Continuing Tales

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 18 of 24

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Five hours crawled by at a snail's pace, each minute dragging on for an eternity. Elsa had returned to her room and changed out of her soaking wet clothes but didn't exchange them for anything resembling sleepwear. Instead, she slipped on one of her sparring ensembles: coal gray tights, navy blue fencer's top, black suede vest, and paced the length of her room. Every so often she'd glance over at her bed, wondering if perhaps getting a few snatches of sleep would help in some way, but then she remembered her encounter at the Overlook, Anna's meeting of Saja, and the cryptic message the Frost Born had given her sister, and whatever fatigue she felt dissolved.

"It's in his hearth," Elsa had told Anna back in her room, shocking the princess. Yes, something important was hidden in Revel's room, but God only knew what that was — well God and Saja, apparently. What could he have stashed away that could clear him of a murder charge — one conveniently backed up by the Asham king and his champion, which was amazingly beneficial to their case. Who would question either of their stories? Who would think twice about checking into where Adrek or Fritz was that night. No, Elsa knew she was missing a massive piece of the puzzle, and it galled her to no end. Back and forth she walked, fingers twitching at her side as she juggled a small snowflake along the tops of her knuckles unconsciously. Was Adrek the killer or Fritz….or Symon? She shook her head, crossing him off her mental list. Symon was third in line for the throne, so it wouldn't make sense for him to only kill his father. That would immediately elevate Adrek to the status of king, solving nothing. But if it were Adrek, why would he kill his father? He was the first born of the Spezerei family. Yes, removing his father from power would ensure him the kingdom, but what motives did he have? Round and round she went, her analytical mind tearing apart each scenario.

It all boiled down to what Revel had hidden in his room.

Of course this could all come down to the sad fact that Revel really did kill his father.

Yes, that cold probability plagued the queen more than the others. Revel could very well be the culprit, and she was just too stubborn and too emotionally compromised to accept it. She mulled her encounter with him in the dungeon over and over again, analyzing all the points she could pick out where he lied outright. It just didn't make sense. His stories didn't line up, he was forgetting key elements, and was far too willing to admit to ending his father's life. No, Revel was hiding something, and again it all came down to whatever was in the hearth. Glancing at the clock, Elsa groaned and rubbed her tired eyes, suddenly wishing she'd at least attempted to catch a few moments of rest. Sunrise would be in another hour, which meant Kristoff and Anna would be knocking on her door any second.

Sitting down in front of her vanity with a deflating sigh, Elsa set about arranging her hair in a tight braid. She didn't know why, but somehow having her hair contained seemed like a good idea for what could take place today. Her fingers working deftly, she managed to weave her long platinum locks into a compact braid which she later decided would better suit her needs in a bun. It felt good to give her hands something to do, but after years of doing her own hair, she finished too quickly and was once again left with nothing to occupy her time aside from her tumultuous thoughts. Through her large triangular window, she noticed the sky lightening, a faint sliver of gray warming the blackness on the horizon line. At about the same time she rose from her seat, there was a soft knock at her door that released a nervous burst of frost from her hands. It was far too early to be any of her castle staff, so Elsa opened the door without preamble for her sister and Kristoff. They took in her choice of attire with a quick glance before ducking into her room like children preparing to do the worst kind of mischief.

"Did you get any sleep?" Anna asked with a sheepish smile.

"Not a wink," Elsa replied, shrugging her shoulders helplessly.

"Me either." Anna sank heavily into her sister's vanity chair, hands resting atop her swollen stomach and legs outstretched. "So, now that we're all here and accounted for, what's the plan?"

She wouldn't tell her sister this, mostly because she was afraid of being written off as being too impractical, but Anna had been contemplating ideas of how they would sneak into Revel's room unseen and undetected. They would either: slide around the courtyard playing shadow jump while trying to evade the patrolling guards, rappel from the parapet closest to the guard tower roof, or throw a grappling hook from the parapet and swing through his window. Since the princess was heavy with child, her fitting through a narrow anything would be impossible, but Elsa could if she was willing.

"I don't think I need to explain that subtlety and stealth are key," Elsa said, sitting on the edge of her bed and lacing up a pair of black shin high, calf skin boots.

It was strange watching the queen arrange herself in such…practical attire. All her life, Anna had only ever seen Elsa in skirts and dresses. It was part of being a royal that had always grated the princess's nerves. Always prim and proper, always manicured and clean. She was told time and time again to look her best, and always Anna had found a way to skirt that rule or blatantly break it. Mud puddles, hay bales, horseback riding, lake swimming, climbing, jumping, running — anything that went against the grain of her upbringing, but her sister was another matter. Elsa was the picture of royal etiquette, forever poised, forever the elegant queen. Even when she was dressed down for comfortable lounging she wore clothing that could be considered dignified. So seeing her sister don clothing that could, at a glance, be even remotely considered masculine was a shock. The clothes still held her figure, Elsa didn't wear anything that wasn't fitted to her specific measurements, but she looked like a woman who meant business, a woman who would gladly raise her fists along with her voice if the situation called for it.

All this time I've completely missed these subtle changes in her, Anna thought as she watched Elsa from her seat. She's not the same woman she was three years ago, or a year, or even a couple of months. It's like she's lost a part of herself and gained something new.

The gravity of Anna's understanding hit her particularly hard. Despite having to grow up much faster than any child should, Elsa had always retained a portion of her childlike innocence. It was buried deep and only available to those most trusted, but the princess could see that some of that incorruptible purity, that lighthearted playfulness had been stripped away and the raw material beneath hardened. Perhaps it was because of her sessions with Revel, perhaps it was because of his betrayal, perhaps it was a form of inner strength manifesting in strange ways. Whatever it was, it made Anna nervous because she couldn't predict what her sister was going do like she could in the past.

"Kristoff and I will travel through the secret passage in my room to the stables. By now, the stable master will have risen and begun his daily chores which will temporarily take him out of the building for about an hour. We'll—"

"Wait, wait, just you and Kristoff?" Anna interrupted with a frown. "What am I supposed to do?"

"You're to wait here," Elsa said evenly, fixing her sister with a direct stare that told her she would not tolerate any arguments. But Anna wouldn't be Anna if she didn't balk at being told what to do.

"But I can help!" the princess exclaimed, struggling to push herself out of her chair. She had to pinwheel her arms in order to stay balanced which didn't help her case.

"I need you to stay here and keep watch for Gerda. If she shows up before we get back, tell her I had a rough night and will be up shortly. That will buy us some more time."

"So I'm pretty much being left behind to guard the fort," Anna pouted, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Come on, love, it's not like that," Kristoff said gently and pulled her into a hug which Anna shrugged off.

"You don't need to coddle me," she huffed.

"I just want you safe, that's all," the mountain man said with a defeated sigh. "Saja warned us that there might be someone watching, and I don't want anything to happen to you or the babies."

"Babies?" Elsa turned slowly towards the two, confusion written all over her face. "Who said you're having more than one?"

"Saja," Kristoff and Anna said in unison. It was the latter of the two who spoke next. "She put her hand on my stomach and said she felt two heartbeats. So yeah, surprise! You're going to be an aunt twice!"

"Oh my sweet Lord, I'm not prepared for this," Elsa groaned, putting a hand against her forehead. A quick glance at the steadily lightening sky pulled her thoughts away from her sister's double pregnancy and put it back on track. She could deal with that sucker punch later. "Ok, we need to go. Anna, please stay here and cover of us. We'll be back as soon as we've found whatever Revel has hidden in his room."

"Alright, fine. I'll be here," Anna said with a dramatic sigh and took a seat on the edge of her sister's bed. Elsa found and pressed the hidden button, the bookcase dislodging from the wall with an audible hiss and swinging open on well-oiled hinges. Kristoff pecked his wife on the cheek one more time before stepping through the portal and closing the bookcase behind him. Left alone in silence, the princess lasted a whole five minutes before she growled in irritation and slid off the end of the bed and headed towards the door.

"Stay behind and cover the fort," she grumbled beneath her breath as she locked her sister's door from the inside and stepped out into the hall. "Despite popular opinion, I'm not a useless member of this group. Whatever, you all go play spies; I've got better things to do. Like play inquisitor."

A crooked smile was quickly creeping across Anna's face as she stealthily slid through the castle hallways with practiced ease and made her way towards the dungeon. She wasn't kidding about her role as inquisitor. Elsa might have gotten nothing useful out of Revel, but she was determined to crack this mystery wide open on her own, hearth secret or not.

Kristoff and Elsa descended the narrow staircase hidden within the walls of the castle in relative silence. He asked her a few questions regarding the nature of these passages and if she knew of any more save for this one. Elsa answered honestly and told him she knew of a few on the lower level but hadn't been aware there were any snaking through the residency wing. However, she made a mental note to begin checking after the craziness she was currently embroiled in ended.

During their nightly discussions, Revel had told Elsa all about the passage and where it led. This one split off into three directions: the royal bedchambers, the stables, and a small crawlspace behind the kitchen. He had surmised it had been created in the event the castle ever came under attack and the royal family was forced to flee in secret or hide. Curious to see for herself, Elsa had Revel show her where the switch was and prowled the cramped, damp passage one evening. It was with this knowledge that she led Kristoff at a fairly good clip down a sloping set of stairs that branched off twice before opening into a tiny four foot by eight foot antechamber. The wall before them was a smooth piece of chiseled granite devoid of decoration or mark. The only thing that broke the evenness of the stone was a small round porthole at head height. Elsa approached the porthole and threw aside the metal lid to peer through. After a brief pause, she reached out and pressed a nondescript brick to her left. The sound of rolling tumblers filled the silence before the door quietly swung open, a sliver of light piercing the gray gloom.

