Continuing Tales

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 23 of 24

<< Previous     Home     Next >>

Anna watched her sister make quick circuits of the room, her footfalls pounding like a smith's hammer against the marble floor. She knew the queen was nervous, could see it in the tightness of her shoulders, the near permanent crease of her brow, and the way she kept opening and closing her hands. More than once, Elsa had to dispel a thick layer of frost that seemed to follow wherever she tread, searching fingers of cold spreading across the black and gold marbled floor and climbing the high, ornate walls.

"You're going to wear a track in the floor if you keep pacing like this," the princess commented lightly, tracking her sister with her eyes.

"I…I don't know if I can do this," Elsa admitted, another burst of ice spiraling out from under her heeled feet.

Get it together, she silently admonished herself, hating how she felt like a frightened rabbit. Control it…control it…

"You'll be fine," her sister soothed with a smile, keeping her distance until the ice had dissipated so she didn't accidentally slip. Anna learned a long time ago that the combination of marble and ice resulted in a less than ideal surface for heeled shoes and didn't want to fall flat on her ass today.

"I hate public speaking and this…" Elsa waved a vague hand at the doors in front of her, trepidation flaring in her chest. Why was it that whenever she glanced at the tall wood structures she felt like she were staring down a charging bull? With each glance they would grow taller and more foreboding.

It's not what's in front of it…it's what's waiting for me behind it.

"But you're so good at it," Anna grinned broadly, trying to take the edge off her sister's nervousness.

"I fake being good at it," Elsa corrected hurriedly, opening and closing her hands, trying to maintain control of her magic. "But under the surface I'm petrified."

"You're not going to be alone," Anna reassured as she fell into step alongside her, looping their arms together. "We'll all be right here."

"What if I stumble?" the queen worried aloud, trying to catch her breath, aware that her heart was a battering ram behind her ribs. "What if I forget what I'm supposed to say? Anna, this is massively important, and I could be made to look like the biggest fool in the kingdom! What would Bishop Arren say if I—"

Anna cut her off by placing a finger against her lips, silencing her. The princess could see the utter terror in the queen's near white eyes and smiled warmly, resting a hand against Elsa's cool cheek. "Elsa, dear, you need to breathe."

"But I—"

"Nope, breathe first and speak second," Anna insisted, not removing her finger until Elsa had taken a calming breath through her nose, which seemed to work a little. Some of the tension dissipated from her coiled shoulders but none of it left her bright eyes. "Good, now listen to me. You are going to be fine. Alright? Fine. And I'm going to tell you why. First, you memorized what you were going to say months ago. Second, no one would ever think you're a fool or at least say it out loud." Elsa made a face at her sister, but Anna pressed on, "And third, Bishop Arren isn't going to say a damn thing and you know it. Hell, I imagine he's going to be the most subdued today."

"How do you figure?" Elsa inquired with a sheepish half-smile, focusing on Anna's warm arm looped around hers. She always felt calmer with her sister near as if Anna were her personal lodestone, and today was no different.

"Because today is—"

Both women turned when someone cleared their throat behind them. Kristoff stepped into the center of the circular chamber, a wide smile dominating his face. He was dressed in a formal suit of expertly tailored black cotton with forest green embroidery, accented with a green vest and soft gray undershirt. Silver buttons, polished to a gleaming shine, held his jacket firmly closed over his tight torso, cutting him a fine figure. Elsa caught her sister giving her husband a look that was almost predatory, hunger burning in her bright blue eyes as they scrutinized him from the tips of his shined black boots to his oiled hair. Meanwhile, Kristoff returned his wife's stare with a hungry, passionate one of his own. She was dressed in a formal gown of purple and white—complementing her husband's chosen colors— her royal purple bodice, embroidered with silver scrawling vines with snowflakes replacing the customary floral design, cinched tight around her once again narrow waist.

"You look beautiful," Kristoff complimented stepping up next to her and kissing her lightly on the cheek.

"And you look dashing, husband-of-mine. Where are the little ones?"

"Gerda has them."

"Good. I hope they behave today," Anna sighed. Being a first time parent was more difficult that she imagined it would be. Keeping up with her children had turned into a daunting task but one neither she nor Kristoff would trade it for the world. As exhausted as they might be, they were constantly overwhelmed with wondrous joy and limitless love for their little ones. Jorg and Thea were growing like weeds, their once frail little pink bodies filling out and firming up at an almost alarming rate. Thea had already figured out how to crawl on her own, exploring the world around her with her wide, almost amber eyes; while Jorg contented himself with flipping from his back to his stomach, using his arms to push himself into a sitting position or drag his little body around, cackling at everything. The prince and princess had their off days, keeping their parents and the castle staff, Elsa included, up late into the wee hours of the morning, but they were loved and cherished by all and could, more often than not, be found being fawned over by half the female staff.

The tall, wood doors before the three suddenly creaked opened fractionally, bathing the chamber in clear, golden light. Elsa felt her heart jump into her throat, a burst of ice swirling around her feet. Kai emerged and bowed to the royal party, his smile barely hidden under his mask of professionalism. He coughed once into his gloved hand to regain his cool composure before speaking.

"Princess Anna, if you would please take your place," he said stepping aside but blocked enough of the room that Elsa couldn't see beyond him even though she craned her neck in order to catch a glimpse of how many people were in attendance. The princess nodded once, pecking her husband once on the jaw before wrapping her arms around her sister.

"Just breathe," Anna whispered and squeezed her tight, immensely grateful that her sister's wounds had completely healed and scarred over. Elsa returned the hug, burying her face in the crook of her sister's neck and allowed herself a moment to cling. Anna held on until Elsa was done before withdrawing and sliding through the gap between the doors. Kai nodded once to the queen, still trying to keep his smile from showing, and motioned for the doors to be firmly shut behind him. The golden light disappeared, plunging the chamber once again into semi-darkness. Elsa felt her sister's absence like a sliver of ice in her heart and took a shaking breath to calm herself as her eyes adjusted to the absence of light once again.

"I don't think I've gotten to tell you yet that you look stunning," Kristoff commented, stepping next to the queen and taking her sister's place, even going so far as to loop her arm around his and tuck her hand in the crook of his elbow. Elsa took solace in his nearness and leaned against her brother-in-law's thick forearm, all the while feeling a brilliant blush warm her face. She looked down at the flowing dress beneath her, pulse jumping in her throat.

"Thank you," she managed.

"Are you nervous?" he asked, turning her towards the sealed double doors. It was almost time.

"Terrified," she whispered in response, tightening her hands into fists to keep her magic at bay. She couldn't release it…not yet.

"You shouldn't be," Kristoff smiled, leaning down and kissing her gently on the temple. "But I know all brides are nervous on their wedding day."

You have no idea, Elsa thought, swallowing hard against her dry throat.

I have an idea. That's what Revel had told her almost twelve months ago when he'd snuck into her room the night of her return to Arendelle after the drama that had taken place on North Mountain. He'd crawled onto her bed, his body almost vibrating with nervous energy, and handed her a scroll sealed with a red wax seal. Elsa had opened it cautiously without an inkling of what was held within. As her eyes skimmed what he'd written, lamplight dancing across the parchment, they'd grown large with shock quickly chased by disbelief.

I, Revel Handler Spezerei, rightful king of Asham due to royal degree made by the late Gregor Spezerei, in lieu of the discovery of my father's murder at the hands of my brother, Adrek Gerard Spezerei, do hereby renounce my title as king and bestow it upon my brother, Symon Demetri Spezerei. As befitting the title, Prince Symon now holds royal dominion over the kingdom and all its inhabitants. I grant him access to the royal treasury and archives, as well as Asham's fleet and military generals, to be used at his discretion. I sign this degree in both blood and ink, as witnessed by Queen Elsa of Arendelle and her Royal Chamberlain. May God bless his rule and grant him a long and prosperous reign as king.

It had taken her two times reading the letter to fully digest what she'd just read, Revel waiting patiently on the edge of the bed, fidgeting with his hands. At the bottom of the parchment was his signature scrawled in flowing black letters. Right under that was the same signature only this one was the deep burgundy that blood became once it dried upon parchment. Elsa slowly lowered the letter and turned to him, a deep frown creasing her brow.

"Revel, you can't do this. You can't just give up your title without any prior warning or reason," she blurted before he even had a chance to open his mouth. The queen became even more perplexed and confused when a sheepish smile curled the corners of his lips, accompanied by a bright flush in his ears. Not surprisingly, Elsa felt a warm flutter against her brand and rolled her shoulder unconsciously to dispel the sensation.

"Keep reading," he said trying to keep his eyes forward but failing miserably. He kept shooting her expectant, side-long glances.

"I…there's nothing else here," she frowned, looking down at the parchment. She even went as far as flipping it over and searching the back for something she might have missed but there was nothing there. After a moment, Elsa realized the parchment itself was much larger than it needed to be, Revel's message taking up only a small portion at the top. She noticed that under her thumb the paper was raised, suggesting that there was indeed more. Her frown deepened when she unrolled rest of the scroll and felt the earth shift underneath her, leaving her in stunned silence. Stuck against the parchment with a bead of red wax was a simple silver ring. She didn't know how many times her head snapped from the glinting oval to her beloved and back, but eventually the gravity of what was happening settled on her shoulders and her hand slid over her mouth in shock.

