't going to get anything out of her without prying, so she turned to Kristoff instead. "Why was she screaming?"

"Um…I— well—I think Anna should explain. She was the one who saw her…"

"Saw who?" Elsa sat up straighter, pulse quickening. "Who did you see?"

"No one," Anna mumbled and trained her eyes on the fire.

"Anna, you have to tell her what Saja said—"

"Saja was here?" Elsa gasped and grabbed her sister by the shoulders a little too roughly. "Anna, you saw Saja? When? How? How did she come to you? Anna, you need to tell me!"

"Alright, alright I'm sorry! I'm trying to figure this out as much as you are!"

Elsa released her hold after realizing how tightly she was gripping her and clenched handfuls of soaked fabric instead. "I'm sorry, Anna. I didn't mean to shout. It's just…" The weight of the previous day was suddenly hanging around her neck again. In all the commotion and desperate rush to get to her sister, Elsa had momentarily forgotten that her lover was being held in a cell a few floors beneath her feet. Her lover the murderer.

"I know this has been one hell of an awful day," Anna said, linking and unlinking her fingers. The princess took a steadying breath before continuing. "I went looking for you after the storm woke me up," she explained, speaking faster and faster, "but you weren't in your room. So, naturally I thought you'd be in the library. But you weren't there either, and it was lightning and thundering, and you know how I don't like thunderstorms. And this one was particularly loud. I…I got a little jumpy and walked past one of the hallway windows and thought I saw you looking back at me." Anna laughed nervously and twisted her fingers into the fabric of her robe.

"But it wasn't you. There wasn't anyone in the hallway with me, so I thought I was going crazy. Brynja said I might get a little crazy in the last few months. Said it's normal for women to feel jittery, and so I just thought it was a side effect, you know? Seeing things and hearing things and feeling things and—"

"Anna," Elsa interrupted and gently cupped the side of her sister's face in order to guide her back on track.

The princess took another large breath and let it out in a rush, realizing she was starting to tremble. "Right, sorry. I thought I saw you in the window, but there wasn't another there. Then the ice started to frost the glass, and I heard someone whisper my name. Yeah, I wasn't about to stick around and see what was there, so ran like hell back here, but something was following me. I screamed for Kristoff to wake up, which he did," Anna shot a quick smile across the room to her husband who returned it with a thin smile of his own, "and then she just…walked out of the mirror."

"Saja came through the mirror?" Elsa frowned, twisting around to scan the room. She found the mirror in the corner sitting on a bed of broken glass. It was a little surprising to see a hatchet imbedded in the ornate wood, and she arched an eyebrow. Kristoff saw her staring at the weapon and rubbed the back of his neck nervously.

"Old habits after living in the wild for so long. I don't sleep without my hatchets," he explained, hurriedly tucking a loose blue tunic into his pants.

"That's….comforting to know. I'll make sure never to startle you in the middle of the night," Elsa said, nodding slowly. "So…Saja came to you? How?"

"She said she was only able to manifest because of the storm. Elsa," Anna suddenly grabbed her sister's hands, a fervent gleam in her sky blue eyes, "I'm so sorry I didn't believe you about her. I didn't know what to think about your dream encounters, but all this time you were right. I'm so, so sorry for not believing."

The queen felt a bit of blush warm her cheeks and nodded. "It's alright. I realize what I was telling you sounded amazingly fantastic."

"Well, there was nothing 'amazingly fantastic' about her. She's spiteful and cold and just a little bit scary."

"What did she say?" Elsa prompted again.

"She said that Revel had a secret we didn't know about. I know," the princess jumped in, seeing the comment forming on her sister's lips, "I told her she was a bit late with her revelation, but she wasn't talking about him being a prince or…or possibly killing his father. She said he was hiding something in his room."

Elsa frowned until her brows were knitted together above her nose and stared into the fireplace. She didn't need to question how Saja had known this. The Frost Born had powers far beyond Elsa's imagination, so it wasn't impossible to believe Saja had known something about Revel and kept it to herself until know. Trouble was what was she talking about? It didn't take much searching for Elsa to recall the strange moment she and Revel had shared while alone in his room.

"It's in his hearth."

"Wait, how did you know?" Anna asked, shocked.

"Just something he did a few weeks ago that stuck in my mind."

"Okay, so we go and find whatever it is he's hiding," Kristoff said coming to stand next to his wife.

"No," Elsa said, rising, cold rain water cascading down her back in tingling rivulets. She really needed to get some dry clothes on for the carpet's sake.

"No? Why no?"

"No as in, not tonight. I just," she searched for the right words but couldn't find them, "I have a feeling tonight isn't a good night. Tomorrow morning at first light."

"That's only a few hours away," Anna said glancing at her window. The storm had almost moved off. There were still a few stray flashes of lightning off in the distance, the rain slowing to a gentle patter against the glass. Seeing the rain brought to mind the first question she'd asked her sister upon seeing her in the doorway, and she asked it again. "Elsa, why are you all wet? Were you on the parapets again?"

"I was out at the Overlook," the queen said quietly as she made her way towards the door.

"You climbed to the Overlook in this weather?" Anna and Kristoff both gaped.

"I did," Elsa smiled mirthlessly. "And I did it in heels too…which are gone now." She flexed her slightly muddy toes and felt grit between the digits. The image of the wintery woman flashed in her mind, and she suppressed a shiver at the thought of the entity she'd encountered and what it meant.

"Did something happen?" Anna tentatively asked seeing the unease in her older sister's eyes at the same moment she unconsciously touched the brand on her shoulder.

Elsa was silent for a long time, her gaze turned inward. When at last she answered, her voice was small and unsure. "You could say that I was not-so-gently reminded that we are small creatures in the vast scope of things, and that forces beyond our control do indeed walk this earth."

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 17 of 24

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