Elsa emerged from the passage first and double checked if the coast was clear before waving Kristoff forward. The mountain man gently pushed the door closed with his shoulder and followed the queen into the stables. It was early enough some of the horses were still asleep, and a quick glace into Sven's stall revealed that he was snoozing as well, a content Olaf nestled against his best friend's stomach like a child who had fell asleep against the family dog. Elsa saw this too and smiled warmly at the little snowman. Out of all the things she'd created in her lifetime, which wasn't much, Olaf was her greatest and most personal creation. He was a part of her: the innocent, incorruptible, trusting, loving part of herself she'd kept bottled up inside for thirteen years. But it was more than that. Olaf was family as much as Sven or Kristoff or Anna, and the queen felt a twist of guilt for not having spent a lot of time with him these past few months. Her world had pretty much been taken over by Revel and the Summit, so what light did that shed on her character? Was she so capably skilled at shifting people out of her life when they became inconvenient? What did that mean she was going to do once Anna gave birth? What relationship would suffer then?

When all this is said and done, I'll take him to my ice castle, and we'll visit Marshmallow together.

Pulling her eyes away from the sleeping snowman, Elsa hurried to the stable doors and peeked out to be sure no patrol guards were making their circuit near them. The wide courtyard was devoid of people, gray dawn slowly driving the shadows back.

"It's a straight shot to the guard tower. Keep close," Elsa whispered over her shoulder, keeping her eyes out for guards. It wasn't that she couldn't be seen. This was her castle and she could damn well walk around it whenever she pleased, but Saja's warning stuck like a knife between her shoulder blades. Someone was watching, someone who wanted Revel dead. If whoever was keeping an eye on the castle saw the queen and her brother-in-law walking blithely into the guard tower they could get nervous and possibly do something rash. The same could be said if they were caught sneaking in, but Elsa was willing to bet she had the upper hand at the moment and would rather keep her advantage by not being seen.

"Following you," Kristoff responded from behind her.

Ducking out the door and sliding into the first deep shadow, the queen and mountain man quickly picked their way to the tower, jumping from shadow to shadow. Elsa briefly reflected that this was a game better suited for someone like Anna. Her sister had been the mischievous one while growing up. Oh, the queen wasn't devoid of fun or mischief; she still recalled the trouble she and her sister had gotten into before the accident drove a wedge between them. Gerda had had her hands full, but right now Elsa felt that Anna would make this whole process a little less…awkward.

Regardless, the two made it into the tower unseen. Elsa locked the door behind them, throwing both the primary lock and the security bolt. She didn't want any surprise visitors while she and Kristoff worked.

"Do you know what you're looking for?" he asked, following Elsa towards a door on the right hand side of the room.

"No," she admitted. "Revel looked towards his hearth that night, and Saja said to look there, but what we're looking for is still a mystery. I guess we'll have to…" She trailed off as the door to his room swung open, fully revealing the devastation beyond the threshold in all its gut-wrenching glory. Revel's room had been ransacked. No, that was a kind word for what had been done to it. Destroyed or obliterated, those were better descriptions.

"What the hell?" Kristoff breathed, eyes slowing taking in the demolished quarters. It looked like someone had taken an axe to everything, hacking and chopping until there was nothing left but piles of splinters heavily dusted with fine white feathers from the slashed mattress.

Elsa moved into the room with apprehensive caution, careful where she placed her feet. Feathers curled and skittered away as she moved about, hands opening and closing as agitated frost crept across her skin. Who had done this? She hadn't the foggiest idea. It could have been Adrek or Fritz; it could have been a jealous guard or even Sigmund, but it was apparent whoever had overturned Revel's room had been looking for something. His tall dresser was a splintered mess, his clothes lying strewn across the floor. The bed had been the next piece of furniture to fall prey to the thief's blade, the mattress hacked open and almost all the feathers torn out leaving behind a sad sack devoid of form. It was like looking at a deflated water skin. Pots and pans were everywhere, anything clay smashed to pieces on the floor and anything metal dented from being thrown at the walls.

So whoever was in here had a temper. Interesting, Elsa thought with detached reason. Yes, whoever was in here definitely had a temper. There was no need to dent perfectly good cookware; there was no need to break chairs or the legs off of tables. This was purely a spiteful move that spoke volumes to the queen, and it just reaffirmed her suspicions.

Half way across the room, Elsa realized she was looking at the high window above the splintered remains of Revel's writing desk apparently expecting to see something there. It suddenly dawned on her that her snowflake was missing. It shouldn't have meant anything, Revel could have removed it weeks ago, but somehow its absence put a knot in her stomach. Looking down at her feet, she crouched and waved away a cluster of feathers, eyes searching for the familiar glint of her ice.

"Did you find something?" Kristoff inquired from the doorway, clearly nervous about entering. Elsa didn't answer at first, just stared stupidly at the broken snowflake in front of her.

It was made out of will-ice. They couldn't have broken it…there was no—

There was a way, she knew what it was, and her stomach bottomed out. Gently, she picked up the two halves and held them up in the weak light with a slight tremble in her fingers.

It broke because I lost faith in him. My will to love him broke, and so did my ice.

It was true. She'd made Revel that snowflake as a gift with a more personal flair. It had been a token, like the snowflake cufflinks he'd worn to the Summit ball, but far less obvious. Sure, at the time they hadn't been together as a couple, but she'd thought of him as something more than a close friend and wanted to give him a personal gift. Now, however, that gift sat cradled in her hands like a broken promise and she blinked back tears. Pocketing the snowflake, because she couldn't bring herself to mend it until she pulled back the final layer and revealed the truth of the situation she was in, Elsa motioned for Kristoff to enter, and the two approached the hearth.

"Do you think whoever did this found what they were looking for?" Kristoff asked, hunkering down onto his haunches.

"It's hard to say what they were looking for exactly," Elsa mused, kneeling down beside him and pressing her left palm against the worn stones at the back of the hearth. Revel's cooking area, like so many others, was a plain oval shaped hearth with a shallow belly made up of mortared stones. In this case, the stones were reddish orange bricks, which wasn't uncommon. The red orange pattern alternated from one to another in no particular order making finding whatever anomaly Saja and Revel knew about damn near impossible without tearing out the wall. Somehow, Elsa knew that doing that would just be a waste of time, and time was something she didn't have an abundance of at the moment. She had a two hour window before her meeting with King Adrek resumed; meaning she had to find whatever was hidden here before then if she wanted to scrape together any chance of keeping Revel in Arendelle permanently. Sighing, she slid her palm along the stones but felt nothing out of the ordinary.

"I don't know what I'm doing," she confessed in a small voice, eyes fixed on the stones.

"We're sure it's here and not somewhere else in the room?" Kristoff pressed, scooting closer to the back of the hearth and squinting at the bricks.

"You were the one who heard Saja's message, not me."

"Good point," he conceded and continued to squint. After a moment, Elsa turned to him and arched an eyebrow.

"What are you doing?"

"Looking at something…" Kristoff muttered and pulled a small knife from his boot. Gently, he tapped the mortar lines on the right hand side, turning his head so he could better hear the sound the blade tip made against the stones.

"I can see that, so what are you doing now?"

"An old ice trick I learned during my first years of harvesting. Young harvesters are taught to feel the ice with all of their senses, and hearing was a very important one," the mountain man explained tapping the lines again, concentration creasing his brow. "We were taught that, if you were unable to get a good depth reading on a patch of ice, it sometimes required a practiced ear. We were given long sticks with knobs at the end and taught where to gently strike the ice to hear the depth echo. On more solid ice, you could put your ear directly on the surface and tap. If there was an air pocket under you, it would sound hollow, therefore telling you to mark that patch as unsafe and move away. If it was solid there wasn't an echo."

"That's a really ingenious way of safety," Elsa admitted with a fair amount of surprise in her voice. It wasn't that she thought the ice harvesters were dumb individuals who recklessly harvested vast amounts of ice all year long; she just wasn't well versed in the process and steps of harvesting. When you could conjure pure, flawless ice with the wave of a hand, learning how people mined it seemed trivial somehow. Suddenly, she was immensely glad she'd brought Kristoff along.

The queen's brother-in-law worked his way across the hearth, tapping the bricks with his knuckles while poking the mortar with his knife. It was slow, tedious work that eventually paid off forty five minutes later when his knuckles rapped against an orange brick and he heard the unmistakable sound of air trapped beneath. A few swift pokes with his knife revealed that the mortar around this particular brick was especially thin as if it had been redone after the hearth had been installed in the wall.

"I think," Kristoff said picking at the mortar, "I've found our dear captain's hiding place."

Elsa edged forward and conjured a wedge of ice that she immediately hardened into a super fine, super tough pick. Together, she and Kristoff made quick work of the gray mortar, but it was Elsa who managed to wiggle the brick out of the wall because she had smaller fingers. Not surprisingly, the mountain man had been right, the brick was hollow and inside was a leather sleeve the size of her hand. Gently, the queen eased the bundle out and opened it, discovering a small piece of rolled paper stamped with a broken red wax seal. She instantly recognized it as the seal of Asham, but it was different somehow. The symbols were arranged differently and the falcon, which currently adorned the Asham seal, was missing. In its place was a pair of crossed swords with a burning crown hovering above.

"What is it?" Kristoff asked eagerly, stowing his knife back into his boot.

Fingers trembling, Elsa unrolled the parchment and stared at the neat lines of scrawling handwriting. In the predawn gloom she could only make out a few words and exhaled through her nose in mild irritation. "I need some light."

"Here, I think there's a candle around here somewhere…." He searched around his feet for a moment, hands sliding along the feather dusted floor. "Ah ha!" he exclaimed holding aloft a single white candle.

"Now we just need some matches," Elsa said, looking skeptically around the destroyed room. Finding one of those in a chaotic mess of this magnitude would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

"No need. I have a strike fire," Kristoff smiled broadly and withdrew a piece of flint from his pocket. With some effort from his boot knife, Kristoff was able to set fire to a small piece of dried wood still nestled in the hearth and with it lit the candle.

"You are an amazing wealth of ingenuity," Elsa complemented with a small laugh.

"I have my moments," Kristoff shrugged nonchalantly despite the small amount of blush creeping across the bridge of his nose. "What's it say?"

Elsa returned her gaze to the parchment and began reading. It didn't hit her until she was through with the first paragraph how significant this nondescript piece of paper really was. Half way down the page and she felt her heart slamming against her ribs as if attempting to escape. Three quarters of the way down and the blood had drained from her face and she was shaking, the page wobbling in her trembling hands.