"Elsa Frosberg," Revel began, removing the ring and excess wax, shifting so that he was in front of her on his knees. He could almost see his reflection in her cerulean eyes they were so wide and bright. Gently, he took her left hand in his and slid the band over her ring-finger, the metal surprisingly warm against her cool skin. "I really had something more elaborate and witty to say to you, but I guess pure honesty will have to suffice. I love you. You are my moon and stars, my breath of life that I can't live without. I love you more today than I did yesterday, and I will love you more tomorrow than I do today. In you I've found my missing piece and it only took nearly losing you to realize that. I can't go another moment without you in my life. The choice will always be yours to make, and if you choose otherwise I can—"

"Yes," she exhaled from behind her fingers, her quivering voice even a shock to her own ears.

"Yes?" he blinked, as shocked as she was. "I mean…yes! Wait, yes to what? Yes, to me leaving or yes to you—"

Her sudden lunge cut him off and he fell on his back, her lips against his, tears gathering in the corners of her eyes. She kissed him with an almost desperate passion which he returned tenfold, holding her close despite her injuries. After what seemed both an eternity and half-second, the two withdrew, but before Revel could speak Elsa set her finger against his lips, her face suddenly serious.

"Revel Handler Spezerei, I will marry you but—"

"There's a but to all of this?" he frowned speaking from behind her finger, his bubbling joy suddenly smothered under a blanket of unease.

"You didn't think it was going to be that easy, did you?"

"Actually, yes I did," he admitted with a shrug.

Elsa rolled her eyes, finger still in place. "There are a few conditions we must discuss first."

"I…um…alright." The former captain felt ice in his veins as he gently helped his love sit back against the mound of pillows behind her. "Such as?"

"First," Elsa said removing her finger from his lips and holding it up, "you need to get everything squared away with your brother."

"I was going to do that anyway," Revel assured her with a thin smile.

"Not just about your proposal, Revel. You need to explain to him about why you're abdicating from the throne. By all rights you should be king, so this is going to be a shock to both Symon and Asham. Your country lost its king while Symon lost that and his older brother in one day. Asham also lost the monarch they've had for fifteen years. This process isn't going to be easy for anyone, and you need to understand that."

"I do understand," Revel sighed, sitting back and crossing his legs in front of him. He understood more than Elsa gave him credit about what he was actually doing to his little brother. Symon would make a good king, but getting him to the throne would be a daunting challenge. And Elsa was right, it wasn't fair of him to simply write a letter of abdication and be done with it. There were more steps that needed to be done, and the one he dreaded most was the one he knew he had to take.

"I'll have to return to Asham with Symon in order to set the record straight."

The queen felt fear flare in her chest but fought it down with a hard swallow. "I know. It's the right thing to do and will make the process for your brother that much easier. You've got your father's letter of disinheritance and your letter of abdication. Both are good starts, but it'll take time to sort this whole thing out."

"More if we don't have a body," Revel said quietly.

"I think I can help with that," Elsa replied just as quietly. "I'll send a search party into the mountains to look for Adrek and Fritz. If there's anything left of either of them after my castle went down, I'm sure they'll be in the rubble."

Revel nodded woodenly, the idea that his elder brother was dead still hard to comprehend. He'd spent a greater majority of his life running from the man he'd eventually crafted into an imaginary boogeyman capable of appearing anywhere as if he were some malicious demon. But the former captain knew his brother was dead and that Adrek's shade wouldn't haunt him…at least he hoped that was the case. Revel wasn't as certain as he'd like to be what with him still unable to shake the weird split vision he'd acquired after his brush with Saja in the mountains.

"You said conditions," he said after a long, reflective silence. "What else must I do to prove my love and devotion to you?"

Had Elsa not seen the slight curl to his lips she would have thought he was being serious. Instead, she smiled along with him. "Settling the matter with your brother will be the easiest of your tasks, I'm afraid," she said, adopting a regal cast to her voice and lifting her chin slightly. "After that is said and done, you will then have to ask my sister's permission to marry me."

"Wait…are you serious?" Revel chuckled, eyebrows rising into his hairline.

"Perfectly serious," Elsa replied with a slight arch to her eyebrow.

"Well then, that's not so difficult."

"My sister and Kristoff."

At this bit of information Revel blanched and screwed up his face. "That might be a problem. Kristoff and I…don't really see eye-to-eye on a lot of things."

"Then my love, you will have to become persuasive. If this family is to work I need to know everyone is comfortable with one another."

"He punched me in the face because he thought I'd broken your heart," Revel argued, pointing to a healing bruise on his right cheek.

Elsa glanced at it but spread her hands helplessly. "I assume this was after your great escape, yes? Well then, he had every right to hit you because you had broken my heart." The suddenly stricken look in her beloved's eyes gave her pause, and Elsa berated herself for stating that sad fact with such flippant casually. Leaning forward, she took his hand in hers and squeezed. "Hey, Revel, look at me. I'm sorry, that came out wrong. We were both acting stupidly that day. I won't lie to you and say that I wasn't hurt by your departure, and you know why, but we've already forgiven each other a thousand, thousand times. I'm not angry with you anymore, so I hope you're not still angry with me."

"Never," he replied quietly, brushing her knuckles with his lips.

"Then the matter is settled," she declared, pushing herself up onto her knees in order to be closer to him. Bodies flush against one-another, she took his face in her hands, her thumbs stroking his cheekbones. A warm smile spread across her face, white teeth glinting in the lamplight. "I will marry you, Revel. We may have a long road to travel, but we'll do it together."

"Together," he whispered his consent, turning his face so that he kissed the palm of her left hand. "I'm here, my Queen."

Elsa nodded, moving so her face was less than a hairs-breadth from his, basking in the warmth of his closeness and drinking in as much as she could. "I feel you, my King."

They lay together that night tangled in each other's arms, savoring the closeness of the other and fearing the weeks to come. In nearly nine months the two hadn't gone more than a few days without seeing the other, and the idea that Revel would have to depart for Asham either on the morrow or the day following was a bitter tonic to swallow. It was necessary but that didn't mean it didn't still sting. So the lovers cradled each other, pining for the day they could come together as one yet savoring the moments they had.

Still, neither was able to escape the constant companion of nerves and unease as the uncertain future drifted ever closer with each second past. Revel had been riding waves of almost utter petrification before and after asking for Elsa's hand. In truth, he'd expected their engagement to move along at a much faster rate, his eagerness and slightly naïve assumptions getting the best of him, but the queen had accepted his proposal with the price of conditions that had to be met before anything could begin. He was reluctant at first, wanting to put his past behind him and step into the future he could only see with Elsa by his side, but again his beloved had shown she was wise beyond her years and grasping a more grounded view of their situation. So Revel had returned to Asham with Symon four days after his and the queen's return to Arendelle, boarding the royal vessel after a prolonged good-bye.

"I'll see you soon," Elsa had said, stepping back from their embrace but refusing to let go of his hands. He could feel her shiver and it had nothing to do with the cool sea breeze buffeting them as they stood in front of one another on the wharf. Revel knew the queen's misgivings towards ships and could see the fear in her eyes as they swept over the massive three-masted, low-belly vessel.

"Hopefully it'll only be a month or two," he said, running his fingers through her unbound hair, smiling at her loveliness in the early morning sun. The queen had risen early with him—the two hardly sleeping a wink— and refused to leave his side until he boarded Symon's ship. Revel was still unable to fully come to terms with the fact that four days ago Elsa had hardly been able to stand, but now she only winced when she pulled at her freshly healed stitches.

"Take all the time you need, Revel. You're handling delicate matters that mustn't be rushed. Also, you need time to heal as well. It's been fifteen years since you've been to Asham, and I'm sure you'll want to visit your father's grave," she surmised quietly.

Revel was silent for a long time, his thoughts turned inward. When at last he spoke his voice was laden with sadness and uncertainty. "I don't know if I have the courage. After so many years of guilt…what am I supposed to say to the man who raised me but ultimately died because of my mistake?"

"You have more courage than you give yourself credit, love," Elsa soothed. She knew she couldn't make him believe her, but she could at least try. "We all need closure, and you are not an exception to that. This is a wound, I think, that is in sore need of healing and what better time to start than on your return trip to Asham?"

"You're right," Revel admitted after another stretch of silence, a small smile touching his lips. "I can't promise that I won't try to get back to you as soon as possible, but I'll take some time and visit Father. But being so far from you—from my home— is going to kill me," he sighed, glancing over his shoulder when a deckhand threw a large coil of ropes down and began scaling the rigging net, small dagger clenched between his teeth as he made for the fore yard and the snugly secured sail.

"We're not so far apart," Elsa replied and gently touched the brand on his chest, smiling when it warmed under her touch and began to glow under his shirt. Her own brand reacted a half-second later, the faint flutter of her beloved's heartbeat pulsing against her marked skin. Revel sensed the same fluttering and smiled in return, covering her hand with his and lifting her chin so that he could kiss her one more time.

"I've never done well with distance," he admitted.

"It will be a good lesson for the both of us, I think. Plus, they say absence makes the heart grow fonder," the queen replied with a forced smile that didn't have the strength to reach her eyes. Revel knew better. She was merely speaking the words with no real feeling behind them.

Whoever said that ludicrous statement clearly understands nothing about forced separation, the former captain thought sadly.

They would have said more, probably devoting most of the morning to dragging their departure along, but Symon appeared at the railing and called for Revel to board before they lost the tide. With so much reluctance it almost physically hurt, the former captain pulled away after stealing one last kiss and jogged up the gangplank before it was raised. Elsa raised her hand in farewell, and Revel did the same, watching her form grow farther and farther away as the ship slowly moved out of the harbor and into open sea. Only when he lost sight of her did he move away from the railing and join his brother in his cabin for a long overdue talk about what was to happen once they reached Asham's shores.

The voyage to Asham lasted roughly three weeks. They'd run into unfavorable weather a week into their journey, the large ship heaving as it was tossed like a child's toy on rough seas, the wind a constant, howling companion for nearly three days. Not as much as an accomplished sailor as Symon appeared to be, Revel did his best to help where he could; straining against water-slick ropes and fighting for balance on the rolling deck as wave after wave crashed over the railing, soaking everyone on board as thoroughly as the rain that slammed down upon their heads from the boiling heavens above.

"The sea makes you feel alive, does it not, brother?" Symon called from the foredeck, flanked on either side by sailors in soaked blue shirts as they attempted to haul in the snapping sails.

"If by alive you mean I want to vomit for the rest of eternity, then yes!" Revel shouted over the roar of the wind, his hands, despite weathering years of combat training, weren't as strong as the sailors swarming around him.

"Pull tight, you yard apes!" the first mate hollered, swinging down from the rigging above with the assuredness of a man well attuned to weathering sea storms. "Get those sails tied up or this ship will be a fucking kite within the hour!"

Seasoned sailors scrambled about as the first mate continued to scream orders and watch as his men climbed the rigging like squirrels, hauling in the sails and lashing them in place. Eventually the squall passed them by, the seas returning to a more placid ebb and flow, and the voyage was met with no other complications until they reach Asham's harbor two weeks later where a different storm had been brewing in the kingdom that broke the moment Revel stepped foot off his brother's ship. He was swept up in a rip-current of political drama and public outcry that left him reeling more so than the squall had. Apparently, there were those who had not forgotten his supposed crimes and were eager to see justice done.

So the return trip to his homeland which should have taken no more than a month dragged into two, then three, then four. There were meetings to attend, arguments to be made, counterarguments thrown onto the arguments, and through it all Revel weathered the ongoing maelstrom of distrust and discord circulating throughout the kingdom. Eventually, Symon was able to argue his case and the stain of treason hanging above Revel's head was expunged, proving to his elder brother that, while he might be young, Symon possessed the making of a truly gifted ruler who would only add to his kingdom's greatness. Still, the loss of Asham's current king left the people, noble and commoner alike, stunned but surprisingly callous. Arendelle's search party had only been able to locate Adrek's body amongst the rubble of the fallen ice castle, Fritz's corps remained unrecovered, and the late king was returned to his kingdom and buried with shockingly little fanfare. Apparently, Adrek wasn't as beloved by his people as Fritz had bragged, his death hardly registering with most of the common folk who'd suffered under the yoke of high taxes and unfair laws for years. The nobles mourned, as was proper and expected, but even their tears and morose grieving seemed a little forced.

It was at Adrek's burial that Revel was finally able to face his father, walking with Symon to Gregor's tomb located in a sprawling garden just south of the castle. As was customary with Asham royalty they were buried in a truly massive mausoleum, each casket sealed into the walls and marked with an ornate plaque. Outside the enormous structure a statue of Gregor had been erected alongside the previously lost kings, his features softer than Revel remembered but no less welcoming as he stood with his left hand resting atop an ornate sword while his right clutched a book of law.

"One of the only kind things he did after Father's murder," Symon said after Adrek's casket had been positioned into its predetermined place in the mausoleum wall and the meager funeral party had departed. "He commissioned the best masons in the kingdom to sculpt father's likeness, and his money was well spent."

Revel stared up at the marble rendering of his father for a long while, remembering how the man's cheeks used to turn red and his face creased with lines when he laughed, or how his voice could cut through the roar of any crowd, before silently reentering the mausoleum and finding the plaque that marked Gregor's final resting place.

"I'll leave you to your thoughts," Symon mumbled quietly, clapping his brother on the shoulder. "And I'll leave the guards just in case. Come find me when you're done."

"Thank you," Revel said over his shoulder. He didn't know whether it was his imagination or not, but he could swear he heard his father's voice humming a familiar tune from his childhood, the notes rising and falling like ocean tides within the crypt. Revel closed his eyes and listened, feeling something alight gently on his shoulder that felt like a hand. Again he wasn't unsure whether it was his imagination or not, but there was comfort in the familiar pressure. Not unnerved in the least, the former captain breathed in the stale air of the crypt, a faint smile on his lips.

"Hello Father," he said opening his eyes and staring down at the plaque under his hands but speaking to whatever spirit was in the crypt with him, "I've come home. It only took me fifteen years and a lifetime of running, but I'm here now. Guess you could say the prodigal son has returned," he chuckled and felt tears sting his eyes which he wiped away quickly. "We have a lot to catch up on, so I guess I should start from the beginning..."

He didn't know how long he'd stayed in the mausoleum, but the sun was beginning to set by the time he emerged, bathing the sprawling countryside and distant vineyards in soft orange light. A small garrison of guards waiting patiently near the wrought iron gate accompanied him back to the palace where he found Symon hard at work in his study, poring over Gregor's letter of disinheritance and various law books. Even with Gregor and Revel's letters, the process of elevating Symon from prince to king was proving to be as daunting a task as the former captain previously suspected. Elsa had even officiated a letter detailing the attack on her life and the threat to her kingdom made by Adrek and Fritz, but the council had been reluctant to acknowledge that their previous king had been capable of an attempted assassination without proper cause or provocation. They had deliberated for days with no sign of reaching a decision, forcing Symon to dig into near ancient laws of inheritance for the leverage he needed to get the ball rolling. Eventually he'd found an irrefutable passage in an ancient tome that forced the council to accept Symon's crowning. The ceremony had been rushed but official, Asham accepting their new ruler with cautious reluctance.

"They'll come around," Symon had reassured Revel after the ceremony as the two lounged in a small parlor off the main floor of the castle late one evening. They'd spent the day at the docks surveying vessels for Revel's return to Arendelle, the former captain almost vibrating with the need to return to his love and home. Being back in Asham was nostalgic, yes, and he was reacquainting himself with many treasured aspects of his homeland, but Revel burned to walk the familiar streets of the kingdom that had been his home for most of his life. But the harbor master had declared he had no open ships heading towards Norway, pleading his case that with the trade season in full swing his fleet was already booked for travel. The news had been disheartening and had dampened Revel's mood considerably despite his brother's attempt at cheering him. Despite having dined on an exquisite dinner surprisingly cooked entirely by his brother, Symon had inherited his father's love for cooking, Revel couldn't shake his gray mood and the topic of conversation had regrettably shifted from light to somber over the course of the evening.

"They're still reeling after the shock of Adrek's death and what he did in Arendelle. Apparently, he's not the first royal to try and take the life of the queen, which is news to me."

"Some asshole prince from the Southern Isles got it in his head that he could be king by marrying Princess Anna then killing Queen Elsa to gain the throne," Revel explained, leaning back on the plush couch with a sigh.

"Well, nothing good ever came from the Southern Isles, anyway. Father never did trust them…what with thirteen male heirs it's a wonder the old king was able to die peacefully in his sleep," Symon sniffed, graciously accepting a glass of wine from his fiancée, Princess Maria McDeclan of Welcher. Apparently, Revel discovered, Adrek had seen fit to allow Symon to court as he saw fit, and his little brother had found love in a princess born to a small earldom in Ireland. She'd arrived after his first month back in Asham upon receiving word of Adrek's death and had deigned to stay for as long as Symon deemed necessary…which judging by his joy at seeing her meant Maria would probably not return to her homeland for quite some time.

"I heard there were two other attempts on the Arendelle queen's life a year ago," Maria said settling in next to Symon with a cozy familiarity. She was a beautiful woman though she lacked the customary red hair of her people, something that Revel found out had caused contention within her small family. Still, her dark, thick locks only seemed to enhance her fair skin, blue eyes, and full red lips.

"Weselton sent two assassins which Elsa dispatched," Revel answered quietly, feeling the weight of her absence like a physical ache, rubbing his hand absentmindedly over the brand on his chest. He'd been gone for four months and during his time away the mark hadn't cooled in the slightest, a constant reminder that his love was still whole and healthy but hundreds of miles away.

"Well, the Norwegians are known for their ferocity, and with a ruler capable of ice magic…it's a wonder someone was able to get that close."

"Fritz got that close," the former captain whispered, swallowing hard at the memory of Elsa's broken body in his arms. "And Adrek."

Needless to say, conversation ground to a halt for a while until Maria gave Symon an expectant look which the former captain somehow missed. Symon cleared his throat, catching Revel's drifting attention. "So, brother of mine, I wish you luck in your venture, but mostly I wish you luck dealing with the drama you are about to step into."

"I…what?" he stammered, canting his head in confusion. "What are you talking about?"

"The drama….surely you must know?" There was a playful note to Symon's voice, but Revel still wasn't able to understand what he was talking about and frowned deeply. "Oh dear, he doesn't know," Symon said with a sigh turning to Maria. She responded with a mournful shake of her head, the picture of pitiful disappointment.