"Elsa…what's wrong?" Kristoff frowned as he watched the queen's face lose even more color, her left hand sliding over her mouth, eyes as wide as saucers. "Elsa?"

Last paragraph and the world abruptly ground for a halt, and the queen idly wondered in a portion of her mind that wasn't reeling how many more times the earth would stop spinning while she fought to unravel this mystery.

"Oh my god," she managed to whisper behind her hand, astonishment warring with cold gripping fear. "Oh…oh my god!"

"You're killing me here." Kristoff shifted around so he could see the paper. Though his reading skills were as good as any noble, he had a hard time focusing on the cramped handwriting. "No, seriously. What's going on?"

"Revel he's….he's not a prince."

"What?" he blinked in obvious surprise. "But…but that's impossible! His brother said he was. Why would Adrek say he was—"

"No, Revel's not a prince…he's a king." Just saying the words out loud brought on another bout wave of astonishment and dread.

"What?!" Kristoff mirrored her reaction perfectly, eyebrows shooting into his hairline at the same moment his mouth dropped open into an astonished "O".

"This is a letter of disinheritance. King Gregor disinherited Adrek because…because he…" No, she wouldn't say it aloud because the implications were too grand and to damning. Elsa needed verification from Kai that this was indeed Gregor's letter. The seal bothered her, but if everything checked out, if it wasn't a forgery, then not only was Revel innocent he was also in stupendously grave danger.

"We have to get this to Kai immediately," Elsa said urgently, jumping to her feet and heading for the door. "Now, Kristoff!" she barked, seeing him still seated on the hearth stones. The mountain man clambered after her, his stunned surprise rising to simmering alarm. If Revel somehow was innocent that meant Saja's warning had even graver implications. It might not just be Revel in danger, it could be the queen as well…or Anna. Suddenly, Kristoff wanted nothing more than to run up to Elsa's room and check on her, but he told himself she was safe behind locked doors. Safe, and protected.

It was a game to Anna, skulking around the castle like a creeping shadow, outwitting guards and servants at every turn and disappearing without a trace. She'd become a master at it during her youth, honing her skills every day to a razor sharpness until she could practically glide through the hallways and chambers unseen by anyone. It was how she escaped the boredom of cloistered castle life after her parent's locked the doors, shuttered the windows, and turned every member of their family and staff into shut-ins. Day or night, it didn't matter. Anna would purposely hide from her tutors, dodging the guards and housekeepers sent to find her. Each great escape was a new opportunity to find better and more secure hiding places. She knew every nook and cranny, every hidden alcove and secret passage….well, save for the passages in the residency wing. She'd have to check those out later to satisfy her curiosity. As it was, she was about to satisfy something far more pressing.

Unbeknownst to the guards and staff, there wasn't just one way in and out of the dungeon. For whatever reason, the masons who had constructed the castle on the island had thought it a good idea to install a single expertly hidden passage located at the far end of the dungeon. Anna's discovery of it had been a fluke, her hand slipping one day and hitting the trigger in one of the numerous alcoves near the kitchen behind an impressive antique suit of armor. The door was barely three feet across and had to be slid into sideways, making the descent a claustrophobic nightmare not many would want to participate in more than once. Anna, however, had no fear of tight spaces, but her large stomach did make the trek a bit more snug and chafing than she would have liked. Disregarding her discomfort, she made it to the bottom of the steps and groped around in the darkness for the second switch that would open the door on the dungeon side. Her fingertips brushed against a familiar set of raised bumps, and she pressed the release, sliding out of the narrow crack and stepping into the gray gloom of the lower castle.

Arendelle's dungeons weren't all that large. While most castles boasted a sizable holding place for wrongdoers, the island castle had little need for one bigger than two chambers because it had a fully functioning jail across the bridge in town. Six cells in each chamber with two iron holding pens towards the front. That's where she headed, stealthy as a shadow, balancing on the balls of her feet. A quick glance around the final corner confirmed what she'd suspected. Revel was in the cage to the left of the door and there wasn't a guard in sight.


In five entirely silent strides, the princess was at the edge of the cage furthest from the door. She attempted to crouch and make herself as small as possible, but her swollen stomach wouldn't permit such acts. Instead, Anna opted to lean against the wall, arms folded across her chest. Revel sat atop the cement rise that acted as a crude bed, legs folded under him and head resting against the wall behind him. She took in his disheveled appearance, his grimy clothes, the cuts on his face, the blackening bruises, and felt a stab of both indignation and sadness. In the three years Anna had gotten to know the former captain, she'd seen him in action only a handful of times. Usually, it was while he was on duty. He'd be called to break up a fight or chase down a thief in the market, but every time he went into action, without fail, Revel always treated the perpetrator with respect. Even if they were swearing and spitting and kicking, he'd do everything in his power to make sure they were taken to the town's holding cells without unnecessary molestation.

"If we can't respect the citizens of our own kingdom," Revel had explained to Anna while he nursed a particularly nasty bloody nose after a sneak thief sucker punched him, "how can we expect them to respect us? The guards and the people work hand in hand. We help them and protect them and they in turn do the same for us by aiding us in the capture of criminals."

"Yeah, but he punched you in the face! You would have been justified punching him back!" Anna rebutted, handing him another clean strip of gauze for his nose.

"I could have easily knocked him unconscious," Revel admitted with a slight nod. "But what message would I be sending the people had I beaten a sneak thief into unconsciousness just because I overestimated my odds and wound up getting punched? I'd look like a bully."

Anna hadn't been able to argue with him and wound up nodding in agreement. That had been the moment she truly began to see that Revel was something special. Sure he had his faults, everyone does and he wasn't an exception, but the former captain worked every day trying to be a man the people of Arendelle could look to as a worthy protector. So seeing him sitting in this cell, dirty and bloody, banked a fire in Anna's blood. Revel would never have been so rough with a prisoner. Ever. Apparently, his way of thinking wasn't as popular with the other castle guards as the princess thought. His eyes were closed, but Anna knew better than to assume he was asleep. Still, just to be polite, she cleared her throat softly and waited.

"I was wondering when you'd do that," Revel said quietly, eyes still closed.

"You heard me coming?" Anna frowned, a little crestfallen. She'd hoped, just this once, to be able to surprise him.

"No," Revel smiled faintly and opened his eyes, "I just didn't hear the door open, so I figured it was either you or your sister. You've definitely gotten quieter. I think pregnancy has done wonders for you."

Anna rolled her eyes. "Oh yeah, this is absolutely a blast. I love walking around like I have a cannon ball in my gut."

"It will be worth it in the end when you have a little one cradled in your arms, I promise."

"Little ones," Anna corrected and moved a little closer. "Saja told me I was having two."

Revel looked genuinely surprised by her statement and slowly uncurled, setting his bare feet down on the cold stones. "You saw Saja?"

"It's a really….really long story that I'll get to in a minute. But first, I want to know why you're still here."

"Where on earth would I go?" Revel asked with a dry chuckle.

"I meant, why are you still in this cell?"

"Because I belong here."

His answer was simple and given so matter-of-factly Anna felt a flush of heat work into her face. "No, you belong with the rest of us. You belong with my sister."

"I think I'm the last person your sister wants to see at the moment," Revel said with a defeated sigh. "She came here last night to speak to me and….things did not go over so well."

"Because you both are stubborn asses at times and hurting," Anna pointed out with the same matter-of-fact blandness the former captain had used moments ago.

"Anna, you don't understand—"

"What's hidden in your hearth?"

The question was so sudden and so out of the blue, Revel momentarily lost his ability to form words. He just stared at the princess with open shock written all over his face. "How…how do you know about the hearth?" he managed to ask in a small, scared voice that did little to lessen the princess's unease.

"Saja told me," she shrugged.

"No, Anna, who told you about it?" He was on his feet now, and Anna could see the iron shackles clamped around his wrists for the first time as the chains drug noisily on either side of him.

"You think I'd lie at a time like this?" Anna countered defiantly. "What I said is true. Saja came to me late last night during the thunderstorm. Scared the shit out of me by crawling out of my mirror. God, I'm never going to forget that sight," she shuddered, puffing out her cheeks and blowing out a large breath. At the mention of a mirror, she saw Revel visibly shiver, his eyes trained on the floor as if remembering something. "She warned me that someone was out to kill you, and that whatever you have hidden in your hearth could be the key to saving your life."

"I assure you it will do nothing but end more lives," Revel said weakly.

"What's in there, Revel? Tell me before my sister does."

"Elsa's looking for it?" Alarm now shone in his eyes, making the green stand out like jade stones. Shackled hands raked through his unkempt hair and he swore under his breath.

"Of course she is! Why the hell wouldn't she be? She loves you! God, is that so hard for you to swallow? She's doing everything in her power to save you, and you're making it damn difficult by weighing her down with all this self-pity!"

"None of you understand! I've been keeping you all safe by hiding this secret. The second it's out is the second your peaceful lives end. Anna, please, you both have to stop. I can't keep you two safe if you continue to dig, and I don't know what I'd do if I lost either of you."

"You think you're the first person with a secret who thinks they're doing us all a favor by keeping it to yourself? Gee, wonder what my sister would think about this. It wasn't like she did something similar. You know better than anyone that keeping secret doesn't do anything but cause unnecessary pain and trouble."

"This is different, Anna. This isn't a secret like your sister's powers. This is a kingdom killer!"

"All I hear are pointless excuses and blatant bullshit coming from your mouth. What the hell do you think we'd do if we lost you?" Anna retorted, tears stinging her eyes. "You're my friend. Maybe one of my closest. I've not had many of those growing up, but I found one in you. Please, don't give up on us. I love you like a brother, so just…please."

Revel would have said more, would have attempted to comfort Anna and helped ease her into the mindset that she had to let him go, when they simultaneously turned towards the dungeon door. They both heard it at the same time, the unmistakable sound of booted footfalls coming down the stairs. A second later they heard a voice that made their blood run cold for very different reasons.