"No he doesn't…poor dear."

Instantly wary, the former captain began to slowly rise from his seat. "What are you two talking about?"

"Well, apparently there's this important wedding you're supposed to be planning for but you're stuck here because all of Asham's ships are en route to other places." Symon spread his hands helplessly. "A shame really. I guess whoever's doing the planning has already started without you."

Revel searched his mind trying to decipher what his brother was talking about and only seemed to grasp what was going on once Symon pulled an ornate envelope from his breast pocket and held it up for him to see. The crocus of Arendelle, with the queen's snowflake superimposed behind it, told him exactly what Symon was holding and his heart leapt into his throat, a mixture of exhilaration and guilt making a nest in his stomach.

"Where did you get that?" he inquired, springing to his feet.

"A messenger, obviously. Seems your bride-to-be has become restless awaiting your return…that or she's marrying someone else. Do you happen to know a man by the name of," Symon glanced at the letter and squinted, "Sigmund? Yes, it seems she's going to wed Sigmund in your place, but the royal invitation is vague."

"Liar, let me see!"

"Come now, Revel, there's no need for name calling," Symon continued to tease as if Revel had not spoken, an impish smile crossing his face as he jumped to his feet to evade his older brother's attempts at snatching the letter from him. "Though, one must wonder why this wedding is happening so abruptly. Certainly the queen would want to take her time unless time was the issue…"

Revel stopped attempting to grapple the invitation from his brother and stared at him with open-mouthed shock. "You can't possibly think…"

"What? I just assumed your honor was better than that," the new king said with a dramatic sigh, rolling his head around to look back at Maria. "What do you think, love?"

"Oh no. I'm staying out of this one."

"Symon, I swear if you weren't my kin I'd challenge you to a duel so we could determine just how intact my honor really is," Revel grunted, managing to snatch the invitation out of his brother's hands and jumped away. Sure enough, it was exactly what Symon had said it was…an invitation to a wedding…his wedding.

I'm getting married, he grinned inwardly, bubbly giddiness overtaking the queasy unease and spreading throughout his body. Apparently, Elsa was already a few steps ahead of him, marking the date of the ceremony for March of the following year, giving them less than a year to plan. It was an audacious goal and one that made Revel wonder if they'd make the date in time what with him still stuck in Asham for an undetermined period of time.

How does she know I'll be back by then…

Revel glanced over at Symon and suddenly understood what was going on by the smug grin his brother was wearing. "You've known about this letter for a while now, haven't you?"

"In truth, I received it a week ago, but I wanted to make certain everything here was as it should be. I've arranged for our fastest ship to take you home, brother. You leave on the morrow for Arendelle and your waiting bride. As for your challenge to duel…well….you'd just embarrass yourself," Symon laughed good-naturedly, batting the notion away as if it were a pesky fly. "Plus what kind of brother would I be if I hacked off your arm before your wedding? How would you ever show affection towards your beloved again? Stroke her with your stump?" He pantomimed a lost limb by jutting out his elbow and attempting to poke Maria with it. "Hush now my darling, I will stroke your fears away with my stump. All will be alright. Here, hang my wedding ring around my neck for I have no hand with which to wear it on account that…I have a stump."

Maria snorted with laughter and pushed him away.

Symon went to his knees, defeated, and raised his arm and "stump" into the air, crying, "Scorned by the woman I love because of this cursed stump! I am but half a man in the eyes of the world! Why, oh god, why did I ever duel my brother in the first place?! Why cursed stump…why?!"

"Alright, alright you've made your point," Revel couldn't help but laugh, leaning down to help his brother up. "With those acting skills I'm not sure why you even bothered remaining a prince."

"Why thank you," Symon bowed dramatically. "I had a lot of time to figure out how to entertain myself over the years. I should show you my rendition of Shakespeare's The Tempest."

Revel was tempted to see this rendition, his spirits sufficiently lifted, but saw Maria hiding her face behind her hands which gave him pause. "Apparently, Princess Maria is one of your biggest fans," he said, laughing when she glared at him through her fingers.

"Oh I'm not that bad," Symon huffed.

"My love, you were gifted with a silver tongue but that doesn't mean you were gifted with the talent for acting." Turning to Revel she added, "When we first met he was in the middle of a monologue at the gardens. I thought he was a raving lunatic the way he thrashed about fighting invisible soldiers with a willow switch."

"Beowulf needs to be acted out with passion! I just got caught up in the moment," Symon protested, screwing up his face.

"So caught up you whacked me in the neck with your 'sword'," Maria lightly countered, making air quotation with her fingers.

Symon's face suddenly turned a brilliant red and he turned away, arms across his chest like a petulant child, sticking his tongue out at Maria who returned the childish gesture with a fair amount of sass. Revel couldn't help but laugh which got the other two laughing. Eventually, Maria excused herself, claiming she was in need of sleep but the look she gave Symon suggested she was in need of something a little more physical. Revel waved his brother off and returned to his own quarters but was unable to find sleep. He was leaving for Arendelle in the morning and the bubbling joy in his chest only seemed to grow with each passing second until he feared he'd float off his bed and lose himself in the sky.

As promised, before dawn Symon's manservant came and woke Revel up, who was surprised to find his belongings already packed and loaded on the ship. It had originally fit in one bag but eventually multiplied into three sturdy suitcases thanks to the royal tailor and his brother. He and his brother ate a quick meal before departing for the docks. The ship Symon had commandeered was a small, two-masted vessel capable of traversing the sea at a breathtaking speed.

"The Sea Falcon will get you back home quickly," the king said clapping Revel on the shoulder.

"I can't thank you enough," he replied pulling his little brother into a hug. They embraced for a moment before pulling away, both men smiling like fools.

"It's been good seeing you again, Revel, but do remember that the tides work both ways. I expect you to visit as soon as possible."

"Indeed, but I expect to see you at my wedding."

"Oh, you will. I wouldn't miss it for the world."

"Take care, Symon," Revel said, suddenly serious. Despite having missed watching his little brother grow up, the love he had for Symon hadn't abated any in his fifteen year absence from Asham. He would have been lying had he said that saying good-bye didn't hurt, but it wasn't forever.

"And you do the same, Revel. Don't do anything rash now," he added with a wink.

"Wouldn't dream of it," Revel chuckled and turned to Princess Maria. "My lady, it has been a pleasure getting to know you."

"Likewise. Symon and I will see you in March," Maria smiled as Revel leaned down and brushed her knuckles with his lips.

Symon shooed his brother towards the gangplank as the captain of the Sea Falcon made last calls, and Revel had never been so happy to board a ship, his eagerness to see Elsa again bordering on panicked need. He waved to his brother from the railing as the ship pushed away from the docks and her sails were unfurled, catching the strong sea breeze and lurching out of port. Moving from the port railing to the front of the ship, Revel climbed onto the bow-spirit and clung to the rigging of the staysail, watching the horizon grow ever wider as the Sea Falcon made her way into open water. Heart pounding, the former captain slid his hand under the collar of his shirt and touched the snowflake brand over his heart.

If you can feel this, know that I'm coming home.

Two weeks later the Sea Falcon sailed into Arendelle's fjord just before noon on the third Monday in September. Standing at the starboard railing, Revel watched the kingdom come into clearer focus, the surrounding countryside alive with vibrant colors as if each tree were a paintbrush having been dipped in rich fall colors and left to dry in the golden sunlight. It took an hour for the ship to dock, but Revel didn't have the patience to wait for the gangplank to be lowered or his bags to be unloaded. After a quick word with the captain, he swung over the railing and landed smartly on the docks, but the moment his feet were on solid ground he felt a tingling energy race up his legs and crackle over his brand. It was enough of a shock to pull him to an abrupt stop. Hand pressed against his chest, Revel felt the mark pulse like a frantic bird beating its wings against its cage, the sudden urge to run for the castle overtaking him so completely he'd broken into a dead run before he realized he'd moved.

Revel ran full tilt towards the castle, catching a few curious gazes as he wove around clusters of fishermen, dockworkers, and townsfolk, the brand on his chest continuing to pulse, driving him harder. Through the town proper he raced, the spires of the castle growing larger as he neared, until he was within sight of the bridge connecting the town to the palace and pulled up short once again. His chest was on fire, his heart pounding away behind his ribcage like a battering ram. For a moment he thought he was seeing things, four months had starved the former captain for any glimpses of his beloved and he'd started seeing her like a phantom moving out of the corner of his eye, but not this day. This day, when the throngs of townsfolk thinned, he saw Elsa standing at the mouth of the bridge, her smile so large and her relief so palpable it was a wonder her body was able to contain it. The pulsing of his brand stilled at the same time Elsa's did, both of them linked to one another through a bond of magic that shouldn't but did exist.

Revel didn't realize he was moving again until he was almost upon her; didn't realize her name was on his lips until their bodies tangled together, his arms encircling her and pulling her into a crushing embrace he never wanted to end. Elsa returned the embrace with a powerful one of her own, arms around his neck, fingers tangling in his wavy hair. He swung her in a tight circle, the joyous laugh spilling from her lips the sweetest music Revel had ever heard. He kissed her deeply and would have remained there had she not pulled back after reciprocating his kiss, her eyes so bright they could have been tiny lanterns.

"I'm here," he breathed, his forehead against her, hands entangled with her.

"I feel you," she whispered, fighting to keep herself from trembling. After a moment she stepped back and took his hand, heedless of who was watching or what they might think, and pulled him towards the castle with a wide smile. "Come. I have a lot to show you." And the queen hadn't been exaggerating. Revel left one storm back in Asham and traded it for another, albeit a more enjoyable one this time.

While he'd been away, Elsa had eventually succumbed to overwhelming temptation— despite her previous decision that "conditions" needed to be met first— and began planning the wedding while doing damage control and continuing to run her kingdom at the same dizzying time. Apparently, not everyone was pleased with the events of the Trade Summit, namely the Summit Ball and the drama that had taken place. The shocking news of the queen's betrothal to an apparent wayward prince, who until recently was still a murderer in his kingdom's eyes, was also troubling to some of Arendelle's trade partners. Still, Elsa handled herself like a seasoned monarch, placating those she could while curtly reminding other kingdoms, those who had attempted multiple courtings, that her choice in betrothal was hers alone to make so long as it fell within the proper legal and political circles. She was under no disillusion that her decision would fan the embers of anger, but that was fire the queen would fight at a later time, her attention already pulled in far too many directions. At first the prospects of having to plan the ceremony and following celebration on her own had been daunting, even with Anna and Kristoff's help, so it came as a great surprise when Kai had approached the queen one evening a few weeks after Revel's departure and presented her with a semi-completed wedding plan.

"I've been planning this day since your birth, Majesty," the chamberlain explained when Elsa had been at a loss for words and merely stared at the neat stack and scrolls of guest lists, food, flower, and decoration orders, possible color schemes, table placement, banquet arrangements, and a myriad other tiny details that had kept the queen up into the wee hours of the morning stressing over. When she's finally raised her eyes there were tears shinning in them, and she did the only thing she could which was to rise from her desk and wrap the portly manservant in a tight hug that in turn left him speechless.

"Thank you, Kai. For everything. I don't know where I'd be without you."

Kai gently returned her embrace, smiling warmly as he did. He may not have been in the habit of being as informal as Gerda often could be with the royal family, but that didn't mean he didn't care about them and think of them family. After all, he'd watched the sisters grow from birth into the beautiful young women they were today.

"You're welcome, Elsa. It's the least I can do," he replied very quietly so that only he and the queen could hear. He cleared his throat, stepping away to resume a professional distance as the queen wiped her tears away with the heel of her palm. "Now then, if you have a moment I'd like to go over a few small details that need your touch."

From then on it was slightly smoother sailing, though Elsa missed Revel deeply and found herself lost without him near. Sure there were things to occupy her time aside from the endless piles of paperwork and queenly duties. Jorg and Thea were growing like weeds and kept everyone busy, the castle ringing with the first pure sounds of childlike laughter as the little ones found their wobbly feet and began exploring in earnest, Anna and Kristoff always near. Dinners in the castle weren't quiet affairs any longer, not with two squealing infants at the table who were keen on making as much of a mess as possible, though Jorg seemed more fond of messes than his sister Thea. The twins had already made their first trip to see their troll grandparents, Bulda gushing over them while Pabbie watched with kind, warm eyes as the little ones rolled around and explored their world with limitless curiosity. Elsa had even managed to make the trip, feeling the need to show her gratitude towards Pabbie and Bulda for what they'd done to help her in her time of need despite their insisting she needn't trouble herself. However, both trolls were more than ecstatic to see that the queen had made a full recovery with limited physical evidence of her ordeal. Though mildly self-conscious about the new scars, the one on her back the most noticeable, Elsa was gradually coming to accept the changes made to her body, viewing them as a reminder of what she'd almost lost and what she'd also gained in the same flip of the coin.

Still, despite the welcome distractions, Elsa found time to miss her beloved and the ache for his return only seemed to grow as one month turned into four. But when she thought she could stand the distance no longer the brand on her shoulder flared one September morning, driving her to run as fast as she could to the docks. But Revel had already left his ship and was waiting for her in front of the bridge, green eyes so bright and alive with need and love she felt her knees grow week. Seeing him again was like a diver coming up for air. Elsa could finally inhale again and the sensation was overwhelmingly joyous.

"Stop fidgeting, you look like you have ants in your trousers," Symon admonished from his place next to Revel.

"I feel like I'm going to either explode or melt, one of the two," Revel answered back, fighting to keep from glancing over his shoulder. This was torture, plain and simple. It was tradition that the groom kept his back turned until the bride was beside him at the altar, but the prospect of waiting for that moment, knowing his love, who he'd not seen in almost three days, was right behind him, gnawed at him relentlessly. He knew she wasn't there yet, the doors hadn't opened but for a brief moment to allow the princess to enter and take her place across from him, infectious smile splitting her face, but that only served to flare Revel's nervous jitters until it quite literally felt as if someone was pressing a hot poker against the back of his neck.

"Save both of those things for your wedding night. I'm sure that exact thing will happen, though I assume only one will do the exploding and the other will melt," Symon joked lightly while adjusting his red and black jacket in order to make sure the double rows of polished gold buttons were in perfect alignment.

"Haha, very funny. I'll be sure to remind you of the same thing on your wedding day when you're sweating your balls off and feeling like you're going to vomit," Revel grunted, shifting from foot to foot. Bishop Arren, who was standing at rigid attention to his immediate left, gave him a pointedly dark look.

Symon, who'd seen the bishop's less than amused glare, covered his laugh with a cough as he glanced back at the raven-haired young woman sitting in the pew behind him. She blushed and smiled, whether or not she could actually hear their conversation remaining unknown. "Yes, well, if you do feel the urge to vomit try aiming it at your feet and not off to either side. Though I'd hate for you to ruin that dashing suit of yours, I'd also rather not ruin this one either. It being my first official suit as king, anyway. And I'm sure your bride would feel the same."

Revel had to admit that his little brother did cut an excellent figure in his jacket was a deep, almost burgundy red with a stripe of black running from the stiff collar, down across his shoulder, and ending at black fitted cuffs held together with ornate falcon cufflinks. Two rows of polished gold buttons ran down the length of the jacket, echoing a faint military style often found in Prussia. Symon's medals of state were draped over his right shoulder and glinted in the ample sunlight like captured stars. The matching trousers were the same dark red with a black stripe leading from his waist to the ornate hem. Cinched tightly around his waist was a chocolate-brown leather belt complete with an ornate gold buckle supporting an equally ornate gold-hilted saber that swung comfortably at his hip.

By comparison, Revel wore perhaps the best fitted suit of his life yet it still felt like he was being suffocated by fabric. The white, long-sleeved doublet fit like a glove over his broad shoulders and narrow waist, trimmed in intricate vines of alternating silver and blue embroidery that crept up his torso and tangled into an impossibly complex Mammen flower-knot across his chest. Ingrid, the royal seamstress who'd single-handedly sewn his and Elsa's wedding attire, had insisted on Viking-style knotwork for the grooms outfit as a nod to Arendelle's past. Revel had been beyond his depth and agreed to whatever she had in mind, marveling at how she worked the needle and thread like some storybook sorceress. Polished silver, clasp buttons unrolled down the center of his chest starting at the shallow V of the doublets stiff, high collar and ending just past his navel. Unlike his brother, he wore no ornate belt, instead simply a plain brown band of leather hidden under his doublet that held his fitted, cool gray trousers in place. Polished, knee-high black boots completed his outfit, the leather buffed to a mirror-like sheen.

"I'll do my best to perfect my aim."

"I'm grateful. Just remember to smile really, really widely. It helps keep you from gagging when your nerves get the best of you."

Nerves…that's an understatement.

"We wouldn't want you to—"

Symon stopped and turned slightly at the sound of the double doors creaking open, his jaw dropping in amazement. The congregation felt the gentle wave of cold wash over them as tendrils of ice sped across the walls, ice flowers bursting into bloom between every window and cumulating into an ornate arch above Revel and Bishop Arren. The former captain heard the audible gasps of wonder and amazement as the congregation witnessed the queen's ice magic, and his smile grew. Elsa had been working to perfect that little trick for weeks. Suddenly Revel felt the brand on his chest flare and begin to pulse in a fast tattoo almost like a heartbeat. The musicians, who had been playing quietly in the background as the guests filed in and took their seats, stopped and readied themselves, fingers hovering over the strings of their various instruments with a tight kind of anticipation that was almost physically felt by all in attendance. Revel watched them staring at something over his shoulder and fought to keep from moving, clenching his jaw and fighting the shakes setting into his hands as he struggled against the overwhelming urge to simply turn. A second later, a lone violin played a long, pure note which was quickly followed by three more, then five, then the rest of the orchestra seated behind bishop Arren in the cathedral began playing a soft melody that grew into a complex tangle of interwoven notes as the song progressed. Due to the number of guests in attendance, the wedding had been moved to the cathedral within the town, and at the same time all eight hundred people stood in unison as the queen began to make her way slowly down the aisle. Unable to hold his position any longer, Revel threw tradition to the wind and turned, feeling his jaw physically hit the floor at about the same moment his heart stopped. He didn't even hear Bishop Arren's hiss of reproach, his senses attuned to only one thing in the room.