"Take all the time you need. The queen's already questioned him. Figured it was only a matter of time before someone from Asham got around to it."

"Good man," Fritz said and it sounded like the Asham champion clapped the Arendelle guard on the shoulder. "I'll just be a minute."

"Shit," Revel cursed, quickly looking around as the guard searched for the key to unlock the door, the metal tinkling like tiny wind chimes. "Anna, you have to hide! Now!"

Wasting no time, because the princess could tell by the level of alarm in Revel's voice that this wasn't an arguable matter, she ducked around the first thing she set eyes on which just happened to be a large stack of wooden crates piled across the room from Revel's cell. Due to the volume of tradable and sellable goods flooding Arendelle for the Summit, some of the castles less used parts were turned into mock storage areas, the dungeon included. It was a happy stroke of luck these crates had been placed here. Had they not, Anna would have been forced to run back to the passage and miss an exchange that chilled her to her marrow while simultaneously getting her the answers she'd intended to pry from the former captain. The moment her back was pressed against the crates, a shipment of goods from Corona if she was reading the seal correctly, the guard opened the door and shut it behind Fritz.

"Re-v-el," the champion called in an eerie singsong voice as he emerged from around the corner at a leisurely stroll, his eyes glinting like chips of glass as they raked over the room. He was dressed sharply in a pair of black trousers and boots, burgundy tunic, and a brown, sleeveless leather waistcoat with silver buckles. At his hip swung a weathered scabbard, the sword hilt visibly worn by continuous use. "Oh, Re-v-el. Are you down here?" A beat of silence before a satisfied exhale, "Ah, there you are."

The former captain stiffened, his glare filled with such intense hatred he felt he could have set fire to the distance between himself and the champion. Fritz only grinned, a cat cornering a mouse, and swaggered closer, raising a dark bottle to lips. He drank noisily before wiping the back of his hand across his mouth and sighing contentedly.

"This really is a remarkable vintage. It's funny, I didn't think you had such expensive taste. Oh, heavens forgive me, where are my manners. Would you care for some?" Fritz extended the bottle and shook it at Revel as if he were a dog capable of being coaxed from his hiding place with a bone. He even made kissing noises and wiggled the bottle. "Come on, I know you've had only dirty water to drink, and that must be hell for you. Think of it as a peace offering."

Revel fought to keep his face schooled so that nothing but contempt showed through despite the fact that his heart was racing at a humming bird's pace behind his ribs. Seeing Fritz at a distance during the ball had been like ripping a scab off a wound, but seeing him close up in all his lethal glory was like sticking a brand against that same wound. The mixture of pain and animosity that warred within his blood made the muscles in his jaw began to ache from clenching them so hard. His fingers itched to close around the smug little bastard's throat and slowly choke the life out of him. He'd even rip off his shackles with his teeth and bend the iron bars with his bare hands if it meant getting Fritz in his grip, and when he did, not even God would have the power to pull the two apart. But as it was, Revel was stuck in a cage with a very short leash, so he resigned himself to only glaring while his dark thoughts swirled around his mind like waking nightmares.

"Why the chilly reception?" Fritz withdrew his arm with a pouty pucker of his bottom lip. "I thought you'd be happy to see me! It's been fifteen years, for God's sake." When the former captain continued his steely staring at the champion, a small smile crept into the left corner of Fritz's mouth, pulling at the livid scar that ran horizontally across his face. He slowly approached the iron cage with a predatory gleam in his hazel eyes. "It's good to see you in your rightful place. The fallen prince in his cage of iron… it has a bit of a poetic ring to it doesn't it?"

"What do you want?" Revel growled, brow creasing until the inner tips of his eyebrows very nearly connected over the bridge of his nose.

"Why, whatever would I ever want from you that I couldn't readily take? No, I just wanted to come and talk, that's all. Just a friendly chat between men. Well, that might be a bit of a problem seeing as you're less of a man now, aren't you? The fallen prince, Asham's cursed second born, bastard prince, kingkiller…they all sound so pretty, but they really take away from what you really are."

"And what is that?" Revel spat, the itching in his fingers becoming an aggravating buzz.

"A scared little bitch in a nasty iron cage," Fritz said gripping the bars and pressing his face between the small gap. "You're nothing but shit under my boot, and I intend to scrape you off and flick you into the fire. They found the poison you had in your room, just like I said they would," Fritz said matter-of-factly. "There was enough there to kill two people. You know, it really takes a sick man to plan the death of his older and younger brother. I mean, assassinating the king was enough, and we all know your next target was Adrek, but killing Symon? He was just a toddler at the time. What threat could he have possibly been to you?"

"Burn in hell, Fritz."

"Oh, I'm under no disillusion I'm bound for heaven, but I'll see you there." He took another drink from the dark bottle in his hand and it was only when the glass caught in the weak light coming through the narrow windows that Revel saw the distinctive green tint to the glass and felt his pulse freeze. Again the champion smacked his lips appreciatively, turning the bottle so that Revel could see the label.

"This really is a good year and an excellent brandy. I've not seen a Metaxa brandy this old in years. It's a wonder you were able to afford something so…rich…on your guard's salary."

Revel could hear the implication in Fritz's voice and swallowed hard, struggling to keep his mask in place. "Then again, you were always able to get what you wanted. All royals do. Well… that is until now."

The former captain knew what Fritz was doing. He was playing with his food, goading him into retaliation. It was a game, a deadly dance of predator and prey, and one both men were familiar with. Seeing the slightest change in Revel's features, because his unease wasn't so easily hidden from someone who knew what to look for, Fritz smiled a shark grin, teeth abnormally white in the gray gloom.

"Yes, I'm more than positive this little bottle of liquid heaven wasn't something you bought. Oh no. It was given, and I believe I know by whom. Did you think," Fritz began, pacing the length of the small cage while dragging his fingers along the bars, "that I wouldn't notice? You two are good and hiding it, believe me you fooled the rest of those stupid fuckers at the dance, but affection is so easy to spot when you're looking for it. You reek of it, and so does the queen.

"It's an interesting turn of events, I'll give you that. I didn't think you had the balls to chase a monarch, so I'm getting surprised left and right here. But tell me because I'm dying to know," Fritz paused again and leaning in, voice pitched low in a mock whisper and mouth twisted in a gleeful smirk, "when you fucked her did your dick freeze when she came? Is her cunt really as icy as the rest of her? I mean, Christ, talk about playing roulette with your cock!" he laughed sharply, voice echoing in the small chamber, his head thrown back for emphasis.

Revel felt his cheeks begin to burn as rage boiled inside him. "Fuck you."

"Oh ho, ho, so I've hit a sore spot!" Fritz cackled. "Tell me, tell me, when you broke her, because we all know she was tighter than the strings on a banker's purse, did she bleed ice or blood?"

Revel refused to answer, knowing that if he did it would just fuel Fritz's goading as well as being an admission to his relationship with Elsa, but staying quiet was slowly killing him. Especially when a vile troll like the Asham champion was literally dragging his queen and lover's name through the dirt. It took everything in him to keep his mouth shut even though he knew his rage showed in every inch of his rigid body.

"No, she's bleeds like the rest of you royals," Fritz sobered quickly. The change that overtook the champion was starting to witness. He'd always had the ability to flip from one emotion to the next in a seamless transition, usually swinging between vicious humor and stoic seriousness like a pendulum. "And you all bleed like the rest of us. Blood is blood, but you already know that."

"You'd know a lot about bleeding, wouldn't you, you son of a whore. How many stitches did it take for them to close that gash I gave you? Hmm?" Revel mocked, mirroring Fritz with his own brand of tasteless, brutal humor. Sometimes it's better to fight fire with fire. "How many women ran screaming from you—oh wait, that's right. Never mind, I forgot."

For the first time since Fritz had darkened the dungeon with his miasmic presence, the champion's bravado faltered, and Revel caught a glimpse of startled indignation. He'd learned as a young boy that poking a sleeping bear wasn't the best idea, but he was in here and Fritz was out there.

"I fully intend to pay you back for that," the champion seethed, face blushing red. "I'll carve into you slowly."

"Big talk from someone who's as much as a palace bitch as I am. And you called me whipped. There isn't a damn thing you can do right now, Fritz, aside from making an ass of yourself, so why don't you go back upstairs and gawk at the all the pretty servants you can't ever have. Provided your dick still works without your balls being there. Remind me again what it was like having them sliced off. Was it a jerk and a tug or something a little more—"

"Shut your fucking mouth!" Fritz exploded and violently threw the bottle of brandy across the room where it shattered to pieces just above the crates Anna was hiding behind. Revel's heart leapt into his throat but he dared not let his eyes linger on the foamy stain slowly dripping down the wall or the glass shards littering the floor. If he did, Fritz could become suspicious, and there was no telling what he'd do to the princess if he found her.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Did I hit a nerve?"

"You would do well to shut the fuck up," Fritz spat, gripping the bars until his knuckles turned lily white at the same moment his face flushed a startling scarlet red. "I own you, Revel, remember that. If you think your precious ice whore has the power to keep you from me, she's as stupid as the rest of the cunts who pretend to wear crowns. Your brother's reach is long, but mine is longer. There isn't anywhere you can hide where I can't find you; where I can't hurt you. And if I can't hurt you, I'll hurt those around you. It'll be just like old times."

If it hadn't been for the heat of his rage, the chill of Fritz's words would have been enough to freeze the blood in Revel's veins. The former captain knew exactly what the champion was capable of, knew exactly how skilled he was with knives, and the memory of the day his life had taken a drastic turn rose into his consciousness like a festering wound he'd been neglecting to clean.

"But I can make sure nothing happens to your lover or her family. All you have to do is tell me where you've hidden the letter, and I'll leave."

"What makes you think I still have it?" Revel distantly heard himself retort. He'd meant to sound more sure of himself, like he knew all the hands being played, but Fritz's blatant threat still ripped at his mind.

Fritz snorted contemptuously. "Please, that letter was the only trump card you had, so I know it wasn't something you just up and misplaced. I've been through your room and your office, so don't bullshit me. Where is it?"