Elsa was beyond the point of beautiful— she was radiant— and her beauty struck the former captain like a well place blow to the chest, driving the breath from his lungs. He'd not seen her all morning as she prepared for this moment, and the care and preparation provided by her sister and the team of servants under Gerda's command was plainly evident. They had done a breath taking job. Elsa had chosen an exceptionally pale blue dress, so pale in fact that it almost looked white, in lieu of the more common white or cream colored dresses often worn by many European brides. The bodice sat just barely off her porcelain shoulders and was bound snugly in the back, further enhancing her hourglass figure. A thin gossamer underdress covered her open chest up to her collar bone, disguising the faint brand on her shoulder while adding a shimmering texture to the gown. The skirt swirling around her feet was a massive piece of engineering, three or four layers of heavy, pale blue silk stacked one atop the other and pleated in place.

As she neared, Revel's wide eyes took in more staggering elements of detail starting with the snowflake patterns woven into the fabric of her dress, a latticework of hand-cut crystals swirled up from the bottom hem, catching the light as she walked towards him and winking like caged fire, and ending with her exceptionally long veil. She had chosen not to wear it over her face, instead attaching it to the delicate woven ice and gold crown resting demurely atop her hair. It had been the queen's decision to remake the crown after subsequently gifting her last tiara to Marshmallow, and the new modified crown fit her perfectly. All-in-all, the queen had chosen her gown well and Ingrid had sewn it with such love and devotion it wasn't impossible to believe that spells of beauty and radiance weren't woven into the fabric.

Elsa saw him turn and couldn't help but smile, cheeks reddening under her carefully applied makeup as she took in her beloved's outfit and the stunned look on his handsome face. Even Kristoff managed a lopsided grin as he slowly led his sister-in-law up the aisle towards the altar. Once she was in place beside Revel, the mountain man turned and bowed to the queen, brushing the knuckles of her right hand with his lips before taking his seat next to Anna. From behind the queen a small figure emerged, the long train of her dress clutched in the girls mismatched hands. Elsa smiled warmly at little Sonja, her newest lady in waiting, as she arranged the back of her dress like they'd practiced. The bright sunlight streaming in through the high arch windows flashed and winked against the girl's pristine white dress and will-ice hand, and Elsa felt a sense of bubbling pride fill her as she watched her perform acts that would have previously been impossible after the accident at the wharf had taken her left hand. Nearly a year of trial and error later, and with many visits from Saja in dream form explaining the inner workings of her magic, Elsa had figured out how to bond her ice with human flesh without causing damage, hardening it with her will while allowing the child to use it like a normal appendage. Once finished, Sonja curtsied and took her leave, scuttling back to where the other ladies in waiting sat behind the royal family.

Bishop Arren nodded affectionately at the queen before beginning, opening the ceremony with the customary "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today," which went unheard by both Elsa and Revel as they stared at one another, neither able to keep the infectious grin from their faces. Only when Arren called for the rings did they break eye contact as a familiar jovial laugh drifted throughout the chambers.

"Oh, this is so exciting!" Olaf gushed as he trotted forward, holding a delicate pillow with two small rings resting on top. "Elsa, you look so beautiful!"

"Thank you, Olaf," Elsa grinned.

"You're welcome! And you look beautiful too Revel! Well, maybe not beautiful…you're a guy after all. So maybe handsome? Yeah, handsome!"

Revel smiled down at the little snowman as he took Elsa's ring in his shaking hands, the queen doing the same, and waited for Arren to begin the binding ceremony. The former captain hadn't known about the loss of the snowman and snow golem during the events in the ice castle, but had shared in Elsa's dismay over not knowing how to bring them back. Like with Sonja's hand it had taken her quite some time to puzzle out how she'd created the sentient beings and it was just recently they'd been returned to life. Marshmallow was in his place atop North Mountain, guarding the spot where Elsa intended to rebuild her ice castle, while Olaf picked up where he'd seemingly left off some months ago, helping the queen where he could but mostly remaining with the twins.

Upon delivering his parcel, Olaf turned and headed over to where Anna and Kristoff sat but stopped when he saw Sonja, his little face lighting up. "Hi, Sonja! Wow, you look really beautiful too!"

The young girl's face turned a brilliant scarlet as she hid behind her mismatched hands with a muffled squeak. Out of all the staff and residents in the castle, Olaf seemed to be the only one who didn't initially notice the burn scars that crept up the left side of Sonja's neck and climbed onto her face and back of the head. Her dress covered the rest, but Olaf had seen none of it, instantly creating a bond with the little girl her first week in the castle. A faint ripple of chuckles drifted throughout the room as the little snowman promptly waddled over to Sonja and took a seat beside her, patting her leg while swinging his feet with a giddy kind of excitement as he anxiously waited for the rest of the ceremony to continue.

Arren instructed the two to exchange rings, Elsa barely holding back a giddy laugh as the white-gold circle, studded with amethyst and emeralds while engraved with runes on the inside of the band, was slid onto her finger. Revel's cheeks felt like they were going to cramp from all the smiling he was doing as his bride in turn slid his ring onto his left hand, a simple white-gold band similar to Elsa's only his was devoid of precious stones and instead engraved entirely in intricate runes.

"The ring is a symbol for eternity and purity," Bishop Arren was saying, reading for a massive tome held perfectly still in his aged hands. "With having no beginning or end, it symbolizes the unbroken love and devotion that must be shared between husband and wife. In exchanging rings you are promising to one another that your union is eternal, and that the love shared will live on well past the time when the soul departs the body."

"In this we swear," Elsa and Revel said in unison.

Arren nodded and closed the tome, handing it off to a waiting white-robed priest before striding forward and instructing the two lovers to raise their hands and intertwine them. Revel stepped closer to his bride and pressed the palm of his left hand against her right so that the back of his hand was facing her and hers was facing him. From his robe Arren withdrew two long silk ribbons— one blue and the other white— and laid them over their forearms, speaking while he did.

"But a ring is merely an outward symbol of the sacred promises you have made." Taking the white ribbon, Arren began to wrap Elsa and Revel's hands starting at their interlaced fingers and working down. "Ecclesiastes tells us 'Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken,' so I bind you with ribbons signifying heart and soul while your intertwined hands symbolized a bonding of flesh." The second ribbon was added atop the first, tied snugly in place with a few deft knots. "Now you are bound one to the other: heart, soul, and body, in the eyes of Almighty God. It is a bond not easily broken, so take the time to reflect that these are the hands that will hold you during the turmoil of life. These are the hands that will tenderly wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of both sorrow and joy. These are the hands that will hold your children. These are the hands bound to protect one another, to be both sword and shield. These are the hands that will give you strength, and lastly, these are the hands that, even when withered with age, will still be reaching for yours in this life and in the paradise beyond."

"In this we swear, forever and eternity, our bond is made in the eyes of the most High, Amen," they said again, though there was a sparkling of tears in both sets of eyes as bride and groom gazed at one another.

"Then by the power invested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride."

It was impossible to tell who moved first, but both Elsa and Revel practically fell into one another, bound hands pressed against their chests as their lips connected for the first time as man and wife. The room erupted with cheers and applause that went unheard by the two as they reveled in the warmth of their embrace and the giddy happiness bubbling inside them.

"I'm here," Revel whispered, pulling back just enough so that his lips could form the words.

"I feel you," Elsa replied, her eyes so bright they could have outmatched the sky as they roved over his face. Eventually they parted and turned towards the congregation, bound hands at their sides.

Above the rancorous thunder of applause and cheers, Arren declared, "I present to you, Queen Elsa and King Consort Revel of Arendelle!"

Elsa caught a glimpse of her teary-eyed sister grinning like a fool in the front pew next to her husband and an equally joyful, short-haired brunette as she and Revel descended from the podium and waved to her, Anna and Rapunzel returned the gesture with enthusiastic ones of their own. Kristoff and Eugene were more subdued, though their smiles were as large as they could possibly be. It had been a treat for the royal family of Arendelle to see their cousin again, the princess of Corona and her husband Eugene having arrived only a day ago for the wedding.

The newlyweds quickly made their way down the aisle, the congregation rising and clapping as they did, and burst out of the cathedral doors to the roar of the crowd gathered beyond the stone steps. The townspeople cheered for their queen and new king consort, hundreds of people packed into the small square, all waving banners and ribbons in Arendelle's colors. A garrison of guards awaited them, statuesque men standing at attention on every other step. They came to life with a barked command from Sigmund, drawing their swords and raising them in salute as Elsa and Revel moved towards the ornate, open-top carriage waiting for them. From somewhere above, a torrent of delicate white rose petals fluttered down around them like fat snowflakes, captured on the back of the wind and swirled around the two like a dervish. Elsa laughed and gripped Revel's hand tighter, the joy she felt hardly containable and the lightness of her body so profound she feared she'd drift away if he didn't weigh her down. At the end of the steps stood Sigmund, the big guard, recently elevated to the rank of captain of the Queen's Guard, saluting as he opened the door for them.

"Majesties," he bowed, grinning from ear-to-ear.

"Sigmund," Revel replied, clapping the big guard on the shoulder. "You look good in my uniform."

"Just needed someone who wasn't so skinny to fill it out is all," the big guard winked. Turn to the queen he said, "You are a vision of loveliness, Queen Elsa. I'm sorry you had to settle for someone who pales in comparison to your beauty."

"If I were looking to marry a man based solely off his physical prowess and physique, I would have wed you, captain. As it is, I find my choice in husband quite agreeable. Plus, who wants to wed a man who you have to compete with when it comes to looks?" she quipped with a devilish grin.