"You're so quick to assume that I got rid of it. What if the queen has it in her hands right now?"

The champion's face darkened, and there was a promise of ruthless, merciless pain in his tumultuous hazel eyes. The silence that followed was life itself balanced on a knife's edge. Fritz stared at Revel, clearly weighing the former captain's words carefully and daring him to recant his comment. When it became clear the Revel would not balk, the Asham champion slowly nodded as if coming to some internal decision and stepped away from the cell.

"For her sake, I hope you're lying," he said, straightening his jacket with casual nonchalance.

"Who's to know? Guess you'll just have to find out," Revel remarked with a forced shrug.

Fritz's expression, for half a heartbeat, was placid, perhaps even a shade contrite, but the moment passed and before Revel's eyes the champion slid into a familiar role—a lethal role—that brought on a gleeful glint. "It would be such a tragedy for Arendelle to lose another ruler too soon. We wouldn't want a repeat of your father's death now would we? Just remember, Revel, we all bleed the same," he said, turning slowly towards the door, clearly done for the time being. Before he disappeared down the short hallway, the champion half turned and fixed Revel with one more cold stare. "If what you say is true, she'll gurgle just like your father did when I slit his throat." To drive his point home, Fritz pantomimed cutting his own throat with his thumb, dragging the digit slowly over his Adam's apple, shark tooth grin spreading across his face. Then he was gone, disappearing into the shadows like a nightmare.

It was several agonizing seconds before Revel could move again, the paralysis steadily crawling up his legs making it difficult for him to walk. It was only when Anna reemerged from behind the crate, her face such a waxy pale she looked like a specter, that the former captain remembered she'd been present for the whole exchange. She'd heard everything and the weight of such dark knowledge weighed heavily on her.

"Well…now you know," Revel managed after a fragile silence. It was a pitiful thing to say and on the caliber of shrugging off a major tragedy as a mere accident. Yes, well, I'm sorry you had to learn the truth straight from the horse's mouth. Terrible, really. Quite awful. Looks like he means to kill your sister now. Apparently, I should have listened to reason and told you all this months ago. Too bad I'm locked in here. Well, have a nice day.

Anna looked like she was about to become physically sick. She steadied herself on one of the crates, her blue eyes wide and trained on the floor as she fought to absorb the overflow of information. Not surprisingly, she mastered herself quickly and straightened, her natural resilience snapping back in place. The burn of slowly spreading dread had somehow been snuffed for the moment and had been replaced with determination.

"Tell me the truth, right now. Did you kill your father?" she demanded in a quivering voice.

"No," Revel replied hollowly, his words meaning nothing because he knew better, but he'd lie for Anna's sake. Especially after she'd heard…well everything.

"Did you plan to kill your brothers?"

"No." The truth this time. Despite their differences, Revel never wished his brother's any ill will, but apparently the sentiment wasn't a shared one in Adrek's case.

"Do you love my sister?"

"Yes." There was no hesitation or calculation. This was a question he would always answer in truth.

"Then make sure you're ready an hour after sunset," Anna said and turned sharply towards the secret passage.

"Wait, ready for what?"

This time, when Anna turned back to him, Revel was startled to see such livid rage etched into the lines of the princess's beautiful face and coloring the delicate, freckle dusted skin just under her eyes. She wasn't a creature meant to harbor such volatile emotions in her body, and the transformation was heart stopping. Stomping back to his cell, Anna planted herself in front of him like a mother confronting a petulant child.

"If I need to spell this out for you then you're more of a fool than I thought. You're the captain of the royal guard. Your sworn purpose in life is to protect the queen. 'Jeg sverger på mitt liv som jeg vil gi mitt liv for å beskytte både dronningen og kongerike. Dette har jeg sverger før mennesket og Gud. Denne I bind i blod,'" Anna spat, reciting the guard's oath as if she were taking bites out of it and spitting it back at him. "'I swear on my life, I would give my life, to protect both queen and kingdom. This I swear before man and God. This I bind in blood.' That's what you said fifteen years ago, and you will fulfill that oath! Not because you swore it before God himself, but because you love my sister. She's yours, Revel, as much as you're hers, and if I have to remind you of your love for her one more time, I swear to God I'll kill you where you stand and put us all out of our misery! Time to pull your head out of your ass and be the man my sister fell in love with, not the sniveling prince standing in front of me."

And with that Anna left the dungeon to plan. She didn't have a lot of time, didn't have a lot of resources readily available or people she could trust, but damn it she was going to try. After all, why else would there be another entrance into the dungeon unless it was to smuggle someone out?

He watched her leave the dungeon in seething silence, his mind slow to process the princess's words. After a moment, Revel sat down heavily on his makeshift bed and put his head in his hands. It had been a long time since he'd felt this lost before. Even when he'd realized he was falling in love with the queen, the former captain had had some semblance of an idea of how to move and act, but now? There was so much at stake; so much that could go wrong; so much he could lose. And to make matters worse, like spreading venom over an open sore, Fritz was here and on the hunt.

The champion's threat echoed in Revel's mind like a dark church bell, and those echoes stirred the previously placid pond of his memories, dredging up muck and blackness from his past he had no wish to relive. In the silence of his cell, with only his shadow and the occasional rat for company, Revel relived that night over and over again as the day wore on like he had for more than a decade. It wasn't like he could have forgotten even if he wanted to. Those fleeting moments had been branded into his mind, seared behind his eyeballs, and could be recalled with such startling clarity Revel almost convinced himself he was reliving it again.

It had been a Thursday that the assassination happened. Young Revel, freshly fifteen and bored to death with his studies, had dodged his tutors again, sneaking out of the palace in order to watch the guards train at their barracks beyond the castle walls. He'd opted to climb the ivy this time, testing his strength and dexterity like his guard friends had taught him. The city below the castle was just settling down for the evening, windows shimmering in the distance like golden stars. Revel remembered lingering atop the wall, the ivy leaves cool under his palms, and stared contentedly out over his kingdom. He knew he was going to get grief from his father and tutor when he finally returned to the castle; usually, he received an ear full of loud blustering from the king complete with half-hearted threats about locking him in his room for a month and placing a five guard detail on him whenever he left for lessons. It was all just posturing. King Gregor had a soft spot for his children and could never stay angry with them for long. Still, the risk and consequence was worth it if he was able to spar with the guards some more, honing his less than stellar skills at swordplay and archery. After all, what good was a prince if he couldn't properly swing a sword or join in the royal hunt? Isn't that what all the princesses looked for in a suitor? Well, that's what Adrek had told him anyway.

With an excited exhale, Revel jumped from his perch and ducked into the alley that would take him to the barracks. His friends were waiting, as usual, and together they dove into another rough lesson centered on footwork and proper parrying and thrusting. It wasn't until the sun had sunk low behind the horizon and the nearly pregnant moon had risen high into the sky that Revel took his leave and sauntered back to the castle with as much swagger as his bruised shins and thighs would allow. The guards hadn't gone light on him tonight, and he'd most likely sport some impressive bruising in the morning.

Trophies I can show off to Adrek, he thought with a smug smile. His older brother had been permitted to learn swordplay, one of the many perks of being first born and heir to the throne, but didn't have the knack for it like he and Fritz did. Adrek was fonder of grappling and could wrestle well enough. More often than not, he could be found rolling around the sparring grounds with Fritz, the two almost evenly matched. Adrek had size on his side and could often times overpower him, but Fritz was lean and wiry which gave him a slight advantage. Thinking about the bastard son of the late Baron Drescher put a sour taste in Revel's mouth. It wasn't that he openly disliked Fritz….there was just something off about him. The fact that he was a bastard meant nothing to a fifteen year old royal who's main concern was sneaking around the castle and dodging his princely duties. Fritz couldn't help were he came from, which apparently wasn't from a kind home. The fact that his stepmother had disowned him the day after the Baron died spoke volumes about how the family viewed their resident bastard. There was also a rumor that the Baroness harbored such a dark hatred for her husband's illegitimate child she'd gone as far as having Fritz castrated in the belief that, without his testicles, he wouldn't have the urges of infidelity like his father had. It was all rather a said affair, but regardless, Revel couldn't shake the feeling that Fritz was something more than just a Baron's bastard. He shoved those thoughts from his mind as he climbed the ivy again and slipped back into the castle courtyard unseen and unheard as usual.

Revel's passage of choice for his phantom-like disappearing acts was though a secret passage hidden in the wall between a panel in the ballroom and the kitchen attached to it. Almost invisible to the untrained eye, it had been engineered for unobtrusive servants to entrance and exit from the ballroom without disturbing guests but had gone unused for years. Apparently, guests disliked servants appearing seemingly out of thin air and preferred them coming and going through the main entrance, so King Gregor had sealed the passage…or so he thought. Leave it to a bored kingdom heir to find that switch and later unseal the passage for his own mischievous use.

When Revel padded silently into the quiet kitchen and slid around a tight corner that opened to a set of short stairs, he was surprised to find the passage standing ajar, a streak of gray light slicing through the darkness. His wary curiosity quickly morphed to arresting concern when he realized the passage was being propped open by what looked like to be a leg. Reason left him, and young Revel quickly pulled open the passage door and let out an anguished cry when he saw who was lying at his feet in a pool of dark blood.

"Father!" he shouted and went down on his hands and knees, blood soaking into his trousers and boots. It was everywhere, and anywhere he touched or placed his hands only smeared the sticky substance further and spread it all over him. The king was a gory mess, shimmering black crimson staining his fine blue doublet and tailored leather vest. Veins of blood ran for the corner of his slightly slack mouth and spilled into his salt and pepper hair like gory flowers in bloom. Frantically, Revel went to search for a pulse but snatched his hand back when he saw the open wound stretching across the king's throat like a gruesome smile, and he felt his stomach lurch seconds before he vomited into his hands. Without realizing it, Revel had smeared his father's blood across his face, the irony tang lingering on his tongue even after he'd vomited for a second time. Staggering unsteadily to his feet, Revel felt himself screaming but couldn't hear or understand the words coming from his mouth. He assumed it was a cry for help, but it could have just been indistinguishable noise for all he knew. His sanity was starting to fray at the edges the longer he stared down at the still warm corpse of his father. Revel realized with another violent roll of his stomach that his father's throat hadn't just been slashed. Six stab wounds peppered Gregor's broad chest, each one three inches wide, and to make matters worse the dagger used to kill him was still imbedded in the king's torso.