"Touché, Majesty," Sigmund chuckled as he helped her into the carriage, Revel following close behind.

The ride back to the castle was a short one, Elsa and Revel waving to gathering townsfolk as they wove through town until they passed beneath the castle gates and headed straight for the royal chambers, laughing and giggling like fools as they went. Halfway down the hall, Revel scooped his bride into his arms— squeezing a few startled squeals from the queen— and carried her the rest of the way, nudging the door open with his foot.

"You know the tradition of carrying me over the threshold is meant for our wedding night," Elsa observed, playfully pushing Revel away when he set her down.

"I can't just want to carry you around?" he asked, feigning a hurt expression. "But I'm supposed to be the one who sweeps you off your feet!"

Elsa approached her husband with a bright gleam in her cerulean eyes, a coy half-smile pulling at her lips. "You can do that tonight at the reception, but if you wanted me close all you had to do was ask," she said, pressing herself against him, their left hands still bound together.

"Oh believe me, I want you as close as I can get you," Revel replied, looping his only free arm around her waist and kissing her deeply.

"Too bad we're bound like this," she sighed dramatically, raising their bound hands to emphasize the problem.

"I kind of like you bound," he grinned mischievously. "Makes it easier to guide you around."

"Oh really?" Elsa shot back with a laugh. "Well, it certainly would be easier for me to move without this dress on. Would you care to help me unlace it?"

"I am ever your servant, my queen." One of the small talents Revel had kept to himself was his ability to untie knots one-handed. He put this skill to work, quickly unlacing the back of Elsa's wedding dress and letting it slide from her body with a faint rustle of fabric. She carefully stepped out of the massive mound of silk and lace, standing confidently before her husband with a hand on her hip.

"See? Much bet—"

He had her pinned against the wall before she could breathe, using his height to pull and pin her left hand above her head while his right slid down her silk-covered hip and slipped under the fabric of her slip. Elsa, recovering from the shock of his forceful positioning, bit her lip as his fingers trailed teasingly along the inside of her thigh and jerked with a ragged gasp as those same fingers sought and found the sensitive mound just above her opening and began circling it.

"Forgive me, Majesty, were you about to say something?" he husked into her ear before lightly biting into the soft flesh of her neck. He could feel her trying to form words, the muscles in her throat and jaw working to create the syllables.

"I—m-merely s-said—"

He cut her off before she could string enough words together, sliding his fingers past her opening and into the warm wetness within. Elsa's eyes slid shut and she arched against him, body trembling as her beloved worked inside her with deft strokes that turned her legs to jelly while his lips trailed along her shoulder leaving fire in their wake. His name was on her lips like a fervent, breathy prayer to some nameless god of passion, each utterance both a summons and command. Revel went to his knees, his tongue replicating the motion of his fingers around her clit while his other hand continued to work within her. Elsa sought and found his head, tangling her fingers in his wavy hair while struggling to remain standing. Her beloved watched her hungrily as the flush of orgasm eventually turned her porcelain skin red and ripped even her monosyllabic panting away, replacing it with barely muffled cries from behind the hand clapped over her mouth. He felt her tighten vice-like around his fingers and smiled with satisfaction as she sagged against the wall. Sliding his fingers free with deliberate slowness, Revel scooped his bride into his arms and carried her to the bed where he planned to finish their "game" when the door to the royal chamber suddenly burst open, startling them both.

Ingrid, the royal seamstress, managed to get half way into the room before noticing the two, but rather than scuttling out of the room with a string of apologies trailing behind her, she merely grunted with satisfaction. "Glad the two of you are in the same place. Saves me a trip."


"Come, come you two will have plenty of time for love-making tonight." Pointing at Revel she said, "You, I've got your suit right here. Go change in the corner while I fit your wife in her gown." When the two simply stared at her, still locked in shock, she sighed and threw up her hands. "Really, there is nothing to be ashamed of. It's a natural act we all participate in, so stop staring at me like frightened rabbits. It's nothing I haven't seen before, I can assure you."

For a moment the two lovers just stared at one another, too stunned for words. Eventually, Elsa sighed gustily and nodded for Revel to do as the little woman said and couldn't help but catch a flash of irritation arc across his face.

"She needs to learn to knock," Revel muttered. He carefully undid the binding around their hands and climbed off his wife while awkwardly trying to walk with the bulge in his pants. If the seamstress saw it she paid it no mind, handing Revel his tailored suit with a sweet, almost grandmotherly smile.

"I did knock, dearie. Your ears were just attuned to other sounds," the seamstress said with the same broad smile across her face. Revel felt his cheeks flush and quickly took the dark suit from her, moving off next to Elsa's vanity to change. He heard his bride laughing and made a face at her over his shoulder.

"Ingrid," Elsa began as she slid off the bed, trying to slip her queenly mask in place but finding it hard to be cross with the old woman. "I appreciate your punctuality, but you…"

The queen trailed off as the seamstress laid Elsa's reception dress on the bed for her to inspect like she had so many times in the past…only this was different. It was an elegant evening gown made of the most delicate looking soft-blue silk she had ever seen. As had become common in most of Elsa's dresses after the Summit, the bodice was the same material as the dress, layered in a stair-step pattern to give it depth, and laced up the back, smoothing the queen's torso without squeezing her like a normal bodice did when cinched. Ingrid had shaped it to hug Elsa's ample bosom much like her Snow Queen dress did, adding slender straps to help support the gown while the wearer was in movement. The skirt was shorter in the front than it was in the back, wrapping around her waist like an uneven towel, the edges hemmed in a heavy fabric that weighted the skirt down while creating the illusion of flowing water as it swung around Elsa's legs. Truly, this was a dress designed to catch the eye while allowing for ample movement while dancing. Ingrid had even gone so far as to sew tiny rhinestones along the waist and within the folds of the bodice causing the gown to twinkle and spark as it was turned in the light.

"Ingrid this…how did you make this is such a short amount of time?" Elsa breathed, touching the soft fabric with a cautious gentleness as if it would disintegrate if handled too roughly.

"I'm just that good," the old woman beamed, clearly pleased with the queen's reaction.

"You're a sorceress with fabric. I can't believe the level of detail," Elsa laughed, lifting it into the light.

"It helps when you've had years of woodcarving under your belt. Makes you pay attention to the details!"

Elsa paused and looked down at the elderly woman, head canted curiously. "You never told me you were a woodcarver."

"It was years ago," the seamstress said with a wave of the hand. "When I used to live in Scotland I did a fair amount of carving for a living until a princess in a nearby kingdom bought up all my work."

"You didn't start carving more pieces after you sold them all?"

"Why should I have? I was handsomely paid and needed a change of scenery, so I came here and started sewing. Wasn't but a couple of years later that my work caught the eye of young Prince Agdar who commissioned me to make your mother's wedding dress. So here I am," she said with another broad smile, spreading her hands.

"You are full of surprises, Ingrid," Elsa laughed still eyeing the gown.

"It'll look better on you, Majesty," the seamstress prompted gently.

Ducking behind her changing screen, Elsa slid the dress on and marveled how it hugged every inch of her like a second skin. Ingrid deftly tied the back with purple ribbon, adjusting the bow until it hung just right before stepping aside and allowing the queen to see herself in the large oval mirror. Elsa felt her mouth fall open when she caught sight of her reflection, but her initial shock was nothing compared to Revel's reaction. When she stepped out from behind the changing screen he went still, his hands going slack at his side at the same moment his jaw hit the floor.

"I take it from your husband's reaction the gown is a success," Ingrid chuckled.

"Elsa you…wow." Up until now he didn't think she could ever look as beautiful as she had when in her wedding dress, but he'd been sorely mistaken. His wife was a goddess come to earth and he could only bring himself to stare, enraptured by her unearthly beauty.

"Do you like it?" she asked with a sheepish smile, tucking a wayward strand of hair behind her ear, the confident queen suddenly replaced by a twenty six year old woman preparing for her wedding reception.

"I…y-yeah—yes! I love it!"

"You look handsome," she said, admiring the tailoring on Revel's navy blue and purple suit. It was almost identical to the one he'd worn to the Summit ball so many months ago save for a few minor details. It had been at his insisting that all eyes should be on the queen for her big day, wanting the focus to be solely on her. Elsa, however, stubbornly countered that the attention was to be shared equally, so Revel was fitted for a reception suit that complemented his bride's dress.

"I'll leave you two so you can finish," Ingrid said, gathering her things and making for the door. Before she moved out of the room she glanced over her shoulder at the newlyweds and smiled. "It is good to see that everything worked out, Majesty. My congratulations to you on your betrothal. May the four winds bless your union."

The blessing made the queen pause, the unfamiliarity of it creasing her brow with slight confusion. She would have called after Ingrid but the old woman was gone, her aged body moving with surprising speed as she made her way down the spiral staircase. However strange the blessing, Elsa pushed it from her mind and finished getting ready, though Revel made the process last a little longer than necessary with his playful teasing. Eventually the two managed to pull themselves away from one another long enough to head down into the Great Hall where a freshly changed Anna and Kristoff were waiting with the twins, accompanied by Rapunzel and Eugene. There was an audible gasp as the king and queen descended the staircase, all eyes turning towards them.

"Wow, Elsa, you look amazing," Anna gasped, circling her sister in order to get a better look at her dress. "Did Ingrid make this?"