That…that's my dagger? Revel thought, mind moving as slow as cooling molasses. But I always keep it on me…

He reached around to his right where his dagger usually hung and was shocked to find it gone. Something else in the chamber caught his attention, and the fear that was slowly creeping up his legs, slowly paralyzing him, turned to cold dread. There was another large puddle of blood in the center of the ballroom with a long bloody drag mark sweeping away from it. King Gregor had been attacked in the center of the room and drug to this passage…but why? Why would an assassin even bother to hide the body? Why would—

"Revel, what the fuck have you done?!"

Revel spun around, heart in his throat. He knew that voice, and instantly went on the defensive as Fritz emerged from the shadows, white with shock. "Fritz—I—please, we have to get the physician! Please, he's—"

"You son of a bitch, you killed him!" the Baron's bastard shouted, stumbling back. "That's your dagger in his chest!"

"No!" Revel implored raising his hands and realized too late that they were covered in blood. He tried to wipe them clean but there was nowhere on his body that wasn't stained in his father's blood. "I just got here! I…I came into the passage and found him. Please, we have to—"

Before Revel could blink twice, Fritz was on him like a hunting hound chasing down a rabbit. He felt a fist connect with the side of his head and went down hard. Something vicelike clamped around his throat, fingers digging savagely into his Adam's apple, cutting off any cry he could have made. Recovering from the dizzying blow, Revel cracked open his eyes and let out a startled choke when he saw he was laying almost nose to nose with his dead father. The king's empty, glassy eyes stared at him, a splash of shock frozen on his cooling face.

"It's unnerving staring into the face of the man you killed, isn't it, you little prick?" Fritz seethed, face scrunched in a feral growl.


"You're covered in the king's blood! Your knife is in his chest! What the fuck am I supposed to think?"

"P-please…someone else…"

"I always knew you were hungry for the throne. It's been written on your face for years," Fritz snarled. "But I can't fathom why you would kill your father first. He's old; he would have been dead in a few years anyway. What kind of assassin kills the king when you have a brother ahead of you? I can answer that for you. It's because your father disowned you and you just couldn't take it. I have the letter right here," Fritz smiled grimly and pulled a small scroll sealed with the Asham king's personal seal from his vest pocket. "Gregor was going to disinherit you, so you killed him before this letter could reach the council. It's just bad luck I intercepted this too late to stop you."

"I…I d-didn't…"

"Didn't what? Assassinate your father and plan to do the same to your brother? You're smart, Revel, but not that smart. They'll find that poison you've hidden in your room. We all know you're no match for Adrek, so poison was the only way you could eliminate him without getting your hands dirty, wasn't it? And if you did it during dinner, no one would ever suspect you! It would be the cooks fault or just bad food, but you weren't going to stop there, were you? Oh no, I'm sure they'd find a smothered little Symon in his bed one morning. Toddler deaths are so common amongst the aristocracy it's practically expected."

Revel looked genuinely startled, his eyes as big as dinner plates. "I…w-would never…d-do this."

"Yet your father is dead beside you, you're covered in his blood, that's your knife in his chest, and I find you standing over him. No, I've literally caught you red handed, Revel, and there's no one around to save you from the executioners block."

"No, p-please—"

"Begging now?" Fritz barked with laughter. "I always knew you were a cowardly little shit, but I'd be a damn fool to believe this wasn't all your idea. It's such a pity you won't be around to see the funeral. I'm positive King Gregor made provisions in his will for a grand celebration, but you will be rolled into a shallow grave after your execution for high treason."

Adrenaline finally hitting his blood, Revel began to struggle against his attacker, throwing punches that would have been enough to shatter a rib had he been at a better angle. As it was, Fritz had him pinned in such a way he couldn't land a proper blow strong enough to dislodge him. The Baron's bastard chuckled mirthlessly and shifted his weight, pressing a knee into Revel's sternum while simultaneously tightening his grip on his throat.

"You've learned a few things from the guards, I'll give you that."

"Y-you… you did….this…"

"Me? What motive do I have? Why would I kill the man who took me in and treated me like a son? Who are they going to believe: you, the bloody prince, or me, the valiant protector who got here just a little too late? At least…that's what I'll tell them," Fritz said with vicious smile, and suddenly Revel understood what was actually happening. It was a setup, a trap, and he'd walked blindly into it. He couldn't fathom why Fritz was doing this, but cold hard truth was that his father was dead and the Baron's bastard had every intention of painting Revel as the assassin.

It was useless trying to pry Fritz's hands off his throat, so the Asham prince did the next best thing. He was close enough to his father's body that he could reach the dagger protruding from his chest. In one swift movement, Revel pulled the weapon free and struck wherever he saw an opening. Fritz howled in pain and rolled off, but not before the prince snatched the letter from the bastard's hands. It was probably the only smart decision he'd made that evening. Gasping and coughing, Revel staggered to his feet and ran back through the passage. He could hear Fritz bellowing behind him, screaming for guards and raising the alarm. It was a miracle the Asham prince made it back over the wall and disappeared into the city. From there he continued to run, barreling past startled townsfolk at a reckless speed. He kept running, lungs burning, until he was well beyond the kingdom and hidden within the miles of forest encircling Asham.

It would take fifteen years for the prince to stop running, but even though the chase was over, even though the truth was slowly coming out about his past and the events that had lead him ultimately to this cell at the bottom of Arendelle's castle, Revel still felt the driving urge to keep running. If he did, maybe he could finally outrun his guilt. The only reason his father had been in the ballroom was to intercept him upon his return to the castle. Had Revel not snuck out, King Gregor would never have been there. Had he also stayed within the castle and found a guard who could vouch for his whereabouts during the assassination, instead of running like a criminal caught in the act, none of this would have happened. But he'd been a scared fifteen year old who'd tripped over the murdered corpse of his father, touched his blood, felt his cooling body. He'd also been told his father had disowned him, a thin lie crafted by a master manipulator, but it the moment it had shattered Revel. Reason abandoned him like it did in moments situations of startled shock, and he'd done the instinctive thing and run for his life. It was a decision that dogged him like an unwanted shadow to this very day.

It wasn't until much later, when he was well hidden from the search parties trying to smoke him out, that he discovered Fritz had lied about the letter and its true meaning. It hadn't been Revel who'd been disinherited, it had been Adrek, and for reasons the former captain should have seen years ago. But he'd been young and blind, caught up in his own little world, as most adolescents often where. In the end, he'd played right into Fritz's hands and become the scape goat the Baron's bastard needed. It had been Fritz who murdered King Gregor, Fritz who slit his throat and stabbed him six times, Fritz who orchestrated it all in order to made damn certain that Adrek took the throne. That letter Revel stole had been meant for the council, and it was the only flaw in Fritz's otherwise perfect plan. Now, Revel was the linchpin to Adrek and Fritz's sham, a linchpin they were going to make certain died with his secrets. Well…that wasn't the case any longer because Elsa was now embroiled in this chaos. Hadn't he begged her to let him go? Hadn't he pleaded with Anna to stop her sister from digging?

Love really does make you do stupid things.

Sighing again, the former captain leaned back and looked up at the dim light coming through his window. Sunset was only a couple of minutes away, the day having sped by without him noticing.

An hour after sunset….what are you thinking Anna?

"This is never going to work," Kristoff said struggling to hold on to the bundle in his arms as he followed his wife to the stables. It was forty five minutes after sunset and the stable master was preparing to bed down the horses and Sven for the night after his assistants mucked out the stables and spread a fresh layer of hay in each stall.

"Stop being so pessimistic. It'll work; I just have to time it right."

"And if you don't? If the guard is still there or he comes back too soon or he raises the alarm, what then? Anna, we should listen to your sister and let her handle this."

Anna turned on him, pivoting on the balls of her feet remarkably fast for a pregnant woman. "We've let her handle this from the start, and it's only gotten worse."

"You know there's a lot of stuffy legal," Kristoff made a confused gesture, "stuff she has a wade through. It's delicate work."

"And you'd know this how?" Anna countered, poking him in the chest.

"I've lived with you long enough to know that your sister walks a tightrope almost every day. It's a wonder she's not balding with all the stress she's constantly under."

Something akin to shame flickered in Anna's blue eyes and pulled the outer edges of her shoulders down. Her delicate, freckle dusted brow wrinkled as she frowned, her fingers absentmindedly twisting into the fabric of her skirt. "I know. She's done so much for this kingdom…for us, but she's thinking with her head and not her heart. My sister may be queen, but sometimes she forgets she's also human and is allowed to feel and act like one from time to time. There's nothing political she can do to stop this, Kristoff. You didn't hear the awful things Fritz said towards Revel and Elsa. They're going to kill him one way or another then come after my sister. I have to get him out of the city before that happens. She needs him out of the picture so she can worry about herself."

The mountain man grunted unhappily and set his bundle down on a stool beside Sven's stall. From the other side of the building, the stable master raised a hand in greeting, which Kristoff returned, before turning back to his work. "If Adrek really plans to do what you said, how is getting Revel out of the kingdom going to help matters? They'll blame your sister for letting him escape, and I'm not sure the queen wants to start a war with Asham."

"I have to do something, Kristoff. I can't let him just sit down there unprotected. They won't link it back to my sister because she's been in the castle all afternoon. They won't look to me because I'm small and pregnant and supposedly not capable of such mischief."

"Yeah right, if only they knew," Kristoff scoffed. Anna punched him hard in the shoulder. "Ow, damn woman, you've got boney knuckles."

"All the better to keeping smug men like you in line," the princess attempted to frown seriously but couldn't hold back a lopsided smile. "It will look like an inside job. Either Revel escaped on his own, or one of the guards helped him. Either way it will give us some time to figure this all out. I'll take care of Elsa," Anna added reassuringly, seeing the unconvinced look on her husband's face.