"She did, though how is a mystery."

"That's it. I'm convinced she's a sorceress of some kind." The princess smiled as Thea, currently enjoying being held by her cousin, turned and reached for her aunt, pudgy little hands opening and closing in the universal sign for 'I want something'.

"Oh, I see," Rapunzel laughed, planting a kiss on the little one's chubby cheek. "You wanna be held by Aunty Elsa because she's all sparkly and whatnot."

"Oh hush," Elsa chuckled, taking Thea and settling her on her hip. The little princess stared in mesmerized wonder at the rhinestones and added will-ice of the queen's dress, dexterous fingers picking at the ones that were small enough for her digits to fit around. "You look beautiful, little one," Elsa said, gently poking Thea's nose and drawing the eleven month olds attention towards her. Even at such a young age Thea had eyes like a hawk with an intelligence far beyond her years lingering behind her near amber eyes. She gazed up at her aunt before bursting into a fit of cackles as Elsa conjured a snowflake for her to chew on, which the little princess promptly popped into her mouth.

"Alright you, come back here so your aunt can get this party started," Anna said as she retrieved her daughter and settled her in the sling across her chest. Kristoff had Jorg in something similar, the little prince happily looking around, hand in his mouth.

"It's good to see you again, cousin," Elsa greeted, wrapping Rapunzel in a tight embrace which the brunette returned affectionately.

"I wish we could have come sooner for Jorg and Thea's baptism," she commented, giving Eugene a pointed look.

"Oh come on, how many times do I have to apologize for sinking that boat?" he exclaimed.

"It was a ship."

"It was Max who chased the thief on board. I just happened to knock over the wrong lamp!"

Rapunzel merely rolled her eyes and good-naturedly punched him in the arm. "I know, dear. I'm just teasing. Though the harbor master still needs compensation," she added sweetly, pecking him on the cheek. "Regardless of our previous mishaps, I'm glad we could make it for your wedding, Elsa."

"We are too," Revel replied, slipping his arm around his wife's waist and pulling her close. "Are you ready?" he whispered into her ear as they made for the Great Hall doors.

"Are you?" she countered with a grin, hand resting on the ornate handle.

"After you, my queen."

Looping her arm with Revel's, Elsa pushed open the doors and stepped past the threshold, punctuated with a few clear blasts from the trumpeters on either side of the stoop, announcing the royal party's arrival. The castle courtyard had been transformed into a large gathering area, the royal ballroom too small to accommodate so many people all at once. Colorful tents and awnings had been pitched along the gate wall and parallel the castle's front, creating a large square where the hundreds of people in attendance could meet and congregate. In lieu of a traditional banquet, Elsa had decided to set up tables for food to be distributed as her guests saw fit, ornate tables erected under the tents for convenience sake. As always, ample spirits and liquors were provided, though not a single guest had touched a glass or plate of food, waiting for the newlyweds to kick off the celebration.

Elsa did just that after a roar of applause and cheers greeted the royal family as they emerged. A few quick words later and the celebration began in earnest, the queen and her new king swept away in a tide of well-wishers and revelers. It wasn't until well into the evening that the dancing started. A few brave couples entered the dance floor as the consumption of food faded in lieu of more spirits being consumed, but it wasn't until Elsa and Revel had their first dance that their guests abandoned their hesitancy and joined in.

"May I have this dance?" Revel had smiled as he bowed low in front of his bride, the dozens of torches and lanterns hung about the area filling the courtyard with a soft yellow glow.

"Why, sir, I thought you'd never ask," Elsa replied grinning from ear-to-ear. She extended her hand which Revel gently took and led her past the large orchestra. As usual, the queen paused beside the maestro and whispered something into his ear, the man nodded gravely and turning to speak to his instrumentalists.

"Another surprise like our dance at the Yule Ball?"

"Of course, but this time something less competitive," Elsa said, taking her beloved's hand and leading him into the center of the dance floor. "You are familiar with the Toss the Feather dance, aren't you?"

A toothy grin replaced Revel's quiet curiosity. "I am indeed."

"It's a wonder you were able to remain under cover for so many years, what with your vast knowledge of dance and all," Elsa commented.

"Believe me, it was a challenge at social events not to blow my cover," Revel retorted, nudging her affectionately with his shoulder. "Especially when watching you dance."

"Well then, shall we begin?"

"Let's leave them breathless."

The small crowd gathered there immediately broke apart, giving the queen and king room, conversation grinding to a standstill. Elsa, ever the proper royal, nodded her thanks to her people and cleared her throat— a signal for the maestro to begin— and struck a pose similar to how many Highland dances began, right foot forward and hands raised as if preparing to clap. Revel mirrored her stance, albeit at a noticeable distance from his bride, the two locking eyes as they patiently waited for the orchestra to begin. As the crowd fell silent, all eyes on the royal couple, a long flute trilled a cluster of clear, fast notes quickly joined by other woodwinds and a set of violins. Elsa and Revel began their dance in unison, spinning around one another and clapping in time with the music, hopping a step and spinning again. The revelers quickly caught one, Toss the Feather being a common dance amongst the aristocracy but one easily followed by onlookers if they could match the rhythm.

The point of this particular dance, and the reason Elsa had chosen it, wasn't to outdo your dance partner or compete in a competition. It was a dance centered solely on enjoying a partners company and the company of others, beginning with a small distance that was to be decreased by each circuit the dancers made around one another, punctuated by the flute that had begun the song. It was a dance dedicated to celebration and new beginnings, a dance of love and joy and happiness. Jumps and twirls were common, a jovial rhythm coursing through the crowd as percussion instruments joined the strings and woodwinds. There were no rules aside from keeping the beat with your hands and feet while decreasing the distance between partners which Elsa and Revel did effortlessly, the queen's skits swirling and snapping around her as she gripped the hem, laughing as she spun and clapped alongside her husband. Closer and closer they gravitated towards one another like orbiting planets, the tempo gradually increasing to a near feverish pitch. Grasping hands, Revel spun his wife in tight circuit of three rotations, Elsa's shoes gliding atop a wafer thin coating of ice under her feet, decreasing her traction so that she spun all the faster. Her skirt and hair snapped like a flag as she came to an abrupt halt on her own, heels digging into her ice in order to control her movements. She laughed openly and clapped her hands in time with the beat, watching Revel do a series of tight spins around her, the distance between them nearly depleted. They dipped and spun, coming together only to slingshot off their own momentum and spin away. Those who could not or did not wish to dance added to the rhythm, clapping their hands and stomping their feet, the courtyard coming alive with an electric energy that soared into the night and made the stars above shine all the more.

Elsa caught a glimpse of Anna and Kristoff dancing with their little ones, both hunched near in half as they held onto the fingers of their children and helped them along, the infants laughing and cackling. She saw Rapunzel and Eugene engaged in an almost frantic tempo, their feet a blur and smiles so huge it was a wonder their faces didn't split. She saw others in the crowd, faces she knew well like Sigmund who danced with a duke's daughter or Symon who danced with his Irish fiancée. Even Olaf was stomping around the dance floor, Sonja in tow, her joy almost palpable. She saw all this and more and for the first time in a long time, Elsa felt true peace overwhelm her to the point that tears stung her eyes. But they were quickly whipped away as she turned her attention on the only person who mattered at the moment.

Throughout the course of her lifetime, in all facets and instances, Elsa never once believed she'd find a missing piece of herself in the strange man who used to be her guard captain. She never once gave into the idea that she'd find true and lasting love, but it seemed fate had other plans as it often did, for here she was, dancing on her wedding night with her best friend and lover, feeling all the world like things could never again have the power to strip this happiness from her. Oh, the queen knew there would be hard times, there always were and she knew her relationship wasn't going to be immune from that, but for now it was perfect and she could allow herself to laugh as freely as she dared. Elsa didn't realize she and Revel had stopped dancing, their bodies flush with one another, hearts beating against each other, both standing still like an island in a thrashing sea.

"I love you," Revel said with such naked tenderness and honesty it brought her tears back.

"And I love you," Elsa replied, for once not having to keep her voice from quivering because she meant it in every sense of the word and had never been so certain of something in her life aside from the love she had for her family.

They came together again in the middle of the dance floor, amongst the revelry and pageantry taking place in their honor, lips meeting without hesitation or fear. The exhilaration of the connection was like bottled lightning, goosebumps racing across both their bodies while their individual brands flared with matching heat. Revel held his bride close as she did the same with him, arctic power swirling around them as Elsa gave in to the pull of her magic and let it go where it please, which was up. Erupting from the queen like a Roman candle, a comet of ice magic burst in the sky directly over the lovers like a firework, Elsa's snowflake illuminating the courtyard and kingdom beyond for just a moment like a second sun. People stopped and stared, mouths agape at the spectacle that the newlyweds were blind to. Eventually they broke apart with a string of ecstatic giggles, hold one another close and basking in the moment. It was a moment that marked the end of one story and the beginning of another. The tale of Revel the guard captain was over, as was the story of the unwed, companionless queen of Arendelle. Together, hand in hand, the two would begin and write their own story starting with this tender moment shared amongst strangers as flakes of snow drifted down from a clear, star-dusted sky.

For the First Time in Never

A Frozen Story
by JE Glass

Part 23 of 24

<< Previous     Home     Next >>