"I still think this is going to end badly, but I'd follow you into hell blindfolded." Taking a deep breath and exhaling gustily, Kristoff pursed his lips and nodded, which to the princess was absolutely adorable. "Alright, go do your thing. I'll be here waiting, just be quick about it. We don't have a lot of time before the next guard rotation."

Grinning broadly, Anna stood on her tiptoes and kissed her valiant reindeer king on the cheek and hurried off towards the kitchens. Kristoff watched her go, nervousness making him shift from foot to foot. He was about to let his heavily pregnant wife spring an accused murderer from jail, at night, while his king brother and unstable champion were present in the kingdom. Yeah, what could possibly go wrong?

"You ready, guys?" the mountain man asked stepping into Sven's stall. The reindeer bounced excitedly, grunting and snorting.

"Sven and I are ready for action, Kristoff!" Olaf confirmed, attempting a mock salute with his little stick arm, expression arranged into something akin to stoicism.

"You remember the plan?"

"Oh definitely, but we're not allowed to say it out loud," Olaf nodded dubiously and reached up to scratch Sven's shoulder. "Isn't that right, Sven? No talking about the plan."

"Good. Anna will be back in a few minutes, so help me saddle Sven." Turning to the reindeer he said, "You're gonna have to trust me, buddy. Things are about to get really, really interesting around here for a little bit."

Sven bugled happily and stuck out his tongue, clearly anticipating a change of pace. Kristoff smiled warmly and began laying the blankets over the reindeer's soft coat, his hands going through the motions while his mind rolled over everything Anna had told him and what was about to happen.

I don't usually pray to anything, he thought, cheeks coloring a bit, didn't feel the need, but if there's someone out there looking out for us, please let Anna get through this safely. And if something happens to her, just know that if you happen across a dead prince in the afterlife, trust that I killed him for a good reason.

"Come on, Anna…one step at a time," the princess whispered to herself as she descended the cramped staircase of the secret passage, hands sliding along the rough stone walls for both leverage and guidance. It was her second descent that day into the dungeon and probably her most nerve wracking. Paranoia made her think that each footfall was as loud as a cannon blast, the rustle of her dress a flag snapping in a strong wind. She feared the moment she pressed the release in the wall at the bottom of the stairs a squad of guards would swarm her and clap her in irons. It was a ridiculous idea, none of the royal guards would lay a hand on a member of the royal family without cause, but it was still a lingering fear she couldn't shake. Anna physically winced when the door slid open, bracing herself to be rushed, but there wasn't a squad of guards waiting for her or even one guard. Just an empty hallway.

Exhaling her held breath, the princess quickly traversed the distance between her and Revel's cell as silently as she had the first time. How she was going to pull this off was still a vague mystery. She'd reassured Kristoff she had a plan, but in reality, Anna was making this up as she went along. Improvisation was second nature to the princess, but somehow tonight didn't seem like an appropriate place for attempting to pull a miracle out of her ass. Rounding the corner, Anna wasn't surprised to find Revel waiting for her, standing at the center of his cell and tracking her with his eyes.

"Anna," he began in a wary voice, "this is a stupid idea, and you know it."

"You don't even know what it is yet," she countered, planting her hands on her hips.

"You're nearly nine months pregnant," he pointed out as if it made all the difference, which it really did, but Anna wasn't going to admit he was right.

"And your point is?" she asked stubbornly.

"Do I really need to spell this out for you? This is dangerous. No, it's not even that, it's just plain stupid. What are you going to do? How are you going to get me out of this cell let alone the castle? And, let's pretend for a minute that I actually had some place to go, how is me leaving going to solve anything? Adrek will tear this kingdom apart looking for me, destroying everything you sister has built, everything your family and ancestors fought to create. You're going to singlehandedly—"

"Revel, you would do well to shut the fuck up," the princess deadpanned with a flat look. she saw that Revel wanted to force his argument but saw no point in trying to divert the princess from her asinine plan. Instead, he clicked his mouth shut and looked away. Satisfied she'd silenced him for the moment, Anna turned in a tight circle looking for something, anything, that would help her pull together her wafer thin plan.

"You don't even know what you're doing, do you?" Revel sighed, putting his head in his hands.

"Why are all the men in this kingdom pessimists?" she grumbled, circling the crates she'd hidden behind that morning. On her second rotation, inspiration hit her like a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky and she dove on the wooden cubes with a triumphant cry. Revel flinched and craned his neck towards the dungeon door out of reflex despite not being able to actually see it.

"Anna, be quiet. Do you want the guard to come in here?" he admonished as the princess began prying at the top of the crate with determined little grunts. After a moment a few loose boards pulled free allowing her to stick her arm into the box and root around. Her hand brushed up against something familiar and she laughed as the rest of her plan snapped into place like missing pieces to a puzzle.

"Actually, yes I do," she grinned and hefted the solution to her problem in one hand, admiring its weight.

Revel's eyes went wide, mouth hanging open. "Anna….Anna, what are you—"

The chime of the frying pan striking the stone wall several times shattered the gloomy silence into a hundred thousand pieces. It was jarring, it was jagged, sharp as a knife, it set Revel's teeth on edge and made his ears ring, but most importantly, it brought the door guard scurrying into the chamber like a bat out of hell. Naturally, his attention was solely on Revel's cell and the completely dumbstruck prisoner standing slack-jawed its center. The guard didn't have a chance. Anna was behind him the instant he emerged from the short hallway and swung the cooking utensil with all her force into the side of his helmeted head. The distinctive clang of metal on metal rent the air, another rancorous sound that echoed like thunder, quickly followed by the dull thud of a fully armored body hitting the stone floor.

For a beat Anna just stood there staring down at the guard in silent astonishment. Her heart was racing behind her ribcage but she was strangely calm, her hands steady despite having waylaid a fully grown man upside the head with a cast iron frying pan. However, her calm splintered when the guard moaned weakly and attempted to rise. With a startled squeak, she brought the pan down against the back of his head in a double handed swing that ended any attempt the guard might make of getting to his feet anytime soon.

"Ha! Frying pans…who knew right? Guess Corona is actually on to something!" Anna laughed nervously. Revel still had his head in his hands and groaned behind his fingers.

"That was the farthest thing from subtle I've ever seen," he said after a moment, dragging his hands down his face.

"Hey, it worked didn't it?"

"What if he saw you?"

"Oh yeah, because Arendelle guards are famous for having eyes in the back of their heads," she quipped over her shoulder, disappearing down the hallways and returning with a set of keys. "Do you know which one opens this cage? They all look the same to me."

"Give them here," Revel said, holding out his shackled hands. It took him a few tries to find the right key for the chains, but eventually one stuck and he almost cried with relief as the heavy manacles fell from his raw wrists with a rattling clank. "That's so much better," he sighed contentedly, massaging the sore spots.

"What are we going to do with him?" Anna asked, poking the guard with her foot.

"We'll lock him in here," Revel replied, wincing as the cell door screeched open. "That will at least keep him out of our hair for a little while and delay anyone from sounding the alarm."

"Works for me," Anna nodded and moved to help the former captain but he held up a hand to ward her off. The princess straightened and stared down at him confused.

"You're heavily pregnant, Anna," Revel explained, very nearly rolling his eyes. "The last thing you need to be doing is lifting something heavy."

Anna threw up her hands in exasperation but didn't push the matter, instead watching Revel drag the guard into the cell and gently lean him against the wall after removing his helm. "I apologize in advance for the wicked headache you'll have when you wake, my friend," he said quietly and relieved the man of his spare keys. Anna waved him towards the back of the dungeon after he'd secured the cell door.

"How did you find this passage anyway," Revel asked as he squeezed into the tiny space, nearly tripping over the first stair.

"Long story. Head straight up but wait for me at the top." Anna pressed the release button and shut the door behind them, cementing Revel's master escape into legend. Years in the future, the story of the former captain's escape would morph into a fantastic tale so far beyond the original fact it would take on a life of its own. Some would claim that he simply walked out of his cell after making a deal with an air goddess; some would say he picked the lock on his shackles and cell door with a lock of hair frozen by the Snow Queen. Some would say he used otherworldly skills to trick the guard into approaching his cell where he quickly overpowered the man and stole his keys, and some would say he was rescued by a band of mutineer guards still loyal to him. No matter the telling, the legend usually left out the part where a simple frying pan wielded by a determined, heavily pregnant princess and a forgotten passage acted as the linchpin to his successful escape.

Walking up a flight of stairs while pregnant was a hassle, but doing it while completely blind was an aggravatingly slow process. More than once, Anna forgot to lift her foot high enough and nearly pitched forward onto her hands. Thankfully, the passage and the climb weren't as steep as it could have been, and she reached the top shortly after Revel.

"Where is it going to open at?" he whispered in the darkness. Anna jumped when his hand brushed her face. "Sorry, I can't see a thing."

"That makes two of us," Anna admitted, searching for the switch. "Damn, I can't find it."

"Where is it?"

"On the right, but it's small. Usually when I walk up these stairs I drag my hand along the wall at a waist height to make sure my fingers brush it, but I got distracted with a funny thing called balance. Hold on—here you shuffle to the left—other left, other left!" she hissed when Revel almost backed her into the steps behind her.

"Sorry," he gasped, grabbing what he hoped was her shoulder in order to pull her back towards him. However, that didn't seem to be the case.

"Revel…kindly let go of my breast."

"Shit, sorry."

"Wait, wait, just let me—" Anna attempted to disentangle herself, her hand brushing against what could have been the former captain's chest or back, she wasn't sure. A second later, the two jumped back with a startled jerk when a faint iridescent blue glow began emanating from under his shirt, suffusing the small space in soft light. The princess blinked in surprise, eyes drawn to the light.

"Is…is that a troll crystal?"

Revel looked down in genuine surprise and pulled the little blue gem out from under his shirt. The light intensified in his hands, shinning like a tiny blue sun. He could feel a slight tingle against the skin of his palm as if the rock somehow had a heartbeat, but that was impossible… wasn't it?

"She gave you her crystal?" Anna asked, canting her head. She hadn't expected an answer, her words more of a personal statement. Regardless, Revel provided both a curious and slightly irritating answer.

"Saja told her she couldn't wear it because of troll magic…" he shrugged, still enamored by the gem. He shouldn't have been so taken aback by the presence of magic, but it still had the ability to confound him.

"I should have known," Anna grumbled, rolling her eyes. Of course Saja had told her not to wear it. The ancient Frost Born had a vindictive prejudice against the trolls that was still an aggravating mystery to the royal family. Shaking her head to be rid of clawing questions, Anna searched and found the switch behind Revel's left elbow. An audible hiss filled the tiny chamber as the door swung open. The princess poked her head out first, making sure the coast was clear, before waving Revel forward. "Do you know where the switch is in the kitchen for the passage?"

"I think so," Revel whispered, following behind her closely, all the while keeping an eye out for any guards. It felt strange being on the other end of the spectrum again, skulking around like a criminal, jumping from shadow to shadow.

The kitchen was blessedly devoid of people, the hearths burning only embers. Revel found the passage door behind a shelf packed to capacity with different bottled ingredients. The switch was a little more difficult to spot, but the added light of his still glowing crystal helped the two find it on their second try.

"Is the stable master out of his room?" Revel asked as they neared the final door. His heart was racing, pounding in his ears like crashing waves. He'd not expected them to make it this far without incident. Hell, he'd not even expected this to happen at all. It had been his decision to finally face his brother and end the game of chase between them, but apparently his fate wasn't entirely in his hands. Revel had overestimated two key elements: love and loyalty. The royal sisters' had both but showed them in different ways. Elsa loved him deeply, or so he still hoped, but she was a queen first and a lover second. Though she may love him, she was eternally loyal to her kingdom first and would do everything within her power to keep it out of harms reach. Revel respected that because he would do the same thing. Anna, however, loved her kingdom, but her loyalties were exclusive to her family and friends, the two always a step above the love she had for Arendelle. Both were endearing qualities for two extraordinary women who acted upon them in very different ways, and Revel didn't know whether or not to be angry with Anna for breaking him out, angry at himself for following her, or angry with Elsa for not standing beside her morals and keeping the princess in line. Or perhaps he shouldn't be feeling the sting of anger at all. Regardless, Revel felt confused and rushed, the events of the past couple of hours nothing but a discombobulating blur of motion and sound.

"With any luck he'll be in the courtyard," Anna replied, standing on tiptoes and looking through the peep hole. Satisfied the room was empty, the two stepped out of the passage and quickly ducked into the stables where they ran to Sven's stall which was closest to the doors. But no sooner had they stepped into the spacious, hay dusted room, a fist connected with Revel's jaw and sent him sprawling. Anna gave a startled gasp and jumped between her husband and the now prone Revel, hands thrown wide to block his path.

"Kristoff, what are you doing?! That's Revel!" she hissed and pushed him backwards with a sharp shove. Sven and Olaf seemed to be just as floored as Anna, the two staring in wide-eyed wonder.

"I know who it is," the mountain man rumbled, flexing his fingers and cracking the joints.

"Then why did you hit him?!"

"He knows why," Kristoff replied evenly.

"It's alright, Anna. I…I deserved that," Revel said spitting a stream of pinkish blood into the hay.

"What are you talking about?" the princess gaped.

"I warned him if he ever hurt your sister I'd make him bleed," Kristoff offered as a reply as he retrieved a carefully folded bundle from a stool nearby.

Anna's face was starting to color, a telltale sign she was on the verge of a verbal explosion, but Revel held out a placating hand to forestall her. "It's alright, Anna. I deserve more for what I've done," he reassured, darting a look over at Kristoff who seemed perfectly content and at ease.

"Did anyone see you?" Kristoff asked from beside a fully saddled Sven, changing the course of their conversation.

"Do you hear an alarm?" Anna growled.

"Doesn't mean you weren't seen."

"Oh come on, Kristoff," Olaf said with a cheerful snort. "Anna's the best in the kingdom at playing hide-and-seek."

The princess couldn't help but crack a smile at the little snowman's words, pride filling her chest a bit. "He's right, I am."

"I can assure you, we were not seen," Revel said gathering his feet under him and moving away from the door. "But we should get on with whatever you two have planned. There's no telling how long before the guard wakes up."

Kristoff slid a look over at his wife who returned his gaze with a steely one of her own. Somehow he just knew that whatever had happened in the dungeon had been Anna's doing. "Put these on," he said, tossing a wadded bundle at Revel.

The former captain shook out the wadded mass of cloth and was surprised to find a small provisions sack and a pair of clothes….Kristoff's ice harvesting clothes to be precise. He held the shirt up to himself and stared down at the massive piece of wool fabric. The pants were no better, the legs extending beyond his own feet by a good five inches.

"I…I'm not sure what exactly I'm supposed to do."

"Haven't you ever heard of disguises?" Anna said and threw up her arms. "Not only are you all pessimists but you have no imagination!"

"How is this a disguise? I'll look like a baggy Kristoff with brown hair. It might be after sunset, but the gate guards have sharp eyes."

"Hence why there's a hat in there."

"I really don't think this is going to work."

"You really don't have a choice right now. Hurry up and get dressed. I let the guards know this morning that I might be making an ice run sometime this evening. They'll only hold the gates for so long," the mountain man said, waving a hand for Revel to start dressing which the former captain did with a bit of nervous reluctance. This was never going to work.

"And where am I to go?" he asked pulling the oversized gray tunic over his dirty white undershirt and synching it as tightly as he could with the provided sash.

"Sven and I are taking you to a safe place, but I can't say where it is until we're out of the city," Olaf beamed and scratched Sven's velvety muzzle.

Revel glanced at the little animated snowman and happily grunting reindeer, skepticism momentarily twisting his face. This really wasn't going to work. He heard Anna giggling and turned towards her, the sleeves of his gray tunic hanging loose and useless over his hands. Looking down at himself, Revel felt a small smile twist the corner of his lips. He looked like a little boy who'd donned his father's clothing. Everything was three sizes too large and hung off his slender frame like sail cloth. Even the hat was too big, sliding down over his eyebrows unless he popped the tops of his ears out from under it.

"You look cute."

"I look baggy," Revel retorted with a chuckle.

"There are better fitting clothes in the pack along with some food and a few wilderness provisions. This was all spur of the moment," Kristoff explained as he led Sven over to them by the reigns. "I wish the two of you could get better acquainted, but we're short on time. Climb up and get situated."

In his youth, Revel had ridden horses, but there was a massive difference between a domesticated equine and a wild reindeer that just happened to have a propensity for forming friendly bonds with humans. One major point being that Sven had an impressive rack of antlers that could, and probably had in the past, have done serious damage. Revel didn't want to be on the other end of those antlers…ever.

"He runs a little different than a horse, so keep low when he picks up speed," Kristoff explained as Revel swung himself into the saddle and felt the power of the large animal under him as Sven shifted. Olaf clambered into place, his cold little body pressed against Revel's back. Above, the personal flurry Elsa had gifted the snowman so that he could survive the remaining three seasons rained down tiny flakes of snow and swirling arctic air.

"Thank you, the both of you," Revel said with a nod. "I really don't know what—"

"Save the appreciation for when you actually get out of the city," Kristoff said sliding the door to the stall open fully and watching down the aisle for the stable master.

"Go, Revel. Sven knows the way," Anna said, squeezing his hand tightly.

"Thank you, and tell your sister I'm…" he faltered, unsure of exactly what he wanted Anna to tell the queen, but the princess smiled a knowing smile and stepped back.

"I will. Now run."

And he did just that. For the second time in his life, Revel fled from the life he'd struggled to make for himself fifteen years ago. Clinging to the reindeer's back, because that's really all he can do when saddled on an animal that could outmaneuver a horse, Revel felt the wind ripping at him as Sven charged through the stables, across the island bridge, and through town at a reckless speed that left the former captain breathless. Distantly, he imagined that the wind roaring all around him, tugging at his ill-fitting disguise and unkempt hair, was actually stripping away the years he'd spent in Arendelle like water eroding a sandcastle. His identity was gone, his life was gone, his love…well, he didn't know where that was, but he was pretty sure that was gone as well. There was no going back at this point, and as Sven burst from the forest and started up the steep incline towards the mountains, Revel reined up the big creature and turned him at an angle.

"What are you doing?" Olaf asked from behind him, shifting a little to see what was going on.

"I just want to see it one last time," Revel said looking out over the kingdom and the life he was leaving behind.

"But you'll see it again," Olaf said, confusion coloring his voice.

"No, I'll never see Arendelle again in this lifetime," Revel sighed and felt the sting of tears in his eyes.

"But…but you love Elsa, and she loves you. You can't never come back!"

"I love her too," Revel said and felt something break in his chest. During all their quiet moments and late night passions, in all the secret seconds stolen and shared, he'd never said those three powerful words out loud. Oh, he'd said it enough in his head, but they have never rolled from his lips and the pain of that regret was almost crippling.

I should have told her. I should have said it over and over again until she was sick of hearing it and kept telling her. Even if she didn't feel the same way, I should have said 'I love you' with every breath because now I'll never get that chance.

"And it's because I love her that I can't go back," he continued, his eyes scanning the sleeping kingdom. "Not as the man I am now. Not as a fugitive and not as a captain."

Off in the distance, Revel heard the first set of chimes break the silent stillness. After a moment, two more joined in, bells ringing in a chaotic frenzy that could only signify one very important thing. A prisoner had escaped and all guards were being called to action. With a sad sigh, he turned Sven around and urged the beast into motion. He had an idea of where the reindeer and snowman were taking him, but it wouldn't matter. Even at the ice castle perched on the craggy face of North Mountain he and Elsa would be out of each-others reach. He'd lose the snowman and reindeer once they reached the icy fortress, disappearing into the wilderness, because distance was his only solution to making absolutely certain Elsa and her family remained safe.

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 18 of 24

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